The Cornier You Are The More I Don’t Want To Eat You

Corn husk doll
I stopped at a roadside farm stand (the location on a used-car lot should have clued me in) a couple of years ago. They were selling “native” corn.  I knew that I didn’t want corn that had been heavily sprayed with pesticides. This was during my days of innocence before I was aware of genetically engineered corn.

“Do you spray your vegetables?” I asked hopefully. A stout 40-something woman, wearing a worn tee-shirt and jeans, her hands calloused, responded as she lifted a heavy crate of vegetables, “Of course we do; we’re commercial.”  Wow. Jaw-dropping moment. I was expecting her to say, like the other farmers I ask, that they use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) or no spray at all. She was very matter of fact and I suppose her answer wouldn’t faze someone else but… me, I couldn’t get back into my car quick enough. I drove off and never looked back (in more ways than one).

 

 I was fooled again by the ‘native” and “fresh-picked” signs.

 

It’s obvious that this woman and the owners of the farm had no intention to become organic. Do they actually eat their produce? I know it isn’t a priority to everyone—decreasing pesticide use—plenty of people are happy to have fresh-picked corn while supporting a local farmer no matter what the farm’s philosophy is. Fine for them, not for me.

 

Welcome to my bubble.

 

Until now, I believed that GMO corn was only used for industrial purposes— for processing, animal feed, HFCS and other food additives, and ethanol.  Although, not anymore, right Walmart? With the news of GMO corn’s arrival at grocery stores starting this past summer (2012), consumers can now find Monsanto’s genetically engineered sweet corn on grocery store shelves; in the produce, canned and frozen aisles; it could also be at farm stands. It accounts for about 40% share of the market. It is unlabeled so, I would be suspicious of buying any corn unless the source is known. What are the chances that the corn from that particular farm-stand is now GMO?   Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and General Mills(Green Giant and Cascadian Farms) all claim they won’t use it, so at least we have that—their word, if we can trust their word.

 

I have bought corn from a farm-stand that was not sprayed, and it had worms; it is a problem with corn.  I don’t have an issue cutting the worms of an ear (oh how far I’ve come), at least a worm is part of nature. What is the right thing to do? There are many ways to prevent disease and infestation but each is an undertaking, and more work than spraying.

Crop-rotation is an effective way of managing pest infestation. Pair that with crop-covering and the farmer will see their soil improve. Mono-cropping leads to soil depletion and in turn the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Other effective ways of prevention include  introducing pest predators, specified planting dates, tillage, intercropping, and use of pest-resistant varieties of crops.

 

When those methods aren’t used, and corn is grown on the same soil year after year (mono-cropping) then, the soil will become depleted of minerals and biologic materials and the farmer will be left needing to spray. Who knows, maybe they will need to spray anyway, for whatever reason. I don’t own a farm, I don’t know everything that happens there. I do know that at our CSA farm share, they use all of those practices and sometimes a crop gets lost (like slugs in the strawberries), but even if that crop was lost the farmers have found a way to support themselves, and the environment.

Whether it’s a synthetic or organic spray, what is the responsible thing to do?  Neonicotinoid and glyphosate (Monsanto’s) pesticides, used on corn, have been shown to kill bees, and monarch butterflies by killing their food source. Because insects and weeds are becoming resistant to these pesticides, farmers have to increase their pesticide applications. Farmers have a choice then, between spraying heavily and repeatedly with destructive effects to their worker’s health, and ours, and the environment; using integrated pest management (IPM), which is less taxing on the environment; or using an organic pesticide, which may or may not be safe.

 

Well, corn isn’t supposed to be that good for you anyway. Sure, it has some vitamins and minerals, but so do a lot of other foods. Corn is highly inflammatory; it’s probably a good idea to stay away from it if you have an auto-immune disease/disorder. Even those widespread Internet weight loss ads for “5 foods to never eat”, picture corn as one of the foods (because of the high carb count).

