Ancient Rice in a Modern World: Biopiracy and Bioengineering

by Michele McKay

In the course of 8,000 years, innovative Asian farmers have bred over 10,000 varieties of rice, each suited to different growing conditions and tastes. Today, centuries-old practices of traditional rice cultivation are threatened by corporate financial interests and technologies known as "biopiracy" and "bioengineering."

Biopiracy

Basmati rice, bred into many strains over thousands of years by Indian and Pakistani growers, is prized in the world market for its quality and fragrance. Approximately 80 percent of India’s Basmati rice is grown for export, and thousands of farmers depend on it for their livelihoods. In 1997 the Texas-based corporation RiceTec, Inc., was granted a U.S. patent on the name Basmati, giving it commercial ownership of the name for rice seed, rice plants, and rice grain. This case of “biopiracy” raised global outrage, as Indian rice growers and exporters would have to pay royalties to RiceTec if they sold their traditional product under the familiar Basmati name. International organizations launched a challenge to the patent, and in 2001 their effort was successful. In addition to forcing RiceTec to drop its Basmati venture, the campaign raised awareness and understanding about biopiracy and the issues associated with patenting living organisms.

Bioengineering

Although the Basmati patent was struck down, biotech giants Monsanto, Syngenta, and others are moving forward with genetic research and are patenting “bioengineered” rice. One controversial example is Golden Rice, a genetically modified organism (GMO) created by adding genetic material from flowers and bacteria to the DNA of rice. The resulting rice grain contains vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, and is touted as a solution to childhood blindness caused by vitamin A deficiency. Scientists and activists who are opposed to the GMO-related corporate control of agriculture argue that vitamin A deficiency in developing countries is not caused by deficiencies in crops themselves, but by the loss of diverse sources of food. Golden Rice provides only a minimum percentage of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A, while a varied diet including leafy green vegetables, sweet potatoes, and fruit would provide families with plenty of vitamin A. If the money spent on developing Golden Rice could be spent instead on distributing seed for safe, naturally vitamin A-rich crops, a serious health issue would be addressed, while fostering biodiversity and sustainable traditional agriculture.

What you can do:

  • Vote with your dollars by purchasing GMO-free products.
  • Visit www.gefoodalert.org for information on global biopiracy and bioengineering issues.
Footnotes: 

Visit www.higean.org for information on GMO-related cultural and agricultural issues in Hawaii.

GMOs: Risky Business

by Michele McKay

Food labeling laws have come a long way. For the benefit of the consumer, requiring identification of allergens and trans-fats is now mandated by the law. However, biotechnology, the process of genetic engineering that creates genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is a rapidly growing and potentially dangerous technology that has no labeling requirements. Today, many commercial crops are genetically engineered, with soybeans, corn, and canola at the top of the list. The only way to avoid them is to purchase products labeled “organic” or “Non-GMO.”

GMOs are the result of splicing genetic material from any living organism (including bacteria and viruses) into the genetic material of another living organism. Genetic engineering is not the same as traditional breeding since the organisms used can be completely unrelated to each other. Genetically engineered foods have the potential to create allergens, toxins, health problems, or changes in the nutritional value of foods. Yet no studies have monitored their impacts on people, and the lack of labeling makes health effects difficult to determine. In addition, it is impossible to contain genetic material in open-field tests, risking permanent damage to other species or to entire ecosystems.

Here in Hawai'i, there are many controversial issues surrounding GMOs, including open-field testing of experimental corn, the widespread contamination of papaya crops with genetically engineered seed, and the patenting of genetically engineered taro.

What you can do

  • Educate yourself. Visit the GMO-free Hawai'i website: www.hijean.org and its links for information on health and economic impacts of GMOs in Hawai'i.
  • Join a GMO-free group on your island.
  • Call or write to elected officials. Tell them you support labeling requirements and a moratorium or ban on biotech farming in Hawai'i.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspapers to help inform others.
Footnotes: 

Avoid genetically engineered foods by buying organic and “GMO-free” products. If you love papayas, rest assured that the Down to Earth stores carry only certified non-GMO varieties.

