Hey gang! Hope the winter has been treating you kindly! Good news-Janurary is almost over, February is a short month, that means March is almost here!! And then it’ll be spring time! So today I wanted to talk to you about the food you’re eating and try and break down what that label means for you. Let’s get to it.
First the term “conventional”. This is something you most likely will never see on any products, but it is a term used for non-organic food. There is absolutely positively nothing wrong, or unsafe with conventional food. The biggest concern people are switching away from conventional to organic is 2 reasons: GMO’s and glyphosate(the main ingredient in round-up).
Okay, next let’s tackle organic. “Before we go back to organic agriculture in this country, somebody must decide which of the 50 million Americans to let starve or go hungry” This is a quote from US Secretary of Ag Earl Butz in 1971. For milk to be labeled organic by the USDA, the farm must be certified. It takes 3 years of all land, all feed and all animals being organic to obtain that certification. There is also strict rules about those animals, like having at least 120 days access to pasture, 30% of a cows diet must come from pasture and no antibiotic use. Here’s the problems with organic food:
1. Organic does not ever mean pesticide free. All crops must have a pesticide and/or herbicide used on them or there would not be food. Conventional farms use a product like RoundUp but the rate of application is about 1 soda can per 1 acre of crops. This number is less than half of the pesticide rate used on organic crops. Which pesticides are used and the rate of application is regulated by the EPA on conventional farms. Organic pesticides rates of application are not regulated.The ingredients are, but not how much. Also, while you can find articles and studies both ways on whether glyphosate causes cancer, it is currently labeled in the same category as emissions from frying food at high temperates, very hot beverages, and red meat…so…doesn’t seem to bad to me. An ingredient commonly used in organic pesticide is copper, which can be harmful to your health and since the amount isn’t being regulated, more than half of the ingredients in organic pesticides are also labeled as carcinogenic. Lastly about the use of pesticides, a grown man could eat (for example) over 570 apples IN ONE DAY and still not be affected by pesticides (check out a cool graph on bestfoodfacts.org).
2. Like mentioned in the above quote about sustainability, organic farming just doesn’t quite cut it. We will talk more about this in our GMO section but, organic farms are somewhere at a 50-80% yield of what a conventional farm is at. While we’re running out of food and land, at the present time, there just isn’t enough Earth to feed everyone organic.
3.Dairy is the primary source of iodine in people’s diet. You would have to eat copious amounts of seaweed (yuck) to compare to dairy products. A study was just done by the WHO and they found more and more people deficient in iodine because they are skipping dairy for milk alternatives. Iodine deficiency can cause issues with thyroid, which (esp in children) can hinder mental development, along with goiters, weight gain, fatigue… For some reason organic milk contained about 30% less iodine than conventional milk.
So is eating organic terrible? Will it hurt you? No, probably not. But it can break the bank, and you are pretty much buying just for that label, as conventional options are just as safe(and more regulated!).
Okay next? GMO’s. What does GMO stand for? Genetically modified organism. So what is this exactly? GMO foods are those in which scientists and farmers have found a desirable trait, like being drought resistant for example, and taken that DNA and put it into another seed. Why is this important? Because there are 7.4 billion people in the world and almost 8 million of them are starving. There are less and less farms every year, less land, and more people. GMO’s help fight starvation by producing a crop with better yields, with less land at lower cost. Farmers have been genetically altering crops for hundreds of years, we are lucky to have so many apple varieties because a farmer in his orchard said “what if I splice this juicy apple with this large growing apple and get a really great apple to eat?” So what’s the difference between a farmer in the field or a scientist in the lab? Not much that I can think of. And it’s been happening for hundreds of years. GMOs have been proven safe time and time again. There are only 8 crops that are GMO’s (corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya and squash). The non-GMO project (you’ve seen that label with the butterfly on food I’m sure) was started by a natural food store owner and is a non profit. Although I’m sure she’s a nice person, the credentials listed were baker, gardener and yoga instructor. There are no scientists behind it. This label can be bought to put on foods that would NEVER have a GMO. Salt for example? Doesn’t have genes. Don’t buy a non-GMO label salt because it’s the SAME THING. MIlk? Studies have been done that show milk from cows fed GMO feeds is exactly the same as that from cows fed non GMO feeds.
Lastly, let’s talk about those other words thrown in on labels to get you to buy them.
*All natural. This is very loose to interpretation, but the FDA states that a food labeled this must not contain added colors or artificial flavors. Anything else is fair game.
*Antibiotic free. Stop right there. Your food doesn’t have antibiotics. We talked extensively in a previous blog about how it is impossible to get antibiotics in your food.
*rBST free. The USDA states that cows treated with rBST have no difference in their milk then those who have been. Also, I don’t have the specific numbers but most co-ops have told their farmers to stop using rBST, so most of your dairy products are rBST free, whether labeled or not.
*No sugar added. While there might not be added sugar, think about the product you are purchasing. Fruit, veggies and dairy all naturally contain sugar, so while it might not be added, there is still natural sugar contained.
*Free range. The USDA does not define the amount of space nor time duration for this label.
I hope this sums up your label for you. GMO’s are safe, and while organic is an option out there, IT DOES NOT MEAN PESTICIDE FREE. So don’t buy a food for its label, and don’t feel bad if you can’t afford the pricey organic produce. Your convential produce is safe, and your farmers are eating it as well!
Till next time gang!