POSTED: 28 FEBRUARY 2008 - 9:00am HST

TGI #24: Down with King Corn!

image above: detail of 1952 Coke ad illustrated by Gil Elvgren with Frito-Lay products. King Corn!

[Normally these columns are scheduled to appear every other Sunday in the Kauai Garden Island News.The final published version may vary from this text as TGI retains the right to correct and edit the material. The copyright to the published version is held by TGI owner Kauai Publishing. Some material in TGI columns may have appeared on already.]

by Juan Wilson on 2 March 2008 Revision 5.7 080229

Soylent Yellow
Once upon a time, the Iroquois nation learned to plant corn in a system called "The Three Sisters": The technique was to plant corn on mounds in a triad with squash and beans. The corn stood atop the mound and supported the beans. The squash surrounded the base of the mound and protected it. Each plant added chemical, hormonal and mechanical advantages to the other two. Fish heads were added to the mound as a secret ingredient to get things started. Together these plants provided a complete protein addition to the diet of the Iroquois. The Three Sisters have lasted for centuries.

Today, if you go to the snack food, beverage or pet food aisles of your supermarket, you'll be up to your eyeballs in corn. You've seen it - in the snack aisle the stacks of bagged Fritos, Cheetos and Tostados as high as you can reach.

In the beverages aisle, the three liter soda bottles hold high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) mixed with water, at 100 calories per serving. And when then you drink a 40 once can of of Cran-Apple juice drink, unless you're buying a product labeled "100% JUICE", you're really swilling water mixed with HFCS and trace amounts of some bulk fruit concentrate. The HFCS tastes as sweet as cane sugar, but is easier to ingest in large quantities. You never get satiated, as with cane sugar - and guess what - it's cheaper.

The remaining food aisles are also affected. Even a plain can of tomato paste, or a package of hot dogs now contains the magic ingredient of corn syrup.

The pet food aisle is no better. Like most, if you're feeding your beloved cat or dog dry kibble they are actually surviving on a variation of cornmeal with meat-like flavorings.

Not only are your pets made of corn, so is the pork and beef that you eat. Corn is the primary feed given to pigs, cows and chickens; it's mixed with hormones, antibiotics and a little of their own protein (the latter is the reason for mad cow disease).

image above: bottom of cartoon by Mike Adams & Dan Berger for

The Children of the Corn
Why should we worry about corn based Coke and Cheetos? Why should we care that 40% of supermarket food contains HFCS? Because three-quarters of Americans are overweight and over a third of us are categorized as obese. In fact, between 1980 (when HFCS hit the shelves) and 2000, our obesity rate has doubled.

The products containing corn syrup have been directly connected to our problems with obesity. The biggest health risks facing our nation are heart disease and diabetes. They both result from obesity. As it stands today, almost half of mature Americans are considered pre-diabetic.

The increased consumption of industrialized corn products in our diet is no accident. There is an interlocking set of interests that has created a huge agricultural corn industry that involves Monsanto, ADM, Cargill, Tyson, Swift and others.

A new element of the corporate corn industry is one of the biggest boondoggles in American agricultural history. A swindle of staggering proportions - Ethanol.

Ethanol will not save the planet from global warming. It will not provide an alternative energy source we can rely on. It will, however create additional demand for corn. The increased demand for corn as a fuel additive will compete with its use as a food additive. The result is both food and fuel will be more expensive. A double whammy on the public.

King Corn Rules

In 2007, three-quarters of all U.S. corn planted were Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's). Two-thirds of that GMO corn came from three companies that develop their seed corn here on Kauai. Those GMO companies are Monsanto (Dekalb), DuPont (Pioneer) and Syngenta. Besides disease and chemical resistance, their genetic modification allows for linking a patented corn seed with copyright markers, requirements for specific chemical treatments, and even chemical triggers for germination and suicide . Some call this stuff Frankenfood.

U.S. farmers planted over 90 million acres of corn last spring, up 15 percent from the year before. That is an area almost as big as California. Most of this "Corn Basket" crop is concentrated in the Midwest's Mississippi River Basin. Mono-crop corn production has caused erosion and soil run-off. The overuse of pesticides and fertilizers has created a flow of toxic chemicals that follow the soil down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. This brew, including much nitrogen and phosphorous, has created a "Dead Zone" in the Gulf of Mexico as big as the state of New Jersey.

