Category Archives: corn

Are we subsidizing the obesity crisis?

FoodFacts.com is always interested in new information that helps us gain better insight into the skyrocketing obesity epidemic. We have great concern about the availability and nutritional quality of the processed foods and beverages in our grocery stores and fast food chains and are constantly offering education regarding the ingredients being used in our food supply. Obesity is a real problem in our society – one that affects the health and well-being of millions in our population.

Today we found information we want to make sure everyone in our community is aware of. A new report released by the U.S. PIRG (the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups) reveals that one billion dollars of federal tax money is subsidizing ingredients used in processed foods and beverages. We are financially supporting commodity crops used for additives like high-fructose corn syrup with enough tax dollars to effectively purchase 20 Twinkies every year for every taxpayer in our nation. By contrast, subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables would buy each of us just one half of an apple each year.

These subsidies are part of the Farm Bill that expires in September. Both the Farm Bill approved by the U.S. Senate and the one that passed the House last Thursday would continue these subsidies.

The report indicates that as the obesity epidemic continues to grow each year, our food policy seems to be subsidizing the food and beverage products that are helping to fuel it. Between 1995 and 2012, American taxpayers spent more than $290 billion in agricultural subsidies. 75 percent of the subsidies go to just 3.8 percent of farmers. The subsidies mainly support a few commodity crops, including corn and soybeans. Among other uses, food manufacturers process corn and soy crops into additives like high-fructose corn syrup and vegetable oil – two of the ingredients that add excess sugar and fat to processed products.

Some of the report’s findings to take note of:

• Between 1995 and 2012, more than $19 billion in tax dollars subsidized four common food additives – corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch, and soy oils. At $7.30 per taxpayer per year, that would buy each taxpayer 20 Twinkies.

• Outside of commodity crops, other agricultural products received very little in federal subsidies. Since 1995, taxpayers spent only $689 million subsidizing apples, which is the only significant federal subsidy of fresh fruits or vegetables. Coming to 26 cents per taxpayer per year, that would buy less than half of one Red Delicious apple.

So as childhood obesity continues to rise and the obese population experiences a plethora of weight-related health problems, our tax dollars continue to support the ingredients that keep consumers coming back for more sugary and fatty food choices. FoodFacts.com finds this quite confusing. While we understand that research points to obesity as a complex problem with many contributing causes, it’s no secret that processed foods contain too much sugar and fat. And yet we’re actually supporting the very ingredients that play a role in the current epidemic. As a community of nutritionally-aware individuals, we can continue to do our part by remembering our own commitment to quality food choices, fresh ingredients and sharing knowledge. You can download the report here for the complete information it contains.

https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2013/07/16

Wal-Mart on board to sell Monsanto GM Sweet Corn

FoodFacts.com has been trying to keep up with the latest news regarding genetically modified food products and ingredients so that we can bring that news directly to our community. Today we learned that Wal-Mart has officially agreed to sell genetically modified sweet corn to its customers.

The world’s largest retailer with consumer reach and influence throughout the industry has effectively taken a public stance on the sale of genetically modified fresh food. While public awareness of GM products is at a high and consumers are becoming more and more conscious of the GMO debate, Wal-Mart has placed the subject matter front and center in its produce aisles.

The first crops of genetically modified sweet corn from Monsanto are being harvested right now. This is the corn Wal-Mart will be stocking in their produce departments. It is the same sweet corn that both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods refused to purchase and sell to their customers.

But according to company representative Dianna Gee, Wal-Mart looked at the GMO issue from both sides and “and after collaborating with a number of respected food safety experts, we see no scientifically validated safety reasons to implement restrictions on this product.” Sadly it appears that the petition they received from Food & Water Watch with almost half a million signatures from consumers emphatically opposed to Wal-Mart’s plans to sell the Monsanto sweet corn couldn’t sway them.

Monsanto maintains that there are important reasons for genetically modified sweet corn – overall, sweet corn accounts for less than 1 percent of all corn acreage in the U.S., but is also responsible for 40% of all corn insecticide treatments. This new genetically modified sweet corn can reduce insecticide use on sweet corn by up to 85%.

