I used to think that people who bought organic foods were Food Snobs. What, the regular stuff isn’t good enough for you? Sure, maybe there are those who buy it as more of a status symbol, because they can, like buying brand name clothes just so you can have the label. But you know what? We can’t afford not to eat organic.
Rarely do I “get involved” in politics, but there have been a couple issues that have called for action in my estimation, one of them being the face of food in our nation.
I’ve been learning more and more about all the health benefits of truly natural foods – not only produce and whole grains being grown without toxic chemicals and pesticides, but also for the animal products we eat being raised in natural conditions. Nourishing Traditions, the cookbook I’ve been reading and whose recipes I’ve been trying out, is a wellspring of information which speaks at length to the nutritional deficiency of your garden-variety commercial products. According to author Sally Fallon, “the meat, milk and eggs in our supermarkets are highly contaminated and vastly inferior in nutritional quality to those available to our ancestors just a few decades ago… According to the renowned cancer specialist Virginia Livington-Wheeler, most chicken and nearly half the beef consumed in America today is cancerous and pathogenic.” Yikes. And this only scratches the surface of the detrimental effects of processed foods.
Why is milk so prevalent in our society, especially for our children? Pediatricians tell you to start supplementing with whole milk around a year (if not earlier), and milk seems to be the drink of choice for kids - it seem to be the acceptable progression. When I read that humans are the only mammals to continue drinking milk after they’re weaned, it got me thinking. I stopped giving my kids milk, using it sparingly in baking, substituting almond and coconut milks instead. I wanted to try and give up all milk products, but we love cheese!
Apparently, the milk controversy has been raging for quite some time. And perhaps it started around the time we began drugging cows to over-produce, feeding them processed grains, pasteurizing and messing with the raw milk - just like we’ve done with every other natural product. It would seem the arguments on No Milk really should be directed towards commercial milk.
Raw milk has been called “white blood” for its nutritional properties, and cultured products made from raw milk (from grass-fed cows) are just as healthy – butter, cheese, kefir, yogurt, and buttermilk. You can read all about the benefits on Real Milk, a site devoted to educating and informing people.
Reading about all the health benefits of cultured and fermented foods, I’ve started making yogurt again, straining it to make thick yogurt or cream cheese. The whey that separates can be used for soaking beans and grains (making them more nutritious and easier to digest) and other fermented foods. My sourdough starter continues to thrive, and I make all sorts of baked goods from pancakes and muffins to bread and pizza dough. It’s amazing that eating this way could reverse or eliminate allergies and food sensitivities.
I got excited at the idea that I could make all these healthy, yummy things from raw milk, and got online to find a source. I was chagrined to learn that buying or selling raw milk in the state of RI is illegal, and have been contacting a number of different resources to find out more about this legislation.
Recently I stumbled upon a news article stating that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shut down an Amish farmer’s raw milk facility. This article portrays the FDA’s destructive actions and overall attitude towards people who simply want access to natural foods and alternatives to processed foods. In researching the FDA, I was sickened when I read this articulation of their beliefs:
a. There is No Right to Consume or Feed Children Any Particular Food
b. There is No Generalized Right to Bodily and Physical Health
c. There is No Fundamental Right to Freedom of Contract
Does that shock you? We are only allowed to eat what the FDA gives us permission to eat. This makes me so mad. I told Phil there are things I’m passionate enough about that I’m willing to learn – we’re growing gardens this year, next year we hope to raise chickens for eggs and meat, and I would like to get a goat so we can have our own fresh milk products. We might as well take advantage of these rights while we still can; who knows when it will be illegal to grow and raise our own food. There has already been concern in the USDA about the “safety of organic food.” *shakes head*
In the political realm, I’ve always felt that my vote doesn’t really matter - I’m just one person, anyway. How can I make a difference? Shopping at the farmer’s market on weekends, trying to buy locally (being aware that natural food stores such as Whole Foods no longer means organic), reading labels, sticking with organic foods and avoiding possible-GM-foods – putting my money where my mouth is, as it were – I think this sends a powerful message. Every time you shop at the store, you vote on the products you buy with the dollars you spend. Money is a powerful language.
Aside from those things, there are a number of petitions you can sign and messages you can e-mail to political officials, if you’re so inclined. After writing a letter to the FDA, one of the first steps I took was to sign the Truth in Labeling Petition. Please educate yourself about the food you’re eating, and don’t let the government decide what’s best for you!
EDIT: The safety of GMO and GM foods is another huge controversy, but my feeling is that when messing around with the molecular makeup of things – things we put into our bodies and depend on for growth and nutrition - you’re bound to create problems. It isn’t natural. Who knows the long-term effects of these mutations? Unless you buy 100% organic, it can be difficult to assess whether or not a food is GM, since our laws don’t require labeling (which many people are trying to change – see above).
There are lots of resources out there, and The True Food Network has a handy dandy True Food Shopper’s Guide which you can download (including an app for iPhone, if you’re into that). There’s an extensive listing of all types of food, which ones are commonly GM, which specific brands are non-GMO, and which may contain GMO ingredients. Here are the most common at-risk ingredients:
corn, soy, canola, cotton, and their many derivatives – corn flour, cornmeal, corn oil, cornstarch, corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, glucose, soy flour, soy lecithin, soy protein, vegetable oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, beet sugar
Accoring to lovetoknow, because of the prevalence of these ingredients in common foods, it is estimated that 70% or more of the convenience foods contain GMOs.