The US corn addiction

November 2015

Corn growing in Illinois, USA. Photo Creative Commons
According to the US Center for Biological Diversity, world usage of the herbicide, glyphosate, is at an all-time high tied to the proliferation of GM crops. Glyphosate-tolerant GM plants (that is 94% of all soyabean monocultures and 89% of maize) can accumulate the herbicide and be planted in glyphosate-treated soil without harm while the weeds around them perish.

One of the weeds which is perishing on a grand scale in and near GM fields is milkweed.

Milkweed is the sole food for the iconic 'Monarch' butterfly caterpillars. Monarchs are famous for their long-distance multi-generation migrations across the US, but to do this there needs to be a patch of milkweed at regular intervals on the flightpath to feed the caterpillars in preparation for the next leg of the journey.

With all that glyphosate around in the environment, there's just not enough milkweed, few caterpillars, and very few Monarch butterflies left: their numbers are reckoned to have declined 80% in the last 20 years.

But, while we're all fretting over a very beautiful and unique insect, one US farmer is telling us:
"we've missed the entire point about GMO food".

Americans are just about as dependent on corn and soya, now largely laced with glyphosate, as the Monarch's are on milkweed. Consider that nine out of every ten bites of US food are created courtesy of GM ingredients: from all manner of livestock reared on GM feed, to tortilla chips, to the corn syrup in every kind of processed snack, drinks and 'healthy choices'. One inquisitive scientist determined that 69% of the average American's body carbon is derived solely from corn, 89% of which is GM. And that's not counting in the carbon from GM soya.

This is indeed a serious dependency problem, but it too is missing the point about GMO food.

Google Map photos of the State of Illinois, a major grain-growing State, just before the planting season, tell all. What you see is brown. Brown is bare earth, sprayed with glyphosate ready for the spring planting.

In order for maize and soya to grow, requires death on a massive scale. Death on a scale so massive you can see it from outer space.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 170 million acres of corn and soya are in production in the US. At a conservative estimate of 10 gallons of glyphosate per acre, this translates into 2 billion gallons of the herbicide poured onto American soil this year alone. We're talking about an area the size of California and Montana combined, which we're killing dead each year to grow mainly GM crops, mainly contaminated with glyphosate.


The next phase of the Google Map photo is, of course, an ocean of GM corn and GM soya, waiting to slake the American addiction.

Nothing much can swim in that ocean, and Americans are drowning themselves in it.

Let's not go there.


  • Sam Levin, California EPA moves to label Monsanto's Roundup "carcinogenic", East Bay Express, 5.09.15
  • We've Missed the Entire Point About GM food - A Farmer Explains Why,, 22.09.15
  • Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U. S.: Recent Trends in GE Adoption,, data 2000-2015

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