Friday, June 15, 2012

Is My Sweet Corn Safe?

With sweet corn being a major staple of summer-time food enjoyment, it is important to determine if what I am going to be enjoying with hamburgers, hot dogs and watermelon is truly safe to consume.  This is definitely a concern for anyone who is putting any food into their mouth. (This would be everyone)  My family and I are no different.

We have the opportunity to raise an acre of Obsession II sweet corn from Monsanto this summer.  Is it safe though? It does contain proteins in it that help fight off insects to keep it from doing harm that makes either part or all of an ear non-edible.  

Sap beetle that feeds on damaged kernels from other insects.
Ear worm (which is controlled with new Bt sweet corn)

But aren't companies just putting harmful, deadly insecticides in the corn (whether sweet or field) that is harmful to humans?  Actually the proteins that are being introduced are from a family called Bacillus Thuringiensis which have been used for years in controlling of pests and can still be used in organic corn production to control insects.  According to Wikipedia: Because of their specificity, these pesticides are regarded as environmentally friendly, with little or no effect on humanswildlifepollinators, and most other beneficial insects. (   For more information go to University of California Sand Diego at  It has a great FAQ section for both the consumer and farmer.  This is a technology that has been derived from naturally occurring soil bacterium and has been shown to be safe in multiple studies.

Are the fields safe to walk in with these "pesticides" growing in the plant?  We already know that the Bt protein that introduced into the plant is extremely safe to non-targeted pests.  In agriculture we are using crop protection products that are being applied to the fields to protect against insects, disease and weeds.  All of these products that are "synthetics" have a period that workers, agronomists, and farmers need to stay out of the field.  These may range from a few hours to 24 hours or more depending on the synthetic being used.  Anyone can walk through a Bt field of sweet corn at anytime without problems.  Most people don't like walking through any corn field organic, Bt, or otherwise during pollination. Not only does one get pollen all over them but if one has a pollen allergy it will affect them as well.

Bt is only used in crop production right?  No. It is actually being used to control flies, mosquitoes and other pests in urban areas.  Since DDT was outlawed in 1972 in the United States there needed to be a way to control the pests that not only are an annoyance but do have a negative health impact on society.  Bt was introduced and shown to be extremely effective and extremely safe to the human population.  The pest controlling is done through such modes as aerial spraying.

In the last 50 years there have only been 2 reported cases of possible allergic reactions to Bt.  One was a situation of a disease that was present.  The other was an extreme food allergy. (  At the end of the day Bt is a naturally occurring soil borne substance that has been used for almost 100 years with an unmatched safety record.  Enjoy your Bt sweet corn or any other Bt foods knowing that it is safe for you and your loved ones.

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