Simply, Your Right to Know


If buying a car, do you thoroughly research the brand whether Toyota or Chevy? Answer is probably “Yes!” You scour the Internet, take that token day trip to multiple car dealers with your list of questions and test drive autos to utter insanity. Hey if you’re going to spend that amount of money, you better know what you are getting yourself into!

Funny thing is that in the three decades that I have been into food, I have rarely met a person who gives the same amount of thought to what they put in their body as they do to the car that they aim to buy. Is a car really more important than your health? The answer is, “No”. But the question remains—why don’t most people act otherwise…

The simple answer is that food marketing has faked you out! You want to believe everything food producers tell you whether through ads, packaging or even those in-store product pushes. It’s a heck of a lot easier to grab and go. And so long as a food is low in fat, sugar and calories you’re sold! Well think again, cause sadly labels lie. And your health is not only about the grams of fat or sugar and calories—it’s also about the ingredients and where they came from.

Speaking of which, many of the substances in your food today come from genetically modified crops (commonly referred to as GMO’s)—plants birthed from seeds that have been altered by science for supposed agricultural and health benefits when the truth is that there are significant questions about their safety for human consumption. In fact, here are some of the top crop contenders that have infiltrated the food supply:

  1. Alfalfa
  2. Canola (roughly 90% of US crop)
  3. Corn (roughly 88% of US crop)
  4. Cotton (roughly 90% of US crop)
  5. Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop)
  6. Soy (roughly 94% of US crop)
  7. Sugar beets (roughly 95% of US crop)
  8. Zucchini and yellow squash (25,000 acres worth)

And many other plants are monitored regularly for GMO contamination including chard, kale, bok choy, cabbage, various squash, flax and rice.

What is critical to understand is that a large portion of the ingredients in food products today from breads and cereals to snacks, sweets and beverages are derived from those top GMO crops. To name a few:

  1. Amino acids—found in supplements, protein powders
  2. Aspartame—found in NutraSweet and Equal as well as many “sugar-free” products
  3. Ascorbic acid—also called Vitamin C and used as a preservative in many foods
  4. Beet sugar—found as a sweetener in many beverages
  5. Cottonseed oil—found in many snacks such as chips, crackers, nut mixes and sweets
  6. Canola oil— found in many snacks such as chips, crackers, nut mixes and sweets
  7. Soy protein isolates—found in many “high protein” products like shakes, bars, cereals and many snacks like chips and even cookies
  8. Textured vegetable protein—found in many vegetarian packaged foods such as soups, chili and fake meats
  9. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein—also found in many vegetarian packaged foods such as soups, chili and fake meats
  10. Soy sauce
  11. High fructose corn syrup (corn syrup)—found in a majority of packaged foods such as cereals, snacks and sweets
  12. Maltodextrins—a common starchy food additive found in many packaged foods including snacks and sweets
  13. Molasses
  14. Monosodium glutamate (MSG)—a flavor enhancer found in many packaged soups, flavored grain products and commonly used in Chinese food
  15. Xanthan gum—found in many packaged foods from soups to snacks
  16. Vitamins—whether in supplement form or in your food

And it doesn’t stop there! Interested in knowing more? Then check out the Non-GMO Project’s Shopping Guide, a smart phone app that will give you facts at your fingertips while you peruse the aisles.

So, now you know that a large percentage of the food you eat is somehow touched by genetic modification—an overwhelming fact. You have been a science experiment for biotech giants like Monsanto and Syngenta for years without knowing it. See, labels don’t always tell the truth about your food!

Whether or not you choose to eat GMO’s is up to you. But right now you don’t even have that choice because there is NO mandatory labeling for these altered ingredients (despite the fact that labeling is mandatory in many other parts of the world). But there is plenty you can do to navigate GMO’s and exercise your right to know:

  1. If your food is organic, you can rest assured that GMO’s are not part of the “package”
  2. The Non-GMO Project launched a certification program so when you see their logo you can feel safe that your eats are not altered
  3. There is now a state-to-state right to know fight that you can join. See what your state is doing and join the party! With your help, labeling could eventually be required in your area. See what is going on in New York and please take action!
  4. And Just Label It continues to push the Federal government to take action so GMO labeling will one day be mandatory across the country. You can take action here too

A student of mine recently asked, “Knowing all that you know about food, how do you actually eat and enjoy.” My answer, “With all that I know, I have learned how to navigate this food system gone awry but I still have to be realistic and understand that I can’t be purest all of the time. We can all only do the best we can with what we have.”

Sadly our food system will always be corrupt on some level so the more you know, the better informed you are to make the right choices for you (and they don’t need to be perfect all of the time). Now you have more tools to put the same amount of thought into your food as you do when you buy that car!

Catch me this Saturday, May 25th at 2pm at Kirk Park in Montauk, NY for the March Against Monsanto—a gathering to learn more, exercise YOUR RIGHT TO KNOW and bless the good food that we do have! As always, let’s keep this conversation going. Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions. I would love to hear from you!

And, don’t forget to tune in to Stirring the Pot on WPPB 88.3 FM Thursdays at 5:30pm (with an encore Saturdays at 5pm) for Your Right to Know GMO’s. And surely check out theWeekly Yum Recipe.

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