Corn: Good or Evil?

Food & Wine: Corn Factory.
© Sophie Casson
Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney, makers of the 2007 documentary King Corn, update F&W.

Are there changes in corn farming that you're excited about?

Curt Ellis: The momentum over the last 50 years in industrial farming has been toward homogeneity, but groups like Iowa's Seed Savers Exchange are reintroducing seeds with flavors and nutrients that have been bred out of the Yellow Dent No. 2 corn that most corn farmers grow. People see our film and ask, "Is corn bad? Am I not supposed to eat corn?" The answer is, there are all kinds of delicious, healthy ways to eat corn.

What do you make of big food companies swapping out high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) for sugar?

Curt Ellis: The truth is, processed foods of all kinds are bad for us because they contain large amounts of added sugar and fat. Whether the sugar comes from sugar or HFCS isn't as important as the fact that it was added in the first place.

What about plastic-like compostable products made from corn?

Ian Cheney: Though it may be exciting to divert some of the crop away from livestock feedlots and corn-syrup factories to make biodegradable drinking cups, it's not as if that corn is popping out of the ground for free. It's grown at a real cost to the land and the people who work the land. Insofar as these innovations help us rethink our dependence on fossil fuels, they're a step in the right direction. We just have to be careful we're not solving one problem by creating two more.

Cheney and Ellis's new documentary, Truck Farm, is scheduled for release in Fall 2010 (

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