Every day we make decisions about what it is that we are putting into our bodies. These choices impact our health, the health of our children and future generations, and the health of our environment. As a Co-op we strive to bring you information to help you make decisions about how to feed yourselves and your families. One of the hottest food issues right now is the issue of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or Genetically Engineered (GE) foods. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) GMOs are part of an umbrella category of “techniques used by scientists to modify deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or the genetic material of a microorganism, plant, or animal in order to achieve a desired trait,” referred to as “biotechnology.” 1
This genetic engineering, when applied to foods, includes methods of DNA splicing to give the plant certain desired traits, anything from color to size. Genetic modification has been going on since the early 1970s with the creation of the first recombinant DNA molecules (2) but has sparked widespread controversy in more recent years as consumers have gained interest in their rights, as consumers, to know what is in their food, and as some studies have suggested health risks associated with the genetic modification of foods.
Here at the Co-op we’ve been working with the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit working to preserve and build sources of non-GMO products, educate consumers, and provide verified non-GMO choices for three years, with the goal of getting verified non-GMO products labeled on our shelves. They have a comprehensive verification process that we feel will allow our shoppers and our community to have control of our choices and information about what it is, exactly, that we are buying and we’re working hard to get those labels back on the shelf even with all the crazy expansion!
Our work with the Non-GMO Project is a good start, but what is the scope of the GMO conversation? While the Non-GMO Project is working to get non-GMO foods labeled, there are many other organizations working to make the labeling of GMO foods into law. Still other groups are doing research about the effects and safety of GMOs that are being broadly marketed without adequate testing (or without being tested at all).
As some of you may have read in our Action Alert in August there’s a Proposition on the ballot in California (Prop 37). The legislation proposes a GMO labeling mandate on food products within the state of California and proponents believe that this sort of legislation could spark similar legislative initiatives around the country. The response has been overwhelming. The companies utilizing genetic modification techniques have lobbied heavily against the passage of Prop 37. The Cornucopia Institute, a leader in research and investigations on agricultural issues, and provider of information to consumers, family farmers, and the media, has supported a comprehensive campaign to give you a picture of which companies are advocating labeling and which companies are trying to keep labels OFF of GMOs, and using a lot of consumer dollars to do so.
Also at the forefront of the GMO labeling discussion is a campaign called Just Label It that has gained wide spread accreditation in its battle to get GMO foods labeled, including partnership with The National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGC) of which Common Ground is a part. The campaign advocates for GMO labeling and is responsible for a legal petition to accomplish these ends.
You may also have encountered the Let Me Decide campaign right here in town, or heard about the work that they have been doing in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and New Jersey to put constituent pressure on state lawmakers to initiate GE labeling legislation. Let Me Decide is a campaign of Food and Water Watch. Locally there is significant momentum around this campaign whose objective it to get Senator Mike Frerichs to introduce a bill into the Illinois Senate requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Notably, also, Michael Antoniou, Claire Robinson, and John Fagan of Earth Open Source, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to assuring the sustainability, security, and safety of the global food system, based in London, UK, published a thorough investigative report this June titled GMO Myths and Truths: an evidence based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficiency of genetically modified crops. In the extensive 123 page piece these scientists and investigative journalists explore many facets of the GMO debate, including clarifying definitions of genetic engineering, delving into the scientific realities of genetically altering food commodities, examining the more or less laissez-faire U.S. government approach to regulation of these genetically modified foods, and exploring the scientific evidence behind claims of health risks presented by GE foods. The article wraps up with sections that talk about the way that the genetic engineering of food crops impacts our climate and discredits the argument that GM crops are an essential part of feeding our growing world population. Though it’s a hefty read, it’s definitely worth the time.
This is all to say that your Co-op is working hard to bring this information about GMOs to you so that you can stay informed and make educated decisions about the foods that you are eating and feeding to your loved ones.
Earth Open Source:
GMO Myths and Truths: an evidence based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficiency of genetically modified crops
Just some interesting, more-or-less unrelated food links:
1. The Wedge Natural Food Co-op’s “What If” Food Challenge.” Elizabeth Archerd, the Membership and Marketing Manager at the Wedge, took on a very interesting challenge. She decided to live a month (October) as if she had a SNAP food budget, ate as healthfully as possible, and purchased as many organic and local foods as possible. I just wanted to share her experience with all of you to give another approach to eating healthy on a limited budget. Elizabeth and I reached fairly similar conclusions: it is very possible to eat healthfully, organically, and locally on a limited budget, but it takes a lot of planning and effort. Check it out!
2. Cook for Good. This website has been recommended to me several times as a great resource for eating healthfully on a budget. However, I really can’t figure out how to navigate it, so I’ve never posted it. It’s been recommended to me enough, though, that I figure that’s just me, so here’s the link!
3. Local Food: No Elitist Plot. I’ve heard the claim that local/regional/organic food is elitist many and many a time. Here’s a New York Times article that really undermines a lot of the assumptions people make when they say local (or regional, or organic) food is elitist. Food for thought, indeed.
4. Cereal Crimes. Check out the Cornucopia Institute’s latest report on GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in “natural” breakfast cereals. “Crimes” might be a bit of an exaggeration, but their findings are certainly eye-opening.