Sooner or later the topic of GMOs was going to be brought up here at the pea project. Now is the time. If you are thinking about planting corn in your garden this year, it is vital that you look for non-GMO varieties. Corn is becoming one of the most troubling crops to find non-GMO alternatives. The big reason is this: over 85% of the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified. Another reason: corn is wind pollinated. So even if you plan a non-GMO variety but your neighbor does not, the wind comes along and contaminates your corn. A lot of gardeners and farmers are choosing to forego planting corn all together because of this risk. It’s a very sad day in this country when choosing not to plant something is the only option.
If you still choose to plant corn, you need to know where to find the seed. This is where you will need to be diligent. What is the seed company doing to ensure you that their seed is pure? Ask, ask, and ask some more. Does the company test the seed? Typically I say go organic if you are not sure, but even that I wonder how closely testing is being done. Being grown organically without herbicides & pesticides doesn’t mean that during pollination time some strain of genetically modified pollen didn’t creep in. You would have to go to the organization that is certifying the crops as organic to find out what their criteria is. The key information you need to know is whether the seed company is if the seed itself is tested to confirm or deny the presence of GMOs. That’s the only way to be 100% sure.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds tests each corn variety that offer in their catalog for GMOs and only offer the seeds that past the test. Some varieties, even heirlooms, they can’t offer because the supply was corrupted.
How to Prevent Contamination
Like I stated, this is very hard to do. The people at Seed Savers Exchange, wrote an excellent post on their site about their attempts. Even across what should have been a long enough distance, they still found what appears to be some contamination, although it only represented a very small portion of their crop. If they were to plant those contaminated kernels the following year it would just spread the “GMO genes”. One method they suggested you could try to prevent contamination is by covering the ears with bags before their silks show up. Then pollinate the ears by hand. A time consuming task but manageable for the small home garden.
If you are lucky to live in a place where no corn is planted for miles and miles around you then your chances are good. Dennis Sharmahd grows Hooker’s Indian Sweet Corn in an isolated valley of Southern California. A beautiful black and off white corn that is very sweet. You can buy the seeds from Baker Creek.