A few years ago, Monsanto announced plans to sell seeds for its first consumer product: genetically modified sweet corn. But good luck trying to find it (or avoid it)–the corn isn’t labeled. That may only be because it is just not widespread yet, according to a recent study from the environmental group Friends of the Earth.
FOE sampled 71 packages of frozen and canned sweet corn from seven states and Washington, D.C., for genetically engineered elements. Despite the fact that Monsanto’s sweet corn has been available since 2012, just two of the samples came back positive for signs of genetic engineering. One was at a Stop & Shop in Everett, Massachusetts, and the other was at a City Market located in Breckenridge, Colorado. The Everett corn came from a bulk bag, while the City Market corn was bundled up in plastic packaging and labeled as King Soopers Yellow Corn.
Since the corn isn’t labeled as GMO, it’s impossible for consumers to know if the sweet corn they’re eating contains the genetically engineered traits, which include two insecticidals known as Bt toxins and one that makes the corn plant resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup Ready herbicide. The jury is still out on whether Bt toxins are harmful, though they have been found in the maternal and fetal blood of pregnant women.
“There’s a 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,” explained Bill Freese, a science policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety, in a 2011 interview with Fast Company.
Syngenta has sold GMO sweet corn for years, but Monsanto’s entry into the market indicates that the company thinks there is room for growth in the consumer-ready GMO crop market. The FOE study wasn’t large enough to be statistically significant, bit it does indicate that GMO sweet corn has a long way to go before it becomes ubiquitous.