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December 29, 2015

At the cob of the matter: Corn in the Philippines


When you hear the word corn, the vision of eating hot, buttered corn-on-the-cob may come to mind, or fields and fields of corn plants growing along highways. Indeed for Filipinos, corn is the second most important crop after rice. But do you know that only 21% of the total corn in the country is used for consumption, while majority or 64% of corn supply is used to feed livestock to produce meat and poultry?

Unsheathing corn

The corn you typically see roasted and eaten on the cob is the white corn. With smaller but sweeter kernels, white corn is the most important and healthy rice substitute in the country. On the other hand, yellow corn, while edible, is mostly intended for livestock and poultry feeds with its larger and fuller-flavored kernels. Perhaps most importantly, local pork, beef, and poultry for our lechon, burgers, and fried chicken get their richness and tastiness from the animal feeds usually made from corn. Corn makes up 70% of feeds used to produce treats for our carnivorous countrymen.

And in case you didn’t yet know, corn can also be found in thousands of everyday items around us. From the corn starch that holds cakes and pastries together to corn oil, people have found different uses for corn. There are currently more than 4,000 ways to use this popular crop, and people are discovering even more ways to use corn every day.

Planning for tomorrow’s food from the ground up

Corn is thought to have been first grown 7,000 years ago. The traditional way of growing corn is slow and painstaking, but technology is now dramatically changing the way we cultivate and harvest our food. Today, there is a modern approach to help growers raise healthy, high-quality corn crops. Through modern plant breeding, a way to bring together two specific parent plants to produce a new desirable plant, local farmers now have a better way to grow and bring food to our tables.

As corn takes an important place in Filipino farming and cuisine, Monsanto took a similar approach in helping farmers have better harvests by introducing the first biotech corn in 2003. It developed the biotech corn to be more tolerant to nature’s different challenges, like plant diseases, pests and changing temperatures. Over the past 30 years, 1,000 plus studies including the World Health Organization, European Food Safety Authority, and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations have been conducted to prove that there are no health and environmental impact in the use and consumption of biotech crops, including corn. According to the studies, using or consuming biotech corn have no effects on human health, while planting biotech corn maintains ecological balance, posing no threat to other plants and to animals. 

Corn plays an important role in making sure we have enough food to eat and have access to fresh produce. So the next time you see unending rows of corn fields along the highway, think about how such a humble crop can make a positive impact to our everyday lives.

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