Monday, June 22, 2009

Food for Thought



Yet another subject, that I've been wanting to blog about for ages. Food! I was sorely reminded of an aspect of the food debate that's been rubbing me the wrong way, when we had elections for the European Parliament a few weeks ago. There were free postcards, and posters in busses, cafés etc. with the picture you see above. If your French is a bit rusty, the apple on the left says "organic", the one in the middle "conventional", and the one to the right "genetically modified". This is indeed how we classify food in our parts of the world nowadays, the status quo of food labelling if you will. Can anyone else see the problem with it? I didn't give it much thought until I had kids, and really thought about what exactly it is that we put into our bodies.

My mother-in-law said something once, that made total sense to me. She (she's 60-something) said: "When I was a kid, everything was organic". Meaning, the "conventional" label used to be what we now call organic, grown without artificial pesticides, fertilizer et.al. What happened? How did we let ourselves get duped into believing that it was okay to put poison on/in our fruit and veg., in the name of streamlining, and beefing up the production and profit of our food sources. The economy, stupid. I suppose, for the sake of a better living standard (although it seems to be biting us in the ass, in all manner of ways), this was fair enough. The economy grows, and conventional wisdom says that is "good". But as we learn now, we still know not the exact, long term effects of f*cking with our food. And as I learn, mostly by reading Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food should seriously be mandatory for anyone who is literate), the "organic", "conventional" and "G.M." monikers have so many levels of understanding, you practically have to have an edumacation just to go grocery shopping.

The baseline is this: I propose we re-label our foods. G.M. is what it is. But the "organic" label needs to go. Organic IS conventional (and was for thousands of years), and should be treated as such. So what to do about the other stuff? Would it be okay to label what we now call "conventional" as "Grown with the use of artifical pesticides and fertilizers"? Pretty long name. Maybe "GWUAPAF"? "GAPF"? Or how about just having a little picture of a devil on it? Ok, that's going overboard. I know a lot of people do not buy organic out of the principle, that it is unfair to the third world. Haven't quite gotten my head around that one yet, seeing as I don't see the connection between eating pesticides and helping the third world, but I suspect it is not without some validity.

I'll leave you with something I just read by Pollan. He tells of early pioneers in the field of fertilizing, breaking down the active components of nutrient rich soil to just three things, and basing all artificial fertilizers on a concentrated form of them. He also tells of the coca plant, which humans have been ingesting without ill effects, and how the three active ingredients in it are the same three active ingredients concentrated in cocaine and crack, which as we know is not good for the human body. Things that make you go, "hmm".

11 comments:

Juliet said...

I'm interested in reading that book now. Of course, knowing me, it would make me super paranoid. I always do try and me cautious about the foods I give my family. It is just so hard to know these days.

Jennie said...

I recommend it! It's luckily not one of those that makes you paranoid. It just makes you think, and will help possibly make better choices!

Indra said...

Amen! Go Jennie!

Andrew said...

Interesting blog. It's when we live away from home we know what makes us.

Jennie said...

Indra - Thanks hon! Now, how to implement my little scheme?!

Andrew - Thank you! That is very true indeed.

jen said...

this is really an interesting subject. actually quite amazing how in the last century we did this huge jump from small-scale food production to large-scale chemical-infused food manufacturing, playing around with genetics as well. also reading the book you gave me doesn't help in my feeling better. also I feel helpless, people in poland who until shortly have actually grown produce and kept cows like they did hundred years ago are going bankrupt because since they belong to the EU big corperations set up intensive-farming facilities that produce much cheaper food. but at what cost? this makes me so sad. also how could eating organic affect the third world? the problem is that we export food at such competitive prices to, for example, africa, that farmers there have no way of selling their produce for a reasonable price and also their land is used for corn or soy to fatten up our livestock (like in brasil), leaving them with nothing. how did this happen? we have to stop exploiting other countries for our food production, growing what we can in our countries and educate them about sustainable farming to produce food for their country. and yes, even if that means I cannot have strawberries in winter, but who wants that anyway? maybe I'm terribly wrong here and over-simplifying, but it's just so confusing and infuriating.

Jennie said...

Jen - I wholeheartedly agree with you. While I surely will miss bananas and avocados after peak oil (or maybe we'll just grow them ourselves?), we can't continue this fuel consuming cross continental exchange. And the price most certainly doen't reflect the true cost of our food (only the organic stuff, ouch).

Natasha said...

Loving this song Rainbowarriors by Coco Rosie.

Thanks for stopping by and for your comment. I think the comment you responded to was perfectly fair because I do harp on about being nonjudgmental. :-)

Jennie said...

Natasha - this song is the theme of my summer! Thanks for looking over :-)

mina said...

great post. my mom used to always buy the cheap delicious produce from asian markets but now i know most of that stuff comes from china and obviously most is not organic. here in denmark i try to buy either organic or at least from within the country.

Maybe "GWUAPAF"? "GAPF"? Or how about just having a little picture of a devil on it?

hah!

Jennie said...

mina - thanks! Glad to liked it. I can't even go to a restaurant nowadays w/o pouring over my food, scrutinizing its quality, freshness etc. I only feel "safe" when I do the shopping myself!