If there is one topic that gets me riled up it’s food. Specifically the topics of organic and GMOs.
I listened to the last interview on Nicki Knight’s Living Green Summit this morning on my way to work. I posted a link to it on Facebook and it was a really great summit with interviews from a variety of health professionals. You can purchase access to the interviews for $47 and I have to say that I think it’s worth the investment. I missed a couple of interviews and the others were so good and so informational that I’ll be purchasing access myself. You can find out more at http://livinggreensummit.com/welcome#greenedition
So the last interview was with Max Goldberg, Founder of LivingMaxwell.com, one of the nation’s leading experts on organic food and GMOs. I found myself doing a lot of nodding and making a lot of comments to no one (since I was in my car, alone) like “yes! exactly!” Needless to say, it inspired me to write this post as it still shocks me the number of people who don’t know about these topics and especially the number of people who don’t care! Newsflash! It’s not all about you! The way we grow food today affects our children and all future generations as well as the planet as a whole.
Sorry. I told you I get a little riled up.
Let’s start with the basics. Something that is USDA Certified Organic food is food that is grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, chemical pesticides and insecticides, growth hormones or antibiotics. Organic food cannot be irradiated, contain genetically engineered organisms (GEOs) or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and cannot be grown using sewage sludge fertilizer. The growing area must have been free of such chemicals for at least 3 years. Organic farmers practice crop rotation which preserves the integrity of the soil thereby increasing the nutrient value of the food grown. That’s right. Organic food contains more nutrients than conventionally grown/raised food products. They also taste better because they aren’t covered in preservatives.
Now, while no GMOs are allowed in USDA certified organic products, it is possible for a certified organic farm to become contaminated with GMO seeds due to natural pollination and seed dispersal between farms. And for products with multiple ingredients (mainly nonperishable items), they must contain at least 95% organic ingredients but the other 5% can pretty much be whatever. The USDA certification is not perfect and there are additional steps you and your family will want to make to ensure you are limiting or completely eliminating your exposure to these chemicals.
Now, before we discuss GMOs, let’s talk about the dangers of these chemicals and why we should not allow them in our homes.
Agrochemicals have been linked to cancer in over 260 studies. Some of the cancers that have been specifically linked include: breast, prostate, brain, bone, thyroid, colon, liver and lung. Even the President’s Cancer Panel put out a report in 2010, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now, that states the following:
- “The entire U.S. population is exposed on a daily basis to numerous agricultural chemicals, some of which are also used in residential and commercial landscaping. Many of these chemicals have known or suspected carcinogenic or endocrine-disrupting properties. Pesticides (insecticides, herbicides and fungicides) approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contain nearly 900 active ingredients, many of which are toxic.”
- “The EPA has required testing of less than 1 percent of the chemicals in commerce.”
- “Risks of childhood cancers are linked with parental exposures prior to conception.”
- “Leukemia rates are consistently elevated among children who grow up on farms, among children whose parents used pesticides in the home or garden.”
- “Female pesticide applicators have a significantly higher risk of ovarian cancer.”
- “Phosphate fertilizers accelerate the leaching of arsenic from soils into groundwater.”
The report goes on to advise the president that “the true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated” and “to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.”
(there would be more links in here except the sites are not currently available due to the governmental shutdown, so I will update those if they ever get their sh!t together, excuse my french)
(Those links all work so use them!!)
Agrochemicals pollute our water, air, and lands. They create pesticide resistant pests and cause serious harm to our health and our food supply. There are more effective, less harmful, natural ways to grow our food. When you switch to organic you are not just saving your health, you are saving the health of the planet and everyone in it.
Switching to organic can be expensive. I know that. Personally, I feel it is more than worth the investment in my daughter’s health alone. But if you find yourself struggling, there are a few things you can do to save money and still eat responsibly.
#1. Contact your local farms. Many small farms do not have the financial ability to get the USDA certification but still practice organic methods. They pass their savings on to their customers and their produce will often be much less than what you find at the grocery store.
