Curt Ellis is a filmmaker and four-wheel farmer based in Brooklyn, NY. He co-created the documentaries "King Corn" and "The Greening of Southie," and is a Food and Society Policy Fellow. He is the co-founder of Wicked Delicate.

Back on the corn

January 14, 2008

Well, the results from our corn-free month are in — and I can’t claim that it’s a perfect victory. According to Steve Macko, the researcher at the University of Virginia who first tested our hair back in 2004, my corn carbon count dropped from 52 percent in 2004 to 39 percent now. Ian’s went from 58 percent down (ahem) to 44 percent. I caught up with Dr. Macko last week to find out what it all means.

Curt: So what happened?

Dr. Macko: Well, on the national scale, you’re now far below average for the amount of corn in your body. And looking at your nitrogen isotopes, you’re much closer to being vegan than most people. You’re now about 39 percent corn.

Curt: But I didn’t eat any corn at all!

Dr. Macko: Are you sure? Even acetaminophen has corn in it. Also, there’s a lot of corn that’s still working its way through your system. To do a complete turnover in your body is possible, but I don’t know how long that would take.

Curt back in Iowa.

Curt: Should I try to do it?

Dr. Macko: I’d prefer it if you ate tuna fish for a month. We know a lot about the grasses — the C3 and C4 plants like corn — but we know very little about the seafood isotope, sulfur-34. I’m feeding my cat tuna fish now, and I’m going to do some tests.

Curt: I’m done with weird diets, thanks. What are you hearing about the film?

Dr. Macko: Good things! People are thinking now about everything from the farm bill to the decline of American farms. The thing about corn, though — we don’t want to eliminate it — it’s good food; we just overindulge because it’s cheap, and can be used to produce foods that are not healthy — meats with more fat, or beverages with more sweetener.

Curt: Have you ever tested anyone who didn’t have a corn signal at all?

Dr. Macko: Well, there was Oetzi the Iceman. There was no corn in Europe 5,000 years ago, no C4 grasses at all, so he didn’t have any corn.

Curt: Wow!

Dr. Macko: He’s your aspiration. You want to be Oetzi.

Curt: What happened to him?

Dr. Macko: He died.

Curt: Of diabetes?

Dr. Macko: No. There was an arrow in his shoulder that some think did him in.

Editor’s note: Curt might still have a high corn carbon count, but nevertheless, during his month of corn-free eating he lost weight — seven pounds.

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