About “Beyond the Rows”

Beyond the Rows is a Monsanto Company blog focused on one of the world’s most important industries, agriculture. Monsanto employees write about Monsanto’s business, the agriculture industry, and the farmer.
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The Buzz on Sweet Corn

Recently, there has been a lot of buzz about one of Monsanto’s latest technology innovations, biotech sweet corn, or what we call Seminis Performance Series™ Sweet Corn. It has the potential to create sustainable improvements in sweet corn farming through the better use of resources and less reliance on pesticides.

Although this is a new product for Monsanto’s vegetable seed brand, Seminis®, for more than a decade farmers have been growing biotech sweet corn produced by another seed company with the beneficial, built-in protein (from Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt) that naturally occurs in the environment. This protein protects the sweet corn from damaging insects – and helps farmers reduce insecticide applications.

Our customers, especially those who have been using similar insect-resistant and herbicide-resistant technology in row crops for years, are saying that they can’t wait to grow it on their farms for their family and friends.

However, some of the reports about the new product haven’t been accurate about its safety, retailer acceptance, product labeling and environmental impact.

The Bt proteins in our corn are considered an environmentally-friendly way to control insects, because they are toxic only to a few specific types of insect pest. The Bt proteins and the bacterium that produces them are found naturally in soil. In fact, Bt proteins are used by organic growers to control these same insect pests; Bt proteins are the active ingredient in Dipel, the bio-insecticide most widely used by organic growers.

Our sweet corn targets only specific insect pests and not beneficial insects. It enables reduced soil and groundwater contamination, and as a result of fewer tractor passes to spray insecticides, fuel consumption and greenhouse gases are reduced.

Sweet corn makes up less than one percent of total corn acreage in the United States (field corn and sweet corn), yet accounts for 40% of all corn insecticide treatments. Our sweet corn allows farmers to reduce insecticide use by up to 85 percent while still providing fresh, tasty ears of the product.

Regarding labeling, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which oversees food labeling laws in the United States, has determined that food labels are not required if there is no meaningful difference in the safety, composition or nutrition of GM crops and non-GM crops, which is the case for biotech and non-biotech sweet corn.

Our sweet corn is a fresh-market product that will be sold on the ear, with or without husk, in the produce section of grocery stores. There are approximately 250,000 acres of fresh-market sweet corn in United States, some of which is already planted with biotech sweet corn. Our current varieties are selected for fresh consumption, and are not for processing (canned or frozen).

You can find additional information about our product, and how biotech crops are developed and tested, on the Monsanto web site.

By John Headrick
John Headrick is a Global Product Manager at Monsanto.

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