Omnivore’s Dilemna

Pollan M.  2006.  The Omnivore’s Dilemna.  Toronto: Penguin Group.  Pages 15-119.


Though the prose is a bit grandiose, it does get its point across.  And the explanations of terminology is done very well, like on page 21 where the author likens stomata opening to losing blood to breathe.  A very visceral image that immediately gets the point across.  The divisions between chapters are also very good.  Each division is quite short, and the chapter titles also help keep everything fresh and interesting.  In books with long chapters I would often find myself slowly swapping from engaged reading to skimming, and with short chapters this was happening a lot less.

And as usual, corn, corn and more corn.  It was especially interesting to hear that you can’t plant a whole corn cob (pg 27).  I figured that the plant would have some of its seeds germinate and have some wait, but according to the author the seeds would just out-compete each other and die.  So not only do we rely on corn for gross energy, it relies on us for its very existence.  And on another note I suppose it makes sense that it provides more energy since as the author notes, it was better adapted to the climate in the first place.  Not every invasive species is successful after all.

Which is why it is so astounding to hear later on that the farmers who make the stuff can barely scrape a living (pg.34).  And with all the subsidies and tax forgiveness, how is it that someone making this highly useful product can hardly scrape by?  The food you buy made from corn is expensive enough.  And compare that to other “extraction” type jobs (extraction here being a blanket anything-out-of-the earth sort of thing).  Someone working at a mine or doing forestry year-round makes far more.  Several people I know work in mines or in forestry, and they never seem to have money problems (short of buying expansive things before said mine/logging season ends).  And now that I think about it, the local farm I know best (it belongs to my brother’s friend’s family) had to diversify their products to start making money again.  Why is it that iron and wood are worth so much more than the food that sustains us?  Hardly seems right.  And if farming is such hard work for no benefit, then eventually when they give up and the country relies on one territory or solely on imports it exposes itself to weakness in a time of crisis.

Imagine what would happen to a place that depends so heavily on imported food if it was suddenly cut off (natural disaster, diplomatic incident etc.).

And thinking about that reminded me about the other silly things that a farmer would have to deal with.  Being responsible for keeping other people’s GMO products from contaminating their yields for one.  And the people who make the GMO in the first place expect everyone else to pay them if their pollen hits a different farmers field?  Ridiculous.  If anything the farmer should be able to counter-sue since the other person’s actions led to the incident in the first place.  And on the other side of the coin, some people are absolutely terrified of modified foods (remind them about seedless fruits and see if that changes their minds) but have no qualms about modifying their bodies or even their children?  Why is it that ingesting a modified food is so frightening but making your children all tall, smart and athletic hardly bats an eye?  Doesn’t make sense to me.

Anyway, yet again I got sidetracked but I think that thinking about how all this stuff relates to everything is probably the point of this assignment in the first place.  Overall good read, but could lay off some of the “hook” type writing.