For the longest time I misunderstood what the term ‘organic’ food meant. The meaning of ‘GMO’ was also unknown to me. I just kind of figured that organic food was for people who had a lot of money because of the higher price tag. And I figured that genetically modified foods were foods that were cross-bred to create more variety. Like, you take one type of apple and combine it with another type of apple to get a third kind of apple. Cross-breeding has been happening for literally hundreds of years, so I didn’t see the big deal.
Well, it turns out I was way off.
What is Genetically Modified (GMO) Food?
According to the World Health Organization, genetically modified foods are “… organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination… It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non-related species.” (FAQ on Genetically Modified Foods)
So what does that even mean? Companies are taking the seeds of common plants such as corn, soy, and sugar beets, and modifying them. They are inserting genetic material from one living thing into another. For example, a bT toxin that is found in GMO corn is a bacteria added to the DNA of the corn. This toxin literally becomes part of the plant’s DNA and works by causing the walls of the corn eating insects’ intestines to explode.
Why would anyone do this?
A lot of genetically modified food has been modified for pesticide resistance. The theory is that farmers can spray more pesticide on their crops without harming them. Crops will then have fewer insects eating them. Farmers would then have a greater yield which would feed more people.
What Qualifies as Organic Food?
The USDA defines organic food as follows, “USDA certified organic foods are grown and processed according to federal guidelines addressing, among many factors, soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and use of additives. Organic producers rely on natural substances and physical, mechanical, or biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible.” (Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means)
Again, a little clarification is appreciated. Organic foods are grown without chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and GMOs. Any processed foods (like cereal, crackers, yogurt, etc.) with the USDA organic label will be free from everything mentioned above as well as food coloring. Let’s be honest, organic junk food is still junk food. It’s just that all synthetic ingredients have been removed.
What Does All of This Mean for You?
I am a big believer in everyone making their best choices for themselves and their families. I am happy to share the choices I make and why (#1 below). Also, if I can provide guidance I will (#2 below). Ultimately it is your decision. And whatever informed decision you make will be the right decision for you. There is enough judgment in the world. It is important to respect and accept others’ opinions. I support you in whatever choice you feel is best for you. 🙂
#1. Our Decision
Nick and I have chosen to buy mostly organic food for our family. After doing our own research in 2013, we realized that what we put into our bodies affects us. Whether it affects our health short term or long term we will never know for sure. What we do believe is that the fewer chemicals we consume, the healthier our bodies will be. Nick and I both noticed a difference in how we felt once we began eating more organic foods. We had more energy. The food tasted better too!
While there are many articles supporting both sides of the organic food debate, we just feel more comfortable eating a mostly organic diet. We read articles with inconclusive evidence and decided that it was better to err on the side of caution rather than wait several years and find out the worst case. We made the best decision for ourselves and family with the knowledge available.
Another consideration for us is that we have observed that organic farming practices are better for the Earth in that they leave the soil in a more natural state. We are considerate about the environment and this is a way we can support farmers who share our views on a weekly basis.
Now this doesn’t mean we switched to 100% organic food overnight. That would be unrealistic for most families. Organic food is more expensive. There are some foods that we feel comfortable eating that are grown conventionally. And there are certain favorite foods that aren’t available in an organic version. About four and a half years after starting our research we would say that about 90% of the food we buy is organic.
To read more about our decision, visit The Two Things That Made Our Family Choose Organic Food.
Here are some articles that cover both sides of the topic. If you’re like me and want to know the “why” behind your choices or if you want to explain them to someone else, read these articles as a jumping off point. There is a lot more research out there. If you’re really interested, keep looking for more and let me know if you find something good!
Articles for Organic Food
Articles Against Organic Food
What’s your opinion on organic food?