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Sustainable Farmer Joel Salatin Cites Study Of Chemical Use On Sweet Corn

Photo by Phoenix Han on Unsplash

Internationally-known and highly-respected Virginia sustainable farmer Joel Salatin recently cited on his blog site a Clemson University research study. The research examined the results of conventional use of herbicides and their nutritional residual affects on the sweet corn typically purchased at your local grocery. His conclusions on the data presented should make us all consider growing our own sweet corn without these chemicals, or at least searching for a local organic farmer who does.

Salatin says, this is “Yet another confirmation that in the biological world, it’s not just 2 + 2 = 4, and it comes from a study looking at residual consequences of herbicides sprayed on sweet corn. Many producers spray daily in commercial sweet corn to fight weeds and to make sure no ear has a worm in it.”

Salatin said the Clemson study “looked at four commonly used herbicides: mesptrione, topramezone, nicosulfuron, and atrazine. In the final corn kernel,” he noted, “they found significant changes. In general, they (the herbicides) made fructose go up by half or more, which in a nation fighting a diabetes epidemic is certainly alarming. Some changed mineral uptake like iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese.

“The study made no judgments on whether these changes were good or not,” Salatin added, “Of course, chemical-use proponents ask what could possibly be wrong with additional minerals? So like many experiments, this one leaves questions as well as interesting findings.

“For me, the takeaway is that these chemicals affect the nutritional measurements profoundly,” he noted, “Remember the chemicals were not sprayed on the corn kernels. They were sprayed on the soil the plant grew in to make the kernels. They were pretty far removed from the kernels that we actually eat. And yet the impact was profound. Interestingly, the picture that accompanied the article in The Economist that profiled the study is a picture of field corn, not edible sweet corn. It’s obvious to any farmer familiar with corn, but that’s not who writes these articles and chooses the accompanying stock pictures. Just another example of disconnection.”

Salatin is concerned that, “Industries routinely talk about their chemicals degrading in the soil or the fact that they are not touching what we eat. All sorts of clever speak comes from these companies to cast doubt about their residual affects on the environment or the food we ultimately eat.

“If there’s one thing we can learn from this study,” he concludes, “it is that the biological pathways are far too complex and mysterious to make such pronouncements. We can’t track the routes these chemicals take. We don’t know what changing the ratios in the food does to our microbiome. We don’t know much. And yet we swagger around like we have things under control. Beware the manipulators! That includes Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat. They’re the most hubris-oriented egregious manipulators of all.

“Do you like sweet corn?,” Salatin asks at the end.

If all this “food for thought” on the virtues of grow-your-own sweet corn, has made your mouth water and want to try it, go to pages 36-38 in your Seeds ‘n Such catalog and order the varieties you want to try in your area this season.

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