“We Interrupted Your Regularly Scheduled Programming For This Message:”
I’ve always been amused by that line, and now here I am using it myself. I had something planned for my post today, and you’ll all be able to come back here and enjoy it tomorrow. For today, however, we’re going to take a bit of a detour.
My post today is about the right to know what’s in our food. In the following lines I will really get into it. But in case you just want to skip to the end, here’s what I’m going to ask you to do. And I don’t ask for much on here…
Go to the Environmental Working Group website today, right now if you can, and respond to their petition request. You can find their petition by clicking on the Carrots picture at the top of this post. Do this as soon as possible, and let congress know that Big Food will not, under any circumstances, be permitted to label Genetically Engineered frankenfoods as “Natural”.
Now on to my tirade… I hope you enjoy this!
Anyone who reads my blog regularly is already at least somewhat concerned with food quality. I’m not quite an evangelist, but I have spent many words on these pages talking about the food that I eat, why I eat it, and why I chose that food over some other food. I’ve talked about how I think that Organic foods are better tasting. I choose organic, I vote with my dollars every single day. I can’t imagine making any other choice about my foods than the choices that I’m making and will continue to make. Despite how strongly I actually feel about them, I rarely call you readers to action on the subject. I feel that there are some very good writers out there who are already working hard to bring this message to you, better and more passionately than I can.
They’re established, they’ve got their language, ideas, and sources already dialed in. I’m not terribly interested in evangelizing that message – I’d rather talk about the eating part than the growing part. But I can’t hide the fact that they’re intimately connected. The value that I get from my food has everything to do with where it comes from, what’s done to it during it’s growing, transportation, and display. I can’t change those things once the food is in my kitchen. I can’t fix bad material. All I can do is take the raw material I’ve purchased, and try to turn that into a good meal. And if calories are the only thing that matter, then nothing really makes any difference… But calories are NOT the only thing that matters. They’re perhaps even less important than the nutrients in the foods that we’re eating. And those are affected by everything we do to the food. As above: the growing, what’s done during the growing, the transportation, and even the display of the foods that I eat all affect the value that I derive from it.
Think about this: With the latest craze about plastics leaching chemicals into your water, what do you think happens to your meat when it’s stored for days in styrofoam trays with plastic shrink-wrap over the top of them? At Whole Foods Market, they store your meats in a metal tray, and they give you the meats wrapped in wax paper. Let’s not just go around pointing the finger at meats: there was a recent news article about the chemicals in paraffin wax. Well, I wonder which wax is being used to coat turnips, rutabaga, yuca, and for polishing on nearly all commercially available fruits and vegetables? Do you think it’s the expensive natural bees-wax, or maybe is it the chemically laden paraffin wax…
And those are just some of what is done displaying the foods. We haven’t even started to talk about what’s done to foods in transport, or while they’re being grown, raised, harvested and slaughtered. And yes, I can talk about all of those things as well. But like I mentioned above, there are other writers, journalists, and bloggers who are already talking about these things, and doing it very well.
Story Time: Why UPC Prefers Organic
Let me tell you a story about why I choose organic. When I was first starting to become aware of the issues of food, I decided to conduct a simple experiment. If you’ve read my “Why Paleo” page, you’ll know that I was gaining weight, and my wife had some serious health issues – we were motivated to find some truth in this world! I purchased an in-season Georgia Orange from A&P which was delicious looking, and very much conventional. I also purchased another in-season Georgia Orange, this one was organic and from The Whole Foods Market. It was less appetizing, smaller, not as shiny. All told, it didn’t look like it would be a better orange. You think you know where I’m going with this, right? Keep reading though – you probably didn’t guess this. 😉
I’m a scientist. All of the things that I had been reading about what is done to food before it arrives were disturbing, and concerning me. They were also fairly testable. See, if conventional foods are treated with all this stuff to make them look prettier and last longer, then I should be able to test it, one to one, against organic produce. It should be simple enough, since the chemicals, dyes, irradiation, chilling, picking before the orange is ripe, etc. will all change the nature of the orange. It should look prettier and last longer.
So I put them side by side on top of my fridge, and left them there to see if the organic orange would rot first.
Oranges are a pretty hardy fruit, and they can last for a while. So I had no expectations that it would happen in a matter of days. Of course it didn’t. It took almost 2 weeks for the organic orange to start to show mold. So, how long did the conventional orange last? That’s the funny thing. After 6 weeks, I got bored with waiting and threw it away. It still looked exactly the same.
I didn’t take pictures at the time, and I haven’t repeated this test recently. I didn’t need to, because I had no intention of blogging about this. This story is being told by countless other credible sources. I have my own story to tell about delicious food, how to make it, and how to enjoy it! But today I am sharing this story about how I decided that Organic is the right choice for me, so that you all can understand what I saw, experienced, and understood in order to end up making those decisions.
The Right To Know
Obviously, I spend some time reading and thinking about food, toxins in the environment, and how all of those things might affect you or me. I’m pretty knowledgeable on these things. And when people ask my opinion, I have no problem helping those people find the information they need in order to build their own opinion.
But whether I’ve bought in on the Organic side of the “Organic versus Conventional” argument or not (clearly I have my opinions), I think that it’s the basics of being human, and more than that, downright American, to have the right to know what’s in the foods. You see, all of the (hopefully) thought-provoking information that I shared above is freely available. It’s information that comes about as a result of people who care, do their research, and share. Some of those people are journalists working for a newspaper. Some of them are blogger-moms, who really want to make sure that their child grows up as healthy as possible. All of them have a valid reason to care – because food quality is important! And I only have that information because it’s being shared, some way, somehow. Otherwise I would be searching for it without any answers.
I can’t begin to imagine how much more difficult it would be trying to explain to someone that the foods labeled “Natural” are actually not natural in the least. I’m sure that even someone who was honestly looking for the right answer might say something like: “What do you mean? It says ‘Natural’ right on the package!” They’re right, of course. “I know it says that, but they’re telling you a lie.” Ok, now I sound like a paranoid conspiracy theorist. “The Big Food companies all got together and passed a law that gives them permission to use the word “Natural” any way they want, without fear of ‘False Advertising’ law suits.” Umm… If I didn’t sound like a paranoid conspiracy theorist before that explanation, I sure do after! Now imagine how that conversation would go with a skeptic… Never mind, don’t think about that. It hurts my brain.
Instead, let’s just send a petition using EWG’s form. Let’s make sure that conversation never has to happen.
Note: This post was not requested, sponsored, written, authorized, or solicited by the Environmental Working Group in any way.