Look out all you Non-GMO eaters! Monsanto has taken over your vegetable and produce sections. No longer content with controlling the majority of the big crop productions (canola, corn, soy, cotton) Monsanto is unleashing more DNA altered ‘vegetables’ into mainstream markets, without any labels or warning. other than their brand names (so keep all your original seeds, because they will be worth more than diamonds one day).
CREVE COEUR — For anyone who loves sweet onions, their disappearance from grocery store shelves in the fall is a sad occasion.
But recently, a new sweet onion — one grown domestically in the off-season — has hit the St. Louis market. Distinguished by a little green label bearing the name EverMild, the onions offer new hope for shoppers with a year-round appetite for the mellower tastes of summer.
The EverMild onion, appearing locally in Schnucks stores, represents Monsanto Co.’s first U.S.-focused foray into the branded vegetable market. Researchers with the Creve Coeur-based company, better known for its weed killer and genetically modified row crops, have been working on the onion for a decade, and will launch the product formally on Monday.
“This is the first time we’ve worked to develop a brand,” said Danielle Stuart, a spokesman for Monsanto’s vegetable seed business.
“All of our vegetables are sold in the supermarket, but this is one of the first we’ve trademarked with a name.”
Last year, Monsanto had nearly $7.3 billion in overall sales — about $808 million from vegetable seeds, most of which are conventionally bred. While the seeds represent roughly 11 percent of the biotech giant’s sales and make Monsanto the leading vegetable seed seller, the company hopes to increase that figure, largely by focusing on consumer tastes and needs.
The company already has launched a branded broccoli, called Bella Verde, and a lettuce, called Dolce Verde, both in Europe, and is working on a variety of other vegetables and fruits from peppers and tomatoes to melons.
“We’ve definitely focused part of our vegetable business on what consumers are interested in — improved flavor, convenience, nutrition,” Stuart said. “The onion had a flavor focus, and we identified a gap in the market where domestic sweet onions aren’t available.”
The onions will be sold exclusively at Schnucks stores, at least initially. Monsanto and Schnucks began working together during the last year as Monsanto started casting around for a retail market for EverMild.
The onions are grown on a farm in the Pacific Northwest, which purchased the seed directly from Seminis Inc., which Monsanto acquired in 2005. Schnucks is getting the product through one of its current distributors, one that specializes in onions.
For Schnucks, the arrangement was a natural fit, said Mike O’Brien, vice president of produce and floral for the chain.
“We’re always looking for new ideas and longer lasting, better tasting produce,” O’Brien said.
“Since we’re in St. Louis together, I loved being the chain to test some things.”
On Monday, the onion will make its formal debut at a Schnucks store in Des Peres. The supply will likely last through March, but next year Monsanto has ambitions to expand sales in more stores with more onions.
The company, which already sells seed for 24 crops, says launch dates for more branded vegetables are at least a few years away.