Patriotism on a Plate
I recently had the honor of presenting in Texas. The audience was a big one, over 600 Texans, and they weren’t there for me to tell them what to eat.
But as I shared my insight, well-honed from my days as a food industry analyst, they took note. I spoke about serving my kids tubes of blue yogurt and rolling my eyes at anyone who spoke about organics. And they leaned in. I then spoke about my daughter’s sudden allergic reaction and how it had triggered every analytical gene in my body into researching our food supply. And then I shared what I’d learned.
I’d learned that in 1996, in order to drive profitability for the agrichemical industry, commodities like soy, primarily used to fatten livestock (like the ones that I had grown up around in Texas), had been engineered to withstand increasing doses of weedkillers and herbicide. A brilliant business model, as now the agrichemical giants could not only sell more herbicide but they could also sell a newly patented soybean and license its use, new traits and technologies to our nation’s farmers for fees. Which they did, driving profitability and market adoption rates as seen in the chart from the United States Department of Agriculture.
I then spoke about the recent engineering of corn, and how scientists had engineered it so that it could produce its own insecticide, sharing how other developed countries had not allowed this corn, or the soybean that had proceeded it, into their food supply because they had not yet been proven safe. And how in the US, for the sake of profitability we did not choose to exercise the precautionary principal, but rather allowed this corn and soy into our food supply because it had not yet been proven dangerous.
I then shared that since the introduction of these unlabeled ingredients into our food supply in the 1990s as the rest of the world either did not allow or restricted their use, the United States now has the highest rate of cancer of any country on the planet according to the American Cancer Society.
And while correlation is not causation, the fact that other countries were concerned about the carcinogenic effects of these genetically engineered ingredients should give us reason to pause. And yet, that is not what we are doing. Rather, the USDA has just approved three genetically modified crops and does not call for their labeling despite the fact that they have not yet been proven safe.
And while the agrichemical corporations, addressing their fiduciary duty to shareholders, continue to externalize the liabilities of these crops onto farmers and consumers, our economy is bearing witness, as the US spends more on health care than any other country in the world – sixteen cents of every dollar that we spend as a country goes towards managing disease. In other words, the liabilities have been shifted off of the balance sheets of the agrichemical corporations onto our personal ones and the companies that we work with.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Each and every one of us has the ability to create change in our own families, our own schools, communities and corporations. We can opt out of this genetically modified food supply, the same way that countries around the world already have, and we can exercise precaution by not eating foods that contain genetically modified corn and soy. We can call for the labeling of these ingredients and eat like the health of our country depends on it, because…it just might.
And while none of us can do everything, all of us can Do One Thing. So if you want to be part of the change, you can pick one thing from the list below.
But first, find a friend to do it with and start there. And then get going and Do One Thing:
- Remove artificial bovine growth hormones from our kids’ sippy-cups: you can find rBGH-free dairy in most grocery stores now.
- Reduce exposure to highly processed foods. Grocery Manufacturers Association estimates that 80% of them contain ingredients that were just introduced into our food supply over the past 15 years by the biotech and agrichemical industries.
- Cut the colors. Kraft, Coca-Cola and Walmart don’t use yellow #5 in the products they sell to kids in the U.K. because of its link to hyperactivity. So, instead of the blue yogurt, try switching to white yogurt and decorate it with sprinkles, raisins or chocolate chips.
- Eat like our grandmothers ate. Forty years ago, one in three children didn’t suffer from obesity, one in two men weren’t expected to develop cancer, one in three children didn’t have autism, allergies, ADHD or asthma – but they do today. Why? Our grandmothers’ kitchens weren’t loaded with foods full of artificial and genetically engineered ingredients.
- Eat only food with ingredients we can pronounce. Look for pronounceable ingredients on the labels. Not products that contain the recently introduced genetically-engineered corn and soy organisms (GMOs) because of the lack of allergenicity testing that has been conducted on the novel food proteins they contain.
And remember, one person really can make a difference. Because none of us can do everything, but all of us can do something. And together, as a nation of 300 million eaters, we can influence the production of our food supply, as we vote with our dollars and create the change we want to see in the health of our country.