July 13th

theresa albert - my friend in food


Can Corn Be Killing Bees?


You know by now that high fructose corn syrup  is a key suspect in the obesity issue which is crushing our culture (26% of our kids are overweight or obese). You have probably even heard that corn, fed to cows, creates inflammatory fat in the animal thereby adding to our own inflammatory illnesses like heart disease, dementia and arthritis when consumed by humans. On top of it all, it may be that the very growing of so much corn is also the #1 suspect in bee decimating and puzzling conundrum of “colony collapse disorder”.


Here is why you should care…without bees, there is no pollination. Without pollination, the very plants that are grown for food as well as trees and shrubs to keep our planet cool are at risk.  Your kids deserve to grow up healthy and on an inhabitable planet with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that can be grown in the soil naturally pollinated by bees. No bees, no green. No green, no food.


This issue could be that big (which is too scary to even think about). New evidence points to the neonicotinoid pesticide used to soak conventionally raised corn seeds may be the very thing that is wiping out our bee population.  About 90% of corn grown today is treated this way, and it appears to cause the bees to become disoriented when they leave the hive. If enough can’t find their way back, the colony dies.  The sad news it that unless you are carefully reading label and only buying organic products, you are affected.


But you only eat a few cobs of corn each summer, right? How could that be doing harm? The truth is you are eating truckfuls of corn each year and you may not know it.  Corn is used to feed cattle and chickens.  It is also grown as a sweetener that is super cheap and sweeter than sugar so it is used in junk food.  Junk food’s contribution to our obesity issue is one thing and a multi-faceted battle that is and will impact our health care system.  If the very growth and use of corn is impacting our eco system, now we have an even bigger issue. So the question is…what to do about it? The answer is simple, the implementation of it, not so much.


Stop eating corn. The treasure hunt that those three little words sets up is lifelong and virtually impossible. The good news is that the shifts involved are the very same ones that protect your health in a multitude of other ways.  It starts with…


  • Buy as little as possible of the food that has the ingredient glucose-fructose (that likely comes from corn). The good thing is that this rules out mostly junk anyway
  • Stop drinking soda pop and sweetened fruit drinks containing glucose-fructose
  • Avoid the ingredient maltodextrin. This is a corn derived material used in packaging and some foods like instant coffee, soup mixes etc to keep them from clumping.
  • Upgrade corn oil or “vegetable oil” (which is likely corn oil) to grape seed, extra virgin olive or other oil
  • If you choose to eat red meat make it organic or grass fed (at least the corn will be organic and devoid of the pesticide in question)
  • Chickens eat less corn than cows but it’s a good idea to go organic here as well as often as possible
  • Opt for meatless meals whenever you can which will reduce our dependency on corn feed
  • Use bee attracting plants in your garden to keep the population alive


I am not a fatalist but I do think that waiting for definitive proof that this pesticide is harming the bees may come too late. Things are not likely to change from the top down since pesticide makers and lucrative corn crop growers have a vested interested in preventing change. That said, we may have a collective chance from the ground up with these few simple shifts.  Have at it.


Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert

I love food, try to watch my weight, know more than I want to about healthy living (sometimes I wish I knew less so I wouldn’t feel so guilty when I stumble), am a daughter, sister, friend, mom and wife who worries and scurries the meals onto the table. It is for all these reasons that I completed my nutrition, RNCP designation, wrote my book, hosted my Food Network show, consult with food companies to urge them to get it right (or at least better), constantly write about it, research it, all of this so I can cut through the nutrition and food “news” clutter. Happy to share with friends!


2 Responses

    June 7, 2012 at 3:33 pm Reply

    We’ve been trying to use olive oil as much as possible, but there are times when the taste is too strong. What would be our best option?

    June 8, 2012 at 10:50 am Reply

    This shouldn’t be a tirade against corn, for goodness sake. Recent research has discovered that the bees are likely being killed off by a virus carried by varroa mites. A lot of research has already shown high mite infestation on dead bees as part of colony collapse disorder.

    While there is some concern that even low level pesticides, once thought to have no effect on helper insects, might have some effect, it is not the only cause. Truth be told, scientists still can’t really pinpoint the cause of CCD, it’s a mystery they’ve been working on for year. To blithely throw this on the corn industry is wrong.

    I have my issues with junk food and sweetened drinks like any mom, but blaming corn for the demise of bees is just too much.

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