Most of us have become disconnected from our food. We no longer see it grown, do not work to produce it and do not have relationships with the people who sell it. This is a dangerous situation for our health and that of the planet. If you have not tried to grow something edible in the last year, do so. Buy an herb plant for your window or if you are lucky enough to have a garden, pick a seasonal vegetable. Then, attend to that plant as best you can and imagine doing so for nearly everything you eat. It is totally possible to spend months growing a strawberry plant in a window box and produce a whopping four strawberries. Respect the food you eat and learn about how it is produced.
Food has become packaged, processed and preserved. A great general rule of thumb is to buy foods with ingredients that you recognize. The chemicals used as artificial flavors, colors, preservative on top of those used to grow the food items in the first place end up in our bodies. Literally in our cells. We do not poop out all of the bad stuff and keep only things that are truly good for us in our bodies. Imagine putting a white carnation flower into a vase of water with blue food coloring and watching the blue travel up the flower and into the petals. This is not too dissimilar to what happens when you drink a corn syrup and preservative- laden soda.
Purchasing food that is grown locally maintains local agriculture and means the food travels shorter distances (You can define what local means to you depending upon the product. If you live in California, you have no reason not to buy wine, beer, olive oil, flowers, fruits and vegetables all from the state. If you live in Montana, wine that comes from California travels a shorter distance than Italian or New Zealand wine does, etc.) Farmers markets and many food cooperatives are excellent ways to find products grown close to home. In addition, they tend to be exciting cultural centers, possibly located outside much of the year and family- friendly.
Author Michael Pollan (www.michaelpollan.com) articulates beautifully the major questions around food production, the environment, community, nature and our bodies. If you are seeking an opportunity for thoughtful review to your approach to food and food production, please read his work.
Organic food and food labels: what is the big deal?
It can feel confusing and deceptive to purchase organic food until you have made the decision to really understand what organic food is. The expense of organic food tends to be greater then foods produced ‘conventionally’, meaning with pesticides, fungicides, genetic modification, etc. The irony about calling food produced with chemicals and formulas from a laboratory, tested on animals to see how much can be ingested before it kills, ‘conventional’ is great. Think about the added cost or effort required to acquire organic or pesticide-free foods as an investment in your own health, that of your loved ones and of the natural world. There is already a huge amount of growth in the organic food movement. The trick will be balancing greater demand for organic products with focusing production on small farms and companies. Organic food is not meant to be produced in huge warehouses and driven all over the country.
Here is some excellent background on organic foods:
The Institute of Food Science & Technology (www.ifst.org) adopted the following updated Information Statement on the organic movement during 2005:
"The last few years have seen significantly increased interest in organic food, that is, food grown using those husbandry principles and techniques that predated the introduction of modern agrochemicals and intensive farming methods. These husbandry principles are now applied with the benefit of modern scientific understanding and technologies to give a more sustainable system of food production. However organic food production in the developed world is still dependent on fossil fuels for production, transport and processing."
Worldwide principles for organic agriculture are defined by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) (www.ifoam.org) as detailed below: