By Monica Eng
CHICAGO -- Rejecting entreaties from consumers and activists, Wal-Mart says it plans to sell a new crop of genetically modified sweet corn created by biotech giant Monsanto.
"After closely looking at both sides of the debate and collaborating with a number of respected food safety experts, we see no scientifically validated safety reasons to implement restrictions on this product," the company confirmed to the Chicago Tribune.
Environmental and health activists expressed surprise and disappointment at Wal-Mart's decision. Earlier this year, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and General Mills said they would not carry or use the genetically modified sweet corn.
"A lot of people who were their customers explicitly said we don't want you to carry this product, and I think it's unfortunate that they chose not listen to that feedback," said Patty Lovera, assistant director of the consumer group Food and Water Watch.
In March, the group presented Wal-Mart with a petition signed by 463,000 people asking it to boycott the product, she said.
Monsanto's genetically modified sweet corn is resistant to a common herbicide, which allows farmers to kill weeds without killing the corn. It also contains a toxin that fends off certain pests.
Monsanto on Thursday said that the corn, which is being harvested now in the Midwest and Northeast, will help reduce insecticide use in the U.S.
"Overall, sweet corn makes up less than 1 percent of total corn acreage in the United States . yet accounts for 40 percent of all corn insecticide treatments," the company said in a statement. "Farmers who grow biotech sweet corn can reduce insecticide applications by as much as 85 percent."