GMO Corn—A Long Way from the New World Original : Exclusive Article by J. E. Williams

Friday Aug 24, 2012 | BY |
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In Peru, they grow purple corn, which is naturally full of anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties.

Corn is the New World grain. At the time of Columbus’ discovery of America, it was cultivated as far north as the Missouri River, eastward along the Atlantic coast, and as far south as the Incan Empire in Peru.

Paleoarcheologists believe the domestication of corn, a cross between two wild grasses, is at least 9,000 years old and occurred in the highlands of Southern Mexico. It was first cultivated in the American Southwest about 2100 BC, from where it spread to other indigenous cultures. Maize was the staple food in pre-Columbian North American, Mesoamerican, South American, and Caribbean Island cultures.

Not only do ancient civilizations owe much to the humble maize, but modern civilization also depends heavily on it. Corn is the most widely grown grain crop in the Americas, with 332 million tons grown annually in the United States alone. That’s a lot of corn! Approximately 40% of the crop, about 130 million tons, is used to make ethanol for fuel.

Lately, however, we’ve gotten far away from the original corn crops of these centuries before. Today, genetically modified corn make up 85% of the maize planted in the United States. Unfortunately, scientifically manipulated genetically modified foods pose serious risks to humans, domesticated animals, wildlife, and the environment. Human health risks include allergies, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression, and cancer.

The Trouble with GM Maize
Though authoritative scientific reports in the U.S. on the health risks of genetically modified foods are hard to find, there is plenty of finger pointing going on by environmental action groups like Greenpeace. Thankfully, there is good science on GM foods happening in other countries. In fact, based on European studies, Cuba prohibits growing or importing genetically modified foods crops. One type of maize, called MON 810, is the only GM food cultivated commercially in the E.U. The European Commission says E.U. countries need more flexibility to decide if GM crops are grown.

Two lines of GM maize expressing the gene of Phosphinothricin Acetyltransferase Enzyme (PAT-PROTEIN) showed significant differences in fat and carbohydrate content compared with non-GM maize. GM maize expressing PAT-PROTEIN may present health risks associated with abnormal weight gain.

Three GM maize strains (NK 603, MON 810, MON 863) were found to cause toxicity to the kidneys and liver, and had adverse effects in the heart, adrenal glands, and spleen. France, Germany, Austria, and Greece have banned MON 810.

Since GM maize products are mainly found in processed foods like crackers and chips, and in corn oils, it’s relatively easy to avoid eating them if you choose fresh, organic foods, and heritage varieties of fresh corn.

In Praise of Healthy Maize
There’s something magical about eating according to ancestral traditional diets. For many years, I conducted fieldwork among the Zapotec Indians of Oaxaca, in the highlands of Southern Mexico—the birthplace of maize. One of my primary contacts, a young Zopotec man, moved to Mexico City to start a small transport business shuttling workers from home to factory.

Instead of his usual daily routine of hard manual labor and simple traditional foods, he was now sitting all day driving a minivan while drinking sugary sodas and eating high-fat foods. Instead of handmade corn tortillas made from heritage maize, he ate GM corn tortillas.

Within a year he had gained over 150 pounds. His cholesterol was over 300 and his fasting glucose (blood sugar) was close to 200. Almost overnight, he had become an obese diabetic. The cure was to return to his village, eat the traditional diet, work daily in the maize and bean fields, and drink a wild crafted herbal tea provided by the village curandera. In three months, his glucose was below 120 and his cholesterol was approaching normal. Within five months, his blood tests were not only in the desirable range, they hit optimal numbers, and he had returned to his normal weight.

Most of my fieldwork is now in Peru where there are many varieties of corn. The national drink is chica morada, a beverage made from purple corn, fruit, and spices. An authentic “super food,” it contains a powerful antioxidant anthocyanin called C3G. Purple corn also has anti-inflammatory and cancer fighting activity.

Grow Your Own
Try growing your own heritage corn. As a kid growing up on a farm in New England, I ate ripe corn raw on the stalk. The stems, resembling cane stalks, contain sweet water and can be chewed like sugar cane. When cooking corn on the cob, my mother brought the water to boil in a huge pot, and I ran into the cornfield to pick a bushel that we quickly shucked, and threw in the boiling water for a few minutes. This flash boiling preserved all the sweetness as well as the nutrients.

Maize is deficient in two essential amino acids: lysine and tryptophan, making it a poor protein food. However, when combined with beans, also an American native food, the two become a balanced source of carbohydrates with a full profile of essential amino acids.

