From the “Evil” Scientist Lab: Killer Corn

Another reason to eat organic food.

The seed treatment on corn seeds is much more deadly than what we realized.

I was shocked the other week when we received an email exposing how the pesticide and fungicide usage on most of our country’s corn crop is killing honey bees. In the early part of May of this year, beekeepers reported staggering losses of honey bees in Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio, after their hives foraged near pesticide-treated corn fields. The seed corn is treated with pesticides and fungicides. The neonicotinoid pesticides are very deadly to honey bees. Just one gram can kill 11 million to 22 million honey bees. When combined with fungicides, they are 10 times more deadly than when used alone! The coated corn seeds are sticky, so talc is added to the seeds to make them flow better in the corn planter. However, the powdery talc is readily carried by the wind to plants and areas beside the corn fields where bees are foraging. The talc is contaminated with these neonicotinoids and fungicides and the dead bees test positive for these chemicals. The source for this information is a new report released by Purdue University this year –

We are used to change in technology and society. But what we are not used to is rapid change behind our backs in our food. Everything appears to be the same as before, but it is not. In the last 15 years there have been significant changes in the way corn and other crops are grown that we are unaware of. Genetically modified plants are only one part of the problem.

From the Huffington Post – “Bee Kills in the Corn Belt: What’s GE Got to Do With It?”

“Over the last 15 years, U.S. corn cultivation has gone from a crop requiring little-to-no insecticides and negligible amounts of fungicides, to a crop where the average acre is grown from seeds treated or genetically engineered to express three different insecticides (as well as a fungicide or two) before being sprayed prophylactically with RoundUp (an herbicide) and a new class of fungicides that farmers didn’t know they “needed” before the mid-2000s.
A series of marketing ploys by the pesticide industry undergird this story. It’s about time to start telling it, if for no other reason than to give lie to the oft-repeated notion that there is no alternative to farming corn in a way that poisons pollinators. We were once — not so long ago — on a very different path.

How corn farming went off the rails

“In the early 1990s, we were really good at growing corn using bio-intensive integrated pest management (bio-IPM). In practice, that meant crop rotations, supporting natural predators, using biocontrol agents like ladybugs and as a last resort, using chemical controls only after pests had been scouted for and found. During this time of peak bio-IPM adoption, today’s common practice of blanketing corn acreage with “insurance” applications of various pesticides without having established the need to do so would have been unthinkable. It’s expensive to use inputs you don’t need, and was once the mark of bad farming.

“Then, in the mid-to-late 1990s, GE corn and neonicotinoid (imidacloprid) seed treatments both entered the market — the two go hand-in-hand, partly by design and partly by accident…

“Then, as if on cue, Monsanto introduced three different strains of patented, GE corn between 1997 and 2003 (RoundUp Ready, and two Bt-expressing variants aimed at controlling the European Corn Borer and corn root worm). Clothianidin entered the U.S. market under conditional registration in 2003, and in 2004 corn seed companies began marketing seeds treated with a 5X level of neonicotinoids (1.25 mg/seed vs. .25). [Each seed has enough to kill 9,000 – 18,000 bees. – Myron]

“… and in the space of a decade, U.S. corn acreage undergoes a ten-fold increase in average insecticide use. By 2007, the average acre of corn has more than three systemic insecticides — both Bt traits and a neonicotinoid. Compare this to the early 1990s, when only an estimated 30-35 percent of all corn acreage were treated with insecticides at all.”

“When I spoke with one Iowa corn farmer in January and told him about the upcoming release of a Purdue study confirming corn as a major pesticide exposure route for bees, his face dropped with worn exasperation. He looked down for a moment, sighed and said, ‘You know, I held out for years on buying them GE seeds, but now I can’t get conventional seeds anymore. They just don’t carry ’em.'”

It used to be that pesticide sprays were sprayed on the surface of plants, fruits and vegetables to kill bugs. But in more recent years, systemic insecticides have been developed and are being widely used. Systemic insecticides and fungicides work by going into the plant and traveling through the entire plant and fruit or vegetable. Any bug that eats the plant is killed. It also keeps insects from eating the fruit or vegetable. There is no way to wash off a systemic insecticide or fungicide from a fruit or vegetable the way it was possible in the past. The insecticide and fungicide has become part of the food.

