With this month winding down, I'm happy to get back to more 'normal' ways of eating, I'm also disturbed that I'm looking forward to getting back to them, since I now *really* know what's in the food we often eat. And we're people who try to keep an eye on where our food is coming from generally, which proves to me that GMOs are in almost everything.
Last week the public school germs struck, turning my house into the House of Disease. I think (I hope!) I’ve nursed my family back to health, but we crashed and burned on the Nonsanto front. Does any other child of the seventies crave crap when they’re sick? Like, drive-through-vertical-integration-hockey-pucks-for-hamburgers crap? For some reason, that’s always what I remember my parents getting me to eat when I was sick but well enough to graduate from noodles with butter, and so that’s what I crave when I’m sick to this day. Who knows why I don’t crave chicken noodle soup from a can…
I managed to avoid major junky food while sick last week, and got a decent vat of Nonsanto soup going, but I have to admit I’m tired of cooking at home, tired of thinking ahead, tired of obsessively meal planning. Frankly, tired of trying to feed my family food that I feel is healthy for them without going crazy. But that’s what you have to do to avoid GMOs in your food these days. This point was driven home over the weekend, while I was listening to the radio (and cooking a Nonsanto meal, natch). Marketplace Money ran a story about Prop 37, and the statistics caused the host to say “Really? <sigh> WOW.” I said something similar – though admittedly a bit more colorful. Estimates in California say that between 40-70% of food in grocery stores would need to be labeled. More than 90% of soy and almost 90% of corn in the US are genetically modified, too.
This was on my mind while I ate a burrito a few weeks ago from Chipotle, which markets ‘Food with Integrity.’ Good choice for healthy food if you’re stuck, no? Yeeeahhhh…… not really. I don’t really recommend reading an article about what’s wrong with your burrito while you’re actually eating your burrito. I managed to finish my meal, but talked to a worker later, and found out that soybean oil (you know, that’s more than 90% GMO in this country) is in almost everything warm. As in, the rice, the tortilla fryer, marinade for all the meats except the carnitas, and the fajita veggies. And I love the fajita veggies, darnit. Maybe I’m naïve, but when I go to the grocery store, I don’t even recall seeing soybean oil as an option in the cooking oils aisle. Olive, vegetable (which could be soy, I admit), peanut, canola, sunflower… sure. But it honestly never occurred to me that restaurants would lean on soybean oil so heavily in their cooking. So now I’m sticking to a salad with carnitas and salsa if I go back.
The more roadblocks I run up against in this experiment, the more I appreciate the need for labels. Unless you make it yourself, you just don’t know what’s in your food.
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Photo: my favorite (mostly) Nonsanto meal of the week. Wild-caught salmon, CSA broccoli, CSA mashed potatoes, homemade applesauce.
I’m through my first Nonsanto week, and holy crap is this hard. Let me repeat that – attempting to avoid GMOs in everyday life is really !@#$%^&* HARD. I did great the first day, but crashed and burned pretty quickly. It didn’t help that on day two, I had to get up for work super early to be home in time for the kid handoff so my husband could teach that night. Of course, I didn’t realize until I was halfway to work that I had forgotten to pack either breakfast or lunch for that day. So much for feeling smug and righteous in my food choices.
Now that we’re a week in, we’re settling in to a better routine. Dinners are usually Nonsanto – roasted chicken with CSA veggies, roasted mushroom soup with a side of late harvest CSA corn, etc. – with lunches either leftovers from the previous day or simple sandwiches with non-GMO cheese and tomato, and breakfast of local eggs and breakfast meats or organic steel cut oats. I’m doing my best to get over my distaste of leftovers, and have found that I’m using my CSA veggies faster (which is definitely a good thing).
