Gardening Advice On GMOs – How To Avoid Them

Gardening Advice On GMOs - GMOs Kill Monarch Butterflys

If you’re looking for gardening advice on GMOs, I have 2 tips. We’ve known for over a decade that genetically-modified organisms wreak havoc when unleashed into the environment.

And yet The New York Times is still being a good corporate spokesperson, muddying the facts and leaving much room for doubt about whether or not these problems exist (or just practicing good, unbiased journalism, depending on your point of view).

Even though the biotech industry likes to promote the idea that their main goal is to create more food for the starving masses, the kinds of genetic modifications they’re making suggest otherwise. The two main reasons genetic engineering is done in plants are to:

  • Give them the ability to produce their own pesticides
  • Make them resistant to herbicides

Many people don’t realize that GMOs make up the vast majority of corn, soy, cotton, and canola, and that our processed foods contain a lot of ingredients derived from these crops. Alfalfa will be on this list soon, as the USDA recently approved it against recommendations of its own committee.

Also, farm animals feed on GMO plants, and even honeybees feed on GMO pollen. At least 60% of foods in the US, therefore, contain GMOs.

All of this is quite scary when almost all studies and some real-world experiences are showing that GMOs can cause major health problems in animals, including us. Genetically-modified organisms are toxins, allergens, and carcinogens that will promote new diseases and nutritional problems.

Effects Of GMOs In Our Gardens

But here, I’m going to give some gardening advice on a topic that is discussed somewhat less – the effect of GMOs on the environment.

For example, Bacillus thuringiensisis a bacterium that produces a substance toxic to some insects, such as caterpillars and Monarch butterflies. It has been used as a biological insecticide since the 1920s, and is now used to make Bt cotton, Bt corn, and Bt potatoes, which are genetically-modified crops.

The DNA of these plants is altered with a gene from the bacteria that gives the plants the ability to produce the toxin themselves. Research shows soil microbial life and beneficial enzymes decrease when Bt crops are planted.

One study concluded that soil life in your organic garden could be entirely dead after 10 years under a Bt crop. Another study found the gene in GM corn was passed to various soil organisms. We don’t know exactly what happens in that situation, but it seems that gene transfer from GM organisms to other organisms is commonplace.

Other plants are genetically-engineered by companies to resist the herbicides they sell, such as Roundup-ready soy. This allows farmers to spray their fields with Roundup, killing the weeds but not the crops, making it easier for farmers to use herbicides, thereby increasing the use of herbicides.

The list of other potential problems is long. Altered genes get into our waterways where they may affect aquatic life. They may impact beneficial insects in our organic gardens. Because genes can and do jump from one organism to another, they contribute to herbicide-resistant weeds.

Gardening Advice On GMOs

The gardening advice among organic gardeners is that we should avoid using any GMOs in our gardens because we don’t know the long term effects, and because there is absolutely no reason we need to use them in the first place. This means that we:

  • Don’t plant GMO seeds
  • Don’t use alfalfa meal, canola meal, corn gluten meal, cotton meal, soy meal or any other plant fertilizers unless we’re absolutely sure they are non-GMO

Personally, I see no good reason for us to be pursuing the use of genetically modified organisms. You may have a different viewpoint, but what we must agree on is that planting them all across the world before we know all of the effects is probably not a smart idea.

Fortunately, most parts of the world are rejecting GMOs, but unfortunately, it may be too late to stop them from spreading, especially as government regulatory decisions in the US and Canada continue to reflect the desires of the companies producing and selling these seeds over the desires of the general public.

What’s your view on GMOs? Do you think I’m a scaremongering, communist lunatic for wanting to take the precautionary principle and protect our future? Or do you agree that we should move back to real food? Any other thoughts?


  1. Natalie M. Rotunda on July 16, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Thanks for sounding the alarm on GMOs. When I first learned about them 10 years ago, the organic soil consultant telling me about them left no doubt in my mind that GMOs are dangerous to the health and well-being of humans, animals’, and Planet Earth.I was immediately on board then, even more so now. I’d felt certain that everyone recognized these real and present dangers to our food supply, but the Monsanto side has muddied the waters well enough to turn the issue into both a controversial and divisive one.Thanks to Jeffrey M. Smith’s strong stand against them, for his Institute of Technology, for the growing legion of Americans who stand with him; thanks to the website Say No to GMOs; thanks to the first-ever Non-GMO month last October, and for the Non-GMO project (labeling), we’re not taking the GMO matter lying down.Natalie M. Rotunda, one of that growing legionNational Organic Examiner at

  2. Tuk50 on July 16, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    The Genie is Out of the Bottle! You would think we would learn from history that introducing unknowns into the enviroment usually proves to be detrimental and never as previously planed. It also really disgusts me that even though my family grows our own organic vegetables and fruit, we still have to breath the pollen into our lungs every time the wind comes from the direction of the GMO fields not to mention the contamination of of my saved corn seeds.

