We haven’t talked a great deal about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on Postconsumers even though we consider them both an environmental and consumer issue. To be blunt, both the science and the legalese behind them can be somewhat beyond what we feel that we can cover in a simple blog entry. However, this Earth Day month, we’re going to address them in the form of discussing how you can preserve the integrity of your food by seed-saving. Unfortunately, even that topic will come mired with a certain amount of legalese and science. But we’re going to tackle it nonetheless! So, let’s get started.
Just In Case You’ve Avoided All News for the Last Decade!
GMOs are any instance in which the genetic makeup of organic matter has been artificially altered by science (though many would claim that cross-breeding animals or plants is also a form of genetic modification). In the case of GMOs, the genetic change is done in a lab by a scientist manually inserting additional DNA. The most common use of GMOs is in relation to food, and while there are plenty of types of genetic modification of food, the most common is to make food resistant to either pesticides or weed killer so it grows more abundantly.
Why Are GMOs an Environmental and Consumer Issue?
A quick Google search will tell you plenty about the concern of GMOs as an environmental issue. Is the artificial altering of DNA hurting humans and, as importantly, hurting the eco-systems we survive on? Are GMOs enabling dangerous chemical pesticides to infect our planet? As we said previously, these are topics we can’t tackle in a mere blog entry, but if you haven’t read up on them on your own yet, we certainly encourage you to do so. At Postconsumers, however, we’re equally concerned with the idea of GMOs as a tool of the consumer machine. What happens when corporations own the patents to food production? What happens when food becomes a true consumer product that is manufactured as much as it is grown? These are complex topics that make our brains spin. They also scare us, and again, we encourage you to learn more.
With That Said, What Can You Do?
So the next question is “What can you do?” From a consumer standpoint, there are three big changes that you can make. The first is to simply buy things that are labeled (and certified) as GMO-free. We will say that you are implicitly trusting the labeling and marketing when you do that, but it’s still a step in the all-important process of showing what’s prioritized with your wallet. The second is to shop more sustainably and locally, with farmers and food producers whom you know and can be assured aren’t using GMO seeds. The third is to garden as much of your own food as you can. From organic gardening to urban gardening, we have tips on how to do it. You just need to make sure that you’re buying GMO free seeds. But once you transition to gardening, there’s an important next step that you’ll want to take in order to make sure that you’re protected against the future of GMO proliferation.
As GMO seeds proliferate the market, if you keep purchasing retail seeds you may eventually have no option but to purchase seeds that have been genetically modified. The only real way to avoid this is to capture the seeds and pips from the produce that you grow yourself each year and save the seeds from year to year. Use them the next spring to seed your harvest and you’ll be assured that you always, always have seeds that have not been touched by GMO technology.
Of Course, You May Go to Jail. Joking. Sort Of.
While it may seem as though it should be your right to save your seeds, the legal precedent around that is as convoluted as is the one surrounding rain water collection. Sadly, there are a number of pending cases against farmers both large and small regarding the legality of seed saving. It may seem unlikely, reading the nature of the existing sixteen-years worth of lawsuits against farmers, that a GMO company would come after a small individual food grower. But we’ve certainly seen crazier things happen when it comes to consumer goods. And when you think of the power that comes with the consumer control of food sources, well, you just never know. That said, we truly believe that if you grow in small amounts on your own land and save your seeds, you’ll be able to shield yourself from the progression of GMO food for at least a portion of time.
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