Blue Corn Myth Exposed

Currently there is a deceiving picture floating around or if you live in Oregon it is a very deceiving TV campaign ad for GMO labeling.  It is comparing blue corn seeds versus “normal” corn seeds.  The purpose of this photo is to scare consumers into thinking that 1) only GMO seeds are colored and 2) Seed treatments end up in the harvested product.   Neither of these are true.

Blue Corn Myth Exposed

In reality, the blue corn seeds were planted and the “final” product is normal corn seeds.

Seeds can come in many colors.  This does not mean the seed is GMO. This means that seed has received some sort of pre-planting seed treatment.  Seed treatments are a common practice in farming and are available for all types of farms.

Two weeks ago I planted our 2015 wheat crop.  The seeds were pink, just like the wheat I planted the year before. There is no GMO wheat on the market, so the abnormal seed color was not indicating that. The pink color meant that the seed had been treated with a fungicide to protect it from pests.  The 2014 wheat we harvested in August was gold aka “normal” wheat.

Top Left: Treated wheat, Top Right: Harvested Wheat Bottom: Our 2014 Wheat Storage

Top Left: Treated wheat, Top Right: Harvested Wheat Bottom: Our 2014 Wheat Storage

Seed treatments help give seeds a head start in the ground. Protecting it from possible threats that would harm it’s growth, like microorganisms or bugs. The treatment eventually disappears either through microorganisms or the effectiveness wears off.  It does not end up in the harvested product.

Reduced pesticide use is another advantage of seed treatments.  The fungicides and/or insecticides are applied directly to the seed. This direct treatment reduces potential spray drift or not hitting the intended target.  The more accurate farmers can be with pesticides helps us to reduce risks and unintended consequences.

All farmers, conventional and organic, have the ability to use seed treatments. There are many options out there on what type of seed treatments farmers can use.  They can even choose to use none if they desire.  The world of pest management is vast and diverse.  Research is constantly improving our knowledge and management of pests. This allows for many “pesticide” options to all types of farms and farmers.

The next time a self-proclaimed food expert on Facebook tells you that blue seeds are GMOs and will poison you, just simply click “unlike”. Then pop on over to Ask the Farmers and ask “What is the purpose of blue seeds?” Hopefully you will find an answer that settles any fears or uncertainty you may have about farms, farmers and food.

Seed Treatment Resources: 


  1. Thank you for posting this so the uneducated can learn something helpful.

  2. Very well done, Marie! This post is getting shared all over Facebook and I hope people take the time to learn the TRUTH about seed treatments!

  3. Missy Ashton-Ruoff says:

    Just one question about the blue seeds would you hold them in your bare hands? I noticed that in the picture the hand that held the blue seed was protected by a glove and in the video they were in a bag.

  4. Tara Piscitelli says:

    Wow I needed to see this! Thanks

  5. Hmmm. So the color indicates treatment with insecticides? Nice to know. Sounds like
    gmo to me. Treating seeds to alter the final product.

  6. Personally, I still don’t like the fact that herbicides and or pesticides are applied directly to the seed.

  7. Michael Navarrete says:

    Before you vote, please read these white sheets from Oregon State!!

    It’ll shed lots of light on “gmo,'” why that name is incorrect, and what advantages/disadvantages they can have. Thanks!!!

  8. My husband & I love how you explain the seed treatment. Very well done!!

  9. what are the ingredients of the blue seed treatment? Does it contain color ….blue?
    How can this pesticide support health?

  10. Melissa Ashton-Ruoff says:

    A simple question. Marie would you hold the blue corn seed in question in your bare hand? In the ads the corn is held by a gloved hand and the video it is in a plastic bag. In your article you held your treated wheat in your bare hand.

    • Melissa, it looks like you missed the reply to this on your original question on Oct 25th.. take a look back up the comments to see Sarah’s reply.

  11. As an agronomist I really appreciate your calm tone. Many things can make people feel uneasy if that thing is unfamiliar to them. I have producers that use both the treated and untreated versions of seed and it is only applied when necessary. For those that may not be in favor of genetically modified products, seed treatments are used in their place to help with disease and pest pressure. Above all please note that these treatments are intended to last a very short period during the early growth stages of the plant. There is no intention for these products to provide season long protection. Thank you to those that find themselves resting this article. It is well written and hopefully it sheds some light on farming practices and their importance.