The strong opposition to genetically modified foods maintains that there have been more reports that GM foods might be hazardous to our health, than those that prove those foods have no affect on our health. While studies continue on an ongoing basis, there are various pieces of information that cannot be explained that may, in fact, point to our consumption of genetically modified foods. For instance, food allergies have doubled since 1996. Obesity has increased widely throughout the United States.    We have no concrete way of knowing if these situations are in any way connected to genetically modified foods. Food manufacturers are not required to label their ingredients as genetically modified. And it all leads to concerned consumers who are very confused about how to avoid this unwelcome entry into our food supply.

And now, sadly, Wal-Mart will be adding to that confusion. And keep your eyes and ears open for the other retailers that may follow suit. It appears that Safeway and Kroger are avoiding answering the question of whether or not they may be purchasing the Monsanto sweet corn as well.

FoodFacts.com will stay on top of this new Monsanto produce product and report to our community anytime we hear of another retailer introducing the sweet corn on their produce shelves. Read more here: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-08-04/news/ct-met-gmo-sweet-corn-20120804_1_sweet-corn-food-allergies-patty-lovera

Is the government helping to make America fat?

So with all the constant talk about health problems in the U.S. – obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. – we probably all think that the government works hard, if not to actually do something about it in the form of specific laws, then at least to make sure that they’re not actually supporting some of the reasons the problems are happening in the first place.

In more than a few very interesting articles FoodFacts.com read this week, we learned that, in fact, our government is actually subsidizing ingredients that are linked with (and possibly directly lead to) more than a few of our nation’s health woes.

We’re all very aware that obesity in the United States is a tremendous problem. Just how big a problem it actually is, is reflected in the fact that almost one in five kids between the ages of six and eleven are seriously overweight. That puts them at risk for heart disease, diabetes and many other serious health problems. It’s clear that the government is urging citizens to do something about these problems – mayors in cities around the countries are coming up with “creative” tax ideas to hopefully dissuade people from indulging in sugar-laden beverages which are felt to contribute to obesity.

Sadly, on the other side of the coin, our government is spending over $1.28 Billion annually to subsidize the crops farmers are growing that are used for additives in the same foods and beverages they’re trying to talk us out of consuming. Both corn and soy farmers are receiving tremendous subsidies from Congress and the Department of Agriculture … the same corn and soy used to make hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, corn starch and vegetable shortening … to name a few.

A report released by the consumer advocacy group, the U.S. PIRG Education Fund is shedding light on this government policy. $277 Billion has been spent on farm subsidies since 1995. Of that huge dollar amount, $81.7 Billion were corn subsidies and $26.3 Billion were soybean subsidies. That’s 39% of the total amount to only two crops being grown in the United States. Sadly, those are the two crops found in almost every processed food on the market, and that are most often genetically modified.

The study actually states that “our own government policy is responsible for promoting obesity-fueling empty calories,” adding that “even as nutritionists and researchers tell us to cut down on junk food in order to end the childhood obesity epidemic, federal agricultural policy is busily underwriting the problem.”

This is information that every nutritionally-conscious American needs to know and understand. FoodFacts.com will keep an eye out for any developments regarding the unusual (and senseless) decisions our government is making that are actually exacerbating the obesity epidemic they’d like to curtail.

Read more: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2012/07/25/Billions-in-Tax-Dollars-Subsidize-Junk-Food-Industry.aspx#page1#ixzz22K8bF4Vw

Are GMOs adding to obesity problems?

Here at Food Facts, we’re always discussing the effect of ingredients on our health and well being. We’ve always believed that the ingredient list is key to many, many issues … including weight gain. While calories are important, we don’t believe that they are the be all and end all of weight control for anyone. If a low-calorie food has a bad ingredient list, we understand that a person might actually end up hungrier and looking for more to eat. We understand that ingredients like MSG or hidden MSG ingredients are actually known to increase hunger.

With the country more focused than ever on the obesity epidemic, we feel that it’s more important than ever to pay close attention to the foods we eat and their effects. Now it appears that we may be able to add GMO ingredients to the list of those that might make you eat more and consequently gain more weight.

There’s some new research coming from the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science. Yes, it’s an animal study, but its results are certainly a cause for concern throughout the human population. It has linked GMO food products to weight gain.

The study was conducted over a 90-day period and involved both rats and salmon and was focused specifically on how these populations reacted to a diet of genetically modified foods.

The rat population was divided into two study groups. One group was fed only GMO foods and the other only non-GMO foods. The rats who were fed genetically modified corn not only got slowly fatter than the non-GMO population, they also grew considerably quicker and ate more food, more often.

