Corn, beyond doubt, is one of the biggest stories in human history. The “ruler” of the entire American food chain is corn. From farmyards to supermarkets, countless types of food ingredients and even forage are corn-derived. In 2007, the States alone produced 13 billion bushels of corn. Such massive reap is attributed to corn-farm subsidies by the government, a “legacy” of the Great Depression which gives corn an unnatural edge over other kinds of crops. The policy is, in fact, skewed in favor of the large multinationals.
Under this context, the glut of corn lowers the price itself, with a matching decrease in food production costs. Notwithstanding the increasing prevalence of corn, controversies were aroused that corn indeed causes harmful effects on human health and the environment. In the first place, the public egregiously consumes corn in form of high-fructose corn syrup which gives rise to obesity problems. This kind of corn sweeteners largely replaced natural sugar in soft drinks and processed food. In tremendous quantities, such diet of high-fructose corn syrup and refined carbohydrates leads to an augment of insulin secretion.
It would result in a wearing down of the metabolic system by catabolism of elevated amount of glucose in blood. On a more sophisticated fact, there is much likelihood that such astonishing intake of high-fructose corn syrup could also bring about diabetes. Diabetes patients have typically higher risk of developing long term complications like retinal damage, kidney damage and heart failure. Worse still, complications like necrosis on feet may even require amputation. Even though diabetes is treatable, it cannot be fully cured.
Since the medication cost of diabetes is extremely expensive, patients would suffer from heavy and chronic financial pressure. The prevalence of diabetes has turned epidemic. Recently, it is having an increasing trend to affect not only adult but also children at an epidemic proportion as well. Alongside the nutrition effect as mentioned, the prevalence of corn could cause problems in livestock farming. In the States, cattle are fed on corn and thus be cheaply fattened before slaughter. Nonetheless, this would affect nutrition value of end products.
Research suggest that, in contrary to cattle fed on grass, those fed on corn tend to have more artery-clogging saturated fat and contain less healthy substances like Omega3 fatty acid. In addition, the practice of feeding corn to cattle would also incur food safety problems. Cows, by evolution, are designed to eat grass instead of corn. However, corn is still widely used as feeding ingredient for its inexpensiveness. Corn actually does not agree with the cattle’s digestive system. It can acidify their pH-neutral tract. This thus fosters the survival and even mutation of bacteria.
E-coli0157:H7, an acid resistant strain from E-coli, which is one of the numerous species of bacteria survived due to high-corn diet. E-coli0157:H7 is much more virulent and problematic than E-coli. Studies reveal that corn-fed cattle contain much more of this strain in their guts than their grass-fed counterparts. If consumers ingest such kind of contaminated beef, a large number of this strain would be able to survive in stomachs for months, causing an infection followed by acute kidney failures. In short, feeding cattle corn has profound implications on food safety.
Last but on no account least, despite the fact that corn has allowed a significant abatement in production cost, corn production would degrade the environmental system. Corn requires an enormous amount of fossil fuels. Harvesting a mere acre of corn would actually take 140 gallons of fossil fuels, not to mention amount of pesticides and fertilizers required. Moreover, corn production would generate serious soil erosion. Irrigation of corn also demands groundwater with a pace that is faster than the natural recharge rate.
Therefore, corn actually comes at a price much higher than that on the price tag. It is not cheap at all. On the above grounds, the present practices of farming and food production that heavily relying on corn is unquestionably unsustainable. Corn itself is noxious in nature. Nevertheless, the dominance of this astounding plant in the agriculture system is causing a string of problems on consumers’ health, food safety and the environment. There would be necessity to decrease the heavy dependence on corn. It is high time that people work on solutions to make transitions now.