Dr. Greene’s Organic Rx — Item #10

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#10 Corn

Corn fattens up America’s beef cattle, accounting for 90% of U.S. feed grains61. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) fattens up America’s human population. More land (more than 80 million acres) is planted in corn than any other crop. More pesticides62 and more chemical fertilizer63 are used to grow corn in the US than any other crop. Most of the corn, almost 50 million acres of it, is GM corn64. Less than 0.016% of corn production is organic65. If we change corn production, we change agriculture.

Off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico is a dead zone about the size of New Jersey where aquatic life cannot survive. It doubled in size between 1985 and 1999. According to the Congressional Research Service, the main cause of this dead zone is fertilizer runoff – from corn production – that ends up first in the Mississippi River, and then dumps into the Gulf. It’s a powerful picture of the cost of industrial corn production66.

Changing this tenth item on the prescription is the toughest one, only intended for those most committed to change. To adopt organic corn means looking at every ingredient label. If there is corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, dextrose, glucose, cornstarch, modified cornstarch, vegetable starch, corn solids, or corn oil – choose organic. It means skipping most sodas and many baked goods. More than 4000 US products contain corn as an ingredient67. And this doesn’t count all the corn used in livestock production. To select organic corn means selecting organic meat, poultry and dairy.

The industrial production of conventional corn has a devastating impact on the American landscape: our soil, our air, our livestock, and our waters. Switching from conventional to organic corn is extremely difficult, but it could do wonders for the health of your family. And no other change would improve the health of so many acres of cropland.

Read more from this series

 
61USDA Economic Research Service. Corn Briefing Room, April 20, 2006.http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Corn/ accessed Feb 5, 2007.
62USDA Economic Research Service. Soybeans and Oil Crops Briefing Room, http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/SoybeansOilcrops/ accessed Feb 5, 2007. (says soy ranked #2, only behind corn).
63Total US 2005 US fertilizer use was 22,146,200 tons, or 44.3 billion pounds. (USDA. U.S. consumption of nitrogen, phosphate, and potash for 1960-2005. http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FertilizerUse/Tables/Table1.xls accessed Feb 5, 2007).
64Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.: Corn Varieties http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/biotechcrops/ExtentofAdoptionTable1.htm accessed Feb 5, 2007
Fernandez-Cornejo, J. “Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in theU.S.” Data product. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic ResearchService. http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/BiotechCrops/. July 2005.
Fernandez-Cornejo J and Caswell M. The First Decade of Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States. USDA Economic Information Bulletin Number 11. April 2006.
65Certified organic and total U.S. acreage, selected crops and livestock, 1995-2005. USDA. December 15, 2006.
66Dandelski JR. Marine Dead Zones: Understanding the Problem. Congressional Research Service. Report for Congress 1998.
Hypoxia, the Gulf of Mexico’s Summertime Foe. Watermark. Sep 2004 (26)3-5.
Berman JR, Arrigo KR, Matson PA. Agricultural runoff fuels large phytoplankton blooms in vulnerable areas of the ocean. Nature. (2005) 434:211-214.
67Iowa Corn. Frequently asked questions.http://www.iowacorn.org/cornuse/cornuse_20.html

Dr. Alan Greene

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Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

 

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