Stop "for-profit foods", starting with high fructose corn
by Jean Grossholtz
means accessibility to sufficient nutritious, healthy food and to culturally
appropriate food. For some years, women fighting the corporate take-over
of our planet have worked on the issue of farm subsidies and farm income
in World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings and in the World Food Forums
conducted during the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
We are committed
to bringing about an international trade system that insures that every
country can maintain an agricultural system that will provide a local
food supply sufficient for their people. We have mobilized against the
use of biotechnology to create “for-profit food” that is, food designed
to increase the profits of the producer without regard to the nutritional
needs of the consumer. We continue our work on both these fronts, challenging
the WTO rules and educating people about the claims made for genetically
Now we are facing
a new issue with respect to the health of foods in the form of a created
sugar called high fructose corn syrup. This sweetener is being used in
many products as a substitute for other sugars, including in products
which were formerly not sweetened. This corn syrup has spread through
the food supply in the United States and is moving into the food of other
countries as well .
corn syrup has replaced sugar beet and sugar cane as the sweetener of
choice in large transnational food products.
Sugar from corn
is easy and cheap to produce. Basically you treat corn with an acid and
it becomes sugar. High Fructose Corn Syrup is very stable, retains moisture,
doesn’t crystallize easily, and mixes well with other ingredients. And,
more importantly, it is much cheaper than sucrose.
United States is the largest producer of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Most of it is produced by corporations which also receive the majority
of farm subsidies. Most of the corn they grow is genetically modified.
Such corn cannot find a market in many places in the world, as in the
European Union, Uganda, and until recently Brazil, all of which refuse
the import of genetically modified products.
The Mexican government’s anti-dumping authority determined in 1998 that
imports of HFCS from the US were being dumped in the Mexican market,
threatening the domestic sugar industry. The U.S. raised objections through
a WTO dispute resolution panel, which said Mexico had not made their case
for material injury. In September 2000, Mexico again went to the WTO,
complying with the earlier WTO findings. However once again they were
told that their case did not meet the “anti-dumping” criteria. HFCS
from the United States made from genetically modified corn is moving into
Mexico. It has already been determined that some native Mexican corn varieties
have been invaded by genetically modified material.
There is an overlapping monopoly involving 6 corporations that control
nearly 2/3 of the world’s grain trade. They also have important holdings
in seed companies (and genetically modified seeds) and are deeply invested
in food products. Because they also control large parts of that processed
food system in the United States they have introduced HFCS into many foods,
from orange juice to spaghetti sauce.
The product has several drawbacks. Research shows that HFCS can raise
triglyceride levels, which may increase the risk of heart disease. In
one study a diet with 17 % of energy as fructose raised triglyceride levels
in men by 32% Another
study by researchers in Hawaii found that fructose rich diets have deleterious
metabolic effects, including glucose intolerance, insulin resistance,
dyslipidemia and liver dysfunction.
Thirdly, its use undoubtedly contributes to the obesity epidemic in the
United States, and fourthly, it is addictive, as are all sugars. This
is the reason why children prefer some of the spaghetti products which
have high levels of HFCS to homemade spaghetti .
It is no surprise that the largest producer of foods that stock the shelves
of US. super markets, foods high in HFCS, is the corporate giant, Philip
Morris. This company, you may remember, was also the corporation that
knowingly peddled addictive substances in the form of cigarettes. Other
major food producers are Nestle, Conagra, and Unilever.
In order to stop this invasion of our food by a non-nutritious addictive
substance we must educate consumers to pay attention to what is in their
food and to develop boycotts to stop it. It would be a wonderful achievement
if we could assure that every living being in the world had access to
natural, organically grown and produced foods and was not dependent upon
processed foods. However that is presently impossible because the limited
availability of organic food and therefore its cost, makes it
unavailable for most people. Therefore the campaign must be directed
toward removing these substances from food while we continue to campaign
for organic, locally grown food. We need to develop a national campaign
against the use of fructose corn syrup in food and that means we must
build a consumer boycott .
The venue for this of course is the United States and our supermarkets
(But I assure you there are products in gourmet food stores with HFCS
as well.) In order to stop the spread of this to the rest of the world
it must be stopped in the U.S., where the majority of these products are
Food Products distributed by Phillip Morris (which has a net worth
of $19.5 billion) include
foods and its subsidiaries
Callard and Bowser
Kraft Cheese (Cracker Barrel etc)
Philadelphia Cream cheese
Calumet Baking Powder
Shake and Bake
Cream of Wheat
and hundreds of others.
Women and Life on Earth (North America) co-coordinator, is Professor emeritus
at the Dept. of Women’s Studies, Mt. Holyoke College. Jean helped organize
the Women's Pentagon Action (1980-82) and has long been active in peace
and social justice work. She is also part of local, regional, and international
networks for food security and globalization issues, and a founding member
of Diverse Women for Diversity.
 Richard Wasnich, Medical Director,
and Jon Ruckle, Associate Medical Director, Radiuant Research .Honolulu.