Vegetable seed giant Monsanto Co. is entering the genetically modified sweet corn market earlier than expected, but how soon consumers will get over their fear of GMOs remains to be seen.
Creve Coeur, Mo.-based Monsanto will sell GMO sweet corn for plantings this fall, said Danielle Stuart, a company spokeswoman. Originally, rollout of the product was slated for 2012.
The seed, to be sold under Monsanto’s Seminis Performance Series label, protects against European corn borers, corn earworms, fall army worms and corn rootworm larvae and is resistant to Roundup weed control herbicides, Stuart said.
Boise, Idaho-based Rogers Brand Vegetable Seeds, a division of Basel, Switzerland-based Syngenta International AG, introduced its Attribute brand GMO sweet corn seed in 1998.
Even after 13 years, however, consumer resistance to GMO sweet corn remains high, grower-shippers say.
E. Miedema & Sons, Byron Center, Mich., uses GMO seed on about 100 of its 700 sweet corn acres, said Dave Miedema, the company’s president.
GMO seed provides good disease and pest protection, Miedema said, but consumer resistance has checked category growth.
“It definitely has a place, but you always have to be careful,” he said. “Certain customers won’t accept it.”
GMO sweet corn has been the victim of propaganda, not legitimate criticism, Miedema said.
“It’s just PR,” he said. “It’s silly. It’s just people’s perceptions.”
Miedema said consumers’ attitudes toward GMOs haven’t changed much in recent years.
Those attitudes will likely change, but it hasn’t happened yet, said John Gill, owner of Hurley, N.Y.-based Gill Corn Farms Inc.
Because of consumer resistance, Gill Corn Farms doesn’t grow any GMO sweet corn.
People already eat plenty of GMO foods, including grains and chicken, Gill said. That’s one of the reasons he thinks they’ll eventually come around on sweet corn and other produce commodities.
GMO foods are not only safe, Gill said. They’re also environmentally friendly, since they require fewer pesticides.