#2. Buy bulk animal products. You can usually get a whole, half, or even a quarter grass-fed, organic cow from your local beef farmer much cheaper than buying a grass-fed roast every week. Go in on it with family, friends or neighbors and you will all have plenty of organic, grass-fed meat for months.
#3 Choose your produce carefully. The Environmental Working Group produces an annual report that includes The Dirty Dozen (the 12 fruits and veggies that use the most pesticides) as well as The Clean 15 (the 15 fruits and veggies that use the least pesticides). Fruits or veggies that have a skin you don’t eat could also be bought conventional. However, always make sure you clean all your fruits and veggies well before consuming them, especially if they are conventional, whether you eat the skin or not. A cheap and easy way to clean your veggies is to soak them for about 15 minutes in a clean sink of cool water and about a cup or two of vinegar (depending on the size of your sink). Fill the sink just enough to cover the produce, then rinse well.
#4 Animal products should always be bought organic. Period. Conventional animal products come from cruelly treated animals that are pumped up with growth hormones and antibiotics. I remember when I was little (I’m 30 so it wasn’t THAT long ago), we would usually get 3 maybe 4 chicken breasts in a 1lb pack. Now you only get 2 and they are ENORMOUS! So always buy your chicken, beef, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, etc. organic.
#5 If you absolutely cannot afford to feed your entire family organic, feed your kids organic, if nothing else. Our children are still growing and developing and are extra sensitive to the toxins in our food and in our environment. There was a time, not that long ago, where I was in this position. I couldn’t afford to buy 100% organic or even 50% organic all the time. But I always made sure that the majority of food that went into my daughter’s mouth was organic. I still do. And I tell everyone else who tried to give her something to eat the same thing. It has to be organic. Needless to say, it’s not always received well. But her health is more important that my popularity.
That brings us to the topic of GMO’s and GEO’s: genetically modified and genetically engineered organisms. In the health and wellness industry, we like to call them FRANKEN FOODS. Because that is exactly what they are. Scientists take a plant and modify it’s genetic code so that it becomes resistant to certain kinds of chemicals, namely pesticides. Anyone else seeing the irony here? You see, many pests have become naturally resistant to certain pesticides and so stronger pesticides are being used. These stronger pesticides are so strong they often harm the very plants they are meant to protect. So instead of just doing away with the chemicals and fighting the pests naturally, we thought it’d be a good idea to genetically alter our food using various genetic strains from other plants, animals, bacteria, and VIRUSES to make the plants resistant to the stronger pesticides.
Chemical companies and the biotech industry are raking in the profits with our current food policies. There’s even companies making money off their industrial waste (like fluoride, but that’s another post). There are zero benefits to consumers, only risk. I say risk, because no long term studies have been conducted on the effects of GMOs on humans.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Actually, the study is happening right now. How does it feel to be a lab rat?
Speaking of lab rats, there HAVE been laboratory studies conducted on the effects of GMOs in animals. Results were things like allergies, cancer, internal bleeding, tumors, intestinal damage, infertility, liver failure and death. Read it for yourself at the Institute for Responsible Technology.
Another thing that irritates me about GMOs is that they threaten the integrity of our food supply. GMO contamination is a serious problem. Having an organic farm contaminated with GMO seeds is devastating. If you don’t catch it quick enough, it can alter a great deal if not all of a farm’s heirloom, organic crops to garbage. The farther they spread, the harder it is to control them and the more farms they contaminate.
And all we want is for them to be labeled! So people can make educated choices about what they are putting in their bodies and the bodies of their children. In fact, mandatory GMO labeling is law in 64 countries.
Man. I told you this stuff gets me all riled up.
Max Goldberg’s entire blog Living Max Well is dedicated to the politics surrounding organic food and GMO’s. This is a topic we should all stay informed on.
So here are a couple things you can do to limit or eliminate the toxins in your food.
#1. Buy organic. It’s GMO-free (in most cases), chemical free, and preserves the integrity of our food supply.
#2. Join the cause for GMO labeling at Just Label It.
I shall now step off of my soapbox and go change a poopy diaper.