Organic Housekeepers, cleaning with a conscience, saving the earth one tub at a time.Just say no to GMOs

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Here are ways you can avoid genetically modified foods and support a healthy food system

Buy organic: Organic producers cannot intentionally use GMOs.

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Avoid at-risk ingredients: If it's not labeled organic, or doesn't have a Non-GMO Project Verified Seal, then avoid processed food products ingredients made with these GM crops: corn, soybeans, canola, cottonseed and beet sugar.

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Just say no to GMO
Since the USDA says yes, we must protect ourselves from genetically modified food

By Cassie Pence

Last Thursday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack approved the unrestricted use of genetically modified alfalfa. Who cares, right? Well, anyone who buys organic dairy should care, along with anyone concerned with food safety in general.

I guess that makes all of us an interested party because food safety should be on the minds of everyone who eats.

Alfalfa is grown mostly to feed cattle, making it an important commodity in dairy farming and beef production. Monsanto and Forage Genetics, an alfalfa seed company owned by the Land O’Lakes farming and dairy cooperative, develop genetically modified (GM) alfalfa. GM alfalfa contains a gene that makes the plant resistant to the Greener Pasturesherbicide Roundup — also developed my Monsanto. It’s a lucrative package Monsanto has born in the laboratory: The farmer buys the Frankenstein seed that requires him to buy Roundup, as well. Considering alfalfa covers about 20 million acres, about 7 percent of U.S. cropland, there’s a lot of money to be made, a lot of herbicide to be sprayed.

GM plants, such as soybean, corn, cottonseed, canola and now alfalfa, have had foreign genes forced into their DNA. The inserted genes come from species such as bacteria and viruses, which have never been in the human food supply before, according to the Institute for Responsible Technology, an organization founded by Jeffrey Smith, America’s No. 1 consumer advocate against genetically modified organisms (GMO) and author of “Seeds of Deception.” The biotech execs claim not only are GM foods safe, these seeds are going to feed a starving world. Others beg to differ.

In 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) stated that “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified (GM) food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM has asked physicians to advise all patients to avoid GM foods.

FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged long-term safety studies, but were ignored.

And then of course, there’s a whole camp of consumers, farmers (both organic and conventional) and non-profits that simply believe it’s unethical to mess around with nature, as nature is bound to fight back with a wallop. I’m of this camp. I don’t care what studies find or what they don’t find. I don’t want to eat Frankenstein seeds.

The other problem is that GM foods threaten the purity of organics and the business of organics, too. As pointed out by Grist senior food and agriculture writer Tom Philpott, alfalfa is a prolific pollinator, meaning that GM alfalfa can easily cross-breed with non-GM alfalfa.

“If organic producers find their crop contaminated with GM material, they risk losing their organic certification and, likely, their livelihoods. The organic dairy industry, which relies on a steady supply of organic alfalfa, would also be imperiled,” Philpott writes.

This is what makes the recent USDA decision so disappointing. Despite the fact that U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $24.8 billion in 2009 — a loud and clear public cry for clean, chemical-free food — our government “leaders” caved in to big biotech business. According to the Food and Water Watch report, the biotech industry spent more than a half billion dollars on lobbying between 1999 and 2009, and in 2009 alone, the GMO giants spent $71 million pushing its agenda. I have to point out, too, that there’s a controversial revolving door of employees between Monsanto and the USDA. Watch the film “Food, Inc” if you’re interested in learning more.

Opening the gates for GM alfalfa is a perfect example of the “business as usual” that continues to go down despite Obama’s promises of change. Our government continues to serve big business, instead of the public, which means once again we must serve ourselves. We are the people we’ve been waiting for, so see the info box for ideas on how to avoid GMOs. And, take action.

Freelance writer Cassie Pence is passionate about living a more sustainable lifestyle. She and her husband, Captain Vacuum, own Organic Housekeepers, a green cleaning company. Contact her at




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