Food variety extinction exposes the US to great risk from natural phenomenon and human negligence, wantonness, or mal-intention. If the US has an existential national threat, it is our food insecurity from an overly centralized and highly concentrated food supply.
When you consider how much the American diet consists of corn products, the loss of one-third of the corn crop would be catastrophic. In addition to actual corn, for instance, most beef is derived from corn-fed cattle. Foods like ketchup, salad dressing, Coke, cookies and chips all contain corn, usually high fructose corn syrup. As discussed here:
“There are some 45,000 items in the average American supermarket, and more than a quarter of them contain corn,” Pollan reports. Indeed, corn and its array of byproducts have so successfully colonized the U.S. diet — and so dominate the diets of the animals consumed here — that Americans have ripped the title of “the corn people” from Mexico, where corn was originally domesticated and remains a staple. Because of corn’s rare carbon signature, Pollan writes, it’s possible to discern from flesh or hair samples how much corn contributes to the formation of human bodies. “When you look at the isotope ratios, [U.S. residents] are corn chips with legs,” a biologist tells him.
This unbalanced diet is dangerous enough; however, when you combine it with an utter lack of diversity in seed-variety, we face a precipitous calamity. Accordingly, a report from Popular Science should cause our legislators and policy-makers to take prompt action to change course.
Some consumers may have a problem with genetically modified food crops, but in at least one case described in an Iowa State University researcher’s paper there’s one customer that’s happy to consume Monsanto’s GM corn: rootworms, the very pest the corn is modified to thwart. According to the paper, western corn rootworms in at least four northeast Iowa corn fields have developed a resistance to the natural pesticide in corn seed produced by Monsanto, marking the first time a major Midwest pest has developed a resistance to GM crops.
That could spell all kinds of trouble for food crops, farmers, Monsanto, and pretty much everyone who isn’t a western corn rootworm.
Why should this be worrisome anymore than any other agricultural pests?
The seed was so successful that it’s estimated that roughly a third of U.S. corn now carries the gene. Which means one-third of U.S. corn could potentially be susceptible to rootworm again if the resistance that has reared its head in Iowa is indicative of a larger problem.
The good news is that the same rootworms that are resistant to Monsanto’s special sauce are susceptible to a competitor’s similar-but-different GM toxin. But if rootworms can develop a resistance to one strain of GM toxin, it stands to reason that–if farming practices remain unchanged–that it could eventually become resistant to others.
Imagine the impact on farmers, consumers, the economy, the poor and food prices if one-third of the corn crop was wiped out.
As I have argued before, the preservation of our independence and national security rests in our ability to revitalize family farming and increase diversity within our agriculture. A monopoly by commercial agribusinesses, bio-genetic corporations and corporate farms endangers our food to accidental and intentional contamination. With greater diversity and decentralization, exposure to root-worms or other dangers would be exponentially more limited, localized and capable of management.