We recently received a petition from Credo Action to ask Walmart not to begin selling GMO Corn. Apparently Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and General Mills have agreed not to sell GMO corn, but the largest grocer, Walmart, has not. So we looked into the issues involved to see what was going on. All of these have local branches in Fairfield County.
Note: added later. Science pretty clearly shows that there is absolutely no evidence for any danger to humans or the environment from GMO foods. So our recommendation is to stop wasting time worrying about this.
A lot of GMO corn is grown in the US, but not directly for human consumption. Some is fed to animals and a lot is used in making corn products such as corn syrup and cornstarch. These are of considerably less concern, because the extracted compounds are relatively pure and their GMO ancestry doesn’t matter much.
However, Monsanto has genetically engineered a variety of sweet corn intended directly for your dinner table, and some activists are horrified that this could occur.
All of these GMO corn varieties contain genes from BT (bacillus thuringiensis) which is essentially a biological pesticide. It has been used in the US since 1958 and in France since 1938 without ill effects. It also occurs naturally in caterpillar guts and on the dark surfaces of some plants.
However, there is some concern that actually eating corn with BT genes may cause more problems for humans than the trace amounts found in BT dusted crops. The Wikipedia article on genetically modified foods does a good job of summarizing the research and conflicting viewpoints in this area.
One of the problems is that the USDA does not mandate the GM corn be labeled in the stores, so you have no way of avoiding it if it is a concern to you.
Another problem is that there is really no independent research on GM corn toxicity because the restrictive end user agreements prevent such research and publication from taking place.
However, the International Journal of Biological Sciences published a paper in 2009 where the French scientists obtained the data from Monsanto’s original animal feeding studies from European governments, who obtained the data by court action or through the cooperation of Greenpeace.
They reanalyzed Monsanto’s original studies, and reached some new conclusions. One of the most startling facts was that Monsanto carried out only one 90-day animal feeding study on each of the three varieties of corn, on only on rats. The authors feel this was definitely insufficient to guarantee their safety.
In addition, they found data that showed sex-linked effects on kidney and liver function that varied among the three varieties, as well as heart, spleen, adrenal and blood cell disturbances. At the very least additional studies need to be carried out, and Monsanto’s end-user agreements currently prevent this.
Is there really cause for concern? It is really difficult to tell. Certainly more studies are needed. And it is disturbing that GM corn will not be labeled if sold in the US. The reason for the petition we mention at the top of the article is that Walmart is the largest US grocer, and if they agree not to sell it, the corn is much less likely to be planted and sold for human consumption in the US.
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