Down to Earth to Require GMO Labeling by 2018

All Products Containing Genetically Modified Ingredients Will
Need to Be Labeled As Such

Down to Earth Organic & Natural today announced it will begin requiring any products with ingredients containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be labeled as such by 2018. The decision follows a similar announcement by Whole Foods this past Friday.

"Whole Foods announcement is a game changer," says Mark Fergusson, Down to Earth Chief Organic Officer. "It marks a big victory in the move towards the labeling of genetically labeled foods. Down to Earth will monitor and review the situation and may move our implementation date earlier if that becomes possible."

Fergusson says Down to Earth believes in providing foods that are good for people and the environment. "GMOs pose health and environmental risks, and have resulted in increased herbicide use, growth of super-weeds, and loss of biodiversity. GMOs have led to increased control over the food supply by a handful of multinational companies and, simply put, are moving in the wrong direction. We should be moving towards organic sustainable agriculture, not towards ever increasing use of harmful pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, and dangerous genetic modifications with a host of unwanted, and little understood, negative impacts on human health and the environment” he explains.

"We call upon all natural food retailers and other natural products industry members to join the requirement for GMO labeling for all products sold by the industry. Acting together we can implement labeling without having to wait for government," said Fergusson.

As Down to Earth moves towards its long term goal of being all organic and GMO free, the company is gradually eliminating, and avoiding adding, products that may contain GMOs. The company does not sell single-ingredient GMO foods including, papaya, corn, soy, canola or sugar. And, they give preference to products that are USDA certified Organic or have the Non-GMO Project Verified seal, which is which is backed by independent testing. The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit initiative of the natural products industry.

"The natural products industry along with many concerned consumers and others, have long pressed for and supported efforts to require mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs," adds Fergusson.

Proposition 37, which was introduced in California this past November, would have required mandatory labeling of GMO foods. While it failed to pass by a narrow margin, it sparked a growing movement across the Nation as consumers in virtually every state are organizing to pass laws on the state level that will require labeling of foods containing GMOs, including in Hawaii where HB174 would require labeling of genetically modified imported produce items.

Fergusson is also the President of HOFA (Hawaii Organic Farming Association) which advocates for and educates about organic and sustainable agriculture and related issues.

Started in Maui in 1977, Down to Earth is Hawaii's leading organic and natural food store chain. It has four stores on Oahu: Honolulu, Kailua, Pearlridge, and Kapolei; and one in Kahului on Maui.

Organic Food: Good for You and the Environment

by Tandis Bishop

When we think about consuming the freshest and healthiest food possible, it is important to consider two questions. One – what makes organic food natural? And the other – what impact do your shopping choices have on the environment?

On Organic food

If you’re reading this article, you are probably someone who wants to become more health conscious and to make healthier choices in your eating habits and lifestyle. You are likely to be interested in foods containing as little chemicals, preservatives, additives, or pesticides as possible. And certainly you would prefer eating foods that are not irradiated or genetically modified. In general, you want to eat food that is by nature’s arrangement, all natural.

Organic food gives you all the things you are looking for, grown naturally the way nature intended it. When you buy organic foods, you don’t have to worry because organic farmers follow strict standards to grow the most natural fruits and vegetables. They don’t use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, hormones, antibiotics, sewage sludge, irradiation, or any genetically modified organisms. Just look for the “USDA/Organic” label, and you can be confident that stringent guidelines have been followed to bring you that wholesome natural product. Down to Earth is proud to offer you an enormous selection of such organic products.

On the Environment

Along with this awareness of wanting to eat healthy foods usually comes a concern for how we treat the environment. As we become more educated about how conventional farming methods destroy top soil and pollute our waters, etc., it is only natural to want to buy food that has been grown by sustainable agricultural methods that avoid the unnecessary pollution caused by chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Genetically Modified Organisms are another concern. Through scientific intervention to “improve” crops, mankind has potentially opened a Pandora’s box by messing around with Mother Nature. The long-term damages caused by these biological experiments could be irreversible. While government agencies argue they are perfectly safe, the jury is still out. One example of the damage that can be done by “arranging” nature is when people brought mongooses to Hawaii to get rid of the rats. It did not work, we still have plenty of rats, and now, unfortunately, there are not as many native birds.

The Easy Answer

If you want to eat healthy and/or help the environment, choose Organic foods.

