More Background on the “Killer Corn” Study

In the last issue, I wrote about a new study published in Nature Sustainability, and the blog was entitled “Growing Corn Kills People”. After some difficulty I was able to obtain a copy of the maize study listed above, which I did not have on April 11.

The conclusion that growing corn (maize) kills people is developed by some well-educated individuals with your tax dollars.

Who are the professors behind the study?

In addition to Dr. Jason Hill at the University of Minnesota, Andrew Goodkind works at the University of New Mexico Department of Economics. Dr. Christopher Tessum is a research scientist at the University of Washington Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Dr. David Tilman gives his affiliation as Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior University of Minnesota. He also lists as being associated with the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Another author, Dr. Michael Clark, is associated with Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, University of Minnesota, as well as its Department of Ecology and Evolution and the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, University of Oxford.

These brilliant people claim their focus is on the contribution of maize production to increased atmospheric concentrations of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) – “a major cause of premature mortality in the United States and globally.”

In the earlier blog it was noted that air pollution from corn production in the United States will cause 4,300 cases annually of premature mortality (death). It is interesting to evaluate how these experts develop their human mortality (death) numbers. The actual study employed what is known as the Intervention Model for Air Pollution (InMAP) to conduct dispersion air quality modeling. The experts also used this InMAP model “…to estimate the premature mortality [death] in the United States attributable to maize production.”

Farmers will love the fact that the experts used “…the concentration-response estimates from a major epidemiological cohort study that INFERRED [emphasis supplied] the health effects of PM2.5 from the average annual outdoor PM2.5 concentrations at the place of residence of study participants in the United States.”

This is how the experts spend taxpayer money, supplied by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to help you.

In addition to EPA’s assistance in developing this study, grant money also came from the U.S. Department of Energy, USDA, and from the University of Minnesota’s Grant Challenges initiative.

All of the authors claim no competing interests’ and all participated in writing the paper according to this study.

Readers will also be pleased to know “The maize production damage costs considered here are only part of the air pollution damages and the full environmental health costs of maize.”

As thousands of farmers sit and wait to start planting of 90-million plus acres of corn, know that EPA and the Departments of Agriculture and Energy have financed a study which claims your efforts to plant corn “…contribute to morbidity-related [quality of being unhealthful] life medical costs and reduce quality of life.”

Happy planting season. If you want to comment to these professors, the email for Dr. Jason Hill is hill0408@umn.edu.

A version of this commentary originally appeared in the May 7 issue of Farm Futures.

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About Gary Baise

Gary Baise is a Virginia resident and an Illinois farmer. Specializing in agricultural and environmental issues, he also serves as outside General Counsel for the U.S. Grains Council, Agricultural Retailers Association, and National Sorghum Producers.
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