The salmon population studied experienced the same results, with some extra findings. The GMO salmon population experienced more weight gain, and ate more food, more often. In addition, they developed an inability to properly digest protein and developed intestinal changes.

In both rats and salmon, there was a link between the consumption of genetically modified foods, hunger and weight gain. It’s important to remember that in both the rat and salmon populations, there was no restriction of movement (or calorie expenditure). The weight gain occurred regardless of the normal energy expenditure of either the rats or the salmon. Therefore, calories consumed vs. calories burned had nothing to do with the weight gain.

While the study concentrates on animals and fish, it does lead you to ask if it’s possible that the obesity explosion we’re experiencing in our own country and throughout the world, might just have something to do with the amount of processed foods we’re ingesting and their ingredients. Considering that corn is present in almost every processed food available, soy is a common ingredient (and mostly GMO) and canola oil is a popular and “better” oil (that’s also GMO), and that the phenomenal infiltration of these food products actually might coincide with the obesity problem, it’s definitely something we want to keep an eye on.

Food Facts wanted to make sure our community has this important information so that we can all continue to make the best choices we can for our diet and health. Read more here: http://sciencenordic.com/growing-fatter-gm-diet

The Many Faces (er..Ears?) Of Corn … nutrition facts brought to you by FoodFacts.com

According to the USDA 2010 crop production summary corn for grain production is estimated at 12.4 billion bushels.1 With so many bushels of corn sold, you’d wonder what all the corn is being used for? As it turns out, corn is a versatile crop with a wide variety of uses. The national corn growers association states that there are more than 4,200 different uses for corn products.  Corn can be used for both food and non-food products. Non-food uses can include pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, while food uses can be as transparent as high fructose corn syrup or as ambiguous as sodium erythorbate (since that same product could come from a different source like, sugar canes or beets). This FoodFacts.com blog article will focus on corn derived products and ingredients which we may not realize use corn.

NONFOOD PRODUCTS:

Antibiotics: Over 85 different types of antibiotics are produced using corn.  Penicillin is one of the antibiotics made using a corn product – corn steep liquor, as it has nutrients needed for penicillin to grow. It was formerly considered a waste material, corn steep liquor became a crucial ingredient in the large-scale production of penicillin.

Aspirin: an oxidized starch paste, which dries to a clear, adherent, continuous film, is spread in a thin layer over the aspirin.

Paper Products: Paper products use raw starch in the manufacturing process. The properties of high paste viscosity and strong gels are useful in specially coated papers. Pyrodextrins are also used for paper manufacturing for the adhesive property on remoistenable gums for postage stamps and packaging tape.

FOOD PRODUCTS:

Beer: Beer manufacturing is a process of treating malt to convert and extract the barley starch to fermentable sugars using the amyloytic enzymes present in malt followed by yeast fermentation. However, demand for lighter, less filling beer, especially in the U.S., has permitted use of more refined carbohydrate sources of two types: a) dry adjuncts, primarily dry milled corn grits, broken rice, refined corn starch, and more recently, dextrose and b) liquid adjuncts, namely corn syrups.

Citric Acid: Used as preservative, pH control, and to add a tart flavor to foods. Citric acid can be found in fruit sauces, jellies, canned goods and many other types of foods. Citric acid can be derived from fruits, however in view of the fact that the isolation of citric acid from fruits is very expensive, it is commercially produced from sugar with the help of bacteria and yeasts.  (See the 331 page list of food items that use citric acid as an ingredient: http://blog.foodfacts.com/search/index.cfm?type=ingredient&query=citricacid)

Iodized Salt: Iodine, an essential nutrient, is found in iodized salt. It was originally added to salt to prevent goiters. Corn derived dextrose is also added to iodized salt to help retain the added iodine.

Many (understatement perhaps?) products can be made from corn. It is used as food for humans and feed for animals, as well as nonfood uses in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, detergents and more. As science has a tendency to do, it will most likely find many more uses for corn.

See this poster for more products which use corn: http://www.ncga.com/uploads/useruploads/cornusesposter.pdf

http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/nass/CropProdSu//2010s/2011/CropProdSu-01-12-2011_revision.pdf
http://www.ncga.com/uploads/useruploads/woc-2011.pdf
http://www.gfo.ca/AboutUsMain/Community/ConsumerResourcesforCorn.aspx
http://herbarium.usu.edu/fungi/funfacts/penicillin.htm
http://www.food-info.net/uk/qa/qa-fi13.htm

New Monsanto Facility Working on Corn Seed to Decrease Overall Growth Time

Foodfacts.com recently came across the following article regarding a breed of corn seen that will decrease cross-pollination time from 9 to 5 years. This will allow easier and more abundant production of genetically modified crops if the trial is successful. What does this mean for our food supply? There’s a great chance Monsanto and other major biotechnology companies are coming closer and closer to dominating most of our agriculture. Check out the article below!

