Food


Did the USDA Just Deregulate All GMO Crops…Without Telling Anyone?.

How scary is it that American consumers, trying hard to watch what type of toxins, chemicals, genetic disruptors, etc. we ingest–we have to learn about more moves by our USDA to deregulate GMO crops. I guess it’s time to start growing a container garden! : /

…or tallow (beef fat). Or “Fatty Acids” (rendered beef fat). Dryer sheets–those static-removing sheets that we put into the dryer to eliminate irritating static cling–seem an unlikely spot to find animal products. Yet, the sheets may be coated with synthetic fragrances and a nasty helping of beef fat that is used to soften our clothes.

UGH.

So, now I have to worry about my dryer sheets as well?

You can choose to make your own dryer sheets; however, currently I am enjoying method’s squeaky clean dryer sheets for baby. These sheets are actually moist (not dry) and they can be reused, which is great, since the package has 40 sheets. I’ve successfully used one sheet three times  and my laundry feels/ smells great.

method eschews animal products and instead uses plant-based ingredients to allow for a soft, dried laundry load. method produces the sheets in different scents, including a fragrance-free option. Yet, I love the smell of the rice milk and mallow scent that is particular to their baby products. It really makes my towels smell fresh, and all of my laundry is static-free, soft, and inviting to the touch. More importantly, the laundry is not coated in unnecessary animal fat. The more opportunities I have to use products that are sustainable, and not derived from animals, the better!

You can check out method’s dryer sheets here: http://www.methodhome.com/product/squeaky-green-dryer-cloths/?free__clear  I purchased a pack of 40 sheets at my local Target. Using a coupon, I spent less than $4.00 on the item.

In an effort to pare down my ingestion of corn syrup, I went on a mission to upgrade some of my condiments. Behold, Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup. I absolutely love this ketchup! It has a tart, tomato-vinegar flavor that is fresh and authentic.  Even my picky eaters (two sons) enjoy the flavor. It’s not as sweet as the more popular, mainstream brand that is corn syrup-laden. I also love the fact that the Trader Joe’s  ketchup has its own facebook fan page:

http://www.facebook.com/organicketchup#!/organicketchup?sk=info

With only a few organic ingredients and an affordable price tag, Trader Joe’s ketchup makes it easy to swap out one HFCS condiment in my  family’s diet. I appreciate the opportunity to eat something that is simply what it SHOULD be–which is a tomato-based product, organically produced, without unnecessary additives. Also, the price (less than $3) is competitive to other brands while remaining easy on my wallet.

Check out Trader Joe’s here: http://www.traderjoes.com/index.asp  For the thrifty, note–they DO accept manufacturer coupons! Note–the company accepts coupons for items NOT under the Trader Joe’s label.

*HFCS=high fructose corn syrup.

**Ingredients in Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup: Organic tomato puree Organic sugar Salt Organic white vinegar Organic onion powder Organic spices

I’m a fan of Mark Bittman’s writing in general–especially his writing for The New York Times.  Browsing his blog, though, is also rewarding, especially for me–since my cooking chops are fairly limited without recipes, etc. If you haven’t had a chance to read Bittman’s writing concerning food, check out his blog (since you can’t really browse much of The New York Times anymore without having to pay for a subscription. The food photography is sharp and always motivates me to get to my local farmer’s market–if I can just remember that the farmer’s market is back open!

Bittman’s blog & site: http://markbittman.com/

Let’s chat for a second about the fact that Taco Bell had to do a recent media blitz and advertising campaign to deal with the exposure from a lawsuit against the company, alleging that their “ground beef mixture” was less than 36% actual beef. Just the thought of that makes me nauseous.

Yet Taco Bell, with the might of any fast-food joint that wants to keep its customers in the (faux) beef, responded with taco shells blazing:

“In response to the lawsuit, Taco Bell took out full-page ads in at least nine major newspapers, aired television spots and launched a YouTube campaign to proclaim its taco filling is 88 percent beef.”

As reported today, and in the CBS news article I quoted above, the Taco Bell lawsuit–originally filed by an Alabama law firm–has been withdrawn. Since the lawsuit happened, Taco Bell responded with the disclosure about its 88% beef. Also, Taco Bell states that it has made no changes in its recipes/ beef products.

Some may say “kudos!” to the law firm that prompted Taco Bell’s recent disclosure about what is in its beef mixture (beef nestled alongside fillers and binders. delicious!). Others may not care what they are eating, as long as it is cheap and tastes good. Yet at the heart of it is the simplicity of believing that meat is actually, well, meat. Consumers are not always aware that a simple order in a fast food restaurant isn’t simple–we don’t plan to order a ground beef taco laced with fillers, chemicals, preservatives, and binders. We expect ground beef to be just that: beef.

I’ll pass on the taco filling for now, thanks.

To read more about the dropped lawsuit, and the amazing amount of money Taco Bell spent to advertise after the “bad beef press,” click the link:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/04/19/national/main20055193.shtml

Let’s talk about a reality that we all know is true: industrial farming leads to abused, neglected, filthy, inhumanely-treated animals. There is no way around that knowledge, no matter how much factory-farmed food we eat, or how many news articles we purposely avoid in order not to confront this truth. The $7.00 for two strip steaks (USDA choice!) at my local market may seem easy on my wallet–I can instead put the savings to one drip of gasoline for my car–but I know, as so many others do, that the price is much higher. The pollution, the animal welfare, the antibiotics, the health hazards–so much goes into that $7.00 package of meat.

