Food Shaming: Why I’m Avoiding Foods Labeled “Non-GMO Project” Verified

I recently grabbed a can of diced tomatoes, and the “Non-GMO Project” butterfly logo caught my eye. The can had many labels. But the Non-GMO Project Verified logo had a website below. It looked like propaganda and annoyed me.

I previously had mostly ignored the Non-GMO Project campaign. I’ve tried to promote what I love about agriculture and food and avoid arguing about that with which I disagree. After making supper, I visited the Non-GMO Project Project website and Twitter profile.

The people behind the project are doing everything they can to get consumers to avoid GMOs. They’ve convinced millions of people and thousands of food brands and retailers of their beliefs. They imply non-GMO choices are higher quality, healthier and safer and you are at risk if your food isn’t “Non-GMO Project” verified. They go so far to feature a child holding up a sign that says “I will not eat GMOs” as their Twitter profile cover.What if you and your child were hungry? If you were given sweet corn or papaya grown from genetically engineered, or GMO, seeds, would you eat it? Would you eat the meat or drink the milk from animals who were fed alfalfa, soybean meal or field corn, all raised as GMO crops?

Of course you would!

If you’re food secure, this might not matter to you. But if you care about those who have limited or uncertain access to adequate food, then this ploy should catch your attention. The Non-GMO Project uses scare tactics and false advertising to scare and confuse you into buying non-GMO-only food.

Fifteen years ago, I was a single mom, trying to cover all my bills, pay down my credit card and student loan debt and save to buy my first house. I would go to the store with my 6-year-old son with $40 cash every other week to feed the two of us, in addition to raiding my mom’s cupboards and freezers when I visited our family farm.

When I had a limited budget, I didn’t care about labels or even notice them. I needed cheap food and healthy options. Food shaming and confusing marketing would have given me more guilt than I already had.

Today I support farmers who raise both non-GMO and GMO crops. No matter what type of crops or animals they raise, it’s labor-intensive and challenging work. Shaming, false marketing and pitting one segment of the agricultural and food industries against another need to stop.

Tomatoes aren’t one of the 10 GMO crops — so why even label them non-GMO and further confuse consumers? The next time I buy diced tomatoes at the grocery store, I’m going to grab a can without the little butterfly logo.

I prefer to have access to GMO seeds, crops and food, all from the most regulated food system in the world, the United States. I want there to be scientific advancements in how farmers grow food.

Blooming canola brightens summer fields. Canola, crushed for canola oil, is a GMO crop. North Dakota leads the U.S in canola production.

GMO or non-GMO choices are not about feeding you and me. It’s about feeding hungry people and people who don’t care about our opinions on food labels.

The Non-GMO Project is a sham. I’m disappointed so many food companies feel they have to give in or need to have the Non-GMO Project logo on their food. I’m disappointed in the consumers, including myself, who buy the food without thinking much about it.

I’m going to do my best to avoid food labeled with the Non-GMO Project logo. I won’t go so far to boycott it, because if that’s the only prepackaged applesauce for my kids’ lunches, then I’m going to buy what’s available in my small-town grocery store.

I challenge you to pay attention to the labels on the food you buy in the coming weeks. Take time to research logos or claims and what they mean to you and the farmers who work to provide you with food choices.

This was my Agweek column this past week. I am making it a 2018 habit to also blog my columns.