Corn Commentary

A New Shape for Popcorn

PopCornersA new market for popcorn has taken shape in the snack food aisle – Popcorners.

Our Popcorners family proudly presents our wholesome, delicious new shape of popcorn to your family.

Here at Popcorners we have spent a great deal of time tasting, testing and perfecting what we genuinely believe will be a new generation of popcorn.

Now, take your time and enjoy all our classic and delicious flavors. We are going to be around to honorably carry on the traditional goodness of snacking on popcorn.

Popcorners flavors range from sweet to salty to cheesy – Caramel, Sweet Cinnamon, Twisted Salt, Sea Salt, Wisconsin Cheddar, White Cheddar, Cheesy Jalapeno, Kettle – and traditional Butter. They even have recipes for the new snacks for a new twist on meat loaf, tuna salad, nachos or noodle casserole.

What’s not to like?

CommonGround Volunteer Shares GMO Insight

The following blog post was authored by Minnesota family farmer and CommonGround volunteer Kristie Swenson. Swenson participates in CommonGround, which is a joint project of the National Corn Growers Association, the United Soybean Board and their state affiliates, to help moms off the farm know how the moms on America’s farms grow and raise their food. By sharing her stories, she hopes to help consumers enjoy their food without fear.


kristie swansonThe topic of GMOs is complex, challenging, and emotional, regardless of your stance.  I have yet to have a straightforward conversation where we simply talk about one aspect of the GMOs because it’s so hard to talk about just one aspect when there are so many sides to the issue.  If one starts talking about the science itself, or the methodology used to genetically modify an organism, the conversation often goes on tangents like research, ethics, side effects, chemical use, labeling, corporations and so on.  It is so hard to separate each individual issue because they are connected and they are all valid issues that should be addressed.


Straight away, you should know that I am pro-GMO.  I do not believe that GMOs are the silver bullet or the solution for everything, but I do believe that GMOs have merits that should be considered on a case-by-case basis.  Do I think every single organism needs to be genetically modified?  No, I don’t.  But I do believe that genetically modifying some organisms can provide us with benefits, and I think those modifications should be researched.


Take papayas, for example.  In the 1990s, Hawaii’s papaya crop was devastated by the ringspot virus.  A Hawaiian scientist, Dr. Dennis Gonsalves, developed a virus-resistant variety of papaya through genetic modification and found a way to help the papaya industry.  In Hawaii today, both GMO and non-GMO papayas are produced.  (Read this article for an interview with Dr. Gonsalves.)


Am I saying that since I see GM papayas as a good thing, that all GMOs are a good thing?  I’m not going to use one positive situation to blanket the entire topic of GMOs.  I am just saying that there are other industries that could benefit from genetic modification.  The citrus industry comes to mind as it has been hit by citrus greening (the scientific name is Huanglongbing, or HLB).  In this particular case, biotechnology could save our citrus.  Here are two articles that further explore the citrus greening issue: Article 1 and Article 2.


To me, genetic modification and biotechnology are tools.  Having multiple tools to pick from enables us to determine which tool fits the best for the situation at hand.  People will choose tools based not only on the situation, but also on their personal preference.  You and I may be faced with the same situation, yet we may choose different tools to achieve similar outcomes.  And that’s ok – it is ok to have different opinions, different beliefs, different comfort levels.


I understand people have questions and concerns.  It’s so easy for us to look to sources of information with which we are familiar, or which share our perspective.  In today’s society, with the constant barrage of information and the vast amount of information available, it is so hard to sort out what’s fact from opinion; what’s twisted from what’s true.  What one person finds credible may not be a credible source for someone else.  I encourage you to seek out sources of information that provide facts rather than perpetuating myths, to have respectful conversations with people who work with biotechnology, and to think critically about what you find.  I encourage you to continue asking questions until you are satisfied with the answers, and to know not just what you believe but why you believe it.



Corn Bran Takes the Cake

cakeYou can have your cake with more fiber and less fat and eat it too – with corn bran.

