The DARK Act: Defeated!

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It’s rare that we pump our fists in the air or high-five strangers upon hearing most recent news stories. Yesterday evening was different. The news rolled in and, truth be told, a few happy tears formed.

In case you’ve been living in the DARK (pun intended), here’s why this is so important:

Last July, legislators passed a bill, dubbed by opponents as the Deny Americans the Right to Know, or DARK Act (H.R. 1599). The bill would preempt the FDA and states of their right to label and regulate genetically engineered (GE) foods; thereby denying consumers the right to know what is in their food and how it is grown. Despite many Americans’ desire for GE labeling, big food and chemical companies lobbied and spent massively to conceal this. Why? Perhaps it’s because genetically altered foods have been linked to a host of issues.

Consumer advocate groups contend that Americans should have the same entitlement as those in other countries (i.e. European) to this information. We agree. And, luckily, so did the Senate.

Yesterday’s defeat of the DARK Act marks a victory for the organic industry, for public health and consumers. There’s hope that a compromise can be made about GE labeling that is supported by both the public and industry.

 

The Truth about Organic Foods – Part II

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Today we’ll be following up on our radio show and the previous blog on the topic of “The Truth about Organic Foods” with a focus on creating some action steps. 

Q: This is an overwhelming topic for many people. Where do you start if you just want to reduce unhealthy levels of toxins in your diet?

Being mindful is key. Start by observing (or write a list!) of all the ingredients you are consuming through food or absorbing through your skin. After a day of various meals and skincare products, you’ll have quite a few suspicious ingredients you may want to research and then remove.

Q: Should we grow our own fruits and vegetables when possible?

Most definitely! It’s cheaper, hyper-local, and helps people connect to their food more. Do it if you enjoy gardening and use or have good, healthy soil.

Q: What are some other tips for eating healthy on a budget?

Let’s first say that while pesticides aren’t good for anyone, if you’re a woman of childbearing age or have young children, taking steps to reduce your exposure is especially important. Ideally, all of the food you and your family eat would be organic, but not everyone has access to a wide variety of organic produce nor the funds. A way to save some money and still lower your risk is to focus on purchasing certain organic food, while “settling” for other items that are conventionally grown.

Animal products, like meat, butter, milk, and eggs, are actually the most important to buy organic, since animal products tend to accumulate toxins in their tissues (particularly their fat) from the pesticide-laden feed. This can cause the toxins to be in far higher concentrations than are typically present in ‘conventional’ vegetables. For those on a budget, choose organic animal foods first and then think of produce.

Speaking of produce, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 to see which foods are worth the extra dimes. Here are some other tips:

  • Eat seasonally and shop sales at the supermarket.
  • Consider buying in bulk. This is the only way we get out of Whole Foods, aka Whole Paycheck, with our retirement account still intact.
  • Eat actual whole food, buy less processed items. Standard carrots are typically less expensive than baby carrots and organic oatmeal is generally cheaper than organic oat cereal.
  • Consider it an investment in your future. Re-arrange your priorities – you may not need a new purse or an expensive car or clothes. Quality food is worth valuing and placing a higher priority on.

While conventionally grown foods may have a cheaper price-tag but it doesn’t show the TRUE COST of the product when it comes to our soil and water quality as well as our future health-care costs. Short-term, sure you save some money, but your’e potentially losing the long-term game here.

Q: What other resources can you share to help listeners make this easier?

To learn more about organic standards and more, check out National Agricultural Library of the USDA

Grab some non-GMO popcorn and settle in for a documentary! GMO OMG has been hanging out on Netflix and is an easier watch; Genetic Roulette has more scientific information.

Consider meeting your farmer to ensure the produce is grown, or animals raised, without pesticides and GMOs. Check out this national listing of farmers’ markets or Local Harvest.

Eat Well Guide – for a directory of restaurants, farms, CSAs and more.

Q: Any other thoughts to share?

Read food labels carefully. Remember that just because a food item is labeled as organic or including organic ingredients, it’s not necessarily healthy…organic creme-filled cookies are NOT a health food.

Washing fresh fruits and vegetables not only helps remove dirt and bacteria, but it can also reduce pesticide residues, though not all pesticide residues can be removed by washing. Remember that you can’t wash off glyphosate (it gets into every cell of the plant) nor can you wash off GENETIC Modification.

