Agriculture does a lot for us. It produces food, fiber and fuel. In many places, it's critical to social bonds and community. Plus, the land itself provides valuable ecosystem services, protecting the environment we need to thrive.
That's why it's vital that our food systems are healthy, because a healthy food system sows the seeds for true health — for people and the planet. Production that's poorly designed, that produces nutrient-poor food or pollutes the environment causes serious problems down the road.
Food that's better for you starts with food that's better for the planet.
A non-GMO food system that preserves and builds our genetic inheritance is essential to ecological harmony, abundant biodiversity and environmental wellbeing. Here are six compelling ways non-GMO supports a healthier planet — and a healthier you!
- Healthy soil = healthy people — GMO-based agriculture is associated with destructive practices such as increased pesticide use and suppressed crop diversity. When the range of crops and organisms is reduced, we lose the resources and resilience biodiversity provides. A prime example is right in the soil: Did you know soil organisms also produce valuable medicines? It's true! The more microorganisms, and the more different types of microorganisms, the better. Without plentiful and diverse soil life, we lose out on compounds we use to make lifesaving medicines.
- Disrupt the monopoly — GMOs and other patented crops place a huge amount of power in the hands of corporations, creating monopolies that stifle innovation. Corporations use natural resources to do what corporations do best: make money. Meanwhile, private ownership of the food supply doesn't actually feed the world — small farmers do that! And they do it while protecting millions of plant species. Growing a vibrant, adaptive and healthy food system means saying no to GMOs — and the corporate power that produces them.
- Look locally — Community Sustainable Agriculture programs, or CSAs, are a great way to support your local farmers while enjoying some of the freshest and bestest produce around. CSAs help you participate in a regional food system and invest in the local economy. Farmers who grow non-GMO are able to save seeds, producing varieties that are well-adapted to the local climate. In the end, non-GMO and locally adapted seeds leave a legacy of resilient crops for future generations.
- The diverse diet — For decades, nutritionists have recommended a diverse diet, low in processed foods. We agree, and would add that most processed foods are made with GMOs (another reason to look for the Butterfly). GMO-derived ingredients come from a shallow pool of dietary options, and staple crops like corn and soy are overrepresented on ingredient panels (more than 90% of the corn and soy grown in the U.S. is GMO). People need a much wider range of food sources than GMOs can deliver. Choose whole, seasonal foods as much as possible, and make a habit of trying something new in the produce aisle.
- Non-GMO protects Organic — Transitioning to organic farming is a big commitment. It takes three years for most farmland and during that time, non-GMO crops can help support farmers by supplying a market for their crops. Non-GMO acreage and supply chains also protect organic farms and processing facilities by reducing the risk of contamination. After all, one of the reasons the Non-GMO Project was founded was to support USDA Organic Certification with a tested and traced non-GMO supply chain.
- The gold standard: Organic + Non-GMO Project Verified — A recent study from France found that most people have been exposed to the weedkiller glyphosate. Since "Roundup Ready" GMOs (engineered to withstand glyphosate) were introduced in 1996, use of the controversial weedkiller has increased 15 fold, with negative impacts on species biodiversity. How do we cut back on chemical inputs in agriculture? To reduce glyphosate on the landscape, grow non-GMO; to dodge glyphosate on your plate, look for organic!
There's an essential reciprocity at work in our dealings with the earth: Take care of your home and it will take care of you. Or, to put it another way, whether it is better to give or receive is of less consequence than the fact we are rarely confined to one or the other. Certainly in our food system, the "give" and the "take" are forever intermingled. The best outcomes come from embracing this dynamic, and leveling up.