Real Food Requires Real Ingredients: What is Non-GMO and Why Should You Care?

Friday March 11, 2016 by Kate Schade, CEO *(Chief Energy Officer) @ Kate's Real Food

Non-GMO Farm courtesy of Kate SchadeFood labels are thrown around regularly, and often exploited. The word "natural" has no definition these days, but Organic, Biodynamic, and Non-GMO carry weight because they are not just words, they have become third party verified certifications. Understanding what a product is or what the label means is complex—but since food equates to our health and the sustenance that keeps us moving, it should be one of the most important issues facing anyone who eats. The food labeling industry spends billions of dollars each year on marketing products and on representing their contents, but do you know what they are really telling you?

Knowing what you eat and how to eat can change your life, and your performance level. We are all on this earth's food chain. Keeping your exposure down from toxins and endocrine disruptors begins with watching what foods you buy and ingest.  Organic foods are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Organic animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones. Taste is the most evident difference. There is no question that the color and taste of an organic tomato trumps the conventional counterpart.

The truth is you get what you pay for. The more investment you make into your food, the greater investment for your body but also for independent farmers who are committed to biodiversity, sustainable practices and a diverse marketplace.

Understanding Non GMO, or Non-genetically modified organisms, is more complex but also comes down to biodiversity. The Center for Biodiversity’s (CB) definition is the most clarifying:  “biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems, and the ecological and evolutionary processes that sustain it. Biodiversity includes not only species we consider rare, threatened, or endangered, but every living thing—even organisms we still know little about, such as microbes, fungi, and invertebrates.” Biodiversity is the wu, the chi, the energy, whatever you want to call it, that is everywhere for animals, plants and humans; it’s close by and it’s faraway.

According to CB, we need biodiversity to satisfy basic needs like food, drinking water, fuel, shelter, and medicine. “Much of the world's population still uses plants and animals as a primary source of medicine. In the United States alone, about 57% of the 150 most prescribed drugs have their origins in biodiversity. Ecosystems provide services such as pollination, seed dispersal, climate regulation, water purification, nutrient cycling, and control of agricultural pests. Many flowering plants depend on animals for pollination, and 30% of human crops depend on the free services of pollinators.”

So yes, the planet is really fragile but what does that have to do with GMOs? Take a look at the definition given by the NonGMO Project: “GMOs (or “genetically modified organisms”) are organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering, or GE. This relatively new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods. This means new genes have been introduced to alter original DNA.”

This is not the same as grafting from your best orange tree or breeding your best cow to get good traits in the next generation, this is rewriting your best orange tree and cow altogether to be#Facesofkates - 'Love your Farmer...' something else. GMO’s are actually disturbing the sequences and flows of the food chain. Biotech seed companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, BASF, and DuPont spend billions on publicity campaigns proving to consumers that they can save farmers from using pesticides, lower the cost of food and end world hunger. Unfortunately, the introduction of biotech seeds into an ecosystem immediately dissolves the preservation of that ecosystem which becomes unstable and potentially harmful. When the biotech industry began, scientists worked under the assumption that genes were shared only between individual members of a species through reproduction. What we now know is that genes are shared not only among the individual members of a species, but also among members of different species. This does not provide a lot faith in the safety of a GMO product, does it?

Even worse, unless you are tracking all of the information available through watchdog groups, you can’t find out what the ingredients are that make up that papaya or sweet corn. You will drive yourself nuts trying to find out information for everything. Learning how to read a label on a product saves you time and gives you assurance that what you are eating has been verified by a third party and offers traceability for everything related to that product from packaging to ingredients to expiration date.

Real food requires real ingredients. Look for Organic and NonGMO Project certifications on your labels. The Eco Label Index features the most comprehensive list of current certifications through out the global food system. In order for a product to achieve certification, the producer of that product needs to meet National Organic Program (NOP) standards for organic certification and currently, the Non GMO Project is the, third party verification for NonGMO.

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