In the mid-90s something called a Genetically Modified Organism was introduced to our food supply. A GMO occurs when the genes of one animal or plant species is artificially inserted into another animal or plant. One side of the debate supports that studies showed a 61% decrease in herbicide usage on GM Cottons. However, the other side rebutted that because of the speedy spread of Super-weeds, resistant to herbicides, even more chemicals would be used to compensate.
When it comes to the GMO controversy, all sides are set on full fire, with no signs of burning out. Maybe you’re reading this saying “Yay, Go GMO!” Maybe you are on the other side of the river, ranting about GMO destroying the world. Then again, Maybe you are thinking, “GM…What!?
So, what’s the scoop? Are Genetically Modified Foods the answer… or are they just a harmful ploy of science? Do GM crops increase or decrease the use of herbicides? Does genetic modification have a significant impact on crop yields? Are the impacts on yield positive or negative? Does genetic modification place a heavy impact on a farmer’s social and financial stability? Most importantly, are GM crops held to the same standards and regulations as all other foods, or do they seriously cause dysfunction to vital organs such as the immune system, liver, pancreas, and spleen?
In the end, no matter what side you stand on, the story is far from black and white. In this controversy of greys, it is best to be educated on the good, the bad, and the in-between. It’s time you dig deeper in the soils of this Genetically Modified Food Fight. Take a look at this infographic provided by Carrington.edu for more information.
A few months back I wrote a post about going paleo for health. I mostly wrote it as a visceral response to a blog post I read that tried to debunk the paleo diet as unhealthy and elitist. I think I did a pretty good job trouncing all of the reasons they claimed the paleo diet was so gosh darn awful. One of their “issues” with paleo though went unanswered by me though. I thought I would write a follow up post within a few days but just never got around it. The article, from way back when, claimed that going paleo was bad for the planet because meat consumption in general is not good for the planet.
This idea is nothing new. We hear it all the time from vegetarians, vegans, and the part timers who think that a Meatless Monday will help with the planetary impact of meat as a food choice. We hear it all the time because it is rooted in truth. Meat consumption can and often does have a very negative impact on our planet. This is all very true. Though we must also insert a big BUT here if we are being genuine and honest. The keyword is that meat consumption CAN have a negative impact…this is not always the case and there are many conscious meat eaters out there who are creating change and eating with minimal impact. It can be done and I think most paleo and primal diet enthusiasts fit that description, or they are attempting to. Paleo, when done right right, can be a huge boon to human health and it can be done sustainably and without damaging our planet further. How so? Below I outline some of the reasons why meat eating doesn’t have to be unstainable…
Factory Farms are Unsustainable – Not Paleo - The thing you have to understand is that when anti-meat crusaders start talking about the negative impact of meat production, 99.9% of the time they are referring to factory farming. They are talking about the huge lots with hundreds and thousands of cows, pigs, and chickens that are kept in dirty cages, fed unhealthy and unnatural foods, and overwhelm the area with massive amounts of toxic waste. I do not argue that these systems are hugely problematic and harmful to our planet. This is NOT the type of food that modern day cavemen want to eat though.
Paleo enthusiasts support small, local farms that pasture their animals and allow them to eat the healthy and natural foods that they are designed to eat. Most of the time these farms are diverse and they do more than just produce cows or chickens for meat. They might also grow fruits and veggies, keep bees, and utilize the waste that their animals produce to feed and nourish their plant based crops. An example of a system like this can be found in the Polyface farm owned and run by Joel Salatin. We paleo eaters don’t like factory farmed, unsustainable meat any more than the militant vegans do and as much as we possibly can, we avoid it at all costs. So when the anti-meat parade starts talking about how meat is unsustainable they are talking about factory farming and when you consider the meat sources that paleo eaters endorse and support than you know you are comparing apples and oranges.
Plant Based Crops Can Be Just As Harmful – Where I live in Ohio I need only drive a few minutes to be completely surrounded by corn, soy, and wheat fields. Most if not all of it probably GMO. Monocrops such as this are devastating to the planet. Growing the same thing over and over means pests and bugs are rampant, which means stronger and stronger chemical pesticides and herbicides must be used to create successful crops. These chemicals go down into our groundwater to slowly poison us and they harm our bee populations.
