Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Enjoy Halloween without Frightful GMOs

Posted: 30 Oct 2013 12:28 PM PDT

GMOs are the scariest elements of Halloween, so here are some tips from The Non-GMO Project on how to ward off frightful GMOs this year!

Choose Non-GMO Project Verified Treats for the Trick-or-Treat Basket

  • Nature's Path Crispy Treats
  • Endangered Species chocolates
  • Bakery on Main granola bars
  • Funky Monkey snacks
  • Simply Fruit
  • HomeFree cookies
  • Yogavive snacks
  • Licious Organics snacks
  • EnviroKids
  • Pro Bar snack bars
  • Pure Organics snacks
  • Righteously Raw bars
  • Tasty Brand snacks
  • Theo Chocolates
  • Bites of Bliss

Non-GMO Treats & Treasures

Halloween is meant to be fun—so get creative as you look for new ways to celebrate with the kids in your life.
  • Stickers
  • Beeswax crayons
  • Non-GMO Project Verified treats
  • Polished rocks
  • Friendship bracelets
  • Coupons
  • Seed packets
  • Homemade playdough

GMOs and Children—What You Need to Know

What are GMOs?

GMOs, or "genetically modified organisms," are plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.

What foods are GMO?

According to the USDA, in 2009, 93% of soy, 93% of cotton, and 86% of corn grown in the U.S. were GMO. It is estimated that over 90% of canola grown is GMO, and there are also commercially produced GM varieties of sugar beets, squash and Hawaiian Papaya. As a result, it is estimated that GMOs are now present in more than 80% of packaged products in the average U.S. or Canadian grocery store.

Are my children eating GMOs?

The sad truth is many of the foods that are most popular with children contain GMOs. Cereals, snack
bars, snack boxes, cookies, processed lunchmeats, and crackers all contain large amounts of high risk food ingredients. In North America, over 80% of our food contains GMOs. If you are not buying foods that are Non-GMO Project Verified, most likely GMOs are present at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Are GMOs safe for my family to eat?

Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In nearly 50 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. In the U.S., the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale.

Beyond Non-GMO: More Tricks for Healthy, Green Treats

Giving away Non-GMO goodies to trick-or-treaters is a great start, but there are other people and planet-friendly choices to consider. When buying Halloween treats and party fare, look for
  • Organic
  • Locally grown/produced
  • No high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Palm-oil free
  • No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives
In addition, you may wan to consider giving away goodies or serving foods that are peanut-free, gluten-free, dairy free and/or egg fress. These are some of the the most common food allergens and with 1 in 13 kids suffering from food allergies, limiting highly allergic foods is one way to ensure that Haolloween is safe and fun for everyone.

Does your child want to go door-to-door, but you don't want him/her to consume it all? Consider trading candy fro "pumpkin points" good towards a special gift or activity or invite the Sugar Sprite to come. The Sugar Sprite (or Switch Witch) exchanges candy for a special gift! Dentists across the country also take part in Halloween Candy Buy Back Program in which uneaten candy is collected (usually at $1 a pound) and sent overseas to American Troops. Uneaten candy can also be composted (remove wrapper first).

Would GMO Labeling Jack Up Food Prices?

Posted: 30 Oct 2013 10:14 AM PDT

The push to require labels for genetically modified food, which flared up in California before drowning under a flood of industry cash last year, is now underway in Washington state. Predictably, agrichemical and organic interests are pouring money into, respectively, defeating and supporting a ballot initiative called I-522, which would require foods containing GMO ingredients to bear labels. Just as predictably, the agribusiness interests are garnering much more money to kill the effort than their organic peers are in supporting it—outspending them $17.1 million to $4.6 million, the Spokane-Review reported.

Meanwhile, in a development that broke late Wednesday, the Washington state attorney general has filed a complaint alleging that the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a trade group that donated $2 million to the effort to defeat California's labeling initiative, violated state campaign laws and "spent more than $7 million while shielding the identity of its contributors," according to its press release.

As in California, the effect on food prices is emerging as a point of contention. Opponents of labeling, pointing to a 2012 study prepared during the California fight by Northbridge Environmental Management Consultants, say that the new rules would cost consumers $350 to $400 annually per household. The Northbridge paper, though, was funded by the industry-dominated campaign to stop Prop 37, as the California initiative was known. Campaign records show that Northridge received a total of $97,371 in five payments during 2012.

Supporters of the Washington initiative, in turn, point to a rival 2012 study, this one prepared by Joanna M. Shepherd of Emory University School of Law, which found that "food prices [are] likely to remain unchanged for consumers." That study was commissioned by the Alliance for Natural Health, a group that advocates for "the right of natural-health practitioners to practice and the right of consumers to choose the healthcare options they prefer."

So which is right? Over at Grist, Michael Lipsky, a distinguished senior fellow at the progressive think tank Demos, argues that labeling wouldn't likely cost consumers much at all. The cost of changing labels would be trivial, he writes—food manufacturers "do it all the time." Ever seen the words "new and improved" on some boxed delicacy?

The Northbridge study, he shows, is based on the assumption that, in order to avoid having to declare that their products contain GMOs, food manufactures will rapidly switch over to non-GMO ingredients, which would cost more to procure. That's because upwards of 80 percent of US corn, soybeans, and sugar beets are genetically modified—and iterations of these three crops suffuse US processed foods, providing sweeteners (high-fructose corn syrup and beet sugar), fats (corn and soy oil), and a litany of ingredients like various thickeners. For food manufacturers to get non-GMO versions of these substances, they'd have to pay a premium in the marketplace—hence higher ingredient costs that they'd want to pass on to consumers.

But that effect wouldn't last long, Lipsky argues. "If labeling were required, particularly if (and when) the labeling requirement is adopted by other states, demand for non-GMO versions of corn, soybeans, and sugar beets—the basic GMO crops—would increase, production would expand, and prices for non-GMO ingredients would decline," he writes. That makes good sense: basic supply and demand.

And here's something Lipsky didn't get to: Even in the short term, the effect on retail prices would likely be small. That's because ingredients make up a tiny portion of the expenses incurred by manufactures to process food and move it to grocery store shelves. Transportation, marketing, processing—all of these things cost more than the actual food in the box of cereal or frozen dinner at Walmart.

How tiny are the costs of ingredients? Consider a box of corn flakes—which are presumably made largely of GMO corn (it's impossible to know for sure, because no US state requires labeling). In this 2008 report (currently available online because it has been republished on a non-government server) on the effect of ethanol on food prices, a US Department of Agriculture researcher crunched the numbers (pun fully intended) on the how much money companies spend on corn to make your cereal:
[A]n 18-ounce box of corn flakes contains about 12.9 ounces of milled field corn. When field corn is priced at $2.28 per bushel (the 20-year average), the actual value of corn represented in the box of corn flakes is about 3.3 cents.
And what happened after the corn ethanol program pushed corn prices up to $3.49 per bushel—a 49 percent jump? The total cost of corn in the cereal box rose to 4.9 cents. In other words, paying a 49 percent premium pushed up the corn cost in a box of corn flakes a grand total of 1.6 cents. An 18-ounce box of corn flakes contains 18 servings—meaning that much-pricier corn translated to an increase of less than 0.1 cents per bowl. For a family of four that consumes four bowls of flakes every day, that's about $1.46 extra for the year.

So even if manufacturers had to pay a hefty premium for non-GMO corn, the retail price of food would barely budge. Whatever you think about GMO labeling, the concern that it would significantly jack up food prices is probably specious.

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