We found out about the killer corn one day after we had planted some sweet corn we purchased from Southern States. We had planted three different varieties of organic sweet corn seed that we purchased from The Honey Select variety had basically 0% germination. Being ignorant of what was on the seed coating of sweet corn,  we purchased a pound of the Incredible variety sweet corn and planted eight, 80 foot rows of Incredible sweet corn where the Honey Select had been planted. I thought that the pink seed coating was just something bad tasting to keep the birds from eating it.  I could not read on the package what the seed treatment on the sweet corn seed was, so I went to Southern States to find out. I was concerned that we might have planted something that would kill our bees. It had five different fungicides! – Apron, Captan, Dividend, Thiram, and Vitavax! Apron is a systemic fungicide. I felt disgusted and betrayed. We waited until the corn started coming up and we dug it all up. The picture above shows the pink fungicide loaded seed still there, putting its chemicals into the plant.

One of the things that farmers across the US are complaining about is that they cannot buy bee friendly corn seed. Almost everything is genetically modified and treated with pesticides and fungicides. About the only way to get untreated seeds is to buy organic seeds or for a farmer to save his own seeds.

What this means is that the “All Natural” label on chicken, eggs, and other foods with corn ingredients is probably a bogus or misleading claim on most products. Non-GMO corn is not safe if the seeds have been treated with systemic fungicides and neonicotinoid pesticides.

I wish farmers knew how to grow high brix, nutrient dense corn. They could eliminate the chemicals, lower their production costs and provide a far superior food for their fellow human beings. It can be done. Last year we produced high brix sweet corn that had very few bugs. Instead, legal bio-terrorism on the farm is killing our honey bees, poisoning our food, and giving us poor quality food that is making us sick. Sick Care (Health Care) in America is the #1 industry. We are what we eat. Health begins in the soil and in the seed.

We need to help each other in these changing times and keep each other informed so that things do not unknowingly get changed behind our backs. Ignorance is not bliss when it affects our health or the health of our family and friends. Most people are ignorant about their food. I am amazed at how little most people know. They assume that all food is basically the same and that cheapest is best. The other day, I was getting gas in Pennsylvania, and the man at the pump next to me wondered what I was hauling on my trailer. I told him it was organic protein concentrate for our chicken feed. He asked, “What is organic?” in a way that showed he was clueless to what organic really is and as if organic was just something unimportant and more expensive. I was surprised that a 60-year-old man was so clueless about his food. Times have changed and he is still assuming that they are the same.

Other articles about corn and honey bees:

Federal Government Seized South Mountain Creamery’s Bank Account

South Mountain Creamery is a farm here in Frederick County that sells pasteurized milk products and other produce at farmers markets. It recently had $70,000 dollars seized in its bank account because they made regular cash deposits from their farmer’s market sales last year that were just under $10,000. The Federal government is suing to keep $63,000, even though no charges were made.

Taylor’s Produce Stand on the Eastern Shore had a similar thing happen to them last year. They had $90,000 seized. In December, they received half of the seized money back. There were no criminal charges made. They will not see the rest of their money!

For articles on South Mountain Creamery:

In Honor of My Mother, Dorothy May Eby Horst

By Myron Horst

My parents, Otho and Dorothy Horst celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2011


My mother passed from this life to be with Jesus on Thursday, March 29, 2012. She died of lung cancer which might have been caused by the elevated levels of radon in her home. She never smoked or lived or worked in an environment that would have caused lung cancer.

My mother was born April 28, 1928 near Clear Spring, Maryland, during an unusually late major snow storm that brought down power lines and made it difficult for the doctor to get to the house. Usually in central Maryland there is a cold snap during the time that the dogwood trees are blooming, called Dogwood Winter. It was during Dogwood Winter that she was born. I find it interesting that for the rest of her life she had a special love for seeing the dogwood trees bloom each spring. She even named our house at Gaithersburg, Dogwood Cottage, where we had 20 dogwood trees on a 1/3 acre lot. She was born to Samuel and Emma Showalter Eby. Her father was a farmer and pastor.

My mother had a curious mind that loved to learn and to observe what was going on around her which she instilled in me. She never wanted to miss anything. She went to college, which was very unusual for the Mennonite community that she grew up in, and became a teacher and taught in several Christian schools before marrying my father.

