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What Are You Really Feeding Your Family?

March 28th, 2007

Vintage Farm
(photo courtesy USDA.GOV)

Once upon a time, well actually, less than a century ago, our ancestors knew how to farm the land with out the use of chemical fertilizers, weed killers, excessive pesticides, and genetically modified seeds (seeds that had been scientifically and biologically altered from their natural state). Farmers as they had for many generations before them, saved the seeds from their own heirloom crops from year to year. They nurtured their land, farmed responsibly, and provided food for their families as well as the local community. People ate with the seasons, preserved the bumper crops, and food did not typically travel more then 50 miles to the table it would eventually be served on.

Today life is much different then it was in those good old days. Science, industry, technology, and the population have all experienced rapid growth. Our communities are no longer self sustaining and many of the things we buy including our food, comes from other countries. The contents in an average bag of groceries has often traveled over 1,500 miles before it has found its way into our home and many of the items we buy are made with ingredients we can not pronounce. The safety and integrity of these products are no longer in the hands of the traditional farmer, but in the hands of major agricultural companies such as Monsanto. Companies that play an interesting role in the future development of farming practices and the current production of many of the United States’ major crops.

For a long time now, I have heard about Genetically Modified Crops also referred to as “Bio-Tech Foods,” but I will admit, that I really didn’t understand the implications they had in my daily life. I would see products in the health food store or the organic section of the grocery store that said “No GMOs,” but like many things in that section, they were a mystery to me. I could not tell you what the negative effects of GMOs were any more then I could explain the benefits of the herbal supplement Buckthorn. But, I knew enough to avoid them if I saw them, or so I thought…

Wanting to gain a deeper understanding of the food that we ate, I rented The Future of Food, a highly acclaimed, well executed, and informative documentary about the relationship between farming, big business, and the hand they both play in the global economy. The Future of Food, is in no way a shoddy alarmist end of the world type movie, but it did express concern over the lack of long term research and adequate labeling regarding the safety of these biologically altered foods.

According to USDA statistics, in 2006, we planted 54.6 million hectares (134.8 million acres) of Bio-Tech crops in the U.S. and a total of 247 million acres were planted through out the world. Here in the states, these crops typically included, but were not limited to soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, squash, papaya, and alfalfa. Although many other countries refuse to buy many of these items from us, we are still the largest grower, producer, and consumer of them on the planet. It has been estimated that 70% -75% of the food on our grocery store shelves contains GE/Genetically Engineered ingredients, yet not one of them is labeled, alerting the consumer to the fact that they were buying a product containing GMOs/Genetically Modified Organisms .

After exploring the links above as well as a few more I have listed below, I was fairly well convinced that it would be prudent to pay more attention to the food I ate and served my family. Needless to say, I very relieved when I initially found Green Peace’s True Food Shopping List, an excellent guide for anyone interested in reducing the amount of GMO’s in their diet, while finding a way to replace them with safe and viable alternatives. Obviously very important considering that there are more then 30,000 products containing GMOs sold in the U.S. for consumption.

Scrolling down their, list, clicking on the tabs, I have to admit I was astounded by what I saw… The fact that many of the products containing GMOs were produced and distributed by some of the most recognizable and popular brands in our country, did not surprise me. What did was the realization just how many of them I currently have in my home…

Considering the fact that I buy local produce as often as I can, mostly shop the perimeter of the grocery store, rarely purchase processed foods, and cook from scratch fairly often… I really thought that I was making good choices and serving my family healthy foods. But the further I got down the list, I realized just how wrong I was… What I saw made me feel horrified and downright sick to my stomach with the realization of just how many of these “Invisible Ingredients” I had been eating and unknowingly serving to my husband, my family, and my friends… the very people I love most in this world. As I ponder this thought, I can not help but wonder how we can truly understand the long term effects that these foods have on our health if they are unlabeled and we are unaware that we are eating them… have been eating them for years? To be honest, this concept truly concerns me and I have decided that from this point on, I will no longer buy any food that has been genetically engineered. Nor will I share recipes unless I know for a fact that they are made with natural ingredients, ingredients I know are safe for not only my family, but yours as well.

Tonight as I make plans to start preparing dinner, I can honestly say that we will not be eating Genetically Modified Foods tonight or in the future. But, now I wonder… Can you say the same for you and your family?

If you are not sure then maybe you too may want to purchase/rent The Future of Food and explore some of these links, particularly the first one.

Green Peace Food List

Center for Food Safety

Union of Concerned Scientists

Consumer’s Union

Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops 2006

USDA Charts for GM Corn

USDA Charts for GM Soybeans

 


“As we move on into this so-called biotech revolution and we start producing more and more transgenic manipulations, we’ll start seeing pieces of DNA interacting with each other in ways that are totally unpredictable…

I think this is probably the largest biological experiment humanity has ever entered into.”

- Ignacio Chapela

 

*Update*

GMO’s

Last week when my husband and I made a decision to start phasing all of the genetically modified foods out of our home, we really thought it would be a gradual process that would take some time to accomplish and adjust to. However, there was something very unsettling about sitting at the kitchen the very next morning and realizing that our favorite high fiber and high antioxidant cereal contained not one, but a few genetically engineered ingredients. Needless to say, we both lost our, appetite, dumped the bowls down the sink and decided to never look back.

I later spent the afternoon, ridding my home of all food items that contained GMOs. Looking at it all on the counter, I decided to post a picture and thought you all might be interested in what we found. Many of these items were listed on Green Peace’s True Food Shopping List as being foods that contain Genetically Engineered ingredients. Others, contained the some of the most notorious GE ingredients such as corn oil, corn syrup, corn starch, soy protein, soy oil, lecithin, cotton seed, and canola oil. I think the item that surprised me the most were the Morning Star Farms Soy Sausage Patties, next would be the tomatoes, the Cereal with antioxidants… go figure…, and then the Boca Burgers.

Reading through the ingredients I was kind of surprised at how many of them contained corn syrup and how many of them I have used for years, but never really thought about the things on their list that I couldn’t identify or pronounce. I suppose overall we didn’t do too badly… I am sure if we ate more processed foods that the entire dining room table would have been covered. In all honesty, I think it will be easy to replace all of them fairly easily and the only one I think I will really miss is the Heinz Ketchup… Yes, If I were to pick one I would miss… that would be the one…

However, this weekend I will go to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to replace many of these items. Thankfully Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and Wild Oats have all refused to carry any products containing GMOs in their stores. The fact that I shop at Trader Joe’s fairly often really kept me from having to throw away at least 2 grocery bags full of food, I was very grateful for that…
In case you do not have access to any of these three stores, keep in mind that Food that are organic or closest to their most natural state are less likely to have been genetically engineered.
Also, many local neighborhood health food stores have refused to carry these questionable “Frankenfoods” as well. Hopefully as more consumers become aware of the unidentifiable long term effects of these foods, other grocers will jump on board as well.

Till then, you may want to pay attention to what you eat, if you don’t, you may not really know what is in that next bite…

 

 

Notes from my kitchen ,

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