Brussels Sprouts— enjoy the gargantuan sprouts by roasting, stir-frying or steaming them.
Salad Mix— this week’s salad is a mix of lettuce and mustard greens (Ruby Streaks, Mizuna and Yakina Savoy).
Red Russian Kale
Russet Potatoes— these potatoes have a nice light texture, perfect for baked potatoes.
Cilantro— the last of this year’s cilantro.
Red Cooking Onions
In last week’s newsletter we discussed the Washington ballot measure that was seeking to make labeling of all genetically modified food products mandatory. This week we hope that we can provide you with some background information about GMO’s that will be useful as we continue the discussion of the issues revolving around genetically modified foods.
So what exactly is a GMO? According to the World Health Organization, “Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology”, sometimes also “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non-related species.”
In agriculture, the transfer of genes from one species to another has changed the way crops would naturally behave under certain physical conditions. For example, with GMO Roundup Ready Corn, the herbicide Roundup, can be applied directly to the plant to kill surrounding weeds without causing the corn plant to die. If traditional corn plants were directly sprayed in this manner, the corn plant would die along with all the weeds around it. This genetic modification has given certain crops the ability to be directly exposed to high amounts of herbicides, which has caused a significant increase in agricultural reliance on chemicals.
Chemical companies such as Monsanto, Dow, Dupont and Bayer are all spearheading the research and development of new GMO crops in order to increase farmer’s reliance on the chemicals they manufacture and their patented GMO seeds that must be purchased annually. Although farmers have been saving their own seed for thousands of years, the patents allow these companies to sue farmers for doing so today—even if their fields have merely been contaminated with GMO seeds without their knowledge.
This technology is currently being used on many crops in the U.S. including up to 85% of U.S. corn, 91% of soybeans and 88% of cotton. “It has been estimated that upwards of 75% of processed foods on supermarket shelves – from soda to soup, crackers to condiments – contain genetically engineered ingredients” (Center for Food Safety).
As farmers, these statistics are quite alarming to us and our future as growers of non-GMO foods. While we have a choice to grow non-GMO seeds, we cannot, however, prevent our plants from cross pollinating with the plants of our neighboring growers. This means that when GMO corn is planted near an organic grower’s non-GMO corn plot, the two plantings can cross pollinate, which causes the non-GMO corn to produce new GMO seed. This could lead to the contamination of non-GMO seed-stock, making the consumption of GMOs inevitable.
There are many efforts being made to oppose the proliferation of GMOs. In 2009, organic farmer, Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed in Philomath, OR took a proactive approach to tackling the issue of seed contamination by suing the USDA for failing to assess the negative environmental impacts of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beets. As we mentioned last week ballot measures across the country have been introduced that will require labeling of GMOs. Both of these movements call out for more transparency and accountability in our food systems.
We hope this overview of the issues revolving around GMOs has painted a clear, broad picture. In the coming weeks, we will go more in-depth on each of these issues, with the hopes of providing a solid understanding of this important topic.
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!