Corn as Commodity and the Public Health

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Corn as Commodity and the Public Heath

Corn as Commodity and the Public Heath
Corn, in its human-induced evolution from unremarkable weed, to staple crop and finally commodity has had a tremendous impact on the United States. This once innocuous weed has become a symbol of American agricultural might, as well as a threat to our health, environment and the animals that sustain us. In Kenner’s Food Inc. (2009), the viewer gets to see first-hand the devastation that can be brought to a family that trusts the food they eat in this country is safe. Barbara Kowalcyk tells the disturbing story of her seven year old son succumbing to a hemorrhagic E.coli infection at age seven. Shortly after eating three hamburgers, Kevin became terribly ill. He quickly succumbed to bouts of violent vomiting and bloody diarrhea. To listen to the anguished voice of this mother describing her son begging for water, as he lay in a hospital bed slowly dying, is heart wrenching. It took Kowalcyk three years of work with attorneys to discover that the meat had been recalled. To make matters worse, the meat was not recalled until 16 days after Kevin’s death. Kevin died just 12 days after eating the tainted beef. Due to Kowalcyk’s work as a food safety activist, Kevin’s Law has been introduced. It would give the USDA the power to shut down factories that are repeat offenders of food safety. After six years in legislature, the law has yet to be passed. This tragic story highlights one of two problems with industrial agriculture and commoditized corn. The use of commoditized corn as animal feed has led to an unprecedented level of dietary diseases and foodborne illnesses. Problems

The use of commodity corn as feed for all slaughter animals has created a public health crisis; including obesity, diabetes, dangerous strains of E. coli and an ever increasing threat from antibiotic resistant of bacteria. Gone are the days of local sustainable farming and the humane treatment of animals. Before the introduction of corn feed, animals were allowed to live and eat in their natural habitats. This ensured the health of the animal, which during the time of the small local farm, was of utmost importance. If the animal was sick, the farmer could not sell it for slaughter, so it was in the farmer’s best interest to keep his animals healthy. The increasingly unsanitary condition of CAFO’s and feed-houses has led to an increase in dangerous bacteria outbreaks in recent decades (Pollan, 2006). One of the main factors of this is the sub-therapeutic dosing of antibiotics required to keep animals healthy in the unsanitary conditions of modern CAFO’s (Lessing, 2010). These feed-houses are over populated and create an environment ripe for the spread of bacteria (Food Inc., 2009). The run off from CAFO’s pollutes waterways, posing an additional threat to human health and wildlife (Steeves, 2002). To make matters worse, many of the antibiotics that are used to treat these animals are the same antibiotics used to treat humans (Love, 2011). Bacteria and toxic run-off are not the only treat posed by industrialized farming and the over-usage of corn. Over the past few years, high-fructose corn syrup has come under heavy fire from health care advocates. One simply needs to watch television for a an hour or so before they will see the Corn Refiners Association’s extensive marketing campaign doing damage control with one of their many “high-fructose corn syrup is all natural, made from corn and fine in moderation” commercials (Schneider 2009). The problem is that it is practically impossible to eat it in moderation since it is so pervasive in processed food (Pollan, 2006). Couple this fact, with the main goal of all industry, profits and it is all but impossible to steer clear of high-fructose corn syrup and other corn derivatives. Studies have shown that a strong correlation exists between obesity and the number of hours watched on television, in addition to the fact that super...
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