Recently I was tasked with teaching a group of people I work with what GMOs (genetically modified organisms), rBST, artificial flavors, and colors are and why we are starting to talk about them as a company.
My purpose was not to scare anyone or to take a political stance; I just wanted to share facts, show them how food has changed and maybe get them to understand that paying attention to these things is important to them and for our business.
As I was talking, and for sure once I finished, I got the feeling that even though I slimmed down the complicated content, packaged it simply, and presented it with gusto, all of this stuff is still super confusing.
It wasn’t confusing because I was talking to a bunch of dummies, they weren’t. It was confusing because of all the chemical names and initials, and pesticides and warnings are foreign and scary to hear. Confusing because no one can fathom that these things are purposely being added to our food, with permission, pretty much without our knowledge. Confusing because other developed countries in the world have outright banned these things and confusing because the people who regulate our food and the scientists who study it, don’t seem to agree about what these things can do to our bodies. It is understandable that some people have stopped listening.
But I think we need to get them to listen.
I keep thinking about why I pay attention, and it is mostly because I am a food professional who reads a lot, eats a lot, I like cooking, and the evidence of bad food practices and their health implications seem pretty strong. But the biggest reason I steer clear of these things is because food without these chemicals actually tastes better. There’s a difference!
Have you ever tasted a locally grown, just a few hours from the soil, organic pesticide free carrot, side by side with a conventionally grown, machine shaped baby carrot? Try a carrot taste test. Go to a farmer’s market or even just your grocery store and buy a bag of organic carrots. Then buy a bag of the little ones.
Taste them side by side. It is startling. If you haven’t eaten one of the first ones lately, you will be pleasantly reminded of a carrot you may have known long ago, sweet, crunchy, a little imperfect, a carrot with the flavor of a carrot! Who knew a carrot could be so delicious? You can do this same side by side taste test with green beans and whole chickens too, anything really. Same results. Motivational taste differences!
There are a lot of things going on in our food world. Some scary, some super exciting. I happen to think there is a need for change and there are big forces working against that change. But instead of talking about all the big chemical words, illnesses, ecological implications and nutritional claims made by the big companies that want you to buy their products, maybe we should make the conversation more simple.
Simple like having conversations about farmer’s markets, organic, locally produced food and why those things are worth your attention. Or conversations about knowing your farmer, cooking at home and how to make this food affordable. Maybe a conversation less about scary chemicals and health problems and more about eating the best food we possibly can, because it tastes good. Maybe that is the place to start.
Food that is grown and raised without these chemicals and additives tastes better, and when you experience that taste difference, maybe that’s motivation enough to change how you eat. Motivation that could start with a carrot.
There is a vast amount of information on the internet. If you are interested in simple definitions and regulations related to organic food check out the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) website.
The nongmoproject.org is an advocacy organization that has information about GMOs.
A very easy to read, informative blog post, though older, provides one author’s opinion about organic food. What Does Organic Really Mean, and Is It Worth My Money?