I’m going to apologize in advance for some technical language and what not in this post. This is something that I am increasingly more passionate about, and it is a VERY important topic, so please bear with me.
Recently I have been watching a LOT of documentaries. Most of the ones I’ve been watching lately have been about food (A couple have been about plastics and waste on the planet, but that’s a topic for another day).
There is a connecting theme in all of these documentaries: as Americans (and, incresingly, Europeans as well), we eat shit food and expect to stay healthy. Sadly, this is not the way the world works.
There have been numerous studies documenting the effects that eating fast food has on your body. On top of that, research has been done on GMOs (genetically modified organisms), pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and plain old organic food.
We all know that fast food is bad for us. It causes health defects like high cholesterol, diabetes, etc. But did you know that if you were born after the year 2000, you have a 1 in 3 chance of having or getting diabetes in your lifetime? And if you are African American or Latino, that risk jumps to 1 in 2?
A huge problem in less-affluent communities is that there simply aren’t healthy alternatives, or they are too expensive for the majority of the community to afford. Instead, the dollar menu at McDonald’s becomes your wallet’s best friend and your go-to food source when you’re hungry.
Pesticides, Herbicides, and Fungicides:
When I first heard about farmers using pesticides and things on their crops, I assumed they only used a couple. Maybe one or two here or there as they saw fit. In reality, these farmers are typically using over 20 different kinds of sprays on their crops every year. I think it says a lot about the product when they refuse to eat it once their done. The farmers breathing in these sprays either during mixing or during spraying are having incredible health problems – as are their families, who don’t have anything to do with the spray process. In these rural areas, there are huge spikes in the number of cases of cancer (particularly leukemia in children). There are also other health detriments: higher cases of asthma, allergies, bloody noses, difficulty urinating, etc. The list just goes on and on.
Genetically modified organisms. A testament to how far we’ve come as a scientific species. Being able to change the DNA of different organisms to make them more resilient to things like frost and drought and flooding, or to make them resistant to bugs, parasites, or insecticides…
But do you know how companies make GMOs? They take bits of DNA from different kinds of organisms and attempt to splice them together to get a new, better product (i.e. tomatoes that are resistant to frost; corn, canola, soybeans and wheat that are resistant to herbicides, etc). The idea is fantastic. The reality is horrible. The original DNA of an organism is designed to reject foreign bodies, so in order to convince the host to accept this parasitic DNA, they use things like E Coli virus and other bacteria to transfer the new DNA packet into the host plant. Personally, I want nothing to do with any of that! The companies that do this originally thought that each gene only expressed one trait, and that by doing this, ONLY the new trait would be introduced to the host plant. However, we know better now. Each gene expresses a whole slew of different traits, and by splicing even one gene in, you’re introducing a whole ton of other uncontrolled, unknown traits into the host plant, and therefore into the food.
These companies promise us that these foods are safe for consumption, and yet they haven’t done in-depth testing of the consequences of their actions. You also have to take in to consideration that as these new DNA sequences replicate and reproduce, any new mutations could cause catastrophic consequences for either the plants, or the people consuming them. Top all of that off with the fact that these companies have fought long and hard for the “right” to NOT label their foods as GMOs, and you have a whole bucketload of problems waiting to happen.
There are some people that are allergic to the new GMO food. Without a label, how do you know that you if you are allergic to all corn, or just the genetically modified corn? How can you pinpoint where a reaction is coming from if the company doesn’t wish to have any accountability? You are currently eating GMOs every day, and don’t even realize it! A lot of GMO corn is turned into corn syrup – a sugary additive in many products.
Another problem I have with GMOs and the companies who make them has to do with patent law. These companies have patented LIFE. Any seed with their patented genetically modified gene belongs to them, and you have to pay to use it. They have made it very clear that if you use their genetically modified seeds, you are not allowed to save the seeds from the plants you grew to use for the following year. You have to destroy or return all of them to the company, and buy new ones all over again. When 75% of farmers across the globe use seed-saving as their primary source of seeds for planting in subsequent years, you are seriously threatening to put farmers everywhere out of business.
These companies have launched huge lawsuits against small farmers across America (and some in Canada and Mexico, as well), after the company sent representatives to the farms to test plants for their genetically modified seeds (trespassing and stealing, by the way). Many small farmers have refused to buy seeds from these companies, and yet because of external circumstances, the genetically modified seeds have contaminated their crops. Examples of these external circumstances are: wind carrying seeds or pollen from one field to another, birds and animals carrying seeds unwittingly into another field, or a farmer driving a truck load of genetically modified seeds next to someone else’s (not genetically modified) fields and some of the seeds fall off the truck (this actually happened to one farmer, and he was sued by the GMO company Monsanto).
All of these problems are compounded by the fact that the “higher-ups” that are supposed to be looking out for the rights of the people are sitting in the pockets of companies like Monsanto. When the people in charge of the FDA, and other food safety organizations are the same CEOs and chairmen for Monsanto and their subsidaries, how are we to expect them to be unbiased about our health and well-being?