  3. apacheart on July 16, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    I’m totally with you on focusing on positive aspects of organic food and gardening, and not using scare tactics.  However, when it comes to GMO’s I don’t see how any reporting can not be SCARY AS ALL GET OUT.  Monsanto is choking our food supply and causing most likely irreparable damage to the planet.  Thanks so much for the post.  This video on Youtube is very objective (I felt) and shows how GM crops become weeds in the fields of the farmers who plant them.  Monsanto’s position is that their crops eliminate weed problems, when they are actually creating weed problems.  And then they deny any responsibility.

  4. Alterra on July 17, 2011 at 2:49 am

    Thanks for the article and I totally agree that GMO’s are a danger to the earth and all organisms. They were developed for the benefit of the Agribusiness, with no thought to testing for long-term results on our environment or us. One thing many gardeners here in BC seem to advocate is something called Solomon’s fertilizer. Even the ‘organic’ gardeners use it. One of the ingredients is any type of seed meal that is available from the local farm store. Does that mean that the genes from their GMO cottonseed or alfalfa meal could transfer elsewhere in their garden?If so, can you supply any reference material so that we can give them some proof about what transpires?  There certainly are other alternatives with bio-stimulants and beneficial soil microorganisms. Thanks again for being a champion, more gardening mentors and clubsneed to get on board and be more pro-active in their discussions about the GMO issue.

    • Phil on March 22, 2012 at 12:45 am

      Sorry Alterra, just found this comment now. I have not been able to find much info on gmo fertilizer effects on the soil. Certainly gmo crops affect soil biology. Mostly I just think we need to be very careful about using these gmo seed meal fertilizers before we know more.

  5. Jeremy on July 17, 2011 at 6:40 am

    When will our industialists and politicians ever learn?  I and my family intend to be on this earth for the long term, they are just interested in personal short term gain and dominance of their organisation and bugga the rest of us.  Well they don’t care!One day we will only be able to buy seed from a small number of industrial conglomerates, which will only grow if we use their pesticides and fertilisers.  We and third world farmers will not be able to save, distribute our from own plants. Meanwhile more of the current agricultural land will turn to dust so they will sell us their hydroponic or similar systems. 

  6. JonathanBrown on July 17, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Enjoying your advice. Please keep writing. What States have outlawed GMO and what does that mean? For example, I believe Vt is one non-GMO state. If i bought alfalfa meal or pellets in that State, is that product GMO free? How does one know that seeds or a meal is GMO free?

    • Phil on March 22, 2012 at 12:42 am

      Hi Jonathan, sorry just found this now. I’m not aware of any states being gmo-free. If so, it’s news to me. Organic alfalfa meal should be gmo-free, although with wind pollination of certain crops, it’s all going to get muddled.

  7. Carol Rooker on July 19, 2011 at 3:41 am

    If we could only find some honest politician that would not turn to GMO and be bought by the industrialists maybe we could stop GMO.  Of course, that is like stopping the wind from blowing the GMO pollen onto our organic fields.  Keep up the good word smilinggadener.

  8. Janet Blayone on May 4, 2012 at 4:27 am

    GMOs. The scourge of corporate devils. Vote with your wallet. Just say no. Read labels. Grow your own. Encourage and support local non-GMO producers. Thanks for reminding us to stay vigilant, Phil.

  9. Kay Wilson on July 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Thanks, Phil for a very informative article.  Most of us are hearing warnings to avoid GMO and of course, most of us have seen the balttles of farmers who tried to resist buying Monsanto seed.  Not sure how the government allowed them to gain so much control.  For me and my family we avoid GMO foods and I buy seeds for our garden we buy native seeds, in Tucson, AZ.

    • Phil on August 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm

      Excellent. Local, native season is important for many reason.

  10. Mike P on August 11, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    You are not fear mongering at all. I suggest everyone watch the movie “Dirt”. Can be found on Netflix.

  11. chezron on May 14, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    What fertilizer do you recommend that is non-gmo?

  12. Glutenfreegardener on August 9, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    I have celiac disease and even my doctor suggested that it was from the consumption of GMO foods, as she has been reading up on the subject. The prevalence of food allergies and other conditions has been on the rise, and someone out there has to figure out for sure if this is due to the GMO and pesticide/herbacide usage in our commercial agriculture.

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