There has been a lot of talk about GMOs in the media lately, and with two new documentary’s coming out this year about the dangers of GMOs I would like to explain what GMOs are and what we plan to do about it. First, watch this trailer for the much buzzed about Food, Inc.
GMOs or genetically modified organisms, are “organisms that have been created through the gene-splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This relatively new science allows DNA from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods,” says The Non-GMO Project.
Genetic modification is used in farming and food practices to create “super products” that grow faster and cheaper than traditional methods. Another example is crossing a tomato with a flounder gene so the tomato can travel better under the chilly conditions of refrigerated transportation. Can you say, creepy? But what if you’re allergic to fish and just ate a GM tomato? How would you know to trace your symptoms back to produce which should NEVER have any correlation with a fish allergy?
You wouldn’t know to check the tomato because no one is legally obligated to tell you it’s genetically modified. When added in such small doses, it’s hard to track GM ingredients or prove their direct effects on our health, but with repeat consumption their effects can become very obvious – some even speculate, cancerous. This idea is tackled in the documentary, The Idiot Cycle, coming out this Fall.
Since opening our doors in 1997, we have been a strictly Non-GMO store. Owner Aaron Gottlieb along with our Food Education Coordinator Ginny Nehring, and Buyers Sheri Sing & Meghan Koontz, created and now maintain all of our food standards. We are constantly calling and emailing all of our manufacturers to get, in writing, confirmation of all of their ingredients, processing, transportation and handling procedures to ensure each product we carry meets The Native Sun Standard. If at some point a product switches ingredients or manufacturers and fails to meet our standards, we do not hesitate to pull it off our shelf.
Aaron’s suspicion of GMOs contaminating the mass food supply started years ago, and was confirmed as early as 2006 in a statement released by Cargill, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of corn products:
“Both genetically enhanced corn and non-transgenic hybrids flow freely in our commodity system today. Therefore, Cargill believes that it is impossible for ANY corn sweetener provider to guarantee that its corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup were produced using no genetically enhanced corn varieties.”
If that was then, what is the situation like now? According to the USDA, in 2007, 91% of soy, 87% of cotton, and 73% of corn grown in the U.S. were GMO. As a result, it is estimated that GMOs are now present in more than 80% of packaged products in the average U.S. or Canadian grocery store.
At Native Sun, we pride ourselves on being one of the best in the business when it comes to sticking to our standards. It’s one of the reasons we were named 2008 Natural Food Retailer of the Year by WholeFoods Magazine [click here to read the full article] despite being open just 12 years and with only two locations, both in Jacksonville, FL. Unfortunately, the situation with GMO contamination has become so widespread that it looks like not even we can avoid them, at least not 100%. So what can we do about this?
All is not lost, there are still 100% GMO free products out there, and we plan to find them and continue carrying them, and most importantly label them clearly! We are working to create a signage system that will easily distinguish Non GMO products from their GM counterparts. The Non-GMO Project also plans to have a symbol, much like the USDA organic seal, out by October 2009 to assist with identification as well.
By choosing to eat GMO-free foods you are telling the industry and the world that you won’t stand for this lack of care and protection from the food industry. We already have ideas in the works for rewarding Native Sun customers who choose to shop only GMO-free products, details to come.