Subsidies are a problem in and of themselves. It is a fantastic IDEA to give the farmer some government funding to help grow the crop (and therefore control the price of the crop once it reaches the supermarket). But there are hidden costs that aren’t taken into account. (1) We, as taxpayers, fund the subsidies. Therefore, we are paying for the crop without knowing it, and before it even reaches the market! (2) By subsidizing these crops, the farmers are able to sell the finished product for LESS than the cost of growing it in the first place! This means: companies that buy corn to feed cows and pigs (which is NOT NATURAL, by the way) can buy up huge amounts of this for dirt cheap. Yes, the cost of meat goes down as well, but there are other health risks associated with cows eating corn (I’ll get there in a minute). This also means: In countries where small farming is a way of life and a way to produce food for a village, when corn from America can be bought for cheaper than the price of growing it, the village no longer goes to the farmer for their corn. The farmers go out of business and must move to the slums outside of big cities, looking for jobs that simply aren’t available. (3) Most of the subsidized crops are planted as monocultures. (4) Almost all of these subsidized crops are also contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. (5) Many of the farms the government is subsidizing are factory farms owned by multi-billion dollar corporation who simply don’t need our tax money. The government doesn’t care how big the farm is when the subsidize. They subsidize certain crops, and if you grow that crop, they will subsidize by the amount you grow (so the more you grow, the more tax money you get!).
Monocultures (growing one crop across a whole field) came about as the agricultural equivalent of the industrial revolution. If we could make a farm more efficient by only planting one crop on it, we could produce a higher yield, plant and harvest faster, and make more money. However, if a single type of insect figures out how to ‘unlock’ the food and destroy it, there is so much of this plant in one area that they feast for days and destroy the entire cop. Same with drought, flood, bacteria, etc.
Grain-Fed Versus Grass-Fed:
In nature, cows eat grass. It is what their bodies are designed to consume, it is healthy for them, and makes the meat more healthy for us to consume. Nowadays, however, factory farms have no grass for cows to eat. They feed them corn. This fattens them up quickly, and makes them more appealing to the buyer. But cows weren’t designed to eat corn. Their new corn diet has lead to nationwide E Coli outbreaks, among other things. If the factory farms would simply put the cow back on a grass diet for 5 days (only 5 days!!) before the cow was slaughtered, the cow would shed 80% of the E Coli in its system. But they don’t.
Instead, they take the meat, after processing, and give it a bath in (wait for it) ammonia! And because of the way the processing works, each burger patty that you eat is actually a compilation of roughly 1000 different cows! Imagine if the E Coli in just one of those cows got out. Not only would your burger be contaminated, but thousands and thousands of other burgers that are now shipped all across the country to thousands of other unwitting souls. And guess what? This happens! It’s happened a lot in recent years! We just turn a blind eye.
You Are What You Eat:
I know it’s sort of a cliche, but it’s true: you only get one life. And a large portion of your quality of life and health is linked with the types of foods you decide to put in your body. In a study designed to figure out how much cancer is determined by genetics versus environment (using identical twins), it was found that every type of cancer is at least 50% environment, and many were determined by around 90% environmental factors. If you choose to eat foods that have carcinogens in them, don’t be surprised when you get cancer! If you eat fatty, high-sugar foods, don’t be surprised when you get diabetes!
So if all of this food that’s being produced and shows up on our grocery store shelves is bad for us, and we can’t go to fast food restaurants because those are even worse, what do we eat?
Organic. Local-grown. Grass-fed cows. Zero pesticides. Zero herbicides. Zero fungicides. No added growth-hormones. No GMOs.
Across America, there is a movement occurring. An organic, local-grown revolution. People are demanding organic food be available, not just in supermarkets, but in farmer’s markets, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and in restaurants. People are starting to realize that what they put in their bodies really does have a huge effect on how their health, how much energy they have, their mood swings, and their lifespan.
Start by trying to find local farmer’s markets, CSAs, and grocery stores that carry organic foods. At the farmer’s markets and CSAs, get to know your farmers! Ask about how they raise their livestock, how they plant their crops and grow them, where they’re located. If you have kids, they LOVE field trips to the farm! They are naturally curious about everything, and if you show them where their food comes from, they learn and remember. Grow a little “victory garden” of your favorite fruits, vegetables, and herbs. If you don’t have room for a garden in your yard, there are lots of community gardens where you can rent a small plot of land and grow whatever you want there! Learn about processed foods, and the packaging they are in (trust me: once you start researching them, you WON’T want to eat them anymore). Store your foods in food-safe containers (glass! NOT plastic!). When you cook, make extra and freeze it for a quick, ready-made meal later. Eat foods that are in season and grown locally, not imported from Guatemala or India.
Don’t be afraid to try new foods and recipes! If you start living with this type of diet, you will be doing a lot of your own cooking. If you find yourself only cooking the same things week after week, try to branch out. Pick a new ingredient or recipe every week and test it. You won’t break the bank, and you might just find you new favorite food! (My new favorite is quinoa, and I never would have discovered it if it weren’t for this lifestyle!)
Remember: you really are what you eat. If you have any comments or questions, I’d love to have your feedback! Thanks!! 🙂
For more information, please watch the following documentaries, all of which are available on Netflix Instant Queue:
The Future of Food
Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution
What’s On Your Plate?