Besides a side at the Thanksgiving dinner table, there are many unexpected uses for corn. Açai berries, broccoli rabe, and blueberries may be superfoods according to dietitians and nutritionists, but when it comes to a truly versatile food product that has become a staple in most of our modern lives, all signs point to corn.
“Corn is as much a commodity as it is a food,” says Mike Massey at Ragan & Massey. “Moreso, actually, when you consider that the bulk of corn produced today isn’t eaten.” Harvests reap plenty of corn.
Most people know that corn forms the base for ethanol in fuel and is often used as a food additive to sweeten or thicken other food products. What they may not know is that corn is touching their lives in other surprising ways.
- Money doesn’t grow on trees, but chances are your gift cards are made from corn plants. Corn-based plastics are becoming popular ways for companies to reduce their environmental impact—and their bottom line. Corn is cheaper than oil, easier to obtain given today’s geopolitical climate, and biodegradable. Chances are your water bottle, disposable plates, and other plastic items have corn in their construction.
- It not only fuels your car, corn also powers your batteries. Cornstarch is often used as an electrical conductor.
- Corn keeps you fresh and clean. As a common ingredient in cosmetic, hygiene, sanitizing, and deodorant items, cornstarch absorbs, cleans, stabilizes, and freshens.
- Corn has babies covered and is a common component of several baby products from diapers to diaper creams.
- Corn keeps the spark. Cornstarch is the main ingredient in matchstick production, and corn-based pellets keep many warm at night in pellet stoves.
- Crayons use corn products in several ways, from the dextrin that helps crayons more easily spring from the molds to the glue that adheres the labels to the wax.
- Cornmeal and cornstarch are large components of glue and other adhesives. Ever wonder why envelopes “taste” the way they do? Cornstarch, which becomes sticky when moistened, is the reason. Corn germ, which is the leftover substance after corn oil refinement, is used to increase the adhesion of industrial glues.
- Corn syrup is a common ingredient in candies, cough drops, and other sweet treats. So, yes, technically there IS corn in candy corn.
And corn keeps growing. Companies and R&D departments are continuing to find new ways to turn traditional petroleum based products into corn-based products, not only for cost savings, but also to decrease the carbon footprint of various products. Look for new products like corn-based dyes in textiles and carpets to paints and plastic parts in the future.
What should they do next with corn, or, what should we do next? Our seeds are uncovered, and there's no telling what a special corn feed could yield.