The corn rootworm.Photo: Jimmy SmithNow that 94 percent of the soy and 70 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, Monsanto …
If you're a fan of Uno's pizza, O'Charley's, White Castle, or, god forbid, P.F. Chang's, you have only our government's stubborn love of ethanol subsidies …
In America, most corn is no longer meant for eating, at least by humans. Only 20 percent of all the gazillions of ears of corn the United States grows make it into a person's mouth as corn. The rest goes to feed animals (which do make it into people's mouth as beef and other meats) and to brew corn ethanol. In one year, we used more than 5 billion bushels of corn for ethanol, which we don't even use that much of!
Today's supervillains are soooo boring. If only they'd wear tights and touch entrapped damsels’ hair in a way that made us uncomfortable, we'd be up for patriotically pistol-whipping them, Captain America style. Instead we find out that Wall Street and ethanol -- a diffuse network of trading computers and a colorless inebriant, respectively -- are the reason billions are going hungry in the developing world. How are we supposed to launch a hideously expensive vendetta-war against that?
You know how people say Americans are gross? Americans are gross. An average one of use eats 42 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup each year. GOOD points out that that's the same weight as six newborn babies (Austin Powers was prescient). I think at this point, we all know corn syrup is bad, even when it's called "corn sugar." But it sneaks into everything.
The Corn Refiners Association has noticed that "corn syrup" is becoming kind of a dirty word. They could improve the product, perhaps, but that would be hard, so they decided to just rename it "corn sugar." But the FDA, which is in charge of things like what counts as "sugar," is having none of it.
Despite the backlash against ethanol in the U.S. and biodiesel in the E.U., global production of biofuels was up 17 percent in 2010. That's 27.7 billion gallons of liquid fuel for the year. (For reference, the U.S. uses 137 billion gallons of gasoline per year, though that's not directly equivalent because biofuels include biodiesel, and ethanol contains slightly less energy than regular gasoline.)
Monsanto crops bred to thwart western corn rootworms, which love eating corn roots, are no longer are doing their job. The rootworms developed a resistance to the natural pesticide the crops produced and are chowing down. The alternatives for farmers: buy other genetically modified seeds (which will totally work forever!); spray nastier insecticides; abandon the economic model of monoculture and GMO crops. Guess which one's going to happen. Maybe which two out of three.
If you saw this on top of your local McDonald's, would it make you more likely to pull over for a burger and fries? I have to admit that it would work on me.