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Consumers have a right to know what’s in the food we eat and feed our children, including whether food is genetically engineered. We all should be able to make informed choices, and have the ability to choose whether to buy genetically engineered food or not. In November this will be California’s first-ever ballot initiative to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. Over 40 countries including all of Europe, Japan and China already label GMO’s.
Currently there are more than five-hundred partner organizations including Earl’s Organic Produce representing food and farming organizations, farmers, the healthcare community, consumer advocates, concerned parents, environmentalists, businesses, the faith-based community, and many more concerned with protecting the consumer’s right to know have joined together on this issue.
Whats more is that numerous polls have shown that up to 95% of Americans want genetically engineered foods to have a mandatory label. Read more about these polls on this list compiled by the True Food Network.
Genetically engineered (GE) foods, also referred to as genetically modified, or GMOs, are those that are altered at the molecular level in ways that could not happen naturally. This means plants and animals have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs. These techniques use DNA molecules from different sources, sometimes different species, and combine them into one molecule to create a new set of genes (e.g. mixing of flounder genes into tomatoes so they can grow larger and more quickly.) Learn more about how this is done here.
Today the majority of corn has been genetically engineered to produce toxins to kill pests, where as soy, canola, sugar beets and cotton have been genetically modified to withstand large applications of chemicals and are classified as “herbicide tolerant.” Genetically engineered crops have been credited with an increase of 383 million pounds of herbicide use in the U.S. over the first 13 years of commercial use (1996- 2008).
Genetically engineered foods are harder to avoid than you may think. A recent estimate is that about 75 percent of processed foods contain one or more genetically modified ingredients. The majority of food containing GMOs are from staple crops such as corn or soy, which are then processed into ingredients and food additives. The following additives contain corn or soy: soy protein, soy lecithin, corn flour, corn starch, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, ascorbic acid, citric acid, dextrose, glucose, lactic acid, monosodium glutamate (MSG), xantham gum, and many more. It is estimated that 80 percent of all processed foods contained derivatives from soy and corn (Non-GMO Project). These derivatives are found in countless processed foods such as cereals, baby foods, breads, chips, high fructose corn syrup, frozen meals and many other products. The USDA’s Economic Research Service, in 2009, found that 93 percent of soy, 93 percent of cotton, and 86 percent of corn grown in the United States were genetically modified (ERS, 2010). These percentages continue to grow.
The terrifying truth is that American consumers have been consuming foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients for the past ten years while remaining largely in the dark. The best options if you are looking to avoid genetically engineered foods are to buy USDA certified organic as the USDA organic standards prohibit the use of GMOs; to look for verified Non-GMO products ; and to buy unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables as few whole foods are genetically engineered (but beware, conventionally grown Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, and yellow crookneck squash can be genetically engineered!)
As more and more proposals for new genetically engineered crops reach the USDA, EPA, and FDA for testing and approval (such as salmon, and a number of fruits and vegetables) avoiding these foods without a labeling system will become increasingly difficult if not near impossible.
Check out the full list of 8 Things You Can Do if You’re Concerned about GEs/GMOs and Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods. You can also download the “True Food” app for your phone to check the list while you are grocery shopping.
Don’t forget to sign the petition and tell the FDA you want your food labeled!
*INFORMATION SOURCED FROM JUSTLABELIT.org, CCOF.org, and TRUEFOODNETWORK.org
Earl’s Organic recently started buying from Tomatero Farm, located in Watsonville, CA, just south of Santa Cruz and 5 miles from the California coast. Tomatero Farm has been certified organic since the beginning when Adriana and Chris, then 21 and 25 years old, started farming in 2004. They wanted to grow produce that was affordable for everyone, especially their friends and family.
Watsonville, in the Pajaro Valley, has extremely fertile soil and a unique coastal environment with temperate conditions where it is never too hot or too cold. The weather is perfect to grow Tomatero’s wide array of produce including tomatoes, kale, lettuce, fennel, carrots, red leaf butter lettuce, chard, leeks and strawberries. Adriana said she “feels very lucky to be growing here”.
Adriana and Chris embrace the diversity of their organic crops and “rotate them like crazy” and let the soil rest a healthful amount of time before planting again. “Good soil grows good vegetables”.
When Adriana is not busy farming she is also on the boards for the Monterey Farmers Market Association and the Agriculture Institute of Marin.
We are proud to offer products from this outstanding family farm.
When planting large quantities of field crops growers go back and forth as to whether direct seeding or transplants are best. Though direct seeding will result in a stronger and more resilient plant, there is a lot that can go wrong in the early stages that could ruin an entire field. Extreme weather, birds, squirrels and insects are serious dangers for freshly planted seeds as well as a myriad of fungal and antibacterial attacks. Many of these dangers can be mitigated with the use of transplants.
This process involves ordering a large quantity of seed to be planted and grown in large greenhouses at Greenheart Farms, a certified organic transplant facility. The plant is grown until it is a few inches tall, and then conditioned so that it is hardy enough to be transplanted in the fields.
One of the techniques Chris employs in growing zucchini involves covering the soil with black plastic. This plastic deters pests, helps to control weeds, provides protection around a young plant, and encourages its growth by trapping in heat and slowing the evaporation of water in the soil. Look at the difference between these two sections of zucchini that were planted at the same time, one with plastic and one without.
On a different part of the farm, the tomatoes are beginning to ripen. Here’s a preview of what’s going to come. Below we have the Striped German and Cherokee Purple varieties.
These tomatoes will hit the markets soon, try eating them together in a salad to get acquainted with their unique flavor profiles.
Stone fruit season is just beginning. Sweet and juicy white and yellow peaches, nectarines and apricots are arriving by the pallet every day from Burkart Orchards. Burkart grows high-quality organic stone fruit on 65 acres near Dinuba along the northern border of Tulare County about 4 hours south of San Francisco.
Richard Burkart, along with many growers, spends extra time focusing on the quality of his stone fruit. In order to ensure he is getting the ripest fruit, Richard makes several picks of each variety in the orchard to get the fruit at their optimum ripeness with the highest sugar levels for shipping.
If you have ever bought a piece of stone fruit and it just never had the sweetness you expected, it could be that it was picked before it was mature. As a consumer, I have learned that this inconsistency can point to a single pick by the grower. Orchards are made up of different varieties which will ripen at different times. To save on labor costs a single variety may be harvested in one pick, rather than multiple pickings of the fruit as it reaches maturity.
Ask your produce department for a taste of that peach, nectarine or apricot so you know what you’re buying. Smell the fruit, it should smell aromatic and sweet. Check the area around the stem, you don’t want it to be green. You also don’t want any bruising on the fruit or wrinkly skin.
Cosmetically, stone fruit might not always look perfect. There may be some scarring on the fruit which is natural. The fruit may be growing against a branch or a leaf which makes an imprint on the fruit. This won’t affect the flavor of the fruit one bit. It is just a gentle reminder that you are eating something grown from the earth.
The biggest difference between nectarines and peaches is the lack of fuzz on the skin. Nectarines are usually smaller, more aromatic and sweeter than peaches and the skin is a deeper red color. Stone fruit usually ripens up at room temperature within 2-3 days and will give slightly to the touch when they are ready to eat.
Don’t miss out on the first delicious stone fruit of the season! Stone fruit is delicious out of hand, sliced up and topped with organic whipped cream or bake the fruit in a cobbler and serve drizzled with fresh cold organic cream.