We recently wrote about GMOs and why we feel it’s important to label foods that contain Genetically Modified Organisms. Now, we’re writing about GMOs in relation to Fair Trade, and more specifically, Trade as One. What better day to address this than on World Food Day?
The issue, by Alter Eco
The process of genetic modification, which takes place in a laboratory, typically merges DNA from different species, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. With studies increasingly showing a correlation between consumption of GMOs and an array of health risks, and with U.S. consumer confidence shaken by ongoing food safety failures, distrust of GMOs is growing. As a result, more and more consumers are seeking non-GMO choices.
Small farms, Fair Trade, and feeding the world:
All of the farms where Trade as One gets our products are small farms. Regarding farmers, the Non-GMO Project explains: “because GMOs are novel life forms, biotechnology companies have been able to obtain patents with which to restrict their use. As a result, the companies that make GMOs now have the power to sue farmers whose fields are contaminated with GMOs, even when it is the result of inevitable drift from neighboring fields. GMOs therefore pose a serious threat to farmer sovereignty.” Many people suggest a way around these lawsuits is for small farms to convert to using GMOs. This is not a solution, but rather an excuse for not finding better, more transparent forms of protection of small farms.
Some common myths about GMOs are that they increase crop yields, decrease pesticide use, and will fix world hunger. Yet according to the Non-GMO project:
-GM does not increase intrinsic yield. Some GM crops have lower yields than non-GM counterparts.
-GM crops have increased pesticide use by 383 million pounds in the US in the first 13 years since their introduction.
-The economic impacts on farmers of adopting GM crops were described in a study for the US Dept of Agriculture as “mixed or even negative”.
-Hunger is not caused by a lack of food in the world. It is a problem of distribution and poverty, which GM cannot solve.
-GM crops are promoted as necessary to feed the world’s growing population. But it seems unlikely that they could make a significant contribution as they do not deliver higher yields or produce more with less inputs than non-GM crops.
When discussing GMOs in relation to feeding the world, it not only becomes a health issue, but a justice issue. This quote says it best: “We strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly nor economically beneficial to us. We do not believe that such companies or gene technologies will help our farmers to produce the food that is needed in the 21st century. On the contrary, we think it will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems that our farmers have developed for millennia, and that it will thus undermine our capacity to feed ourselves.” – Statement signed by 24 delegates from 18 African countries to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, 1998
In short, Trade as One cannot in good conscience say that GMO crops help farmers, consumers- rich or poor- or the earth. We encourage you to read the Myths and Truths report by the Non-GMO project, or ask your own question at GMO answers.
GMOs and Trade as One
We’ve been asked several times “I love the idea behind your subscription box, but are your products GMO free?” The answer is yes! Here’s a little bit about our more popular producers:
Alter Eco takes GMOs seriously and received the Non- GMO Project third party verification for their entire line of products. The Non-GMO Project offers North America’s only third party non-GMO verification.
Canaan Fair Trade
Most of their products are olive based (which have no threat of GMO), but some of their products like candied almonds and couscous contain flour. Their flour is undoubtedly GMO free–it is made from their own organic farmer’s wheat in Palestine!
Women’s Bean Project
Products from Women’s Bean Project are produced onsite and are all natural and GMO free. They are a pretty small operation, and are inspected regularly by the FDA and food safety examiners.
Equal Exchange products are all organic and GMO free. They believe that: “Food is essential to our lives…consumers should be informed about the food system. Educating ourselves about where our food comes from – so that we can make informed decisions as consumers – will help create a healthier, more equitable food system.” We agree!
Divine Chocolate and Alaffia
Ingredients in Divine Chocolate or Alaffia are free of crops where GMOs exist, like wheat, corn and soy, and are therefore GMO free.
The Trade as One subscription
When you subscribe to the Trade as One subscription you’re not only helping small farmers around the world, but are ensuring a portion of your family’s consumption is GMO free. And for the month of October Trade as One is donating $20 from every new subscription (using the code BEFAIR2013 at check out) to Food for the Hungry’s Bean Program. This money will provide enough bean seeds to yield a crop equivalent of feeding a family of four for a year. In one small box, we’re bringing good food to you, feeding poor families in Guatemala, and providing economic dignity to small farmers around the world. Now that’s trading as one!
Learn more about the subscription– watch our video.
Don’t see one of your favorite products for Trade as One on this list? Comment below and we’ll let you know.