Ways to Avoid Genetically Modified Food

GMO: Genetically Modified

by Tandis Bishop

Much of the food in the supermarket today is made with genetically modified ingredients or GMOs. As a consumer you can avoid GM food in several ways:

  1. Buy foods labeled “100% Organic.” U.S. law prohibits genetically engineered food or ingredients in products labeled 100% organic. However, if processed or packaged food is simply labeled “organic” then it can contain up to 30% genetically modified (GM) food. “Organic” is fine for single food items such as produce.
  2. Look for "Non-GMO Project Verified” label on product packaging. Down to Earth strongly promotes the organic industry, whose products are produced without GMOs. Until recently, selecting foods labeled Organic has been the only way customers could avoid non-GMO foods. However, organic certification covers how a food is grown, not the content of the food itself. And, since food production has become increasingly compromised by cross pollination and cross contamination in processing and handling, even organic certification does not guarantee that a product is GMO free.
    If a non-organic product contains corn, soy, canola oil, or even sugar (as a significant amount of sugar is now produced from GMO sugar beets) it may contain GMOs unless the manufacturer makes a specific claim that their product is GMO free. However, even if a manufacturer makes such a claim there is no way to know whether such claims are actually valid because they generally are not backed by third-party testing or adherence to independent standards of transportation and processing, etc.
    The natural products industry, along with many concerned consumers and others, have long pressed for and supported efforts to require mandatory labeling of foods containing GMOs. Consumers have repeatedly stated they do not want GMOs in their foods. If such products were labeled, their sales would likely plummet resulting in their economic failure. Sadly, for various reasons, mandatory labeling efforts have not succeeded.
    As a result of these issues Down to Earth, along with the natural products industry, has strongly supported the Non-GMO Project. The Non-GMO Project provides manufacturers with a "Non-GMO Project Verified" logo backed by independent testing. The “Non-GMO Project Verified” logo means that GMO contamination has been avoided throughout the growth and harvesting of crops, their processing, storage and packaging. Over 1,000 products have been verified to date, with thousands more in the process.
    As manufacturers begin to include the “Non-GMO Project Verified” logo on their packaging, you will see more and more of the verified products on Down to Earth's shelves. Consumers have the right to choose what foods to eat and feed their families. This Non-GMO logo enables consumers to exercise this right!
    For more information visit The Non-GMO Project
  3. Eat locally grown food. Since most genetically engineered food comes from large industrial farms, you are more likely to find non-GMO food grown by small local farms. You can also contact your local farmers and ask them directly about how the food is grown.
  4. Identify how produce is grown by reading its label or sticker number.
    • 4-digit number means food was conventionally grown.
    • 5-digit number that begins with a 9 means produce is organic.
    • 5-digit number that begins with an 8 means it is genetically modified. (PLU labeling is optional so not all genetically modified produce can be identified)
  5. Know which foods and their derivatives are most likely genetically engineered. Such as:
    • Soybeans and soy products such as soy lecithin, soy protein, isolated soy, soy flour, etc. Soy is the most heavily modified food and is also commonly used as an additive. So in the U.S., if your label says it contains soy, then it contains GMO. If you consume soy products such as tofu or soymilk, make sure the labeling states that the tofu or soy beans are organic. You will find that many of the soy products at Down to Earth are organic.
    • Corn and corn-based products. Corn is also a heavily modified food (with the exception of popcorn). Best to look for products that say “100% organic.” Corn derivatives include corn starch, high-fructose corn syrup, modified food/corn starch, corn oil, etc.
    • Canola oil. Virtually all canola oil (or rapeseed oil) grown in the world (except in the EU) is from genetically engineered crops.
    • Dairy products. Many dairy farms give cows the genetically modified growth hormone rBGH or rBST to increase milk production. Look for dairy products labeled as r-BGH/rBST-free. Better yet, buy organic milk and dairy products to also avoid GMOs and pesticides.
    • Sugar beets. Product labels containing “sugar” can be from either cane sugar or sugar beets. So to avoid beet sugar, look for products with ingredients that say evaporated cane sugar, organic sugar or cane sugar.
    • Aspartame. Aside from being an unnatural, unhealthy artificial sweetener, it is made from GMOs. Aspartame is found in products such as “Equal”, “NutraSweet,” sugar-free gum, and diet sodas and beverages.

