Friday, October 22, 2010

How to Avoid the GMO Bad Nasties

Today is my third day of exploring GMO and world hunger, as part of Conducive Chronicle’s 21 days for Hunger.   GMO food has been used as a solution for world hunger, but I will discuss some of the problems of this approach.
With such a high percentage of foods containing GMOs in some way, shape or form, you may be asking yourself how you can possibly avoid what I'll call the GMO Bad Nasties.   And with over 70% of the food in grocery stores today containing some sort of GMO, admittedly this is a tough one.  Luckily, there is a way.  One of the best ways to avoid GMOs is to go organic.

"Organic produce is labeled organic when it has been grown, raised, harvested and packaged without the use of harmful chemicals, such as fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, growth hormones or antibiotics. Organic also means the produce has not been genetically modified. Organic means that the food has been certified organic foods." (Food Matters)

As you might imagine, there has been some controversy over organic foods.  Some tout that organics are more nutritious than their conventionally grown or raised counterparts.  Others think that organic foods are for rich people or yuppies because in general, organic food does cost more in the grocery store.  But I think that most would be hard-pressed to argue against the notion that organic foods have an advantage over conventionally grown produce or meat because they are free from chemicals, pesticides, and genetic altering that is in the majority of food we buy and consume.  And, what is that true cost?  Is it a trip (or several) to the doctor's office?  Is it over-the-counter allergy medication or antibiotics?  Is it lost time at work?  Is it social stigma?  Those are hard to quantify.  From personal experience, my quest to go organic, local, and GMO-free whenever possible has raised a few eyebrows and even a few voices in my extended family.  But I whole-heatedly submit to you that it is totally worth it.  Why?  Because roughly 75% of processed foods contain neurotoxins.  I don't want to eat them and I sure as heck don't want my kids to eat that stuff either!  Through sometimes animated (even heated) conversations with family members and friends, light is shed on the "why's" of our food choices.  Ultimately, awareness is raised and maybe, just maybe, they *think* about buying organics the next time they head to the grocery store.  Better yet, they do. (And they have -- and it's working!!)

But enough about my own personal journey with organics.  Back to business.

As luck would have it, October has been declared "Non GMO month."  Folks over at the Rodale Institute wanted to see what it would be like to go totally GMO free, or at least try.   You can read about their experiences here at the GMO-Free Challenge.  And a challenge it has been.  Again, unless a food is certified organic or has been verified as GMO-free, there is bound to be some form of genetically modified component in it.

In another such attempt to go GMO-free (or more specifically, going free of Monsanto), April Davila at YES! magazine tried to go GMO-free for a month.  In her article, A Month Without Monsanto, she chronicles her experiences as she attempted to completely avoid food with genetically modified ingredients.

Bringing it all home, the best way to avoid the GMO Bad Nasties is to go organic. While organics are currently a bit more expensive in some cases, there are some things you should always try to get organic whenever possible.  They've been nicknamed "The Dirty Dozen" as the conventionally-grown fruits and veggies having the highest number and concentrations of pesticides.
They are:
(The number in parentheses indicates the number of pesticides on conventionally grown fruit).
1) Apples (93)
2) Bell Peppers (83)
3) Celery (82)
4) Cherries (73)
5) Imported Grapes (66)
6) Nectarines (81)
7) Peaches (100)
8 ) Pears (63)
9) Potatoes (56)
10) Raspberries (46)
11) Spinach (58)
12) Strawberries (80)
In addition to pesticide and GMO-free fruits and veggies, aim for grass-fed and/or free-range meat.

Along with participating in your local CSAs, farmer's markets and growing your own food, here are a couple other resources to help you to steer clear of GMOs:
The Non GMO Shopping Guide
The Non GMO Project Shopping Guide (They even have an App for that!)

Yet another way to avoid the GMO Bad Nasties is to check the codes on your food at the grocery store:
If the Price Look-Up code (PLU) is 5 digits and begins with an 8, then it a Genetically Modified Organism.
If the PLU is 4 digits, even if it contains a symbol at the beginning, then it is not a GMO.
Next Up:  What GMOs have to do with World Hunger.
21 Days for World Hunger
Day 1
Day 2 Focus on Hunger: Interview with Vandana Shiva
Day 3 Cambodia: Portrait of Hunger
Day 4 A Mindful Approach to Food Fosters Compassion for the World's Hungry
Day 5 How Does Mindful Farming Help Solve World Hunger
Day 6 Sustainable Vegan Farming Practices Empower the World's Hungry
Day 7 Food Deserts and Urban Farm Markets
Day 8 Vandana Shiva and the Navdanya Farmers Network
Day 9 World Hunger: From GMO Chemistry Set to Table?
Day 10 The Generational Consequences of GMOs
Consider purchasing a World Hunger: Be the Solution Tee.  Proceeds from the shirt will go to Navdanya, the Small Planet Institute Fund the International Fund for Africa.  All tees are sweat free and available in organic cotton. To see the selection of World Hunger tees at Conducive’s Humanitarian & Human Rights Tee store, click here.

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