Archive for the ‘guest blog’ Category

Guest post: Farmer Haley’s Take on GMO Labeling

Earlier this summer, I wrote a post for farmer Mike Haley on what GMO labeling looked like from a consumer’s point of view — well, mine, specifically. He agreed to return the favor and talk about how labeling would affect his farming practices. It’s a perspective I haven’t seen elsewhere and that I think adds to the conversation on this complex and emotional issue.


Farmer Haley’s corn fields

Before I get into the post itself, I would like to thank Jennifer Mo for getting me thinking more about the topic of labeling foods that are derived from genetically engineered (GE) crops and the effects that proposition 37 in California will have on farmers like myself.

As a farmer who grows both GE corn and GE free corn, I often am asked how I feel about this labeling question.  I must admit while I lean towards no labeling, I also have mixed feelings as to whether or not this is the correct stance to take on the issue.  Rather than give my opinions, I want to share how this proposition would affect my farm.

There are several reasons why we plant genetically engineered crops on our farm.  In corn, we choose to plant a variety that was developed to resist insects naturally rather than having to use insecticides that are not as effective and can be very harmful to the handler (me) if a mistake is made when applying it.  Depending on the type of soil, history and current weather trends, we often decide that insects will not be a major issue in a field and plant a non GE variety allowing us to save money, if the trend holds true and we don’t have any issues with insects in that field.

Currently, when it is time to harvest, no measures are taken to completely segregate corn varieties that are GE as there is no premium to do so; we get paid the same price for both GE corn and non GE corn.  It’s hard to tell what would happen if Proposition 37 passed, but I am assuming that my mill would want me to find a way to separate my corn into batches of non GE as well as that that contains GE corn. In other words I would be expected to follow procedures of identity preservation (IP) of all the seed on my farm.

Sounds simple right?

Not really, as I would have to start this process early in the spring.  While planting my fields, I would have to completely clean my planter out when switching from GE varieties as just one seed could completely contaminate the rest of the field.  Then in the fall I would have to do a thorough cleaning of my combine, trucks and wagons when switching between the same fields. Furthermore, it would also be necessary to shut the combine down for about 24 hours while the corn dryer had a chance to catch up so I could clean it out and switch it to the proper grain bin to maintain the identity of the seed.  All of this is possible, but requires valuable time to accomplish and could mean the difference between getting our crop harvested before it snows or not.

It doesn’t stop there, as the real tasks occur after my grain leaves the farm.  Each truckload will have to be tested to determine if the genetic makeup of the grain has been engineered before the farmer would be allowed to dump it into its specified bin, making the lines and time spent at grain terminals longer, as testing delays the process. For the grain terminals, it would also mean having to build more infrastructures that can handle both types of grain without contamination of the non GE varieties.  From this point on, the grain would have to remain segregated.  From railcars to processors and packers and finally the grocery store where it can be labeled as containing GMOs, each step is important and a level of quality control will need to be added.

All of this adds up in cost that will get passed on to the consumer.  On my farm it would be an added cost of about $.50 per bushel on a normal year, or 10 percent, and I could only imagine the increased costs would be similar through each step, adding a huge cost to the amount of food individuals spend on food each year.

All that said, I truly believe that if individuals want labeling, it should be provided, and it is in several ways already on a voluntary basis.  If one wishes to avoid GE foods, it’s simple to purchase organic foods or even look for non organic foods that have the Non-GMO Projects label on them.  These choices may cost more, but that is because it costs more to raise food and preserve the identity of foods by those standards.  This is where I have mixed feelings. Is it right to force everyone to pay more for food just so those who are concerned can have more choices?

The USDA, EPA , FDA and hundreds of other experts say it is as safe as other plants found in nature as other food and from my experience on my farm, I know it has a favorable environmental profile. I’m completely comfortable with it. But I understand others may not be and I’m glad to know the market provides clear choices for them.


About Mike Haley

Farming’s n my blood! Love raising crops & Simmental Cows! N my spare time I enjoy writing, find me on Twitter @justfarmers & @farmerhaley email: farmerhaley(at)


Non-Violent Communication, parts 3 & 4: Empathy and Asking for What We Want

This is the final part of Ian Peatey’s guest post on non-violent communication. I apologize for the irregular posting, as my cumulative bio final was yesterday and many things got put on hold while I studied. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and will consider applying it to how you communicate. If you missed them, please check out part 1 and part 2 in the series!