There is a giant pyramid of destruction that flows down from the seed corn producers here on Kauai and spreads across the world. The agricultural strategy of these GMO companies is to own all life.

image above: top of cartoon by Mike Adams & Dan Berger for

What do we have to fear?

In the 1958 Hitchcock classic "North by Northwest", an innocent Cary Grant gets off a bus in corn country in the heartland of America. The bus disappears in the distance and Grant is left standing in the middle of cornfields that stretch as far as the eye can see. Soon, we hear the sputter of an old biplane spraying pesticides on the corn. The next thing we see is the crop duster diving on Grant and attacking him. He runs in fear, with nowhere to hide. That's how many feel living on Kauai today.

Two examples of why you should be afraid if you live on Kauai:

Example One: Syngenta
Syngenta operates GMO seed-corn fields on the Mana Plain immediately adjacent to Waimea Canyon Middle School. Syngenta sprays the herbicide Touchdown on those fields. Three times since November of 2006, children at the school have become ill after the spraying. Teachers and parents have complained. Children have had to go to the hospital. Syngenta says it is not the herbicide but the smell of stinkweed that has caused a hysteria in the community. They claim Touchdown is perfectly safe to breath when they apply it.

Gary Hooser introduced a bill to create a herbicide-free buffer around schools in Hawaii to protect our children. In the public hearing, the representatives of the Lingle administration's departments of agriculture, health and education all testified against the need for such a bill. After all, Touchdown is safe. After great public pressure, the company has delayed spraying that particular field for the rest of 2008.

Example Two: Monsanto

Monsanto subleases most of the Alexander and Baldwin land in Hanapepe Valley. That represents a large part of the productive farmland in the valley where food crops like taro and rice were grown in the past. Monsanto's Dekalb seed company develops GMO seed-corn there.

On Sunday 3 February TGI News reported "...shortly after 6 pm. in Hanapepe, a 40-foot shipping container carried by the rain-swollen Hanapepe River struck the bridge and required police to close it for a time, according to emergency frequency traffic. Police were calling for a structural engineer to assess the damage before reopening it."

County workers warned residents that there were two more containers up the river that might come down and strike bridges or even block the flow of water under them. Eye witnesses claim the floating container broke open when it hit the main highway bridge and some say they smelled pesticides and saw warning labels on packaging.

This container continued out into Hanapepe Bay. It may still be spewing its contents out onto the reefs and possibly affecting nearby Salt Pond Beach Park. Monsanto has made no statement about the contents of the container or made any public efforts to retrieve it.

The alternative to Frankenfood
We do not want our children to be the guinea pigs in a genetic experiment. We do not want industrial scale applications of pesticides and chemicals on our island. We do not want our productive farmland tied up by multinational corporations.
No one really knows what long term health effects eating genetically modified corn, but one thing is clear - this corn uses too much energy, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, refinement, packaging and transportation - obviously this is not a sustainable business plan.

The path the GMO companies are on is leading to higher energy and food prices. The corporate petrochemical-dependent plan to own the means of producing food and energy won't save the planet in an Post Peal Oil world... their efforts will only make things worse.

What we need is to grow our own food here on Kauai. Every experimental corn plot is a field that could otherwise be used to produce local organic vegetables, eggs, dairy or meat to feed the people of Hawaii.

The solution for Kauai is for the GMO companies to phase out of their current operations here.

• First, we should create a wide No-Pesticide-Spray buffer around not only our schools, as proposed by Gary Hooser, but also to buffer residential neighborhoods and existing traditional agland.

• Second, the GMO companies should begin a turn over a portion of their leased land for non-GMO use. They should provide plots for Community Gardens next to schools and residential areas. This should include their own efforts at establishing sustainable organic farming practices here on Kauai that utilize their current employees.

• Third, the these companies should plan on a limited time for the continuation of their current GMO experiments on this island - a complete phase out of open field GMO tests and pesticide use by 2013.

• Lastly, I urge the GMO companies to take a long hard look at the future and realize that local organic farming will need to be started en masse throughout the world and that they should be a part of it. Their technical expertise could be invaluable.

The Garden Island News Column Menu Listing of all "Island Breath" articles submitted to TGI
17 February 2008 - 8:45pm HST

TGI Article #23: Privatization of Hawaii  This article on the PMRF, GMO's and DLNR "understanding"


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