Improving the Science of Corn
October 12, 2013

Improving The Science Of Corn

Who does not like a good ear of sweet corn? Sweet corn has been a staple of many Fourth of July celebrations, family reunions, and cookouts for as long as we have done these things. Unfortunately, what goes on to get that delicious ear of corn to our tables has always been something of a detriment to our environment due to the amount of chemical pesticides used on fields in order to protect them from the many harmful insects that are always on the hunt for an easy meal. Fortunately, we have a way of dealing with that issue.

Genetically modified corn that produces a chemical that is toxic to certain insects but safe for human consumption has been grown in the United States for more than a decade now. However, much of this “Bt corn” has been used for feed corn, which is what is used for animal feed, starch, and other products rather than human consumption. While there has been some similarly modified sweet corn, little of it has ever been used since consumers have never really wanted to support a modified crop for fear of what the genetic alterations might do to them, and so many grocery stores have refused to carry it. Recently this trend of a “fear of the modified” is starting to change, as more and more modified foods are appearing on store shelves all over the world and are proving themselves not only harmless, but beneficial. The alternative to Bt sweet corn is, of course, more natural sweet corn to which farms must apply copious amounts of pesticides to ward off insects.

However, recent studies have shown that Bt sweet corn might actually be more beneficial to humans than more traditional crops. Namely, the need for less pesticides would drastically decrease the amount of chemicals used on our food, thus reducing the runoff that gets into water and affects other local wildlife. Likewise, needing to use less and less pesticides would be a great benefit to farmers all across the nation. Not only would they need to purchase less, which would be a wonderful cut to the exorbitant costs of maintaining a field, it would make their jobs a great deal safer. Both of these factors would lead to a reduced cost of producing the crop, which would over time be shared by the various consumers who so happen to love a good old ear of corn-on-the-cob.

Consumers are at least getting over their fears of genetically modified food, and while wholly natural foods will certainly continue to have their place on grocery shelves, it is nice to at last be offered an alternative crop. While we are unlikely to see Bt crops replacing the more traditional fields any time soon, we should expect to see more use of Bt corn and other vegetables on the market.

Image Credit: R.Iegosyn / Shutterstock

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