What’s Eating America
Corn, which is a staple food in America, has been used in more ways than just eating it from the cob. An average American supermarket has 45,000 items. A quarter or more of these items contain corn. Corn is eaten by the domestic animals and birds, used to make oil, flour, leavenings, adds color and glyceride in the processed food, sweetens the soft drinks, and makes adhesives, just to mention but a few (301). As put, its success may not have been as good for America as it was for the rest of the world. There is the good side and the bad side of corn that can be discussed since its discovery to the present time.
Michael Pollan as introduced us to the agricultural field from an outward to inward method in his article What’s Eating America. He starts by analyzing corn and its importance to humans, before entering into a detail review of the role of nitrogen in the atmosphere, the environment, the plants and humans. He first brings the reader into an understanding of what nitrogen’s result before engaging the reader in a detailed understanding of the gas’s use, advantages and disadvantages. As he quotes Haber and Bosch, crops and humans cannot grow without nitrogen. This means that nitrogen is the building block of the growth that takes place in both plants and humans.
Nature puts together amino acids, nucleic acid and proteins. This is where life is put down in nitrogen ink. Synthetic nitrogen supplements the natural occurring nitrogen so that all the processes take place without deficiency. There are soil bacteria that are on the roots of legumes, which fix the nitrogen. These have been found to play a major role in the manufacturing of the food needed for the growth of plants, which is later consumed by the humans.
Fritz Heber is credited for having invented a way to augment the natural occurring nitrogen in order to be used by the plants as much as needed. In fact, this invention is believed to be so important that if it did not happen, two of every five people alive today would not have been born (303). However, Pollan admits that he had never heard of this scientist before even though he had won the 1918 Nobel Prize for his contribution to the well-being of humanity and improving the agricultural standards. The author has brought to our attention that a good thing can also be misused and harm the same people it is supposed to help. Nitrogen was constantly used in wars as an explosive.
Sadly, Fritz was remembered for the role he played in World War I. he helped in the making of bombs from synthetic nitrate. He also came up with other poisonous gases such as ammonium then chloride. He also came up with Zyklon B, which Hitler used to kill people in the concentration camps. His wife committed suicide by shooting herself, as she could take what her husband was doing to aide the war (303). In this way, the author has made us see two sides of nitrogen, the good and the bad sides. He has also explored the agricultural field, starting with the plants, to the components that give the plant life.
However, the way he moves from taking about corn to the nitrogen talk leaves the reader a little bit confused. This is mostly so for people who have not much interest in the topic, or who are not used to reading the advanced kind of English. It also takes the reader a longer time to understand the ‘marriage’ between the topic and the body of the essay. According to me, the reader has mostly concentrated on the advantage of corn, the nitrogen that is used to make it and not the disadvantage of corn to America as the heading suggests. The vocabularies used are also difficult to understand for the people who are not well conversant with English.
Pollan, Michael. “What’s Eating America” Smithsonian Magazine, July 2006. Print.