Do your kids love sweet corn? Or are they allergic to corn? How about genetically modified sweet corn compared to organic corn? A new study published in the Journal of Economic Entomology suggests that Bt sweet corn is better for the environment because it requires fewer pesticide applications than conventional corn. Bt sweet corn can reduce insecticide use. A new study finds that genetically modified sweet corn is better for the environment and safer for farm workers. Check out the other side of the story, "New Study: Genetically Modified Corn Toxic to Humans." So how does a parent make a choice for the family when it comes to sweet corn or the origin of that corn meal in the supermarket used to make cornbread, polenta, or muffins?
A study published in February 2012 in the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Toxicology revealed that genetically modified corn containing the genes for Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is toxic to humans. The study further revealed that the herbicide known as Roundup is toxic to humans, even at small exposures. The vast majority of the corn grown in the U.S. has been engineered to contain Bt and is sprayed with Roundup during the growing process, explains the article, "Genetically Modified Corn Toxic to Humans."
Corn with a gene that's toxic to insects
Since 1996, corn containing a gene that allows it to create a protein that is toxic to certain insects, yet safe for human consumption, has been grown in the United States. However, most of this "Bt corn" has been used for animal feed or processed into corn meal, starch, or other products. Although varieties of sweet corn (corn on the cob) have existed since the late 1990s, relatively few acres have been planted. The letters Bt stand for "Bacillus thuringiensis."
Due to pressure from activist groups, some grocery stores have refused to carry Bt sweet corn. However, a new study published in the Journal of Economic Entomology suggests that Bt sweet corn is better for the environment because it requires fewer pesticide applications than conventional corn.
Bt sweet corn will reduce the use of insecticides
"Our data suggest that using Bt sweet corn will dramatically reduce the use of traditional insecticides," the authors wrote, according to the October 6, 2013 news release, Bt sweet corn can reduce insecticide use. "Based on the performance of Bt field corn, growers should realize increased profits and there will be less risk to nontarget organisms, including natural enemies that help suppress pest densities."
The study, "Multi-State Trials of Bt Sweet Corn Varieties for Control of the Corn Earworm (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae)," analyzed the performance of Bt sweet corn, comparing its rate of infestation and marketability to genetically identical varieties that lacked Bt proteins. In 2010 and 2011, sweet corn trials were conducted in New York, Minnesota, Maryland, Ohio and Georgia, locations that differ in climate, management practices and pest pressure. The authors found that for pest management of the corn earworm, Bt sweet corn consistently performed better than its non-Bt counterparts, even those that were sprayed with conventional insecticides. See, "Genetically modified sweet corn can reduce insecticide use."
"Across multiple states and multiple years, Bt sweet corn performed better and required fewer sprays to meet market standards," said Cornell entomology professor Anthony Shelton in the news release. "One of the most spectacular examples occurred in New York plots in 2010: the Bt sweet corn had 99 to 100 percent marketable ears without any sprays and, even with eight conventional insecticide sprays, the non-Bt corn had only 18 percent marketable ears. This wasn't much better than the 6 percent marketable ears produced in the plots that received no sprays at all."
The authors predict that growers could realize increased profits with Bt sweet corn because of lower inputs and higher marketability, while simultaneously conserving populations of beneficial insects that keep damaging pests at bay.
"The use of Bt vegetables could significantly reduce the use of conventional insecticides and, in turn, reduce occupational and environmental risks that arise from intensive insecticide use," Shelton said in the news release. Another site you may wish to see is, "Seeds of Change: Corn Seed Mixtures for Resistance ... - Msuent.co." Meeting market standards is important as is reducing the use of insecticides and environmental risks. But how safe is it for people and animals to eat GMO sweet corn?
The Journal of Economic Entomology is published by the Entomological Society of America, the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. Founded in 1889, ESA today has more than 6,500 members affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Members are researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, students, and hobbyists. For more information, visit the society's website. Also see a non-toxic insect repellant site, "Monsanto Vs. Western Corn Rootworm: A Pesticide-free Solution to corn's squirmy nemesis."