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With modified sweet corn, Monsanto enters fresh produce aisle

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Biotech giant Monsanto, best known for developing genetically-modified foods, is for the first time entering the fresh produce aisle with a new sweet corn venture.

Is there anything better than a fresh ear of summer corn, charred to perfection on the grill?

Monsanto, the company best known for developing genetically-modified versions of natural foods, is for the first time entering the fresh produce aisle -- and it's beginning with everyone's favorite summer treat, sweet corn.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the company plans to launch GM sweet corn seed this fall, adding a new business to the company's long-time work with processed foods.

To be clear, it's not the first time fresh vegetables (although technically corn's a fruit) from the biotech industry have landed on your dinner table; it's been around for some time, including from rival Syngenta. Monsanto's offering carries genetic alteration to allow farmers to spray their fields with its "Roundup" brand herbicide, promising better resistance against weeds and insects.

P.J. Huffstutter reports:

This so-called “triple-stack” sweet corn -– meaning the hybrid has genetic modifications that have three additional traits that allow it resistance to insects and the Roundup herbicide –- is the company’s first foray into the relatively small market for this sort of produce. (Farmers plant about 250,000 acres of sweet corn for human consumption in the U.S., according to analysts and company officials. Corn raised to be turned into sugar, oil, animal feed or used as fibers makes up 92.3 million acres in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.)

The company will begin with crops in the East, the company says. The corn won't carry any designation of its origin or description of what's been tucked into its genes.

Fast Company's Ariel Schwartz has a touch more insight:

In an email, Monsanto explained to Fast Company that "Food retailers have the latitude to label or not label sweet corn. Just as they do today, consumers will continue to have the ability to purchase corn from growers or retailers of their choice that provide the quality they are looking for."

Begging the question: who designed your corn?

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure