By Vince Picchiello, Master Gardener in Training
It wasn’t long ago that Joni Mitchell sang about making it to Woodstock. In these last few years though, there is a more serious and vibrant movement when the subject turns to the foods we eat and their genetic composition. Additionally, there are real concerns about the lack of nutrition and vitamins that exist in many of the fruits and vegetables that we purchase at our local supermarkets what with the deteriorating state of soils that are infested with herbicides and pesticides. Hence, the return to our own gardens for fresh organic fruits and vegetables.
First and foremost of concern is the introduction of foods that are Genetically Modified Organisms or GMO’s. Genetically modified foods are organisms that have had their characteristics changed through the modification of their own DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). GMO’s have had their genomes (organisms that contain the complete set of genetic instructions) changed in a way that doesn’t happen naturally.
In the United States, in large scale agricultural crops, at least 90% of soy, cotton, canola, corn and sugar beets have been genetically engineered. In Canada, canola, soy beans, corn and sugar beet are crops that are genetically modified. However, most of these foods are exported. The lingering issue is whether these foods have any health issues now or in the future. The Center for Food Safety is of the opinion that not enough information has been gathered to deem these foods safe for consumption in the long term. Regardless of the debates, there is an awakening among consumers of the foods we eat.
Obviously, not everyone has access to a garden and some only have room for container plants but the awareness arises from the quality and certainty of the foods we eat. It becomes about choices. We can choose to shop at our local farmers markets whereby we can engage directly with the lovely people who sell their foods. We can ask about farming techniques; whether they use pesticides or herbicides, whether their soil is certified organic or if they use GMOs. Alternatively, for those of us blessed with space on our properties we can slowly begin to amend our soils and start our own self-sustaining journey.
Not to be forgotten through this movement to the garden is our choice of using heirloom seeds in order to preserve some of our declining specimens of fruits and vegetables that have been marginalized by corporate “farmers” in their quest for profitable crops.
Finally, not only is gardening a rewarding endeavour that enhances our health, it attracts nature with the butterflies and bees and the multitude of insects that cultivate our soils, ultimately we get to enjoy the fruits of our labour with pure authentic produce. Back to the garden is a reality that is picking up steam. Why not join us!