November UFH Challenge Kickoff: Grains – No GMO But Do You Know What That Means?

This morning the country is still processing election day results, dusting themselves off or basking in the glow of optimism. This is not a political blog. Nonetheless it’s my intent that this blog affects change. Change that every family, no matter what income class, educational level, race, family size, sexual orientation or religious creed can feel. Change that every person, no matter how old or how very, very young will benefit from. I’m talking about food.

I may not be able to affect matters of fiscal or foreign policy, but I can affect matters of food and so can you.

Yesterday, a California initiative that was cobbled together by a ragtag grassroots group of passionate and committed individuals was defeated by a massive international giant with staggering coffers. Coffers built upon sabotage, greed, threats, deceit and complete disregard for the physical welfare of current and future generations of life forms and planetary health.

What is truly amazing is just how far that ragtag grassroots effort made it, and how much money it cost that international giant to defeat the initiative.

Goliath, you may have won the battle but you will not win this war.

Just think if every state managed to get that initiative on the ballot if only to drain more of Goliath’s funds and to distract and confuse their lobbying efforts.

This first challenge is somewhat political – motivated by food.

This first challenge is to support or start an initiative in your state requiring labeling for genetically modified foods.

Here in Washington state we have an opportunity to get Initiative 522 on the ballot if we get enough signatures by December 31. So far we are only halfway there and time is ticking. To find out how to print your own petition copies, visit

If you are unable to do that, then I challenge you to abstain from buying any food containing non-organic wheat for the entire month.

But here is the problem with even organic foods: even organic foods can be genetically modified, and in fact, all organic wheat is.

Genetic modification is the result of several methods.

One: Take the genetic code you desire, insert into a vector. Use that vector to insert the desired genetic code into an item. Use that item to reproduce a genetically modified organism.

Two: Use a processes that will cause global mutations of genetic code (could be chemical exposure, mechanical or other). Back-cross the new genetic code with the original and observe results. Repeat many times until the new items becomes stable and predictable.

Method one is required to undergo food safety studies prior to entering the food chain. Method two is not required to undergo safety studies prior to entering the food chain.

An organism created using method two can be certified as organic. Without any safety studies.

Genetic information in food signals the body how to react to that food. Yet food companies are allowed to genetically alter organisms without safety studies and still obtain organic certification.

Using method number two, you obtain modern dwarf, high gluten wheat varieties. And staggering rates of gluten intolerance and Celiac’s disease. White flour isn’t the only culprit – it’s WHEAT flour.

I know this challenge is more complicated and heavy than any kick off challenge should be but it’s not over yet.

I want you to read this booklet on GM truths and myths and understand a little bit more about genetic modification. This will better help you explain to others why labeling matters, even if it it is only a very tiny first step towards our greater food education.

Why even bother buying organic if it doesn’t mean your flour is not genetically modified? Because it’s sending a signal to food manufacturers that you care about what you are eating, and that is the first step in affecting change. Because it’s doable, and giving up wheat cold turkey is more than many of us can tackle at this stage in our lives. Because baby steps eventually lead in the direction we need to go – but without first starting down the path we can never reach our goal.

4 Responses to November UFH Challenge Kickoff: Grains – No GMO But Do You Know What That Means?

  1. Can you point me to further information on your statement that all organic wheat is GMO? I tried looking through the pdf you linked to, but it’s 123 pages. If there is info in that document can you please give me the page #? I know that wheat is highly hybridized but everything I’ve read says that organic wheat is not GMO. Any info would be appreciated.

    • Annette Cottrell

      Susan – it all boils down to which definition of genetic modification you are talking about (my method #1 and method #2 above). The method #2 that I described includes the hybridization method used to create dwarf wheat (which I still eat).

      Method #2 uses a process that will cause global mutations of the genetic code and then back-crosses the new genetic code with original. Modern semi-dwarf wheat has been produced several different ways, including using the chemical sodium azide and using radiation mutegenesis. After completely changing the genome, you back cross with the original species to create a hybrid version with a newly mutated genetic code.

      Species created by either chemical or radiation mutagenesis are automatically labelled GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) and are able to obtain Organic certification.

  2. Is this website incorrect? It says lots of things are GMO…(I didn’t suspect sugar beets!) but says that wheat isn’t.

    • Annette Cottrell

      Hi Misa – they are obviously only using the definition for method #1 above, the scientific method of inserting the desired genetic code into vector and using the vector to insert the genetic code into item X, then using item X to reproduce a new GMO. Method #2 also alters the genetic code but uses mechanical, chemical or other methods to do so like radiation. Apparently the GMO project is not counting that as genetic modification, even though it has genetically modified the item. And sadly, only the first method requires safety testing.

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