I’ve also found that one of my best allies in this exercise is my grocery shopping adversary. I know I’m not alone in my love/hate relationship with Whole Foods Market. Where I live, it’s the closest major grocery store to my house – but it’s also significantly more expensive than the ‘regular’ grocery store. It’s a Mecca for liberal foodies – but its CEO is a vocal anti-union libertarian who thinks health insurance should have no government intervention, certainly not typical liberal views. It sucks me in with its serene shopping environment – but half the time I feel like a chump for shopping there.
For Nonsanto’s sake, it’s a good source of food for this month. Their store brand (365 Everyday Value) are sourced to avoid GMOs, and according to their website, are enrolled in the Non-GMO Project. The times I’ve been in the store actively looking for the Non-GMO Project label, it’s been easy to find. And their organic selection is one of the largest you can find around here.
I still feel a little dirty when I shop there, though. And I’m not the only one. Critics have described Whole Foods’ support of Proposition 37 as ‘lukewarm,’ and pointed out the hypocrisy of not financially supporting the Prop 37 campaign when they ponied up $180K to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act. And the Cornucopia Institute (who just updated their Prop 37 poster of backers and opponents) also calls out Whole Foods for being ‘conspicuously absent’ in their financial support of Prop 37. For many, it feels like the company is talking out of both sides of their mouth – doing just enough to make the bleeding hearts feel like they’re supporting Prop 37, while not doing too much to anger their food supplies which may contain GMOs. I guess it’s too much to ask to have a company work in its customers’ best interests?
Sources for this post:
Image: Cornucopia Institute
While Monday was the “official” beginning of Month Without Monsanto, last night was the first chance I had to gather with my co-conspirators who are also participating. Each month, Victory Garden Initiative (the organization I work for) throws an open potluck. Those who had agreed to join in the #Nonsanto fun came to the potluck, and I was also able to throw in a plug for others to join us. All in all, we had about 20 people present, though not all decided to jump on the #Nonsanto wagon. I was surprised but pleased by everyone’s reaction to my pitch for the Month Without Monsanto experiment. It turns out that a bunch of people who show up to our monthly Eat & Meet are pretty savvy about the dangers of pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, and Monsanto in general. What ensued was a lively, far-ranging discussion; frombees dying en masse due to pesticide exposure (thanks, Monsanto!), to GMO labeling issues, to the importance of preserving food as a sort of personal insurance policy. You know, just in case we accidentally kill all the bees and there’s not enough food to eat.
I left last night feeling angry at the industrial food system, but also duped. We’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by thinking that regulating agencies like the FDA, EPA, and USDA will protect us from the dangers of products which are toxic to humans—pesticides that we put on our food. Is it just me, or does putting anything with the suffix “-cide” (Latin for kill) on our food seem like a bad idea?
I’m more convinced than ever that going 100% organic is something I’d like to commit to long term (keeping almost all -cides off of my food). For this month, we’re all committing to going as #Nonsanto as we possibly can, and learning a lot in the process. That means researching companies, interrogating farmers about their seed sources, and at the very least purchasing 100% USDA organic foods. I’m personally not throwing anything out—I made applesauce from some conventional apples someone gave me—but as I go through the month I hope to gradually step up my #Nonsanto level.
It’s not going to be easy: Today I got a potato chip halfway into my mouth before I realized it had Monsanto written all over it. For lunches, I’m currently living off a giant vat of #Nonsanto soup made from organic veggies and a local, free range chicken. Breakfast yesterday was carrot sticks, and dinner was….a compromise. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how many layers of the food system Monsanto penetrates. On the upside, I’m spending more time in my kitchen and not caving to the temptation of eating lunch out.
Best of all, I’m going to have to rely on my #Nonsanto co-conspirators to get through this. Here’s to all of us!
Sources for this post:
A great run-down of bees, neonicotinoid pesticides, and why this is a perfect storm of awful: http://www.occupymonsanto360.
Picture: Our #Nonsanto Group. Left to Right: Brian, Pamela, Robert, Me, and Pauline (front)
I made it through my first Nonsanto day, with only one slip-up. Not bad, considering Mondays are my family's crazy days, I hadn't sorted anything out for dinner until about 4:30, and the remnants of a GI bug are still working its way through my house (thanks, public school germs).
