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Consumer Guide: GM Sweet Corn in Canada
Updated August 2023
Testing by CBAN and Vigilance OGM (2014-2020) showed little genetically modified (GM or genetically engineered) sweet corn is grown in Canada, and similar testing in the US showed that little GM sweetcorn is grown in the US. However, some GM sweet corn may be sold in some grocery stores, roadside stands, and/or farmers markets, and in 2023 GM sweet corn was found in multiple Whole Food stores in the US. GM foods are not labeled in Canada, and there are no public statistics to tell us how much GM sweet corn is being grown. This guide provides some information to help you make a choice and take action.
Field Corn vs. Sweet Corn vs. Popcorn
There are different types of corn, for different purposes. Sweet corn has more sugar and less starch than varieties of field (grain) corn which are used for animal feed, processed food ingredients and biofuel.
- Sweet Corn: For over a decade, Syngenta sold some GM sweet corn in Canada but in 2012 Monsanto (now Bayer) also started selling GM sweet corn for the first time (Monsanto bought the vegetable seed company Seminis).
- Field Corn: Approximately 80% of field (grain) corn (for processed food ingredients, animal feed, and biofuels) in Canada is GM.
- Popcorn: There are no GM popcorn varieties on the market.
GM Sweet Corn
Any colour sweet corn could be GM: There are some GM varieties of yellow, white and two-colour (bicolour) sweet corn on the market.
All the GM sweet corn on the market is genetically modified to be toxic to insects (insect resistant) and/or tolerant to herbicides (herbicide tolerant). Click here for the details.
Bayer’s GM Sweet Corn
Bayer (Monsanto) sells its “Performance Series” GM sweet corn through its vegetable seed company Seminis.
Bayer put GM traits into three varieties (hybrids) of sweet corn, and now markets GM versions of “Obsession” “Passion” and “Temptation” sweet corn varieties. The GM versions are called “Obsession II”, “Passion II” and “Temptation II”.
Monsanto’s GM sweet corn is insect resistant – it produces three different Bt toxins to kill a wide range of insects – and it is also herbicide tolerant “Roundup Ready”, to survive sprayings of the company’s glyphosate herbicide formulation called “Roundup”.
Syngenta’s GM Sweet Corn
The company Syngenta sells a series of “Attribute” sweet corn varieties that are insect resistant. “Attribute II” sweet corn varieties that are both insect resistant and tolerant to Syngenta’s Liberty glufosinate herbicide and Bayer’s Roundup glyphosate herbicide.
- Ask your farmer at the roadside, farm gate, or farmers’ market if they are selling GM sweet corn. You can even ask the Farmers’ Market to check for you.
- Write to the head office of your grocery store and ask them to remove GM sweet corn from their store. Tell them you don’t want to buy it. The Metro grocery chain (in Ontario/Quebec) has committed to not buy GM sweetcorn. For information about the policies other grocery stores, click here and to take action click here for grocery store contacts.
- Buy organic sweet corn – organic farming prohibits GM seeds and synthetic pesticides.
Questions to ask your farmer:
Farmers may not be aware that they have bought genetically engineered sweet corn – seed catalogues do not always advertise seeds as “genetically modified” or “genetically engineered” – see our Guide for Growers.
You can use some of these questions to have a discussion with your farmer:
- Is your sweet corn genetically modified (also called genetically engineered)?
- Is it “insect protected”? (This is how insect resistant GM corn is described in seed catalogues)
- Is it herbicide tolerant? Did you use Roundup or Liberty herbicides on your corn (called “LibertyLink” or “Roundup Ready”)?
- Did you sign a Technology Stewardship Agreement for this sweet corn?
- What is the name of the variety of sweet corn you planted?
- What company makes this sweet corn?
- What company or seed dealer did you buy from?
Please share your results. If you get partial information from your farmer, or grocery store, and would like to check it or discuss it, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Your actions as consumers are very influential.