In 2011 Monsanto announced plans to grow 250,000 acres of GE sweet corn, accounting for about 40% of the market. It began selling GE sweet corn seeds; its first direct-consumption vegetable. Although many farmers declined to purchase them for fear U.S. consumers wouldn’t buy the GM corn, during the summer of 2012 large quantities of this experimental sweet corn were quietly released into the food supply. It showed up fresh in grocery stores and road side stands, and in canned and frozen products. Without labeling it is impossible to know if you are buying the GE food and the majority of consumers were unaware GE corn was being sold in their local market.
How the Corn is Altered
Sweet corn is Genetically Engineered to resist the Monsanto herbicide Roundup – called a Roundup ready crop. Its seeds were also genetically engineered to produce its own pesticide by injecting genes from Bacillus thuringiensis, a common soil bacterium known as Bt. Bt produces proteins that kill insects that eat them thus allowing the corn to become its own pesticide. Pretty nifty if we weren’t also eating the pesticide corn.
How Prevalent is GE Sweet Corn in the Market Today?
That is hard to say. Between June and September of 2013 Friends of the Earth worked with volunteers across the country to gather samples of fresh, frozen, and canned non-organic sweet corn from 8 regions of the country (California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Washington State, and Washington D.C. ) The volunteers strip tested the corn for GMOs and sent the samples that tested positive to an accredited, independent, lab to verify the results.
And the results were surprising. Despite the fact that Monsanto had its eye on 40% of the American sweet corn acreage and was claiming a strong market for it, only 2.4% of the corn tested positive as genetically engineered (2 samples out of 71.) Both were fresh corn from Monsanto seed.
About the same time, the Friends of the Earth team didn’t know it but, a Canadian Environmental Group did a similar study. They used the same strip test method on 43 samples from an assortment of venues with 15 of them coming back positive for GE (that’s 35%.)
Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network said, “Our testing clearly shows that genetically engineered sweet corn is present across Canada, from all types of vendors. We were alarmed to find a significant amount of GM sweet corn in Canada, and shocked that Canada could actually be a source of genetically engineered sweet corn to U.S. consumers.”
Also in August of 2012 Wal Mart, Inc. stated that they would not restrict the sale of GM foods. Company representative Dianna Gee told the Chicago Tribune, “After closely looking at both sides of the debate and collaborating with a number of respected food safety experts, we see no scientifically validated safety reasons to implement restrictions on this product.”
Where Does This Leave Us?
What we choose to eat and feed our families is one of the most personal choices we can make. Therefore I would never presume to tell someone what to eat. All I can do is present you with facts I uncover and possibly share my personal choices with you, for your consideration. While the tests I mentioned above are hardly conclusive they do indicate there was GE corn on the market last year and Monsanto is determined to increase the numbers. Since GMOs are unlabeled there is no way to know if this experimental food is in your local market. Perhaps because it is early in the season, I haven’t seen any studies for 2014. Because of all this I, personally, bypass all corn and corn products unless I know it is organic.