Down to Earth Named Top 10 “Right-to-Know Grocer”

Our GMO Labeling Efforts Are Among Best in Southwest Region, Says Organic Consumers Association.

Down to Earth was named among the Top 10 “Right-to-Know Grocers” in the Southwest Region by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). Nominations were submitted by customers and friends of Down to Earth. Thanks to all who helped to support us in this campaign!

“Currently, people don’t have a choice," says Mark Fergusson, Down to Earth Chief Organic Officer (CEO/CFO). "They don’t know whether what they are buying is GMO. So, it’s really a right-to-know issue and also a freedom-of-choice issue. Down to Earth and the Organic industry feel that GMO agriculture is totally moving in the wrong direction. We shouldn’t be putting more and more poisons on the land and genetically modifying crops. We should be growing organically and sustainably.”

“We’re honored by OCA’s recognition of our call to label foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and our efforts to educate the community about the right to know,” said Mark Fergusson, Down to Earth Chief Organic Officer (CEO/CFO). Ronnie Cummins, OCA National Director, noted that “As demand grows for organic and locally grown non-GMO foods and truth in labeling, hundreds of food retailers are rising to the occasion. The OCA recognizes the efforts stores like Down to Earth are making.” Down to Earth proactively advocates GMO labeling through a wide variety of efforts. Mark Fergusson, Down to Earth Chief Organic Officer (CEO/CFO), regularly:

  • Submits written and in-person testimony at the legislature in support of GMO labeling
  • Speaks at community educational panel discussions on Oahu and Maui in support of GMO labeling
  • Represents the consumer's right to know on TV and radio shows such as the GMO debates earlier this year on PBS TV "Insight," KGU-AM with Jeff Davis "The Solar Guy," and Hawaii Public Radio's news with Molly Solomon, among others.

Trisha "Mama T" Gonsalves, Down to Earth Community Coordinator, advocates for GMO labeling through legislative testimony and community presentations. She represents Down to Earth on the organizing committee of Label It Hawaii (LIH), a grass roots community organization dedicated to promoting GMO labeling. Down to Earth is an LIH founding member. Down to Earth also provides GMO education online via our website and Facebook:

The OCA also recognized Down to Earth for its efforts in encouraging food manufacturers to transition from GMO to non-GMO ingredients, for our commitment to eliminate all foods containing GMOs from our store and to not add any new GMO foods. Down to Earth will require GMO labeling by 2018 for all products in its stores containing GMO ingredients.

Knowing When to Say When

by Michael Bond

No, this is not an article about drinking and driving. It is about common sense and respect for nature. Big business has for years poisoned our food and water supplies with all sorts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the name of “progress.” It was really just a determined few who managed to preserve any meaning to the word “organic.”

Over the last decade we sat back and allowed Genetically Modified Organisms to contaminate nearly all major staples of grains and vegetables. When scientists started mixing genes of fish with tomatoes, they not only threatened the existence of every vegetarian, but everyone who believes in eating food the way nature intended it.

But now, scientists are stepping across an ethical line. The FDA just released a draft risk assessment stating “that meat and milk from clones and their offspring are as safe as food we eat every day.” Ian Wilmut (the scientist who produced Dolly, the famous cloned sheep, in 1997) warned that even small imbalances in a clone’s hormone, protein or fat levels could compromise the safety of its milk or meat.

Some consumer groups argue that the government should at least require such food to carry special labels. Others complain the foods have not been proven safe. But as we have already seen with the FDA’s rubber stamp of GMO foods, special labels or truly objective studies will not do much to protect you from the possible dangers of eating products from cloned animals.

Livestock cloning raises numerous health and ethical concerns. Over 99 percent of cloning attempts fail. Thus there is an obvious increase in animal cruelty, as the process involves needless suffering of the surrogate mothers, along with the deformed and sick offspring that often result. But even among the “successful” clones, cloned animals that are born have more health problems and higher mortality rates than sexually reproduced animals.

While Down to Earth customers obviously will not have to worry about buying meat from cloned animals at our stores, milk from cloned cows could eventually end up in some of our dairy products. But milk from cloned cows could not be labeled organic. So, given that the FDA will probably not be labeling products containing cloned animal ingredients, buying organic may be the only way to avoid it.