Empathy and asking for what we want. Image credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service


Empathy is a fashionable concept at the moment and I celebrate this. Learning to listen with empathy is, I believe, the most important step towards a more peaceful and sustainable world.

Applying the NVC approach to empathy means listening to what someone is expressing beyond the words they use. Most people have been educated to express mainly their judgements and analysis. So being able to hear their unexpressed feelings and needs is a great gift to them – it’s reaching out to what is really alive in them and not only staying in the relatively narrow realm of the mind. If their judgements are directed towards me then empathy is also an essential act of self-protection!

Quick Exercise

Guess the reaction you might get if you did say what you wrote down in part 2 above.

  • What would they say to you
  • What might they be feeling?
  • What needs of theirs might be at play?

The reaction I might get to the litter situation could be, “Who the f*** are you telling me what to do. Mind your own business, asshole!”

My guess, which I might verbalise if I thought it would help: They’re feeling irritated and need freedom and autonomy. They might also be feeling embarrassed as they didn’t meet their need for care and consideration of others when they dropped the trash.

Jennifer: I think my neighbors would be likely to react this way. They would probably be embarrassed and angry to be approached about something like recycling. They might need to be able to finish chores quickly to get back to taking care of their families.

Asking for What we Want

If I view people as basically generous and compassionate and if I’m equally interested in getting my needs and your needs met, then asking for what I want ought to be straightforward.

NVC suggest treating a request as a suggestion about what current action would meet my needs. If my suggestion also works for you and then we’re good to go! If not, it’s the start of a dialogue where we can get clearer about both our needs and come up with a solution together.

Contrast this with some of these common approaches we learned as children:

  • Punishment (“clean your room or no TV for a week”/ “Come home now or I’ll leave you here on your own”)
  • Reward (“Get good grades and I’ll buy you a new ball/iPad/bicycle/keg of beer”)
  • Denial of choice (“You must do your share of the chores … so you have to wash the dishes!”)
  • Exclusion from the rest of society (“Nobody talks to their parents like that”)
  • Emotional blackmail (“If you tell me the truth I won’t get mad”/”If you lie to me I won’t love you as much”)

All these methods rely on fear of some kind to get children to act. And children grow into adults who learn either to use fear themselves or continue to act out of fear.

The NVC way might take a little time, and for me it’s a small price to pay for reducing the amount of fear we bring into our lives.

Quick Exercise

Continuing the example from the previous sections. What do you want to hear or see right now that would meet your needs?

Ideally I would like this person to never throw litter again and join me on a crusade to convince everyone they know to keep trash off the streets. Somehow I guess I might be wanting more than they are ready to commit to right now.

More realistically I might ask: “Would you agree to throw your next piece of trash in one of these bins?” and I’d also go over and pick up the litter they dropped and throw it away.

Going off on a bit of a tangent – I can’t remember actually meeting a litter-dropper, so I tend to do a lot of picking up of other peoples’ trash. It’s not ideal as I would love to have a dialogue with them – human to human – and see where it led, but I’m not prepared to loiter around the park, pouncing on people as they discard their rubbish.

Picking up other peoples’ litter might sound like a dumb thing to do – but I’ve tried complaining, feeling resentful and disgusted or hoping for some wave of awareness to come over the neighbourhood. None of those things made me feel good so cleaning up myself is a the best choice I’ve found.

You know what, I was in the park the other day and I saw someone else doing exactly the same thing, which brought a smile to my face.

Jennifer: I’ll think about asking for what I want the next time I meet a non-recycler at the trash bins. Maybe offering to help them sort their trash or addressing why they don’t recycle could open up a conversation. And until then…sigh, I guess I’ll keep fishing recyclables out of the trash.

About the Author

Ian Peatey is a Certified Trainer of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) living in Romania where he runs and writes for NVC World and does a bit of business training. Together with his wife, he runs the Romanian Association for NVC delivering workshops and training courses aimed at supporting parents and couples as well as organisations involved with children. His main contributions to the environment are refusing to eat meat, walking a lot (and not owning a car) and buying local, natural foods wherever possible. On the other hand he does have 3 kids but he’s not willing to give any of them up.

He can be contacted here.

Non-Violent Communication, Part 2: Honesty

This guest post series on non-violent communication by Ian Peatey continues. If you missed part 1 on needs, please take a look!

NVC part 2: Honesty. Image credit: laszlo-photo

NVC suggested an approach to honesty that, while not easy to master, was worth the effort because it gives a way of expressing myself that doesn’t make people hate me as much.