She had a heart for serving others which was evident throughout her life. She touched the lives of many people in her 83 years. My parents took me, when I was three months old, to the country of Belize in Central America where we lived for five years. There in Belize City, they helped start two churches. My mother taught me that a person’s color is only skin deep, and to treat each person the same regardless of their skin color. My sister and I were the only white children in the Sunday school there.

After we moved back to Maryland, my father was pastor at a small church in Gaithersburg for about 30 years. My mother was an excellent support for him in his role as pastor. Women would often call her and talk with her, receiving her counsel, love and support. She taught in the Christian school at our church and was principal for a number of years.

Before they were old enough to retire, my parents decided that they would like to give several more years of their life in voluntary service before they were too old to do so. They went to Florida for six months and helped rebuild after Hurricane Andrew, and then went to Arkansas for a year and a half where my father was chaplain at a nursing home and they served as house parents for the voluntary service unit.

When they retired in 2000, they moved to a beautiful location in the Shenandoah Valley near Broadway, Virginia which they called Grande View. Not content to sit around and “rot away”, my parents soon became involved in the community there. My father became interim pastor at a mountain church in West Virginia and also served as assistant overseer of five area churches. My mother was a loving and faithful supporter as they worked with the people in the churches.

After Cathy and I had children, I realized more how much my mother gave of herself when I was a baby, a toddler, and in my growing up years. I owe a lot to her and am grateful for all that she has done for me and for the multitude of things that she taught me. She was a sweet and loving grandmother and never undermined Cathy and my parenting of our children. We will miss her a lot, and look forward to seeing her again in Heaven.

Preparing for Winter – Local Energy

For the last 17 years our family has used wood as our primary heating source. Not only is firewood a local, renewable energy source, it is also a relatively clean fuel. That seems surprising when you see the smoke going out of the chimney. However, there is something that has to be taken into consideration. If wood is left to rot or is ground up into mulch and left to decompose, gases are released into the atmosphere. If the amount of greenhouse gases that are released from decomposing is subtracted from the emissions from burning the wood, wood turns out to be a relatively clean fuel as compared to fuel oil. Unlike wood, oil that is left in the ground does not pollute the environment. It is when oil is burned that it creates pollution.

I found a good resource on the internet on how to make improvements to a wood burning stove to make it more efficient and produce less smoke. It is  On the right side of their website are the links to several free publications that they have. Using the principles in those publications, I designed a heat exchanger that replaced our existing stove pipe. The heat exchanger is about four feet high and 11 inches in diameter. The lower 15 inches is an insulated section where escaping unburned gases are ignited and burned. Just above that section, an 8 inch pipe draws in room air from the back. The 8 inch pipe goes up the center of the heat exchanger and is open at the top into the room, allowing heated air to flow into the room. The smoke from the wood stove travels in the space between the 8 inch pipe and the 11 inch pipe. The smoke exits out the back of the heat exchanger into the chimney.

The heat exchanger works better than what I had hoped. It has reduced the amount of smoke produced, but even better, it has almost doubled the heat output of the wood stove. It is free heat that we have been losing up the chimney! What is important to me too is that Cathy likes the design which is not as overbearing as the ones on the website which use big 55 gallon drums for the heat exchanger. Attached is a picture of the heat exchanger.

One of the things that is important in heating with wood is to make handling the firewood as easy as possible. In the picture you will see the wood box that we built last year and is working well for us. It is essentially a hand truck style wood box that has large casters on the front which allow the wood box to be rolled back against the wall with the opening to the front. The wood box can be tipped back like a hand truck to make it easy to take out to the wood pile, load it up, and bring back to the house. We have two wood boxes so that we can have plenty of wood and don’t have to go out in the rain or snow and get wood.

Woodstove Heat Exchanger

A Cheap "Air Conditioner" When Working Outside

A simple way to stay cool this summer when you have to work outside in the heat is to first wet your shirt under the faucet, wring it out, and then put it on. The evaporation of the water will keep you cool. If you start working with a dry shirt and then get hot enough to sweat your shirt wet you never really feel cool. A shirt wet with water feels much cooler and more comfortable than a sweaty, sticky, smelly shirt.