USDA’s Agricultural Research Service reports that white layer cakes can be made healthier by replacing some of the flour with finely ground corn bran without significantly undermining many of the qualities of this favorite treat.

Experiments done by USDA food technologist Mukti Singh determined that purified, finely ground corn bran can be used as a substitute for up to 20 percent of the flour called for in the American Association of Cereal Chemists’ “gold standard” test recipe for white cake.

The experiments found that using 20 percent corn bran fiber had no significant impact on qualities such as color or springiness and volunteer taste-tasters who sampled cake made with that amount of the fiber rated it as “acceptable” – which is good.

One slice of an 8-inch, 6-slice, two-layer white cake made with 20 percent corn bran fiber would provide about 5 grams of fiber, compared to about 1 gram from a conventional white layer cake. The USDA researcher say the corn bran recipe can be added to cakes that are prepared at commercial bakeries or to the boxed mixes sold for home bakers.

How to Write Like an Angry GMO Expert

judeDr. Jude Capper is a livestock sustainability consultant, professor of animal sciences, and a “bovidiva” according to her blog of the same name.

Last week she did a great post entitled “Activism 101 – How to Write Like An Angry Internet “Expert” on GMOs.” An asterisk after the word “expert” points to a footnote:

*Note that being an “expert” does not involve education, higher degrees or being employed within the industry in question. Nowadays you can only be an expert if you are entirely impartial, third-party, and preferably know nothing whatsoever about the system in question. On that basis, I’m off to write a book about Zen Dentistry.

She offers nine points on how to write like an angry GMO expert, the final one being – “If all else fails, invoke the name of the evil that must be named….ahem, Monsanto. If you say it three times into a mirror, an ancient agricultural god will appear and wreak vengeance upon the earth. Honestly, I saw it on Oprah.”

Jude is hilarious, satirical, and often outrageous and if so much of this blog post were not sadly true it would be a lot funnier.

Read it and weep or LOL – or both.

Chick-Fil-A Makes a Bitter Blunder

Chick-Fil-A announced that, like so many others before it, the company will make the myth-based marketing maneuver to remove high fructose corn syrup from its sauce. Instead of standing for sound science and maintaining the current quality of its astoundingly popular products, these big chickens have bowed to the bogus peer pressure cited by brands when hitching their image to the anti-HFCS hype.

As Corn Commentary has pointedly examined so many times before, all sweeteners, whether they come from cane, corn or beet, are equally safe when consumed in moderation. No reputable research proves HFCS poses additional problems. No well-informed person would believe the haters’ hype after thoughtfully dissecting the data.

Yet Chick-Fil-A portends the play to be a result of consumer concerns. Whether their marketing mavens foolishly fell for the sugar industries’ self-interested simulation of actual angst or they generated the faux fears to mask the fatty truth, Chick-Fil-A is slipping on the Spanx and donning the holier-than-thou anti-HFCS halo to make itself more attractive.

Let’s show them that consumers won’t fall for their mock makeover. Tweet @ChickfilA today letting to let them know that American diners won’t be duped. Just because Chick-Fil-A doesn’t sweeten their sauce with HFCS their profits won’t grow fatter. #BitterBlunder.

World Food Prize Overload

wfp-flagI’m still suffering from World Food Prize sensory and information overload. If you have never been to this event, you really should go. It is amazing to see and hear farmers, philanthropists, entrepreneurs and researchers from so many nations gathered together for the central cause of feeding people.

World Food Prize Foundation president Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn says the event has grown so much from the first one-day symposium held in 1987. “We had more people registered this year for the symposium,” he said. “After we got beyond 1200 I almost stopped counting because I wasn’t sure where we were going to put folks!” In addition, there were 350 students and teachers at the event and over 700 attended the Iowa Hunger Summit earlier in the week, a new record.

