Proposition 37, the GMO Labelling initiative on the ballot this fall, is generating some media attention even from national outlets like NPR and generating lots of questions — even from TFF subscribers.A few weeks back, a drop site host emailed with the following question:  “Does Terra Firma grow any GMO crops?”  Apparently several subscribers had asked her.  My answer to her was simple:

Organic farmers are legally prohibited from growing genetically modified crops.  This rule is codified in the National Organic Program, the federal law that governs organic agriculture.

I will admit being surprised that our subscribers or other organic consumers might not know this, but I shouldn’t have been.  There is a lot of information floating around about food, and much of it is confusing.  Monday evening on KQED, the Marketplace program used Prop. 37 to segue into an interview with the author of a book on seed saving.  The words GMO, hybrid, and open pollinated were used without an explanation of what they meant.  And no mention was made of organic.  Any listeners not already well-versed in the issue were likely left scratching their heads.

Arriving home to make dinner, I opened a package of tofu and noticed the the following text prominently displayed:   “Made with Organic, Non-GMO soybeans”.   While the manufacturer clearly felt the need to add the text about GMOs, it concerns me because labels like this can create doubt among consumers and pose the question:  “If this product says it is Organic but doesn’t say anything about GMOs, maybe it contains them?”.

Whether or not Proposition 37 passes, it appears that the organic industry needs to expand its efforts to educate consumers on what organic means.  After all, one of the primary reasons we pushed for a national law defining organic was to eliminate the possibility of confusion.  Here’s what it means when you buy an organic product:

–No synthetic pesticides or fertilizers were used to grow it.
— Certified organic farms must meet certain environmental standards.
— Organic food is never genetically modified, and has no GMO ingredients.
–It contains no artificial ingredients, flavors or colors.
–Making fraudulent claims that a product is organic is a felony.
–Producers and processors are inspected at least once a year by a USDA approved and audited third party certifier to assure compliance with the law.

In the meantime, you can be reasonably certain of two things:

1)  You are eating GMOs if you eat non-organic foods made with corn or soybeans, including ingredients like corn syrup and “vegetable oil”.  The vast majority of the conventional corn and soy crops grown in the U.S. are GM varieties.

2)  If you want to be sure that you are not eating GMOs, buy Certified Organic food.