While the potential for as much as one-third of this year's corn crop dedicated to ethanol production is friendly to prices, other agricultural sectors also depend on ample supplies of corn. Livestock producers are expected to use 40 percent of the harvest as feed. And about 5 percent is destined for the human food chain as corn syrup.
High fructose corn syrup was developed in the 1950s. But the product didn't come into widespread use until the 70s and 80s. While the ubiquitous sweetener is found today in all kinds of foods, it's increasingly targeted as a key factor in America's "growing problem" with obesity.
Fans of natural foods have mounted a campaign designed to get the product out the nation's food supply, and if the most recent sales figures are any indication, the effort seems to be working...
U.S. sales of high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, the sweetener added to soft drinks, cereals, and other products, are on the decline.
Despite costing about 40 percent less than sugar, sales of HFCS declined 11 percent between 2003 and 2008. Companies like Hunt's, Gatorade and Pepsi have stopped using it in some of their products based on what they claim are customer concerns.
Producers of corn syrup blame the decline on campaigns blaming the sweetener for the nation's obesity epidemic. They say one movement is a strategic effort by the sugar industry to define its products as healthier alternatives.
According to the Department of Agriculture, the HFCS industry produces about 53 pounds of the sweetener annually for every U.S consumer, compared to more than 65 pounds of sugar per capita.
While critics and proponents debate the merits of HFCS and sugar, nutritionists are reported to have found little difference between the two.
The Corn Refiners Association launched its own national advertising campaign in 2008 aimed at rehabilitating high fructose corn syrup's image.
And while HFCS is declining in popularity in the U.S., sales are on the rise in other countries, including Mexico, which lifted trade barriers to U.S. corn syrup in 2008.