Agricultural giant Monsanto Company has risen to the top of the corporate food chain largely thanks to its seeds. These are no ordinary seeds — they have been genetically modified (GM) to withstand and even produce herbicides and pesticides. Monsanto’s GM corn and soybean seeds have become so widespread over the past two decades that now, a new crop of “superweeds” have evolved to resist these potent chemicals. Farmers then have little choice but to buy Monsanto’s beefed up seeds in an arms race with nature.
Now, the EPA is launching a review of one of Monsanto’s corn strains engineered to produce the natural pesticide Bt. As the agency told Bloomberg, “There is mounting evidence raising concerns that insect resistance is developing in parts of the corn belt,” where Monsanto’s corn dominates the fields. Root worms exposed to the corn’s toxin seem to have become immune to it, breeding an unprecedented colony of superworms that are bound to spread throughout the entire Midwest.
Meanwhile, Monsanto recently released a new sweet corn variety containing the Bt pesticide. And for the first time, Monsanto will market this corn as fresh produce, rather than an ingredient for processed foods. Although Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and General Mills have refused to carry the corn, Walmart will start stocking the GM sweet corn in the coming months, without any label to let consumers know what they are buying.
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And Monsanto hopes to keep consumers in the dark. The company recently spent $4.2 million trying to kill a November ballot initiative in California that would require labeling on food products containing genetically modified ingredients. Proposition 37 would bring the state in line with Japan, China, the European Union, and Australia, which already require labels on genetically modified foods. 91 percent of Americans support GMO labeling.
Opponents of Proposition 37 claim GMOs are harmless and would unfairly bias people toward the organic food industry. Though there has been no conclusive evidence that eating GMOs leads to health problems, the FDA does not require safety studies before approving them and Monsanto has lobbied the USDA to reject any and all outside studies when considering applications for new strains. Leaving health aside, the onslaught of superweeds and superworms alone should afford Californians the chance to decide what types of food they want to support.