Although many people may not realize it, almost every meal eaten by the average American contains a fair amount of corn. Home-cooked goodness and fast food alike, corn is a staple of the American diet. But where exactly is the corn if we can’t see it in our dinner of say, hamburgers and soda? Corn is grown on around 240,000 acres of land in the United States alone, and a fair amount of it is used to fatten up cattle more quickly. That explains the corn in your hamburger, and soda, which is created from an array of corn products, is saturated with sweetness by high fructose corn syrup. Further, about 78% of a milkshake from McDonalds is derived from corn, and even chicken nuggets contain over 50% corn*.
Given these numbers, it is hard to argue that corn is not an important part of the American diet. It follows that increasing the nutritional value of corn will increase the nutritional value of a typical American meal. As many farmers understand, farming organically can often be difficult and time consuming (especially without use of organic herbicides).
However, traditional farming can contribute to corn’s nutritional value as well. Surprisingly, carotenoids, which are molecules in vegetables that can reduce the risk of macular degeneration, heart disease, and cancer, are found to be more prevalent in corn that is treated with typical herbicide.
According to the study done by Dean Kopsell and his colleagues, carotenoid levels can be boosted up to 15% in treated plants over non-treated plants, which could significantly raise the nutritional value of corn – and the typical American meal.
Discussion Question: Do you think this research could have a substantial effect on the way farmers weigh the pros and cons of nonorganic vs. organic farming?
News Article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090708094830.htm
Journal Article : http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf9013313
* Source: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
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