 

You might have heard that corn is a vegetable and even a grain, both are true depending on the use but…

Do you know that corn is technically a grass? I mention that because who’s to say that the 100% grass-fed beef you’re buying isn’t actually being fed corn. I know— mind blowing! That’s why it is so important to know your source. After reading an article on Texas Grass-Fed Beef.com’s site, I’m not feeling good about any corn products, not even my favorite Organic Blue Corn tortilla chips I eat. Does this mean I have to give up Mexican food entirely?  Well, I guess I should add some grass-fed beef to make up for all the corn. This is where I should mention that I haven’t eaten beef since around 1984.

 

Since I am talking about corn here, because this post was going to be about something else, I thought I should compile a list of ingredients found in food that may be derived from corn.  While searching, I found this handy list from Food Inc. (I found the list here):

 Alpha tocopherol

Ascorbic acid

Baking powder

Calcium stearate

Caramel Cellulose

Citric Acid
Citrus cloud emulsion

Corn flour
Corn oil
Cornstarch
Corn syrup
Dextrin
Dextrose (glucose)

Diglycerides
Ethylene
Ethyl acetate
Ethyl lactate
Fibersol-2
Fructose
Fumaric acid
Gluten
Golden syrup
High fructose corn syrup

Inositol
Invert sugar
Malt
Maltodextrin

Margarine
Monoglycerides
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Polydextrose
Saccharin
Semolina
Sorbic Acid
Sorbitol
Starch
Sucrose
Treacle
Vanilla extract
White vinegar
Xanthan gum
Xylitol
Zein

 

 

 

There’s an even longer list at cornallergens.com.

It’s hard to believe that some of those items might be derived from corn, but it goes to show what the biotechnology companies can do these days.

Corn is in everything and since 88% of corn is genetically engineered, I think it’s safe to assume that these processed ingredients are all GMO.

 

I’m not ready to go overboard when it comes to corn and completely cut it from our diets. You will still see me scanning the labels of organic corn in the store (because I won’t give up my Mexican food yet). All these changes can be made in moderation. What I do know is that I will avoid any of the ingredients listed above that are additives in foods. That way I’m not cutting out any whole-foods just highly processed ingredients.

And, the next time I stop at a farm stand and the person says, “Of course we do; we’re commercial.” I will get back in my car and drive away.

 

Pesticides used on corn: http://www.toxicfreenc.org/informed/pdfs/corn_chems.pdf

 

Other Sources:

 http://www.organicgrains.ncsu.edu/pestmanagement/corninsects.htm

 http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/USDA%20NASS%20Backgrounder-FINAL.pdf

 http://www.nationofchange.org/monsanto-s-roundup-shown-be-ravaging-butterfly-population-1331055035

 http://www.texasgrassfedbeef.com/corn__it_s_what_s_bad_for_you.htm

http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/20021001/crop_rotate

 

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17 thoughts on “The Cornier You Are The More I Don’t Want To Eat You

  1. Another GREAT post! I stay away from corn now too. But from my understanding corn has been hybridized to death like wheat. It no longer resembles the nutritional quality that it once did. I heard that Mexico is trying hard to preserve its corn heritage and actually has better quality corn than in the US. Something to think about possibly if I ever buy seeds to plant corn. It should be an heirloom. This might be off topic a bit too, but I heard from Jill at Real Food Forager that certain foods are only inflammatory to people with gut problems. Wheat is inflammatory to those with wheat allergies, corn to those with corn allergies and so on. It leads me to believe that it is the type of corn, wheat, etc that is bad and not corn, wheat in general. We never had these problems 50 years ago.

    • Hi Jen, thank you so much!

      I had read that Mexico’s corn supply has been tainted by US GMO corn and that is it a really big problem, but I don’t have all the details. Mexico has many varieties of heirloom corn so I can see why they would be so upset. I think you’r right that heirloom seeds are the way to go.

      I have read some of Jill’s posts too and I have seen that. I think that’s why it’s so hard to know what the right things to eat are, because as much as I might read that one thing is bad and should be avoided or soaked and fermented, or whatever, it really depends on the individual. I also feel when I am researching that some of the authors generalize all types into one. Like, all corn should be avoided because it’s inflammatory or GMO, but is 100% stoneground organic blue corn as bad as another variety more processed? So, I agree that it is probably the type and while I haven’t completely eliminated it, it is on my watch list.

      The link I put up from Texas Grass-fed Beef said that the corn issue has been known since the 70′s. I would imagine that it was probably pretty hybridized back then too.

