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):
Citrus cloud emulsion
High fructose corn syrup
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
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