This ‘connecting honesty’ is the art of expressing what’s alive in me. Alive as in what am I noticing in the world around me, how am I reacting to it (thoughts AND feelings) and what’s going on with my needs.

This is a broader view of honesty than the narrow one I grew up with.

Like many kids, I was taught to tell the truth. I was also taught how to analyse, interpret and judge and then defend my views and argue against different positions than my own. I could say the main aim of the education system I was exposed to was to develop my logical, rational brain. There were some attempts to develop my creative, sporting and musical talents but they were largely half-hearted and mainly ineffective.

It’s not surprising, perhaps, that I grew up to equate truth with thinking and the highest form of honesty, therefore, was to tell people what I thought of them. Just to complicate things, this was often in conflict with another piece of my education – how to be polite. As is the case with many of us British, politeness usually won – which is probably for the best, as a lot of what I think is garbage and probably best left as random, irrelevant clouds passing through my brain.

Intuitively I knew uncensored expression of my thoughts was more likely to result in heated exchanges than productive, meaningful relationships. The best I could usually hope for was a triumphant, ‘I’m someone who speaks my mind – if you can’t take my honesty then that’s your problem’. After all few people enjoy being judged and not many like being educated when they haven’t asked for it. So I learned to keep my mouth shut in the interests of harmony and maintaining at least a few relationships.

Quick Exercise

Imagine you say something to the person doing the thing you wish they wouldn’t do (from part 1). Try formulating in no more than 2 sentences:

  • What you observe they do (just the facts, none of your interpretations or judgements)
  • What you feel when they do that
  • Which needs of yours are not getting met.

If I bumped into one of these people throwing litter in the playground and honestly told them what I think about them, I can be pretty sure it’s not going to end well. I doubt there’s a person alive who responds well to: “You selfish, low-life, moronic litter lout”. I want a different kind of honesty.

I might start with something like, “I saw you drop that empty soda bottle and I’m feeling concerned and also nervous, right now, about opening my mouth. My daughter is playing over there and I need her to be safe and grow up caring for the world around her.” I hope it would be easier to hear (even if a bit awkward), though I still predict I’ll get an aggressive, defensive reaction. At least I’m more grounded in myself, less confrontational and genuinely interested in reaching a solution that works for both of us.

One thing I should just add here.

Before opening my mouth I would make an assessment about how safe the situation is. If I  guessed I might get into some physical harm then I would leave it alone. I want to make the world a better place, and getting beaten up in front of my 2 year old daughter is not going to help that.

Jennifer: So, going back to my neighbors who throw recyclables in the trash and drive their pick-up truck 50 feet to the laundry room. If I said what I was actually thinking, it would come out something like this: “For f***’s sake, people. You can’t even be bothered to recycle your plastic water bottles? Hope your kids like it on a dead planet.” To put it in more NVC terms, maybe I could say something like, “I noticed that you throw out recyclable items like bottles and cans. I feel upset when I see recyclables in the trash because I need my community to respect the environment we all live in.”

I think I need to work on that some more. What eco-oblivious actions make you want to start pulling out the asterisks and ampersands? And can you think of NVC ways to rephrase how you feel?

Guest Post: Non-Violent Communication (part 1)

This is a guest post from Ian Peatey, a Non-Violent Communication Trainer, on a system of communication based on empathy rather than competition. I’m not qualified to write on this topic myself, though I have seen that it works and fosters real conversations instead of shouting matches. Environmental issues are complex, and many of us are deeply emotionally invested in our perspectives on them. Listening and responding empathetically are not instinctive, but they can be taught. I hope that non-violent communication will help us to listen better and find solutions.

Is there a better way to communicate? Image credit: Akuppa

I turn 50 next year (gulp!) and I can point to maybe a small handful of events so far that triggered really huge changes. One of those transforming moments was coming across Nonviolent Communication (NVC) in 2001.

On the face of it NVC is simple and obvious – deceptively so. Scratching away its layers and patiently learning how to integrate it revealed a rich, practical approach to myself, relationships and social structures. It also turned upside down some of the things I’d taken for granted all my life about basic concepts such as honesty and co-operation.

At its core is a positive and compassionate view of the human race. Yes, of course, there are plenty of people I could label selfish, aggressive, violent or mean – in fact, I might even use those words to describe myself from time to time.

NVC takes the view we are all doing the best we can to meet our needs and we all enjoy giving when we are free to do so. It maintains that how we’ve been educated to think, communicate and act sometimes interferes with this positive, compassionate orientation. And by re-learning some of this education we can choose modes of living that help us connect with others, resolve our differences constructively and seek peaceful ways of living.

