Genetically Modified (GM) food is some pretty scary stuff. Recently there have been a couple of cases where these crops have turned out to be toxic for consumption. The main company responsible for dolling out GM seeds is Monsanto. They have produced a version of alfalfa that resists their own weed killer "Roundup". A judge has just ordered that the seeds be taken off the market because an environmental study has not been conducted and the pollen from this GM alfalfa may contaminate organic and conventional alfalfa and cause unknown effects.
The really bad news about GM food is that unless you live on a secluded farm and grow your own food…you (we) have been eating this stuff for years. In the United States the USDA does not require these foods to have any special labels that identify they have been genetically modified (unlike Japan and Europe). This article from Time Magazine discusses how difficult it is to ensure "organic" stays organic as farmers battle to keep this GM crap out of their crops.
By Jyoti Thottam- When you buy a gallon of organic milk, you expect to get tasty milk from happy cows who haven’t been subjected to antibiotics, hormones or pesticides. But you might also unknowingly be getting genetically modified cattle feed.
Albert Straus, owner of the Straus Family Creamery in the small northern California town of Marshall, decided to test the feed that he gives his 1,600 cows last year and was alarmed to find that nearly 6% of the organic corn feed he received from suppliers was "contaminated" by genetically modified (GM) organisms. Organic food is, by definition, supposed to be free of genetically modified material, and organic crops are required to be isolated from other crops. But as GM crops become more prevalent, there is little that an organic farmer can do to prevent a speck of GM pollen or a stray GM seed from being blown by the wind onto his land or farm equipment and, eventually, into his products. In 2006, GM crops accounted for 61% of all the corn planted in the U.S. and 89% of all the soybeans. "I feared that there weren’t enough safeguards," Straus says.
So Straus and five other natural food producers, including industry leader Whole Foods, announced last week that they would seek a new certification for their products, "non-GMO verified," in the hopes that it will become a voluntary industry standard for GM-free goods. A non-profit group called the Non-GMO Project runs the program, and the testing is conducted by an outside lab called Genetic ID. In a few weeks, Straus expects to become the first food manufacturer in the country to carry the label in addition to his "organic" one. With Whole Foods in the ring, the rest of the industry will soon be under competitive pressure to follow.
I would imagine that if you are reading this site right now, you consider yourself at least a little progressive (if not a lot progressive). That is the reason the title of this story caught my eye. We know that there is a significant environmental impact caused by meat production. It really does not make much difference whether we raise animals organically or conventionally…they still use the consume amount of land, food and water. They also produce the same amount of waste. Yet many environmentalists still eat meat on a full time basis…this is a strange phenomenon.
This article on Alternet discusses many of the topics and questions associated with vegetarianism and animal food production. It can get a little deep but the information is good (the comments at the bottom of it are interesting as well). Even though it discusses going vegetarian all the time, just remember going vegetarian one day a week makes a huge impact without having to change your lifestyle or viewpoints. Check out the impact you will make on our mission page.
By Kathy Freston March 14, 2007 - The report released this week by the world’s leading climate scientists made no bones about it: Global warming is happening in a big way and it is very likely manmade. The U.N. report that came out soon after made a critical point: "The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." And yet, so many environmentalists continue to eat meat. Why?
Being part of the solution can be a whole lot simpler — and cheaper — than going out and buying a new hybrid. We can make a huge difference in the environment simply by eating a plant-based diet instead of an animal-based one. Factory farming pollutes our air and water, reduces the rainforests, and goes a long way to create global warming. Yet for some environmentalists, the idea of giving up those chicken nuggets is still hard to swallow.
So, I thought I might discuss a few of the key concerns that my meat-eating friends offer in defense of their continued meat consumption. Here we go: continue reading at Alternet
The short answer is yes…but it takes understanding and compromise. There are times when the politics of food can cause some tension in a relationship, so being able to settle on a common ground is essential. This article from Newsweek is about just such a relationship, the only difference is the author is a vegan and her husband is a meat eater.