Quinn marvels at what the World Food Prize has become. “We’ve been able to get to where people now say it’s the Nobel Prize for food and agriculture, and some people say it’s the premier conference in the world on global agriculture and one of the most unique programs to inspire young people,” he said, adding that the Prize was sponsored by General Foods in the very beginning and taken over by Iowa businessman and philanthropist, John Ruan. Interview with WFP President Kenneth Quinn

The 2013 event brought speakers such as Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and philanthropist/farmer Howard G. Buffett who joined in announcing new initiatives to address conservation, hunger and poverty issues in Africa.

wfp-13-buffett-blairFor one, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation has formed a partnership with John Deere and DuPont Pioneer to promote conservation agriculture adoption and support smallholders and sustainable farming in Africa. The effort will be piloted in Ghana and include a conservation-based, mechanized product suite developed by John Deere; a system of cover crops and improved inputs from DuPont Pioneer; and support for adoption and training on conservation-based practices by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

Additionally, Blair announced a collaboration between his Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and the World Food Prize Foundation to launch the 40 Chances Fellows program – inspired by Buffett’s book, “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World” – to encourage innovation in developing market‐based approaches that address food insecurity.

40 Chances Panel discussion
Blair and Buffett Press Conference

They tell me there were a handful of activists outside protesting the World Food Prize honoring of biotechnology, but I never saw them. What I did see inside was lots of positive energy focused on new ways and ideas to feed people. Not “the world” or a “growing planet” – it’s about feeding PEOPLE in the best, most efficient, most productive and most sustainable ways possible.

2013 World Food Prize photos

Sugar Spins a Scary Story, but Science Sheds Its Less-than-Sweet Trick

costumed pug dogA new study released just yesterday  confirms what many have already known for a while now – There’s no need to look for candy labeled “No HFCS” in your little trick-or-treaters sack of loot this year. It’s fine to let them enjoy their bounty of colorful candies not matter which sugar makes them sweet: corn, cane or beet.

The timely tome, released in Nutritional Journal, found that consumption of fat and glucose increased in the United States between 1970 and 2009, but the consumption of fructose accounted for only 1.3 percent of the rise in calorie intake in that period.  Thus, the study again pulls the mask off of the myth that fructose is in some way uniquely tied to the rising trend toward obesity in this county.

HFCS isn’t the dietary boogeyman. Instead, creepy corn-haters have whipped up an illusion that tricks people into believing that avoiding HFCS would drive a stake through the heart of obesity. Much like vampires though, the entire story is nothing but a whimsical fairytale concocted to keep those who would believe it right in the palm of the storyteller’s hand.

No one demon can be exorcised to cure the problem of obesity because, like most things in real life, it is complex and action requires real work and knowledge. Moderation and exercise may not conjure the same fascination as a titillating tale of dietary demons, but they do get results that last long after the last candy corn finally makes its way out of the dish.

This Halloween, don’t fear your food. Enjoy the fruits of hard-earned trick-or-treating labors as much as the corny jokes with which they were earned. HFCS doesn’t cast some magic spell on your metabolism. That story is as false as the little vampire at your doors fangs.

Controlling Aflatoxin in Africa

DSC_1615Behind this pretty, innocent face is the mind of a brilliant researcher who was honored last week at the World Food Prize for her work in helping to make the maize crop in Africa safer for animals and humans.

Dr. Charity Kawira Mutegi, a 38-year-old researcher from Kenya, received the 2013 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application in recognition of her efforts to find the cause and a solution to a 2004-05 outbreak of aflatoxicosis in her country which killed 125 people who consumed contaminated grain.

Dr. Mutegi is leading efforts for the development of a biocontrol product in Kenya that can be used to significantly reduce aflatoxin levels in maize by introducing naturally occurring non-toxic strains of the fungus, which have a competitive advantage over the strains that produce the deadly aflatoxin. The technology was developed by USDA’s Agriculture Research Service and locally adapted for use in several African countries. The microbial bio pesticide she and her team are developing – “aflasafe KE01” – is affordable for farmers, is natural and environmentally safe, and once applied to a field, the effects last multiple growing seasons, making it extremely effective.