OTHELLO — The kernels created at Monsanto’s new corn breeding facility four miles east of Othello could affect corn grown across North America.

The corn facility, which opened last month, is the beginning of the breeding process for seeds that farmers could be using within five years.

The Othello plant is the first of its kind for Monsanto in the United States because of its use of the double haploid breeding technique for corn seeds, said Brett Sowers, the global corn double haploid production lead for the global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products.

The 15,000-square-foot lab at 1485 W. Cunningham in Othello will provide a service for the company’s other research programs across the country, he said.

The double haploid breeding technique makes an inbred line of corn faster than would happen in nature, Sowers said. The technique uses a plant with only one copy of a chromosome in its cells instead of the normal two, a trait that occurs occasionally in nature, he said.

Employees in the lab will hand-select kernels to work with, Sowers said. Those kernels will be subjected to a chemical process that affects how chromosomes divide, causing the cells to double their chromosomes and create a double haploid plant.

The seedlings are then moved to the 10,000-square-foot greenhouse to recover, he said. They are later planted in an adjacent 48-acre field to grow, pollinate and produce seeds.

The created seeds will be the parents, the male and female plants, which still will need to be crossed into a combination that farmers use, he said.

They are still several years of further selection and testing away from a commercial product, Sowers said.

Corn is already planted in the field this year, Sowers said. The plants seem to be doing well so far, despite the earlier cool weather.
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The process gets to pure genetics quicker, Sowers said. What would normally take up to nine years of self-pollinating will take up to five years, which gets the new seed to farmers faster so the benefits are seen sooner.

In the seed industry, Sowers said, they are always working to create a higher yield and resistance to disease and insects. And nature is always working to overcome the resistance plants have.

That means creating a novel combination of genetics, he said.

“You are constantly looking for new or better combinations,” Sowers said.

A new seed may be used for about a decade before it is replaced with another seed, Sowers said.

Monsanto has invested about $4 million in the Othello plant since 2006, and anticipates additional improvements in the future, said Kathleen Manning, Monsanto media relations specialist.

The facility was built with room to expand by adding more office and lab space if needed, Sowers said.

Othello was chosen because of the availability of irrigation, good soil, the high yield potential and the arid environment, which means fewer insects and disease, Sowers said.

And the existing seed production facility, opened in 2003, was available to help with initial work, he said.

That facility, at 776 S. Booker Road in Othello, is where Monsanto produces and packages corn seeds for farmers to use on their fields, Manning said.

Monsanto set up a pilot for the breeding program in Othello in 2006 and a temporary facility in 2007 to work with the breeding materials.

The program was moved from Hawaii, where Monsanto was able to plant and test year-round until the company was confident it could develop the process to use on a commercial scale, he said. The breeding process already is used on wheat, canola, squash and cucumber.

With the permanent plant, Sowers said Monsanto added a fifth full-time employee. The number of seasonal employees has grown to 100 to 110 at the peak. During the winter months, the full-time employees will complete prep work for the next year and support work for other Monsanto plants, he said.

Othello City Administrator Ehman Sheldon said Othello should see some economic benefits from the new Monsanto plant with increased sales tax revenue and within the housing market.

Sheldon, who toured the facility several weeks ago, said it was fantastic.

“It’s a very promising effort by Monsanto,” he said.

(The News Tribune)

Research shows NEGATIVE effects in mammals consuming GMOs

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Most “foodies” and concerned Foodfacts.com followers are familiar with the underlying fear of genetic modification (GM) in the worldwide food supply. Why does this subject frighten most? We barely know the effects that this type of engineering may have on our health and well-being. Most crops are much more complicated than a simple seed blooming into a root or flower. Instead, most seeds now have DNA and genomes crossed, or linked, to resist this one pesticide, but absorb this herbicide, and not to produce seeds, etc! Also, because there is not yet a labeling requirement for GMO products, we’re not quite sure what is and isn’t modified. We have little to no control over biotechnology, which leaves us vulnerable.

