The food we eat has a direct impact on our health and well being. The way it’s sourced has a direct impact on the health and well being of the Earth. Here are a few reasons why, to the best of my ability, I choose to feed my family foods that are:
Non-GMO: Genetically Modified Organism (GMO or GM) plants have foreign genes inserted into their DNA making them immune to the herbicide Roundup and other weed killers. These inserted genes come from species such as bacteria and viruses that have never before been in the human food supply. This is the brain child of Monsanto a biotechnology company who also manufacturers Roundup, and has been in our food supply since its FDA approval in 1994. Health and environmental risks:
- Soy allergies have skyrocketed since the introduction of GMOs in our food supply. Some people react to a skin prick allergy test for GMO varieties but not to wild soy.
- GMO protein genes remain in the body after the food has been eaten which can travel into our organs, pass to fetuses and could create diseases resistant to antibiotics.
- GMOs may make you allergic to non-GMO foods. Studies with mice have found that they became allergic to formerly harmless foods when fed GMO foods. Bt-toxin and herbicide (weed killers) residues from GMO crops have been found in the blood of women and fetuses.
- Concerns regarding reproductive problems and infant mortality. Rodents fed GMO soy experienced changes in their ovaries, uterus or testicles. More than half the babies from mothers fed GMO soy died within three weeks. Mice fed GMO corn had fertility problems and smaller babies. And by the third generation of GMO soy fed hamsters were sterile or suffered high infant mortality.
- Resistance to antibiotics increasing at alarming rate. Antibiotic resistance genes are used when injecting new genes into plants as a result a number of bacteria strains are showing resistance to antibiotics.
- Cross germination to wild, non-GMO crops and resources.
In North America, it is estimated that 70- 80% of our food contains GMOs. Currently the most common GMOs are soy, cotton, canola, corn, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, and squash (zucchini and yellow).
Free of Synthetic Growth Hormones: Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is naturally found in cows however in 1993 the Food and Drug Administration approved their use in dairy production. The FDA approved the use of rBGH based on studies presented by Monsanto who manufacturers the hormone. Other hormones make young animals gain weight faster reducing the amount of feed it needs before slaughter. There has been a speculated link between girls experiencing an earlier onset of puberty and increased breast cancer rates which has sparked debate about the use of hormones in food manufacturing. There are also animal welfare concerns. Animals treated with artificial hormones experience increased incidents of mastitis, problems with pregnancy, shorter gestation periods, more incidents of births of multiples, lower birth weights and lower fertility rates.
Free of Antibiotics: Antibiotics are routinely fed to livestock, poultry, and fish on industrial farms to promote faster growth. According to Union of Concerned Scientists as much as 70% of all the antibiotics used in the United States is fed to healthy farm animals. Strains of bacteria once able to be treated with antibiotics are becoming resistant and stronger strains are developing. As a result of the extreme overuse of antibiotics both in animals and humans, antibiotic resistance has been accelerated.
Free of Pesticides: Pesticides are any substance that prevent or destroy pests and are used to protect food from bacteria, weeds, mold, insects and rodents. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, pesticides can be harmful to people, animals or the environment because they are designed to kill or harm living organisms. Children exposed to even small amounts of the pesticide organophosphates, which is used on commercially grown produce, are more likely to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than those less exposed. Other harmful effects on humans include damage to the nervous system, reproductive system and other organs, disruption of hormone function as well as immune dysfunction and cancer. Harmful environmental effects include: ground water contamination, reduction of beneficial species, spray and vapor drift to non-target organisms, and target pests develop resistance becoming more powerful.
Locally Sourced: Supermarket produce that is grown in the United States is picked 4-7 days before it finds itself on the shelf and has traveled an average of 1500 miles. Produce from international locations add additional time and distance. Not only does it affect the freshness, nutritional value and taste but it takes considerable non-renewable energy to package and transport it to us. Locally grown and purchased food is the freshest possible. The fresher it is the higher it’s nutritional value. Fresh picked produce usually has exceptional flavor that simply can’t be found in a supermarket. Keeping it local also stimulates the local economy, supports local farmers and reduces carbon dioxide emissions and the amount of packaging necessary for food to travel from farm to table. However buying local does not mean that it is free of GMOs, antibiotics, pesticides or synthetic growth hormones.
Non-Processed: When you make it yourself you are in control of the ingredients and the food’s nutritional value. According to the Center for Food Safety upwards of 70% of processed foods available in the United States contain genetically modified ingredients (GMOs). Processed foods may contain artificial coloring which is linked to allergies, asthma and hyperactivity. They may contain preservatives, sweeteners, emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, artificial flavorings, etc. all of which are a manufactured, chemical process. The more it’s processed the less nutritional value the food provides. Limiting or omitting processed foods not only has tremendous health benefits but also environmental ones. Manufacturing, packaging and transporting food all has an environmental impact. Limiting or omitting processed foods reduces the distance your food needs to travel from where it’s made made to your table and the non-renewable energy it takes to do so.
Artificial Growth Hormones: Cornell University; Consumer Concerns About Hormones in Food; June 2000, MacAlister College Environmental Studies; rBGH and the (Mis)use of Science; May 2008, New York University Langone Medical Center; Added Hormones in Meat and Dairy; October 2010, Sustainable Table