Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pay Attention to the Numbers...

Have you ever paid attention to the little stickers on the produce at the grocery store? Until recently, like over the past year, I never gave them much notice. Then one day I was shopping for produce at Stanley's, a woman was almost having a panic attack that they had some apples labeled as organic but their stickers started with a "4". Whaaaa?

So, wondering what she was talking about but not wanting to egg her on or engage her in conversation (since she was clearly already over the edge!), I silently started noting the numbers on the stickers. Sure enough, all the organic stuff had numbers that started with a "9", and the conventionally grown items started with the "4" that had gotten her so upset. Stanley's had obviously made a mistake, but they are famous in Chicago for their great deals on as well as conventionally grown. How blindly I had been shopping all this time, just believing whatever the sign and price said and ignoring those smart little stickers! The stickers often tell you where the produce was grown as well, in case you are interested in trying to eat locally. (Becoming a "locavore" is challenging, but also has huge health, economic, and environmental benefits)

I started paying more attention at all the stores, wondering if anything else I was paying the organic premium for was mis-labled, and I noticed something else...some stuff started with a mysterious number 8. What did that mean? I did a little research and found a very concise answer at this site. Oh no! Genetically modified? Ewww! I definitely wanted to choose the numbers that started with a "9" over the ones that started with the "4" if I could afford to do so, but now I wanted to avoid the stickers that started with an "8" like the plague!

OK, so now that I (and you) know what the numbers mean, making informed decisions is easy, or at least easier. I want as much of my produce to either come from my CSA (community supported agriculture) crop share or my little balcony garden (both are local AND organic!) is great, but when I buy fruit and veggies for myself and my family at the grocery store I want to see a little sticker's number starting with an "9"! But as far as the number 8 is concerned, I urge you all to try and avoid that one even more vigilantly that the conventional produce. Not only was it probably still grown with pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful stuff, but it is also not as nature intended. These "frankenfoods" might cause humans health problems down the road, but in the present they are doing damage to our land and our ecosystems for sure. Google GMO's to read both sides of the argument. Since our government is leaning toward support of GMO's (read: big business) and many consumers are fighting against them, there's plenty out there to explore on the topic.

If you are interested in learning more about the differences between conventional, organic, and genetically modified foods, as well as how our food in this country is produced, I strongly recommend "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. It's not at all "preachy" and is very eye-opening and informative. Also, there's a new movie out called "Food, Inc." about our industrialized food system and its effects on the environment, our health, worker's rights and the economy. I haven't seen it yet, since it's hard to get out of the house without my 2 month old at this point, but I plan to catch it at soon as possible! If any of you have seen it, feel free to post a review in the comment section.

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