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Organic corn soon unavailable to you

organic-corn-flakesI was shopping the other day for organic corn flakes, thinking that of all the cereals, Dr. Kellogg’s first processed food breakfast would similarly be predominant among the organic breakfast cereal offerings. I found exactly none; neither at the supermarket, nor the health food store. I found plenty of organic bran, wheat, oat and Kashi –whatever that is, but nothing made of corn. Would you say that’s something to find curious, or alarming?

I became acutely reminded of a detail from a documentary I’d just seen, The Real Dirt on Farmer John. There’s a fleeting scene where farmer John Peterson is telling his Angelic Organics CSA customers (Community Supported Agriculture) about that year’s successful crop of corn. He’s enthusiastic, he explains, because a harvest of organic corn has become a very difficult accomplishment.

Does that give you pause, when you consider the prevalence of corn in the American diet? Before genetically modified corn, before High Fructose Corn, before Yellow Dent No. 2 which is so inedible it can be stored in piles outside (farmers used to build silos to store corn), and before corn became ethonol, corn was sweetcorn was corn.

From King Corn viewers learned about Monsanto and Cargill’s present stranglehold on the corn seed market, all of it GMO. And sporadically American farmers make the news for discovering that a neighbor’s GMO crops have overtaken theirs.

cornfield cargill nebraskaI had occasion this summer to drive through several corn-producing states. On the side of so many fields were logos designating which commercial seeds had been used. I scarcely remember a single field that did not have a sign. Some bore lot numbers, representing test samples.

Is it possible that organic corn production has begun coming up short?

Have organic corn crops become too expensive to supply the breakfast cereal makers? Organic corn flakes are still available online, manufactured by Barbara’s or Nature’s Path, but they are priced far above the average box of breakfast cereal.

Eventually all cream rises to the top. The best Bordeaux are only accessible to the super-rich, not simply because of price, but because the upscale marketers corner the supply. The same can be said of many food delicacies and nature products. Some woods for example, available for centuries to ordinary luthiers, have been purchased lock, stock and by the full forest growth, monopolized to supply only specialists. What we think of as ordinary corn may soon be available only to the affluent customer, who wouldn’t be caught dead feeding their children genetically modified foods.

Coming at this development from a completely diametric angle, Kellogg’s has decided it needs to protect its brand of conventional genetically modified corn flakes by laser-etching their logo across each one. Instead of suffering the stigma of accusations that its corn product is tainted, Kellogg’s wants its dupes to feel they’re getting value added with their balanced breakfast.

In fact, the laser process will toast the already toasted product just a little bit more, robbing it of further nutrition and resistance to carcinogens.

But the patented technology could be a welcome development. When FDA regulators decide to advocate for consumer health, as perhaps a universal health care system might mandate it, if the national diabetes or allergy epidemics don’t force the issue, the FDA can decide to make the food giants mark all their GMO products with a laser brand. Wouldn’t that restore the original meaning to the concept we know as “branding?”

UPDATE:
I had the usual Organic Corn Chips on my shopping list, but that product is gone too, both white and yellow corn varieties.

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