Whenever I can I buy organic. Part of the reason being-organic foods, by definition, can’t contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But genetically modified corn, soy and other crops have become such common ingredients in processed foods that even one of the nation’s top organic food retailers, Whole Foods, says it’s been unable to avoid stocking some products that contain them.
The Obama Administration has recently pushed to deregulate quite a few genetically modified foods including plums, sugar beets and alfalfa and has done so with the blessing of governmental agencies including the USDA, which continues to support deregulation of these crops. This deregulation creates a real risk for cross contamination.
What is cross contamination?
The cross contamination of crops refers to the crossing over of genetically modified genes into conventional, or non-GMO plants. Pollen from GM crops and trees can contaminate nearby crops and wild plants of the same type (except for soy, which doesn’t cross-pollinate).
One of alfalfas primary uses is to feed our organic livestock. Alfalfa is a wind-pollinated crop. That means rather than primarily by birds or insects, pollen is simply spread by the wind. Neighboring farms can easily take on unwanted traits of the GMO crop by cross-contamination by the wind blowing the pollen from one farm to another. If organic alfalfa becomes contaminated with GMO alfalfa then our organic livestock will be eating GMO feed.
The result: GMOs will make maintaining organic feed next to impossible. The organic meat at the market could have been fed feed contaminated by GMOs.
This time of the year the shelves at my local market are bursting with fresh produce. Plums are one of my favorites. But I’m worried: plums are at risk for similar cross contamination. Even though the USDA claims that steps will be taken to prevent contamination, cross contamination is inevitable. The reality is that bees and other insects are able to travel long distances between trees, sometimes stopping for pollen or food at a GM tree and other times at a non GM tree. The constant swapping and stopping at a mixture of farms will inevitably cause cross contamination. It seems as though it is impossible to prevent.
The result: Organic and conventional plum trees will no longer be truly organic and they won’t be able to market themselves as such.
Bottom line: The introduction of GM crops creates a real issue of cross contamination which could ultimately destroy many organic farmers businesses and places our organic produce at risk of extinction.
Will you continue to eat fruits and vegetables that may have been contaminated by GM crops?