Is Our Corn Safe to Eat?

~ Ford, a Texas-based writer, contributes essays on music, Texas life and cultural issues regularly to The Agonist

I have five large breed dogs. Recently they have begun throwing up again. I suspect the main ingredient in virtually all dry dog foods: corn. And I don’t trust my government nor the private sector owned by a handful of mega-corporations to tell me the truth when they have so much invested and so much to lose if their product proves dangerous.

Two culprits come to mind.

More after the jump.

One is aflatoxin, a fungal disease that grows on corn in hot humid climates. Draw a North-south line through the middle of Texas and another from the Northern border of Texas all the way to the East coast. All corn grown in this southeast quadrant of our nation is suspect. We are told that companies test for this and they do, but growers know how to beat the test by concealing bad corn among good. I know that nearly all corn grown in the last five or so years in our area has contained aflatoxin and I have yet to see the first kernel get thrown away.

The rest of the corn grown in our nation is suspect as well. A little primer: Round-up kills all plants it is sprayed on. Glyphosate, or Round-up, for those of you unfamiliar with the product, is the one and same chemical we give Colombia to kill coca bushes. Colombians and Ecuadorians complain that they have become sick since eradication procedures began. Virtually all the corn we grow has been sprayed with this stuff. Farmers once planted corn on 36 inch row spacing. Once the corn sprouted, field cultivators were used to till the soil in the middles of the rows. That is no longer the case. Monsanto developed mutant varieties of corn by splicing genes of the corn with various bacteria and viruses. The resulting mutant plants are immune to Roundup. So now, a farmer plants corn in narrower rows. All the seed in the field is allowed to germinate and grow to a point, then the entire field is sprayed with Round-up. Every plant in the field except the mutant corn dies. No cultivation is necessary.

Monsanto has also developed disease and insect resistant varieties using similar technology. A worm eats the corn and dies. We eat it and don’t.

Or do we?

Europe doesn’t want our mutant food and I don’t blame them. Not so long ago a type of corn supposed to be fed only to livestock ended up in some Taco Bell tortillas and people became ill after eating them.

Are the animals that eat this stuff then safe to eat? I think so. I don’t know so but I think so. But I am reasonably sure it makes the animals sick when they eat it. I’ve been through this time and again with my dogs. And I am damned tired of it.

We will come to regret the day we let mega-corporations like Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill take over the world’s supply of grains, replacing hundreds or thousands of proven and tested safe varieties of food with their suspect versions.

I don’t care if this method is a more efficient way to grow food. If the resulting product is poisonous, I don’t want any of it. Right now, I have almost no choice in the matter. And if I had one of the bastards that put this shit in my dog’s food, I’d stuff a few pounds down his throat and see how he likes it.

For you pet owners out there: Anyone else having this problem lately?

16 comments to Is Our Corn Safe to Eat?

  • Caribdude

    Seeds with my friend this evening, and yes, I have dogs. I generally get Alpo or Pedegree for them. Which brands are you using?

    Carib

  • widespread panic

    end of your sentences / words are getting cut off.

    thanks

  • canuck

    modified food crops are doing to people? No testing has ever been carried out and no labelling is required on these foods. The reason biotechnology companies resist labelling is that it makes it possible for their products to be traced as being responsible for ills and deaths that their products are responsible for.

    At the turn of the 20th century, more than 90% of the diversity of seeds are now extinct.

    See the videos, Parts 1 to 7: The Future of Food

    The US pesticide industry bought the seed companies. The same people that developed Roundup also were responsible for DDT and Agent Orange.

    Monsanto owns more than 11,000 patents on seeds. Percy Schmeiser of Saskatchewan farmed for more than 50 years and was a seed saver and developer. Monsanto seeds blew into Percy’s fields and Monsanto claimed that Percy had violated Monsanto’s patent on the seed. Percy destroyed all the seed he saved and developed that grew well for his acreage that was developed to be resistant to several diseases.

    In 2001, an American woman suffered a severe allergic reaction from a genetically modified food. Is it safe to eat a bowl of cornflakes? GM foods have viruses and bacteria that no other food in the past had.

    How did GM foods come to market? How ‘bout Monsanto executives and employees went back and forth from being Monsanto employees to being in senior American government positions? Names like Ashcroft have been named as receiving funds from Monsanto.

    In 1998, Mexico banned GM foods. Mexico had a wide diversity of corn and maize crops at that time. Corn is their food and part of their culture. Mexican farmers routinely plant their domestic corn near wild corn because there are advantages from the wild crops that transfer to the cultivated corn. In 2000 GM corn was found in Mexico. The GM corn contaminated the Mexican native corn.

    A key issue is GM wheat. In Montana there is a huge possibility that their non genetically wheat will be contaminated with genetically modified grains. Biotech companies smeared scientists and some prominent scientists lost their jobs.

