Thursday, July 18, 2013

My Hiatus and Why I'm Back

I took a hiatus from blogging - social media was detracting from my ability to develop my own thoughts independently of the 'noise' that can sometimes come from social media (albeit it well-intentioned, and sometimes correct, noise). If you've never taken such a break, I highly recommend it. Social media is great, but in a moderated dose.

But, I'm back. Who knows for how long, but for now I am. And here's why - I finally looked into one of the details of on the major issues facing our country (and the world) today; and now I have something to say to you, my readers.

Now, before I lose you - let me say this: this is important, this affects you and your kids tremendously. This is an issue you need to have an informed opinion on. And that's my goal, at least for now - just to encourage you to think about this topic and to do your own research.

We're at a period in our country's development where there is an underlying tension between safety and our rights. Where corporations can donate to campaigns and causes as if they are people, but can't be accessed or held accountable as if they are people. Where government is so big and so vague that it's hard to know what's truth and what's not. Where 'he said/she said' is the name of the game. We live in a time of fear - based on gun rights issues, based on gender/sexuality issues, based on skin color issues.

But fear cannot be our motivator - fear always acts irrationally. Fear either hides or fights, fear does not change. Fear can be a catalyst for productive thought but fear itself is not productive thought. And our fear as a nation is about to grow (and potentially be manipulated) over the most personal and ubiquitous of topics - our food. We cannot be governed by fear. We must be driven by love - for our children, for our bodies, and for our health as a nation.

Before you stop reading - hear this: I love gluten. I love dairy. I love nuts. I love butter. I love chocolate, coffee, and booze. I'm not writing this from a place of superiority - my pantry looks pretty similar to yours right now (kraft mac n'cheese, lucrene grated & string cheese, chicken of the sea tuna, kellogs nurtigrain bars). But yesterday and today my perspective on food got blown out of the water - I mean, sky high, earth shattering - out of the water. And here's why.

I stopped talking about my opinion on allergies, how to eat healthy, our cultures obsession with food, etc just long enough to listen to a few Ted Talks and watch the movie Food Inc. And then this morning, I went to a breakfast hosted by the campaign for Washington State prop 522 that goes to the ballot this November, and heard talks from Robyn O'Brien, author of The Unhealthy Truth and Joyti Stephens, Sustainability Director for Nature's Path. And here's what I learned:

* Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are in nearly 80% of all foods sold in grocery stores

* There is essentially no research done on the impact of ingesting GMOs. AKA - we don't know if they are good or bad or neutral for us.

We, as a country, have applied our 'innocent until proven guilty' principle to our food system. There are a lot of statistics that can be scary - from both sides of the argument, but here is the jist of it: we don't know if GMOs are safe and yet we allow them to be in 80% of our foods. 

And they are unlabeled. 

Every part of your car is labeled and can be traced to a manufacturer. Every part of your shirt is labeled and can be traced to a manufacturer. Every part of your mattress is labeled and can be traced to a manufacturer. But not your food. The government has decided we don't need to know what is in our food - we can own a gun, we can go to war at 18, we can demand labels on hot drinks telling us they are hot - but we don't need to know what is in our own food.

Proposition 522 would require all food companies to label food containing GMOs. Not that companies remove GMOs from products, not that GMO products be accompanied by a warning label like alcohol or tobacco, not that they be taxed extra. Just that they be labeled. Labeled. So you, the consumer, knows what you're buying and what you're feeding to your children.

In a land where we pride ourselves on access to information, and a right to choose - we are wildly amiss if we let the very substances which become our literal bodies be determined by a government or corporation.

Let me say that again - we are letting corporations and government decide the contents, unchecked, of the very (pardon the play on words) fiber of our being.

Here are some facts (and while correlation does not equal causation - correlation of this magnitude warrants some research):

64 countries worldwide require the labeling of GMOs (or ban them all together) - including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Russia, and all of Europe
(note - major companies like Coca Cola, Kellogs, PepsiCo, and Montsanto all reformat their products to provide non-GMO foods in these countries.)

Connecticut & Maine both recently passed legislation demanding the labeling of GMO-foods

The government currently uses tax payer dollars for subsidizing farmers and companies that use GMO seed and products

Organic farmers are charged fees to prove their food is organic and fees to label as organic (thurs, organic food is more expensive. It's like getting charged a fee to wear a seat belt.)

The US ranks 26th out of 29 in a recent UN Health report on children's health in the top 29 richest countries in the world

The Health Facts:

1 in 13 children have a food allergy

Hospitals reported a 265% increase in hospitalizations due to allergies between (A) 1998-2000 and (B) 2004-2006
* Commercially marketed GMO-food was first introduced in the US 1994

Cancer is now the leading cause of illness-related death for children under 15 in the US

41% of living Americans will get cancer - 1 in 2 men, and 1 in 3 women. Only 10% of cancers are genetic.

We, as a nation, spend 17c of every dollar on healthcare - we are sick, and it's hard to be a global competitor when you are sick

Major epi pin producing companies have seen a 76% increase in sales of epi pins

Our children's generation has been named generation Rx 

Our children's generation is the first generation in history that is predicted to have a shorter life span than their parents 

Let me say that again: Kai and Mika will die younger than I will. I'm predicted to live until my mid-80s. They aren't predicted to make it that long.

Those are the facts. Whether it's GMOs or something else - we are doing something majorly wrong. And if 64 countries worldwide say GMOs need to be at minimum labeled, if not illegal - well, then that is probably a good place to start.

Our family is making a shift - we're still going to eat gluten, red meat, and dairy. But it's going to be organic because we will not feed Kai and Mika genetically modified foods that parents in 64 other countries can choose no to feed their kids. USDA certified organic foods are guaranteed, trace-ably, GMO-free.

Yes, Organic is more expensive - but if more of us buy organic, it will increase demand and drive down prices. And if we demand GMO food be labeled - our major food producers will be required to adapt the foods we eat. Just like they have for all those other countries.

If you're interested in reading more/finding out more, I recommend the following:

Ted Talk by Robyn O'Brien:

Ted Talk by 11yr old Birke Baehr:

Information on Yes on 522:

The entire text of 522. Note - there WILL be a campaign against 522, there's already a website set up for it, and there will be statements made that contradict statements made by Yes on 522. Read the bill, the entire bill, if you live or vote in Washington. You have a capable mind - decide for yourself. It took me 15 minutes to read. 

This is an uncomfortable topic, and it's hard to ingest so many hard facts - and yes, it's hard to know the truth. I could list two articles back to back that say polar opposite 'truths' about an identical topic. But the following is not complicated, and should not be hard:

We have a right to know what is in our food, and a right to decide what we will feed ourselves and our children. That's not too much ask.

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