Is sugar bad for corn farmers?

These days many consumers are asking for, and subsequently purchasing, more foods with all-natural ingredients. Consumer buying habits are changing, whether it's due to education or, in some cases, new government-mandated laws (e.g. the war on trans fat). I don't know about you, but I never really thought about the ripple effect here. Who's getting more business because of these changes? Who's getting the shaft?

Well, the Corn Refiners Association's stance is that the resurgence of sugar sodas is bad news for corn farmers. Surely, you've seen the limited-edition Pepsi Throwback which boasted real sugar. Even some Costco stores are selling Mexican-made Coca-Cola with sugar. Sugar is making a comeback. But where does that leave the corn farmers and their vats of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)?

To combat the surge in popularity of real sugar sodas (and the reduction of HFCS in salad dressings, barbecue sauces, juice drinks, and more), the Corn Refiners Association is launching an all out PR campaign. It spent $12 million in media buys in just the first half of this year. New commercials defending the value of high-fructose corn syrup are on their way to female-focused and family-friendly networks. The Association is even reaching out to mommy bloggers to tell them that HFCS is pretty much the same as sugar, with a similar calorie count.

High-fructose corn syrup has been the sweetener of choice for soda makers in America since 1984. It is, after all, much cheaper than sugar. However, with the "full calorie" soda category flat to slightly down in recent years, the Association is acting quickly to prevent further revenue declines.

And, I can't help but to see the irony. I think it's the consumers who are making a point to buy groceries with all-natural ingredients who are probably the ones who are most sympathetic to the plight of the American farmer. No right or wrong answer on this one (after all, sugar does come from farmers, too!), just something to think about next time you make your selection at the office soda machine.


  1. The American Sugarcane League has been fighting the high-fructose corn syrup battle for years for political reasons: we have not opened our markets to Mexican-based HFCS because, if we do, it will further erode sugar's foothold in U.S. food and feed manufacture. There is more than one farm group involved in the debate posed, with corn growers, millers and other groups on one side and sugarcane and sugarbeet producers, millers and refiners on the other.

    The producer is usually the entity shortchanged in this debate because food, and sugar is a particularly strong example, is an international political bargaining chip. Producers who just want to make a living are waaaay down on the list of who makes the real money in the deal.

  2. Thank you very much for your insightful comment, Margaret. You obviously know your stuff, so thanks for adding to the conversation.

  3. I heartily agree. If you want to learn more about the detriment HFCS causes to the human body, I recommend the book "Ultrametabolism" by Mark Hyman M.D. In it, he explains why so many Americans are gaining weight steadily and he has an entire section on HFCS. Here is a little excerpt:
    the Protector Myth: Government food policies and food industry regulations protect our health. Moreover, the book points out that the introduced man-made substances such as “trans-fats”, which are found in nearly every processed and packaged food because they never spoil, are adding to our overall exploding health and weight problems over the past 30 years. This consumable plastic disrupts our metabolism by actually turning on a gene in your DNA, which slows metabolism causing you to gain weight. The book also discusses another danger to our health: the man-made supersugars, such as high-fructose corn syrup, which is used to sweeten almost everything these days including soft drinks. These supersugars quickly enter your bloodstream and trigger hormonal and chemical changes which induces insulin surges that tell your brain to eat more and your fat cells to store more fat.

  4. Thanks for your comment, Wendy. Wow, you really know your stuff, too. Some smart people commenting on this one.

    I appreciate your recommendation on the book. I will check it out.

    I wish I had a dietician in the family. There's so much we need to know about the foods out there. Although it sounds as though you certainly know more than the average consumer.

    Thanks again for your insight!

  5. In relation to this posting, here's an interesting article on sugar sodas from the Sacramento Bee:

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