Distilled white vinegar and GMO

September 3rd, 2009

Photo via Flickr: Faeryboots

Photo via Flickr: Faeryboots

A reader raised an important point in response to my HuffPost Eco Etiquette column this week, in which I share my favorite natural home cleaning products (the “holy trinity”): distilled white vinegar, baking soda, and Dr. Bronner’s.

She emailed:

I do have a concern now that I read that normal distilled white vinegar is made from GMO corn. Is this true? Does that make it toxic? I usually buy the huge plastic jug of Heinz brand. Is this a problem for greenies? I am now on a kick to boycott GMO everything because I don’t want to support their environmentally toxic agriculture policies.

The frustrating thing about trying to lead a green life is that there are no easy choices. I spend a lot of my days just trying to weigh which is the lesser of two evils, and I’m sure you do, too: Should you drive to the farmers market that’s 10 miles away or bike/walk to your local grocery store? Wash dishes by hand or wait to run a full dishwasher? Keep your old relatively fuel-efficient car or shell out for a new Prius that you have to drive for 46,000 miles before you realize its environmental benefits?

Of course, distilled white vinegar isn’t completely free and green. Normal DWV is probably made from GMO corn, although the Heinz brand does make its vinegar completely from grains. (Some people think that some of the cheaper brands may use petroleum as a starter.)

If you’re determined to completely eliminate GMO products from your life, good luck: You’d probably have to eliminate half of your wardrobe, since cotton is one of the largest GMO crops. You can buy organic white vinegar, although this is considerably more expensive.

Here’s why I’m sticking with DWV (which I think in this case, is the lesser evil): Unlike most cleaning products, it won’t pollute our waterways, isn’t carcinogenic, and I can buy it in bulk, which means I use less petroleum-based packaging than if I bought several bottles of other commercial eco-friendly cleaners.

I think we greenies need to stop obsessing over the minutiae, make the best decisions we can on a daily basis, and focus on the big picture issues. If we really want to make a difference when it comes to GMO, then legislation — not random boycotts of gallon jugs of distilled white vinegar — is what’s really going to make a difference.

–Jennifer Grayson

Do this now: If fighting GMO is your passion, volunteer for an organization that is working to enact anti-GMO legislation, like Greenpeace.

Related posts:
Reusable bags: polypropylene or canvas?
USGS reveals top ‘dead zone’ polluting watersheds

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4 Responses to “Distilled white vinegar and GMO”

  1. Ross Says:

    Hi Jen,
    Something you might want to look into is Rare Earth Metals, how they are mined, and used in the Prius and other hybrids. This has been in the news lately as China moves to restrict exports of Rare Earth Metals and only a few mines are found in N. America. They are almost exclusively found in China and from what little I know, mined in very small and very dirty operations. A future post, maybe…

  2. Jennifer Grayson Says:

    Thanks for the tip, Ross! I will definitely look into this. Did you see this Wired article earlier this week?

    Defense Geeks Fret Over Rare-Earth Metal Supplies

    I wonder if these metals can be recycled. I also wonder if, once people realize the looming shortage, manufacturers will start getting serious about implementing take-back/recycling programs for the electronics that use them.

  3. the seemingly benign white vinegar Says:

    […] Distilled white vinegar and GMO [The Red, White, and Green] […]

  4. sarah Says:

    It’s true that we cannot win all battles but I think not choosing to buy GMO white vinegar is an easy one. ” Unlike most cleaning products, it won’t pollute our waterways, isn’t carcinogenic, and I can buy it in bulk, which means I use less petroleum-based packaging than if I bought several bottles of other commercial eco-friendly cleaners.”
    I’m happy to see that you’re using eco-friendly cleaning methods but by purchasing distilled white vinegar you are supporting corporations that are using chemicals literally designed to kill people( most pesticides/herbicides were created for the war industry,over time when that wasn’t as profitable they put their hands into biotech.) These corporations are lying to people, trying to control the world’s food supply, eroding and polluting our earth, and lobbying our government. Why not consider making your own apple cider vinegar or asking an organic manufacturer to purchase it in bulk?

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