Saturday, September 19, 2009


Do you know how many genetically modified crops go into your diet? Do you know what it would mean not to support genetic engineering with any of your food dollars? Did you know that almost all animal feed in the USA is made from genetically modified crops? Do you know how extraordinarily limiting it is for us to feed only locally grown, non-GMO feed to our animals?

We're very much opposed to genetic engineering, particularly of crops. Beyond all the unknown risks to the animals and people that eat these crops and to the ecosystems in which these crops are grown -- risks that are as novel and unpredictable as the engineering itself -- we're just as concerned about the extent to which GMO crops take control of our food system that much further out of the hands of the local farming community and leave our fate in the hands of giant corporations that have no particular concern for -- or even knowledge of -- our communities. GMOs only facilitate larger farms with less diversity, greater demands for nonrenewable inputs and dependence on the global economy, greater accumulation of waste liabilities and pollution, and the further disintegration of human farming communities.

The list of GMO crops being grown commercially is presently still pretty short, but it impacts a huge percentage of food items. Corn, soybeans, sugar beets, canola, cotton, and alfalfa are the major crops. (GMO-Papaya and some summer squash varieties have also been released.) You may not think you eat a lot of corn and soybeans, but consider the corn syrup in your tomato sauce, the soy lecithin in your chocolate bar; consider the regular sugar made from sugar beets that sweetens whatever doesn't already have corn syrup in it; consider the "vegetable" oil in your mayonnaise and salad dressing; consider all the additives, the conditioners, "natural" flavors, thickeners, and all the other mysterious things on those long lists of ingredients. And accounting for even more acres of GMO crops, consider all the meat and eggs and dairy products from animals raised on GMO crops. Corn and soybean byproducts typically make up almost the entire diet of poultry (both meat birds and layers) and hogs. Beef and dairy cattle are likewise fed diets heavy in corn, corn silage, soybean meal, and cottonseed meal. Even the alfalfa fed to dairy cattle is potentially GMO. Even farm raised fish eat pretty much the same feed. The biggest difference between different kinds of animal feed is typically just the ratio of soybean meal to corn. That means our local grocery store wouldn't have a single cut of meat of any kind, no milk, no other dairy products, and no eggs that have any real chance of being GMO-free. Even the great majority of small farmers selling "all-natural, hormone and antibiotic-free" meat or eggs have been sucked into the GMO tide; unless they grow their own grain their options are very limited.

In just over a decade most Americans have gone from eating a completely GMO-free diet to eating GMO's with every meal of the day, and quite disturbingly most Americans don't realize anything ever changed. Should consumers really have so little involvement in and say over what they eat, let alone what impact their food dollars have on our land? We see this massive, behind-the-scenes switch to GMO agriculture as further evidence that the corporate food system is inherently untrustworthy. We think consumers would be well advised to do everything they can to regain some control of what they eat: to prepare their meals more and more from scratch, to avoid prepared and processed foods, to grow what they can, and to seek out and support the local farmers that can offer independence from the corporate food system.

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