You have probably seen the Non-GMO logo in our store. Maybe you have heard people talking about GMOs, or have been asked to sign a petition to pass a bill making it manditory to label them. But if you still have questions about the specifics of Genetically Modified Organisms, you have come to the right place!
What are GMOs?
Genetically Modified Organisms are plants and animals whose DNA has been altered with genetic engineering - also known as biotechnology - to accomplish something specific, but unnatural to that organism. Often times the goal of Genetic Modification is to create a food that has a longer shelf life or is resistent to pests or resistent to herbicides. Ideally, this would benefit the farming industry because then farmers would be able to grow food that didn't spoil as easily (and thus can be shipped much further expanding their sale area), or to grow food that will be less likely to be ravaged by pests in the field, or food that can withstand doses of chemical herbicides (to control weeds).
The intentions of Genetic Modification may have originally been to improve our food sources, but sadly, the effects of GMOs have in many cases disrupted the delicate balance of our eco-system, of consumers' health, and even of farm prosperity. Because Genetic Engineering includes interspecies splicing (animal genes put into vegetables, and vice versa), this can cause great concern of allergic reactions in people who don't know what they are consuming.
GMOs are often presented as beneficial to farmers through greater crop production, but the use of GMO seeds actually benefit the huge companies that create them because the seeds are resistant only to the specific pesticides created by those companies, thus forcing farmers to buy not only their seeds, but their pesticides, too. Another major downfall of GMO seeds - they can't be saved from one year to the next. Farmers must purchase new seeds at the beginning of each planting season and pay for the license to use those GMOs every year. This is a huge expense to farmers and greatly affects their farm's prosperity.
But it gets worse still. Because of natural pollination, GMOs are showing up in the fields of farmers who do not have a contract with GMO manufacturers. Organic farmers, intending to grow only natural produce, sometimes find that their fields have been contaminated by GMOs! When GMO manufacturers find out about this, they sue said farmer because he or she does not have the proper documentation to be growing those organisms. This can destroy small farms, making their land no longer Organic and forcing the farmers to spend money defending themselves in court instead of investing in their farms.
Just to give you an idea, GMOs are in around 80% of the United States' conventionally processed food.
Should we eat GMOs?
There is no definitive answer at this time as to whether or not it is safe to eat GMOs. However, it is generally accepted in most developed nations that GMOs are not safe to eat. The Non-GMO Project has adopted a monarch butterfly as their logo because they found that populations of monarchs were dying after being exposed to Genetically Modified crops. If this is happening to smaller creatures, there is a very good chance that humans are being affected, too, even if the effects are not yet noticeable. Today, the biggest developer of Genetically Modified Organisms is the same producer who helped create the chemical Agent Orange during the Vietnam conflict.
Maybe the scariest part about Genetically Modified foods is that they are not labeled in the United States. There are around 50 countries worldwide (including all of the European Union, Australia, and Japan) that have laws mandating the labeling of GMO foods because they believe their citizens have a right to know what they are eating. Some countries ban GMOs all together! Within the U.S., many states are petitioning to mandate GMO labeling, but none have been successful yet.
What can I do to avoid GMOs?
The best thing we can do to avoid GMOs is to focus our efforts on the labeling of GMOs by supporting legislation that will provide this. And even though we can't see what products have GMOs in them right now, we can at least see which products don't include GMOs, thanks to the Non-GMO Project! When you see their monarch logo, you can be sure that there are no GMOs in that product. Certified Organic foods, too, will be free of GMOs, so look for the USDA Organic seal. Currently, Organic Certification and the Non-GMO Project are the only guarantee that there are no GMOs in the foods we eat.
For more information regarding GMOs, visit NonGMOProject.org. Here at Sunflower, we carry lots and lots of Organic and Non-GMO Certified foods in our store, all labeled so you know that what you are eating and feeding your family is free of Genetic Modification.
Health & happiness,