Food and Faith is a blog of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
Thanks to my roommate’s luck with winning tickets, we attended a great film series event the other night showing the documentary, Eating Alabama. The premise around the film was to capture all the trials and tribulations that the filmmaker and his wife had while trying to eating only food found in their home state of Alabama for one year. This concept is nothing new to the food movement in fact people have been doing it for a while now, take Barbara Kingsolver and her record in, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” However something in particular moved me that night. Granted it ...
“From dust you were made, and to dust you will return.”
Our bodies were created of earth; they are sustained by what we intake, which is grown by, or feeds off the earth; and ultimately we will return to the earth.
I wonder however, if the modern world version of the phrase should be, “From fossil fuels you are made, to them you cannot return”
My high school mascot was the Cornjerker, which was a big ear of corn that ran out on the field (you can’t make this stuff up). So as I think about food and farms it is to that traditional back drop of the small family farm in communities where I was raised.
When my daughter was in kindergarten, she would inspect her friends' strawberries at lunchtime. “No no, you don’t want to eat that,” she would solemnly inform them. “It’s not organic. It might have yucky chemicals on it.”
Yucky chemicals indeed. Studies continue to pile up showing how pesticides on food can be harmful, especially to children's health. As we head into the home stretch of the holiday feast season, I've been thinking hard about the powerful ripple effects of our food choices. Turns out, what we eat matters. A lot. (from Pesticides Action Network's "Power on our plates")
Take, for example, my daughter's now-favorite veggie, spinach: USDA found residues of 48 pesticides on their official samples. Of these, 25 are suspected to interfere with human hormones, eight are linked to cancer, eight are neurotoxins and 23 are toxic to honeybees. Yucky. Knowing all this makes the organic spinach from our local farm taste especially good.
How much of your food is organic? And how organic is your organic food?!
Our family has made a big commitment to going organic (and local) for health reasons: us, the farmers and farmworkers, and the water, land and air. We probably eat about 80% organic these days (once you subtract the non-organic ice cream, some snacks and sometimes rice). Maybe more in the summer when we get about half of our produce from our front yard.
But if you don't grow the food yourself, how do you know organic is really organic? This article helps answer that question. "Is your organic food really organic: Imported foods found with unacceptable pesticides levels"
The other issue is that we've so polluted our environment - air, water and soil - that even organic food has pesticides and toxins in it. You can't escape it because mercury, pesticides and other toxins float in the air and land on the soil and crops. From a 2002 NY Times article - "The first detailed scientific analysis of organic fruits and vegetables, published today, shows that they contain a third as many pesticide residues as conventionally grown foods."
Read the article here.
The take away message is that organic food does indeed have less pesticides. And pesticide cocktails may be very dangerous to our health in the long run. Most people in the US who have done tissue tests find that they have dozens of pesticides, heavy metals and other toxins in the bodies. Fun, eh?!
Organic certification does indeed usually mean it is organic. Conventional, non-organic will generally have more pesticides on them. So, generally, eating organic is a good thing because it also means that the food has not been genetically modified. The health effects of GMOs are still unknown, but new evidence is surfacing that is very scary, particularly the effects on our intestines.
I would recommend the Environmental Working Group's guides. This is carefully researched. And they have a Dirty Dozen list, which may help you prioritize the foods you definitely want to buy organic.
Genetically Modified Bonus News Items:
ROUNDUP READY CROPS KILLING HABITAT OF MONARCH BUTTERFLIES
GM Roundup Ready soy and corn monocultures in the Midwestern US are killing off the habitat of monarch butterflies, says a new study. The study shows a drop over the last 17 years of the area occupied by monarchs in central Mexico, where many of them spend the winter. The study attributes the decrease partly to the loss of milkweed, on which monarchs lay their eggs, from use of Roundup Ready crops. Other causes, it says, are the loss of milkweed to land development, illegal logging in Mexico, and severe weather. "It [glyphosate] kills everything," said Lincoln P. Brower, an entomologist at Sweet Briar College who is also an author of the paper. "It's like absolute Armageddon for biodiversity over a huge area."
The study: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1752-4598.2011.00142.x/abstract
GM SALMON STUDY REVEALS DANGER OF ESCAPE
If GM salmon were to escape from captivity they could succeed in breeding and passing their genes into the wild, Canadian researchers have found. To measure the ability of GM males to complete with wild males during the reproductive season, the team monitored breeding behaviour in a naturalised laboratory setting. "While the transgenic males displayed reduced breeding performance relative to their non-transgenic rivals they still demonstrated the ability to successfully participate in natural spawning events and thus have the potential to contribute modified genes to wild populations," said lead author Darek Moreau from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada.