Got GMO-free Milk?

Got GMO-free Milk?

This is another guest blog from Mark about a topic that has become of serious interest lately… seriously ask him about the Meat Matrix someday!

Last month I watched the oscar-nominated documentary Food, Inc (if you have Netflix, you can watch it instantly on your computer, click here for more information), and it was an eye-opener. Kate has done a great job over the years in providing our family with the highest-quality foods possible, and I now have a better appreciation for it after seeing how the food industry has changed for the worse over the past 50 years.

Continuing to minimize our non-organic intake is getting harder and harder due to Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) in our crops. I was shocked to learn that 95% of all soybean and 80% of all corn in the U.S. is of the GMO variety. Right now, Monsanto, a U.S.-based multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation, is in the process of introducing GMO alfalfa to their portfolio of patented seeds. (Click here for a Guide to GM Alfalfa). For more reasons on why to avoid GMO corn and soy, please CLICK HERE for Kate’s previous post.

The main concern with the release of GMO alfalfa, besides loosing competition in the market, is that it will make it significantly harder to keep organic fields. “The USDA cannot ensure GMO alfalfa can be grown without cross-contaminating other crops, so it should not be allowed and it is not needed. Farmers have been growing alfalfa successfully for a hundred years,” continued Siemon…“Alfalfa is a perennial with a three-mile pollination radius, so farm buffers won’t work,” explains Fred Kirschenmann, Iowa Leopold Center Distinguished Fellow and a farmer in North Dakota. “It is impossible to contain.” (Quote from

The organic dairy industry feels the most threatened by the potential of cross-contamination with GMO alfalfa and I’ll use them as an example of why organic alfalfa is important. But the organic meat industry will also be greatly affected if the availability of non-GMO organic alfalfa becomes questionable.

“Cows are ‘ruminants’, designed to eat grasses and legumes that are high in fiber. They need feed that is high in fiber to have normal ‘rumen function’ or digestion. Forages also help cows meet their nutritional needs, especially plants such as alfalfa that are high in protein and calcium” (U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center)

The following is an excerpt from the webMDblog, written one year ago, that discusses the benefits of organic milk vs non organic milk (important fact: if a cow eats genetically modified forage such as alfalfa, then their milk is considered non-organic):

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there is supposedly no difference between regular milk and organic milk, aside from how the cows are raised and an obvious difference in price. Recent studies showing that organic milk is indeed better are building up.

Let’s count the reasons why…

Organic milk has fewer pesticide residues, The USDA Pesticide Data Program (PDP) regularly checks food for pesticide residues. For many years the milk studies showed the same level of pesticide residues in both regular and organic milk (some residues of banned pesticides are so persistent they are still found in water and soil, thus the entire food chain). In 2004, the PDP used more sensitive testing equipment and found synthetic pyrethroids in 24 percent of conventional samples, and in no organic sample. They also discovered a breakdown product of the insecticide carbofuran in 8.8 percent of the conventional milk samples, but in no organic sample.

Organic milk has more vitamins. Organically reared cows produce milk which is on average 50% higher in Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) and 75% higher in beta carotene (which our bodies convert to Vitamin A).

Organic milk has more antioxidants. Studies show organic milk has two to three times more of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthine than non-organic milk. These antioxidants are extremely important for eye health and are effective in preventing numerous eye diseases.

Organic milk has more omega-3s. Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid required for healthy growth. Regular intake of Omega-3 helps reduce incidences of heart disease, inflammations (in skin diseases such as eczema), cancer, arthritis, etc. One particular type of omega-3 that is higher in organic milk is DHA, which is important for brain development.

Organic milk has more CLA. Cows that are grazed on pastures have 500% more CLA in their milk. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) increases metabolism, immunity, and muscle growth. It also reduces abdominal fat, cholesterol, and allergic reactions. Recent animal studies have also shown that CLA may be beneficial in cancer treatment. Since the human body cannot produce CLA, we get most of it through the milk and dairy products that we consume.

Drinking organic milk helps improve the quality of breast milk. European scientists have found that mothers who consumed mostly organic meat and milk had around 50 percent higher levels of rumenic acid in their breast milk. This acid protects against cancer and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, heart disease and asthma.

Drinking organic milk protects young children against asthma and eczema. Researchers found that children of breastfeeding mothers who ate organic dairy products and who were weaned on organic milk, cheese and yogurts were a third less likely to suffer from allergies. Dr. Machteld Huber, one of the authors of the study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, said: “The difference was significant, but only for children exclusively eating organic dairy products. We didn’t find a relationship if they had organic and conventional dairy products.” Almost all the children eating organic dairy also reportedly ate organic meat, fruit, bread and vegetables. However, it was only milk that appeared to have any impact on allergies.

All of this is compelling evidence of the superiority of organic milk, but one point must be highlighted. From these studies examining the differences between organic milk and regular milk, it seems clear that the diet of the cows may be one of the most important factors. Most organic cows are pasture-fed as opposed to grain-fed, and it’s their natural diet that leads to superior quality milk. So, it’s not simply organic milk that holds the prize, it’s organic, pasture-fed milk that does the body better.

Ss basically alfalfa is an excellent and necessary food source for cows, and cows that ate GMO alfalfa would be considered non-organic. So if the USDA approves Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa, it will likely impact organic alfalfa crops through the natural pollination process (click here for more information on alfalfa and the pollination process As a result organic farmers would potentially be feeding their cows a GMO alfalfa, and thus degrade the quality or availability of your organic milk.

The USDA is currently accepting public comments until February 15, 2010, so this is your chance to express your concern by clicking on the link below to direct you to the online petition.

Got (GMO-free) milk?