Me and NVC (or NVC and I)

My introduction to NVC was pure chance combined with laziness.

I was sitting in the main hall at a very large conference, trying to decide which workshop to go to next. A guy came and sat on the edge of the stage, talked a bit, pulled out a guitar and started singing in a rather tuneless voice. I can relate to ‘tuneless’ but didn’t want to listen to 2 hours of it. I glanced at the programme and saw it was the beginning of ‘Nonviolent Communication’ presented by Marshall Rosenberg. It didn’t sound really appealing but I was just too lazy to move and by way of justification, told myself there might be more to it than crap songs.

So I stayed.

Fast forward and today my life pretty much revolves around NVC. I run workshops on it, write about it and do my very best to integrate it into how I relate to myself and those around me. I’m even married to it – my wife is also an NVC trainer. There are many different aspects of NVC that changed how I live and I’d like to touch on 4 elements that had the biggest impact on me.

1. Needs

Needs are central to NVC – not as a consumer driven or egotistical concept but as the very real things enabling us to survive and thrive.

Needs are what underpins everything we do and include basic physical needs (like protection, food and water) and more complex needs (such as belonging, meaning, understanding, beauty, emotional safety). They are also one way we can bridge the differences between us and find that  place where we meet as human beings. By finding the needs we’re trying to meet (my needs and your needs) we’re much more likely to find sustainable solutions than if we stick only with ideas and opinions.

This was quite a different way of looking at needs than the one I grew up with. I believe needs are often misrepresented. I mean, who wants to be seen as ‘needy’ or ‘selfish’ (only looking after their own needs).

I was brought up to put my own needs to one side and do things for other people out of duty and obligation – in other words, to be obedient. Obedience was promoted as a virtue – to parents, teachers, bosses and any other authority figure. I’d also bought into the notion of needs promoted by the mass media which got me to think I ‘need’ certain products, brands or services in order to fit in, be successful or get the girl!

From a certain perspective it’s not so hard to see why needs get misrepresented. People who are clear and assertive about their own needs tend to be quite difficult to control and don’t make compliant consumers!

Quick Exercise – think of something someone does that drives you crazy.

  • Which needs of yours are not met when they do this?
  • Which needs of theirs might they be trying to meet by doing this?
  • Are there other ways they could meet their needs while also valuing yours?

For me it’s people throwing litter in the playground where my kids play. My needs are for care, safety and health and I guess the needs of those throwing the trash are about ease and (possibly) being noticed/getting attention. Just getting to this step I find helpful and I feel calmer. I no longer see these (usually faceless) people as moronic louts who don’t care about anybody. I start to get a tiny glimmer of them as people, just like me, doing the best they can – albeit, it in a way I really don’t like.

Overflowing bin with doomed recyclables. Image credit: Ecstatic Mark

Jennifer: I get so angry when I see recyclables in the trash. Despite the fact that we have super-easy single-stream recycling, people still throw away their trash without sorting it, and their big white trash bags contain highly recyclable glass, aluminum, and plastic. I think it makes me even angrier that it often comes from families — Enfamil containers, other kiddie items — because surely they have the highest stake in the future? If their recyclables are easy to reach, I fish them out, but it’s really gross and gets my back up.

My needs that are not being met: the need to respect limited resources, for thoughtful behavior, and a planet-centered worldview. Their needs: convenience or to save time (I’m sure they are busy and sleep deprived). I don’t know what a compromise would look like — I can’t talk to them because I don’t know who they are, and I never see them doing it. Thoughts, Ian?

I’d love for you to try this thought experiment, even if, like me, the solutions aren’t immediately obvious. When it comes to environmental issues, what makes you angry, and what needs of yours aren’t being met?

Go on to part 2: Honesty

About the Author

Ian Peatey is a Certified Trainer of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) living in Romania where he runs and writes for NVC World and does a bit of business training. Together with his wife, he runs
the Romanian Association for NVC delivering workshops and training courses aimed at supporting parents and couples as well as organisations involved with children. His main contributions to the environment are refusing to eat meat, walking a lot (and not owning a car) and buying local, natural wherever possible. On the other hand he does have 3 kids but he’s not willing to give any of them up.

He can be contacted here.

Saving the Planet with Storytelling

Is there something more effective than lecturing?

This post is inspired by a conversation I had with my friend Emily, a science illustrator and blogger over at Walkabout Em. Unlike me, Emily is an extrovert and has a very different perspective on how to educate and inspire people to behave more responsibly. 

