The irradiation of eggs, and fun with corn 

Remember 20 years ago, when TV commercials were shilling us eggs by saying they were “incredible” and “edible”? Well, times have changed, because the Food and Drug Administration has officially permitted American eggs to be treated with radiation before they make it to your table. The decision, which was quietly announced three weeks ago, is the sixth move by the federal government since 1985 to expand the irradiation of America’s food supply, supposedly for our own good. And it’s a trend that has gone largely unnoticed, even by folks in agricultural states like our own.

“They don’t have a clue, because there’s no way you can tell,” says Jonda Crosby of Helena’s Alternative Energy Resource Organization, which advocates sustainable agriculture and food safety. “Things are happening to our food that aren’t showing up on any FDA labels.”

According to the Washington, D.C.-based consumer group Public Citizen, the egg-nuking plan carries with it plenty of drawbacks, some of which the FDA itself has already acknowledged. Irradiating eggs, for instance, significantly lowers levels of vitamin A and niacin, and it also jump-starts the formation of so-called “free radicals,” unstable chemical compounds that weaken cells. If that’s not enough, irradiated eggs are also said to be “aesthetically displeasing.” Incredible, maybe, but not very edible-sounding.

Still, the feds approved the move, primarily to counteract diseases that have become rampant in large, corporate factory farms. “There’s this whole mega food system that’s increasingly being stressed, raising animals in confined areas so that they are more susceptible to disease,” Crosby says. “They’re using irradiation as a stop-gap measure instead of reforming the system.”

Crosby says it seems doubtful that any Montana egg farms are big enough to use the radiation process, but nobody knows for sure if it is being practiced. Regardless, if nuclear eggs do show up around here, it’ll be sure to generate some “free radicals” of another kind. We’ll keep you posted.

You call it corn. We call it maze.

In a world where food has increasingly become a commodity instead of the stuff of life (see above), it seems only fitting that one company has decided to turn a crop into an amusement park. A Utah-based firm called The Maize has taken it upon itself to provide grain-based entertainment by mowing huge mazes into corn fields. Begun five years ago by a Salmon, Idaho native, the project now features 57 large-scale cornfield mazes scattered around the United States and Canada, which serve as tourist attractions in late summer and field-trip sites for schoolkids in the autumn.

Think of it as being like that last scene in The Shining, but in hot weather instead of cold, and without the ax-wielding maniac. Sound fun? Then you’ll be glad to know that western Montana has its own Maize this season, and it’s only about a half-hour away. Next Thursday, Aug. 17, a Maize opens at 1497 Hwy. 93, five miles north of Hamilton and 36 miles south of Missoula. Admission is $5.50 for adults, $3.50 for kids, and free for chitlin’s under 5. After all, what the hell? At least now there’s some way for a farmer to make a buck around here.

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