04/02/2014 10:49 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Support Earth Month by Taking the Non-GMO Challenge

by guest blogger Courtney Pineau, acting director of the Non-GMO Project

For the past 44 years, people across the globe have celebrated our beloved planet during Earth Month in April. Originating from the first Earth Day, which occurred on April 22, 1970, this monthlong celebration serves as a reminder of the many steps we can take to support the well-being of this beautiful planet we call home.

Recognizing the far-reaching impacts of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on our environment, the Non-GMO Project created the Non-GMO Challenge as one way that people can take action to support Earth Month.

The Non-GMO Challenge is an action-oriented campaign that offers education, inspiration, and rewards for making a meaningful commitment to going non-GMO. Now in its third year, the Challenge provides tools and tips for commitments of every size, ranging from committing to one non-GMO meal this month to eating completely non-GMO all month long. Looking for inspiration? Check out the photos people have shared of their non-GMO commitment on the Non-GMO Project's website. You can upload a photo that shares your commitment!

Whether you're dedicated to living a non-GMO lifestyle all the time or are just learning the basic of how to avoid GMOs, it's important to understand the impacts GMOs have on our environment. GMOs are plants or animals created through a process of genetic engineering. This experimental technology forces DNA from one species into the DNA of a different species. The resulting GMOs are unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or through traditional breeding.

More than 80 percent of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, use of toxic herbicides like Roundup has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced. Researchers continue to uncover environmental and health concerns related to exposure to these chemicals.

GMO crops are also responsible for the emergence of "superweeds" and "superbugs" that can only be killed with more toxic poisons like 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange). GMOs are a direct extension of chemical agriculture, and they are developed and sold by the world's biggest chemical companies. The long-term impacts of GMOs are unknown, and once they're released into the environment these novel organisms cannot be recalled.

Many committed citizens are beginning to realize the extent to which our food and environment have been contaminated with GMOs during the past 20 years, and they are seeking to avoid GMOs whenever possible. You can join them during the Non-GMO Challenge this April.

Here are several steps you can take to keep GMOs out of the environment and off of your plate:

1. Choose Non-GMO Project Verified or certified-organic products. Keep an eye out for the Non-GMO Project Verified seal on products, and use our online shopping guide and iPhone app to help you find Verified products.

2. Plant a non-GMO garden. In recent years, many seed companies have been purchased by large biotech companies. Use the Safe Seed Pledge website to ensure you buy seeds from companies committed to not selling genetically engineered seed.

3. Support the Right to Know movement. There are more than 30 states working on mandatory-labeling efforts. Get involved in your local area and help educate others about the need for consumers to know what is in the food they eat and feed their families. Find out what is happening in your state on the Coalition of States for Mandatory GMO Labeling website.

Courtney Pineau is the acting director of the Non-GMO Project. From the time she was a young child, Courtney's two favorite places to play and explore have been the kitchen and the garden. Her passion for growing food and nourishing the people she loves has inspired her ongoing commitment to ensuring that all people have access to safe and healthy food.

For more from Maria Rodale, visit