      Thanks for commenting and thank you so much for featuring my posts from last week! I can’t even tell you how much that meant to me!

    • I realized, Jen, that I mentioned in my post that corn is highly inflammatory, which I think you picked up on. I based that statement on the nutrition data website that I have now put a link for. Depending on the type of corn, according to that website, the inflammation factor varies, but it is all on the negative side (a positive number being good). I know that there is plenty of information out there that talks about inflammation, which is why I wanted to get my statement from there, which seems to be pretty basic.

  2. Hi! Wow. I’ve been looking at corn with the side-eye for a long time now, ever since that slip up with the Taco Bell grocery store brand. The whole thing freaks me out. I like your site because you get the truth without it being as scary as it is on other blogs. I’ll be back… Oh, and I follow on Twitter… ;)

    • Thank you so much, Eva! I liked you twitter post, it was really funny. Thanks for the compliment, I really try to talk about things with a bit of humor and from the point of view of a mom who just wants her kid to be healthy. Thanks for following me, I’ll follow you too!

  3. Girl, this was jam-packed with info! I feel like I need to re-read it. I’m SOOO guilty of using corn as a filler for my kids. They love it, and I’ll throw it in with enchiladas or rice or with zucchini. I had no idea it was an inflammatory. I feel like a big idiot, because I have rheumatoid arthritis and of course gone through the whole non-sugar, non-wheat ordeal to see if it would help my symptoms. I never got around to corn because while I was eating gluten free it was my life-savor. I would eat corn tortillas or chips as a replacement for the bread I missed and maybe that’s why I never noticed any “results” from my gluten free diet.

    I don’t think I could ever give up Mexican food though.

    • Hi Hilljean,

      We are in the same boat! When I gave up gluten/wheat to see if it would help with my Hashimoto’s I went straight to rice and corn; so not really an improvement in diet. My daughter still eats wheat but I am trying to wean her off of grains. It’s hard! My husband and daughter want pasta all the time, even though it’s rice it’s still grain. I have been reading that eliminating grains is a good idea for people with auto-immune diseases/disorders so I’m trying to cut back on them and preventively cut back for my daughter< i don’t want her growing up a sentence of Hashimoto’s. I think if we are aware and try to make changes for our children’s diets, then they are better off than we were.

      Thanks for commenting!

  4. I just found your blog from Eat Make Grow, and clicked on your link, because the topic of food really has almost all of my attention now that I am a mom and want my daughter to be as healthy as possible and grow up with good, healthy eating habits. This was a great post and very informative. I feel like no matter what item I pick up in the grocery aisle, it has some sort of corn-processed ingredient:( That’s why I’m trying my best to cook from scratch and really control what ingredients get put into our meals, but we always have times when we are out to eat or on the go. Anyway, I’ve started to follow you and can’t wait to read some more:)

    • Hi Erin,

      Thank you for your compliments! I have had the same motivation to get better informed and to change my family’s eating habits. I try to cook most things from scratch as well and have found that for the other things I have to buy organic— not that organic means healthy or safe, but at least there is a better chance of healthier ingredients. I still read labels though and try my best to stay away from certain labels. Thanks so much for following!

  5. Hi Lyza,
    What a great article about corn! I do like fresh corn but
    I only try to get it from local farmers that are organic. I also buy organic grits from Anson Mills and Bob’s Red Mill. Thanks for helping so many people be more informed about their food choices.

    • Hi Shelley,

      Yes, the only way I feel comfortable about buying sweet corn (on the cob) is from a farmer I can talk to.

      Thank you for the compliment.

    • Thanks for that link. I should put it in. It must be so scary to have a child with an allergy to a food that is in everything! Thanks for commenting!

    • I wish I had enough sunlight to do it at my house. If you do grow your own, make sure you buy heirloom seeds. good luck!

  6. Hi! I’m stopping over from the blog hop at The Epic Mom.

    This was a really intresting article. Almost all my life I’ve bought my food from Wal-Mart or another such store and only on a rare occasion have I actually looked for something better. I have grown food before and love gardening, but that is as good as it gets for me.

    Helen
    Blue Eyed Beauty Blog

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