EPA’s lost the impulse to protect

Theres been buzz for a while about the possibility of raising the acceptable residue limits of glyphosate (Roundup).  According to the Organic Consumers Association, “This month (May 2013) the EPA announced a final ruling to increase, yet again, the allowed residue limits in food and animal feed of glyphosate, the key active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. Under the ruling, the allowed glyphosate level in animal feed will rise to 100 parts per million (ppm) and 40 ppm in oilseed crops. Peer reviewed studies show rats fed diets as low as 2ppm of glyphosate were 70 percent to 80 percent more likely to develop tumors. Infertility, affecting both the sperm and the egg, was documented in animals subjected to glyphosate residue levels as low as .05 ppm. Birth defects in frog and chicken embryos resulted after being subjected to glyphosate residues of just 2.03 ppm.”

Monsanto hasn’t gotten to where it is today by overlooking its opposition.  In April of this year the journal Entropy published a study that claims, “Glyphosate is related to debilitating diseases like gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s”.  The study says the negative impact on the human body is “insidious and manifests slowly over time, as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body… it may in fact be the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment.”  When your business plan foresees a rise in Roundup sales over the next 20 years and studies show your product to have a horrific effect on life, you know they’ll pull out all the stops to make sure they have policys in place to protect the growth of this monster company.  After all, they have shareholders and employees to protect!

We have until July 1st to tell the EPA they are making a huge mistake.

My struggle with a blog with such a specific goal such as going GMO free for a month is that the issue is larger than simply the seed that’s genetically modified… it’s the herbicides and pesticides used regardless of the seeds sowed.  Roundup is designed to work in partnership with Roundup ready seed so when the crop is sprayed the weeds die and the intended plant still stands.  Roundup is still used with other crops at the end or beginning of the next planting to clear the field and get a weed-free start. When higher levels of glyphosate are acceptable farmers are able to spray further into the growing season and sometimes right up until harvest time.  Obviously this makes for higher residue levels.  That’s just farmers… most homeowners have a bottle or two in their garage to keep the lawn and driveway clear of natures way.  Side note… my husband never fails to remind me how strong and virile some weeds are. Notice the specs of green in your yard during a drought. They are the weeds whose roots penetrate down deep into the soil where the moisture and nutrient levels are high. Most likely they’d be a good nutritious snack… Can’t say as much for the Kentucky Bluegrass.

The point… glyphosate is not your friend. We don’t need more of it. Tell the EPA to get out of bed with Monsanto and protect the people.

Mmmm… foooood

I like to eat… a lot… my 105 lb frame can rarely go more than a couple of hours without a bite of SOMETHING.  My primal fear of being stranded without sight of my next meal is strong and occasionally laughable. This kind of appetite can be a real annoyance. It requires forethought, time to cook and prepare, the money to purchase meals and snacks in advance and the brain space to prep and package food before leaving the house. Because I typically have less forethought than impulse to immediately satiate, my work lunch is picked up from a local joint 2-3 times a week.  The other days I’ll bring in great foods to snack on all day… homemade popcorn, fruit, veggies, scraps of leftovers….  and many of the foods are already of the “real” variety.

Aside from researching which foods will and won’t make it past these lips, food preparation and planning will be by far the most time consuming aspect of this non-GMO experience.  And I needed to go over the basics…

What do I typically eat?

Which items will need to be replaced with a “real” version?

Where do I find that item?

What can I add to my diet to bring in seasonal foods and increase variety?  

Creating a grocery list in excel turned out to be a great help.  I have a column with food type (Dairy, Meat, Produce, Snacks, etc…), item, brand and location.  I started this list a couple of weeks ago and found that I’m still adding to it, and it’s a huge help when planning trips to the markets, butcher, grocery, etc…

I was pretty surprised that most of these items I either buy already in organic or GMO free (or have easy access to), but there were others that would be more of a challenge.  It was now time for a fact finding mission.

My son and I started with a trip to our local Meijer.  For those of you who don’t live in the Michigan, Indiana, Ohio area, it’s a large chain supermarket with two great lines: Meijer Naturals (GMO free) and Meijer Organics.  During this first trip to the store we were replacing things like brown sugar, rice, canned goods, oats, etc… but mostly it was research.  It’s known that a food labeled USDA organic is GMO free and  when you see the Non-GMO Project label you’re good, but what about everything else? How do we know if the product were holding has genetically modified ingredients or not? This is where GMO labeling is critical and I encourage you to contact your state representative to push GMO labeling, but I digress…

I’ve found two resources to be helpful… NonGMOShoppingGuide.com, and Buycott phone application.  The Non-GMO Shopping Guide is a wealth of information that will leave you feeling overwhelmed at first, but trust it…. It’s like a dictionary… You don’t memorize the whole damn thing but when you need it, it’s there. And, Buycott can help you make decisions about which products you want to purchase based on the company(s) that produce it or the cause you support.  You can scan the code on your food item and it will let you know if it’s on your approved (or disapproved) list and it includes a family tree of companies. RealFarmacy.com is also a great resource and has put together a list of Monsanto owned companies that help reduce further your buying options. You should also know that just because an item is organic doesn’t mean the company who produced the item is a supporter of GMO labeling. Here’s a list of non-GMO labeling supporters.

