"I am Maize."
Jonathan Wang '10

What people eat has a clear effect, benign or not, on the make up of their bodies. The food that they eat determines the materials for the building of their physical selves, and many curious consequences arise from a heavy reliance on food technology. The most widely used agricultural commodity, by far, is corn; it is broken down and used as sweeteners, binding agents, and all sorts of other parts in a commercial concoction. Many Americans would not describe themselves as heavy corn eaters, as the annual amount of corn flour consumed per capita is nearly only 10% of the wheat flour eaten. Meanwhile, Mexicans and other South American counties historically known for a reliance on corn as sustenance would be expected to have more corn in their bodies, as corn provides of 40% of their calories, in the form, mostly, of tortilla.

A handy trick for those interested in studying the ubiquity of corn involves the analysis of carbon 13. Carbon 13 is an isotope of the carbon, meaning that it has seven neutrons in its nucleus (as opposed to the normal six); it weighs more, but behaves like normal carbon. Corn is a "C-4" plant, which means that the corn uses photosynthesis to create compouds containing four carbon atoms (as opposed to normal plants, "C-3" plants, that assemble carbon atoms in threes.) A C-4 plant, like corn, grasps so hungrily for carbon atoms in the air that it does not discriminate based on the weight of the atoms; it allows itself the consumption of carbon 13 just as readily as the normal carbon 12. By analyzing the flesh or hair of people, scientists can identify the carbon within that makes up a person. There are not very many C-4 plants used as food, so it can be assumed that carbon 13 is particular to corn. So, the more carbon 13 in a person's body, the more corn that that person has eaten. The truly curious thing that scientists have discovered in Americans, who are arguably the most engrained and reliant on food technology and culinary alchemy, is the huge ratio of carbon 13 in American bodies. American bodies have more carbon 13 than even the traditionally corn dependent societies of South America, who have referred to themselves as "corn walking," as a way of emphasizing their heavy reliance on corn. Carbon 13 gets in our bodies whenever we eat something processed or fed by corn, and this heavy reliance on corn is only possible through the power of heavy food modification. Corn as sweetener, cattle feed, and fat far outweighs the amount of corn that Mexicans eat. Even though an extremely minimal portion of the American diet consists of actual corn, Americans contain more evidence of corn consumption than those Mexicans that call themselves "the corn people." So much of American food has been twisted by modern food technologies that one can no longer tell where one product begins and another one ends; the lines between ingredient and product significantly blurs, and American people represent more and more a reliance on altered corn. The plant becomes part of the person, and the cyborg nature of processed corn has turned people into "corn chips with legs," as described by Berkely biologist Todd Dawson. Our carbon comes from corn, and our bodies signify this stealthy fact.