The Center for Food Safety notes that in the US up to 85% of corn, 91% of soy, and 95% of sugar beets are grown from genetically modified seed.
Let’s start with corn. GM corn is Roundup-ready, meaning the producer has certainly sprayed the crop with large amounts of Glyphosate. What’s wrong with that? After all you and I can walk into any box store and buy the stuff to kill the weeds in our garden. That’s looking like an increasingly bad idea. In 2009 Scientific American reported “Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells”. In 2011 Rodale rounded up concerns about Roundup, including neurotoxin buildup in our bodies and pesticide buildup in the soil. Personally I don’t put Roundup on my garden and lawn and I don’t want food contaminated with Roundup in my diet.
I’m also gravely concerned about the effects of genetic modification. The World Health Organization lists dangers of GM foods, including increasing food allergies, contaminating non-GM crops with cross-pollination, and gene transfers from the foods to our digestive tracts. Yup, the genetically modified food can actually modify our genes as we eat it.
Our food system at present is broken. Corporations which modify food genes patent that food and make tremendous profits off their sale. These corporations now dominate industrial agriculture – once they move into a given market, like corn, soy, or cotton, it is nearly impossible for any farmer to stand against them and grow anything else. They pay for studies which call the food safe and aggressively contest any science which contradicts these findings. The federal agencies which are supposed to be provide oversight and protect our health are staffed by ex-employees of these corporations and are massively failing to perform their functions.
The Organic Trade Federation has called on the US government to mandate the labeling of GE foods and to ban the use of genetically engineered crops in the United States. Fortunately, USDA national organic standards prohibit the use of GM ingredients in organic foods.
Since the FDA continues to approve the unlabeled use of genetically engineered and genetically modified ingredients, shoppers and cooks have to figure out for ourselves how to avoid those foods. The Institute for Responsible Technology offers a downloadable .pdf or app Non-GMO Shopping Guide that lists products certified by the Non GMO Project.
Here’s what I do to limit the GM food in my family’s diet:
- Buy organic.
- Avoid non-organic foods that list corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, soy, and sugar in their ingredients.
- Buy produce from Kitsap farmers. Abundantly Green is certified organic (go Marilyn and Cliff!) Many producers use natural methods – ask the farmer, they are usually very glad to talk talk about how they grow their foods.
- Buy meat from people who you know grew the meat. Industrial chickens, pigs, and cows are fed GM corn.
To call out one producer in particular, I’m happy to see that the worker-owned flour producer Bob’s Red Mill is committed to grains grown from non-GM seed. When I make corn bread I use this company’s corn meal.