Organic Vs. GMO: Making The Case For Both
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to view a film called Food Evolution. It turned out to be an eye-opening experience. I went in thinking that this would be an attempt to discredit GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) foods, by those who believe them to be dangerous. What it turned out to be was a fascinating scientific perspective on why the public--encouraged by (mostly) well-meaning proponents of organic foods-- have got GMOs all wrong.
First, though, let's define what we're talking about. The USDA states that "organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation". GMO is defined as "An organism whose genome has been altered by the techniques of genetic engineering so that its DNA contains one or more genes not normally found there."
If you've been paying attention at the grocery store in the past few years, you've noticed that many products now come "Non-GMO Project Verified". What does it mean, and should you choose products because they are verified non-GMO? It's true that consumers are becoming more aware and concerned about the use of pesticides and hormones in their foods. Thanks to the organic food lobby, GMOs have been folded into the debate. Claims about GMOs and their safety have been made, and as the film exposes, not all of the claims have a basis in scientific fact.
Produced by documentary filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy, Food Evolution features the voice of American astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and contains interviews with dozens of scientists and activists on both sides of the issue. It's a timely film. As the organic food movement grows, and the non-GMO label continues to appear on more and more food items, it's become important that consumers understand what it means. The best way to do this is to research exactly what GMOs are and why they are important to many people across the planet, case in point: Africans affected by a fungus that threatens to wipe out banana crops, a staple of their diet and an essential export.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) estimated in 2012 that about 81% of families were purchasing organic food at least some of the time. According to the United States Organic Food Market Forecast & Opportunities, 2018,” the organic food market in the U.S is forecasted to grow at the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 14% during the years 2014-2018." Clearly, consumers are interested in feeding their families what they perceive to be clean, natural, and therefore, healthy foods. Does this exclude GMOs?
Or, as Food Evolution puts it: "Amongst all this conflict and confusion around food, how do we make the best decisions about how we feed ourselves?"
Good question. Let's find out.