So here's my food play-by-play for the day:
- Breakfast: fried egg from my favorite local farmer, apple from my CSA
Two and a half years ago I lived for one whole month without eating, wearing or washing with any Monsanto products.
I undertook this admittedly unusual project for one very simple reason. It was not (as I was often misquoted as saying) because I saw Food, Inc. It was also not to put Monsanto out of business by boycotting their products (the idea that Monsanto gives a damn what one woman chooses to eat or not eat is frankly laughable). It was, in fact, that I was curious.
I had recently become aware of Monsanto as a company, and was curious just how much of my food originated with them. I was a new mother at the time, and I was skeptical that GMO’s were as safe as the government said they were, especially since I had heard that many countries in Europe refused to allow them to be sold in markets there. In retrospect, I now realize that the thing I was really interested in investigating was how much of my food contained genetically modified ingredients, but A Month Without GMO’s didn’t have as nice a ring to it, and given that Monsanto is one of the biggest producers of GMOs, I settled on A Month Without Monsanto.
Oh, what a little alliteration can do.
Because, as I now know, Monsanto is so much more than GMO. Yes, that’s a biggie for them, but they have also been buying up seed companies for decades. Even organic farmers, using all organic farming methods, can easily buy seeds from Monsanto subsidiaries, without ever knowing it (if they don’t do their homework). Seeds that are not genetically modified can still be classified as organic, even if they’re owned by Monsanto. What’s more, Monsanto is the biggest seller of cottonseeds, both in the US and abroad. So if you wear non-organic cotton, you’re wearing Monsanto. And that shampoo you spent too much on? That soy that leaves your hair so nice and shiny? Monsanto. And don’t even get me started on the ethanol in your gas tank – it’s made from Monsanto corn. It is ridiculously hard to avoid Monsanto. I mean stupid-hard.
So why do it?
Well, as I said, I was curious. I was also a grad student, with plenty of time to spend talking to farmers and food processors, to trace down the origin of the ingredients in their products. Since then, I’ve had another baby and landed a full time job, making me a working mother of two.
When Cassie and I started the Digging Deep website, we knew we wanted to repeat the Month Without Monsanto experiment, but the right time never seemed to present itself. Instead we focused on building up our team of bloggers to ask other questions about food, and I could not be more proud of what has evolved from our work. But the Month Without Monsanto always hovered close, just waiting for the right time. And it turns out, that time is now.
You see, on Tuesday, November 6th, just five weeks from now, California will vote on Prop 37 – an initiative that would require labels for foods containing genetically modified ingredients. What better way to show how little we know about GMOs in our foods than to struggle to avoid them for a whole month?
So here we go.
I’ll be honest, I’m daunted. As I mentioned, I don’t have the same time to spend on this as I did two years ago, so I’m setting guidelines that work for me. I am committing to cooking entirely #Nonsanto dinners for my family and me for the month of October. I’ve talked with the farmers at my local farmers market to find out which ones buy #Nonsanto seeds. I know which vendors sell meat that was not raised on Monsanto grain. I even know a few processed foods that don’t contain Monsanto products.
I’d like to take this opportunity to invite you to join us. Maybe you’ve been doing the organic thing for years now and you’re ready to tackle the #Nonsanto challenge for a full month. Or maybe you’re like me and the idea of adding anything to your plate (literal or metaphorical) is overwhelming. In that case, set a goal. If a month of #Nonsanto dinners still feels like too much, maybe you commit to just doing Sunday dinners. Even if you just pick one day in October to go Monsanto-free, we’re excited to have you on board and we hope you’ll share what you learn along the way.
I’ll be posting my #Nonsanto dinner recipes as I come up with them. As of right now, it’s looking like it will be mostly Lundberg Rice and veggies, with the occasional Annie’s Mac and Cheese, but I’m hoping that list will expand.
It’s going to be a long month.