We at Grist go on and on about corn -- how it’s far too dominant in the U.S. agricultural landscape, how it uses too much land, water, fertilizer, pesticides, and taxpayer dollars, and how it produces too little food. It’s a familiar refrain around here.
Last week, University of Minnesota agricultural scientist Jonathan Foley, author of peer-reviewed research into the global impacts of agriculture, took to the pages of Scientific American to declare that corn is far too dominant in the U.S. agricultural landscape, that it uses too much land, water, fertilizer, pesticides, and taxpayer dollars, and that it produces too little food. Foley goes so far as to use the language of the financial crisis to state plainly that:
The monolithic nature of corn production presents a systemic risk to America’s agriculture, with impacts ranging from food prices to feed prices and energy prices. It also presents a potential threat to our economy and to the taxpayers who end up footing the bill when things go sour. This isn’t rocket science: You wouldn’t invest in a mutual fund that was dominated by only one company, because it would be intolerably risky. But that’s what we’re doing with American agriculture. Simply put, too many of our agricultural eggs are in one basket. [emphasis added]
He sums up the argument against our over-reliance on corn elegantly.