The sweet corn on your plate looks nothing like the Indian corn in your decorative centerpiece, and that's by design. Centuries of selective breeding led to the yellow sweet corn we all eat today, and in the last 15 years, genetic modification changed things even more.
Corn is the largest crop in the world in terms of tons produced, and second in the world, behind wheat, in acres harvested. American farmers grow 88 million acres of corn, more than any other crop. And about 85 percent of it is genetically modified.
Transgenic corn is bred to resist popular weed killers, and new genes, some from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, have been transferred into the plant genome to confer toxins that kill a common corn pest. "Bt" corn, as it's called, contains a poison that is toxic to the European corn borer.
Even if you don't enjoy roasted sweet corn (which would be hard to comprehend) corn is a major part of the average American's diet. High-fructose corn syrup is an additive in everything from soft drinks to condiments, and chances are the corn used to make it had a GMO trait. Cornbread stuffing is, obviously, made with cornmeal, and you might want to use corn starch to thicken your gravy.
Perhaps because of this ubiquity in the American diet, corn is also the most widely criticized of the GMO crops.
A French study from January 2010 found three strains of transgenic corn — MON 810 and MON 863, which are resistant to pests, and NK 603, which is modified to withstand the weed killer Roundup — disrupted the blood chemistry of rats
Greenpeace and the Swedish Board of Agriculture obtained Monsanto's own raw data and scientists at the University of Caen in France examined it. Monsanto rejected their claims, saying their own claims of Bt corn's safety hold up under peer review.
On the other hand, a study by University of Minnesota researchers published in October found Bt corn has helped farmers' bottom lines
— especially those who don't even plant GMO seeds. The proliferation of Bt corn has killed so many corn borers that traditional agriculture has seen improvements, meaning greater financial rewards for those who did not plant the more expensive GMO seeds.