I read an interesting question on the still growing thread on the problems with CSI: Miami’s “Bad Seed” episode.
Between this episode and some other stuff I’ve heard about corn, I started wondering what all the concern is about corn lately. … Can you now help shine some light on why the corn industry has been getting such a bad reputation lately?
I’m really not sure about the answer to this question. My best guess is that the declining reputation of corn has to do with our transition from a society where our biggest food concern was not having enough to eat, to one where we worry more about eating too much rather than not enough.
The major grains, especially corn, rice, and wheat are very good at producing lots and lots of calories. For most of human history that’s been a very good thing because there often wasn’t enough food to feed everyone who was hungry. But even though there are still 800 million people around the world who aren’t getting enough to eat, in the US we’re now more concerned about getting too many calories and getting fat instead of not enough and starving.
That turns crops like corn, potatoes, rice, and wheat from miracles of productivity to “empty calories” because they they’re energy dense and at best only nutrient average. The newly favored foods are crops like spinach and tomatoes that don’t produce nearly as much caloric energy per acre but have more vitamins and minerals and hopefully are more filling per calorie.
And of the four big empty calorie foods, corn in the only one to be currently genetically engineered* and the least likely to evoke sympathetic responses because, of the four it is the least consumed by Americans in recognizable form (even though large parts of our diet depend on processed corn and corn-feed meat).
So that’s my guess. But I’m interested to hear what other people think. Why has corn become the red headed step-child of the foodie movement?
*Genetically engineered potatoes left the market as a result of pressure from major buyers worried about consumer acceptance, and GM wheat was put on hold for the same reason.