It is not too late for you to make a difference. The FDA is accepting public comments for 90 days. Find out more from www.fda.gov. (The exact link is www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2006/NEW01541.html)

Footnotes: 

For more information and to find out how you can help visit the Center for Food Safety’s website at: www.centerforfoodsafety.org/geneticall4.cfm

Non-GMO Products on SALE – Celebrating your right to know!

by Tandis Bishop

Down to Earth is celebrating Non-GMO Month by putting a wide variety of non-GMO products on sale from Thursday, October 10th through Wednesday, November 13th. Customers can see which items are on sale by viewing our Super Saver Flyer Deals online. The flyer is also distributed in our stores. Look for these special signs featuring the Non-GMO Seal. 


Food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is the result of a laboratory process where genes are taken from one species and inserted into another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic. GMOs are also known as genetically engineered-, bio-engineered-, biotech crops, or transgenic organisms.


As consumer awareness has drastically grown over the past few years about the unknown health and environmental hazards from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), so has the demand for non-GMO food products and consumers’ demand to label GMO food.


GMOs Stir Uproar in Hawaii


Worldwide the concern about GMOs continues to rise. Not only is there concern about uncertain health effects of consuming GMOS, but there is also the concern about the chemical farming practices that are harmful to humans and the environment. Here in Hawaii, with five of the largest chemical biotech companies using thousands of acres as GMO test fields, local residents' objection to their use of pesticides has made national headlines. Just this week Kauai County Council has passed Bill 2491 that will set up buffer zones around housing communities, schools, medical facilities, public roadways and water facilities. It will also require mandatory disclosure of any use of more than 15 gallons of restricted pesticides annually. The Big Island of Hawaii is also very close to passing Bill 113 that will actually be a GMO ban on any new GMO crops or testing fields. GMO papaya and corn that already exists on the island will continued to be allowed. The Bill passed its first reading 10/16/13 with a vote 6 in favor to 2 no votes. The second reading will be in early November.


States Continue Introducing GMO Labeling Bills


The uproar of consumer demand has been growing for some time. In March of 2012, a petition with over one million signatures demanding labeling of GMOs was delivered to the FDA, and the list of supporters has only continued to grow. In fall of 2012, Kaiser Permanente published an article in one of their newsletters advising consumers to reduce their exposure to GMO foods.1 And in November 2012, nearly half of California voters voted in favor of Proposition 37, which called for mandatory GMO labeling. This was an overwhelming turnout despite the $45 million spent by GMO companies to fight Prop 37. The ads depicted farmers, politicians, and scientists claiming GMO labeling would be detrimental to business, confusing and costly to consumers, and counterproductive to research. Although the measure did not pass, it raised unprecedented awareness, and 30 other states are now working on mandatory labeling initiatives.2 Washington State now waits in the balance with GMO Labeling Bill I-522. Biotech companies are doing exactly what they did in California to defeat this Bill by pouring millions of dollars into opposing propaganda. November 4th all eyes will be on Washington as we wait to see if the peoples' right to know prevails.


Introduced in 1996, the genetic engineering of plants and animals today looms as one of the greatest and most intractable environmental and health challenges of the 21st Century. With promises of making more and supposedly “better” food, this new technology has invaded our farmlands, grocery stores, and our kitchen pantries by fundamentally altering some of our most important staple food crops.


As of 2011, 88% of U.S. corn is genetically engineered as are 94% of soy, 95% of sugar beets, 90% of canola oil, 90% of cotton, and about 80% of Hawaiian papaya.3 Everything including bread, cereal, frozen pizza, soup, soda – all sorts of processed foods – now contain genetically engineered ingredients. Dairy products from cows treated with a genetically modified hormone, rBGH, are also a common source of GMOs. Because there are no laws mandating that these ingredients must be labeled as genetically modified, many consumers are purchasing and eating genetically modified ingredients without knowing it.


Mexico Bans GMOs Outright


The government and GMO industry claim that GMO crops are safe for human consumption and the environment. According to them we don’t need to know, so no labeling is required. The FDA has rejected labeling of GMO foods since their commercialization in 1992. By contrast, labeling is required in countries including the 27 member nations of the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Brazil, and China. Some countries have even banned GMOs outright. Mexico is the latest to announce a ban on GMO corn. Judge Jaime Eduardo Verdugo, of Mexico City ordered a mandatory ban on 10/15/13, effective immediately. Judge Verdugo states that the corn posed, “the risk of imminent harm to the environment”.