Feb. 26, 2007 issue - When my husband, Ken, and I were planning our wedding two years ago, we toiled over the menu even more than most anxious couples. As a Jewish vegan who doesn’t eat meat, poultry, fish or dairy products, I wanted to share vegan delicacies without feeling I was pushing an agenda. My Chinese-Japanese-Hawaiian husband wanted to be sure his relatives would have enough to eat, and to incorporate Chinese banquet foods.
In the end, our caterer served a gorgeous organic vegan meal, complete with Chinese long noodles (representing long life). We added line-caught wild fish, served whole to symbolize abundance and good fortune (in Chinese and Hawaiian tradition). After a Jewish blessing over wine and challah, Ken worked the room, teaching people to extract and eat the fish delicacies: the eyes and cheeks.
I became a vegetarian as a teenager, with the mixed motivation of loving animals and wishing to confound (and inconvenience) my meat-eating parents. Then, five years ago, I became a vegan. Today chili, stews and endless variations of salads are my staples. While Ken’s diet is more varied, his philosophy is simpler: without claiming any trendy labels, my husband is passionate about fresh, flavorful food. From fish cheeks to tripe and oxtail, he consumes everything, but he does so with appreciation and attention.
Since California is the largest dairy state in the country, this is a big step in having all hormones removed across the US. I think this measure demonstrates that people are starting to become more aware about the food they eat. We are voting with our dollars and organics are taking a significant foot-hold. Conventional growers are having to take steps to ensure they stay in business. This is good news for California but better news for us consumers.
FRESNO-Consumer groups are applauding a major dairy cooperative’s decision to dissuade its farmers from using a synthetic hormone to coax more milk from cows, a move some insiders say could have a ripple effect across the dairy industry.
Members of California Dairies Inc., which ships over 14 billion pounds of milk annually, must stop injecting their herds with the genetically engineered hormone rBST by Aug. 1 or face having to pay a premium for the co-op to truck their milk to alternative markets.
RBST, or recombinant bovine somatotropin, is banned in Canada and Europe, mostly over concerns that it makes cows more prone to illness.
I always appreciate when I am asked questions on why I became a vegetarian. People are very curious about this and their reactions can vary from support and understanding to being irritated and offended. Either way it goes, it’s always good for a conversation and I love to talk about it! The author of this article from the York Press in the UK shares her views (and other information) on being a vegetarian. Feel free to share your views or questions in the comments or forums.
It’s not always easy being a vegetarian.
Tell people you don’t eat meat and you will be greeted with a look of puzzlement or even disgust. "Why would you want to do that?" they will say, as if they have never heard of anything so ridiculous.
My answers are probably similar to those supplied by most of the estimated three million vegetarians in the UK: I don’t want animals to be killed on my behalf. Also, eating the remains of a dead animal is something that, gastronomically speaking, just holds no appeal.
Although there are still those who look askance at us, the number of vegetarians has almost doubled in the past decade, and we now account for up to six per cent of the UK adult population.
It is said to be the fastest-growing food trend in the country. The reasons are varied, but include environmental awareness and health concerns.
Some “ethical” labels on foods can be a bit confusing (and unverifiable). There are labels for cage free, organic, dolphin safe, fair trade, grass-fed…and the list goes on. I stumbled on this article last night while reading this weeks Newsweek Magazine. It helps to decipher what some of these labels mean and how trustworthy they are. You can get more information on this subject and a pocket guide at the GreenGuide.
Organic: “This is the gold standard of labels,” says Pennybacker. Organic crops are free of genetic engineering, sewage sludge, most conventional pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Livestock used for milk, eggs and meat are fed 100 percent organic feed, raised without antibiotics or growth hormones, and have access to the outdoors. (See ams.usada.gov.)
Bird Friendly: Some coffee growers plant their crops on land stripped of its natural vegetation. But the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Council of the National Zoo verifies that all coffee bearing the Bird Friendly logo (see nationalzoo.si.edu) is grown under a canopy of trees that provide shade for the coffee and a habitat for migratory birds. Coffee grown in the hot sun requires more pesticides and chemical fertilizers to flourish, but it costs about 20 percent less.
