Friday, January 28, 2011

USDA (Unbelievable Series of Disappointing Actions)

If you're a reader of this blog, you've likely already heard that the USDA lifted all restrictions on the planting of genetically altered alfalfa. If you're not in the know, this means farmers will be able to freely plant "Roundup Ready" alfalfa and then freely poison the earth with the chemical pesticide Roundup.

Most alfalfa is used a feed for livestock so it is only a matter of time before we are consuming more and more genetically altered alfalfa and the chemicals used to keep the plants alive until harvest. Yes, I am disappointed. No, I do not have the science that says all of this is bad for us. Nor do I have the science that says all of this is harmless. What I do have is common sense and a general sense of foreboding about what this means for our organic farmers and natural food and our health of our planet. I refuse to believe dumping more chemicals on the earth is good for anyone (except, of course, the people who profit from said dumping).

As I sit here hoping someone will stand up and stop this from actually happening (Michelle Obama, are you reading?), I'm left to accept the current reality and do something proactive. I have added another row to the Real Food label so, at the very least, we'd be able to see if the foods we are buying include genetically modified ingredients. And while I was at it, I included some of the other things people look for while shopping.

Now we have a label that identifies, with simple red and green, if a food is:

  • Organic
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Kosher
  • Gluten-free
  • Genetically modified
  • Irradiated
In my black-and-white thinking, zero is zero and any amount counts. In other words, the ingredients must all be organic to qualify for a green tab "O" and if there is any trace of an ingredient genetically modified the GMO tab is red. I greatly dislike that products with less than .49 grams of trans fat are allowed to say the product is trans fat free so I don't want to leave any wiggle room with the Read Food label. 

It does occur to me we could continue to add things to this label so it is no longer useful (or perhaps as useful as the nutrition information now on the back of packages). I also recognize that if we keep growing this front-of-package label there may not be room for cartoon characters and flashy colors designed to lure people to the box. Hmmmm... something to think about there. Nonetheless, I would appreciate this kind of tool when I go to the grocery store. At this rate, if I'm buying anything other than whole, real, natural food I spend quite a bit more time shopping because I'm  reading through ingredients until I find a "lesser evil" package. 

Any thoughts out there? Are these additions to the label too much or too little? Did I choose the wrong categories for the second row? Shall I simply give up and buy stock in Monsanto? 

I'm going to sit by the phone and wait for The White House to call. I am a neighbor, after all, and would be happy to pop down and give the Real Food label to Mrs. Obama and be ready to answer her questions as she calls the agency responsible for the Unbelievable Series of Disappointing Actions (aka USDA). 

The Real Food Label

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