Today, never have there been more biochemists, biologists, agriculturalists, environmentalists, physicians, dietitians, and even genetic engineering researchers speaking out about the potential adverse health effects and environmental harm associated with the genetic engineering of our food supply – and our right to know. Down to Earth joins the call for GMO labeling so that, if we want, we can choose not to eat GMOs. Our right to know what is in the food we are buying and our right to choose our preferred food should not be usurped for any reason. And so, in celebration of Non-GMO Month, we want you to take advantage of your “right to know” by offering savings on Non-GMO Verified products!

Footnotes: 
  1. Prevention. Kaiser Permanente Highlights Risks of Genetically Modified Foods. November 2012. http://blogs.prevention.com/inspired-bites/2012/11/29/kaiser-permanente-...
  2. Forbes. GMO Labeling Proponents Look to Farm Bill. November 2012. http://www.forbes.com/sites/amywestervelt/2012/11/13/with-california-pro...
  3. USDA Economic Research Service, "Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S."

GMO Awareness – Your Right to Know

Photo Illustration: Genetic Engineering

by Tandis Bishop, RD

One of the most dangerous and least understood experiments with human health the world has ever known is currently underway without your consent—in your household and households across the nation, indeed throughout our entire planet. It is the wholesale contamination of the world's food supply with genetically modified organisms (GMOs).


Government and the GMO industry say these new crops are environmentally safe and that there's no nutritional difference between GMOs and conventional crops. According to them we don't need to know, so no labeling is required.


This October, Down to Earth will join more than 1,500 grocery retailers across North America participating in the fifth annual Non-GMO Month. This month-long celebration puts a spotlight on a person’s right to choose food and products without genetically modified organisms (GMOs). 


Why should we be concerned about GMOs? GMOs may pose health, safety, and other potential risks that far outweigh the purported benefits.


Health risks: No one is certain how these new gene combinations will behave long-term. Animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GMO food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.


Environmental risks: Genetic engineering allows plants to survive high doses of weed killers, resulting in higher herbicide residues in our food. GMO crops are creating ‘super weeds’ and ‘super bugs,’ which can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons. Pollen drift from GMOs can contaminate nearby crops and wild plants through crossbreeding. Once released into the environment inadvertently, GMOs cannot be recalled.


GMOs are in 80% of the processed food on grocery store shelves—and a handful of whole foods as well, with perhaps more on the way soon.1,2


  • Alfalfa (first planting 2011)
  • Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)
  • Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres. Down to Earth sells only non-GMO papayas!)
  • Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
  • Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)
  • Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash (approx. 25,000 acres)

Labeling is needed so consumers can make an informed choice.


Public concern about GMOs is rising as studies increasingly raise doubts about the long-term safety and environmental impact of this experimental technology. GMO labeling is mandatory in 64 countries around the world, including Australia, Russia, China, and all of Europe, but no such requirements exist in the U.S.


“We have the right to know what we’re eating and feeding our families,” says Mark Fergusson, Down to Earth Chief Organic Officer (CEO/CFO). “Foods containing GMO ingredients should be labeled," he says


The non-GMO category is one of the fastest growing sectors in grocery; with 80% of shoppers seeking out non-GMO products and 56% saying non-GMO was key to brand buying.3  This growing awareness is sparking major change in the industry:  labeling ballot measures, food manufacturers refining ingredients; retailers announcing their non-GMO purchasing policies; and food service companies inquiring about verification. To date, over 22,000 products have been Non-GMO Project Verified, with annual sales of these products topping $7 billion.


The simple truth is that most people want the right to choose what they eat and what they feed their families. For consumers to make informed decisions, the public deserves a truthful marketplace. Watch the recent interview with KITV as Fergusson, speaks out about GMOs.


How can customers avoid food containing GMOs?