    Look where this is going … consolidation of food supplies: 4 companies process 80% of beef products. Seed companies come from 4 clusters of companies. More worrisome is that same kind of consolidation is taking place at the retail level. It is estimated that in the next 10 years that all food products at the retail level will be controlled by 6 retail firms and only one of them will be American and that’s Wal-Mart. What will be on retail shelves is what a broker decides to put there because it returns the highest profit.

    Biotechnology promised to feed the world, but ironic is they have developed ‘terminator’ technology. After one planting a crop cannot be reproduced—it becomes sterile. If the suicide gene pollutes crops around the world what will happen? Can terminator technology outcross crops as the previous crop seeds did? Are they lying about the suicide gene’s ability to outcross? It doesn’t stand to reason that the terminator gene won’t outcross as the other seeds did. Currently biotechnology is being developed called trader technology that forces farmers to spray their fields with proprietary chemicals in order for seeds to grow.

    Think about it…if seeds are manufactured that use virus and bateria as part of their genes that produce crops which makes them resistant to toxic chemicals like Round Up, what are these foods doing to human beings and domestic animals that eat them? But even if the food stuffs that are produced do prove to be safe (after someone starts to test them), what is much more likely is that the suicide gene will sterilize crops around the world and people will become beholded to corporations in order to eat. And it’s beginning to smell like corporations will decide what it is that people around the world will eat.

  • adrena

    Thank Norway for the ‘Doomsday Vault‘.

    A fail-safe vault designed to protect the agricultural heritage of humankind — the seeds essential to agriculture of every nation — will be constructed this year on the Arctic island of Svalbard not far from the North Pole.

    On February 9 the Norwegian government revealed the architectural design for the Svalbard International Seed Vault, to be carved deep into frozen rock.

    “By investing in a global permafrost safety facility for seeds, the Norwegian government hopes to contribute to combating the loss of biological diversity, to reduce our vulnerability to climatic changes, and to enhance our ability to secure future food production,” said Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food Terje Riis-Johansen.

    The vault is being dug into a mountainside near the village of Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Construction is scheduled to begin in March 2007 and to be completed in September 2007. The vault will officially open in late winter 2008.
    More at link

  • Don

    …in the event of an emergency it would take a long time to produce seed in sufficient supply to replace the loss of the newer varieties. Also, equipment has been modified and there would be a mad dash to come up with field cultivators again.

    I did inhale.

  • Don

    but discovered that all the cheaper (corn-based) brands are made in the same plants using the same corn. Different shape, different sack, same food.

    Lamb and rice based foods are too expensive when you feed the amounts I do. And I suspect there is no way there’d be enough of these to meet demand if people were forced to switch to them.

    I did inhale.

  • Don

    The seed in Schmeiser’s field was Canola, another Roundup ready species Monsanto owns (used to make vegetable oil for cooking etc.). Monsanto sued him and won, saying it was illegal for him to have their patented seed in his field, even though he hadn’t planted it.

    The same technology has also been applied to cotton crops.

    The terminator technology you refer to is a way for Monsanto to protect their seed patents. One generation will grow from the seed, but if a farmer keeps back seed and plants it, the resulting plants contain a fatal flaw and will die. Monsanto says this variety will not cross with others. Who knows? What we do know is that at least twenty plots of this shit is growing somewhere in our country and Monsanto won’t tell us where.

    When a few profit-driven corporations gain control of our entire food supply, we have a major problem and a major vulnerability.

    I did inhale.

  • canuck

    and I just read that in December, 1993 – one decade after the United Nation’s founding of the Food an Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Commission on Genetic Resources – the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) came into force, providing an international legally-binding framework for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity worldwide.

    This organization of the UN is fighting for farmer’s rights. They have their work cut for them against the might of the wealthy international corporations.

  • canuck

    Guess which international companies currently own most of America’s ethanol plants and are planning to turn crops into biofuel?

    From the link:

    “This past January US President George Bush used the 2006 State of the Union Address to announce new funding for research in “cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks or switchgrass.” – by this he meant more money for synthetic biology. A few months later Bush’s top man on energy research, Dr Ari Patrinos (formerly head of the Human Genome Project) jumped ship to become the new president of Craig Venter’s latest start-up, Synthetic Genomics Inc – the company that is building the world’s first fully artificial organism. Venter believes that he can make a microbe that not only turns agricultural waste into ethanol but turns fossil fuel corporations into.. well fossils. At the recent Synthetic Biology 2.0 conference Venter boasted: “We think this area [Synthetic Biology] has tremendous potential , possibly within a decade, to replace the petrochemical industry”.

    But replace it with what?? The big buzz in US biofuels rhetoric is ‘energy independence’ which means shifting industrial cultivation over from agri-food to agri-energy. That might reduce reliance on middle eastern oil imports but its not exactly a model of food sovereignty. As has pointed out – it may not be too great for water use either. Meanwhile those waiting in the wings to profit from the coming synthetic agri-energy boom look depressingly familiar. Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill currently own most of the ethanol plants in the US and also monopolise the systems handling the raw materials. Monsanto has just struck a deal with Sandia Laboratory to work on energy crops and is designing a new corn that produces better ethanol. Meanwhile supermarket giant Walmart has signalled its interest in selling ethanol for cars from all of its 3000 US stores. Moreover the increased importance of agriculture for the energy business may lead to new mergers and aquisitions.

