The California Department of Food and Agriculture estimates that 93 percent of soy, 86 percent of corn and 93 percent of cotton and canola planted in the U.S. in 2010 were genetically engineered, and more than 70 percent of processed foods sold in the U.S. contain some sort of GM ingredients, a majority of which comes via Monsanto, the largest biotech seed company in the world. Now, Monsanto’s controversial GMO seeds will no longer be just an ingredient; the company will begin selling genetically modified sweet corncobs in supermarket produce sections.
Syngenta, a rival biotech company has been selling GM sweet corn in supermarkets for nearly a decade, but the new GM sweet corn from Monsanto marks its first foray into developing a consumer-ready produce item (although it has been selling a GM squash through a company acquisition in 2005). With a 60 percent control in the U.S. corn market, Monsanto’s new sweet corn will contain the usual GM traits—resistance to the company’s signature glyphosate pesticide, Roundup, and a number of unknown, potentially harmful side effects, and speculations on the safety and sustainability of genetic modification, as illuminated by decreasing monarch butterfly populations and a number of Roundup pesticide resistant “super-weeds”, that have begun to appear across the country, disrupting crops and damaging farm equipment.
Bill Freese, a science policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety recently told Fast Company that Monsanto’s sweet corn is testing the market, which could lead to more genetically modified fruits and vegetables, which, says Freese, creates “concern with these GE crops that we eat with minimal processing [like sweet corn]…we’re exposed to a lot more of whatever is in it versus a processed corn product.”
And, what we’re exposed to has advocacy groups, health experts, environmentalists, scientists, legislators and citizens concerned over the long-term effects to our water, soil, plants and wildlife, as well as the health of Americans participating in the greatest human experiment ever conducted. Filmmaker Jeremy Seifert, who is currently working on a documentary about GMOs, says the long-term risks have just not been explored and that there are no labeling requirements for any food containing GMOs, putting people at risk without their consent.
In an email to Fast Company, Monsanto wrote “Food retailers have the latitude to label or not label sweet corn. Just as they do today, consumers will continue to have the ability to purchase corn from growers or retailers of their choice that provide the quality they are looking for.”
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