We pride ourselves on not growing GMO foods. All of our seeds are organic, often heirloom, and often saved by gardeners and farmers themselves. It’s interesting how charged this topic is – many scientists are neutral on the topic, mostly because they are coming at it from an extremely scientific point of view. The technology of genetically modifying foods is a pretty neutral thing in itself. Any attributes of the food can be modified – flavor, disease resistance, color, durability – but it has overwhelmingly been used for pesticide resistance on major commodity crops. Over 90% of the corn, soy, and sugar beets grown in the United States are genetically modified. This has been the most destructive use of GMO technology, effectively increasing overall pesticide use, which antagonizes pollinator populations and soil microbiota, and encourages the evolution of super weeds.
Government organizations declare that GMO foods are safe for human health and consumption, but the people are still wary of GMO foods. Vermont has been the first state to pass a GMO labeling law, stirring a political uproar, but has quietly defeated Big Food. On July 1 this year, there will likely be some products on grocery store shelves in Vermont that read in small fine print near the nutrition label, “produced with genetic engineering.”
Still, there are some exclusions to the Vermont labeling law, such as dairy, meat, and certain other products. Primarily an agricultural state, most Vermont cattle operations grow GMO RoundUp corn for feed. Because of the exemption on dairy and meat, Vermont will likely continue to grow GMO corn. Despite these exclusions, the effect on mass produced food is huge. Because of the complications in providing different food labels for different states, the easiest thing for Big Food to do is change their labeling for nationwide distribution.
Regardless of all the controversy around GMO’s, I know that GMO labeling will have major impacts on our collective awareness of food and health. It’s definitely a major step forward in taking back control of our food system, and another nudge towards a gentler, more ecological way of growing food.
The magical thing about the farm is that we pretty much don’t have weeds, and we barely have any pest problems. So we really have no need for pesticide resistant GMO crops. It looks magical, but it’s really because of thoughtful ecological design. The next step for us is to test our practices on a larger scale. Our approach depends on more labor, but that seems a small price to pay for preserving our livelihood on this planet.
The main argument for GMOs is that it is rooted in the belief that we need to grow more food to feed our growing population. However, the truth is that we throw away about 40% of all the perfectly edible food that is grown, and it does not get distributed fairly or efficiently to the people who need it, instead finding itself sitting on a landfill emitting methane, a potent greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. John Oliver’s bit on Food Waste is at once tragic and hilarious, and paints a perfect picture of the idiocy of the situation.
At the farm, not only are we building our market, we are exploring ways to increase access to healthy food. We have sold our produce to LA Kitchen, an organization the prepares healthy meals and snacks for people in need, we have donated our produce to the LA Burrito Project that provides free burritos in downtown, and we are currently in the process of accepting EBT payments for our produce. We would never ever landfill any of our produce – anything not sold or donated would get composted.