Corn becomes high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, or corn starch—carbohydrates with virtually no nutritional value. Soy is separated into meal and oil—the meal becomes livestock feed and the oil becomes fat-based additives such as hydrogenated vegetable oil.
These empty-calorie additives find their way into the majority of junk foods and beverages in America. Products infused with corn and soy additives line our grocery and pantry shelves—breakfast cereals, baked goods, candy, frozen desserts, ketchup, dressings, and sauces are a few household favorites. Artificially sweetened and chockfull of calories, these products are high in taste, but low in nutritional value.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn syrup, and corn starch have become the fillers of choice, in part because of deliberate agricultural policy decisions to subsidize corn. Corn starch, a thickening agent and the base from which corn syrups are derived, comes from the endosperm of a corn kernel. It acts as a fat replacer to stabilize processed foods and creates the texture and ‘mouth-feel’ normally associated with creamy foods. It does not provide meaningful nutritional value. These sweeteners are widely available and cheaper than sugar.
Since 1995, the U.S. has produced 190.7 billion bushels of corn, 13.8 billion of which were churned into corn sweetener, while 4.6 billion bushels were converted into corn starch and used as a processed food stabilizer. Thus, of the total domestic corn produced, 9.6 percent ended up as sweeteners or thickeners. Translated into taxpayer dollars, $8.1 billion of the $84.4 billion spent on corn subsidies has financed the production of starch and sweeteners.
Subsidies for Soy Oils
Soy oil, commonly called “vegetable oil” or “hydrogenated vegetable oil” on ingredient lists, accounts for 65 percent of all edible oils ingested by Americans. To produce soy oils, the liquid left over from the soybean separation process is hydrogenated, converting certain healthy fatty acids into unhealthy ones. This additive extends the shelf life of foods and creates oils which operate similarly to shortening, increasing risks of heart disease and elevating cholesterol levels.
Soy is so prevalent in the national diet that when Americans deep fry chicken, chomp on tortilla chips, or drizzle dressing on salad, they are most likely consuming soy oil. Soy’s ubiquity is no coincidence— soy subsidies since 1995 tally up to $27.8 billion—the fifth most-heavily subsidized crop on the federal list. Soy oil constitutes approximately 40 percent of a soybean’s value, meaning that since 1995, soy oils have consumed approximately $11.1 billion in taxpayer dollars. Americans consume more than 28 billion pounds of edible oils annually, and soybean oil accounts for about 65 percent of it. About half of it is hydrogenated, as soybean oil is too unstable otherwise to be used in food manufacturing. One of the primary reasons for hydrogenating oil is to prolong its shelf life. Raw butter, for example, is likely to go rancid far quicker than margarine.
The process also makes the oil more stable and raises its melting point, which allows it to be used in various types of food processing that uses high temperatures.
Hydrogenated oil is made by forcing hydrogen gas into the oil at high pressure. Virtually any oil can be hydrogenated. Margarine is a good example, in which nearly half of the fat content is trans fat. The process that creates partially hydrogenated oil alters the chemical composition of essential fatty acids, such as reducing or removing linolenic acid, a highly reactive triunsaturated fatty acid, transforming it into the far less reactive linoleic acid, thereby greatly preventing oxidative rancidity when used in cooking.
In the late 1990’s, researchers began realizing this chemical alteration might actually have adverse health effects. Since then, scientists have verified this to the point of no dispute.
To read the 2013 report by U.S. PRIG click here.