Saving the Planet, Emily-Style


Emily: I got home the other day and had a choice between tuning out to the latest episode of Desperate Housewives or watching a new documentary on national parks. The documentary had great footage, a pretty illustrated cover.

Jennifer: You watch Desperate Housewives? Really? Really?

Emily: [ignoring my outburst] You know me, I’m science-y and care about climate change. But I was tired and really just wanted something that my brain could flat line to, and I’ve been watching Desperate Housewives and following the stories of these women for four years. It’s a social thing — it has a narrative, character development, good storytelling. People are drawn to stories about characters they care about, not straight science.

Jennifer: Uh…I must be a sucky human. I don’t need stories or people with my facts. I read mostly non-fiction. I’m OK reading straight science.

Emily: Right, but most people respond to stories. And that’s where we’ve missed a huge opportunity to educate people about climate change and sustainability: by integrating it into the narratives and characters they already care about. Instead of product placement, we could do science placement, and use narrative storytelling to promote positive, doable choices.

Jennifer: So, kind of like brainwashing?

Emily: Well, the media already has a major effect on how we behave as a society. I read this study during a media studies class about a town with a huge gun problem that was tied to the idea of masculinity. Instead of banning or finger wagging or anything, the town started a program that offered money for guns that were turned in. It also produced a soap opera in which guns were for weak men, men who couldn’t defend themselves in any other way. Positive reinforcement plus monetary reward…they collected a lot of guns. It’s also pretty exciting when a bestseller takes a stand. In The Hunger Games, one of the traits of the antagonist is overconsumption.

Jennifer: Wonder how that will affect the teens who read it?

Emily: Right. We need people to be emotionally invested in these ideas. It’s not enough just to tell them, or to guilt trip or attempt to scare into action — if I have to watch another documentary about cute polar bears that we’re in the process of destroying, I’m going to scream. The problem is that there’s no budget for science communication, and without the money, the quality of the work just isn’t there. We can’t fund major projects or attract top stars. That’s my beef — there’s just no funding.

Jennifer: Whoa. I think you should guest blog about this.


Emily is actively canvassing, heckling, and cold-calling in the name of funding science communication, and I think she’s totally on to something about the social aspect of effecting change and educating the masses. (Surprised this never occurred to me? Don’t be. I don’t even watch TV, that’s how far out of the loop I am.) I hate to admit it, but maybe peer pressure works better than rationality.

If you’re interested in supporting science communication, Emily offers you these links to check out:

And in the meantime, I’m busy thinking about how I can be a better science communicator (without being a scientist myself). Is science communication through media something you could get behind? What do you think of effecting change through storytelling?

Photo credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Guest Post: Repurposing, Recycling And Properly Disposing Of Old Electronics

I am taking a quick blogging break this week and am pleased to offer you a guest post on this timely subject.

Consumers can repurpose many items that are no longer needed. Plastic food containers and glass beverage containers can easily be repurposed into storage for other materials. Most repurposed items fill a secondary use that is similar to the original use. Under these conditions, repurposing is not difficult.

Photo credit: Jeff Myers

However, the repurposing of high-tech gear, which is often called e-waste, is not so easy. An old television is almost useless for any other purpose. In 2000, U.S. consumers sent more than 4.6 million tons of e-waste to landfills. Most electronics contain small quantities of toxic materials in the semiconductors and batteries. When these materials are placed into a landfill, they can leach toxins over time. The risk always exists for landfills to contaminate surrounding soils and groundwater.

Sometimes e-wastes are incinerated. This disposal technique is even worse than burying the devices in a landfill. When electronics are burned, they release heavy metals and other toxins that can enter the food chain and accumulate in living tissue.

New life for old gadgets
Before disposing of your old electronics, consider repurposing them. The best way to repurpose any high-tech gadget is to increase its useful lifespan. This is difficult, because high-tech quickly becomes outdated. Consumers want to replace old devices with smaller, faster and more powerful counterparts, and often, older technology will not be able to perform anywhere near the same tasks. A common solution is to send the outdated equipment to developing nations. This approach definitely increases the life cycle of the products, but it also creates a new problem. Developing nations are unlikely to have appropriate hazardous waste facilities for e-waste, and the equipment may pose a greater environmental threat in these areas when it ultimately stops working.

Many organizations within the U.S. direct old computers, televisions, cell phones and other electronic devices to areas of poverty within our own country. The devices are provided to people who could otherwise not afford them, and they can be properly disposed of when they cease to function.