A little piece of advice… It’s a lot easier to find products that are clearly labeled organic or GMO free than filtering out non-labeled items one by one. Go for the big labels. I was shocked and elated to find out that Trader Joe’s brand is all GMO free! I went last weekend with my new non-GMO eyes and my first thought was, why do this blog at all… Just tell everyone to shop Trader Joe’s. Obviously it’s a lot more complicated than that but the benefits of shopping there will definitely be worth the gas for the 40 mile drive.

Why have I yet to touch on price? To quote one of my favorite Facebook memes… Because I’d rather pay the farmer than the doctor.

Now I’ve completely left out the first place you should shop for food… your (organic or natural) local farmers market. You’ll be buying fresh, in season, local foods from farmers within your community. This keeps dollars local and nutritious foods in your families belly.  If you’re not sure where to find a market near you go to localharvest.org.

One bite at a time… The beginning…

Our relationship with food will be the longest, most challenging and for the unlucky few the most satisfying. As beings with a body that requires feeding we experience sensations around food that rival no other… desire, ecstasy, regret, comfort, pain, disease, power, and with a certain balance we have life.

I enjoy the experience of being alive. I want to give my body what it needs to thrive, evolve and support a life of growth, however; my responsibility doesn’t end with my own physical being. Every bite I take and product I vote for with my dollars has a history. With that choice I now become responsible for the effect that product has had on our soil, water, air, economy, and health. Life expectancy has increased and some are seeing 100+ years old, but the larger population has seen increases in disease and is battling with an unseen force that challenges the body’s impulse to live. It’s also a natural impulse to ask why…

The fact is we eat less actual food than we used to and it shouldn’t be a challenge to find fuel our bodies were actually created to consume. It’s estimated that processed food makes up 70% of the US diet. That’s up 70% since the 1940’s. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s) are now present in 75-80% of conventional processed food in the US and it’s only been since the mid 90’s that we’ve seen GM foods on our shelves. I believe genetically modified foods are only one reason our health, environment and economy are on the decline but it’s not to be ignored. The flaws in our food system at large become apparent as we observe the health of bodies and our communities, but when Pandora’s box is opened there are a slew of other issues that are just as shocking and abhorrent.

The majority of the crops we consume today have had DNA alterations by biotechnology giant Monsanto, who was once hired to create gems like DDT, PCB’s, Agent Orange and recombinant bovine somatotropin. The lines between government and this behemoth have continued to blur. Monsanto’s staff and board have placed themselves in the US government in the following positions: Congress, Senate, FDA, White House Senior Staff, US Secretary of Commerce, Policy Advisor, EPA, First Lady, US Supreme court Judge, US Secretary of Defense and the US Secretary of Agriculture.

Ok, getting ahead of myself. Who am I and what’s the point? I’m a middle class, 38 year old, married, white chick with 2 kids. I have a degree in environmental policy, I’m employed by company who installs wind and solar in the agriculture industry, drive a Subaru, garden and do yoga. Yup, I’m that girl. Now the point… walking the walk. Bitching about GMO’s on Facebook and signing petitions may raise awareness (or annoyance), and could possibly help nudge policy but does it change what I’m purchasing and putting in my mouth? Where will my $3 go when the 2:00 craving hits? What will I choose to purchase and serve my family? And, will we see a short or long term benefit from going GMO free entirely?

I’ll be spending 30 days free from consuming any product that is genetically modified. At the moment my kitchen is filled with a variety of items; some home grown, some USDA organic, some not organic but sustainably grown and yes there’s some crap… Kraft mac and cheese, frozen burritos and canned soup.

Between now and July 1st I’ll be stripping the kitchen of all items that have genetic modifications to any ingredients, and yes they’re getting tossed, not given to the neighbor. That would miss the point… We’re all better off without it.

Over the next couple of months I’ll probably touch on… What are GMO’s and how they are different from a hybrid, responsibility for the items we buy, the deal with Monsanto, politics behind GMO’s, environmental damage, potential dangers of GMO’s to the body, how to buy GMO free, where to buy and what happens when I’m starving with out any GMO-free options…

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, scientist or anyone else who has credentials that give you the illusion I’d be worth listening to. This blog is documenting my experience with going from a mixed bag diet to giving up GMOs for at least one month. I’m not claiming that GMO’s have created all ailments we see today nor do I necessarily believe I personally am going to see life changing health benefits… the good is multifaceted. My philosophy regarding our responsibility to our environment, the economy and each other is, yes, mine. I’ll be including data found from a variety of sources and I’ll cite whenever possible. I’m always open to new ideas and information so call me out and back it up if you believe me to be misled.

Here’s to the journey!