We are the corn people. This is the conclusion that Pollan comes to. I do not think that this designation is wrong either. He states that there are over 15000 items which contain corn in the average American supermarket. 15000 items. This represents over a quarter of all items in the average supermarket. The places we find corn ranges from corn based wax on our fruits and vegetables, to corn based thickeners in processed food, and even to the corn based sugar that is used to ferment much of our beer. This is astounding, that a single plant item could find its way so profusely into our diet.
This points to the fact that this plant has been very successful in its own way, furthering its own agenda of reproduction. Pollan points out that the corn plant has co-evolved in such an involved way with humans that it cannot even reproduce in the wild. The plant relies entirely on us as a species to keep it alive and reproducing. This goes back to Pollan’s idea presented in the introduction of “Botany of Desire”, which questions whether the adaptation of plants to fit what we need is entirely due to human desire, or if this is partially due to plants own unconscious move towards fitness. This questions the very basic idea many of us hold about our planet and lives of us being ‘in charge’. This question that Pollan keeps bringing up and asking in different ways has stuck with me. It has led me to question the things in my life which I seem to be in charge of and to what degree I maintain a semblance of control.
Pollan calls his second section “One Farmer, 129 Eaters”. Although this is quite a provocative and effective title, I don’t feel that it is entirely accurate upon reading the section. By Pollan’s own words “The Naylor farm survives by the grace of Peggy Naylor’s paycheck”. So although Peggy Naylor and other family members may or may not work directly on the land, my point is that they are an intrinsic part of the farm. The food (or product, if you will) being produced would not be there without them.
Apart from this, I thought that this section provided a vital question as to where we place value in society. If the people producing food for us are barely making enough money to continue doing so, aren’t we promoting a lower quality of food? I think that this approach shapes food producers to cut corners wherever possible, pushing us towards the lowest possible denominator. Why do we take this approach with a very staple of living – our food? I think that the solution to this problem lies with connectivity between modern humans and their food source. As Pollan points out, most people have no idea that corn plays such a large part in their diets due to a long and complex food web. So in order to reopen to doors to a healthy system for consumers, farmers, and the larger ecosystem I think that there need to be direct links. We all need to see how our food is grown and begin to appreciate that process.