Can You Pick Out a GMO?

We live in a label-happy society. When you are in the grocery store especially there are so many labels: natural, hormone free, gluten free, GMO free, No MSG etc. It is really difficult to know sometimes what these labels mean. Unfortunately many times companies use labels to try to give their product a competitive advantage over their competitor.

In the next few weeks I am going to do a series on food labels and what they mean. This morning The Skimm, a daily email news blast included a small tidbit that that caught my attention and the attention of many others: skimm gmo strawberries The statement is correct in that GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism, but there are no strawberries sold that are GMOs.

There is some about what GMOs are, how we produce them, how they stand up nutritionally etc.but, do you know a GMO if you see one? There are actually only eight genetically enhanced crops here in the United States, they are: corn (field and sweet), soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya, and summer squash.

GMO Crops

Photo Credit: GMOanswers.com

Strawberries is not a crop where you can find genetically modified varieties. Valentines Day is next week and strawberries are quite popular for this holiday, especially those of the chocolate covered persuasion. If strawberries are not GMOs then how do we get them this time of the year?

I happen to be a big fan of strawberries and have a carton in my refrigerator.

IMG_3489These strawberries I bought from my local Schnuck’s Grocery store.They are “big and red,” but why wouldn’t they be? Here in the United States we are pretty fortunate to have access to pretty much any fruit and vegetable we would want at any time of the year. You may have to pay a premium to buy certain fruits and vegetables during their off season, but that option is there for you if you choose to buy them.

Just because these strawberries look and taste good does not mean they are a GMO. There are a couple ofthe y reasons as to why we have such good looking fruits and vegetables throughout the year.

First of all these strawberries were not grown in Missouri. Strawberries could not grow and flourish in a Missouri winter (or really a winter at all) so we know they are not from a local farm. However, there are certain areas of the country where strawberries can be grown year round like California and Florida.

Because we have the infastructure to get the berries sent from one part of the country to another, we can enjoy  these berries all year, it is not unnatural, it is logistics.

Produce Pete explains how you can get strawberries throughout the year from different areas of the country.

Wild Strawberries: early June, where available
Local Strawberries: in most areas, mid-June and early July
California Strawberries: January through November, with peak in March through May
Florida Strawberries: December through May, with peak in March and April
Imports: from New Zealand and Chile, November through April; from Mexico and Guatemala, early spring

When I looked, I noticed my strawberries were from Mexico. Good thing we are able to ship fruits and vegetables around otherwise in the winter time we would miss out on our favorite fruits and vegetables. Just because you see a good looking item of produce in the winter does not make it unnatural.

gmos

This is not how GMOs are made. Interested in knowing how we get GMOs? Check out this YouTube video.

When looking at fruits and vegetables in the grocery store, you may see signs stating “Non-GMO” or see a photo of a syringe in a tomato, apple etc. ask yourself is this one of the eight?

1. Corn

2. Soybeans

3. Cotton

4. Alfalfa

5. Sugar Beets

6. Canola

7. Papaya

8. Summer Squash

If not, you are more than likely paying for a label, literally, a label. Don’t pay extra for a GMO free label on a product.

Let’s take a quiz! Can you buy a GMO…

Pepper?

Apple?

Carrot?

Onion?

Peach?

Cabbage?

Lettuce?

How did you do? The answer to all of these is NO!

Next time you’re in the grocery store, I’ll challenge you to take a look at signs and labels, see if you find a sign or label that is for a product that does not have a GMO variety. Hopefully you’ll feel more informed and will save some money as well.

 

Additional Thought (2/6/15 9:48AM)- Not all sweet corn you buy in the grocery store, or all squash is GMO. In the coming week’s I’ll write a follow-up explaining why some is and some isn’t.

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What About Our Rights?

