Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Corn, Inputs, Pollution -- Filmmakers do Good by Big River and King Corn

Curt Ellis is in Spokane, Jan. 19, 2010 at SCC and Community Builiding -- he's on, 92.3 FM, 2-3 Tuesday, Jan. 13, and then rebroadcast Friday, 1 to 2. That's Paul Haeder's Tipping Points: Voices from the Edge. His film, King Corn, with Ian Cheney as co-editor and co-producer, has won a Peabody Award.

There is another movie that follows the downstream affects of industrial corn, called, Big River. That's at SCC, next week, Jan. 19. Curt's in town too.

Here's something about King Corn -- which is about Ian and Curt going to Iowa and buying an acre and seeing all the ins and outs of the American 70 million acre corn industry.

Inputs for Ian and Curt’s One-Acre Farm:

· 5.4 tons of eroded topsoil (Iowa average per latest NRCS Natural Resources Inventory)
· 130 pounds Anhydrous Ammonia (injected as fertilizer)
· 1.5 pints Guardsman Max herbicide (dimethenamid-P and atrazine for weed control)
· 3 gallons 18-46-0 liquid starter fertilizer (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium for germination)
· 2 ounces Regent insecticide (fipronil for planting-time pest control)
· 3 gallons liquid So-il Cal calcium supplement (for stabilizing nitrogen and nutrient uptake)
· 1 pound Atrazine herbicide (for weed control)
· 1.25 pints Landoil additive (for emulsification and stabilization of chemicals)
· 20 ounces Liberty herbicide (glufosinate for application to GMO LibertyLink corn)

Pesticide and Herbicide Facts:

· The incidence of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma has more than doubled since the 1970s (Mayo)
· More than 70 million lbs of Atrazine are applied annually; 75% of corn crop is treated (EPA)
· 33 million Americans have been exposed to Atrazine in drinking water (NY Times)
· Atrazine is associated with cancers including non-Hodgkyn lymphoma, ovarian, and colon.

Soil Erosion Facts:

· Soil planted in prairie can absorb 5-7 inches of rainfall per hour without major erosion
· Soils planted in row crops can only absorb only .5-1.5 inches before erosion begins
· In the 1950s, many Midwestern soils were nearly 20% carbon; now many are 1-2% (Rodale)
· If carbon-building organic agriculture was practiced on the earth’s 3.5 billion tillable acres, it could sequester nearly 40% of current CO2 emissions (Rodale Institute)

Fertilizer Facts:

· The Gulf of Mexico’s hypoxic “Dead Zone” averages 6,000 square miles in size (NY Times).
· Agriculture contributes 70% of nitrogen and phosphorus to the Dead Zone (EWG).
· 400 Dead Zones now exist around the world, including off all coasts of the US (Science)

What Can We Do?

Transition from commodity subsidies that reward all-out production to a “green payments” system that promotes conservation, carbon sequestration, and buffers along waterways.
Support local and organic producers and practice organic maintenance of lawns and gardens.

For Further Reading:

· The Pesticide Action Network offers a comprehensive database of agrochemicals and their risks, searchable by chemical component or brand name.
· The New York Times “Toxic Waters” series looks closely at Atrazine and farm runoff.
· The Iowa Daily Soil Erosion Project is an attempt to model any given day’s rainfall and soil loss on any chosen acre of Iowa land.
· The Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force is an intergovernmental project to assess and address the Dead Zone.

Footage for Big River was gathered between 2004 and 2009. The film employs previously unseen material shot during the making of King Corn, and footage captured after King Corn’s release. A handful of King Corn scenes are revisited in flashback, denoted by Super 8 film grain and letterbox.

Big River was shot on the DVCPRO50 Panasonic SDX-900 camera and edited in Final Cut Pro. Animations for the film were prepared using stop-motion photography, digital SLR and After Effects.

Editing took place in Austin, TX and Brooklyn, NY, in 2008 and 2009. The budget for creating and launching Big River came in the form of a $75,000 grant from the McKnight Foundation, with additional in-kind support from Mosaic Films, the WK Kellogg Foundation, and the IATP Food and Society Fellows Program.

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