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Organic Consumers Association

Where They Grow Our Junk Food

Follow the flow of food. That's what any farmer will tell you. Because apples don't grow in supermarkets.

So to get to the root of the exploding obesity epidemic, I went in search of a junk food farm.

Such farms are not so easy to spot. No fields of Dorito bags waving in the breeze, no orchards blooming with soda pop, no soil bursting with 99-cent burgers.

What you do see are vast operations growing the raw materials for junk food: soybeans and corn.

The two crops go into the production of many things: pharmaceuticals, industrial products, animal feed - and inexpensive calories.

Tonnes of soybeans and corn are turned into "edible food-like substances," as food system critic Michael Pollan calls them, used in virtually all processed foods, beverages and junk food.

Last year, Ontario farmers planted 2.4 million acres of soybeans and just over 2 million acres of corn. That's nearly half of all cropland in the province, a near-colonization of Ontario farms by the soy and corn industry.

It has provided an abundance of cheap calories for a food system that operates by Doritos economics. A bushel of corn produces some 440 two-ounce bags of 99-cent chips. Farmer grosses $3.70 for the bushel of corn, Doritos more than $440.

Dave Ferguson grows ingredients for junk food on his 364-hectare farm about an hour west of London, Ont. With no market for local food in his area, he has few other options than to grow soybeans and corn, along with wheat and a little alfalfa.


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