The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Anna Ghosh

Enough Tricks: Consumers Speak Up Against Monsanto's GE Sweet Corn

With the threat of genetically engineered sweet corn hitting grocery stores next year looming, 264,000 people petition top retailers and food makers


In response to Monsanto's release of the company's first genetically engineered sweet corn for human consumption, a coalition has collected more than 264,000 petition signatures from consumers who refuse to purchase the corn and are asking retailers and food processors to reject it. Today the coalition, including the Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, CREDO Action, Food Democracy Now!, and Food & Water Watch, announced that they have delivered the signed petition to 10 of the top national retail grocery stores including Wal-Mart, Kroger and Safeway, and top canned and frozen corn processors including Bird's Eye and Del Monte.

Two major national food companies, General Mills and Trader Joe's, have already indicated that they will not be using the Monsanto GE sweet corn in their products, according to replies the companies sent to a request from the Center for Environmental Health.

"The overwhelming number of people who have signed this petition once again reiterates the fact that consumers don't want genetically engineered food on their plates," said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. "Consumers should be outraged that as early as next year, GE sweet corn in cans, frozen and fresh off the cob could show up in grocery stores across the country and we will have no way of telling it apart from other corn."

"These grocery and food processing companies are the last link in the chain before this corn reaches consumers and they have a financial incentive to keep this unlabeled GE sweet corn off their shelves because their customers won't buy it," said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of The Center for Food Safety. "Two major food companies have already said they will reject this risky new corn. If they can do it, so can these other companies."

In August, Monsanto announced that its Roundup Ready GE sweet corn - as opposed to corn that has been used primarily in animal feed and highly processed foods since 1994 - would be available for the fall planting season. Although the sweet corn is the first GE vegetable of this type to be commercialized by Monsanto, it received swift approval from the USDA since the agency does no independent testing of GE crops and the seed's three distinct traits were previously approved, each separately, in 2005 and 2008. The three traits are corn borer resistance, rootworm resistance and tolerance for glyphosate - the primary ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup.

"It's not surprising that the company responsible for producing nearly 90 percent of all GE seeds around the world now wants to sell its toxic crops directly to consumers, but it is clearly very scary to a lot of people" said Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager at CREDO Action. "We had an overwhelming response from over 160,000 CREDO Action members. It's shocking that, absent sufficient study of GMO corn, government regulators could be so cavalier in the approval of a product that raises significant concerns for so many people."

"Monsanto continues to produce genetically engineered food that Americans have no interest in eating," said David Murphy, Founder, Food Democracy Now! "It's clear, with the increasing approvals of these untested products, that President Obama needs to live up to his campaign promise to label foods that have been genetically modified, because, as he said to farmers in Iowa, 'Americans should know what they're buying.'"

Monsanto is aiming to grow its GE Sweet Corn on 250,000 acres next year, which is roughly 40 percent of the sweet corn market. They believe the corn will be used primarily in frozen and canned corn products, but could also be sold as fresh corn on the cob through retailers.

"Consumers deserve to know what's in their food, especially when there is a pesticide in every bite," said Charles Margulis of the Center for Environmental Health. "This whole, unprocessed corn has been spliced with genes that produce a risky, untested insecticide. Parents should be informed when food on supermarket shelves has been genetically altered."

The potential health and environmental risks associated with GE crops include increased food allergies and unknown long term health effects in humans; the rise of superweeds that have become resistant to GE-affiliated herbicides; the ethical and economic concerns involved with the patenting of life and corporate consolidation of the seed supply; and the contamination of organic and non-GE crops and through cross-pollination and seed dispersal.