The maxim “ you are what you eat” encourages us to consider the impact that organic and GMO foods can have on our long-term health. Choose carefully- what you put in your mouth ultimately becomes your cells, tissues, and organs.

If you want a different health outcome, change your food. Everything else has a smaller effect. There’s a medical treatment for a bad diet but there’s no cure. Tweet this.

Overall, we want encourage people to eat more fruit and vegetables, regardless of how they are produced. A GMO vegetable is still considered better than a processed, nutrient-poor food like Cheetos.

The Truth about Organic Foods – Part I

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We just wrapped up an interview in North Scottsdale, Arizona on “The Truth about Organic Foods” and thought we’d share a sneak peek of information we covered.

Q: What is the definition of “organic”?

The dictionary definition means: “relating to, or derived from living matter.” This could apply to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as well as non-GMO foods…and the nebulousness of the nuance is what confuses consumers. It’s important to discuss the semantics involved with words such as ‘conventional’, ‘natural’, and ‘organic’…none of which contain their commonsense meanings.

Conventional should mean traditional, it doesn’t. Organic should refer to a branch of chemistry. it doesn’t. Natural should mean something like “untouched” or pure. It really doesn’t.

Which word is “best?” Organic, surely. But chemically, this word encompasses everything from poison to cure. [Dog poop is organic matter but we don’t want to eat that! ] If only we could trust the word “natural.”

It comes as no surprise in this linguistic crisis that we equate transgenic biological manipulation to selective breeding, but this is obviously a false equivalence.
We ought to be able to call food “food”, but the very terminology has been warped beyond recognition.

The USDA regulates organic certifications and requires that a product be grown and processed using farming methods that keep biodiversity and foster sustainability in terms of soil, resources, and ecological balance. Synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers are prohibited, although certain approved pesticides may be used. Generally, organic foods do not contain bio-engineered genes, are not irradiated, and do not include industrial solvents or synthetic food additives.

Q: We commonly see the term “natural” on food labels. How does this differ from organic foods?

The word “natural” connotes something healthy and non-toxic but is very overused in marketing and not well-regulated. Petroleum is “natural” but that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Also, the words “natural” and “organic” are not interchangeable terms. You might see “natural” and other such claims as “all natural,” “free-range,” “no antibiotics added” or “hormone-free” on food labels. These terms are not regulated and may or may not be truthful. Only foods that are grown and processed according to USDA organic standards can be labeled as organic.

Q: Is it true that genetically modified foods have lower nutrient content?

Some argue that there is little difference between conventionally raised produce and organic, but we have seen scientific research suggesting the genetically engineered food has less nutrients than organic. Also, it makes common sense to those who understand what is done to the quality of the soil and the plant itself when pesticides and genetic engineering are introduced.

A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives looked at the diets of nearly 4,500 people living in six US cities and assessed organophosphate exposure levels, which are among the most commonly used insecticides on US farms. Those who ate conventionally grown produce were found to have high concentrations of organophosphate metabolites, whereas those who ate organic produce had significantly lower levels.

In this way, when you eat organic what the food doesn’t contain is just as important as what it does. This is especially true when it comes to pesticides. These chemicals have been shown to cause cancer, organ [liver, kidney] and blood diseases. They over-work the immune system and our detoxification systems. Pesticides lodge and accumulate in our tissues and can weaken our immune systems, which makes us more vulnerable to other carcinogens and pathogens.

If you don’t want to be a guinea pig in this dangerous experiment, consider opting out and sticking with what nature has provided us with for thousands of years.

Q: Are there any scientific studies that show that organic foods are better for our health?

Some compelling evidence comes a 4-year study funded by the European Union called the Quality Low Input Food (OLIF) Project. The researchers found that organic food is more nutritious than conventionally-grown produce. The organic produce contained more antioxidants and minerals. Milk from organically-fed cows had more antioxidants too.

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, reported higher antioxidant as well as lower cadmium and pesticide residue levels in organically grown produce.

Organic foods are fertilized in ways that support higher levels of certain nutrients and antioxidants. Plants can produce more antioxidants as a response to stress (i.e. pests).  These foods may be higher in nutrients and come with the added bonus of not being pesticide-ridden.

Food grown in healthy soil, with natural fertilizers and without harmful chemicals (and genetic modification), is going to be more nutritious and less toxic than food grown in the opposite type of situation.