Retail behemoth Walmart says it will soon be selling a new variety of genetically modified sweet corn developed by seed megacorp/frequent litigator Monsanto. This is the same corn that other big names like Whole Foods and General Mills have already said thanks but no thanks to.
“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,” a Walmart rep explains to the Chicago Tribune.
This new corn, currently being harvested, is resistant to a common herbicide. Thus, farmers can spray their crops to kill weeds but not kill the corn. The Tribune reports that the corn also contains a toxin that fends off certain pests.
Monsanto, apparently taking a break from suing organic farmers, explains that the goal of the modified corn is to cut down on insecticide use.
“Overall, sweet corn makes up less than 1 percent of total corn acreage in the United States … yet accounts for 40 percent of all corn insecticide treatments,” a rep tells the Tribune. “Farmers who grow biotech sweet corn can reduce insecticide applications by as much as 85 percent.”
Earlier this year, 463,000 people signed a petition, organized by the consumer advocates at Food and Water Watch, asking Walmart to please, pretty please, not use this corn.
Though regulators in the EU, China, Russia, Australia, and Japan require specific labeling for genetically modified items, the FDA does not. Thus, Walmart will not be singling the corn out.
It also hasn’t said whether it will sell any sweet corn that doesn’t come from the Monsanto seeds. But the retailer says customers who want to make sure they aren’t buying the modified corn should look for items labeled “organic.”
Michael Hansen of Consumers Union says the lack of required labeling for genetically modified corn has made it difficult to track whether or not the item has had any adverse effects on those who eat it.
“There has been a doubling of food allergies in this country since 1996,” he explains. “Is it connected to genetically engineered foods? Who knows when you have no labeling? That is the problem.”
Many folks eat sweet corn straight off the cob, which Hansen says could heighten any problems with the food: “Whatever the risks of (this technology), you would expect higher exposure eating a product such as sweet corn.”