Be Your Own GM Watch Dog
U.S. food labeling does not require the labeling of GM products. Some states are voting to change that. For now, you have to read, ask, and check online. The “farm-to-fork” movement is great, but make absolutely sure they use non-GM seeds, and preferably that growing fields are not near GM cornfields that can spread GM genes on the wind through cross-pollination.

Commercial corn tortillas are usually from GM maize and contain too much of the wrong kind of fats, and are loaded with preservatives. Look for non-GM blue corn tortillas. They’re not as soft and flexible, and take more time to cook, but you’ll soon get the knack. Serve them like they do in old Mexico with a plate of chilies, organic beans cooked with the herb epazote, and a salsa of fresh, organic tomatoes.

For more information:

Tracking the Ancestry of Corn Back 9,000 Years
A Comparison of the Effects of Three GM Corn Varieties on Mammalian Health
True Food App
The Potential Health Benefits of Purple Corn
How to Make Chica Morada

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Picture courtesy Dr. Williams.

Dr. J. E. Williams

J. E. WILLIAMS, OMD, FAAIM

Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

ADD: For updates and more information, follow me on Facebook.

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23 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Thanks for the informative article!

    I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for the blue corn tortillas – that meal sounds delicious!

    I love that purple corn picture – beautiful!

  2. That does seem alarming, the little amount of time eating GM corn, and the impact that it can make sounds scary. They look a little bit menacing, but is there a difference in taste when it comes to purple corns?

  3. nancy says:

    i grew up in albuquerque (live in europe now). the blue corn was always my favorite. always get the blue corn when i go home to visit. yummm!

  4. Francine Maclure says:

    Here in Canada, we are closely watching the vote in the US for labelling foods that contain GM ingredients. This will greatly affect what Canadian food producers can get away with.

  5. Teresa says:

    Thanks Kevin for your articles on Genetically Engineered Foods I didn’t get a chance to respond to your last article so I thought I’d respond to this one. My husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this year so I started reading everything I could and purchased ebooks and tapes from Kevin’s website and read the China Study and many other books. We stopped eating most GMO foods and cutting back on eating meat (when we do eat some it’s less, less often and organic but that’s contaminated too). We’ve both lost weight without trying but we eat more veggies and fruits and less processed foods. I’m not an expert but the GMO corn they feed most animals to make them gain weight quickly is making us gain weight, too. I love the blue corn organic chips, don’t eat often but good when I need something crunchy. I hope Prop 37 passes so I can avoid GMO foods. The woman Lauren who wrote in the other day shouldn’t be worried because the general public is uneducated and most don’t know what GMO’s are or that they’ve been eating them for 20 years, I had NO idea! They’re still going to eat them if they are labeled but those of us with allergies or prefer to avoid getting fat and/or sick want to know what were eating. Kevin, get some rest and then contine to educate California voters to vote YES of Prop 37 so we can know what’s in our food supply and have a choice to eat it or not. I agree with your last article – if they are so proud of GMO’s why can’t they put a label on it to tell us. It must be bad if they don’t want us to know. Thanks again for your website.

  6. Beverly says:

    Tnank you for all thr great info., America wake up, you can help your self adult stem cell nutrition,http://why97.com/cgi-bin/plexum.pl?page=leads&id=jdi

  7. Sun~Rose says:

    Good article, one caveat: boiling anything kills the enzymes, and must affect the nutrients to some extent. And why, when raw corn (especially fresh-picked) can’t be improved!

    We rarely eat corn anymore, unless sure it’s organic. Being raw vegan sure is great!

  8. Nice says:

    Kevin – #6 from Beverly is scam – please delete from posts so other people don’t click on it!!

  9. joe says:

    Well I don’t really eat corn or corn byproducts anyways but, I’m sure there’s GMO’s in plenty of other products such as wheat. I thought that raw corn would give someone an upset stomach, but I’am curious as to what would happen if consumed raw.

  10. Karen Beattie says:

    I WAS JUST THINKING ABOUT THE WAY OUR CIVILIZED FOOD IS MAKING US GAIN WEIGHT; EVEN THOUGH WE ARE EATING OUR RAW NATURAL FOODS THAT ARE MODIFIED.IT COMES DOWN TO QUANITY NOT QUALITY TO FEED THE POPULATION. WATER AND FRESH AIR TO GROW OUR VARIETY OF HEALTHFUL FOODS WILL PUT AN IMPACT ON SURVIVAL.TRY TO STAY CLOSEST TO THE SOURCE, THEN EVERY LITTLE CELL IS HAPPY AND THRIVING.