Listen Dr. Mutegi talk about her research during a World Food Prize press conference: Dr. Charity Mutegi remarks

2013 World Food Prize photos

CommonGround Wisconsin Dishes on Dairy

Today, Corn Commentary features a guest post from CommonGround Wisconsin volunteer and blogger Kim Bremmer.

students with calf_8130 (2)What a fun morning in Alma Center, Wisconsin with two buses full of high school students, teachers and the school nutritionist for an informal discussion about food!  Pfaffway Farm was our wonderful host and is home to over 200 milking cows and youngstock.  Kristin Pfaff wanted to host an event about modern food production, showcase an actual farm, and be able to answer any questions the students might have about modern farming today.

The students were given donated milk, cheese curds and Craisins as they were seated on straw bale benches.  A questionaire was handed out earlier in the week at school and our discussion was focused accordingly around their answers.

We answered questions about the overall safety of food today and how technology has changed over time.  We spent a lot of time discussing GMO’s and handed out the Common Ground info-graph to everyone.  Many of the kids had concerns about the safety of GMO’s today and it was quite apparent  the influence that main stream media has. We had examples of different foods and talked at length about food labels and what they mean.  “Organic”, “All Natural”, “Hormone Free”, “Antibiotic Free” were all covered as well as r-BST, animal care concerns, and salmonella.

It was a lively group of young consumers with a lot of great questions and great discussion.  Even the adults in the group all commented on how much they learned.  Our final message was about keeping an open mind and always asking an expert when it comes to where your food comes from…the farmers and ranchers who are producing food for their own families and yours.  And more information can always be found at!

Pfaff Family _8122 (2)

A Bitter Rant with Bitter Consequences

Daily news stories rail against attempts by the foodie elite to dictate the diets of Main Street Americans. From parents protesting school lunch menus to New Yorkers rallying in defense of the Big Gulp, average citizens stand firmly in support of their right to make decisions and ardently defend their personal freedoms.

Yet, with carefully crafted theories and a plethora of plausible-yet-false facts, New York Times writer Mark Bittman gets away with forcing his theories about the redistribution of wealth, land and scrapping the basic ideals of the right to property and freedom of choice. He wants Americans to buy into his supposed “paradigm shift,” a regressive jump back to a pre-specialization of labor economy, and therefore aide in his effort to dictate diets not just to Americans but also to the rest of the world.

Bittman’s bitter tirade represents not only an agenda-driven, slanted view of modern agriculture heavily reliant upon idealized imagery but also an ongoing intellectual trend toward a world of pseudo-imperialism that would allow cultural dictators to rule over Americans and the international community alike. Displeased with how a dispersion of power and innovation has left their theoretical musings impotent, Bittman and his self-aggrandizing elitist posse cunningly plot to play on fear of the unknown, of all things “big,” of change, to gain support which, once firmly garnered, they would use to create their own utopia of the urban and urbane literati.

Know that this utopia does not take into account the realities of life most Americans face. It does not account for a lack of land, a lack of time or even a climate lacking the conditions needed to actually grow a crop. It does not account for land ownership, the ability of either farmers or consumers to make choices or the economic reality that those who grow food and those who purchase it know intimately.

While he hits on many touching topics, invoking the plight of the poor, the disenfranchised and the unjustly treated, he does these groups no substantial good. In forming his fix for a system he knows little about, he ignores the deeper issues surrounding food waste and productivity. He ignores personal choice and takes the idea of food security for granted in a way which early Americans never possibly could.

So, stand up! If each of us rallies against these covert attacks on the freedoms which make our country and our lives great as hard as we stand up in defense of their more obvious counterparts, we can make a difference. Theory and idealism have a place, but they do not put food on the table when they fail to account for reality and value the rights of individuals.

Tell the foodie elites like Bittman to close the doors on their intellectual imperialist dinner party. Tell them Main Street refuses to accept their invitation.

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