The information behind the decision to deregulate was provided by Monsanto to the USDA. Trials were performed in the United States and Chile in 2006.
Field Trials in the United States
The trials in the United States were poorly designed. Six sites in five states were used. The GM corn grown in Iowa (two sites), Illinois, and Indiana were not irrigated. Sites in Kansas and Nebraska were irrigated.
A properly set up trial would have the irrigated and non-irrigated fields close to each other – next to each other, if possible.
Each site grew the GM corn and conventional hybrid corn and differences were then noted between GM and conventional corn at each site. The U.S. trials found statistically significant differences in the ash (total minerals present in the corn), stearic acid, and eicosanoic acid, although the report did not say how they were different.
Field Trials in Chile
The trials in Chile were set up a bit better. The test fields comparing irrigated and dryland corn were next to each other.
In the trials in Chile, Monsanto found that nutrient levels in the corn were similar under well-watered conditions, but some levels of nutrients were significantly different under dryland growing conditions.
Sucrose was lower in the GM corn grown without irrigation; magnesium and fat was higher.
Why Grow Drought-Tolerant Corn?
A common problem with corn grown during a drought is high nitrate levels. Drought-stressed corn is unable to process nitrates and it builds up in the tissue. Excessive nitrates can be toxic to humans and livestock.
The other problem with dryland corn is the lower yield when compared with irrigated corn. (I’m sure you already knew that one.) GM crops typically show a yield lag when compared to conventionally bred crops.
The drought-tolerant GM corn doesn’t seem to have addressed either problem.
Nevertheless, it will be planted in the U.S. in the 2012 growing season.
What Can You Do?
If you want to know whether you’re eating genetically modified foods, get in touch with your elected officials. There are three bills moving through Congress right now related to genetically engineered foods.
Corn photo via Shutterstock.