Food and Faith is a blog of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
The aroma of macaroni and cheese, collard greens, chicken, ham, green beans, potato salad, yams, corn pudding and corn bread slithers up my nostrils. Four generations of my family form a circle and link hands. We bow our heads for prayer. My uncle asks God to bless the food and the hands that prepared it. We whisper our thanks and say “Amen” in unison. We part and create a path for the elders to make their plates then the children. Everyone has a place at the table. We eat and laugh for hours. Plates are licked clean. Stomachs are full. Pants are bursting at the seams. We find comfort at the table, where our family congregates and share the fruit of their labor. Never do we discuss where our dinner comes from. Never do we discuss the health related consequences of the food we eat. All that seems to matter is the taste and the fact that we have plenty.
“I just want to peek inside real quick. Okay?” I said. The plastic sign read “Village Pantry,” with a big red tomato on it. It was right around the corner from an apartment I was considering, and I was curious to see what I would be dealing with.
“Of course,” my dad agreed with a laugh, as I jumped out of the car and through the doors of the corner store. I quickly darted up and down the isles, glancing at beef jerky, chips, and candy bars. I picked up a sandwich or two in the “Bistro” case, noting the offsite packaging plant.
After my curiosity was satisfied, I walked out of the store and back to my car.
“Did they have a good organic section?” Dad joked.
“Not even a tomato,” I replied before pulling out of the parking lot, “or a can of beans to stock the pantry.”
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.