A coalition of grassroots groups has filed suit against the USDA over planned labeling regulations that can make it even harder to know which foods you buy are truly GMO-free.
The plaintiffs want the required symbol — which currently denotes products as “Bioengineered” or “Derived from Bioengineering” — to use the more common terminology “genetically modified” or “genetically engineered.” They feel that the rule requiring GMO disclosure only when the altered DNA is detectable hides information from consumers since most GMO crops are refined before use. They also want to allow manufacturers to use common terminology of “genetically modified” or “genetically engineered” for voluntary disclosure.
So what’s a careful consumer supposed to do?
One option, of course, is to head to a local farmer’s market to seek out organic foods. Do be aware, however, that some vendors may sell products that aren’t organic or GMO-free or truly local. Each state has its own set of rules governing farmer’s markets, as well as food safety, and some are more extensive than others. (Here in Missouri, they’re fairly detailed.)
Folks selling whole foods that are GMO-free, however, humanely produced, and organic through-and-through are often proud to advertise those facts. They’ll be easy to spot. And if you have questions about how the food was raised, ask.
Farmer’s markets are easy to find, thanks to online directories such as this one from Local Harvest. Despite pandemic restrictions, many here in the St. Louis area remain open. There are also farms and real food retailers who are doing what they can to make buying local, sustainable food easier to get during these challenging times – from delivery to only charging pay-what-you-can for folks who might be struggling.
CSAs (community supported agriculture) are another great option for getting local, sustainable, organic produce. Looking for grass-fed meat, eggs, or dairy products? EatWild’s directory will show you options here in Missouri – and beyond (not to mention a lot of helpful info on the basics and benefits of pastured animals.)
As for your other produce options, while pick-your-own places are less likely to be organic, there’s value in the experience itself – especially if you have children. It’s crucial for kids to see where their food comes from, with research showing that kids more familiar with gardening have a better attitude about trying and eating healthy veggies.
There are all kinds of options just a short drive from St. Louis: blackberries, peaches, and tomatoes are ripe right now, and many of these same farms will welcome you back this fall for apples and pumpkins!
But the option that gives you the most control over your food quality is growing your own. Sure it’s a bit late in the season, but there’s still time if you hustle a bit. Regional gardening schedules and planting calendars are available at The Old Farmer’s Almanac. (Kale and cauliflower are still options in our area.) You can also grow small crops indoors, such as microgreens and mushrooms. Again, find a source for seeds or growing kits that are organic and heirloom so you can avoid those pesky GMOs.
But the best part of growing your own delicious veg or fruit, opening that CSA box, or stocking up at your local farmer’s market? Once you do the research to seek out organic and GMO-free, no label is needed. What you see is what you get!