A friend asks, “What’s the big deal? You’re an organic gardener.” (“As best I can,” I reply, knowing there are few absolutes in gardening). “Why don’t you grow what you need? You want to eat non-GMO corn? Eat the corn you grow. Don’t buy it in the store.”
If only it were that simple.
Yes, my friend, by being something of a know-it-all, shows how little he knows. The problems associated with GMOs are far more complicated than just avoiding their purchase. There are problems of cross-pollination of GMO crops with crops in our organic garden. There’s the loss of biodiversity. And, avoiding GMO products in our grocery stores is not as easy as he thinks it is.
That final point was driven home to me when I saw this list of top ten GMO foods to avoid. How do you avoid products that use GMO-derived sugar, especially these days when so much sugar is added to processed foods? (I know, I know… avoid processed foods … not always an easy proposition.) How do you avoid GMO corn products when corn syrup is so prevalent? How do you avoid GMO soybeans when soy is used in so many vegetarian products, tofu included?
The simple answer to all these questions has to do with labeling. All the labeling we see these days is of the reverse sort, products stating “Non GMO” or “made without genetically modified ingredients.” We can look forward to the day that products with GMOs are identified and labeled. The other way to keep away from GMOs is to buy organic. Even products labeled “100% organic” or “organic.” (“Organic” doesn’t necessarily mean a product is completely organic, but it does mean it contains no GMOs). Best way to avoid feeding GMOs to your family is to avoid the major GMO crops: soy, corn, cotton, and canola; not an easy proposition. And in some cases, like summer squash (as my friend suggested) you can (in season) grow your own.
More on GMOs: Here’s a top ten list of genetically-modified foods… I would have never guessed radicchio would be on it. Here’s a detailed look at avoiding GMOs. Want to test you GMO knowledge? Find the quiz here (this page also links to information on the important, informative, even eye-opening film Food, Inc.).