Corn in our Diet

Our bodies are made of Corn

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A study of hamburgers and chicken sandwiches collected from three separate Burger King, McDonald's and Wendy's locations in six cities across the US showed that 93% of the tissue in the hamburger meat and 100% of the chicken was derived from corn. It also found that all of the chicken was from just one company, Tyson Foods, and its chemical composition was exactly the same in all the fast food joints across the country. Dr. Macko, a professor at the University of Virginia, analyzes strands of hair from people to determine how much corn is in their diet. His results have shown people with 85% corn content in their hair. The hair and tissue tests are performed by measuring the amount of an isotope, carbon 13, that corn happens to have more of than other plants. The carbon 13 signature stays around after the the corn is converted to animal feed, consumed, and processed by livestock into tissue. It remains even after meat is cooked.

Corn represents over double the acreage of any other crop in the US. Its popularity is due to financial subsidies to the farmers from the US government. Between 1995 and 2009, $73.8 billion in subsidies were paid directly to corn farmers and indirectly for crop insurance, price support, market loss assistance, and other corn programs. Farmers were able to get 80 bushels of corn per acre in the 1960’s, but genetically altered seeds, herbicides, pesticides, and new farming practices have resulted in some farmers now getting 300 bushels of corn per acre. Every year since 1996, more of the corn is from genetically modified seeds that are protected with patents by large corporations. In 2010, 85% of the corn planted in the US was genetically modified as are most of the corn crops world-wide. The majority of the corn fields in American are varieties of maize (dent corn or flint corn) that consist of bland, tough, coarse kernels. The crop is used as animal feed, biofuel, and chemically processed into vegetable oil, starch and gluten. The huge yields and government funding of corn has created a new industry that develops creative ways to use the surplus of corn grown each year. Organizations like the Corn Refiners Association have concocted an array of corn sweeteners and food additives like dried corn syrup, maltodextrins, dextrose monohydrate, dextrose anhydrous, high fructose corn syrups, and fructose. The US sugar tariff increases the price of imported sugarcane and refined sugar motivating food and drink manufacturers to use subsidized corn based sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup.

Over a ton of corn is consumed yearly on average by every American through snack chips, breakfast cereal, popcorn, tortillas, bread, oil, sugars, gluten, and starch. Cheap, calorie laden corn products are hidden in foods like frozen yogurt, sauces, soups, hamburger buns, chicken nuggets, sports drinks, medicine, and vitamins.

Over 90% of the feed for chickens, turkeys, pigs, cattle, and farm fish is genetically modified corn which, when combined with growth hormones, quickly and cheaply fattens livestock. Corn sickens cattle because their stomachs are designed to digest cellulose from grass, so, antibiotics are used to keep them alive. The cattle's corn diet also causes high acidity in their stomach which breeds E. coli O157:H7, a deadly strain of the bacteria that plagues the food supply.

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FURTHER READING

  1. National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA Acreage Report
  2. Farm Subsidy Database
  3. Scientific American article: “The burgers you are eating is mostly corn"
  4. PBS interview of Dr. Stephen Macko
  5. 300 Bushels of Corn
  6. King Corn movie
  7. Food Inc. movie
  8. Corn Refiners Association
  9. National Corn Growers
  10. Corn Commentary

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