Let's talk GMO's

What is a GMO?

GMO is short for genetically modified organism. Scientists create GMO’s by using a modern, advanced process called genetic engineering or GE. This is where scientists genetically alter or recreate the make up of fruits and vegetables.

This is not to be mistaken for genetic modification or GM. GM is close to GE but it’s a less high tech approach. This practice includes selective breeding. Selective breeding has existed for hundreds of years. With selective breeding, you aren’t inserting external DNA into the existing genetics, you’re purely selecting superior traits to carry over to the next crop.

Whereas during the GE process, scientists take external, unfamiliar cells and insert them into an existing plant genome. This process creates organisms that have never existed in nature before; we are the first beings on earth to consume GE products. This is why some environmentalists and organic supporters refer to consumers as guinea pigs, purely because these kinds of GMO’s have never been consumed before. Even though GMO products in Canada go through rigorous lab tests before they’re even considered to hit the market, we still don’t really know how humans are going to be affected by these products, because they haven’t ever existed before now! 

 

why did gmo’s hit the market?

Since humans have existed we have required food to survive, and the base of any person’s diet will eventually trace back to fruits and vegetables. This means as a human race we need produce and plants to survive. In order to improve the amount of successfully harvested crops, farmers and scientists began to breed selectively. This is used for both produce and animals. There were probably no harmful or sneaky motivations behind this, it was just thought to provide people with more food.

Unfortunately, selective breeding within a species will only take you so far. This is where GE comes in. Certain plant cells are altered to the point where the base of their DNA is changed. This includes cross-species integration. That’s why we have perfectly round, plump and symmetrical fruits and vegetables at our disposal. These plants are being enhanced with cells and vitamins. If you’ve ever grown a vegetable garden of your own, you’re well aware these flawless looking tomatoes and carrots are a rarity in a natural, pesticide-free setting. Mother Nature does not create perfect looking food 100% of the time. This is a direct result of human interference.

 

The repercussions

GMO’s lead to stronger and more immune plants. Over time this means the plants become so robust, they slowly start to develop a resistance to pesticides. In reaction to this, farmers use more pesticides, the environment is further damaged and pesticide companies make more money because a greater volume of their sprays are being used. It should also be noted the same company that sells and puts patents on GMO seeds, are the same guys that sell big name pesticides. So they are profiting off the use of GMO seeds and the pesticides.

Another fear: unfamiliarity. In Canada, GMO labeling is not regulated. Think about a non-organic, GMO apple. What’s in it? The only people that really know are the scientists that created the seed, the consumers are left blind. This is why many developed countries around the world have legislation that either ban GMO’s, or they have laws in place that make GMO labeling mandatory. This way consumer knows if they’re buying something that contains genetically modified organisms. The non-existent GMO labeling laws in Canada have lead to protests and petitions aimed at holding the Canadian government accountable for allowing these industries to fly under the radar. 

 

THe back story

We understand that not everyone has the money to buy strictly organic foods. Because big corporations have monopolized the GMO seed industry across the world, they’re able to offer consumers a cheaper price. Some would say these massive corporations that take little to no steps to help the environment, are the true culprits.

GMO seed companies have argued their seeds will help feed starving people across the world. They claim the genetic re-wiring of the seeds allows successful growth in areas with poor climates. But if this is the case, why is there no evidence of GMO’s actually feeding people in areas with little to no access to food sources?

The only evidence that correlates with GMO’s, is environmental damage, and produce that’s coated in chemicals. Many people have called out these companies for simply using this as a marketing/lobbying ploy to get GMO’s into supermarkets. They want to sell copious amounts of low grade produce to consumers, and make as much profit as possible.

Fortunately there’s organic farming, because it’s not only about the devastation that GMO’s leave us with, but it’s also about the benefits that organic farming has. Things like eliminating pesticides and preserving biodiversity are necessary for this planet’s health! And techniques like crop rotation are preserving our soil, in contrast traditional farming is leading to the depletion of nutrients in our soil. To learn more about the benefits associated with organic farming, read our blog post: 7 Benefits of Organic Farming

 

What you can do

BUY ORGANIC. Lots of Canadians don’t know that when something is organic, it’s automatically non-GMO. Products like ours will automatically contain produce that is free of GMO’s. Buying organic is most likely the best action the average Canadian can take. By purchasing from organic farmers and companies, you are telling your government what is important to you.  This is due to supermarkets, large farms and food factories being dependent on revenue.

As more people buy organic, these companies will be forced to convert to organic farming practices, or risk losing profit. The organic section at your supermarket would not be present had people not shown an interest in buying those foods. It should also be mentioned that in Canada and the US there’s a third party organization that verifies non-GMO products called Living Non GMO. This organization partners with brands and retailers to distinctly label a “Non GMO” graphic on packaging to inform the consumer that this particular product does not contain genetically modified organisms. They have a great list on their website that shows you participating brands and stores, making it easy for people to find healthier choices near them. 

Financially if you’re unable to front the organic bill, you should take a look at our article Organic On the Cheap.  It can help you get more for your buck, and stick to a budget when shopping. It’s also good to buy local when you can. If you need some inspiration, check out our favourite local BC businesses.

You can also take this movement a step further and talk to your local politician about pushing GMO labeling to the provincial and federal government. But again, voting with your dollar is just as powerful. 

Here’s a list of some of our favourite organic brands and stores: 

Pomme Natural Market– A fully organic supermarket. 

Two Daughters Bakeshop– A vegan, gluten free bakery. They also use organic products whenever possible.

East Van Jam– They use 95% BC grown fruit (organic whenever possible).  

Numi Organic Tea – Some of our favourite tea comes from Numi! They’re 100% organic and their tea bags are compostable. 

Thai Kitchen– Not all of there products are certified organic, but they do make the best organic coconut milk. 

Level Ground Trading- They don’t just talk the talk at Level Ground Trading. This Victoria based company produces coffee, tea and baking ingredients. They’re all sustainable and their coffee packaging can be composted!

Giddy YoYo–  Welcome to chocolate heaven. They sell amazing raw organic chocolate that contains whole food ingredients! 

Don’t forget to share your favourite organic brands with us by tweeting us

 

References: 

http://www.greenlivingtips.com/articles/gmo-vs-selective-breeding.html

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/faqs/food/understanding-gmo/

http://www.livingnongmo.org

http://naturalrevolution.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto

http://thedelicioustruth.blogspot.ca/2012/03/difference-between-terms-ge-and-gmo.html

http://www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz/2008/09/19/genetic-modification-explained/ 

http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/eij/article/are_genetically_altered_foods_the_answer_to_world_hunger/