It is our understanding that different varieties of crops by genetic engineering became available starting in 1996. Currently, about 70 percent of corn, 96 percent of soy, and 80 percent of canola in the US is genetically modified. Unsurprisingly, the also US accounts for two-thirds of all GM crops. Other major players in the biotechnology game are Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and China.

Many people eat GM products, whether they know it or not. Sadly, a large portion of people would recognize the name “Britney Spears” before they recognized a GM company; which they potentially give business to everyday. However, this is because Monsanto and other major biotechnology companies pay to stay out of mainstream media. With their massive revenue and control over most agriculture processes, they are able to persuade government lobbyists to keep them under the radar.

Surprisingly, we’ve come across one study published in 2009 from the International Journal of Biological Sciences shining a negative light on genetic engineering. The interesting part, the trials were done by Monsanto. The European government was able to obtain the raw data to have it scrutinized and further evaluated. Three French scientists conducted a research paper using this data to examine the effects of genetically modified corn on general mammalian health. Three types of commercialized corn were given to rats over a 14 week period. During this time, urine and serum samples were collected to determine and compare physiological effects that occurred.

Researchers found the following results to be possibly associated with glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup; which are highly toxic at very low concentrations to human embryonic kidney cells, and other organs of the body.

- Renal leakage
- Weakened heart muscles
- Diminished liver function
- Elevated triglycerides
- Increased spleen, adrenal gland, heart and kidney weight
… to name a few.

Check out this study and let us know what you think!

http://www.biolsci.org/v05p0706.htm

GMO Labeling

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Foodfacts.com likes to provide followers with consistent updates on GMO production. We recently came across this article that we think will help educate those unfamiliar with genetic modification; and also update others on the labeling issue still going on.

Silk Soymilk and some of its other beverages recently completed the verification process of the Non-GMO Project. Why the careful wording? Given the ubiquity of genetically modified organisms in some U.S. commodity crops — 93 percent of soybeans grown in the United State are genetically modified according to Craig Shiesley of Silk — no product is able to call itself completely free of GMOs. However, Silk and some other companies, such as Whole Foods with its 365 products, have sought to do is to get as close as possible, using a certification process from the non-profit Non-GMO Project, which holds products to a standard of 99.1 percent GMO free.

Shiesley, general manager of the Silk business, says the verification process for the company’s soymilk, coconut milk and almond milk took 12 to 14 months, a surprise for the company, which had always sourced non-GMO ingredients.

“The reason (the verification process) elevates this to another level if that it goes from verifying the ingredient to verifying the entire process,” Shiesley says. “For example, (it verifies) that there’s no cross contamination in the dehullers.”
silk
GMO in the food supply

Currently labeling for GMOs is not required in the United States, as it is in European Union countries and Japan. The percentage of U.S. processed foods that include at least one genetically engineered food is estimated at about 60 to 70 percent, according to a 2010 fact sheet from Colorado State University. Even foods labeled as natural, a term that has no legal meaning, may contain genetically engineered crops; however, USDA certified organic foods forbid GMOs.

Do GMOs matter?

The answer depends on whom you talk to. Companies such as Monsanto, DuPont and Bayer that supply genetically engineered seed, say the crops, often engineered to be resistant to herbicides such as Monsanto’s Roundup, are nutritionally identical to non-modified crops. The U.S Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration agree with this position. They say the engineering allows them to grow crops more efficiently and with fewer, less toxic pesticides.

Opponents say the effects on human health and the environment have not been fully tested. They fear genetic modification may be involved in an increase in food allergies and other problems, and they say weeds may become resistant to herbicides, requiring more toxic herbicides to kill them.

Labeling

In addition, they argue that a U.S. decision not to require products with GMOs to be labeled has kept consumers in the dark about how deeply genetically-engineered crops reach into the food chain. Surveys have shown that many consumers don’t know that they regularly consume genetically engineered foods. For retailers with a consciousness about food and how it’s produced, the lack of labeling means they have no way to verify GMOs in products unless the items are certified organic.
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Mark Retzloff, president and chairman of Alfalfa’s, says the grocery has worked hard to verify that the canola and other oils in its bulk dispensers are not from made from genetically modified seed crops. The store has verified that the dairy products it stocks are from cows not dosed with hormones. However, unless the product is certified organic or has the new Non-GMO label, the store can’t verify if cows have been fed genetically-modifed grain. He is particularly concerned about genetically modified alfalfa, which the U.S. approved for use earlier this year. While certified organic milk producers won’t use it, the possibility of contamination through the cross-pollination of organic and GMO crops, as has happened with corn and soy is concerning, he says. In addition, as the genetically engineered seed becomes available, farmers may have a hard time buying non-GMO seed.

