I created this blog with the express intent to clear up misunderstandings and, quite frankly, the blatant lies that generally are passed along about the agricultural industry. Today, I get the chance to respond and, hopefully, debunk one of these stories.
Monsanto, who is famously known for genetically modifying various crops, is now coming out with its own version of sweet corn. The sweet corn, which will include a strand of the Bt protein, is in its first growing season this spring.
Opponents of Monsanto have never sat silently on the sidelines and certainly took the opportunity to start demonizing the new sweet corn immediately. The lies were immediately apparent and no one seemed to care. Images such as this one started popping up around the internet recently:
Most people with common sense would automatically realize that there is no way the Food and Drug Administration would ever allow such a product to ever hit the shelves of United States grocery stores, let alone allow the company to even being selling the product. It generally takes 6 – 12 years for a biotech product to be approved and millions of dollars worth of testing before the FDA will approve it. Nonetheless, the advent of social media has allowed people to disseminate such nonsense across the internet without having to account for their actions and people just take it as true. The scheme is always the same: take something people innocently encounter every day (food) and show how some evil (Monsanto & Bt “toxin”) is going to hurt someone or something everyone loves (babies). People fall for it every time. Farmers end up looking like the bad guys.
How about we look at reality, which admittedly, isn’t quite as sensational?
Let’s start with some of the basics. First, this sweet corn is not the first genetically modified food that people have consumed. If you have ever eaten food that has come from field corn (which is in cereal and many other foods found in the grocery store), it’s likely you’ve eaten a genetically modified plant. No, your stomach has not exploded yet. There are also other genetically modified vegetables on the market, including tomatoes, squash, and potatoes. In fact, Monsanto’s sweet corn is not the first on the market. Rival Syngenta has been producing sweet corn that does similar things to Monsanto’s new brand — increases production while reducing pesticide use by up to 85%. (Click here to learn more about Seminis.)
Also, let’s be clear: what is included in the sweet corn is a protein, not a pesticide or a toxin. This is a naturally occurring protein, meaning you can find it out in the environment without any creepy scientist putting it there. The protein is one that is actually used by organic farmers (my personal favorite!) to reduce pests in their fields. I have yet to hear of any organic produce causing a person’s stomach to explode (at least not because of the Bt protein). In fact, the inclusion of the protein by Monsanto is directly for the purpose of reducing the amount of pesticides needed in the production of sweet corn — an 85% reduction of the amount of pesticides used.
If you want a more technical account, take a look at Monsanto’s executive summary of the safety assessment on the sweet corn. You can read it in full here. For more information regarding the Bt protein being used in the sweet corn, click here for a list of publications (including those from the EPA, the EU, and independent scientists).
Finally, if you want more information regarding biotechnology and the safety concerns, click here.
The bottom line is this: If you want to talk about food safety concerns, by all means, let’s have that discussion. But, how about we not rely on “cute” little Facebook posts and Pinterest pins that have sensationalist remarks? Let’s take a look at the research, the data, and the information available. Let’s have an honest discussion with actual information, not demonize companies because we have some type of beef with them.
So, who wants some sweet corn?
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net