Schools and training facilities are ideal repurposing points for electronic devices. In these organizations, the useful life of the devices is extended for their intended purpose. They often are then used to teach repair techniques when they stop working. Many states have e-waste recycling programs that assist in the identification of organizations that repurpose or recycle electronic devices.

Photo credit:

All good things must come to an end
The time ultimately comes when electronics no longer function. It is usually cheaper to replace them than to repair them, and this is why so much e-waste ends up in landfills. There are, however, better methods of disposal.

Many electronic devices contain parts that can be reused after the device as a whole stops working. Consumers should search for organizations that recycle electronics rather than simply throwing them away. Many retailers accept old products when new ones are purchased and send the old products to specialized recycling organizations.

Many communities offer periodic collections of electronic wastes. By using these special collections, consumers can ensure that e-wastes are disposed of properly and do not simply become buried in a landfill.

Jennifer asks: How do you dispose of e-waste? I use my electronics as long as they function to minimize waste. My cell phone is now over six years old!

Andrew is a Community Coordinator who helps people find parts from ApplianceHelp. He’s passionate about DIY, whether it be in tech, food, or brewing.

Guest Post: What Organic Certification Really Means

This is a second guest post by Kelly Tooker, Master Gardener and environmental educator. There are lots of misconceptions about what organic actually means, and the USDA doesn’t seem to offer a tidy one page summary for the intelligent lay person. That’s where Kelly comes in. She breaks down what you’re getting when you buy organic — and what you’re not. 

The National Organic Program

What is ORGANIC?

The term “organic” simply means that something is or was once living.

The term “Organic” is used in marketing and manufacturing to describe the way in which agricultural products are produced, processed and certified to meet consistent national standards. These standards are regulated under the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990. Organic production is a system that is managed in accordance with the OFPA and regulations in Title 7, Part 205 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

What is the most common misconception?

Organic means no pesticides. False

Organic means that the product certified to the USDA standards as being produced and processed using methods that integrated cultural, biological and mechanical practices (see article on IPM) that foster the cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.

Organic crops. The USDA organic seal verifies that irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used.

Organic livestock. The USDA organic seal verifies that producers met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors.

How does the label work?

To use the term Organic and apply the USDA Organic seal at least 95% of the ingredients must be produced organically under the law. Any remaining ingredients must consist of non-agricultural substances.

Who has to follow the law?

Operations whose gross income from organic sales totals $5,000 or more.

So, what does this mean to me as a consumer?

Well, this is marketing. You are a consumer. There is a growing body of consumers who are concerned about the way their food is produced and processed. Learn more about each company you support, you vote with your dollar.

Your local farmer at the Farmer’s Market or CSA may not be able to afford certification. But they may meet your consumer demand for no pesticide use. Talk to your local farmer and learn about his practices.

The program states “no prohibited pesticides.” It does not identify which are prohibited and whether or not these are synthetic or natural (derived from plant, animal or mineral). Certification is site-specific.

Learn how commercial farming works. It is a business. They are trying to make a profit.

Is Organic the same as non-GMO?

No, but that’s a whole other big topic which I would like to address separately because so many people get the terms confused. I will post information on genetically modified organisms (GMO) on As you read above, the current Organic labeling program certifies that [known] genetically modified organisms were not used in organic crops.

Do I buy organic?

Yes, I selectively vote with my dollars.

Further, I support my local farmer. I strive to eat local and seasonally. I produce as much of my own food as I can. I have not eaten fast food in over 15 years (except Chipotle). I am brand loyal to companies that I see making a difference.

How much of your food is certified organic? Would you buy non-certified local produce if you knew it was grown without pesticides?

About the author: 
Kel is a Master Gardener, Master Composter/ Recycler, and Naturally Beautiful Backyards Host Gardener. She has lived in USDA Zone 8 (Western Garden Zone 6) for most of her life and just recently relocated to Zone 5!

Kel began gardening in 2004. Her first gardening project was to establish a butterfly habitat garden and multi-use space for a young family. Her next project was the development of an urban pollinator habitat and a 10 month edible garden. Future entries will chronicle a 7,000 sq ft lot in a historical district.

Kel continues to pursue educational opportunities and holds an Organic Gardening certificate from OSU Extension. She has worked as an environmental educator in a range of positions including curriculum development and career & technical training at the high school level. She writes about a wide range of environmental topics.

Kel posts regularly as MonkeyDragon on and Tweets @Kelsgarden.

Photo by USDAgov

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