Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “corn”

Healthy Sugar – Roger Ingalls

Yesterday I engaged in a food experiment completely by accident and ended up learning something. My wife left me a can of caramelized roasted cashews on the kitchen counter to take to work. Around 2:30 in the afternoon I decided to try some of these nuts. They were quite tasty and I found myself going back to the can over and over again. All of a sudden my stomach felt a little queasy and my brain said you better quit eating those sweet things before you make yourself sick.

I was puzzled by the ill feeling. Why is it that I can eat normal nuts all day but not ones with baked on candy and why can I drink sweet soda by the Gulp without issue? After reading the can it was apparent that these were high-end naturally flavored nuts that used real ingredients including natural sugar. Then it hit me; my body was recognizing what I was eating.

picture form motherjones.com

picture form motherjones.com

The body is a chemical machine that has evolved over a couple of million years and the brain detects, through receptors, enzymes as a result of foods breaking down (approximate definition of the body’s process). The body recognizes natural foods that have evolved with us but doesn’t chemically comprehend man-made foods. This is why I felt a little ill from eating too many cashews coated with naturally sugar but can drink a gallon of cola without feeling sick. High fructose corn syrup has been used in sodas since the 1980s and this man-made substance is slightly different (chemically) than real sugar so the body doesn’t know when enough is enough. If we still used real sugar in food, obesity and diabetes would probably be less prevalent in society today because our bodies would tell our brains to quit consuming so much.

For my next study, I think a comparison of Mexican Coke made with real sugar vs USA Coke made with corn syrup would make a good experiment. Supposedly, Mexican Coke is an extremely satisfying drink when a small quantity is consumed. If true, it makes a big statement for natural foods and ingredients.

2012: A Year to Remember – Roger Ingalls

Global warming, who cares. We’re only talking about a few degrees so what’s the big deal? The availability of food is the big deal.

Starch based foods, such as; corn, rice and wheat are members of the grass family and the life blood for most people on Earth. Not only do we eat starch-plants but our livestock is primarily fed corn and similar grassy vegetation. In addition, close to 70% of all items found on grocery stores shelves in developed countries have some type of corn byproduct in them (an unintended consequence of subsidized farming). The world depends on starchy grasses so we must have large land masses in climate zones suitable for growing these plants.

Global warming of a few degrees may not seem like much but when compared to temperature ranges required to grow our food, the small change isn’t so little.

For the purposes of this short article we’ll talk about corn. The ideal temperature range for growing corn is 68F to 73F degrees and having an abundant amount of weather in this range is needed to keep food prices affordable and available. The ideal growing range is only 5F degrees (73 – 68 = 5) so a climate shift of 2 or 3 degrees will consume 50% of corn’s growing range budget and that is significant. The average growing season temperature for America’s bread basket region (Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois…) is about 72F degrees so an upward shift of just a few degrees takes us out of the ideal condition. This is bad news for high yields.

Global warming also has another, more damaging, side effect; prolonged extreme temperature variation. This is what we are now experiencing in the Midwest and it’s having a devastating impact on crops. In past years, it was normal to have a handful of super-hot days but climate change is producing consecutive weeks of scorching heat. More bad news for crop yields. Corn can survive in a range of 50F to 95F degrees for a period of time but will not yield well above 80F or below 60F. Corn can even tolerate extreme temperatures (32F to 110F degrees) but only for a few days. When we have weeks of heat over 100F degrees, as we have seen this year, crops fail.

2012 may become a year to remember. It will be a year of climate records in both high temperatures and protracted heat days. It will be a year of failed crops.

A few degrees does make a difference.

The New Normal, Abnormal Weather – Roger Ingalls

I’ve been following weather related news for the past few months and it appears we’ve hit the point of obviousness. It’s painfully clear to most open-minded Americans and the International community that something is amiss. It’s not unusual to have freakish weather in some regions of the world during a defined period, but it’s extremely abnormal for almost the entire globe to experience unusual climate events simultaneously and this is what we’re now seeing.

Research weather reports from China, Europe, North & South America, Australia, India, Africa, Korea, Russia or anywhere and you’ll see change and concern. Below are some reports and articles picked up yesterday.

Today’s post has no conclusion, no solution and places no blame; it’s just meant to point out the obvious.

