If Grist claims to be “a beacon in the smog”, they are luring readers into choppy waters with their August 2 article, “More Corn for Meat and Ethanol, Less Habitat for Gulf Fish.” Using false assumptions with no reference to the data’s source and presenting personal opinions as fact, the author crafts a clever argument in an attempt to convince readers that the Gulf of Mexico’s hypoxia zone is caused strictly by corn, mainly that used for ethanol and livestock feed. Readers who know the facts about agriculture and understand the natural sciences won’t be deceived.
Every river has a hypoxia zone. Even the Amazon, which flows through wild rainforest, has a hypoxia zone. Therefore, the base assumption that the hypoxia zone in the Gulf of Mexico is solely caused by the synthetic nitrogen used in industrial agriculture must be completely incorrect to any logical person.
Furthermore, sources other than farming contribute to the nitrogen found in the Mississippi River. Urban areas contribute a large amount of nitrogen. Golf courses lay out copious amounts of chemicals to stay a lush green even in areas where they may be the only green grass for miles. City streets, even apartment buildings contribute as the rain washes away the chemicals that make modern urban life possible in cities along the river like Memphis and St. Louis and across the country. Targeting only the corn industry makes no sense.
In the anti-corn tirade that follows, mischaracterizations and skewed views abound. The “ethanol mandates” and “surging demand from China” that supposedly lead to mass production of this plentiful, useful resource are a myth. The “ethanol mandate” is actually a renewable fuels mandate that guarantees our country lowers the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change and increases energy independence. As for surging demand, a single buy from China is not a trend. It is one buy. Anyone can see how twisting and distorting information to produce anti-corn propaganda is part of a personal or political agenda, not the work of a concerned citizen speaking up.
Would farmers put down something as expensive as nitrogen if 60 percent washed off? Of course not, they are sensible people who cannot afford to waste money. Farmers are also good stewards of the land. Between 1987 and 2007, incredible advances in ag technology helped farmers reduce land use 37 percent, soil loss 69 percent, irrigation 27 percent, energy use 37 percent and the greenhouse gas emissions that come from producing a bushel of corn 30 percent. Portraying them as irresponsible polluters disrespects the hard work that goes into farming and the tradition of respecting the earth that they will hand down to future generations.
Saying that corn is worthless and only produces “cheap low-quality meat” and “low-quality fuel”? How can anyone take that seriously? First, “low quality” is an opinion. People across the country would agree that a deliciously marbled grain-fed steak is a high-quality protein source. Some of the finest steak houses actually advertise that they serve grain-fed beef. During these lean times, people view cheap as a plus; frugal is as trendy now as opulence was in the 1980s.
Ethanol is a carbon monoxide reducing oxygenate and a cleaner burning fuel than today’s ubiquitous oil. During periods of high oil prices, ethanol helps keep fuel affordable. These stabs are not only untrue, but snobbish and completely out of touch with the majority of hard working Americans.
So are we really “behaving not unlike a rich kid who blows his trust fund on Scotch, cocaine and casino chips?” No way. Corn production helps make everyday life possible and affordable. Maybe this analogy sounds funny to a snob who saved their trust fund and hung out with a bunch of degenerate rich kids, but it sounds ludicrous, pompous and pretentious to the down-to-earth people who work hard to provide the best life that they can for their families.
So take Grist’s point of view for what it is, the rantings of an elitist with an anti-corn agenda. See how it skews facts that someone like that might assume most people might not know. Show that Americans are intelligent enough to see through this ridiculous propaganda and tell him to go back to his Scotch, because he isn’t selling his lies.