    Synthetic Biologists maybe able to create new microbes from scratch – but its the same old corporate parasites who will be feeding off the profits and remember: if Monsanto or Syngenta get gobbled up by Exxon or BP.

    —–

    Yeah gads…is there no stopping these greedy corporations? The time is overdue to redefine the legal definition of what a corporation is and take away their legal privileges to have human rights. Corporations like these don’t deserve the same rights as people. People are responsible and have to be ethical and accountable. Gigantic international corporations have become pirates and should fly the jolly roger as their company flags.

    I don’t imagine the corn that’s being developed for bio-fuel is edible and the amount of acreage that would be needed to provide ethanol would be massive. That acreage displaces crop land and everyone who bothers to read the news knows that biofuel is a scam!!!

  • SilverOwl

    They do not get any grains. Except from a pizza crust or two.

    Dogs do not digest corn very well to begin with, even without corporations messing around with nature and tainting the food. Many food allergies in dogs are grain based. Which is what many pet foods use as fillers.

    Yeah, I’m concerned that our corporations in their greed and utter laziness are indeed killing us without thought and without conscience.

    If you can Don you may want to have blood work done on your dogs in order to check their kidney and liver functions. Those are the organs that take the most damage when filtering out poisons in a body.

  • jtruett

    The title of this diary caught my eye because I had recently decided that I am allergic to corn. It seems every time I eat some, I have bad indigestion and diarrhea. Couldn’t finish the last batch of corn bread I made. Used canned creamed corn.

    Judy

  • Petronius

    Oregon tried to pass a law via referendum that would have required GM foods to be labeled as such. The grocery retailing business threw a huge chuck of cash toward attack ads and lobbying efforts. The measure narrowly failed, but the proponents were nearly bankrupted. The key to the offense strategy was predicting massive pricing increases for all food because of the added labeling burden. As if a few more blobs of ink would cost.

    But it taught me one thing; offer folks a choice between “cheap” and “good” and they’ll pick “cheap” every time.

    Same with dog foods. We’ll buy a big bag of supermarket dog food every once in awhile and leave it out for the raccoons (a raccoon population does help to keep the yellowjacket wasp population down).

    But our own dogs are fed Eukanuba dry food. If I could find a readily available food that contained no grain at all, I’d buy it. But many Golden Retrievers (our dogs) are very sensitive to wheat.

    But I’ll admit that even this vegetarian is considering putting his pets on a raw diet.

  • Rick

    should talk to their vet and get a referral to an animal dietician having experience with the type and breed. Nothing wrong with cooking for your pets, as long as you know their specific needs.

    Give Texas Back to Mexico!

  • SilverOwl

    Here are some links with information and book recommendations. The books are very helpful.
    http://www.geocities.com/rnienhui101/barfingmals.html
    http://www.barfworld.com/
    http://www.njboxers.com/faqs.htm

    Some e-lists that you can join and review their history.
    http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/K9Kitchen/
    http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/RawDogCanada/
    http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/CarnivoreFeed-Supplier/

    Here’s an e-list for Golden’s specifically.
    http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/RawRetriever/

    When feeding raw you have to understand the bone, meat, offal and veggie ratio. Understanding what different bones, meat, organs and veggies provide in regards to nutrients, vitamins, minerals and amino acids is important.

    Once you get into it’s second nature. I bought a chest freezer and buy in bulk. I make veggie glop once a month. Thaw the food in the frig, toss it in the dishes at meal times and viola it’d done.

    Holistic vets will help with composing a diet. The traditional vets will be reluctant to work with you. My vets don’t say much about the raw diet, because Nanuk and Kyri are very healthy. Other than shots and Nanuk’s knee surgery, they have had no health problems nor have they needed their teeth cleaned.

  • nymole

    My parents always fed “the cat” (“Tabby”) on scraps and the litter box was always filled with newspaper. They would have been amazed at the notion of cat food and litter. Of course Tabby lived to be 20. and the cats I’ve had have died of cancer or diabetes at 10-14. Pet food can be made of parts from diseased animals, because the life of the animal is computed to be short enough so they will “die of something else first.”

    However, changing a picky “only likes one type of cat food” cat veteran over to “scraps of meat” is harder than you might think unless you are the one in control or can just ignore the scratching and crying until real hunger takes over. I’m currently still opening the can of a brand that hasn’t hit the list. The Iams people must be in shock as that was the vet-recommended brand.:-)


    “A bad treaty is better than a good missile” ~ Andrei Kislyakov

  • Tina

    my cat’s food choices are not on the list. I looked at a package yesterday and saw wheat gluten as the third ingredient and sent a email off to whiskas. If his brands(whiskas and meow mix) turn up on the list it will be canned tuna for him. He will not eat any other pet foods.


    the editor formerly known as candy

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