A Deeper Look at Corn

what we don’t know can hurt us

It’s straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting – the whole family sitting down to Sunday dinner with chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and … .corn. It’s as American as apple pie. On the cob, it’s a sought-out treat at county fairs and summer festivals. Corn is the United States’ largest crop both in volume and value. What people don’t know about corn, though, can and does hurt them. As a government subsidized staple of the American food system, it holds some dark secrets.

History

It is believed that the first corn originating in the Andes, later spread to Central America and up into Mexico where it was hybridized and domesticated sometime between 10,000 and 5,000 B.C. Corn didn’t reach the United States until around 600 A.D. By the time Columbus reached America, Indians grew it extensively. He ferried some back to Spain and, by 1700, it had become a major European crop. Today, corn is one 
of the most widely grown vegetables on Earth, with the U.S. and China leading the world in production.

Corn, Ohio’s second most valuable agricultural crop (soybeans are first), puts Ohio 6th in the U.S., right behind Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota and Indiana. Yet, just a fraction of the 3-plus million acres of Ohio corn is Sweet Corn, fit for human consumption. The majority of Ohio’s and all U.S. corn is Yellow Dent Corn, which is used primarily as livestock feed and in the manufacturing of industrial products. Flint Corn, is the last corn category. It is also known as Indian or ornamental corn. And popcorn? It’s just a subcategory of Flint corn.

Derivatives

More than half of Ohio’s corn crop becomes animal feed, 8 percent is used for sweeteners, 5 percent for fuel (ethanol) and almost 23 percent is exported to other countries. Corn starches, corn oil, corn syrup, industrial alcohol, toothpaste, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), glue, shoe polish and a variety of plastics, used in everything from carpeting to clothing, are derived from corn. As an overabundant government-subsidized crop, companies are finding a multitude of ways to utilize corn and its byproducts. Kevin Mote Fireplaces & Stoves in Laura, Ohio, carries stoves that efficiently burn dry corn kernels without polluting the air. These multi-fuel stoves can burn corn, cherry pits or wood pellets. One advantage cited by owner Kevin is the fact that these cleaner-burning stoves can safely sit just 3 inches away from an interior wall with only a short pipe needed to vent them outside. His showroom carries multiple wood, corn and multi-fuel styles, some computerized. He or his main technician Dan Norton can be reached at (937) 947-1883 or 1-800-526-1978.

New products made from corn continue to come onto the market. Second Street Market’s “A Greener You” booth offers environmentally friendly products, including mini-composters that use small plastic biodegradable bags made from corn starch -a wonderful alternative to the plastic bags clogging our landfills. Corn starch also makes frozen pizzas possible, preventing a soggy crust. Corn syrup keeps bread and other bakery products fresher longer. Citric acid, made from corn sweeteners, prevents the browning of fruits and vegetables. Corn syrup was long ago added to lollipops and other hard candies to keep them from dripping. It also stops the formation of ice crystals in ice cream and keeps marshmallows soft. Corn Ethanol, although it burns cleaner than gasoline, is not a panacea for today’s energy problems since it actually requires more energy in its production than it provides. The Ohio Corn Growers Association is currently pushing Congress to extend the Ethanol Excise Tax Credit for five more years to stimulate Ohio’s economy with more jobs, while making fuel cheaper for consumers since the tax credit pays gasoline refiners $.45 per gallon to blend ethanol into the gasoline supply.

But it’s time to peel back the husk and look more deeply at the darker, more dangerous side of corn. Corporate greed has attached itself to government subsidies and created a hidden monster for the unaware American consumer.

HFCS … a wolf in

sheep’s clothing

The most troubling and controversial derivative of corn by far is HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), unknown until the 1970s. Today, more than 4,000 common grocery store items contain it as a preservative and a sweetener. We see it as delicious and desirable; in truth, it is an addiction – and a poison. By the late 1980s, HFCS took over half of the U.S. sugar market because corn and thus high fructose corn syrup, is much cheaper than cane sugar. It’s a dominant ingredient in soft drinks, frozen dinners, cereals, breads and a host of our favorite everyday household staples. But in our bodies, it interferes with our metabolism and our detoxification processes. Putting profits ahead of ethics, companies poured millions into commercials and colorful packaging to convince Americans to buy these ‘foods’. The consequences are shockingly visible. In just 30 years, while the consumption of this sweetener jumped by 30 percent, the rates of obesity and diabetes exploded. How can this be?

High fructose corn syrup causes inflammation in our bodies, which is associated with the increasing litany of America’s common health complaints: arthritis, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, senility, obesity, depression, fatty liver, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Type II diabetes was formerly found only in adults but now affects our children in epidemic proportions. Adverse metabolic effects are also well documented. Anyone who has ever dieted can attest to the difficulty of losing weight in this age of refined and hidden sugars.

