by guest blogger Alberto Gonzalez, founder and CEO of GustOrganics
I love talking to people about food. And these days at my restaurant, I inevitably end up talking about GMOs. Often, people ask me the reasons why I do not allow any GMO foods at GustOrganics. In fact, this happens so often that I started creating a list in my head of all the reasons I choose not to offer them to my customers. The list started to get so big that I decided to write it down and I thought I'd share it with you, dear readers.
First, a little background: GMO stands for genetically modified organisms; some people also refer to them as GE (genetically engineered). According to the FDA, GMO foods are made using recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (rDNA) technology. The agency commonly refers to them as "bioengineered foods," or foods that have undergone genetic modification, meaning they've been engineered and altered at the genetic level "using any technique, new or traditional."
Many years ago, I started reading studies about GMOs, and I discovered that most of the outcomes of the studies favored whoever was financing the research, which in most cases was the agrochemical companies. A few years later, I came across a book called The World According to Monsanto, by Marie-Monique Robin, and it was true eye-opener for me. Then, I read The Wheel of Life, by Debbie Barker from The Center for Food Safety, and I recommend this paper to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness between food, climate, human rights, and economy.
Now I do everything I can, at home and at my restaurant, to avoid GMOs. It's not easy to do, since more than 80 percent of processed foods contain GMOs. Buying certified-organic food is the only way you can truly stay away from GMOs right now, since GMO foods are not labeled. But, honestly, the likelihood that GMO crops will cross-pollinate with organics gets higher every year as more and more GMOs are planted.
So, back to my list. Here are my reasons for avoiding GMO foods, compiled mostly from the sources named above:
1. GMOs are grown with toxic chemicals and resulting pesticide residues are known to be harmful to human health.
2. Research has shown that laboratory mammals fed GMOs suffer adverse effects that include damage to kidneys, liver, adrenal glands, spleen, and heart. Additionally, their immune systems were compromised and in some cases brain size was reduced.
3. GMO crops require huge amounts of chemicals that are harmful to soil, water, the atmosphere, and creatures. Although they are promoted as a technology to reduce pesticide usage, GM crops in the U.S. used greater than 26 percent more pesticides per acre in 2008 than non-GMO crops, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data.
4. GMOs are actually increasing the need for stronger and more poisonous pesticides. For example, one agrochemical company is awaiting USDA approval of corn and soybeans resistant to 2, 4-D, a chemical related to Agent Orange.
5. GMOs are causing a growing epidemic of "superweeds." These massive weeds have evolved a resistance to glyphosate, a chemical used on GM crops. Stronger toxic chemicals and soil-eroding tillage operations are required in order to eliminate superweeds.
6. GMOs contribute to global warming: GM crops require synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, which are responsible for approximately 60 percent of total emissions of nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas nearly 300 times more potent than CO). GM crops use high amounts of fossil fuels through the production of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers.
7. GMO practices contaminate our organic and local food systems. A report titled, Gone to Seed, found that 50 percent or more of non-GMO corn, canola, and soybean seed have been contaminated with GM genes.
8. Beneficial insects can be harmed. A Cornell University study showed that monarch butterflies suffered higher mortality rates when consuming milkweed leaves dusted with the Bt toxin associated with GM crops. And recently, pesticides called neonicotinoids have been blamed for the collapsing bee populations.
Harms to social and human rights.
9. GMOs are promoted as way to feed the world and mitigate hunger; however, numerous studies demonstrate that the GM crops do not produce higher yields as claimed. As one example, a USDA publication reports that "GM crops do not increase the yield potential."
10. GMOs lead to corporate control over seed and food: Today only one company controls about 95 percent of GM seeds. This limits access to seeds, which are the center of food and life.
11. These large agri-corporations do not let farmers save seeds, a basic practice that has continued for centuries to ensure food security.
12. GMO agriculture is an extension of current industrial-farming practices that have resulted in the loss of family farms and farmer livelihoods around the globe.
For all of these reasons, and more that I'm just not thinking of right now, we at GustOrganics choose another path. We believe organic agriculture is the only way to go. Organic agriculture has equal or higher yields than factory farming. Organics don't contain any synthetic hormones, antibiotics, chemicals or GMOs. And independent studies prove that organic food has more vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants than conventional food (which, at this point, is just another way of saying GMO food).
Talk to your friends about GMOs and help them to be aware of the facts. And go to justlabelit.org and help send 1 million signatures to the Food and Drug Administration to let them know that we want GMO foods labeled.
Alberto Gonzalez is the founder and CEO of GustOrganics, the world's first certified-organic restaurant using 100 percent organic ingredients, and one of the greenest and most progressive restaurants on the planet, gustorganics.com.
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com