A radio show reported today that corn farmers in the Panhandle of Texas have a big financial problem because of mold on corn. The reporters made it sound unlikely there would be any health problem for consumers, but I don’t agree.
Apparently, the weather this year has increased the amount of fumonisin on the corn crops. Fumonisin is a poison (mycotoxin) created by fungus. The corn in the photo above doesn’t look moldy, however, the only way to know is with testing. Most Panhandle corn is used for animal feed and a small percentage gets directly into consumer products. When the level of the toxin becomes so high that it could poison farm animals, the price of the commodity goes down. That is obviously bad for the corn farmer’s income. It is less obvious why it is also a problem for us.
- According to the government database (Pubmed.com) fumonisin causes many diseases in humans—problems such as cancer, liver disease and birth defects. As we’ve discussed many times (with powerful reminders by Doug Kaufmann of Know the Cause), even the mycotoxins produced by yeast in our own intestinal tracts can cause a wide variety of health complaints. Since we now know that mycotoxins damage our all-important friendly bacteria, I expect that most every aspect of health is at risk from mold poisons.
- They say “don’t worry”. Those with an economic interest say that fumonisin just passes through the animals and doesn’t affect the end food product or humans that eat them. That makes no sense at all. The mycotoxin cannot damage the liver and other organs of the animal unless it becomes incorporated into its tissues. Note: the government has no standard for how much fumonisin is allowed in the finished food and does not test for it.
- Cattle ranchers or dairy, pig and poultry farmers surely wouldn’t knowingly buy grain that can sicken their animals. And yet, somehow, that contaminated grain still gets sold…just at a lower price.
- Even in years with normal weather (is there such a thing in Texas?), mold contamination of grains is still a problem. Also, additional mold grows while grains spend endless months in silos.
Other concerns about corn as animal feed:
- Corn is not the natural diet of any farm animal. It increases the levels of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats in their meat, milk and eggs. Meanwhile it reduces the amount of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. It isn’t smart anymore to brag about corn-fed beef. The corn does fatten them up (and us). Bragging rights go to pasture-fed beef. I also recommend milk from pasture-fed dairy cows. (Note, “grass fed” may mean a life of eating corn and a little time on grass at the very end. That bit helps, but it is not the same.)
- In the US, 88% percent of corn grown is genetically modified (GMO). My recent article about GMO crops notes that the practice produces pesticide chemicals in the grain and encourages the use of Roundup type (glyphosate) weed killers. Glyphosate is now also commonly sprayed even on non-GMO crops to dry out the stalks making harvest easier.
Americans eat about 24 pounds of corn a year not counting what we get indirectly from animal foods. Organic corn at least protects us from GMO strains and residues of pesticides and weed killers. Unfortunately, even organic grain can still have mold residues. And, corn may still be fattening because of its effect on blood sugar and it can cause inflammation because of lectins it contains. Although we may love us some nachos, as hard as it is to believe, we have no nutritional requirement for grains. Until the advent of farming, our ancestors did not eat it.