Corn Subsidies Make Me Sick (and Fat)

By Pedro R. Silva
2010, Vol. 2 No. 11 | pg. 1/1

Corn Farmers dominate the landscape in the midwestern U.S.

There are few government policies disheartening enough to make me lose sleep at night. But of those few, the subsidization of the corn industry is one big one, and the way in which the government continues to squander billions of dollars on a senseless policy that arguably does more harm than good, is simply outrageous. 

Here is the situation, in brief: The U.S. Government currently spends around $300 billion every five years on something called the “Farm Bill.” The Farm Bill, which has become known as a series of handouts to help different sectors of the agricultural industry, has often stirred controversy. Despite the fact that the bill is intended for small, struggling farmers, today many large and highly succesfuly corn farms receive a large portion of the help.

So what’s so horrible about corn subsidies? In fact, there are many ways to come down hard on this policy. Aside from the fact that large, already succesful farmers are getting a major slice of this free money from our hard-earned tax dollars, the subsidies, more importantly, are supporting a product that is not market efficient.

This policy of subsidizing corn farmers is also potentially bad for our health. Government handouts to corn farmers have driven down the price of corn so far that sugar has been essentially replaced as the means of sweetening our food. Instead, we use high fructose corn syrup, a substance that is much harder for our bodies to break down. The result is that the soda we drink today makes us fatter and more prone to diseases like Diabetes than the same soda made with real sugar. The same goes for any product where “high fructose corn syrup” appears in the list of ingredients (try going to the supermarket and looking at different products, you will be surprised at how many of them contain the substance). If it weren’t for corn subsidies keeping the price of corn artificially low, a purer form of sugar could be used in our foods.

Corn subsidies don't just threaten our health though. Proponents of corn subsidies have, with relative succes, implanted a myth that this policy will increase ethanol production and therefore reduce oil imports and make the world a cleaner place.

Wrong. Ethanol is indeed a great alternative to oil, but only when done right. The energy it currently takes to produce a gallon of corn ethanol is greater than the energy that the gallon contains. If the U.S. wants clean, efficient ethanol as an alternative to oil, here’s an idea: remove the tariffs on Brazilian ethanol so we have a cheaper way of getting the product while we transition to better ways of producing it.

In fact, let’s use the Brazilian model of producing ethanol; the country runs more than half of its vehicles on pure, 100% ethanol fuel, and their way of producing it is over seven times more efficient than the American way. That’s because they produce ethanol from sugar cane, not corn. The sugar cane in Brazil is processed several times: the prime stuff is used to make high quality alcohol for consumption; the OK stuff is used to make lots of sugar; and the “junk” is used to make ethanol. With enough investment and research, the U.S. could eventually maintain a similar system where at least part of the ethanol we use would come from an economically feasible system.

Don’t get me wrong: I like farmers. They grow the food that I eat, and they are a highly important part of the economy. But my government is using my tax money to give billions of dollars to large farms in exchange for a product that is bad -- both for my health, and for the economy. This injustice calls for some serious action. Particularly in times like this, when our government faces economic headwinds from every direction. And who knows, maybe the reversal of corn subsidies would contribute to making everday Americans, the backbone of our economy, healthier overall. What better time to revise a horrible policy than in the administration that prides itself on bringing change to the system.

Suggested Reading from Inquiries Journal

A genetically modified (GM) crop is defined as a recombinant-deoxyribonucleic acid plant, in which genetic material has been changed through in vitro nucleic acid techniques (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United... MORE»
In one of the more memorable moments of the otherwise dull BBC coverage of US election night, veteran political commentator Charles Wheeler pointed out that President Clinton had just been re-elected by American voters... MORE»
In 1688, King James II was overthrown by a group of Parliamentarians. This was the result of what is now known as the Glorious Revolution, or the Revolution of 1688. Naturalist and political philosopher John Locke was present to witness these events and was so compelled by them, he wrote what is known as the Second Treatise... MORE»
Procurement in government, as well as in industry, is going through a tremendous change as a result of globalization, technological breakthroughs, and the surge in outsourcing services to outside vendors (Giallourakis, 2008, p. xiii, Preface).  The contracting world is growing by leaps and bounds, with no signs of letting up in the near future.  To accentuate this fact, the Defense Department is beginning the process of increasing its contracting... MORE»
Submit to Inquiries Journal, Get a Decision in 10-Days

Inquiries Journal provides undergraduate and graduate students around the world a platform for the wide dissemination of academic work over a range of core disciplines.

Representing the work of students from hundreds of institutions around the globe, Inquiries Journal's large database of academic articles is completely free. Learn more | Blog | Submit

Follow IJ

Latest in Opinion

2020, Vol. 12 No. 11
With right-wing populists gaining power and electoral campaigns everywhere becoming more virulent, many are calling for a return to individualism and rationality. But, at least in countries like today’s Poland, such pleas fail to take into... Read Article »
2009, Vol. 1 No. 11
Imagine the vast spectrum of all the cultures in the world. Listen to the music—from the gentle drum beats of Africa, to the melodic didgeridoo of Australia, to the scream of the electric guitar. Taste the curry from India, the coconut milk... Read Article »
2016, Vol. 8 No. 02
At 7am in the morning after the Referendum on Scottish Independence, a triumphant David Cameron stood on the steps of number 10 Downing Street and announced to the world that the Scottish people had, with 55% of the electorate voting No, comprehensively... Read Article »
2013, Vol. 5 No. 11
As the lights dropped and I sank into my seat, I thought I was ready for 12 Years a Slave, the 2013 film adaptation of Solomon Northup's 1853 slave narrative. I was expecting a movie, a story told with images, music and sound. But, what I witnesssed... Read Article »
2015, Vol. 7 No. 03
In a previous article I wrote about fine-tuning in the Universe and the empirical evidence for a Grand Designer that can be found within our reality. This argument of course occurs within the context of ongoing fiery debate between theists and secular... Read Article »
2014, Vol. 6 No. 11
In today’s society, the categorization of gender in our educational system is leading to a socialization of masculinity and femininity, which is reaffirmed by gender-biased curriculum, testing, and activities. By attempting to define gender... Read Article »
2014, Vol. 6 No. 04
The copious amounts of forgotten and disregarded food that are tossed mindlessly into our landfills are a global travesty of massive proportions. Americans alone waste enough food in a day to transform the Rose Bowl, a football stadium capable of... Read Article »

What are you looking for?


7 Big Differences Between College and Graduate School
How to Read for Grad School
Writing a Graduate School Personal Statement