Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Do You Know Where Your Food is Coming From?

It used to be that you could feel good about purchasing fruit and vegetables that were conventional (not organic) if they had a peel to remove.  We were always told that as long as you removed the peel, the insides were pretty comparable to an organic product.  So when money was tight, I felt ok about purchasing non-organic foods such as cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, etc.  Then along came the GM farmers.  I read a fascinating article about GM (Genetically modified) foods recently.  It talked about where this all started (in 1996, farmers planted the first GM seeds which were engineered to withstand the harsh treatment of herbicides), and how they effect our bodies and ultimately the entire food chain.  I often wonder myself about the foods on the grocery shelves.  Do we really know that the produce labeled 'Organic', with the higher price tag, is really without any chemicals or residues?  How can we be sure that the packaged product listed as organic is really that?  And for those favorite corn chips, how long ago was the corn actually grown and picked to end up in those chips?
If I could, I would follow the food chain from seed to plant to factory to product to store shelf.  I would love to know how long this whole process took, and what nutritional value the food actually had by the time it reached the store - especially in comparison to the original nutritional profile of the raw food.
The FDA states that there is no proof that GM foods cause any harm to our bodies.  However, other statements suggest that they are to blame for allergies, fertility issues and super weeds.  In fact, scientists in Japan, Italy and France among other countries feel so strongly against the harmful effects of GM foods that they have banned them completely from their foods.  Makes you stop and think, doesn't it?  
And let's go back to one of my first questions: How do you know if the foods listed on any given product as organic are really that?  Especially when cross-pollination occurs readily with most crops.  Wind (or sadly, bees) carry the pollen from GM foods over to the nearby crop, which could be and in many cases is organic, pollinating it with GM pollen, spreading it's genes around willy nilly.  
The scary part is that there have been no independent studies on the effects of GM foods on our bodies or our environment.  All of the studies thus far have been done by the produce companies themselves and submitted to the government.  It's high time we get someone else in there to do some research.
So how do you get a better idea of what is in your food?  One thought is - grow your own.  However, if you live with a shady, dime-sized backyard such as mine, the growing part is a bit challenging.  Another thought is to invest in community supported agriculture.  There are always farmers markets in towns in my area - and probably in yours, unless you live in a rural area.  And lastly, buy only organic where possible.  The government says that certified organic foods must be 95% organic and GM free.
Bottom line?  Know where your food comes from.  There are several small organic farms spread throughout the world, just begging to be supported by the everyday family in some way.  Whether you join a CSA or just make it to the grocery store to pick up some organic apples, you can trust that if it is certified as organic, your food is just exactly what it says it is, with no mofdification whatsoever.

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