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14 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

On balance, corn subsidies in the U.S. are bad

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/21/2010 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,676 times Debate No: 13429
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
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Argumentation for both sides will begin in round 2.


I hereby accept this endeavor, and plan on thoroughly dominating you. Though I am thankful of this debates creation.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank my opponent for accepting the debate and give him props for his confidence.

I begin with some definitions:


Corn: a type of crop with yellow "ears"; technically a grain, not a vegetable [1]

Subsidy, from Princeton's Wordnet, is "financial support from public funds." [2]

Bad, from Princeton's Wordnet, is having negative consequences. [3]

On balance: weighing all the good consequences against all the bad consequences


1. All subsidies are bad

Subsidies merely create market distortions and impede the proper functioning of the free market, which is much better at allocating resources than the government is (see state planning and overproduction in the Soviet economy).

2. Provision of subsidies creates inequality

In the U.S.

Corn subsidies in the U.S. disproportionately go to the richest farmers. Common Dreams writes: "Although the program began as a way to aid poor family farmers in the 1930s, by last year nearly three-quarters of the money went to the richest 10 percent of American farmers." [4] According to the World Bank, the U.S. government sends 31 farm subsidy checks to addresses in Beverly Hills. Subsidies make it harder for smaller farms to compete.

In the world

In developing countries, many people depend on primary commodities (such as food crops) to make a living. However, U.S. subsidies force U.S. farmers to overproduce crops like corn and then sell the surplus on the world market. Small-time poor farmers cannot hope to compete with large, subsidized U.S. agro-business. According to Common Dreams, "By guaranteeing U.S. farmers a minimum payment for commodities such as corn . . . the government encourages overproduction . . . Those subsidies make it possible to export millions of tons of food so cheaply that native farmers in places such as Jamaica can't possibly compete." [5]

3. Obesity

Corn is so heavily subsidized that it can be bought at prices "below cost" (i.e. costs less to buy corn than to produce it). For this reason, the food industry tries to use corn in everything; it is used to replace sugar (corn syrup), to feed pigs, cattle, and even salmon, and in vegetable oil (to make fried foods). Notice that the types of foods produced with ultra-cheap corn are generally unhealthy – sugary, fatty, and deep-fried foods.

In contrast, healthy foods receive almost no subsidies. According to Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina, "We put maybe one-tenth of one percent of our dollar that we put into subsidizing and promoting foods through the Department of Agriculture into fruits and vegetables . . . As a result, the price gap between high-sugar, high-fat foods and more nutritionally valuable fruits and vegetables is artificially large." [6] This is perfectly exhibited in the documentary Food Inc. when a poor family is asked to try to purchase the ingredients for a salad for the same price as a meal at McDonald's and is unable to do so. A $1 burger is heavily subsidized (cheap corn feed for the cattle), whereas a $3 head of lettuce is not.

The relative cheapness of unhealthy foods is contributing to the obesity and diabetes epidemics sweeping the nation. Darius Lakdawalla, an obesity researcher at the National Bureau of Economic Research, conducted a study, which found that these cheap food prices "account for as much as half of the increase in obesity that we've seen." [7]

Obesity causes a series of health problems, which contribute to the dramatically rising health care costs in the Untied States. For this reason, Dr. Barry Sears concludes: "It would be less costly to simply eliminate the $20 billion in annual government support for corn and soybean production than to fix the health problems they cause." [8]

4. E Coli

Corn – because it is artificially cheap - is often fed to many animals whose bodies cannot naturally digest it. One major byproduct of corn digestion in these animals, particularly cattle, is E. coli bacteria. The E. coli end up in the animal's feces, which is dumped somewhere near the farm and spreads to nearby vegetable crops during the rainy season. This is why E. coli outbreaks have been happening with increasing frequency recently, not just in the beef industry, but in the spinach, tomato, and lettuce industry as well. The E. coli strains are often resistant to antibiotics because feed animals are packed in such tight quarters that they must be pumped full of antibiotics to prevent the rapid spread of infections. Creating massive amounts of antibiotic resistant deadly bacteria and allowing its runoff to enter our food crops seems like a bad idea. Tens of thousands of Americans are hospitalized each year with serious illnesses (kidney failure, seizures, paralysis) caused by E. coli, usually from meat. [9]

The documentary Food Inc. explains that switching a cow from a corn diet to a grass diet will eliminate most of the E. coli in its gut within 36 hours. Eliminating corn subsidies would induce farmers to switch cattle to a grass diet, virtually eliminating the E. coli problem in the U.S. overnight.

5. Ethanol

In a misguided effort to move towards alternative energy, the U.S. has increased corn subsidies by subsidizing the production of corn ethanol to the tune of 45 cents per gallon. [10] Subsidized ethanol producers are willing to pay more for the corn than consumers; this drives up the prices worldwide. From 2005 to 2008, the price of corn in the world doubled. [11] These rising food prices will cause many people in the world to starve. Environmental News Service reports, "The United States, in a misguided effort to reduce its oil insecurity by converting grain into fuel for cars, is generating global food insecurity on a scale never seen before . . . The World Bank reports that for each 1 percent rise in food prices, caloric intake among the poor drops 0.5 percent. Millions of those living on the lower rungs of the global economic ladder, people who are barely hanging on, will lose their grip and begin to fall off." [12]

According to projections done by two professors at the University of Minnesota, without ethanol subsidies, the number of hungry and malnourished in the world would have declined by 175 million people by 2025. With ethanol subsidies, the number of hungry and malnourished is expected to grow by 400 million people by 2025. [13]

This effort is further misguided because according to UC Berkeley geo-engineering professor Ted Patzek, it takes approximately 6 gallons of gasoline to produce one gallon of ethanol. [14]

6. Gas prices

Because of subsidies, corn is over-produced in the U.S. This is problematic because corn takes an enormous amount of fossil fuels to produce, particularly because it takes a great deal of oil to create fertilizer. Agriculture accounts for 20% of U.S. fossil fuel consumption. [15] According to UC Berkeley News, "the American corn diet is really an oil diet. Corn . . . is the SUV of plants. Growing it the way we do requires it to guzzle fuel in the form of fertilizer, about a quarter to a third of a gallon of petroleum for each bushel." [16] Corn overproduction thus drives up the cost of gasoline in this country since corn production requires so much oil.

[5] Ibid
[6] Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 112, Number 14, October 2004
[7] Ibid
[11] Ibid
[13] Ibid


ftownhero forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


It's too bad my opponent forfeited. I was looking forward to him trying to "thoroughly dominate" me.

Maybe he didn't realize how bad corn subsidies actually are.

Extend my case, vote Pro.


ftownhero forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


Extend my case.

Vote pro.

-Sent from my iPhone


ftownhero forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Cody_Franklin 6 years ago
Con's already lost conduct. :P
Posted by bluesteel 6 years ago
"have a negative impact"
Posted by I-am-a-panda 6 years ago
Defien bad, or add "mmmmkay" to the resolution.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Bipolarmoment 5 years ago
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Vote Placed by J.Kenyon 5 years ago
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