Fast Company reports that Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company and a major proponent of genetically modified (GM) foods and ingredients, plans to make “a move into the consumer market with GM sweet corn, which will be found in a supermarket produce bin or farmer's market near you starting this fall” - the first time that the company has developed a GM product specifically for consumers, as opposed to as an ingredient in processed foods.
According to the story, “Monsanto, which already controls 60% of the U.S. corn market, is including traits in the new sweet corn that make it resistant to both Monsanto's Roundup herbicide and to insects (through the inclusion of Bt toxin, a trait that disrupts insect digestive systems and eventually kills them).” The story notes that “at least 21 weed species have become resistant to Roundup. And Bt toxin may have negative health effects--a recent study found the toxin in the maternal and fetal blood of pregnant women, though the implications of that aren't known quite yet.”
Fast Company notes that “the market for sweet corn is smaller than the market for grain corn, and up until now GM sweet corn sales have been dominated by Syngenta, which also uses Bt toxin in its product.” And there remain concerns that with both Monsanto and Syngenta producing GM sweet corn, the likelihood of cross-pollination becomes even greater, and it will become harder for farmers to produce corn without any trace of GM seed.
I’ve seen enough of Food Inc. to be totally stressed out by the encroachment of genetically modified organisms on almost everything we eat. And I’m not even philosophically opposed to GM foods - I just think they need to be clearly and accurately labeled so that people can make informed choices.
I think retailers need to be very specific and very demanding about this. They need to act as the agent for the consumer, and if they are going to sell this stuff, they need to explain what the advantages are. Hiding the facts does not help, at least not in the long run ... though hiding the facts seems to be something that a lot of these companies are very good at.