Corn: Fueling the Fast Food Industry and Obesity

A new film exposes how the crop is fueling the obesity epidemic in the U.S.

ByABC News via logo

March 13, 2008 — -- Corn is in everything we eat and drink, from soda to beef, and it's fueling the nation's obesity epidemic.

"King Corn" is Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis' new documentary, which shows how corn has turned the American diet into a fast food nightmare.

The college buddies joined "Good Morning America" today to talk about the corn industry and the farming experiment that inspired the film.

They met at college on regular trips to the campus doughnut store. Like the rest of their generation, they grew up loving the kind of fast food that is causing an obesity epidemic in the United States.

After graduation, they left city life on the East Coast and became farmers in Iowa to learn where their food came from. They chose an acre of land and planted corn because they realized most of the food they ate is crammed with it -- doughnuts, hamburgers, soda and more.

After nine months, the 31,000 seeds they planted on just one acre had turned into a 10,000-pound harvest of corn. That much crop could yield 57,348 cans of soda, 3,894 corn-fed hamburgers, 2,301 pounds of bacon or 6,726 boxes of frosted corn flakes

Cheney and Ellis turned 63 percent of their harvest into feed for livestock, 32 percent into ethanol and 5 percent into sweeteners, such as corn syrup.

As they realized how much corn was actually going into their diet, the pair got their hair analyzed to find out how much corn was in their bodies. Cheney discovered he had 58 percent; Ellis, 53 percent.

Click here to learn more about the documentary "King Corn."

"King Corn" could have been an excellent vehicle to educate viewers on the dedication and hard work of U.S. corn growers, yet it failed to cultivate real knowledge about corn production.

The film does not match current realities in corn production. Filmed back in 2005, it makes much of overproduction, low prices, surplus corn and producing corn for no value or reason. That is quite a contrast to the situation we are in now, where both demand and prices are higher.

Finally, it is ironic that a movie that claims subsidies have distorted farmers' planting decisions and consumers' eating habits is itself a production funded by a government subsidy.

New research continues to confirm that high fructose corn syrup is no different from other sweeteners. It has the same number of calories as sugar and honey.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has long recognized that high fructose corn syrup is safe.

No single food or ingredient is the sole cause of obesity. Rather, too many calories and too little exercise is a primary cause.

Consumption of high fructose corn syrup has been dropping in recent years, yet the rates of obesity and diabetes in the United States continue to rise. Moreover, many other parts of the world have rising rates of obesity and diabetes, despite having little or no high fructose corn syrup in their foods and beverages.

To learn about high fructose corn syrup, click here to visit

The Corn Refiners Association is the national trade association representing the corn refining industry in the United States. CRA and its predecessors have served this segment of American agribusiness since 1913.

Click here to visit the Corn Refiners Association.

Click here to visit the National Corn Growers Association.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events