* GMO sweet corn critics petition retailers to ban corn
* More than 264,000 signatures collected
* Coalition complains GMO corn not labeled
By Carey Gillam
Oct 27 Opponents of Monsanto's new
genetically modified sweet corn are petitioning national food
retailers and processors to ban the biotech corn, which is not
labeled as being genetically altered from conventional corn.
A coalition of health, food safety and environmental
organizations said they have collected more than 264,000
petition signatures from consumers who do not want to buy the
The coalition includes the Center for Environmental Health,
the Center for Food Safety, and Food & Water Watch. It said it
is pressing 10 of the top national retail grocery stores to ban
the corn, including Wal-Mart , Kroger and Safeway . It is also asking top canned and frozen corn
processors including Bird's Eye and Del Monte to ban the
The coalition said General Mills and Trader Joe's
have already indicated that they will not be using the Monsanto
biotech sweet corn in their products.
The coalition said the biotech corn would be used in canned
and frozen foods as well as sold fresh, but will be
indistinguishable to consumers from conventional corn because
the U.S. government does not require genetically altered food
products to be labeled.
"Consumers deserve to know what's in their food, especially
when there is a pesticide in every bite," said Charles Margulis
of the Center for Environmental Health. "This whole,
unprocessed corn has been spliced with genes that produce a
risky, untested insecticide. Parents should be informed when
food on supermarket shelves has been genetically altered."
Monsanto, the world's largest seed company and a developer
of genetically altered corn, soybeans, cotton and other crops,
said in August it was preparing to launch a genetically altered
sweet corn that marks Monsanto's first commercial combination
of its biotechnology with a consumer-oriented vegetable
The sweet corn seed has been genetically altered to
tolerate treatment of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, and to
fight off insects that might attack the plants.
Monsanto officials said they were surprised their new
product was generating so much controversy, as a rival seed
company has already been marketing a biotech sweet corn for
more than a decade.
"The safety and benefits of biotech sweet corn products --
as well as other biotech crops -- is well established," said
Monsanto spokeswoman Danielle Stuart.
Stuart said the the new 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.
Sweet corn makes up about 1 percent of total corn acreage
in the United States.
Critics say they are worried that genetically altered
crops, including the new sweet corn, pose environmental and
health risks that include food allergies and unknown long-term
health effects. They also say the herbicide-resistant crops are
fueling a rise in "super weeds" that are hard to control
because they are resistant to herbicide, and in many areas of
the country the weeds are so prevalent they are limiting crop