  12. Katherine says:

    yes, this is real. the colored corn seeds are treated with some type of seed treatment such as pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, etc. they must be handled with gloves. many claim that the seed treatments do not end up in the final product. of course they end up in the final product– that is the point of systemic pesticides. something must end up in the final product in order to keep them immune from bugs, etc. seed treatments and gmo’s are killing the honeybees as well. here are some sites opposed to gmo’s and treated seeds and one site for it:…/systemic-pesticides……/what-do-gmo-seeds-have-do…

  13. Seed treatment doesn’t modify genes. It’s purpose is to protect the seedling from disease with fungicide and or insects if it contains insecticide. The reason it’s colored is so treated seed doesn’t accidentally enter the food chain. A single blue or red kernel in a rail car will result in rejection. It’s zero tolerance plain and simple. While holding treated seed with a bare hand won’t likely make you sick, prolonged exposure over a lifetime is an unknown. In my opinion your yard and favorite golf course have way higher levels of pesticides. By using genetically modified varieties, certain ingredients may not be necessary, thereby resulting in less use, or they might help avoid resistance making chemistry less effective. We use seed treatment On both our gmo soybeans and our wheat. There currently is no gmo wheat available.

  14. If you take the time to do some research, there is vast evidence that consuming GE foods and foods grown from pesticide or herbicide-treated seeds is hazardous to your heath, not to mention the possibility that neonicotinoids are responsible for the colony collapse of bees. Now that I know that 90% of the corn grown in the US comes from treated seeds, I think I’ll be eliminating that from my diet along with pop corn. What’s really horrifying is that even if farmers want to buy untreated seeds, they can’t because Monsanto and their like have engineered a monopoly on agribusiness. Since I already had plenty of poison pumped into my body during chemo, I don’t want to ingest anything that has “cide” in its name if I can help it.

  15. First, biased writer, there is no ‘dislike’ button on FB. Nice, little cutesy language to engender ‘trust’ and belief’ amongst the uninformed.. Which apparently works. As a writer, I’m disowning this dribble and propaganda. Second, the COLOR of the seeds going into the ground and being produced by the plant after seeding, is NOT what is in question here. It’s the chemicals used in the treatment, which spawns the food product and the chemicals that have infiltrated the growing process of our entire food source. That’s ONE issue, not to be used as subterfuge to the other, lethal issue of GMO’s, but nice try. The second issue is the manipulation of the gene patterns (GMOs), that ARE what in question. But to be clear…Chemicals of any kind created in a laboratory, NOT found in nature in natural state, are NOT good for insect (dead bees), animal (dying wildlife) or human (cancer) cells. Period. Seeds should NOT be treated as the ‘treatment’ enters our food chain just as any chemical does, and cannot be expunged, regardless of the ‘color’ of its seed’s skin. These chemicals live in the life cycle of the plant and become part of the food product AND can be measured in human blood, as immediately recognizable as toxins collected. Chemicals Do NOT have to change the plant cell’s DNA to be or remain toxic. Period. Simple biology says this. Painting this as ‘just the normal process all farmers and the government approves of’ means nothing except that a bunch of people got together and decided the risk of exposure to the planet’s living populations was of less worth to farmers and the big businesses that rely on farming, than preserving life. And we call other countries barbaric.. Government, notwithstanding, is always there as their big brother to rubber stamp the outcome of greed vs. human civility. Sorry, but there’s just plain bull here in saying there’s no harm in chemicals OR in the second issue of GMO. And the statement that there there’s no GMO plant products available?? Wha???.. GMOs were created 40 years ago and unlike the seed chemical treatments that infiltrate only one life cycle, GMO IS the life cycle.. Once introduced and created, a GMO cell lives in all future permutations of a cell’s DNA forever unless the wheat, corn soybeans, whatever, was NEVER genetically modified in the first place. Apparently, given the need to produce more, faster, this means that only home grown or small scale farming plants experienced no gene manipulations and is organic.. PERIOD. Had to post and stop this ‘happy little collection of proponents for making more food quickly’ from misinforming the public with euphemistic crap and mistruths.

    • Hi Deborah,
      First off, I want to say as a conventional grower and a family owned farm who indeed uses GMO technology and seed treatments, your entire comment breaks my heart. Your words are extremely hurtful. If you check out my blog, Prairie Californian, you will find that I do indeed care about having a conversation about our food and how it is produced. And as being part of this group, I am here to listen to people like you who purchase the products we grow.
      I am very careful to choose the words I put out online as well as in my own life. And Deborah, I choose words that empower and build people up. It breaks my heart to see such hurtful and destructive words coming from you towards a page that is simply trying their best to address concerns about how our food is raised. We are moms, dads, wives, and husbands too.. We are people. And sitting here on this page and answering these questions isn’t our job. It is something we CHOOSE to do because we believe these conversations are important.
      I appreciate your comment, but I would really honestly hope that next time you choose to build people up with your words instead of tearing them down. This world would be a much better place if we all chose kindness and were able to respectfully communicate with one another. We certainly don’t have to agree, but we can respect one another.

