By Kelly Clauss
Monsanto Public Affairs
As a wife and mother of two, I often use the Internet to find new healthful recipes and learn more about the foods – especially the nutrition of the foods – I purchase and serve my family. Sometimes finding good sources of information can be challenging.
For example, over the past several months, activists have been circulating misinformation about farmers choosing to plant and grow a biotech (or GM) sweet corn seed from Monsanto: a seed that enables farmers to reduce their use of insecticides by as much as 85 percent.
To make it worse, activists have been promoting several inaccurate, misleading or outright false claims that consumers seeking recipes and nutritional information about sweet corn could unfortunately find. Since I’ve had the pleasure to work closely with the researchers and plant breeders who developed our sweet corn products, I’d like to set the record straight on some of the misinformation you may hear or read.
Claim: GM sweet corn is the first genetically modified crop Monsanto is marketing for direct human consumption.
The truth: Biotech sweet corn is not new. While it is a new product for Monsanto, farmers have been growing biotech sweet corn from a different seed company (Syngenta) for more than a decade. In particular, U.S. farmers have been growing many genetically modified crops for food uses for more than 15 years, including squash, papaya, sweet corn, soybeans, canola, corn, cotton and sugarbeets. Millions of people have consumed processed foods with ingredients from biotech corn and soybeans without any reliably documented incidents of harm since biotech crops were introduced in 1996.
Claim: GM sweet corn hasn’t been tested for human safety.
The truth: This claim frustrates me more than the others. The fact is, it’s a scare tactic. Nothing more, nothing less. Safety is and always has been a top priority for Monsanto, as well as all of the biotech crop industry.
All genetically modified crops – whether developed by my colleagues or by researchers at any of the dozens of other companies and governmental and academic institutions worldwide that invest in biotech products – are run through a comprehensive series of food tests. These tests must demonstrate that GM crops are just as safe for consumption as their conventional counterparts before they can be grown by farmers and made available to consumers. Food scientists, food safety experts and regulatory officials around the world agree that GM foods are as safe as other widely available food products. In fact, GM foods are more rigorously tested than any other food we eat.
In the case of our biotech sweet corn, researchers conducted several studies over many years that were reviewed by The Center for Food Safety and Nutrition at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is the U.S. agency that assures the safety of our food. The safety of our biotech sweet corn was confirmed by other agencies worldwide in countries like Canada, Brazil, Japan and the European Union.
Numerous, reputable third-party organizations– such as the U.S. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly American Dietician Association), the Institute of Food Technologists, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization support the use of genetically modified crops because of their benefits, such as reduced use of pesticides.
Here’s the bottom line: The Internet has been an incredible resource for me as a mom, but it also can be complicated and time consuming to sort through opinions, speculation and misinformation to find factual, reliable information. In the case of biotech sweet corn and other biotech crops, I urge you to dig deeper and make your decisions based on facts – not scare tactics. As a mom, I diligently pursue the best foods for my family, and I can tell you that biotech sweet corn is just as safe as other sweet corn.
For more information on GM sweet corn, I’d recommend visiting any of the links listed below:
“The safety of biotech sweet corn” from the Council for Biotechnology Information
“Genetically Engineered Sweet Corn – Is it Safe?” from BestFoodFacts.org (a blog post from food system experts from across the U.S.)
Update – Oct. 11, 2012
In June 2012, the American Medical Association (AMA) reaffirmed their earlier position that there currently is no evidence that there are material differences or safety concerns in available bioengineered foods; the position also states that there is no scientific justification for special labeling of such foods. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ position on agricultural and food biotechnology has expired and is currently under review; an updated position paper is expected to be published in 2013.