Now a HUGE part of this is tied to factory farmed meat (I admit) because these crops are grown for them to eat. This is another reason why paleo eaters don’t support factory farming! The animals are fed unhealthy foods that make them diseased and sickly. Cows are meant to eat grass, not corn. BUT these huge monocrops are not ONLY for factory farmed animals…they are also for human food. The kind of food that vegans and vegetarians eat. You see it is much cheaper and less labor intensive to grow one crop. The soil however is depleted because one thing is grown over and over with no biodiversity. This means that massive amounts of chemical fertilizer must be used to even get the crops to grow. Add to this the pesticides and herbicides and you have a yummy chemical cocktail on the your tomatoes, salad greens, strawberries, spinach, grains (for flour, bread, processed foods), soy (for soy protein), beans, lentils, and much more.
For more information on why a plant based diet is FAR more unsustainable than we are typically lead to believe I highly recommend reading The Vegetarian Myth. It exposes the destructive history of plant based agriculture - causing the devastation of prairies and forests, driving countless species extinct, altering the climate, and destroying the topsoil.
No Junk Food Crops – Modern day cavemen don’t support the junk food crops like soy, corn (for HFCS), beans, and grains because we generally don’t eat that stuff. If someday every person on the planet went paleo… which let’s face it, is a bogus argument… imagine how much land we would have to tinker with if we stopped growing all those nutritionally devoid junk food crops. When you argue against paleo foods as a sustainable option, you are really arguing against REAL FOOD being a being a sustainable option. If real food isn’t sustainble than we do indeed have very big problems.
Paleos Supports Local Food Economies – Paleo folks are excellent supporters of small local farmers and food producers and as such as also great supporters of their local food economies. It is because they want pastured, ethically raised meat that they seek out local producers. It is cheaper to get these items locally and they like to get to know the farmer producing their food so that they know exactly how it was raised/grown. They are tuned in to the local foods scene around them and typically this is where they end up sourcing the majority of their food…from local producers who grow things with an eye on sustainability, health, and biodiversity. They basically have to. It is a very rare grocer that offers things like grassfed beef and free range chicken and eggs from chickens not fed soy. By necessity we paleos become local consumers who eat in season.
Paleos Eat Far More Than Meat – For some reason the paleo/primal diets become synomymous with carnivores…like we sit around and gnaw on raw steak all day. There are plenty of meals though where meat does not even make an appearance on my plate. We eat a variety of foods, only some of which are animal products. If anything my range of veggies and greens expanded when I went paleo. I eat more fruits and veggies (variety and quantity) after going paleo, than I ever did as a vegetarian.
Paleos Like To Grow Their Own – Okay this might be an over generalization but in my experience, paleo folks like to take charge of some aspect of producing their own food, even on a small scale. Perhaps it is because they have such rockin relationships with their local farmers and they want to try it themselves. Maybe costs motivates them. I don’t know, but most of the paleo/primal folks I know do something… whether it be raising animals for food or vegetable gardening in their own home or through a community garden.
Paleos Are Hunter Gatherers – This point ties in closely to the one I just highlighted. One more way in which we can take charge of our food and not rely on big agribusiness is to learn about wild food foraging and hunting. It is not unusual for paleo dieters to include deer, rabbit, squirrel, and other wild caught meats and fish to their diet. Some of the busiest booths at my local farmer’s market are the small scale sellers and hunters who sell these exact items. You cannot tell me that deer, rabbit, and squirrel are not a sustainable way to add more meat to the diet.
Paleo Are Very Conscious Eaters – Just as ethical vegans are more conscious of their impact on animals when they eat, paleos are also very conscious about their choices and the impact. It just goes with the territory. When we start out on this journey we look into why grains are bad for our health and soon it becomes clear that growing grains is also bad for the planet. When we start to eschew factory farmed meat we learn a ton about how meat is produced, how animals are treated, how healthy they are, and the impact they have on health and planet. When you learn all about these issues you cannot help but WANT to make the best choice on all fronts. You fall down a rabbit hole into a whole new world and it changes you…for the better.
In short these are just some of the reasons why the argument that paleo/primal eating is bad for the planet… are just plain running out of gas. What do you think?
Love this video. Apparently there was a world changing dreams contest called the IF WE CHALLENGE and contributions were collected globally. This video illustrates three of the dreams collected…one from India, one from the US, and one from Canada.
