More on GMO and GE food and how to avoid it

Oh boy. It's a jungle in the grocery store. Far better to grow your food in your own back yard... Sorry. Better think again.

It seems the final paragraph in my past article on the definitions of GE and GMO may have left a few readers dazed and confused.

I did say I would post more information on my website but, well…life happens. So, perhaps for the best, I add more info here in this column.

I had stated, “…we should definitely be wary of the GMO (genetically modified organism) designation.”

This is because the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency (CFIA) has deemed this title to include those foods that have been genetically engineered, as well as those that have been bred in the traditional manner…which is really what GMO stands for.

It is therefore imperative you check the food items you buy if you want to keep GE foods off your plate.

But how can we know if a particular food is GE or not?

The CFIA certainly has not gone to bat for us in the labelling department. Companies are not legally required to declare whether their product contains a GMO ingredient or not.

Even the laws governing “organic” designation are a tad lax.

Legally, a company can put “organic” on their label as long as 95 per cent of the ingredients are non-GMO. That leaves a window for your favourite organic chocolate bar to contain some genetically modified sugar.

And highly likely, too, since 95 per cent of sugar beets, one main source of sugar, grown in the Untied States is GMO…according to 2010 statistics.

And just so you know…93 per cent of canola and over 85 per cent of the corn grown in the States are genetically modified. Canada is not without our fair share of these crops too, by the way.

So, again, how can we know what the heck we are buying?

When it comes to produce, the PLU sticker on your apples or avocados will give you a clue. If it is a four-digit number…it is a crop that has been grown using conventional agricultural methods, which may or may not have involved pesticides at some point.

If your squash boasts a sticker with a five-digit number and it starts with an 8, it is a genetically modified squash.

If your oranges also have a five-digit number but it starts with a 9, that means those oranges have been grown organically.

Most stores in our area use this PLU code system for their produce but this is not always the case. Yup…you guessed. In Canada, this system is voluntary. And, there are no federal regulations governing these stickers or even what constitutes a PLU sticker.

One piece of good news: if a sticker is used, you can rest assured the information number on it is accurate, according to Allison Jorgens, a professional home economist who worked in the food manufacturing industry as a food label specialist.

Oh boy. It’s a jungle in the grocery store. Far better to grow your food in your own back yard where you have control of what goes into your veggies and fruits.

Sorry. Better think again.

What about the seeds you have to buy?

With Monsanto owning as much as 80 per cent of the seed industry now, I have a hard time giving them my money. Especially since they keep a “war chest” with which they take small farmers to court.

It is definitely “buyer beware” out there.

And I promise, there will be more information about this subject on my website very soon!

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at www.duchessofdirt.ca and her column appears every second Friday in the Record.

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