Ever been so excited to bite into your favorite fruit only to be disappointed? It’s either too dry, tastes off, or maybe even seems chemically… it’s the worst! For the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, they wanted to put an end to that feeling for one of their best-selling food products – cantaloupes. In the summertime, Walmart’s cantaloupe sales are huge because they are in-season and taste great.
“We sell 10 times as many cantaloupes in the summer than during the fall and winter,” says Walmart spokesperson Molly Blakeman. “When we looked closer, it was easy to identify why cantaloupe sales dropped off: They weren’t as good in the wintertime as they were in the summertime.”
Like any giant retail operation, staying ahead of the competition is crucial for success and longevity. Walmart has largely succeeded in offering its customers lower prices, too. But it should make the consumers ask: At what cost will they try to make sales?
Sweet Spark: Walmart Creates a Designer Cantaloupe with Bayer
Between the names “Winter Wonder” and “Sweet Spark,” employees chose to name the new cantaloupe the latter. Both names sound pleasant enough, so what is so bad about it? Before they got to naming the summertime fruit, Walmart partnered with agriculture giant Bayer who has since merged with Monsanto, the controversial US seeds and pesticides producer.
After considering over 100 seed varieties, testing 20, and spending six months grading all of them (i.e., based on flavor, texture, and aroma), Sweet Spark came out on top. As reported by Bloomberg, this off-season cantaloupe “is as much as 40 percent sweeter than Walmart’s current winter melons, according to the so-called Brix scale, which measures sugar content.”
Even Walmart executives expressed discontent with their off-season cantaloupes, saying they “taste like a piece of wood.” You can start to see why this newer cantaloupe is highly desirable for Walmart because, well, sweetness sells. However, sweetness aside, it makes you wonder how healthy this manmade cantaloupe really is…
How Healthy and Safe Is Walmart’s Sweet Spark Cantaloupe?
Surprisingly, the cantaloupe is not genetically modified; instead, it was developed by cross-breeding (a method Monsanto has been known to use). This method should actually provide some relief because it is more natural and has actually long been utilized by farmers to enhance, protect, and increase their crop yields.
While we aren’t privy to the safety and scientific data behind the Bayer seeds Walmart opted to work with, there are still some health risks you should be aware of when it comes to cross-breeding plants.
In chapter three of the National Research Council’s “Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods” published in 2004, authors highlight the unintended effects of breeding that can be potentially hazardous to human health:
- Cross-breeding plants is not regulated in the United States: When laws do not require regulatory agencies to evaluate new varieties of crops for health and environmental safety prior to commercial release, companies may take advantage of the lack of “red tape.”
- Naturally occurring toxins: All foods contain potentially hazardous substances that can affect both humans and insects alike.
Currently, the cross-bred “Sweet Spark” cantaloupe is sold at 200 stores (and growing) in the United States and is grown in both Costa Rica and Guatemala. Although this specific breed of melon may not pose immediate or visible health risks, it comes down to what you want to put inside your body. So, here are some low-to-no-risk ways to eat healthy…
How to Ensure You’re Eating Nothing but the Best
- Purchase locally-grown produce
- Shop smart at the grocery store
- Know how to detect the food industry’s adulteration
- Only consume foods that are in-season
There are other things you can do such as eliminating processed foods from your daily diet or learning how “healthy” products are actually quite the opposite! Ultimately, we’re living in an age where you as the consumer are your biggest and best advocate… so use the power you have to consume products that will fuel – not fight – your body.
 Bhattarai, A. (2017, June 13). Walmart’s answer to Aldi and Amazon: ‘designer cantaloupe’. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2017/06/13/walmarts-answer-to-aldi-and-amazon-designer-cantaloupe/
 Boyle, M. (2017, June 13). Wal-Mart Just Created a Designer Cantaloupe. Retrieved from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-06-13/don-t-freak-out-but-wal-mart-just-created-a-designer-cantaloupe
 Read “Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects” at NAP.edu. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/read/10977/chapter/5
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