Here’s a spring offering from our good friend, HerbDoc:
There seem to be so many questions these days about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and when/why they are used. Since I try to be as organic as possible in my growing practices and food purchasing and preparation, I do a lot of reading on the subject.
The first thing to know is that GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are plants and animals that have been genetically engineered by using DNA from viruses, bacteria, or other plants and animals. These are experimental combinations of genes from different species and cannot occur in nature. Be aware that this is not the traditional crossbreeding of plants that provide hybrid species for your garden.
Almost all GMOs were engineered to either withstand herbicide application or to produce an insecticide. Although the biotech industry proclaimed that there would be multiple advantages to GMO use, none currently in use have given us increased yields, better nutrition or drought tolerance.
Although the USDA prohibits the use of GMOs in organic products, it does not require the labelling of produce and groceries with a GMO tag. Rather the onus is on the organic farmer to prove that he has not planted GMO seeds or that his produce has come into contact with the GMO crops flowering at the same time in the conventional farm next door, causing cross contamination of his crop. He must designate a buffer zone between properties where he can manage the land organically but cannot sell any of the crops grown there as organic. If he shares farm or processing equipment, it must be thoroughly cleaned to prevent any unwanted contamination. And you wondered why organic products are more expensive?
If you’re concerned, as I am, about the use of products/seeds that contain GMOs, there are a few things you can do:
1) Look for seeds which are labelled “certified organic”. To check a listing of seed companies who have signed a safe seed initiative pledge go to: http://www.purefood.org/seedindex.htm.
2) Look for the USDA organic label on products in the market; this will ensure their organic integrity from farm to market. The USDA also publishes a variety of blogs at: http://blogs.usda.gov/
3) Buy locally grown produce, meat and eggs from known organic farmers at your Farmers’ Market.
4) Check the following website for information re: availability of non-GMO options and frequently asked questions: http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/