Here in the United States we are pretty fortunate. We have so many rights and freedoms that people in other countries do not have. One of those that is special is the right to own property. If you own property to an extent you can do as you please (with some exceptions). However there are some events that have transpired recently that has caused concern as the rights of property owners have been endangered or taken away. Recently there are two counties in Oregon that were in the news, Josephine and Jackson counties are adjacent to each other in southwestern Oregon. They both have passed bans on the planting of genetically engineered crops by popular vote in the last few weeks. Jackson county has around 200,000 residents and their website says that “Industries that show steady growth in Jackson County include wine, film, and farming—pointing to how Jackson County is distinguished as a place where entrepreneurship thrives.” I do not see how passing a GMO ban allows farming or entrepreneurship to thrive, but alas that is what they claim. Both of these counties have a lot of agricultural production and are large producers of sugar beets. Sugar beets is one of the eight crops in the U.S. that are approved GM crops. There are two major concerns I see from this ban. First of all it is interesting that in Jackson County only 52% of those registered to vote actually voted. 33% of the registered voters voted yes for the ban. That 33% made a decision for the majority. Folks, this goes to show the importance of voting, that 33% may have been the only people in the county who wanted GMO’s banned, but they got their way. Secondly, this ban takes away the rights of the citizens. Farmers can no longer make decisions on the types of crops they will grow on their OWN property. Both organic and conventional farmers have lost the choice they once had as to the type of production method they would choose. Shouldn’t all farmers have the right to farm how they want? Farming is a business, a business that is in the business of feeding people. If legislation like this continues to be passed we will not only lessen the amount of food we produce, but it takes away the rights of US farmers to make production decisions. GMO issue? Just a ban? It appears to be a limitation on rights. Another battle that is being fought across by farmers and landowners across the country is with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and their definition of “navigable waters.” “Navigable waters” currently means water such as rivers, streams and lakes (which makes sense-you can actually navigate them), they are used for business or transportation. Recently, the EPA has been working on The Waters of the United States Initiative and proposing changes to this definition. Are you ready for this? The EPA is proposing that puddles, ponds, ditches, ephemerals and isolated wetlands fall under the Clean Water Act. When I first heard about this maybe a year or two ago that this was being considered I literally laughed out loud. puddle This would expand the authority of the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The EPA and the Army Corps have the authority over the “navigable waters,” and if this were to come about it would make it extremely difficult to farm and be competitive and profitable. Let’s say it rains a couple of inches and a puddle forms in my field. If I were to go out and spray my soybeans or till the soil to prepare for planting this would be considered a “discharge” to those so-called “navigable waters,” (aka that puddle). Activities that are considered a “discharge” cannot legally go forward without the required permit. If this legislation was to pass the EPA will have the ability to approve and deny a discharge permits. If denied, this would greatly restrict a farmer’s ability to operate their farm. If the permit was approved, the farmer would then need to provide paperwork and meet strict requirements. If you violate the law? Violations would fall as penalties of unlawful “discharges” which could cost you up to $37,500 per violation PER DAY. If this were to pass this would be a huge blow to the US Farm Economy and even to anyone who owns property. That mud puddle your children play in is considered navigable. I know our government is often said to be “by the people, for the people,” but sometime you really have to look a little deeper at issues to see what the motives really are. If this legislation was instated by the EPA, it would hurt farmers and their ability to produce food which means food prices go up for everyone. Just something to think about. (If you would like to exercise your right as citizen to contact the EPA about The Waters of the United States Initiative, please do and tell them to #DitchTheRule you can take action here on the American Farm Bureau’s website.

UPDATE: October 7, 2014

We are now in a public comment period with the EPA. Anyone can go online by clicking here and provide comments to the EPA as to why you are for/against this proposed legislation. I would HIGHLY encourage you to let them know your thoughts on the issue. If you are a homeowner this is something you should be concerned about.

Here are a couple of stories on the proposed rule.

New York Times

See Maps Showing How Far Their Reach Would Go In Your State

That’s Enough- “Let It Go” Parody by Missouri Farm Bureau

Tell EPA to “Ditch the Rule” Video