Sweet corn is ripe at the farmers’ market. I can’t get enough of it. Only one vendor had it this week, from a farm in the warmer valley to the south of us. The rest will ripen over the next couple weeks.
We know the farmers who provide our summer corn. They grow organically and pick the corn as close to market opening as they can manage. I don’t have to ask them if they planted genetically engineered corn.
Things are changing, however, not with the organic ears at my farmers’ market but with the sweet corn modified by chemical companies. Monsanto already sells seeds with built-in resistance to corn borer, rootworm and herbicide. The Roundup-ready corn ends up in cereal, chips, and dozens of other products already on supermarket shelves.
Now they have a triple-stack corn heading to farm fields. The harvest is aimed at the fresh-produce market. The corn has three added traits that make it resistant to insects and to Roundup. Fields can be blanketed with the herbicide without damaging the crop.
The Monsanto harvest will not be the first GM corn offered as a fresh product. You may already be eating Syngenta’s genetically modified corn if you live in Canada. Monsanto’s new corn will end up on shelves in the eastern United States. Where its pollen will end up depends on the winds.
“Eat fresh produce” is standard advice to those wary of genetically modified produce, but companies like Syngenta and Monsanto are changing that by moving more aggressively into the fresh-vegetable arena. Regulators in the U.S. and Canada have welcomed genetically engineered foods in spite of growing warnings (e.g., health risks, environmental hazards and failure to produce higher yields).
The same chemical company that produced Agent Orange has good reason to want our produce to depend on its herbicides. GM Watch’s brief history of Monsanto gives little reassurance their research on the safety of the new sweet corn will do anything more than protect the company’s bottom line.