To make HFCS, all nutritional value is stripped from the corn, leaving only a cheap sugar substitute created by soaking corn in sulfuric acid. Yes, sulfuric acid. HFCS puts such a load on the pancreas and liver that they cannot metabolize and eliminate it. Instead, the sugar overload is stored as fat that cannot be lost because the organs that would ordinarily convert the sugar to energy are in crisis mode, leading to the surge in diabetes as the pancreas fails to release enough insulin to neutralize the excess sugars in today’s average diet.

Sadly, our own government is subsidizing this situation based on erroneous policy, leaving Americans battling corn’s dark side on two fronts: HFCS in our food and the GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in our meat. More than 80 percent of corn is now GMO corn, much of it Bt corn, a Monsanto creation that has its own built-in pesticide. Anyone who eats it can become a living pesticide factory since Bt corn contains pesticides in its DNA that can then transfer into human DNA.

GMOs in Corn,

messing with our DNA

This GMO corn has not been sufficiently tested, making Americans its unwitting guinea pigs. GM corn is engineered to produce a built-in pesticide called Bt-toxin. Monsanto’s own research found that rodents fed Bt corn had significant immune reactions. Bt corn is implicated in the deaths of cows in Germany and chickens and horses in the Philippines. Cows never eat corn in nature. Most of Europe, by law, requires clear labeling of GM products, but no such protections exist for American consumers since our powerful agribusiness industry has a vested interest in keeping government policy favorable to them while keeping us ignorant. Fortunately, for those curious enough to seek answers, a number of books, documentaries, articles and studies are available on the impact these unnatural ‘foods’ and crop byproducts are having on us and on our children’s health. (See listing at the end of this article.)

The agribusiness marketing campaign has been so effective that the average consumer actually believes that “corn-fed beef” is a positive attribute of meat when the opposite is true.

Factory farming has removed cows from their natural environment, from the grasses that they naturally eat. Cows, by the tens of thousands, are crowded into grassless feedlots where they spend the last months of their lives standing knee-deep in dirt and manure, eating a dried corn diet that sickens them and would kill them within six months if they were not slaughtered first. These sick and mistreated cows become our food, our “corn-fed beef” and nothing about it is healthy.

It is no accident that e-coli and other food-borne illnesses are on the rise across this country. The documentary movie, “Food, Inc.” exposes agribusiness’s harmful effects on animals, on the safety of our food 
supply and on the rise in e-coli in everything from 
hamburger to lettuce as a result of toxic factory farm run-off. While there were thousands of slaughterhouses in the 1970s, there are now only 17 in the entire U.S. America has lost 5 million family farms since the rise of factory farms 30 years ago. The result is unnatural, unsafe food. The hamburger we now eat is likely to be made from thousands of animals rather than just one under this perverse system, exponentially raising the risk of mad cow disease, e-coli, salmonella or other illnesses.

According to the New York Times, the “majority of hamburger” now sold in the U.S. contains the fatty slaughterhouse trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil, including material from the outer surface of the carcass that contains “larger microbiological populations.” This meat filler or “pink slime” as one FDA microbiologist called it, is commonly used in the federal school lunch program, in our favorite fast food restaurant hamburgers and in grocery-store ground beef. This nasty stuff is ineffectively cleaned with ammonia to cut its toxicity. This saves Beef Products, Inc., the industry that produces it, 3 cents a pound in production costs while earning it an additional $440 million a year.

As corporations get richer and we get sicker and fatter, we keep running to doctors and drug stores looking for relief when their income depends on us not finding any. Corporations push the double goal of efficiency and profit at the cost of our very lives. Our only defense is to educate ourselves.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have now infiltrated almost every nook and cranny of the food system, leaving us vulnerable to a host of problems including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging and negative changes in our major organs and gastrointestinal systems. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (ASEM) concluded, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation … ” 
Renowned biologist Pushpa Ghargaza believes GMOs are a major contributor to the deteriorating health 
in America.

Scientists at the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) warned that GM foods might create new allergies, poisons, new diseases and nutritional problems. Ohio allergist Dr. John Boyles says “I used to test for soy allergies all the time, but now that soy is genetically engineered, it is so dangerous that I tell people never to eat it.” With GM foods everywhere now, one way to be pro-active, health-wise, is to opt out of GM foods by printing off the Non-GMO Shopping Guide at www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com.

Summary

The story of corn is long, convoluted and fascinating. With the healthy food movement gaining ground in the United States, more and more people are growing their own organic vegetables and demanding meat that is free of growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and GMO products and that is grass-fed, rather than corn-fed.

Ohio is fortunate to have the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA), a membership-based, grassroots organization founded in 1979 and dedicated to promoting and supporting sustainable, ecological and healthful food systems. It provides a consumer guide for its members of organic and ecological farms and gardens, a membership directory and a newsletter, plus regional and national news of particular interest including farm profiles, practical tips on such things as community gardens and composting, book reviews, resources, events and opportunities.

