Tip of the month – october 2012
By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area
I still remember seeing the movie Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory as a child. The magical world with a river of chocolate, a drink that made Charlie and his Grandpa float in the air and ‘the most amazing, fabulous, sensational gum in the whole world’ containing a three-course dinner captured my heart!
But would we chance such biotechnological confections if they were available to us? Would you risk turning your child blue and blowing up like a blueberry, similar to the nit-wit character Violet in the movie, just to save time in the kitchen? Dinner in a piece of gum would surely be the end to family meals and aren’t our teachers already dealing with ‘floating students’ on five hour energy drinks?
In my effort to eat healthier, I’ve been shopping the outside aisles of the grocery stores for the past few years. The perimeter is normally where you find the ‘real food’ or at least where you find produce, the meat and fish counter, dairy products and breads. Processed foods like sugared cereal, bottled juices and sodas loaded with corn syrup, packaged cookies, chips and even power bars dominate the middle aisles of most stores. Entering this dominion I need to arm myself with reading glasses to check labels for sugar and fat content and use a ‘chemical-speak’ dictionary to understand the rest of the packaged ingredients. But recently, Prop 37, the GMO Food Labeling Initiative has me wondering whether my shopping technique is the best defense for purchasing the healthiest foods.
GMOs or ‘genetically modified organisms’ is the term for plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology. Biotechnology, also known as generic engineering combines DNA from different species, mixing plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. Nearly 80% of processed foods available in the US contain GMOs. These include products that contain ingredients with corn, soy, canola, flax, rice – even sugar beets, papaya, zucchini and yellow summer squash. However, it’s not always obvious since ingredients listed in ‘chemical-speak’ may be derived from these crops like (but are not limited to) Xanthan Gum, Sucrose, Monosodium Glutamate, Maltodextrins, Citric Acid and of course High-Fructose Corn Syrup. Even milk, meat, eggs and honey can contain GMOs because of feed for animals and other inputs.
Most GMOs are designed to produce their own insecticide to fight bugs or survive the farmer spraying herbicide to kill competing weeds. GMOs promise drought tolerance and increased yields to make food more plentiful. Opponents connect GMOs with environmental damage and site cases of large seed companies going after farmers for growing crops that have been hybridized by wind and/or birds. I’d love a solution to end world hunger, but I’m worried about the unknown, long-term impacts of GMOs on people and the environment. If nearly 50 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan and all of the countries in the European Union have restrictions or bans on the production and sale of GMOs, then why do US manufacturers’ consider GMOs safe for us to eat?
I depend on my food producer to be transparent about their ingredients. We ask the farmer how they fertilize and combat pests, the butcher if antibiotics or hormones were used raising the meat, if the fish is sustainable and we definitely check labels on packages carefully before purchase. If a manufacturer can list sugar, fat and ‘new and improved’ then certainly they can list GMO-derived and allow me the choice to decide if the product is right for my family. Currently, the Non-GMO project offers the only third party verification for US products. Their website, www.nongmoproject.org and their nifty i-phone app offers a complete list of Non-GMO verified foods which I use to decide what trade-offs to make when shopping.
Interested in learning more about GMOs & food? Join SRVHS Environmental Club and Sustainable Danville Area for a filming of the documentary, Future of Food on Wednesday, October 10th at 6:30pm in the San Ramon Valley High School Performing Arts Center 501 Danville Blvd. Suggested donation $5.
Help Breath of Hope Chiropractic and Sustainable Danville Area fight local hunger. Now there are two places in Danville to donate fresh vegetables and fruits to our local food pantries:
Wednesdays 7:30am – 3:00pm 822 Hartz Way (Inside lobby of the office building behind Burger King)
Saturdays 9:00am – 1:00pm Loaves and fishes at Danville’s Farmers Market, Prospect and Railroad Ave.
Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News