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Climate Change Wake Up Call: Eat Local, Eat Fresh, Get Healthier

2011/06/27

A fellow climate activist recently said that climate change is a gift to humanity, if we choose to accept it. What I understand from that is that climate change is a massive wake-up call that we humans need to change the way we are interacting with our ecosystem and with each other. We need to treat our water, air, and dirt with respect, like the life-giving miracles that they are. Are we going to learn this lesson?  I don’t know, but (to quote another climate activist) “I’m not optimistic, but I’m hopeful”. Because shift does happen, and in our global hyper-connected world it can happen with lightening speed.

My journey over the last 2 years as a climate activist has led me to a much greater awareness, for example, of how our food system works – or rather, how dysfunctional it currently is. And part of what I have learned is how we in North America have allowed huge agro-businesses like Monsanto (the former manufacturer of the deadly chemical Agent Orange) to write the food rules about what we are allowed to consume. Monsanto was recently run out of Haiti because the people there, although battered and bruised from their earthquake and living in the most economically depressed country in the Americas, wanted no truck with Monsanto’s “donation” of genetically modified frankenseeds. Yet here in North America, the general public is mostly in the dark about the high prevalence of GM foods in our food system. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, at least 70 percent of processed foods in U.S. supermarkets now contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients. That’s a heck of a lot!

GM foods have had specific changes introduced into their DNA through genetic engineering techniques. For example, by inserting two genes from daffodil and one gene from a bacterium, rice can be enriched with beta-carotene (read more here). Recombinant BGH (“Posilac” by Monsanto Company), a genetically engineered version of a growth hormone that increases milk output in dairy cows by 10 to 30 percent,  was unanimously declared unsafe by the United Nations Food Safety Agency in 1999, after they confirmed excess levels of the naturally occurring insulin-like growth factor one (IGF-1), including its highly potent variants, in rBGH milk and concluding that these posed major risks of cancer. Luckily here in Canada, the use of rBGH was banned that year, but 12 years later, it is still permitted in the U.S. milk supply.

There is mounting evidence of the widespread use, and potential harm, of GM foods. If you’d like to know more, here are some recent articles:

What I’ve learned is that the only way to ensure that my family and I are not consuming GM foods is to buy fresh produce (either organic or not) and avoid all processed foods that are not labelled “organic”. So there is yet one more reason to buy local produce, if lowering your cholesterol at the same time as lowering your carbon footprint wasn’t enough already!

For the last week, we’ve been enjoying fresh leaf lettuce from our nothern garden. My youngest daughter is a very meticulous cleaner of garden vegetables, which is important when you are eating your own fresh picked lettuce if you don’t want to consume some extra dirt and even the occasional slug  in your salad. I did traumatize my family yesterday by accidentally mixing unwashed lettuce with a large bag of already cleaned greens, but no permanent harm was done. We are also eagerly anticipating our first feed of strawberries, as the plants are blossoming and should be ready to be picked in the next week or two. Here are some pictures snapped this morning:

Our healthy lettuce crop

Our strawberries

Nobody is more passionate about spreading the message about eating healthy, fresh food than Jamie Oliver.  Here he is at last year’s TED Conference, sharing stories about the obesity epidemic and his Food Revolution:
As Jamie says, “it is achievable”. This is true of the Food Revolution, as well as tackling climate change. “Romantic, yes… but it’s about trying to get people to realize that each of your individual efforts make a difference.” Around North America, and around the world, there are plenty of wonderful things going on, and amazing people are doing them. Like Jamie, whose passion comes in large part from being a parent, there are parents out there who are stepping up to protect their children’s future. We CAN do this – remember, Shift Happens.
More links:
Haitian Farmers Reject Monsanto Donation
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2011/06/28 7:42 pm

    The World Trade Organization has made a preliminary ruling that European Union restrictions on genetically engineered crops violate international trade rules. The United States, Canada, and Argentina together grow 80 percent of all biotech crops sold commercially, by which the EU regulates such crops. The countries argued that the EU’s regulatory process was far too slow and its standards were unreasonable given that the overwhelming body of scientific evidence finds the crops safe.

  2. Christine permalink*
    2011/06/28 10:19 pm

    Disturbing news, Ella, thanks for sharing. I wonder if there is any recourse at this point? It certainly sounds like the European public is not at all interested in having GM foods on the market there.

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