Renee Hunt, OEFFA program director, said, “Organics have been the one growth area of the food system in the U.S.” This year, for the first time, OEFFA had to close its registration for their annual February conference because demand is so high now for information on sustainability and healthy choices. They can be reached at (614) 421-2022 in Columbus or online at oeffa.org.

Hunt summed it up by saying, “Farmers, backyard gardeners, researchers, students, consumers are all wanting to connect with a healthier food system. There’s a sense that there’s a movement going on.”

It’s about time.

More information on this topic can be obtained from the following sources:

Movies:

•  King Corn, a documentary

Food, Inc, a documentary

Books:

•  Sugar/HFCS

•  Sugar Blues by William Dufty

•  Sugar Busters! by H. Leighton Steward, Sam S. Andrews, M.D., Morrison C. Bethea, M.D., Luis A. Balart, M.D.

•  Lick the Sugar Habit by Nancy Appleton, Ph.D.

•  The Sugar Fix, The High-Fructose Fallout 
That is Making You Fat and Sick by Richard J. Johnson, M.D.

GMO foods

•  Seeds of Deception by Jeffrey Smith, 2003

•  Genetic Roulette: the Documented Health Risks 
of Genetically Engineered Foods by Jeffrey 
Smith, 2007

•  The Hundred-Year Lie, How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals that are Destroying Your Health by Randall Fitzgerald

•  Scientific Paper: Experimental Evidence of GMO Hazards by Irina Ermakova, EU Parliament,Brussels, 2007

Organizations:

•  Campaign for Healthier Eating in America

•  Ohio Corn Growers Association

Web Sites:

•  www.ResponsibleTechnology.org

www.oeffa.org

•  www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com

•  www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html (American Academy of Environmental Medicine)

11 Responses to “A Deeper Look at Corn” Subscribe

  1. Mary Alvarado May 28, 2010 at 6:17 am #

    Your articles are always interesting and fascinating to me, I cannot take in enough! I read health books and am interested in herbal medicinals and organic foods. Thanks for your articles.
    I have read up on food since I was about 14 years old and have an intuitive sense about what not to eat. I had an older sister who was a hippie and became a vegetarian in the early 70s. In fact she lives in northern Ohio.
    Growing up, we ate the normal stuff in the 50s and 60s, when processing became rampant. I quit eating meat at 14, cheese and sugar, as I was almost always sick with colds, sore throat respiratory stuff, constipation, super heavy periods, swollen lymph glands, etc. I quit getting sick and quit taking penicillin! I read “Diet for a New America”, by John Robbins and did my school papers on that subject at 16.
    One of my friends uses a pendulum to test her food and herb tinctures, vitamins, etc. I just know and have always known, from the first time I tried one of those “Arizona Teas”, that high fructose was not good. I got a weird head rush and hated it. Consequently, I rarely buy even the juice drinks. I was never a coke drinker or soft drinks, as my parents did not keep it in the house, except for special occasions, like a Sunday dinner of hamburgers and Dr. Pepper. I am 52, now, in pretty good health, but I am afraid when I go to the grocery store, read all the labels, and realize there is probably something detrimental in everything I buy. All those hidden and undisclosed things. Most stores have a health food section, which I go straight for. Our town of Taos, New Mexico has a good health food store and people are pretty aware here.
    A partner and I have started gardening for our community, and there are many gardens here, as yes, there is a movement to grow organics. People are becoming more and more aware. Tierra Lucero has a school program. Seeds of Change sponsors a seed exchange in April, people can get free organic and heirloom seeds.
    I hear it daily, people being more aware and feel that the corporations are going to start realizing people aren’t buying as much of the GMO products. The health food stores and farmer’s markets are busier than ever.
    I do my best to spread the word, but there is definitely a large population who would rather turn their heads and look the other way because it’s too much work to educate themselves and read labels, it’s too hard to lose weight. Most people think they don’t have the time. I see obesity everywhere.
    When I was growing up, there were no overweight kids in my classes. We ran, played outside a lot and after school were always outside, active.
    I have no kids because I saw no safe place for them when I was of age to have them. I feared for the future, THEN! I’m not paranoid, and I’ve seen the things come to pass that I was afraid of back in the early 70s. Even younger, I learned not to trust the Gov’t. And it is clear they are bought by the big corporations, it’s clear that Monsanto is threatened by scientists and anyone who questions their practices, wants testing, and that they put tons of money into buying the Gov’t, and anyone they can. I am wondering what kind of aliens these people are, anyway? Is there some sort of plan to destroy us or make us mutants?
    So, I like the networking to bring people together, to educate and help us take action. Keep telling us what you learn. Thank you for being a part of the solution or awareness.
    Mary Alvarado
    Taos, New Mexico

  2. Dante May 28, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    Its a crazy world we live in that corperations would put profit over the safety of consumers and contribute to the deterioration of the american diet and our government should be ashamed of themselves for letting this toxic activity arise.i just dont understand why do things have to get worse before they get better.This informations needs to be on every news channel and newspaper.

