Each Mother’s Day, I can’t help but reflect on how my mom’s advice continues to guide me, and my work at the Non-GMO Project. When I first started writing this piece, so many of her insights (and quite a few rules!) came flooding back. If I had to choose the top three things my mom instilled in me, it would be the importance of education, the interconnectivity of life and to trust my instincts.
The values I have around learning and living are all a direct result of the lessons my Japanese mother taught me. She believed that the key to a better life was to get an education; and to never stop studying. Like many of my friends, I was the first person in my family to graduate from university. She taught me that I live in an interdependent society – rippling out from my family and extending to my friends, community and the world. My mom taught me that we are all connected and that the decisions I make impact others, even if I cannot directly see those consequences. She also taught me the power of common sense and trusting my instincts.
Food for Thought
My mom believed in simple foods, made with fresh ingredients. She used meat and fish sparingly; portions were small and were meant to complement the wide array of vegetables on the table. I don’t remember my mom spending a lot of time reading labels. So my food education didn’t begin in earnest until I was living on my own, cooking for myself and feeling very pinched for time.
One day, my mom commented on all the packaged foods in my pantry. She reminded me of the relaxing process of cooking, plating and eating. She acknowledged my busy schedule, but wanted me to be mindful of my ingredients. I realized that with a little extra effort, I could have both quality and convenience.
I have since graduated from Label Reading 101: Artificial Ingredients. However, given the complexities of our food system, I knew that continued education was required.
Label Reading 201: GMOs
My experience working in a bustling natural foods market first opened my eyes to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and how prevalent they are in the products we put in and on our bodies. I considered myself a healthy eater, so I was truly alarmed to learn about high-risk crops (corn, soy, canola, Hawaiian papaya, sugar beets, zucchini, yellow summer squash, alfalfa and cotton) and how many common ingredients contain GMOs.
I joined the Non-GMO Project not only to expand my own food education, but also to empower others with the knowledge about GMOs and their impact on our health and the environment. The best decision I can make to avoid GMOs and pesticides is to choose organic and Non-GMO Project Verified whenever possible. When shopping conventional products, I look for the Project’s butterfly seal because I know all major high-risk ingredients have been tested for GMOs by an independent third party and my purchase is helping to build a non-GMO future.
We’re All Connected
People often think that the argument against GMOs is solely focused on the impacts of the technology used to create these transgenic crops; however, it’s important to remember GMOs are also are part of a system that has detrimental impacts on our health and environment.
When I think back on those elegantly simple meals my mom made, I realize how far from food we have come. More than 80% of all GMOs are engineered for pesticide tolerance. As a result, the use of toxic herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced. Additionally, glyphosate – the chief ingredient in Roundup – was recently classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm.
GMO crops are also responsible for the emergence of “super weeds” and “super bugs,” which can only be killed with increasingly toxic poisons (like 2,4-D a major ingredient in Agent Orange). GMOs are a direct extension of chemical agriculture and are developed and sold by the world’s largest chemical companies. As weeds and pests become resistant, chemical companies stack traits so that stronger and stronger chemicals can be applied to fight these “pests.” This cycle has adverse effects on our food supply and biodiversity, and it poses unknown health risks. We must remember we are connected to our food, the environment in which it was grown, and the farmers who cultivated it.
Trust Your Gut
I am amazed to realize that 64 countries require labeling of GMOs and that the U.S. and Canada are not among them. No matter where you are in your label reading education, this probably gives you pause. We live in a world where information is available to many of us with the click of a button. Why wouldn’t we expect that same access to knowledge on the shelves of our grocery stores? Why wouldn’t we demand the same transparency as countless citizens around the world?
Actually, we do. Poll after poll shows that North Americans want product labeling. This unity crosses gender and income demographics, political parties, state lines and borders. The influx of money to defeat state labeling initiatives, while frustrating, should not dissuade us. We have the power to protect the future of our food. Like my mom always told me, we are all connected. I am fortunate to feel personally connected to my work and the impact we all are creating. My work at the Non-GMO Project has shown me how our shared desire to know what’s in the food we eat and the products we use is a formidable force for change.
Thank you, Mommy. And to all the inspiring moms out there, Happy Mother’s Day!
Words of Wisdom from YOUR Mom
“What’s the best advice your mom ever gave you?” Answer in a comment to this blog below for the chance to win a tasty Mother’s Day DreamBox full of non-GMO goodies you can share with your family.