The US boasted nearly 92 million acres of corn crops in 2014 – the fifth largest corn acreage in the US since 1944 (and 93 percent of it is genetically modified).1
What could the US possibly do with that much corn? It’s far too much for making corn on the cob and popcorn, and even for feeding livestock (although the latter is still a major use for US-grown corn).
The number one use for corn from 2010-2012 was actually not for food at all, but rather for fuel. The US green energy policy requires oil companies to blend corn ethanol into their gasoline, which has driven up corn prices (until this year). An absolutely tragic environmental blunder.
Corn crops are already subsidized by the US government, so between subsidies and rising ethanol-driven prices, corn has become quite a cash crop for farmers. But this “green energy” program is backfiring, because there’s nothing “green” about planting an absolutely unnecessary surplus of corn, especially when natural prairies are being sacrificed.
Farmers Sacrifice Natural Prairies to Grown Corn for Ethanol
Since the US government began requiring its shortsighted, industry-influenced ethanol in fuel in 2007, more than 1.2 million acres of grassland have been lost to corn (and soy) crops. This includes:5
- At least 830,000 acres of grassland in Nebraska
- More than 370,000 acres of grassland in South Dakota
The ethanol fuel program was designed to reduce global warming but, ironically, the loss of grasslands is poised to do just the opposite. Plowing up native grasslands to plant vast expanses of corn and soy – the epitome of monoculture — releases carbon dioxide into the environment while increasing erosion and the use of toxic fertilizers and other chemicals. It also destroys habitat for native plants and wildlife.
Monoculture also was largely responsible for creating the Dust Storm of the early 1900s, as wiping out the natural grasslands of the Plains to plant unprecedented amounts of wheat disrupted the entire ecosystem of the region, with disastrous consequences.
It seems we have learned little from our recent past, as today, soil is actually depleting 13% faster than it can be replaced, and we’ve lost 75% of the world's crop varieties in just the last 100 years.