USDA approves GE alfalfa, so step it up, foodies/concerned eaters/farmers!

Foodies and advocates of the local/organic/Slow food realm have been posting like gangbusters over the USDA's recent approval of genetically modified alfalfa - and rightly so. (For a thoughtful, clear-headed perspective, click here to view Megan Westgate of the Non-GMO Project.) To me, it opens the floodgates for future GMO approval by our government and ruins our already broken food system. While I am ashamed, outraged and embarrassed by the USDA's ultimate decision, I realize this is a moment that all real food advocates must re-evaluate its tactics, avoid brashness and come together in order to take back our food system in an effective, rational but equally impassioned way. This argument is far from over, and before we carry on, we should take the following in mind:
  • Know the facts about GMOs: Listen up - Genetically modified foods are already on the marketplace! Unless marked as "certified organic," chances are that the food you consume is genetically modified. Unlike the 30 or more countries (including UK, most of the EU and Japan) that have restrictions or bans on GMOs, the U.S. loves GM food (well, the people don't, but big-ag companies do because they know they can get away with it.) As of 2009, 93% of soy and cotton and 86% of corn grown in the U.S. were GM. And, yes, read any label and you'll notice that almost everything contains soy or corn in some form. Most conventional fruits, vegetables, legumes, oils, meats and fish (yup, even living things are genetically engineered) have had their genetic make-up manipulated for the sake of looking better in the grocery store after their long travels and/or to maintain their artificial tastes. So, alfalfa is just the latest thing to join the club. 
  • Spread the word + join the non-GMO team: Once you've become sufficiently outraged by the reality of genetically modified foods - one viewing of "Food, Inc." (or other food movies/resources listed on this site) can send you on a rampage - it's time to get spread the word via blogs, e-mails, letters to the editor, face-to-face meetings with friends, neighbors or even public meetings. There is power in numbers, and there's a wealth of credible organizations opposed to non-GMO initiatives, including, but not limited it: Organic Consumers Association (click here to sign it's petition "Millions Against Monsanto"); Organic Trade Association;  National Organic Coalition; Center for Food Safety, and many, many others. Follow the work of these groups (RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, whatever!), and stay informed about their missions.
  • Demand GMO-free labeling and transparency: Currently, it's up to individual corporations to list if the products they make are genetically modified or contain such ingredients. News flash: Many do not, especially since it's not mandated by the government. Organic food, by nature of its certification standards, cannot be grown or produced by knowingly* using GMOs. (*I say "knowingly" because even a "100%-organic" label cannot guarantee GMO-free food, including from contamination. Under current National Organic Program guidelines, GM is an excluded method. What this means: GMO seeds or ingredients shouldn't be planted, but the NOP doesn't require testing for GM ingredients.) If you're questioning the ingredients in your favorite products, contact the manufacturer and ask questions. If you suspect hesitance on their part, stop supporting them - their mistake, not yours! To see a list of companies who have supported the non-GMO cause and seal, look here at those who have signed onto the third-party verification process. Encourage your favorite small companies to join the movement as well. 
  • You're the consumer/farmer/responsible eater, so you have the power! OK, so this was just a fancy way of saying "vote with your dollar." The only way to avoid GMOs is to not buy those foods you're suspect of. Grow your own food** (**I'll be writing a post soon on safe sources for seeds) and support organic, no-spray, non-GMO-using growers (local is the best, if it's available to you). You decide what food goes onto your plate and in your body, so be an active eater and always question. 
    Local, organic strawberries. Non-GMO, thank you very much.
  • Don't like the responses and still have concerns? Contact your local ag representative or the USDA. Go to the source - if you don't like the answers or responses from companies or still have questions about GMOs, contact agriculture experts in your area, and you shouldn't hesitate to contact the USDA. Despite skepticism and cynicism in light of recent - ::cough:: - decisions, they work for us, remember?
The battle over GMOs is long from over, so rather than fall apart or fracture the organic/local/Slow/whatever-you-want-to-call-it movement, let's get going. Our passionate tweets and angry blog posts don't mean anything unless we put them into action. Democracy isn't dead, so let's step it up.