GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) a.k.a GE (Genetically Engineered) products are common in our diet. This is a fairly recent development since GMOs did not come into the marketplace until 1996. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture 2011 figures, the top crops containing GMOs are:
- Soybeans: 94% (total U.S. grown acres: 74,258,000),
- Cotton: 90% (total U.S. grown acres: 10,698,700), and
- Corn: 88% (total U.S. grown acres: 84,888,000).
Roughly 90% of U.S. grown canola (over 1 million acres) is also GMO. Most processed foods are made using one or more of these crops. If the label of your favorite salad dressing, breakfast cereal, or soda pop lists soy lecithin, cottonseed oil, canola oil, corn syrup, or another derivative of these crops—you and your family are most likely eating GMOs. In fact, the Congressional Research Service claims, “An estimated 60%-70% of all processed U.S. foods likely contain some GE material.”
Concerns over GMOs include:
- increased herbicides in food and the environment. The Organic Center estimates, “GE (genetically engineered) crops have been responsible for an increase of 383 million pounds of herbicide use in the U.S. over the ﬁrst 13 years of commercial use of GE crops (1996-2008).”
- insecticides engineered into crops,
- allergic reactions,
- the presence of antibiotics in genetically modified genes,
- the ability of GMOs to escape into the environment, and
- unknown ingredients in our food. Manufacturers of GMO products do not have to label their products. (Visit justlabelit.org for information on mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods)
Some food producers are differentiating themselves with labels pronouncing their products as “GMO-free.” Look for GMO-free labels when buying food or simply opt for USDA certified organic, which does not allow the use of GMOs. Also buy locally from a knowledgeable farmer who can tell you whether or not the crops contain GMOs…or grow your own!
Skip the trip to the supermarket this summer when searching for a supper or a snack. Organic produce can be found as close as your own backyard or patio. Organic soil, seeds, and plants are readily available at garden centers, hardware stores, and natural food stores. Locally, we’ve found organic seed packets at Allemon’s Landscape Center, English Gardens, ACE Hardware, and Whole Foods and other natural food stores. And don’t forget to check on-line and mail catalogs. If you opt for pots, be sure to use soil that doesn’t have synthetic fertilizers or pesticides added. Avoid soil labeled “helps to retain water”—it contains a polymer additive not allowed in organic farming. Look for natural ingredients like compost, peat moss, composted manure, and bone or feather meal.
Starting plants from seed is a great experience for kids and adults. But, if you want more of a sure thing try seedlings from your local organic farmer, stand, or market. Some organic farmers sell plants in spring and early summer.
Seed sources: www.highmowingseeds.com; www.johnnyseeds.com; www.organicseed.com; www.seedsofchange.com; www.turtletreeseed.com
-Melissa Cooper Sargent
To print: download the pdf: Do You Know About GMOs/ Grow Organic