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« Who Am I, and Where on Earth Did I Come From? The Story of My Journey...Just The Facts, Ma'am, About Me, Myself, and I | Main | Why Natural? Some Compelling Reasons to Reconsider the Green Life »

December 05, 2007


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Given the power we've given the American corn lobby -- and what immense damage it has done to the American diet in terms of high fructose corn syrup and obesity rates and the development of vast corn monoculture -- I find this news more scary than encouraging.

Joey L.

Thank you, Swag, for the insightful comment... I really hadn't looked at that aspect of producing new plastics from corn, and believe those are valid arguments. The corn monoculture has indeed done vast damage in many respects, but I still believe that corn PLA plastic will represent vast improvements over petroleum-based plastics, in many different ways:

1. In terms of pollution produced during manufacture, corn plastics result in far less overall pollution released.

2. Corn plastics are biodegradable, whereas PET plastic will NEVER biodegrade, creating an environmental nightmare. There is no known organism that can act upon PET molecules, rendering them permanent. PET can only photodegrade, or break down into smaller and smaller particles from sunlight, not biodegrade.

3. Living in a rural community, I've talked to many farmers who are very excited about both ethanol-based biodiesel and PLA plastic because it will result in higher market prices for corn. If you know any farmers, they will probably tell you that it has become very difficult to make a living as a farmer. I see it every day.

4. Though it is likely that some farmers will switch from a diversified crop to only corn due to the increased profits expected, reducing the variety and sustainability of small farms, our government could follow the lead of some European countries and require (or at least reward) organic production of corn used for specific purposes, such as ethanol or PLA plastics, ensuring environmental stewardship of our land. If there is no incentive to use healthier methods of farming, then there is not much chance of struggling farmers to go that route.

5. Indeed, corn syrup has contributed to the obesity of our country, but that is a societal issue. What and how we choose to eat is a personal choice, and should not be used as justification to condemn an entire crop that, when grown and prepared correctly, is extremely healthy. I agree that obesity is a major concern of ours, and that we should be educating our citizens about healthier choices.

6. Wars have been started over control of petroleum resources, and entire ecosystems have been destroyed in drilling for this precious commodity. It takes millions of years to replace petroleum; corn be re-grown next season. Even if we take the stance of the lesser of two evils (petroleum vs. corn monoculture production), corn is by far the lesser.

Though PLA plastic is not perfect, is a stepping-stone toward a more sustainable future. We have to be willing to take those baby steps toward progress, and keep demanding environmentally-responsible alternatives.

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