It all began with Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz. For thousands of years farmers have always allowed some of their fields to remain fallow, or unplanted, for a year or two. This allowed the soil to regenerate and replace the valuable nutrients it gave up to crops. Farmers used to allow livestock to graze on the grass that would spring up, adding much-needed fertilizer to the fields.
But Butz said that was nonsense. He encouraged farmers to plant every field every season. He maintained that chemical fertilizers could do the job. He also encouraged farmers to plant corn. And so, they did. All across the Midwest Farm Belt, field after field of corn was planted, to the exclusion of almost every other food crop. That created an excess of corn on the market, causing the price to drop. Many family farmers were put out of business. Big agribusiness companies sprung up, putting more farmers out of business or under the big agribusiness companies’ thumbs.
So, they had to figure out what to do with all that corn, especially since most of it was not edible by humans. This was special corn, used for ethanol, feed and sweeteners. High fructose corn syrup, a product modified in the chemistry labs of agribusiness, was cranked out by the tanker truckload and used by processed food manufacturers for more than just adding sweetness or in place of sugar.
People rightfully have become concerned about the use of high fructose corn syrup, even after an industry commercial told people it was the same as sugar.
But it’s not.
“So while the corn industry may encourage us not to worry our little heads about their product, using chiseled “farmers” as spokespeople urging us that, after all, it’s just “corn sugar” (and a few other ingredients that get spun into it in a laboratory), the reality is that corn allergies, obesity and diabetes have become increasingly prevalent since its introduction twenty years ago.”
That’s a comment from Robyn O’Brien, founder of the Allergy Kids Foundation and author of “The Unhealthy Truth.” In a recent article on The Huffington Post website, O’Brien reacts to the recent commercials from the corn refiners saying that high fructose corn syrup is the same as sugar.
The concern over this food additive has led to rapidly declining sales, reason enough for corporate panic. So, they’re fighting back. If you can’t make your product better, turn to marketing.
“The new campaign for high fructose corn syrup in which the Corn Refiners Association has decided to rebrand and rename their product. Reflecting on changing consumer sentiment around high fructose corn syrup and declining sales, the Corn Refiners Association has petitioned the FDA for a name change to high fructose corn syrup. They want to call it “corn sugar”.
The ad campaign is brilliant. Worried, they ask? We are, too, they claim. Only their concern doesn’t stem from the epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes and corn allergies that we are seeing, but rather their concern stems from a 20 year low in the sale of high fructose corn syrup and the impact it is having on the profitability of members of the Corn Refiners Association (listed here).”
High fructose corn syrup, or corn sugar, is highly profitable. And not just for the corn refiners and the processed food manufacturers. It makes money for grocery stores as well who can spend less money on restocking their shelves because the food lasts longer. Corn syrup does more than just make things sweet.
“Because of its value as a versatile ingredient that adds taste, texture, freshness, and sweetness to food, high fructose corn syrup is not only used as a sweetener but also as a preservative and stabiliser in food products to enhance and prolong their shelf life on grocery store shelves, driving profitability for the food industry.”
And sugar can’t do that. But sugar was around before all these epidemic health problems in our culture. Do the math.
What we need is a federal Agriculture Department that will help farmers break loose from the yoke of agribusiness. They need to find ways to return small farmers back to the fields, growing food instead of commodities.