(Beyond Pesticides, March 20, 2012) Several environmental groups have collected nearly half a million petition signatures as part of a campaign to pressure Walmart to not stock a variety of genetically engineered (GE) sweet corn developed by St. Louis-based chemical giant Monsanto Company. The groups, including the Center for Food Safety, Food and Water Watch, Center for Environmental Health, CREDO Action, SumOfUs, and Corporate Accountability International, collected 463,681 signatures in total from concerned consumers who do not want to see GE vegetables on supermarket shelves.
The GE sweet corn is the first consumer product developed by Monsanto that will go straight from the farm to the consumerâ€™s plate, rather than first being processed into animal feed, sugars, oils, fibers and other ingredients found in a wide variety of conventional food. It is engineered to be resistant to Monsantoâ€™s Roundup herbicide, the active ingredient of which is glyphosate. The product is also designed to produce a Bt toxin that will kill insects that feed on the plant. There has been growing concern over the increasing prevalence of insect resistance to Bt crops. Just last week, a group of prominent entomologists sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency urging caution in the agencyâ€™s approach to Bt crops.
â€śWalmart is starting to feel the heat from consumers who donâ€™t want this unlabeled GE corn in their grocery carts, so they are releasing public statements and telling customers that they have no current plans to carry the biotech corn,â€ť said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. â€śBut until the retail giant sends a clear message to its supply chain that it will not buy this GE sweet corn, consumers have no way of knowing whether or not Walmartâ€™s corn is GE free, and those of us who prefer to avoid GE food â€”including the half-million people who signed this petitionâ€” will purchase our groceries elsewhere.â€ť
Public opinion polls conducted by Consumer Reports and others show that a majority of consumers surveyed would not eat genetically modified food and nearly all â€”95 percentâ€” are insistent that GE food must be labeled, at a minimum, so they can make informed choices. As the countryâ€™s largest grocery retailer, Walmart sells $129 billion worth of food a year, giving it unmatched power in shaping the food supply chain. If Walmart refuses to stock Monsantoâ€™s GE sweet corn, other retailers will likely follow suit and farmers wonâ€™t feel the economic pressure to plant the biotech seeds. To date, Trader Joeâ€™s and Whole Foods Market have indicated they will not sell the GE corn.
â€śGrocery companies are the last link in the chain before this corn reaches consumers and they have a financial incentive to keep this unlabeled GE sweet corn off their shelves because their customers wonâ€™t buy it,â€ť said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of The Center for Food Safety. â€śTwo major retailers have already said they will not use Monsantoâ€™s new corn. If they can do it, so can Walmart.â€ť
â€śWalmart has been getting an earful from hundreds of thousands of Americans who donâ€™t want risky genetic corn experiments,â€ť said Charles Margulis, food program coordinator at the Center for Environmental Health. â€śThis untested, unlabeled corn has no place on Walmart shelves. We expect swift action by the worldâ€™s largest retailer to protect their consumersâ€™ right to safe food choices.â€ť
For more information on the hazards GE crops and the pesticides associated with them, see Beyond Pesticidesâ€™ genetic engineering page.
Genetically engineered crops, insect resistance to pesticides, and consumer solutions are all topics that will be discussed at the upcoming 30th National Pesticide Forum at Yale University in New Haven, CT March 30-31. To register and learn more, visit Beyond Pesticidesâ€™ forum page.
Source: Center for Food Safety
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.