I normally try to avoid putting non-food related posts on the site, but I feel that it needs to be said. Plastic bags are the worst. I just read a statistic that globally we use 1 million plastic bags per minute. That is mind-blowing! The other amazing fact is that the amount of energy and petroleum that would be saved by halting the production of these bags would have the same effect as taking hundreds of thousands of cars off the road.
Beyond the energy cost there is also an environmental cost of plastic bags. These bags are filling up our landfills and oceans. Animals mistake them for food, eat them and suffocate.
The only feasible way to get people to stop using them is to start charging for them. I am firm believer that if it cost us 20 cents (or more) per bag every time we went to the grocery store, it would not take long to figure out that reusable bags are the way to go.
There are times it seems like retailers practically force you to use a bag….or they look at you like you have three heads when you tell them you do not want one. I mean, who needs a bag to carry a CD out of the store? Sure, I forget my bags in the car on occasion and if I do I will either just carry the product out in my hands or go back to the car and get the bags. I think the key to helping us stop our bag addiction is to buy four or five reusable bags and always leave them in the car (or preferably on the bike).
I use this trick to remind myself to put them back in the car after using them….whenever I come home from the grocery store and empty our bags, I will drop them next to the front door so that the next time I walk out to the garage, I will remember to toss them back in the car.
I think eventually there will be a "tax" on using plastic bags. I hope this day is coming soon. Until then, we can all be stewards of the Bag Free Movement and bring our own, encourage others to do the same and refuse plastic bags when they are offered to us.
The cover story in this month’s Time magazine is called "Eat Local or Organic?" This is a hot topic right now and after writing yesterday’s article on why we should question our food, a timely one as well.
Not long ago I had an apple problem. Wavering in the produce section of a Manhattan grocery store, I was unable to decide between an organic apple and a nonorganic apple (which was labeled conventional, since that sounds better than "sprayed with pesticides that might kill you"). It shouldn’t have been a tough choice–who wants to eat pesticide residue?–but the organic apples had been grown in California. The conventional ones were from right here in New York State. I know I’ve been listening to too much npr because I started wondering: How much Middle Eastern oil did it take to get that California apple to me? Which farmer should I support–the one who rejected pesticides in California or the one who was, in some romantic sense, a neighbor? Most important, didn’t the apple’s taste suffer after the fruit was crated and refrigerated and jostled for thousands of miles?
In the end I bought both apples. (They were both good, although the California one had a mealy bit, possibly from its journey.) It’s only recently that I had noticed more locally grown products in the supermarket, but when I got home I discovered that the organic-vs.-local debate has become one of the liveliest in the food world. Last year Wal-Mart began offering more organic products–those grown without pesticides, antibiotics, irradiation and so on–and the big company’s expansion into a once alternative food culture has been a source of deep concern, and predictable backlash, among early organic adopters.
It seems that there is a lot to learn about how we eat. Everyday we ask ourselves questions like should I eat organic vs. local, whole foods vs. procesessed foods, free-range vs. the other. The strange part about these food dilemmas we face is it should not be this difficult. We as consumers have been pushed so far away from the food system that we no longer have an understanding of how it works. Much of the processed food we eat have become so ever present that we hardly even bat an eye before throwing it into our shopping cart. This is not the food our grandparents ate. Even our parents were not forced to ask these questions on a daily basis.
I am not advocating for us all to quit our jobs, move out to the country and buy a farm. I actually think we can do a better job influencing our food system here in the cities and the ‘burbs. By visiting farmer’s markets, local grocery stores and restaurants that purchase food locally, we put our money where our mouth is (no pun intended). Living in a capitalist society where money controls what we eat….we have the choice to give the money to the people that will give us good stuff to eat.
We can still enjoy our Donuts and Doritos every once in awhile, we just need to remember to pick up some fresh fruit at a roadside stand on our way home.
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