I re-started Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma a couple days ago. I say re-started because I began it back when he came to town and gave a reading. I began it while waiting in the bookstore, sitting on a folding chair for the reading to begin. I fully intended to read the rest of the book right away but you understand how these things happen.

Now, I thought Fast Food Nation was a pretty gross book, but I think this one is making a move for the top of the heap and I’m only on page 100 with another 300 or so pages until the end. Since I am a vegan I take pride in my ingredients label reading abilities. I can spot an animal derived substance buried in the longest of lists. But I never thought much about corn other than high fructose corn syrup. I began avoiding that a few years ago when I found out that it has GMO corn in it, plus it really isn’t good for you. But I have just learned that citric and lactic acid, glucose, fructose, maltodextrin, sorbitol, mannitol, xanthan gum, modified and unmodified starches and frequently dextrins, cyclodextrins and MSG also come from corn. You may think this is no big deal, but after reading about the horrors of corn production, and we are talking number 2 field corn here, not the high grade corn you buy on the cob or in frozen kernels, I am going to have to memorize these ingredients and try to eliminate them from my diet if at all possible. And that’s one of the scary things. I might not be able to get rid of all of them because they are everywhere. Did you know every American eats about a ton–a ton!–of corn a year? Only a small amount of that corn is actual corn kernels. Most of it is processed crud.

And it is crud. Number 2 corn is the same grade they feed cattle, who by the way, are not biologically equipped to eat corn or any grains at all. Most of the cattle are sick from their food, that is one reason why they are given so many antibiotics. Two varieties of antibiotics they are given are especially to help them stay well enough on a corn diet until they reach slaughter weight. And E. coli, that dangerous bacteria that makes people sick and can even kill them? A USDA microbiologist found that if a cow’s diet is switched from corn to grass (what a cow should be eating) after a few days, the population of E. coli in the cow’s gut decreases by as much as 80 percent. Most feedlots don’t do this however, too expensive. If you eat beef it is something to be concerned about since about 40 percent of feedlot cattle carry the bacteria, which did not exist before 1980.

The whole corn industry is a big sham. The farmer gets next to nothing for his corn but Cargill and ADM, the two companies that buy most of the corn in the US, are raking in the dollars. And corn uses an enormous amount of fossil fuels. Pollan calculated that from planting to transport, industrial corn uses up about 50 gallons of oil per acre. And processing the corn takes even more energy.

I’m about to read the chapter that discusses the health effects on people of so much corn in our diets. How much do you want to bet it isn’t good?