To be or not to be organic
When you buy organic eggs, you expect to get eggs from chickens that haven’t been subjected to antibiotics, hormones or pesticides; but you might unknowingly be getting genetically modified poultry feed.
Albert Straus, decided to test the feed that he gives his 1,600 cows last year and was alarmed to find that nearly 6% of the organic corn feed he received from suppliers was “contaminated” by genetically modified (GM) organisms.
Organic food is, by definition, supposed to be free of genetically modified material, and organic crops are required to be isolated from other crops; but as GM crops become more prevalent, there is little that an organic farmer can do to prevent a speck of GM pollen or a stray GM seed from being blown by the wind onto his land or farm equipment and, eventually, into his products. In 2006, GM crops accounted for 61% of all the corn planted in the US and 89% of all the soybeans.
Straus and five other natural food producers, including industry leader Whole Foods
, announced last week that they would seek a new certification for their products, “non-GMO verified,” in the hopes that it will become a voluntary industry standard for GM-free goods.
A non-profit group called the Non-GMO Project runs the program, and the testing is conducted by an outside lab called Genetic ID
. In a few weeks, Straus expects to become the first food manufacturer in the country to carry the label in addition to his “organic” one. With Whole Foods in the ring, the rest of the industry will soon be under competitive pressure to follow.
The US Department of Agriculture
, unlike agencies in Europe and Japan, do not require GM foods to be labelled. While scientists have not identified any specific health risks from eating GM foods, anti-GM activists say there is not enough research yet into their long-term risks or impact on biodiversity.