Apr 02 2017

The whole corny truth.

Published by at 1:35 pm under GMO's

The corny truth.
Don’t be fooled when it comes to GMO corn.

 There’s a lot to love about corn! Roasted sweet corn goes hand in hand with summertime and back yard barbeques. It comes in a compact little package, so it is often roasted in the husk and sold at fairs and picnics. It is even good raw. It’s crisp, sweet and fun to eat. It’s an American favorite!

Corn aficionados will tell you that it is best to eat it within 24 hours of picking. Back in the day, older varieties of corn didn’t stand up to time very well. Within 24 hours of being plucked off the stalk, they would lose their sweetness or turn to starch. In the 1950s, a man named John Laughman from the University of Illinois created a hybrid strain of corn by cross-pollinating three varieties of corn. This hybrid creation was sweeter, and able to retain its sweetness longer. Since then, hybrids have been created that are as much as five times sweeter than the corn from decades ago and will stay sweet for weeks. This is great for large grocers, as corn can stay on the shelf longer…but many feel that what we have gained in sweetness has been lost in the taste of the corn.1*  

Unfortunately, our favorite summer time vegetable has gotten a bad rap of late, and it is due to the introduction of GMOs. Corn ranks high on lists of food products most likely to contain genetically modified organisms.  “…Since 1996, corn has been genetically modified, and according to the USDA, 93 percent of the corn crops planted in the United States contained GMOs in 2014. But keep in mind that most of that corn is field corn, much of which will be fed to animals, although some may be made into corn-based products like cereal…” (1,2)*

So how do we know what corn is grown from GMO seed and what isn’t? There is so much confusion surrounding corn and GMOs, that many people serious about avoiding GMOs, are giving up on this favorite vegetable all together, rather than deciphering the complexities of what corn products do or do not contain GMOs. (1,2)*

Most of the corn consumed in the US is either frozen or canned while the fresh corn we eat is grown on only 250,000 US acres. Field corn is different from sweet corn. Field corn is harvested when its kernels are hard and dry, and is considered a commodity crop. You’ll find it in the manufacturing of products such as high fructose corn syrup, livestock feed, ethanol, corn oil, various alcohols and of course in our processed foods!  Today, GMO field corn seeds produce as much as 90 percent of the field corn in our country. This is different than the hybridized plants we discussed earlier that occurs through cross pollination. GMO field corn and other GMO plants have “…strands of DNA added to achieve desired characteristics…”1*

In the past, less than 5 percent of the sweet corn raised in the US came from GMO sweet corn seeds which were introduced by Syngenta, a global agribusiness company. Farmers began planting Monsanto’s recently approved, GMO Performance sweet-corn seeds in 2011, with its aim to market their corn on the cob to consumers…1*

“…The new corn has been bioengineered to survive applications of glyphosate (sold under the trade name Roundup), an herbicide that destroys competing weeds. Planting “Roundup-resistant” varieties allows farmers to control weeds by spraying, an alternative to expensive and time-consuming­ methods like mechanical tilling. Monsanto has also spliced genes into the corn that produce toxins that kill corn-eating caterpillars, helping farmers reduce their use of pesticides. The poisons are derived from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacteria that occurs naturally in soil and is approved for organic agriculture. Fatal to insect larvae, most experts say Bt is harmless to humans and animals. However, Cana­dian researchers reported in 2011 in the journal Reproductive Toxicology that they found residues of Bt in the blood of mothers and fetuses. “More research is needed. The impact of Bt on a fetus’s development is unknown,” says Aziz Aris, M.D., Ph.D., study principal investigator and professor in the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Sherbrooke…”1*

Although the FDA claims there is no “material difference” between GMO corn and non GMO or the traditional ­varieties, there is research that suggests otherwise. “…A study published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences in 2009 by a group of French scientists found liver and kidney damage in rats fed Roundup-resistant corn…”

The environmental concerns are that weeds and insects become resistant to both herbicides and pesticides such as glyphosate and Bt. If this happens,  plants will need to be modified again to  withstand increasingly toxic chemicals. Currently, it is estimated that over 26 weed species across 20 US states are Roundup resistant. According to the Environmental Protection Agency Bt-resistant corn root worms live in four states. 1*

Presently, “…Syngenta’s Attribute and Monsanto’s Performance are the two varieties sold in North America…” Because GMO crops are not allowed under USDA organic standards, you can avoid GMO corn by purchasing organic corn only. And many farmers are saying no to GMO seeds because their customers are against it. This is reflected in a 2013 Friends of the Earth study which looked at 70 varieties of sweet corn products, which included canned and frozen products, and found that only two of the corn products contained GMOs. “Monsanto’s genetically engineered sweet corn appears to be a big flop in the United States,” said Friends of the Earth’s Lisa Archer. “Companies here are starting to reject genetically engineered foods, and rightly so. They know their customers, particularly parents, are leery of unlabeled, poorly studied GMOs.” (1,3)*

As we roll into the summer season, visit your local farmers’ markets and organic grocers to buy and enjoy this summer favorite. It’s only available for a short time, so enjoy it while you can! But ask questions and demand non-GMO produce whenever possible. *

 

Healthiest wishes,

Kelli

 

Resources:

  1. http://www.eatingwell.com/food_news_origins/green_sustainable/clearing_up_the_confusion_about_genetically_modified_corn
  2. http://www.newsmax.com/Health/Health-Wire/corn-GMO-foods-genetically/2015/06/04/id/648727/
  3. S. Department of Labor
  4. https://www.nongmoproject.org/high-risk/corn/
  5. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2011/08/monsanto-biotech-sweet-corn-human-consumption.html

 

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