Did you know that one-third of all US cropland is used to produce corn? And that the majority of corn produced is genetically modified? Corn production is the number one crop produced in the US with 33% of it going to animal feed, and another 33% to produce ethanol fuel. Corn takes up over 90 million acres of farmland in the US, mainly located in the Midwest and the Great Plains. Let’s learn more about the environmental impacts of corn production.
The corn crop has been around for centuries. Indigenous peoples of the Americas have used corn as a staple in their diets for millenia. Unfortunately, corn isn’t produced utilizing traditional farming practices anymore – and the corn industry has turned this fast yielding, high-priced crop into an environmental disaster. Corn is a highly subsidized industry; with the government giving millions to farmers annually for mass production. This has driven the industry to use genetically modified corn seed, higher amounts of chemicals and fertilizers, and excess water. These are just a few of the negative impacts corn production has on the environment.
Facts on Corn Production:
- In the U.S., corn uses more land than any other crop, spanning some 97 million acres.
- 80% of all corn grown in the world is genetically modified.
- Corn is modified with two genes; one that kills insects eating the seed, and another that allows the seed to tolerate glyphosate, an herbicide used in weed killers. Both of these modifications involve splicing the corn with toxic chemicals.
- The nation’s energy policy calls for ethanol production, which utilizes 33% of our nation’s corn production.
- Over 5.6 million tons of nitrogen is applied to corn each year through chemical fertilizers, along with nearly one million tons of nitrogen from manure.
- Corn production contributes to 40% of all nitrogen pollution.
- The EPA states that “Nutrient pollution is one of America’s most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems, and is caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus in the air and water.” These nutrients are heavily sprayed on corn, along with the use of synthetic fertilizers.
How can I make an impact?
Action 1: Global Goodness
- Purchase ethanol-free gasoline. 33% of all corn production is used to make ethanol; purchasing ethanol-free gas is an easy way to reduce your corn consumption.
- Reduce your packaged food consumption; many boxed food products are made mainly of corn and soy. By reducing the amount of packaged goods you consume, you can vote with your dollar to demand that the industry rewrite corn production processes.
Action 2: Planet Protector
- All of Action 1.
- Reduce your meat consumption. A third of corn production is used to feed animal agriculture. By reducing your meat consumption, you can reduce the demand for feed corn that is produced.
- Grow your own. Want to take control of the foods you eat? Do your part by growing part of what you consume. Whether you have a yard or a balcony, you can grow a portion of what you eat.
Action 3: Earth Angel
- All of Actions 1 & 2.
- Lobby your local Congress to restrict the use of synthetic fertilizers and chemicals. They are harmful to our environment and toxic to people and animals.
- Support initiatives and not-for-profits that are working to clean up the water systems around corn production facilities in the Midwest and Gulf regions. Much of the soil and water surrounding these mono-cropping facilities are riddled with algae blooms and toxic runoff.
- Choose to be an Ambassador for Change, and always Spread Love and Spread Light.