GRAINS-Corn extends 2-day gain to 10 pct on Midwest drought

Crops to keep baking in dry heat for 2 weeks

Grower: Door County cherry crop has all but failed

Counties Asked to Begin Damage Assessments for Livestock, Crops

Options for crops damaged by hail

Global warming will push up sea level

Global Warming Seen Lifting California Sea Level a Foot by 2030

Global warming creates 600-mile flood ‘hot spot’ along East Coast

Hurricane Debby sets records: Early-season storm a sign of things to come?

Texas grid expects to set June power record again

Record heat hampers containment of wildfires

Both Koreas suffering worst drought in a century

As drought grips Great Plains, Wyo. ranchers look to rent pasture in North Dakota for cattle

Drought help sought for farmers, ranchers

Severe drought continues in the area

 Hot weather sets records in the Dakotas

Unprecedented Drought May Have Already Led To 20,000 Deaths In North Korea Since April

Drought leaves 800,000 people thirsty in China

Algaculture: Farming Worth Subsidizing

Last week I blogged about farm subsidies and how they limit variety, make people fat and destroy the free-market economy. It wasn’t a very popular post so I assume most people don’t care to dig into the complexities of this subject. However, it is a very important issue so I’m going to discuss it again but with the focus of how I believe our tax dollars should be spent.

Instead of subsidizing grains, corn and other carbohydrate crops that get over-processed into unhealthy foods, we should fund farming methods that can efficiently turn plant life into alternative fuels. And I’m not talking about the inefficient use of corn to make ethanol which is a crazy waste of food and energy.

We should subsidize algaculture or algae farming. More than 50% of algae’s composition – by weight – is lipid oil which burns cleaner and more efficiently than fossil fuel based petroleum. Once the oil is removed from the algae, the leftovers can be turned into fertilizer and feedstock for animals.

To eliminate our reliance on imported oil, we would need approximately 50 million acres of algae farming compared to billions of acres of corn to produce ethanol. Algae is a much better crop choice for making alternative liquid fuels.

Can you imagine all the problems we could solve by using our farm subsidies wisely? We could eliminate our reliance on foreign oil. We would no longer have to fight wars in the Middle East. There would be a new farming community with massive job creation as well as support industries to refine algae oils. In addition, there would be less unhealthy products in our food system because high fructose corn syrup and grain-fed beef would no longer be priced below true market value.

I encourage you to learn more about farm subsidies and algae bio-fuels. We could have a healthier, greener and safer society by changing how we spend our tax dollars.

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Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

Subsidies: Sickness and Profit

Have you ever wondered why the government subsidizes food that is bad for our health?

picture from fadingdesign.com

Government funds (our tax dollars) go to farmers that grow corn, wheat and soybeans resulting in artificially low prices for these foods. You may be asking, “what’s wrong with paying less for food?”

There are fundamentally two problems with our farm subsidy programs: 1) it reduces the variety of affordable foods and 2) the funds support crops that are turned into high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fats.

Between 1975 and 1984 most soda manufacturers switched from sugar to high-fructose corn syrup because of price. You may find the correlation between the rapid rise of obesity and the introduction of soft-drinks with HFCS interesting (see figure below). In addition, there is a disturbing correlation between diabetes and the use of HFCS (below). Close to 70% of the packaged foods found on grocery store shelves are manufactured with HFCS or hydrogenated fats. Even the price of beef is artificially low because they are fed an unhealthy diet of subsidized grains instead of their natural meal of grass. The cattle are given doses of antibiotics to keep them from getting too sick for meat processing.

Foods that are healthier for us, such as vegetables, are not subsidized. Have you seen the prices for fresh veggies lately? They are outrageous! The good and healthy stuff is not affordable relative to unhealthy subsidized food. These government funded programs are pre-selecting our foods by artificially lowering prices for a small variety of farmed crops.

If we want a healthy society, we must re-create a free market by doing away with farm subsidies or by allowing equal funding for all crops. This will be very difficult because the large corporate-run farms receive over 70% of the subsidies. Their lobbyist and big banking partners will do all they can to eliminate a free market. In addition, a healthy society is not good for the pharmaceutical, health insurance and medical industries which also have strong lobby groups.

It’s an interesting dilemma; today’s corporate landscape of profit with sickness vs a change to health with a free market.

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Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

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