by Alexandra Lopez Reitzes
The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison. – Ann Wigmore
I LOVE to write for Ginger Moon´s weekly blog. I spend all week thinking about it, planning, cooking and writing. I love that it´s a space to celebrate and share knowledge about delicious, nutrient-rich recipes, reclaiming our healthcare, eating for environmental justice, and all the other beautiful things that Ginger Moon is about. I love that its a space to take part in the commons of free information-sharing that the internet has become, and hopefully will remain. But most of all I love that it is a way to celebrate our power: We truly can heal ourselves with food. Yay!
It was in this spirit that I opened my computer to write, and what was the first thing I saw? The breaking news that on Tuesday, March 26th, Congress passed something called the Monsanto Protection Act.
A bit of background
Wait just a minute, you say. Monsanto? The giant corporation that has flooded the world with GMOs, the genetically modified foods that scientists warn are hazardous to our health and the healthy development of our children, in part because there were no tests done (yup, not a single one) to determine their safety before they were introduced into our food supply? Yes, that Monsanto. The same Monsanto whose genetically engineered seeds easily cross-breed with nearby non-GMO plants, which means those farmers cannot grow new plants because of a “terminator gene” that has no purpose except to ensure that farmers can´t save their seed – as they have done for 10,000 years – and instead have no choice but to keep giving Monsanto their money, or abandon their farms. The very same Monsanto GMO seeds that have already forced hundreds of thousands of family farms into bankruptcy, off their land and, in many documented cases, to suicide – including 200,000 in India over just 10 years? Hold on, there’s no way that the US government would pass anything like that… Right?
Wrong. President Barack Obama signed a bill, HR 933, into law. Hidden within its pages was Section 735: the “Farmer Assurance Provision”. Written in collusion with Monsanto lobbyists, the provision makes it illegal for anyone to stop the sale or use of GMO seeds, even with proof that they harm people or the environment.
Why should you care? Kristin Michaelis sums it up well in her book, Beautiful Babies: Nutrition for Fertility, Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, & Baby´s First Foods: “If you live in the United States and you consume corn or soy products that are not explicitly labeled “organic” or “GMO free”, you are almost definitely eating genetically engineered food.” She explains that an estimated 80% of the food available in the average grocery store contains GMOs. The most common genetically modified crops are corn, soybeans, cottonseed, canola (rapeseed), sugar beets (the source of almost all sugar not explicitly labeled “cane sugar”) and papaya. In 2011, 94% of soybeans grown in the U.S. were genetically modified, as was 88% of the corn. So anything at all with soy or soy protein as an ingredient? GMO. Anything with corn or corn syrup? GMO.
Why we care at Ginger Moon
Ginger Moon is a mother owned cooperative, which means that all owners are mothers, and we serve women with the best local foods available during their childbearing year. So when I think about GMOs and their effect on babies’ development it goes way beyond me and my family. We have all eaten GMOs for years now. But I feel fine, you’re saying. Could this reall be such a bad thing? Here´s some of why it should matter to everyone – especially babies and you, if you’re pregnant, nursing or trying to become pregnant: GMOs have been found in lab mice to produce stomach ulcerations, allergic reactions, liver toxicity, pre-cancerous intestinal growth, stunted growth, kidney, liver, immune-system cell and heart enzyme malfunction and, most disturbingly, infertility. And because despite this, they are already in our food supply: the U.S. government does not regulate them or require foods containing them to be labeled, so we have no way to tell when we are eating them. And because they have been around for such a short time, no one can say what their long-term effects will be.
To date, GMOs have been banned in over 20 countries including Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, Thailand, the Philippines, Egypt, Paraguay, and Saudi Arabia to name some. Yet while many states and provinces within the U.S. have called for a ban on GMOs, or on a specific GMO crop none have succeeded. The fact that the federal government has now placed itself officially on the side of GMO producers like Monsanto is, to me, truly frightening.
So there I was, all ready to write about how we can reclaim the reproductive health and allergy-free babies of our foremothers through traditional foods, but all I could do was sit there in shock. How dare anyone endanger the food supply of the entire human race for their own profit? How dare they sneak things into my children´s lunch and my unborn niece´s placenta with no clue of the possible consequences? Instead of celebrating our power, I felt angry and powerless.
