born to feed corn is the crop of greed

To eat it, we must gnaw on it like beavers; it leaves a drippy mess on our chins and strings of pulp between our teeth.

To eat it, we must gnaw on it like beavers; it leaves a drippy mess on our chins and strings of pulp between our teeth.

But no matter how uncouth the cob of corn, it is the hero of summer. Celebrated at barbeques, corn boils and roasts everywhere, everyone loves corn and corn brings us together.

How paradoxical then that corn has become so menacing and divisive.

Corn’s foray into the world of biofuels and the obesity controversy has tainted summer’s sweet yellow treat.

Not that there is any such thing as an innocent vegetable anymore, what with all the fertilizers and pesticides, not to mention the seed engineering and patenting and factory farming, and so on.

But of all the vegetables in the world, corn — or maize, as the industrial crop is known worldwide—is one of the most exploited.

The cereal grain, domesticated in   Mesoamerica and spread throughout the American continents, reached the rest of the world after European contact with the Americas in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

Today, the top producers are as widespread as China, Brazil, France, Indonesia, India and South Africa.

Maize is the largest crop in all of the Americas.

But the United States alone produces almost half of the world’s harvest — more than 270 million metric tonnes annually, with a projected export worth $9.3 billion in 2008, according to Farm News of Iowa.

Worldwide, production of maize beats out wheat.

In 2004, close to 33 million hectares of maize was planted globally, with a production value of more than $23 billion.

Continuing production spikes can give credit to two main innovations — high-fructose corn syrup and ethynol.

High-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener and preservative used in a wide variety of processed foods, including everything from peanut butter to salad dressings to soft drinks.

It is made by converting the sugar in cornstarch to fructose, another form of sugar.

High-fructose corn syrup extends the shelf life of foods and is sweeter and cheaper than sugar because of high yields and, in the United States, ridiculous government subsidies.

Nutrition experts are now blaming increased consumption of high-fructose corn syrup for the obesity epidemic.

One theory is that fructose is more readily converted to fat by your liver than is sucrose, increasing the levels of fat in your bloodstream. Corn-fed cows and poultry, for example, produce meat with more saturated fat.

Another problem is that the high-fructose syrup doesn’t trigger the chemical messages, which tell the brain that the stomach is full, which regular refined sugar does.

Diabetes and high cholesterol are also being linked to corn and the syrup.

Corn ingredients appear in almost 4,000 products, or more than half of what’s on grocery store shelves, according to the Corn Refiners Association.

Corn is also widely used as feed for livestock.

About 14 per cent of US corn is used to produce ethanol.

Ethanol, or ether alcohol, is a grain alcohol — the same found in alcoholic beverages.

It’s a hot commodity these days as the latest biofuel in a world that is hot for green solutions to global warming.

Henry Ford’s first mass-produced automobile, the famed Model T Ford, was invented to run on pure anhydrous (ethanol) alcohol, but few places have yet to approve the substance in its 100 per cent form as a motor vehicle fuel.

Most cars using ethanol at levels of 10 per cent.

However, in Brazil, almost half its cars are able to use 100 per cent ethanol, which Brazil produces from domestically grown sugar cane, rather than corn.

The benefits of ethanol is that it produces fewer greenhouse gases that cause climate change. Added to gasoline, it also reduces ground-level ozone formation.

But critics say the devastating environmental impacts of the ethanol industry make it a joke as ‘green’ fuel.

“As bad as the annual flood of cheap corn is for our health — nutritionally worthless high-fructose corn syrup, cheap feed for confined animals pumped full of antibiotics and hormones — it may be even worse for the environment,” writes Tom Philpott, in Grist, a nonprofit environmental group out of Seattle.

US corn farmers dump more than 10 billion pounds of nitrogen fertilizer onto their fields — a heavier dose than for any other crop by a factor of nearly three, writes Philpott.

Crushing natural fertility agents in the soil and into waterways and killing fish, this process is credited with creating the Dead Zone, a useless patch of water void of oxygen the size of New Jersey, which runs from the Mississippi delta to the Gulf of Mexico.

The biofuel and high-fructose corn syrup debates continue to heat up as the US continues to produce and subsidize so much corn that it is dumping most of it and still unable to get rid of it all.

The result is a country full of obese children, dead waters and an environmental movement so full of hypocrisy that it promises never to make the slightest dent in the fight against global warming.

Corn is yummy and nutritious with a little butter and salt.

It’s not so great as a fuel that kills the land, or a sweetener that ruins our bodies.

Juliann Fraser is a writer living in Whitehorse.

Just Posted

The Yukon has confirmed 33 active COVID-19 cases on June 15. (file photo)
A new study has discovered beaver castoreum on a 6,000-year-old Yukon atlatl-throwing dart. Photo courtesy of Yukon Government.
Beaver casotreum residue found on 6,000-year-old atlatl throwing dart

The discovery of beaver castoreum on a throwing dart could be the first instance where its use has been identified in an ancient archaeological context

The Yukon’s current outbreak of COVID-19 is driven by close contact between people at gatherings, such as graduation parties. (Black Press file)
Yukon logs 21 active cases as COVID-19 spreads through graduation parties

Anyone who attended a graduation party is being asked to monitor themselves for symptoms.

Yukon RCMP and other emergency responders were on the scene of a collision at Robert Service Way and the Alaska Highway on June 12. (Black Press file)
June 12 collision sends several to hospital

The intersection at Robert Service Way and the Alaska Highway was closed… Continue reading

The sun sets over Iqaluit on Oct. 26, 2020. Nunavut’s chief public health officer says two COVID-19 cases at Iqaluit’s middle school came from household transmission and the risk to other students is low. (Emma Tranter/Canadian Press)
Iqaluit school’s contacts and classmates cleared after two COVID-19 cases

With an outbreak ongoing in Iqaluit, the Aqsarniit middle school has split students into two groups

An extended range impact weapon is a “less lethal” option that fires sponge or silicon-tipped rounds, according to RCMP. (File photo)
Whitehorse RCMP under investigation for use of “less lethal” projectile weapon during arrest

Police used the weapon to subdue a hatchet-wielding woman on June 4

Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents.
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

The move comes in response to a call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015

Teslin Lake is one of two bodies of water the Yukon Government has place on flood watch. (Google Maps Image)
Flood watch issued for Teslin Lake, Yukon River at Carmacks

The bodies of water may soon burst their banks due to melting snow and rainfall

Kluane Adamek, AFN Yukon’s regional chief, has signalled a postponement to a graduation ceremony scheduled for today due to COVID-19. She is seen here in her Whitehorse office on March 17. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
AFN Yukon’s post-secondary grad celebration postponed

The event scheduled for June 14 will be rescheduled when deemed safe

(Alexandra Newbould/Canadian Press)
In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on.
Terror charges laid against man accused in London attack against Muslim family

Liam Casey Canadian Press A vehicle attack against a Muslim family in… Continue reading

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer, poses for a portrait in the boardroom outside his office in Iqaluit, Nunavut, on Sept. 30, 2020. (Emma Tranter/Canadian Press)
Two cases of COVID-19 at Iqaluit school, 9 active in Nunavut

Nunavut’s chief public health officer says two COVID-19 cases at Iqaluit’s middle… Continue reading

The Village of Carmacks has received federal funding for an updated asset management plan. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Federal funding coming to Carmacks

The program is aimed at helping municipalities improve planning and decision-making around infrastructure

Most Read