Thursday, September 06, 2007

All that and you can eat it too

We're asking a lot from corn these days. In these waning days of summer as we munch on those final ears of succulent silver queen ears, it's important to remember that corn asks a lot from us as well -- it terms to grow it. As versatile as it is, in the long run, it simply cannot be all things to all people making demands on it, despite what corporations, politicians and Madison Avenue would like us to believe.

First and foremost, it is an important food crop and a staple for many cultures.(GW)

A-maize-ing growth takes in clothes, cups, carpets

By Donna Goodison
Boston Herald
August 29, 2007

Farmers - who are putting corn on the cob on picnic tables across the country this summer and, increasingly, providing the raw material for ethanol - also are seeing their harvests used in a myriad of other newer everyday products.

Corn is being used as a primary ingredient in everything from biodegradable plastic bags and golf tees to carpeting and clothing.

Enticed by higher prices, U.S. farmers this year planted 93 million acres of corn - a 19 percent increase from last year and the most acreage ever dedicated to corn since 1944. Although ethanol production is fueling that increase, and more than half of what's produced is used for livestock feed, other uses are providing additional revenue streams to biorefineries.

"We think we're on the tip of the iceberg as far as corn and new uses," said Pam Johnson, an Iowa corn farmer and chairwoman of the National Corn Growers Association's research and business development committee. "The price of the barrel of oil has made a real difference. It seems to be the tipping point in moving from an oil-based to a bio-based society."

The greening of America also is adding to the call for more environmentally friendly products made from corn.

"Anything you can make from petroleum, you can make from corn," said Ken McCauley, president of the association. "The composite is the same."

Here's a sampling of corn-based products on the market today:

** Eco Golf in Knox, Ind., makes Eco Golf Tees from a biodegradable polymer derived from corn starch that degrades in 60 days. The tees' environmental advantage over traditional wooden ones is that while it takes years to grow a new tree, corn can be grown annually.

** Dupont produces a polymer for fabric made from corn that's called Sorona. The product is used in Mohawk Industries' SmartStrand carpeting that's very soft to the touch and naturally stain-resistant. Dupont Sorona also is being marketed to clothing manufacturers for use in bathing suits, men's suits, activewear and lingerie.

** BioBagUSA produces 100 percent biodegradable and 100 percent compostable bags made from Mater-Bi, a biopolymer. The Palm Harbor, Fla., company's products include kitchen bags, lawn and leaf bags, and pet waste bags.

** NatureWorks LLC in Minnetonka, Minn., makes a corn-to-pellet polymer used to make eco-friendly products including coffee cups, food containers and plates.


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