But then I remembered that with this like with most things, if you dig a little deeper and ask around, there is hope. What gives me hope in the face of the GMO giants is that there are already many thousands of people and businesses in this country, and all over the world, who are opting out of the industrial food system and creating their own. Ginger Moon is proud to be a part of this movement. Our mission is to provide our clients with the most nutritious prepared foods possible. One way we do this is to make sure that all of our ingredients are certified organic or organic in practice and therefore free of GMOs, and are sourced from local farmers whenever possible – a practice was easy to share with others since we do it in our own homes, for our own families.
What follows are four ways that I have personally found to opt out of the industrial food system. I’ll save the details of each for future posts, but in the meantime see what resonates for you from what I share below, and click on the links in this article to find out more. Even if you choose to change just one thing about your food choices, that´s one step towards better health and vitality for you, your family, your community and mother earth!
What you can do!
1. Check out all of Ginger Moon’s services at www.ginger-moon.com. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about what we offer. Take advantage of our free phone consultation or informational meeting to find out how we can help you reach your goal of a healthy, vibrant pregnancy and childbearing year.
2. Take your Great-Grandmother shopping. There are over 100 common processed food ingredients that are made from GMOs unless they are explicitly listed as organic or non-GMO. They include caramel color, xanthan gum, tocopherols (Vitamin E), soy lecithin, modified food starch, maltodextrin, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), citric acid, corn syrup, triglycerides, glucose and fructose. Michael Pollan said, in his book The Omnivore´s Dilemma, to imagine you are with your great-grandmother any time you are going to buy or eat something. If she wouldn´t recognize it, or the unpronounceable ingredients in it, then it is not what your body is meant to eat. If you’re eating for two, choosing something processed over real food fills you up with empty calories and robs your baby of nutrients. So if you’re craving baked goods get them from a bakery, not a plastic-wrapped package made to sit without spoiling for months on a supermarket shelf. Choose real, fresh, unprocessed food for your baby, and for yourself.
3. Find a farmer. Small family farms are far more likely to use traditional farming methods that are safe for you and your baby. Through a farmer´s market or a CSA (community supported agriculture program, or “farm share”), you can find produce and dairy that is organic in practice if not in certification, grown by farmers who work diligently to protect their crops and you, the consumer, from GMOs. CSAs are great because they cut down on costs since you’re buying directly from the farmer. Both farmers markets and CSAs, or “farm shares”, can be found in towns and cities all over the world. Urban areas often have strong networks of community gardens, some of which are functioning small farms that sell to their neighbors. If none of these are options, choose produce with a five digit number beginning with the number 9 or clearly labeled organic. Not only will you avoid GMOs, but because organic farming nourishes the soil instead of stripping it, you’ll be giving your baby many more times the nutrients, and none of the synthetic chemicals sprayed on industrially farmed fruits and vegetables.
4. Have a cow. Or a lamb. Or a pig. Or a fish. Buy meat from animals that ate grass and bugs instead of GMOs and antibiotics (or, in the case of fish, are wild-caught instead of farmed), and not only will you avoid passing GMOs onto your baby, but you´ll give her the protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids and linoleic acid present in large amounts in pastured animals, that she needs to develop and thrive. The problem, of course, is that it costs farmers more per animal to treat them humanely, so it costs us more to buy their meat if we do so cut by cut at a butcher or supermarket. The good news is that there are small family farms raising animals this way all over the U.S., and most are thrilled to sell directly to groups of consumers. Get some friends together who want to purchase great quality, nutrient-rich meat, and use the internet and farmers markets to search in your area for a farm you like. Ask the farmer if you can purchase an animal as a group, and soon you’ll have 5-15 cuts of traditionally and humanely raised, highly nutritious meat in your freezer for a far lower cost than if you had bought it as-needed off the shelves.
I hope that some of this has been helpful to you. I hope that you are equal parts horrified and hopeful by the state of food in the U.S. today, and that you find some of the strategies I have shared to avoid GMOs and increase your family’s
health through food to be helpful. If you do just one, just once, you will have already reclaimed your right to the food you deserve!
I have cited sources for this article by inserting hyperlinks directly into the text. Any fact that seems like it should be cited is from Kristin Michaelis´ thoroughly researched book, Beautiful Babies.Today it reminded that we CAN create the changes in we need in both our family´s nutrition and our world´s food system, one baby step at a time. Thanks Kristin!