Friday, September 28, 2012

Arsenic...GMOs...where does it end?

I've been sad this week in a way that I can't seem to shake. Usually, I can turn bad news upside down and find a way to be positive and optimistic about its significance. But this week, news of arsenic in our food coming to me on the heels of an article detailing the results of studies on GMOs and their affect on health, has made me downright depressed.

I'll admit it, I rolled my eyes and pshawed when my mom told me that now arsenic had been found in rice, chalking it up to a sensationalist media trying to scare up news on a slow day. After all, there are entire cultures that include rice as a staple of their diets. People have been eating rice for eons without trouble.

Well, almost. People have been eating rice for eons, but not necessarily the rice we eat now. No, these days it seems that food is one thing you don't want to "buy American." I came to this decision when the latest issue of Consumer Reports landed in my mailbox. Right there on page 22 was an article titled, "Arsenic in your food," with the subheading, "our findings show a real need for federal standards for this toxin."

My heart sank and I began to feel sick. For the past six months or so, my baby has eaten brown rice at least a few times a week, and the little "Cheerios" I give him to snack on are actually made from organic brown rice. Brown rice is perfect for baby casseroles, mixed with little veggies, beans, and cheese. He loves it. And I do, too. The Black Bean Jambalaya recipe I posted last week, along with other favorites from my Louisiana upbringing - red beans and rice, gumbo, you name it - all feature rice prominently, and I have lapped it up like a puppy my entire life. Now I feel like I have been spooning little bites of cancer into my baby's mouth, telling him how he was growing to be such a healthy boy.

But more than that, I just felt violated. I had also recently read this article sent by a friend about the results of studies conducted to determine the long-term effects of GMOs - genetically modified organisms - in our food. 

"Safe" levels of GMOs can cause tumors and multiple organ damage

In short, it isn't good: tumors, organ damage, etc. GMOs are in more than we think, and the latest news from TakePart tells us that regulation for labeling of GMOs is still a long way off, which means we are likely eating them and don't even know it.

And what sickens me even more is that fruits, vegetables, and grains should be safe. Sure, when you buy packaged food you know you're likely getting crap. Even the stuff with the organic label. Preservatives and sugar and preservatives and sugar no matter how brown the package is or how many solemn farmers are on the front of the label. But produce? Even if you don't buy organic - which many people do not either because of cost or lack of access in their community - fruits, vegetables, and grains should be safe. 

Now, it feels like even that is questionable. 

As I went through my pantry and freezer tossing our rice and the cute little frozen muffins of baby food into the trash, I began to get angry. As I studied the labels of the few processed foods I do buy to look for hidden sources of arsenic rice, I got downright pissed off. 

Of course, the FDA says that there is no need to freak out about any of this and that we should not change our eating habits because of a little bit of poison - an actual poison, I'm not just being dramatic - in our food. 

And of course they do. The food industry is a very powerful and intimidating lobby.

What the hell? Where does this end? At what point will the health and safety of human lives take precedence over profit and business? 

Get out there and get healthy today, working for change in the way our food is grown, regulated, and distributed. It will take a lot of people demanding change - and voting with their forks and wallets - but it can happen. 

We deserve better.

1 comment:

Ellen said...

I'm not sure what's worse, the presence of the arsenic and the GMOs in so much of our food, or the number of "healthy" companies that are owned by and therefore indirectly contributing to the defeat of Prop 37.

Kashi Go Lean is (was!) my go-to healthy snack to keep me full and fueled up at work. After reading this link from your blog: "Which 'Natural' Food Companies Are Fighting the Effort to Label GMOs?" and learning "... when the Cornucopia Institute tested Kashi's Go Lean cereal, which gets its protein from soy, they found that the soy was 100 percent genetically engineered," I think I need to find a new healthy snack. Word to the helpful: I don't eat nuts, so that's not an option for me - sigh.