Everything You Eat Will Kill You

GMOs, Organics and Food Choices


Nobody has anything against papaya, right? (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.)

Someone recently mentioned a post that I wrote years ago about how I didn’t believe in organic stuff, and I thought that I should probably explain.

I probably gave less thought to what I ate when I was in my 20s and early 30s. And then I was pregnant with The Assistant. When you know that your body is host to a human-building factory, you re-evaluate the way you look at food. (The foods that you can tolerate the smell, taste and texture of, that is. Hormones are weird.) So this is something that I’ve spent plenty of time thinking about over the past eight years.

Now obviously, if given a choice, I prefer produce without pesticides, meat and milk without hormones and antibiotics. But there are lots of gray zones. At the farmer’s market, you often hear customers asking vendors if the produce is organic. Many of the vendors have to explain that their crops are transitional — grown according to organic principles, but not yet “certified” organic because of bureaucratic paperwork. This causes tremendous confusion with customers. “But wait, are they organic or not?” “Well, we can’t call them organic because we haven’t gotten our certification, but we grow them in the same way as organic farms.” I can’t tell you how many customers I’ve seen walk away because something doesn’t have an organic label.

As for GMOs, I want to avoid them whenever possible. Thing is, I don’t actually believe that we’ve kept GMOs out of the food supply, or that a farmer can guarantee that their crops are unmodified. I appreciate that they want to be GMO-free, but….

Meanwhile, on every form of social media I’m being inundated by posts from well-meaning friends who insist that everything you eat will kill you. This one is anti-dairy. That one swears that gluten is the source of all evil. A third is vehemently anti-soy in all forms. On the flip side of that are the all-organic vegans for whom non-GMO soy is a viable source of protein.¬†Another is Paleo obsessed, which they position as a whole foods diet, but I struggle to understand the health of a diet that allows unlimited bacon, but denies oats or yogurt. You can’t have sugar in any form, but stevia is ok. You can’t have honey because it’s contaminated. You can’t have salt in any form.

The fact of the matter is that if I didn’t eat something that these knowledgeable, food-educated people have blacklisted, I probably would be limited to nothing more than organic apples and green tea. (Has anyone posted a screed about either one yet?) Honestly, I don’t believe that there’s anything in our food supply that’s 100% safe anymore.

So what’s a moderately health-conscious mother to do? I try to grow my own herbs and tomatoes, but with this year’s extreme drought I honestly don’t know if a water-intensive crop like tomatoes is even a practical choice. I’m buying less meat, but from better sources. I go to the farmer’s market whenever our Saturday morning sports schedule allows, and try to buy as local as possible when it doesn’t.

Fact is, I don’t have the answer, and I don’t know that there is any one right answer. I do my best, try to feed my family real foods with real ingredients whenever possible, but the more I think about it, the harder it gets. Sometimes I wish that I could just stop thinking about it at all and eat Velveeta, Doritos and Coke. But not together. I do have standards here, people.

How do you handle the overwhelming amount of food information that’s coming at you?

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One Response

  1. When we get back to DC we plan to join the CSA that includes meat, eggs, and dairy along with produce, but here in Okinawa we’re kind of stuck with what we can get. We try to eat minimally processed food as much as possible and Raj started gardening. So far, we’ve had cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, and eggplant from the back yard, but herbs haven’t been doing well outside here.

    There are farmers’ market-like stores here, but I’m already at the commissary so I end up just buying my produce there, even though it’s not as fresh because it mostly comes from the US. I think I need to start backwards meal planning like I did when we had the CSA. Get produce, plan meals around it, buy additional ingredients.

    I feel like there’s so much fear-mongering around GMOs that I don’t know what to actually believe, so it’s not something I put much thought into.

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