      • Very well said, Jenny. Perhaps if Deborah returns she can ask a specific question rather than just typing out a lot of misconceptions—we would love to help clarify any agriculture questions you have, it’s what we’re here for.

        Using words like “toxic” and “lethal” are really just buzzwords that leave a lot of damage. They translate to “poison” and “death”. If these allogations were true, thousands upon thousands of people would be dead with documentation and farmers wouldn’t be allowed to grow GM seeds.

        Organic production uses gene manipulation too. They use a breeding method called mutagenesis (as does conventional) which manipulates genes of a seed by using radiation. GMO technology is the most precise way of plant breeding. You’re using one very specific genes vs. >10 000 with other methods.

        Saying things like it’s “plain bull” regarding GMO safety isn’t accurate. I could point you to thousands of studies proving otherwise and dozens of medical and science organizations that have made safety statements regarding GMOs. It’s one thing to make a decision regarding your food choices—that’s a blessing and a privilege that most of the world doesn’t have—but disrespecting others’ choices and the way farmer chooses to farm is disrespectful and unnecessary.

        GMOs don’t “live in cells forever”. If that were true what prevents me from turning into a pig when I eat bacon? There’s a lot of misconceptions that you have, I certainly don’t have all the answers but I can guide you to the right people if you’re willing and wanting to learn.

      • Ben Rollins says:

        Deborah’s screed didn’t break my heart, but the misinformation certainly hurt my head. In particular, I would like to see Deborah subsist on a diet of foods that have not been genetically modified in any way by humans throughout our 10,000 or so years of agriculture.

    • Well said!

  16. An true organic farmer would not, ‘treat’, their seeds at all. That is the WHOLE MEANING OF ORGANIC.

    Monsanto started their lovely mutant soy growing with seeds treated with insecticides built right into the seed. That, in effect, is a Genetically Modified (GMO) product.

    I would love to see the proof that the insecticide or what have you does not come out in the finished product? And, the seeds that are planted, the next season in that same soil… are you going to prove that there are no remnants in the soil as well? I think we know from past experience, these toxins do not just simply disappear into thin air. They always lingering somewhere to come back at us.
    People need to step back somewhat and find out an actual NATURAL, and therefore safe way to feed the nation and our kids.

    • Hi Dana,

      Organic farmers actually do treat their seeds, I assure you—there are products on the market and they are purchased. It is a huge myth that organic farmers do not use any type of chemicals in their farming practices, but this simply isn’t true. There are organic-approved pesticides and seed treatments for them to use. Not all of them use them, but not all conventional farmers use seed treatments either.

      The proof is in the product. The seeds harvested from a treated-seedling are not coloured. Farmers are great stewards of the land—if they take care of the land, the land takes care of them. The microbes in the soil break down the seed treatment, it gets metabolized and only gives you two weeks of control. It’s like taking medicine—it doesn’t last in our body forever.

      Nothing in our food chain is “natural” anymore. Every single food item has been modified over time. Just check out “teosinte” that is what corn came from! Very cool stuff!

  17. Thanks for posting this, and thank you for specifying that seed treatments are available to GMO and organic farmers. I think this is so important to share with consumers, that conventional and organic agriculture both use modern methods to increase yields. Organic =/= equivocal “safety”, and I think people need to consider that when they choose against conventional.

    If you don’t like it, grow your own food at home with untreated heritage seeds! And until people do that, they should stop criticizing agriculture and the people who are putting the food on their tables.

  18. Karen Nelson says:

    The analogy I use is that of sunscreen on human skin. If there’s a threat, you prevent its effect. You apply sunscreen to head off potential skin cancer because treating the cancer is far more difficult than preventing sunburn. The sunscreen doesn’t become part of your DNA, it loses effectiveness over time, and it washes off. This is a near-exact parallel to treating seeds to prevent fungus from taking hold or to prevent insects from taking bites. It is far more difficult and expensive to treat a fungus problem than it is to prevent the problem; it is far more difficult and expensive to treat an insect problem than it is to prevent the problem. The preventive coating on the seed doesn’t become part of the plant’s DNA, it loses effectiveness over time, and it washes off.

  19. Is it even possible to go back to natural foods or is it too late? If it is too late how can GMO’s be modified to be an environmental friendly and healthy treatment? Or is it too late for that also. Maybe we should blow up and destroy all fields and factories that have GMO products and chemicals.

    • When you truly look into it, there really isn’t much “natural” food that has not been changed genetically be it in nature on its own, or by man. I don’t think your solution to blowing anything up will solve any problems…

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