sustainable living

Foodie Friday: Whats the deal with GMO labels?

I take food very, very seriously. Anyone who knows me knows that I suffer from what some experts call “hanger”. It is a very serious condition where when a person gets hungry, they become what I call a “creature” (also known as a very unpleasant person to have in your vicinity). Since I also take being eco-friendly very seriously, it is only natural that when food labeling comes up in conversation, my ears perk up.

There is a growing push to have GMO labels on food that are made with genetically modified organisms. GMO’s are defined as organisms or microorganisms whose genetic material has been altered by means of genetic engineering. These organisms range from wheat plants that require fewer pesticides, to glowing bioluminescent fish, to designer purebred dogs. I am all for consumers being informed about what they’re buying (honestly is always the best policy, friends).

BUT…

I am here to tell you that simply having a GMO label on food is not going to be very informative about what you’re buying, how it was processed, how the workers are treated, the impact on the environment, etc. When you see something labeled GMO you don’t know if the organism was genetically modified in a good way (more vitamins, less pesticides, etc) or modified in a bad way (making livestock grow bigger for increased production leading to health issues, because ya know animal rights and stuff).

So you’re probably wondering now, what kinds of labels you should be looking for…Well don’t worry, if I didn’t have the answer I would not be writing this post. Yes it is expensive, and may seem snooty but “organic” labels have some extensive guarantees behind them. There are a slew of requirements for a food to be marked “organic”.

Some of these include:

  • Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
  • Support animal health and welfare
  • Provide access to the outdoors so animals can exercise their natural behavior
  • Only use approved materials
  • Do not use genetically modified ingredients
  • Receive annual onsite inspections
  • Separate organic food from non-organic food

Another good label to look for that is more encompassing than GMO is “Fair Trade”. This label requires sustainable farming practices, no genetically modified organisms, and fair pay and working conditions for employees. I would much rather purchase goods that have more than just one promise behind them. You have the power, as a consumer to hold these companies accountable, buy smart and buy eco-friendly. And for goodness sake, DO NOT get hangry…

Get educated:

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/more-celebrity-pseudoscience-gmos

http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=organic-agriculture.html

http://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/organic-standards
http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/04/what-does-fair-trade-mean.html

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