The third one was a bit out there…kinda made me think of Wall-e. The first two though, I was wondering why in fact we don’t already have something like this in place. Great ideas. What do you think?
IF WE can ask the right questions, we can change the world.
Today kicks off Follow the Frog Week. What exactly is that you ask? Well, basically this initiative comes to us from the Rainforest Alliance and it is a week-long campaign that encourages individuals and businesses to celebrate sustainability by taking even one small step toward a greener lifestyle. There is actually a little green frog on numerous products such as coffee, tea, chocolate, flowers, paper and wood products that signify these are better choices for the planet.
Have you seen the frog? Is he hoppin at your home?
Why should we care?? Just because you don’t see the consequences of your actions, doesn’t mean there aren’t any. In fact, we’re losing forests at a rate of 32 million acres per year — that’s equivalent to one football field every 78 seconds. Helping to protect forests and support communities worldwide can be as simple as looking for the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal and the Rainforest Alliance Verified™ mark.
I love this video that was just released illustrating what happens when dad does the grocery shopping and doesn’t Follow the Frog. Every purchase has an impact and if we actually saw the consequences in our own neck of the woods we might be just a little more vigilant. What do you think?
The decline of the bees has been a concern of mine for several years now. I first wrote about why we need bees three years ago and then just again recently with an article on how to attract more bees to your yard and local community. I see personally just how few bees we have buzzing around these days and of course the headlines are full of news too, such as the massive bee deaths that just occurred in Oregon. Movies such as Vanishing of the Bees also highlight the growing problem and it is a HUGE problem on many levels that will adversely affect our future on this planet.
One of the common “solutions” though may actually be part of the problem and we need to educate ourselves so that we are not inadvertently harming the bee population instead of doing our part to help. When a concerned individual decides to make their own property more bee friendly one of the first things they do is probably to plant more flowers and plants that bees will love and feed off of. Modern life and progress means less raw nature for all kinds of animal life and that includes the bees. It only makes sense that one big step to changing that is too start gardening and play host to flowering plants that will give the bees a safe haven and a healthy food source. It can be a problem though when we consider the source of those plants and flowers.
A new study conducted by the Friends of the Earth-US and Pesticide Research Institute has established something rather alarming. They found that 54% of common garden plants purchased at top retailers like Lowes and Home Depot contained neonicotinoid pesticides, which studies show can harm or kill bees and other pollinators, with no warning to consumers. If we are buying garden seeds and/or young plants at places such as these we are bringing pesticides home to our own garden and they can survive in the soil and plants for months and even years!
I know how easy it can be to adopt the thinking that growing from seed is just too much work and that you should be able to get away with plants bought from garden stores or big box retailers even though they aren’t organic. As long as you don’t use nasty pesticides at home you should be fine right? Any residual pesticides in the small amount of soil that comes with the plant will surely be gone before long right? Well, no actually. The pesticides stick around for much longer than we might have anticipated so we really do need to start with organic plants, seedlings, and soil. Most of which is usually not to be found at major garden supply centers. We don’t want to expose bees to the pesticides, be saving seeds from these contaminated plants, or be eating from them if we are also gardening for food.
The European Union is set to suspend the use of three neonic pesticides later this year, after their own scientific review by the European Food Safety Authority found that neonicotinoids pose an unacceptably high risk to bees. The UK’s largest garden retailers have already stopped selling neonics. Despite the growing evidence that these pesticides are in fact killing our bees the giant chemical companies Bayer and Syngenta, who make them, are fighting back aggressively, even suing the European Commission to overturn the ban on the pesticides. Our own EPA has delayed action until 2018 showing that profit will come before common sense on the issue and that is why we need to create change on our own at an individual level and as a community.
We need to stop buying seeds and plants from big garden centers who use these pesticides and be vocal about demanding they STOP this practice. We need to buy organic heirloom seeds and plants from reputable retailers online or from small nurseries who share our values. If you do some looking you are sure to find some companies that fit this bill and they need your support because they are doing vital work.
In the meantime Tell Congress to support the Save America’s Pollinators Act and join us in asking the CEOs of Lowe’s and Home Depot, Robert Niblock and Frank Blake, to give bees a chance and stop selling bee-killing pesticides.
Written for the Buzz on Bees and Making Your Garden Count Blog Carnival.