An Apple A Day
I'm sure we've all heard of GMO's, or Genetically Modified Organisms - but how many of us really know what that means? I thought I knew, but even I had a lot to learn.
For those who don't know, Genetically Modified Organisms are foods that have been scientifically 'engineered' to be "better". And by "better", I don't mean better for us / the environment / the world, I mean better as in larger size, larger crops, and larger profits. Although cultivation and selective seed-breeding have been done for hundreds of years (taking the best of the best naturally occurring plants and replanting/reseeding them to encourage a faster and more productive evolution), GMO's have gone beyond the bounds of nature, creating completely new breeds of 'super' plants. Making produce with a longer shelf life, and giving us things like corn that doesn't need to be sprayed with pesticides - because it grows with pesticides already in it. I don't know about you, but pesticides that can't be washed off don't sound very appetizing. On the flip side of that, as insects become more and more resilient, many crops are being engineered to withstand bigger and badder doses of pesticides, which can cause huge environmental damage to neighboring fields and greenery.
Snow White, anyone?
Of course, pesticides are only one of the many flaws of GMO's. Some of the things that surprised me most in reading about them were how many foods these days contain such engineered health threats - I chose apples as a poetic theme for this post, but they are of little concern in the scheme of things. The big players in the GMO field are corn, soybeans, canola, cottonseed... ingredients and oils that are used in almost all packaged foods, making them nearly unavoidable. Not to mention that a huge percentage of those crops go to feeding our livestock, incorporating toxins into nearly all of non-organic meat products.
Another thing that caught my attention was that genetically modified foods contain significantly more allergens than natural, organic foods. This brings to mind a childhood friend who was 'lactose intolerant' (or so we thought) until he came to our house and drank glass after glass of our farm-fresh, unprocessed milk. And it makes me wonder about all of the people I know with an intolerance for soy - are these allergies from the beans, or from the chemicals used in making them?
As someone who tries to shop local, buy organic, and eat green as much as possible, this is a matter that really hits home for me... but it's also a matter that concerns everyone. I am privileged to live in a household with a double income, and the freedom to shop at farmer's markets and food co-ops, but even I can't afford (won't afford) to buy everything organic, or make everything from scratch. There's a certain responsibility placed on consumers, as though we should be the ones to protect ourselves and make wise decisions, but how can we make an informed choice when products are purposefully kept such a mystery to us? Wouldn't it be so much easier if there were a big sign pointing to all the foods we should avoid?
Well, that's kind of what California is trying to do. They're working to pass an act stating that all GMO foods must be labeled as such. And if California, a huge player in the countries economics, were to pass this law - well, the whole nation might just follow suite.
Specifically, farmers and environmental groups are fighting against a company called Monsanto Industries, with the goal to raise one million dollars in support of California's Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. If they do, the money will be matched by Mercola.com, Lundberg Family Farms, Eden Foods, and Nature's Path.
If you'd like to donate, click here: Money Bomb Against Monsanto. The deadline to participate is May 26th.
In the hopes of being brief, I won't go into a long-winded explanation of why this is so incredible important. If you're interested in learning more, I highly recommend you check out Small Footprint Family's thoroughly researched post on the subject, here: Why Label Genetically Modified Foods.
Please take a moment to give it a read - I found it to be one of the most informative articles I've read on the matter. And remember, the deadline to participate in California's campaign funds is May 26th!
In the meantime, I'll continue to buy as locally and organically as I can. I truly believe that we deserve the right to control, or at the very least know, what goes into our bodies. Subterfuge in advertising is common place, but when it comes to lies about food and nutrition, it crosses the line from political into personal.
I'm happy to hear other thoughts and opinions on the matter, so feel free to post in the comments section below!
[Update] This just in, research suggests Monsanto herbicides are killing bees, which could lead to a huge decrees in crops due to lack of polination. Monsanto seems to be making a serious effort to cover up any evidence against them: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/07/05/monsanto-roundup-effects-on-honeybees.aspx?e_cid=20120705_DNL_artNew_1#