My family's journey to a more sustainable lifestyle is now in it's fourth year - The Year of Food. Along the way we've touched on food here and there (I've learned to can and preserve, we try to eat seasonally...kind of, I buy organic when it's affordable.) but it's truly a drop in the bucket compared to so many of the environmentalists and foodies I know and admire.
So, this is the year that we focus on food - seasonal food, locally grown food, foods native to our region, growing our own, preserving more, making more from scratch, and eating whole, real food. We're turning our backs further away from processed, packaged, unrecognizable junk and genetically modified biology experiments. And it feels good!
I'm currently reading Coming Home to Eat by Gary Nabhan which has been an inspiration as we rapidly approach growing season. I feel as if I have a new appreciation for native foods, which I'd never really pondered before. I mean, obviously I don't try to grow oranges in the mountains of Colorado, but Nabhan seeks out plants long forgotten and goes as far as eating bugs that used to be a staple in his area of the country.
He makes light of "nutraceuticals" -- of which I saw many last weekend at the natural products expo -- and makes my heart break for the loss of biodiversity (among other things) caused by the genetic modification of our foods.
While I'm not exactly new to the world of GMOs and genetic engineering -- I've seen The World According to Monsanto, felt outrage over the patenting of food and the harm it does to farmers and, quite possibly, our health -- I haven't really made changes or spoken out about it until now.
Did you know...
"According to the USDA, in 2007, 91% of soy, 87% of cotton, and 73% of corn grown in the U.S. were GMO. It is estimated that over 75% of canola grown is GMO, and there are also commercially produced GM varieties of sugar beets, squash and Hawaiian Papaya. As a result, it is estimated that GMOs are now present in more than 80% of packaged products in the average U.S. or Canadian grocery store."I know that many of our Booth readers are already well versed in the ins and outs of genetic engineering (and I hope you'll add your thought and experience in the comments!) but, if you're less mature in your green journey, you might want to read the article Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful? It's a bit dated, but concisely lists many of the pros and cons of GE.
"In 30 other countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production of GMOs, because they are not considered proven safe. In the U.S. on the other hand, the FDA approved commercial production of GMOs based on studies conducted by the companies who created them and profit from their sale."
~ Source: The Non-GMO Project
I had the pleasure of meeting a rep from the Non-GMO Project last weekend and learning more about their quest to develop a standard definition of "non-GMO" as well as a third party verification system.
Personally, I think we need to step up and demand, at the very least, all GE food be labeled as such, so that consumers know exactly what they're getting.
In the meantime, here are a few ideas and tips for you~
On the Non-GMO Project's website, you can search their database to find non-GMO certified products including the Annie's line, Whole Foods' 365 Everyday line, and Earth Balance, among many others. They even have an iPhone application to help you out while you're shopping! While you're there, take the pledge to look for the Non-GMO Project seal on products.
Buy organic. If a food is genetically engineered, it cannot be labeled as organic. As we know, there are different versions of the term "non-GMO", which the aforementioned Non-GMO Project is aiming to change. For now, your best bet is to buy organic - especially when it comes to products that contain any sort of corn or soy.
Look at your produce labels. Those little "PLU codes" aren't just for your cashier, they actually tell you how the product was grown. A four digit code means it was conventionally produced. A five digit code beginning with an 8 means it is GE. A five digit code beginning with a 9 means that it is organic.
Visit the Center for Food Safety and sign up for their newsletter, then go to the "to-do" tab on your account where you'll find several actions you can take including asking Congress to support the labeling and testing of GE foods.
We just re-joined our local CSA and are counting down the days until we can get our own seedlings into the ground. I hope to very rarely see the inside of a grocery store this summer!