  11. Claudia says:

    Thanks for this excellent article. Now I know what the blue (purple) corn looks like and why I love blue corn tortilla chips. I have signing petitions and sharing information against GMO foods. Now I have an excellent source to use for ammunition.

  12. jackie says:

    for Joe #9. Raw corn is delicious, as long as you don’t get a grainy, field type. If you don’t want to eat it off the cob, cut the corn off and mix in a salad. You’ll probably like it.

  13. Lola says:

    If the corn is from my own garden I like to eat young kernals raw, but I also cook it slightly and it’s wonderful that way too. Like your mother, Kevin, so my mother did also. Actually, she’d bring the water to a boil, throw in the fresh corn on the cob, and JUST barely bring the water to a boil again; then take it out immediately and serve. Ummmm GOOD…even without sea salt and real butter! There’s just nothing like fresh sweetcorn right from the garden. When I was very young Dad planted corn for animal consumption on our farm…and we ate the same stuff. At the time I thought it was yummy. When Dad bought some sweet corn seeds for the vegetable garden, we were hooked…WOW, WHAT A DIFFERENCE!

  14. Kym says:

    Thanks Dr. Williams. I always enjoy how you mix science with real-world experience. In a previous article, you wrote briefly about the effect of micro-RNA from GM foods. I would be interested to hear more about your opinion on that if possible.

    (And, yes, #6 is spam. I see spam from this person on virtually every post I read.)

  15. Ricardo Blasco says:

    FOR TO HAVE THE BEST SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION ABOUT THE GMOs,YOU MUST SEARCH IT IN GOOGLE :
    “DR.MERCOLA INTERVIEWS DR.HUBER ABOUT GMOs”
    ANIBODY THAT READ THIS INFORMATION CAN TO THINK THAT ALL THE GMOs MUST TO BE FORBIDDEN IMMEDIATELY.

  16. Martha says:

    Very interesting article on corn & GMOs–do wish some one would do an all out campaign, on-line, to help spread this info to the masses.
    It is quite scary to me to think the average person is clueless-nearly asleep-about their own health risks. As freaky chemical companies ‘take over’ the food markets, using the totally overused term ‘natural’ confusing and infusing most unaware folks into believing they are buying the real thing.
    It is criminal, practically unstoppable, like a run-away-train–look at California, a ballet to label GMOs is up for vote. Tons and tons of health conscious folks live there and still the people cannot stop Monsanto Monster Maniac supporters from spreading the truth by labeling products laced with GMOs!

  17. mike says:

    #6 thank you
    # 8 im not sure he reads these. Reader beware..
    #9 seriously?
    My favorite is pink corn, from Canada, obviously
    #Kevin your welcome

  18. Lori says:

    Thank you for this very informative article, Dr. Williams.

  19. Blair says:

    You can purchase the blue corn tortillas at Trader Joes.
    Thank you for the great article and some scientific info from Europe.
    Everyone in California Vote Yes on Proposition 37!
    Blair

  20. Lauren says:

    This kind of stuff is shocking to read. It makes such leaps of logic. Kevin is disappointing. Eu in fact has been lifting regs for GMO.

    “he was now sitting all day driving a minivan while drinking sugary sodas and eating high-fat foods. Instead of handmade corn tortillas made from heritage maize, he ate GM corn tortillas. Within a year he had gained over 150 pounds. His cholesterol was over 300 and his fasting glucose (blood sugar) was close to 200. Almost overnight, he had become an obese diabetic.”

    No really!! Come on people! Hello! Drinking sugary sodas and eating high-fat foods, and sitting all day in a van all day…. but its the “GM tortillas” that caused this to happen. Uh, ok. That’s logical!

  21. Eve says:

    Good article BUT –

    you mentioned scientific studies about GMO?

  22. Eve says:

    Good article, BUT –

    you mentioned SCIENTIFIC STUDIES on GMO effects –
    Please LIST them! link them!

    The only way to influence the people who can actually make a difference in how pervasive this GMO stuff becomes, is with hard science.

    If it’s there, please list links and or references.

    Otherwise, we all just sound – to people in science careers – like superstitious, babbling idiots. That just reinforces the idea that it’s us, not GMO, that’s the problem.

    There’s too many scientists who are so enchanted by the “miracle” of genetic modification that they fail to see the risks. Unfortunately, right now they are the ones who can quote and reference this-or-that study to convince the public, and our policy makers, that GMO has been tested and is perfectly safe and desirable.

    Arm us with REAL material to change the world… please!

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