In October we celebrate all things spooky and a healthy dose of pumpkin spice. Fun and games aside, what’s really spooky is not knowing what’s in the food we’re feeding our families. Which brings us to another, albeit lesser known calendar event: October is national non-GMO month.
Consumer surveys consistently show over 90 percent of respondents want to know if their food contains genetically modified ingredients.
Yet every time a state (CA, OR, and CO) attempts to establish a GMO labeling law, big food and agri-business swoops in with effective, but misleading advertising telling consumers that GMO labels will raise the price of food. This commercial propaganda is downright crazy because food manufacturers change their labels all the time with no significant price increase: think of those pretty pink ribbons popping up on products for breast cancer awareness month (yup, that’s in October too).
Scaredy cats: What are big-food and agri-chemical companies afraid of?
Some surveys indicate that if Americans knew their favorite foods contained GMO ingredients, they’d be less likely to buy them. This helps explain why the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association and their member food companies (along with top-dog Monsanto), spent the most on political lobbying to stop mandatory GMO labeling.
But when it comes to something as intimate and sacred as our food, American consumers should have the “right to know” and the freedom to make the most informed decisions in the marketplace.
In an effort to meet the growing demand for non-GMO foods, the Non-GMO project stepped in offering third party verification and labeling. However, what consumers may not realize is this label only tells us about genetically modified ingredients, not other critical components of food production, such as antibiotic, synthetic hormone or pesticide use.
For example, wheat could be sprayed with Roundup in pre-harvest days, but the bread made from that wheat could be labeled as non-GMO, if no GMO ingredients were used.
Help get the cat out of the bag: The organic seal IS a non-GMO label… and MORE
Here’s a little known secret I’m hoping you can help share with your friends and family: We already have a way to identify non-GMO food products — it’s the organic seal.
According to USDA, “the use of genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is prohibited in organic products. This means an organic farmer can’t plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients.” It’s the law!
What’s more, the organic label further guarantees consumers that their food has not been produced with sewage sludge, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, fertilizers or pesticides – all keys to protecting our environment, food safety and public health.
Beware masquerading impostors
Despite organic sales being at an all-time high, consumer confusion about organic benefits remains significant, explained Laura Batcha, CEO of OTA during a Food Sleuth Radio interview.
Perhaps the worst offender for masquerading as healthy is the “natural” label. Thanks to clever marketing, it’s easy to understand consumer confusion. Just remember, only organic foods are third-party certified to comply with strict, USDA organic regulations. Furthermore, as Batcha explained, those legal regulations apply no matter where the food was produced – at home or abroad.
Put a nightmare to rest
The majority of genetically modified foods in the marketplace come from crops (corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa) that have been engineered to withstand herbicide sprays, leading to a loss of biodiversity and increased use of herbicides.
Newly approved GMO crops are resistant to additional herbicides (2,4-D and Dicamba) and will further contaminate our food and water, increase our body burden, and pose significant risks to the nervous and endocrine systems of developing infants and children.
Routt Reigart, M.D. Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina, and co-editor of the 6th Edition of the EPA’s Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings, says “it would be very prudent to virtually eliminate pesticides from our food production processes.” He described the combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate in the environment as “terrifying” when it comes to the ecosystem and children’s health.
I support mandatory GMO labeling for all foods, but it’s comforting to know that by purchasing organic, we’re already buying non-GMO… and so much more.