Who loves sweet corn as much as we do?

Bugs!

Just about everyone knows the frustration of driving to the grocery store or your local market, locating the bins of freshly-picked sweet corn, and shucking a few husks to check for quality. Then you see it, usually near the top of the cob: A tiny worm, munching on the kernels of sweet corn that you had hoped to eat for dinner.

It’s enough to make you lose your appetite.

Thankfully, this annoyance soon may become a thing of the past–as long as we don’t let the enemies of agricultural technology have their way with our food.

For years, farmers like me have raised genetically modified corn. More than 90 percent of all the corn grown in the United States is a GM product, much of it now bred to enjoy a natural resistance to pests and weeds. We depend on it to produce the food we eat every day.

(For more, see: GMO foods get consumer nod)

The market for sweet corn, the kind of corn that we buy at grocery stores and eat at home — not the corn that feeds animals, makes sugar, or blends into biofuels–is a small sliver of the corn market. Although biotech sweet corn became widely available a number of years ago, only now has it started to gain momentum as a popular consumer item.

 

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One early result was improved taste. When the husks come off corn, the sugar in the kernels starts to break down–so shucked corn should be eaten as soon as possible, to keep its flavor. If we can keep the husks on longer, we’ll savor our corn even more.

Over 20 years ago, when I began growing “sweet” corn, retail customers were looking for good flavor and the corn tasted good.  “Sweet” is a matter of perspective however.  It was not long until I was introduced to sugar enhanced corn. The sugar content in the sweet corn went from 8 percent to 17 percent and the corn tasted ‘better’.  Today, super sweet corn, with 30 percent sugar content, wows customers everywhere.  These genetic enhancements defined the “sweet” in sweet corn and for close to 20 years, this is what moms have been preparing for the dinner table.