Why should we demand transparency on Genetically Modified (GM) Foods?
By Erik Oberholtzer
Recently, many have asked us if we use GM foods or animals who have been fed GM foods. In trying to answer these questions we have found it difficult to determine whether a GM seed was used in certain oils, grains or legumes. We know most of our farmers personally. They, in turn, assure us that their seed sources are pure. But what about animal feed? I have been told that it is very difficult to know for certain whether or not the animal feed contains GM seed sources. There is very little regulation and even less transparency regarding genetically modified foods and even less information on the impact to our health. What do we know?
As the world population expands, farmland recedes and climate change impacts growing conditions, farmers, nations and geneticists search for solutions. Genetically modified seeds are not much different than the crossbreeding used for centuries. The advantage with modern genetics is desired traits can be engineered relatively quickly with far more precision than previous techniques. Science is now able to engineer antibiotics and additional nutrients into staples for populations with little access to pharmaceuticals or nutrient rich foods. In countries plagued by drought, seeds engineered to be drought resistant are a god send.
The environmental benefits are compelling as well. It has been shown that as use of GM plants resistant to specific pests, fungus or weeds has risen the use of environmentally toxic pesticides, fungicides and weed killers has decreased inversely. This is good news for waterways, soil health and consumers. The downside is equally as concerning. Many studies suggest the use of GM has impacted the health of honey bees and monarch butterfly populations in areas where heavy use of GM is present.
The concern that most have, is what impact does this all have on ME? Well, the science to date suggest not much. There have been some cases where people with nut allergies have had negative reactions to products engineered with genes from nuts with no natural relation to nuts. Outside some adverse allergic reaction and disruption to certain organism populations in fields, there is not much to go on. That doesn’t mean that we do not have a right to know or that the research should stop. History suggests if it sounds weird, it probably has something worth worrying about.
Then there is the politics of food. Europe already labels GM and GMO. They have one governing body that controls the standards and guidelines from which to follow. Here in the U.S., we have the FDA, USDA and EPA all looking at different aspects of the food chain with little overlap or communication. The current policy is to leave it up to the producers to label voluntarily and let the “market” dictate desired level of transparency. The result: no labeling on anything in an easily understood format.
The final piece of the debate is how the big agro-businesses like Mansanto seek to dominate seed supply through patents and litigation. In some instances, small, organic and natural farmers have been sued for unintended cross pollination of GM seeds. This was best illustrated in the documentary- FOOD INC.
So where do we stand? As a brand, Tender Greens goes to great pains to source the best local ingredients grown with organic practices. We make every effort to avoid the use of products that may have been the result of genetically modified seeds. Because of current labeling practices, we can not say for certain that EVERY ingredient in our kitchen is free of GM seeds. If the labeling of such varieties were as transparent as “certified organic” or “conventionally grown” we could base our decisions on this information.
We are backing an initiative to force the labeling of GM and GMO of all varieties. This is not to say we are against their use. Only, we prefer, in our case, not to use such ingredients. The food philosophy of Tender Greens and our community of farmers, artisans and customers support plants and animals grown under natural conditions. If you agree with this point of view please join the fight to force transparency in our food choices.