Many are quite surprised when they find out that less than 1% of US farmland is certified organic. Yet the market for organics is growing daily (as it should). There is a great amount of adulteration in our food supply from GMOs, large amounts of heavy metals, insane amounts of pesticides, and the health of Americans consequently suffer.
I know that what I am saying is controversial, and people in my own family will not agree that our modern farming techniques and chemicals affect our health negatively. People will say that GMO crops have not been shown to have negative health effects on humans. While some of the health effects of GMOs specifically have on our health is still to be confirmed in the scientific community, there is an interesting New York Times article stating "But an extensive examination by ... indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides." The basic promise of the GMO industry, a more secure supply of food and less need for chemical pesticides has not been delivered even with 20 years of the nations farmers embracing GMO crops.
The NY Times article goes on to explain "An analysis... using United Nations data showed that the United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields — food per acre — when measured against Western Europe, a region with comparably modernized agricultural producers like France and Germany. Also, a recent National Academy of Sciences report found that “there was little evidence” that the introduction of genetically modified crops in the United States had led to yield gains beyond those seen in conventional crops." If the health effects still require more scientific scrutiny, I would propose we move back to non-GMOs, since we are not gaining any major advantages from crop yields, and we are largely funding a major food superpower Monsanto.
I will leave my very strong feelings towards pesticides out of the post, because I'd like to share about an ad I saw in a magazine last week:
Kashi, a brand of natural and organic cereals, bars and snack foods, whose parent company is Kelloggs, is leading the way in a new certification aimed at lowering the cost of becoming an organic producer. It takes 3 years of farming with organic processes, a lot of money spent on a certification, and increased cost of labor and seed to become certified as an organic farmer. During this period, a farmer can not sell his products as organic. With increased cost without being able to compensate with increased profits, the road is often too difficult and too expensive for a farmer to chance. This new cereal ad above is highlighting a farmer in the midst of this transition process, and is using wheat from a field that is transitioning to organic. The idea is that a farmer can now get this new certification, which is less expensive than the organic certification, and may sell to companies willing to pay a price somewhere in between conventionally grown wheat and organically grown wheat. This cereal is advertised by Kashi to be priced and sold to consumers at a pricepoint somewhere in between a conventional wheat product and an organic product.
Kashi has partnered with QAI and Hesco to create this new logo and certification. What did impress me when I read about this idea on Kashi's website, is that the certification is open to anyone, and in fact Kashi sent information to competitors to promote this new movement and additional supply of safer food in America. This is not the first attempt by a major brand to promote a product "not quite" organic. Whole foods started labeling some products as "Responsibly Grown" for nonorganic farmers who follow certain practices established by the grocery giant. The idea and point is that farmers will not stay transitional, they will become organic, growing our organic food supply and paving the way for additional farmers to begin the process of becoming organic, with a larger market for the "in between" produce.
I recommend getting involved in your local farmers markets, get to know your produce growers, stop at local farm stands. There may be many farmers out there in this process that will not take part in a certification, but still are providing safer food to eat. I promise you will get an education from these farmers, and if they are not yet organic, your voice is heard each time you ask about their farming practices, and if you walk away from a sale, they feel it.
If your food budget is stretched and you don't know where it is most important to focus your organic food dollars, check out this blog post where I review this information.
Where do you spend your food budget on more expensive products? Produce, dairy, meat? What local stores do you source your food. I'd love to hear, comment below or add a comment to my facebook page.
In great health!
The White House has indicated that Obama will sign the bill. Many people will consider this a win in gaining access to much requested information about the quality of the food they are purchasing. While, the people of Vermont, and MYSELF feel that this bill carries too much compromise. I do understand that it is helpful for the multi-billion dollar food industry to have uniform labeling rules across the states, but the Vermont law passed earlier this month would have required labeling to clearly state “produced with genetic engineering”. This would make it plan and TRANSPARENT for a consumer, instead of needing to have a smart phone at the ready to scan some code to find this information.
Representative Peter Welch asked on the House floor “if there is an acknowledgement about the right of a consumer to have access to information, why not give them the information in plain and simple English?” Sentiment, I strongly agree with. We have a right to know what we are purchasing and putting into our bodies and our families bodies.
“if there is an acknowledgement about the right of a consumer to have access to information, why not give them the information in plain and simple English?”
There is little scientific information to date about the safety of GMOs on the market. The food industry argues the safety of GMOs, advocates for the labeling argue that there is unknown risk with little research on the healthfulness of GMOs providing all the more reason to help people choose if they want to accept that risk and consume.
GMO foods are plants or animals that have had genes copied from other animals or plants and inserted into their DNA. One striking example is putting fish genes into strawberries to avoid frost (AMAZING), and scary. Farmers have been selectively cross breeding plants for centuries, but this manipulation is now done predominately in labs, with greater selection than was ever available before.
75-80% of the foods in the American market contain GMOs of some kind.
75-80% of the foods in the American market contain GMOs of some kind (an estimate provided by the food industry). Most of these are in some way corn or soy-based. Some derivative of corn or soy is in almost every processed food in grocery stores. While only a handful of GMO fruit and vegetables are available in produce sections.
This is most certainly a step in the right direction, but it is also decidedly a great compromise. In my own humble opinion, to great of one.
Caitlin Johnson is a dietitian, wife, lover of ice cream, chef wannabe, California-girl, Christian, liver eating, "food-avore."
110 N McClelland Street
Santa Maria, California 93454