Gregory Imbur, the bulk foods buyer at Maple City Market, has been taking a lot of products off the shelves in the last few months. It’s a necessary evil if you want to limit the amount of genetically modified foods offered at such a business.
“We were already converting from non-organic to organic, but as I started learning more [about genetically modified organisms], most of the information I found has made me concerned,” Imbur said. “I think it’s partly the role of a food co-op to educate the public. It’s just logical, it’s what co-ops do.”
Imbur said Maple City Market will ramp up its education effort this month in honor of Non-GMO month, which lasts through October. There will be an informational table set at the entrance and non-GMO giveaways. Five-percent of the market’s profits from Wednesday, Oct. 15 will be donated to Non-GMO Project.
Genetically modified organisms (also known as GMOs, or genetically engineered organisms) are created by splicing the DNA of regular crops with that of other organisms in combinations that could not occur in nature. At this time, many GMOs are created to allow conventional crops to withstand pathogens, herbicides or pesticides.
There is no definitive proof that genetically engineered foods are unsafe for human consumption, but they haven’t been proven safe, either. Currently, 64 nations — including Japan, Australia, Russia and every nation in the European Union — require labels on GMOs or ban them entirely. But in the U.S., neither the federal government nor most state governments regulate genetically engineered foods or how they’re labeled in supermarkets.
“If there are any guinea pigs out there, it’s our population,” Imbur said. “There’s a lot of people eating it, and they don’t know they’re eating it.”
Although the movement toward organic foods is most associated with fruits and vegetables, it’s not the produce aisle you have to worry about if you’re concerned by the effects of GMOs. Alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soy, sugar beets and zucchini are the only crops that have been successfully engineered on a large scale.
“The produce aisle is one the safest places,” Imbur said. “They tried [genetic modification] with the tomato and failed, they tried it with the potato and failed.”
Instead, processed foods have a much higher chance of containing ingredients that have been genetically modified, like high fructose corn syrup, canola oil or soy. Imbur also pointed out that meat, eggs and dairy products can be affected if they came from animals that consumed feed with genetically modified ingredients.
“When you really start to think about it, who else eats the corn and soy?” Ingram said. “The answer is the animal stock in this country. It’s pretty widespread.”
Studies commissioned by anti-GMO groups like Just Label It! have found that over 90 percent of respondents said they would like genetically modified foods to be specifically labeled. But only a small segment of the population is actually avoiding genetically engineered products when they shop.
And that’s where Imbur and Maple City Market come in.
“If we took all the GMOs out, there would be some empty aisles,” Imbur said. “Our bulk and produce department are GMO free, and we’re continuing to research the rest of the store. And if we still have GMOs in the store a year from now, we’ll have it labeled.
”We’re just really trying to have integrity with customers.”