This Week's Post: Avoiding Food Label Confusion

This weekly blog post and its host website cover a wide variety of Fred Montague's environmental commentaries, gardening topics, and wildlife/art activities.  Please browse the website and the blog archives for topics you are interested in. 

Recent legislation regarding labeling the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in commercial food products represents a confusing compromise between consumer preference for "plain-and-simple" labels on food products and the commercial food industries' preference for no labels at all.

As a wildlife biologist, I side with the consumers' preference.  We should be able to identify and choose products whose production and processing affect both human health and the "health of the planet."  If consumers can easily choose, the referendum on the acceptance of GMOs can be made by you and me.

I have outlined in a previous post and in chapter 13 of my little hand-bound book Garden Notes:  Thoughts on Gardening, Ecology, and Sustainability several concerns regarding industrial agriculture based on genetically modified organisms.

I advocate organic gardening, organic farming, and the consumption of foods that humans have evolutionary experience with.  This approach usually involves small-scale, locally adapted growing techniques.  It does not involve large-scale, corporately controlled food production, processing, and marketing that compromises human health, land health, genetic diversity of crops, environmental quality, livestock welfare, and the dignity of farming itself.  Many acknowledge that current industrial agriculture is not sustainable.  But, we all recognize that it does provide (currently) cheap calories

Don't be confused by the food labeling controversy.  The way to know with a reasonable assurance that your food does not contain GMOs is simply to purchase only food that is labeled "USDA Certified Organic." 

As of July 2016, the following exclusions apply.  For a food to be marketed as "Organic" it must

1.  not contain genetically modified organisms;

2.  not be irradiated (exposed to radioactivity, for preservation)

3.  not be grown with human sewage (biosolids) as fertilizer;

4.  not contain non-food chemicals (for preservation, color, flavor, etc.);

There are other conditions, but these are the most important.

If a food product is not labeled "organic" assume that it is a genetically modified plant or animal that has been grown with human sewage and that it contains non-food chemicals and that it has been irradiated.

Now, you choose.

Additionally, you could grow some of your own food, and you can support local growers you know and trust.  Some farmers (and commercial gardeners) are growing foods organically but have not yet been certified (or cannot afford to be certified).  They need your encouragement and support.  At a farmers' market simply ask the grower face-to-face.

We are fortunate to have the USDA Organic program (see the current regulations of the program). Be prepared to defend the Organic Certification principles.