But what really is striking is what The New York Times published this week about states attempting to ban people from publishing photographs or video footage conveying the horrid conditions inside of factory farms.

Journalist A. G. Sulzberger, author of the article “States Look to Ban Efforts to Reveal Farm Abuse” writes:

“A bill before the Iowa legislature would make it a crime to produce, distribute or possess photos and video taken without permission at an agricultural facility. It would also criminalize lying on an application to work at an agriculture facility “with an intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner.

Similar legislation is being considered in Florida and Minnesota, part of a broader effort by large agricultural companies to pre-emptively block the kind of investigations that have left their operations uncomfortably — and unpredictably — open to scrutiny.”

It’s not hard to imagine why “large agricultural companies” would spearhead a campaign to keep their hideous practices from being captured on film and published for the populace. What is disturbing is how easily they dismiss what has been published as “inaccurate” or “misrepresentations” of what is going on in a factory farm. Yet I can’t imagine why any consumer would–rather than exert our power of choice–knowingly purchase any animal products (meat, eggs, milk, etc.) from a business that would support such a Bill. I’m wondering–what is more criminal? The empl0yee who photographs heinous animal cruelty and publishes it, or the company that knowingly allows animal abuse to continue?

Personally, I am disgusted to think that states in this country are more interested in protecting the rights of agribusiness than they are concerned with human and animal welfare. Clearly, experts have proven the detrimental effects of industrial farming–the impact that it has in polluting our environment, decaying our civility and humanity (is it really “funny” to toss live chickens into bins and joke about how their legs “fall off in the process?”), and harming our health is staggering.

So here we are, America. Let’s consider the statement by John P. Kibbie, Democrat of Emmetsburg and president of the Iowa State Senate (also taken from the same article):

“Agriculture is what Iowa is all about,” Mr. Kibbie said. “Our economy would be in the tank, big time, if it wasn’t for agriculture.”

I’ll tell you what is in the tank, Mr. Kibbie. Dead, dying, and injured animals. More animal fecal matter and its methane than can ever be productive. People eating meat that is polluted with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A respect for nature. A respect for animal welfare.

Perhaps if the government weren’t so entwined with agribusiness, we would have nothing to hide in our factory farms, or our slaughterhouses. In the meantime, Bills like this –which are designed ONLY to perpetuate bad business practices, and keep the money flowing to the agribusiness elite–reveal to consumers that there is something to hide.  And what is behind the factory farm curtain, photographed or not, is still a reality.

You can read the New York Times article HERE: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/14/us/14video.html?_r=2&ref=us

There’s no one I know who makes a concerted effort to remain ignorant. And by ignorant, I mean “not knowing” or “unaware.” While people may “not care” about certain things, like what is in our food for example, it become a different story when people remain unaware because our government doesn’t regulate or publish what is in our food.

Genetically Modified Organisms, or G.M.O’s, are here to stay in our food supply–and yet, people who are concerned with their health attempt to avoid G.M.O’s in our food. H0wever, it is becoming more difficult to avoid eating G.M.O’s or eating animals that ate G.M.O’s–etc.

As reported in The New York Times on February 15th, “In the last three weeks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved three new kinds of genetically engineered (G.E.) foods: alfalfa (which becomes hay), a type of corn grown to produce ethanol), and  sugar beets. And the approval by the Food and Drug Administration of a super-fast-growing salmon — the first genetically modified animal to be sold in the U.S., but probably not the last — may not be far behind.” –Mark Bittman, food columnist for The Times, shares his thoughts about G.M.O’s in his recent editorial entitled, “Why Aren’t G.M.O Foods Labeled?”  It’s hard to consider the concept that G.M.O foods are becoming more prevalent and “accepted” in the United States of Agribusiness, to be sure–but what is even more disconcerting is that “the  F.D.A.and the U.S.D.A. will not require any of these products, or foods containing them, to be labeled as genetically engineered, because they don’t want to ‘suggest or imply’ that these foods are ‘different.'”

Hmmm.

As far as I can tell, creating a genetically-modified organism, for the express purpose of resisting pesticides, for example–is “different” than the simple crops that my father plants in his backyard garden. Dad has to deal with ground hogs, chipmunks, tomato blights–and he hasn’t ventured into his workshop to scientifically manufacture a seed to deter nature from being nature. Obviously, my father’s labor of love–his bountiful personal garden–cannot be compared to the overflowing G.M.O soybean field or the Frankensalmon (farm) that Bittman mentions in his editorial. Yet there is something fundamentally wrong with withholding information from a consumer.

I want to know what is in my food, and I want to know why the labels won’t keep up with what is being done scientifically to our food sources. And I’m not alone. Bittman reveals that 87% of Americans want G.M.O foods labeled accordingly.

What used to be simple–growing food, buying food–has become a convoluted permuation of avoidance and deceptive marketing. When will there be some clear and direct legislation to manage the vaguery of product labels? Why should I remain ignorant to whether the salmon I purchase is factory farmed or a G.M.O product?  If the labels don’t exist, I will be buying my food “blind.”

The Bittman article is informative, interesting, and disturbing. Take a read of it and while you do, I’ll get to learning how to create a container garden this spring/ summer, so as to avoid as much G.M.O “bounty” as I can.

Why Aren’t G.M.O. Foods Labeled? http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/15/why-arent-g-m-o-foods-labeled/

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