18 Surprising, Everyday Items Made With Corn

Love it or hate it, Americans truly are a corn-fed people. Back under President Nixon, Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz ended New Deal farming programs, provided subsidies so farmers could grow as much corn as they could at a government-supported loss, and shut down many family farms with his “get big or get out” mentality. Great swaths of the nation are now dedicated to growing corn — most of it inedible “Number Two” commodity corn, not ever meant to be food until being highly processed — in an unsustainable, more-is-more, monoculture-driven environment. As a result of this surplus of corn, we’ve come up with very interesting places to hide it.

We’re not just looking at the usual suspects here. It doesn’t take very much sleuthing to figure out what has cornstarch (pudding) or high fructose corn syrup (everything) or that your meat — primarily that from cows, pigs, and chickens — is fed with so much corn that you could eat nothing but meat and still have corn isotopes in your system. We’re looking at the stuff that needs a little more digging to uncover.

Whether you have corn allergies or a gluten sensitivity, you love corn and feel better about using it for everything, you dislike ingesting corn designed to burst the stomachs of insects, and survive pesticide/weed-killer baths in everything you eat, or you’re not the biggest fan of government programs and subsidies — this slideshow has something for everyone: a surprising look at just how much of your life involves corn.

*This is by no means a complete list.

Gasoline pump

Photo by Miguel Villagran/Getty Images

1. Gas and Oil

As a way to trim oil dependence in a post-9/11 world and use up all our excess corn, the federal government actually mandated that we started cutting our gasoline with ethanol, a corn-derived alcohol. Recently in the news because of a one-way-or-another face-off between Big Oil and Big Agro, the government had to decide if they were going to lessen the mandate from 10 percent to 4 percent ethanol or increase it to 15 percent ethanol. Considering that cars aren’t built to run efficiently on higher amounts of ethanol and that it’s seriously contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a reduction.

2. Gypsum Drywall

Chelation, which prevents mold on the drywall boards, is made with cornstarch.

3. Adhesives

From plywood glue to Elmer’s Naturals Gluesticks to envelopes, corn is in all of them. Natural glues like Elmer’s makes are produced from corn flour, whereas plywood glue is made from corn oil and envelope glue is made from nitrocellulose glue.