As an Uncle Matt’s supporter, you know the importance of eating food that is high in nutrition and free from the residual effects of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers often used in today’s conventional growing practices.
But there is an issue you may not know about that deeply affects the U.S. food supply and has far-reaching global implications: GMOs. A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.
What’s all the talk about? Simply put, GMOs combine genes in crops from unrelated organisms that could not have otherwise have mixed through biological reproduction and/or conventional breeding. For instance, a frog gene could be inserted into a tomato plant to allow the tomato plant to grow faster. Common crops that have been modified include wheat, soy and corn. Ultimately, the goal is to increase crop yields by creating GMO plants more resistant to pests and disease.
While farming with GMOs might increase yields over the short term, “Round-Up Ready” crops (as they are dubbed) utilizing the chemical “glyphosate,” a weed killer, have spawned a growing concern for human health. Why? Because not enough research exists on what the long-term risks from GMOs are when examining our environment and human health.
As an organic farmer, I’m concerned with answering questions like, “Does the human body respond to GMOs as food or as foreign substances?” If the body responds to the genetic modification as something “foreign,” it won’t break it down and nourish the body as it should. In fact, the body may actually have a negative autoimmune response. Additionally, what are implications for pregnant women, babies and children who consume GMO foods? Is there a correlation between GMO-food consumption and the spike in food allergies, autism, and ADHD that we see today?
As we grapple over these alarming questions regarding human health, unanswered questions surrounding the impact of GM crops on animal and environmental health remain: What are the ramifications of GM-engineered animal feed given to livestock? Or what about the potential contamination of GM crops on non-GM varieties via open pollination? One grain grower told me about his concern for “trespassing pollen” on his property with organic acreage.
So while the topic can appear daunting, here are 2 important steps you can take today to make a difference –– not only for the safety of your family but also for your community and your state.
1. SUPPORT LABELING.
Aside from banning GMOs, which I would be in favor of until ramifications for human, animal, and environmental health were fully understood, the easiest short-term action that allows for consumer choice is food labeling. Consumers would then know whether or not they were consuming GMOs and the marketplace would decide whether or not they want to be a part of the GMO experiment.
The national ‘Just-Label-It’ campaign is lobbying Washington D.C. to introduce a law that would require labeling of all GMO foods. Visit www.justlabelit.org to learn about the 8 steps you can take to promote labeling. And while Prop 37, which would have required GMO labeling in California, was defeated last November, there are currently 14 states with similar bills being considered.
If you are more favorable to letting the marketplace decide, Whole Foods recently announced that any products sold in its U.S. and Canadian stories that contain genetically modified ingredients must be labeled by 2018.
2. CHOOSE ORGANIC WHEN POSSIBLE.
Consuming organic foods is one sure-fire way to avoid GMOs. Not only are organic foods produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, they are also produced without genetically-modified organisms. GMOs and GM seeds are strictly prohibited in the production of organically-grown foods. For example, certified organic corn flakes will not be produced with GMO corn. Organic soymilk uses only non-gmo soy.
In the end, your dollar is your vote and voice, not only for you, but for your family as well. By voting for organic, you are voting for a much cleaner method for producing food that is healthy for you, your family and the planet. And by choosing an all-organic diet, you’ll never have to worry about consuming GMOs again.
Matt McLean is the founder and CEO of Uncle Matt’s Organic, a family-owned business located in Clermont, Florida, specializing in fresh organic juices and fresh produce. He also has served on the Organic Trade Association Board for the past 8 years, the last two as President.