  3. CCF June 3, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    You lost me when you called high fructose corn syrup “poison.” I don’t know where to start in correcting all of your factual inaccuracies.

    It seems that brandishing urban myths about the foods we eat is the fad du jour these days. American’s will blindly eat up anything people like you say, no matter how devoid of facts it is. You have a responsibility to your reads to do your homework before you go on a senseless tirade like this

    • Erin June 23, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

      Where are your factual rebutals to all the points in this article?

  4. Lowell June 3, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

    CCF – Where is your evidence that HFCS and GM foods are fit for human consumption and will NOT cause long term health problems?

    Dante – Why would we ever expect corporations to NOT put profits over consumer safety?

    I agree with Mary. Do NOT place your trust in gov’t agencies that claim to have consumer safety as their primary goal. Those agencies have been compromised by the very corporate interests they are supposed to be regulating.
    Articles like, “A Deeper Look at Corn,” as well as documentaries such as, “King Corn,” “Food Matters,” and “Food, Inc.” Help the consumers question where their food is coming from and what is going on. It can never be a bad thing to question what food you are ingesting into your body. But if you would rather bury your head in the sand and deny that there is any problem with the foods we eat, be my guest. You can either remain part of the experiment or you can choose to educate yourself and eat the food that nature intended.

  5. Marianne Stanley June 10, 2010 at 10:03 pm #

    My thanks to all who wrote, sharing your thoughts and life stories with me. I am hopefully only a catalyst for readers’ own investigations into our exploding health problems and the corporate ‘hand’ in it all. A little reading goes a long way as long as we all check our sources and look for the motivations behind the books/films/etc. The book “Sugar Blues”, for instance, documents its assertions and is a great first book to read. We can take our health back! For the doubters, all you have to do is try it and then note the changes in the following month. I’ve had people tell me they’ll never go back to eating sugar again even though they love it. Again, thanks for the compliments; that article took two months to write and has lit a fire within me to delve much more deeply into nutrition, health, disease and the things that are intentionally hidden from us.

  6. Terri Ann June 20, 2010 at 6:44 pm #

    I recently visited my son & his family in the Dayton area. My wonderful daughter-in-law had printed out your article for me. Thank you for being in a mainstreem publication! We need more people to “wake up” to the self-indulgent greed of the few at the risk of our health and those of our future generations. Bless you for your service to humanity Marianne. Terri Ann from Wisconsin

  7. Terri Ann June 20, 2010 at 6:47 pm #

    Another EXCELLENT documentary is “The Future of Food”. It can be rented thru Netflix

  8. Marianne June 20, 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    Thank you for your complimentary comments, Terri Ann! I also appreciate your information on the documentary, “The Future of Food”. You can bet I’ll view that one, too. It’s too bad the media and the government are in cahoots with big business rather than functioning as they were originally intended to function – as our watchdogs and as our representatives. It looks like it’s up to us now….and it’s not a bad thing…….to reclaim our power and take charge of our lives while committing ourselves to making life better for each other, the planet and all sentient beings. We are, after all, a part of each other.

    • Lowell June 22, 2010 at 2:33 am #

      I found the Corn Refiners Association’s web site (http://www.corn.org/). I sent them an email asking them about their ad campaign about HFCS being “OK” in moderation. The email I received in reply was as ambiguous as their commercials. Even if HFCS is “OK” in moderation, how are we supposed to know at what level exceeds moderation if the exact amount of HFCS is not listed in the ingredients? HFCS seems to be in everything. So if you have a stack of pancakes with HFCS fake maple syrup for breakfast, and a burger and fries with HFCS in the bread and ketchup and soft drink, and more HFCS laden food for diner, is it possible that you have exceeded the so called moderation they are claiming in the commercials? By their own commercials, the Corn Refiners Association is saying that we should limit the amount of HFCS we intake in a day, yet it is impossible to get an accurate assessment of a daily limit when they don’t publish a daily limit amount and food with HFCS doesn’t list the exact amount that is in each serving.

  9. Marianne June 23, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

    You’ve made some solid points both times, Lowell. How cool that you actually contacted the Corn Refiner’s Association! That’s exactly the kind of proactive stance we should all be taking. Since more than 4,000 standard grocery store items contain HFCS, we are all at risk of making ourselves unhealthy unless and until we begin to eat foods that we can recognize and that are locally-grown. Maybe we can’t get away from all toxins, pollutants and chemicals in today’s world, but we can at least try to mitigate the number of them we breathe and consume.

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