One of the most rewarding ways to eat non-GMO and the best way to know exactly where your food comes from is to grow your own food. Many of us here at the Non-GMO Project are avid gardeners, from large permaculture homesteads to square foot gardens in tiny yards in town to sprouting seeds on our kitchen counters! Read on for tips from our team on how to grow your own non-GMO garden.
Know your GMO-risk crops.
Review a complete list of all commercially-available GMO crops on the Non-GMO Project website. Sweet corn, zucchini, yellow summer squash, beets and alfalfa (for sprouts or hay) are the ones most likely to turn up in your garden. Hybrids and heirloom plants are not GMOs, so you don’t have to worry about those unusually striped tomatoes or those purple carrots!
A good garden starts with good seeds.
It’s important to make sure your seeds are not GMO, but the next step is to ensure they are not bought from a company involved in genetic engineering. For instance, many seed companies are either owned by or purchase seeds from companies owned by major biotech companies. Discerning gardeners, check out Who Owns Your Seed or Catalog Company, and refer to this handy chart showing seed industry structure (unfortunately, biotech companies own a lot of seed companies!). There is also a handy listing of seed companies who have taken the “Safe Seed Pledge.” It is important we support seed companies that are committed to preserving a non-GMO food supply for future generations.
We highly recommend High Mowing Seeds, a family-owned company who offers a full line of Verified seeds. High Mowing Seeds uses exacting standards for traceability and segregation; and they have a very strong non-GMO commitment. A few other seed companies have strong non-GMO commitments as well, including Baker Creek, Seed Savers and Uprising Seeds. Don’t be afraid to ask a seed company about their non-GMO commitment. If they support non-GMO, they’ll be proud to tell you so.
When buying starts, look for organic and ask your nursery about GMOs.
For starts or larger plants, we recommend choosing an organic nursery and asking the staff where the seeds come from. If you read up on the list of high-risk plants and avoid them or make sure they came from non-GMO starts, then you should be good to go.
Choose organic compost and soil.
Healthy soil grows healthy plants! What type of soil you grow your plants in makes a difference. If you are careful to avoid chemicals in your garden, make sure you aren’t unknowingly planting in chemically-contaminated soil. If you buy soils, choose organic and talk with your retailer about where it comes from. This will help you know exactly what you are–and aren’t–getting.
Talk to your local organic nursery.
For help finding additives you may need, such as natural fertilizer or help with pest problems, employees at your local nursery are expert resources about your climate, which varietals to select, how to handle pests, and able to provide other great advice for your garden.
You may already realize how critical a non-GMO diet is to the health of our planet. Or you may be new to this issue and just starting to learn about all of the ways that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) threaten our soil, water, animals, insects and ecosystem at large. Either way, here at the Non-GMO Project, we’re here to support you and grow together to protect our non-GMO future.