Taking Action: Chef Bradford Heap Commits to Becoming 100 Percent GMO-Free

May 14 2014, 10:00 AM

Chef Bradford Heap

For Bradford Heap, the chef-owner of Salt Bistro and Colterra, going 100 percent GMO-free is more than just a good idea: The pledge is part of his own personal mission as a chef, a father, and a world citizen. “This issue belongs to all of us in the food industry,” Heap says. “It’s up to us as both providers and consumers in America to do something about the pervasive corruption in our country’s food supply. We have the power to demand food that is not only good to eat but is good for us and leaves a planet that is good for our children.”

The World Health Organization defines GMOs as “organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally.” GMO foods are engineered—typically by major corporations such as MonsantoDowBASFBayerSyngenta, and DuPont—using relatively new science that allows DNA from a particular species to be transferred into another. Though the repercussions of using GMO material to produce new foods is not fully understood, more than 60 countries have either banned their use altogether or, at the very least, have made it mandatory for GMO food to be clearly labeled for the consumer.

This is not the case in America where altered items are ubiquitous in our food supply and are allowed on grocery shelves without mandatory labeling. Because the health effects of GMOs are not fully understood and have not been adequately studied, many believe this is reason enough to call for transparency in labeling.

Chef Heap couldn’t agree more. “If I won’t feed something to my own family, I am certainly not going to feed it to the people in my restaurants,” he explains. And this is no small task, removing GMOs takes a huge amount of time and resources. Heap has replaced canola oil with rice bran oil for sautéing and peanut oil for frying, switched from sodas with high fructose corn syrup to Boylan sodas with natural cane sugar, and convinced his egg producers to use a GMO-free feed. In addition, he only buys from ranchers who not only use humane practices and no antibiotics, but also refuse to finish their beef and lamb on GMO corn. Heap relies on local, organic producers such as Oxford Gardens and Full Circle Farms to provide GMO-free produce. He also works a 10-acre plot called the Salt Patch to grow additional organic produce. A true commitment to GMO-free means not carrying items like Cholula at Salt or Colterra. Instead, the restaurants make their own hot sauces with ingredients that meet Heap’s standards.

What’s most important, Heap says, is for the public to become educated on this topic. He encourages people to read the Omnivore’s Dilemma and learn about GMOs from sources such as the Institute for Responsible Technology. "[People] need to be inspired, like I was, by Tom Colicchio’s Ted talk about the food policies of this nation," Heap says. "People need to realize how we are all responsible for this issue." Going further, he encourages the public to find the report cards on food policies from government representatives and senators on foodpolicyaction.org and vote to keep people in office that keep food safe. Most of all, Heap reminds us that we vote with our credit cards everyday—both with the food we cook and the food we eat when we don’t have time to cook, In the words of Alice Waters, "If we don’t buy it, it will go away." As for Heap, he says he undertook this mission because "I know that if I serve factory-farmed food with GMOs to my customers, I’m just as guilty as the corporations in this pervasive situation."

Extra: In addition to Salt and Colterra, Heap commends Zeal, Black Cat, Volta, and Basta as restaurants who are doing their part to help eliminate GMO foods.

Salt Bistro, 1047, Pearl St., Boulder, 303-444-7258

Colterra, 210 Franklin St., Niwot, 303-652-0777