A Month Without Monsanto?


Jimmy Mengel Posted by - Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Have you ever tried to give up something for an entire month? The offending product is usually a vice — like drinking or smoking — and avoiding it is pretty cut and dried.

The rules weren't quite so crystal clear for April Davila, who has just finished a month-long crusade against genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The ubiquity of GM ingredients was already weighing on Davila, a Los Angeles-based writer. But the final straw was a chilling report from the International Journal of Biological Sciences that linked GM corn to organ failure in rats.

She thought, Hey, maybe I shouldn't be eating this stuff — and I certainly shouldn't be giving it to my two-year-old!

That's when she decided to take on a mighty challenge: a month-long moratorium on resident GMO bogeyman Monsanto.

Davila chronicled her journey daily on her blog, A Month Without Monsanto.

"Stick to organic foods... " Davila thought. "How hard could it be?"

Turns out, very.

To her surprise, Davila found that even foods that the USDA has labeled as certified organic had Monsanto's fingerprints on them. So she had to start tracing the seed sources back to their roots. To do so, she began contacting organic food manufacturers to verify that they were Monsanto-free.

She received several discouraging e-mails. The companies said that they don't even try to avoid Monsanto; that it's completely impossible.

Several companies did trace the linage of their seeds and assured Davila that they were Monsanto-free, so she came up with a trustworthy set of foods and brands.

But her options were limited, to say to the least. She couldn't eat out; she had to constantly prepare foods, since practically every processed food is rife with Monsanto's GMOs.

Here's the list of things figured were safe to eat when she began:

  • Seaweed
  • Eggs from free-roaming, grass-, and bug-eating chickens
  • Wild caught fish
  • Organic dried fruits and nuts (except papaya, mango and melons)
  • Maple syrup
  • Coconut meat/juice

My stomach is growling just reading that. Such Spartan eating habits would make the project difficult enough. But Monsanto's GMOs are also common in soaps, shampoos, and even clothing. In fact, about half of the world's cotton is genetically modified; so if you aren't eating or washing with Monsanto, you are probably wearing it.

So Davila headed out shopping for Monsanto-free supplies before she started the month. She updated her wardrobe to 100% organic cotton and purchased some new shoes made from hemp and recycled tires.

"I had to do laundry constantly because I only had a few items of clothing that are assuredly 'Nonsanto'," she blogged.

For the month of March, Davila totally eliminated Monsanto products from her life (aside from one questionable salad on day one and some non-organic nuts on day two, she admits). And despite the occasional hunger pangs, she felt great during her fast from "frankenfoods." Davila reports weight loss, her skin "looked fabulous," and she generally felt really healthy.

Davila proved that you can circumvent the Monsanto machine and live to tell about it. As far as avoiding GMOs 100% of the time, however, she agrees that it's a serious uphill struggle. But after a month without Monsanto, she has developed a new respect for food and a new strategy for eating as responsibly as reason permits. 

"Apparently it IS possible to avoid Monsanto, it's just very difficult. In fact, what it really seems to come down to is eating simple foods, and talking to the people who grow it."

A part of that choice is to attend her local farmer's market and talk to the farmers about their standards. She also intends on joining a community supported agriculture program (CSA) where farm-fresh produce is delivered each week from a farm she knows and trusts.

"My biggest hope is that I will be able to make more informed choices as a consumer," she told The Blissful Chef.

"Rather than feeling overwhelmed by trying to decipher what is healthy and what is not, I'll know. And I can make those choices and I can put dinner on the table with confidence and, and know what I'm feeding myself and my family."

So, the million-dollar question: what was the first thing April ate when the month was up?

Champagne and Girl Scout cookies.

She stayed up until midnight of the last night, uncorked a bottle of bubbly, and devoured the box of Girl Scout cookies that had been "taunting" her all month.

"It seems a little celebration is in order," she posted.

Indeed it does. Well done, April!

Be Well,

Jimmy Mengel