Monday, July 9, 2007

What are you eating?

I'm sure we all have quirky little things we love to eat that would make others cringe. I know I do. Maybe yours is pickles and ice cream. Mine is a bizarre mixture of peanut butter, syrup and butter (because, apparently peanut butter isn't fattening enough on its own) that my grandmother used to make me. Comfort food at its nastiest. It's all sort of homemade, though, and if I use organic plain peanut butter, organic maple syrup and organic butter, I pretty much know what's in it, at least.

Can you really say the same about your favorite snack foods or that microwave dinner you love so much after a hard day's work? How about your breakfast cereal or the baby formula you give your precious bundle of joy? Do you even know what's in them? A bit of sugar, some kind of grain, maybe, but is that all? What would you say if I told you many of your favorite foods most likely had Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) in them? Would they taste as good then? They wouldn't to me.

What can you do, though, since none of this is written anywhere on the packaging? Luckily, these days, if we know where to look, someone else has usually done the leg work for us, and we get to kick back and read their findings. That's what I did today, and I was both very interested as well as quite disturbed by what I found. In the US, for example, you can almost always count on the fact that if you're eating a product made by a large company, there will most likely be some GMO's in them somewhere. Post, General Mills, Kellogg's, Kraft, Mars, Nestle, Quaker - the list goes on and on. Granted, they buy their raw materials from so many producers, I'm sure it can be hard to trace their exact origins, but are you okay with that? I'm not. I don't find it alright to feed the people of the world with experimental organisms without at least the presence of proper labeling to inform the consumer of what they're ingesting.

We are not completely helpless in this matter, though. In fact, if large numbers of consumers voice such concerns by boycotting brands that offer up GMO's with a side of fries, perhaps these large corporations will find it a little easier to trace their ingredients back to more reliable, less suspect growing practices that the majority of consumers don't find inappropriate (sure, there are people who are all for the use of GMO's as a way of fighting world hunger or other problems, but studies have found that a full 2/3rds of people polled are either against it or at least unsure). Is it fair to sneak such ingredients into the general food supply without first warning consumers of what they are purchasing? If you don't think so, you may want to have a look at these lists to get a better idea of which products you can safely purchase and those you may want to avoid.

In the US (there are several multi-national corporations on this list): True Food Now

In France: Greenpeace

Have a little peek before your next shopping trip. You may find some products you'd rather do without next time. If you're curious about brands in your own country, you may want to try doing a little internet search for GMO and "list" (in your own language, of course). That's all I did, and the results were quite eye-opening.

Note: Almost any non-organic prepackage food containing corn syrup or soya lecithin in it will probably have GMO's. Those are two of the most genetically modified plants around. And, since corn is fed to all kinds of livestock, that's why see milk products and meats listed as GMO containing foods (not because the animals themselves have been genetically modified, but because, if they're eating modified foods, the meat and milk produced from them will contain GMO's as well).