One of the ways to avoid GMOs is to choose foods that have the Organic seal, which certifies that GMOs were not used in production:


USDA Organic


Another option is to look for the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal issued by the Non-GMO Project:4


Non-GMO Project Verified


Down to Earth’s Long-Term Goal is to be: All-Organic & GMO-Free


As we move towards our long-term goal to be all-organic and GMO-free, we give priority to organic and Non-GMO Project Verified products in our purchasing decisions, and are gradually eliminating products that contain GMOs. Unfortunately, we are unaware of any grocery store in the USA that can claim to be GMO-free, though we are hopeful that one day, many stores, including Down to Earth, will be able to make that claim. Toward this end, we:


  • Avoid purchasing any new food products that may contain GMOs
  • Do not sell single ingredient GMO foods (including papaya, corn, soy, canola or sugar produced from GMO sugar beets) 
  • Encourage our suppliers to become Non-GMO Project Verified
  • Require that by 2018 all products sold in our stores containing GMO ingredients be labeled
  • Actively support organic and sustainable farming methods
  • Advocate for the consumer’s “right-to- know,” including labeling of products that contain GMOs
  • Educate and communicate about the economic, social, health, and environmental impacts of GMOs

Few choices in our daily lives are as important as the food choices we make for ourselves and our families. We should be the ones in control, not government. It's wrong for government to deny us our right to know. Our right to know what is in the food we are buying and our right to choose our preferred food should not be usurped for any reason. For more information about GMOs visit the Label GMOs page of our website

Footnotes: 
  1. JustLableIt: http://justlabelit.org/press-item/food-as-nature-made-them
  2. Non-GMO Project: http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/what-is-gmo/
  3. 014 Market LOHAS (Lifestyle Of Health And Sustainability) Mambo Sprouts Marketing Annual Natural and Organic Consumer Research
  4. The Non-GMO Project http://www.nongmoproject.org (Accessed 12-9-11)

Become A GMO-Conscious Shopper

Photo: Woman Reading Ingredients in Grocery Aisle

by Manjari Fergusson

With the risks of eating genetically modified food so uncertain, many Americans wisely try to avoid consuming GMOs as much as possible.


Unfortunately, genetically modified food is not required to be labeled. Therefore, it can be hard to know if what you buy is genetically modified or not.


Luckily, there are ways to avoid GMOs. The following is a guide on how to be a smart, GMO-aware shopper.


  1. Buy Organic. Foods with the Organic seal certify that GMOs were not used in production.
  2. Buy foods with the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal issued by the Non-GMO Project.1 Down to Earth and the natural food industry are very strong supporters of this initiative. Through independent, third party testing, the Seal verifies that products are made according to a rigorous standard for avoiding GMOs. There is no way to say something is completely free of GMO contamination due to testing limitations, however the Non-GMO Project uses a 0.9% “Action Threshold”, which was made based on European Union laws where products containing more than 0.9% GMO are labeled as such.
  3. Stay away from known foods made from GM crops. These include:
    • Corn and corn-derived products such as corn flour, corn meal, corn oil, corn starch, gluten, corn syrup, fructose, dextrose and glucose.
    • Soy and soy-derived products including soy flour, lecithin, protein, isolate and isoflavone, vegetable oil and protein.
    • Canola oil
    • Cottonseed oil
    • Rainbow papaya
    • Sugar beets. When sugar is listed as an ingredient it is either coming from sugar beets or cane sugar. To avoid GM sugar beets, consume products that say organic sugar, cane sugar or evaporated cane sugar.
    • Avoid aspartame, the artificial sweetener that is derived from GM microorganisms.
  4. Stick to locally grown foods. Most GM foods are grown on large, industrial farms. In buying local produce at Down to Earth or your local farmers' market, you are more likely to avoid GM crops.
  5. Check labels on dairy products. Many dairy cows are given the GM growth hormone rBGH or rBST to enhance milk production. Look for dairy products labeled as r-BGH/rBST-free. Buy organic milk and dairy products.
  6. Use whole foods as much as possible and try to grow your own. These days it is much easier to buy packaged food products, but Americans are paying for that in increased health problems. By incorporating more whole foods into your diet it is easier to avoid GM foods and it is also healthier.
Footnotes: 
  1. Non-GMO Project, ‘The ‘Non-GMO Project Verified’ Seal,” 2012. http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/understanding-our-seal/ (Accessed 10-08-12).

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