“From my own experience at Aurora Dairy, we buy about 40,000 to 50,000 tons of alfalfa hay. It’s all organic. If we start having trouble doing that, it restricts our ability to produce organic milk,” he says, adding that milk is a gateway product into organics for many consumers.

Whole Foods is currently putting its 365 brand products through Non-GMO verification. The products don’t currently carry the label. However, customers can go to Whole Food website and click to find Non-GMO certified products.

“It’s a significant focus of the company right now to work on verification,” says Ben Friedland, regional marketing coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Region.

Asked about the company’s position on GMOs, Friedland says: “We believe in farmers’ right to farm non-GMO crops and our customers’ right to choose whether they want GMOs. We work to provide opportunities for both our stakeholders,” Friedland says.

Shiesley of Silk says the Non-GMO verification is extremely valuable to his company. For the Silk products that are not organic — the company switched some of its Silk line from organic to natural in 2009, Shiesley says because the company wanted to source soybeans domestically — the non-GMO verification offers assurances.

Shiesley says he also believes the label will raise awareness.

“I hope we’re at a tipping point with consumer understanding toward Non-GMO,” he says. “Unlike organic labeling which went through legislation and took eight-plus years, the industry can self-regulate … I don’t think we can wait five years plus with this.”

He points to consumer awareness on trans-fat and many companies’ subsequent reformulations of their products as an example of how awareness can change push industry to make changes.

“We bring 40 million consumers along with us when we go to Non-GMO (labeling),” he says.

Carol Carlson, chair of Slow Food Boulder County approves of voluntary labeling, but would also like to see mandatory standards.

“I think GMO contamination is a huge concern for all of us,” she says. “Anything that can be done to bring awareness to what we’re eating and whether it contains GMOs is a very good thing.”

She also urges Boulder Countians who disapprove of GMOs to become involved in county policy on Boulder County Open Space agricultural land.

(DailyCamera)

Monsanto loses two young employees

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Foodfacts.com recently came across this tragic and devastating news story involving two young teenage girls, also employees of Monsanto, that were fatally electrocuted while detasseling GM corn fields.

WHITESIDE COUNTY, Ill.—
Two detasselers are confirmed dead and eight more injured in an electrocution accident in a Whiteside County field.

Emergency crews were called to a corn field south of Tampico just before 9 a.m. Monday, July 25, 2011.

There they found four detasselers electrocuted and another six shocked.

Police say four detasselers who suffered the most-serious injuries were taken to an area hospital for treatment of their injuries.

Two were later confirmed dead, and one was flown to a Rockford hospital and listed in critical condition.

The other detasselers were first taken to a staging area at the Rock Falls Fire Department for evaluation. From there, they were either transported to an area hospital or released to a parent or guardian.

Chevy Conkling was among the 72 detasselers in the field Monday when four of their owner were electrocuted, killing 14-year-old Hannah Kendall and 14-year-old Jade Garza.

“We were just like detasseling and we heard screaming and all went down hill,” said Chevy Conkling.

Chevy, a first year detasseler himself, says he watched as Hannah, Jade and two other detasselers walked past an above ground irrigator.

“One of the girls was laying on ground and couldn’t feel her legs and she was screaming for help, then two were passed out on it,” said Conkling.

In the very early stages of the investigation, police along with Monsanto and OSHA representatives still don’t know how the teens came in contacted with the irrigator.

“Several other crew members in the area also reported feeling an electrical shock,” said Lt. Andy Henson of the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department.

“I just looked at it, touched the thing to see what was happening and it shocked me,” said Conkling.

Ranging in age from as young as 13, the detasselers are subcontracted through Monsanto.

Representatives say their detasselers are told to walk around irrigators.

“We do fairly extensive training with our contractors including not only irrigation system but heat,” said Mark Cabenaile of Monsanto.

The Sterling community now remembering Hannah and Jade, inseparable best friends who died together all too young.

“This is a tragic situation and certainly our thoughts and prayers are with family and friends and those that knew them,” said Cabenaile.

Monsanto has suspended all operations, until the investigation is complete. Monsanto employs around 1,000 people.

(Quad City Times)