My Thoughts on 14 Foods…

Yesterday on Facebook I posted a link to a list put out by the Rodale Institute which takes a look at 14 things that you should never eat.  Some I thought were reasonable, and some I thought were a little nuts.  All in all though, it was an entertaining experience that made me think.

Here are my thoughts on the 14 foods.  Please feel free to disagree, and also realize that, while I am relatively familiar with the production of fruits, vegetables, and, to a lesser extent, staple crops like wheat, I’m not nearly as knowledgeable about meat and fish, and I’m certainly not a dietician.  So for most of these, you should take my opinions with a grain of salt.

Swordfish – I agree with Rodale simply because of overfishing concerns.  I am also concerned about the presence of heavy metals, but I do wonder how often someone would need to eat swordfish (and how much they would need to eat) to really endanger themselves?

Nonorganic strawberries – Well yes, strawberries are sprayed a lot, and if they’re grown organically they’re often sprayed a lot too – just with different things.  I certainly think it’s a good idea to wash anything that you buy from the store – no matter how it’s grown – with warm water before eating it, but I don’t see avoiding conventionally grown strawberries as substantially reducing risk – organic strawberries have their own set of risks (possible contamination and use of organic pesticides).  I do see a reason to buy locally grown strawberries – flavor!.

Diet Soda – I agree, because Diet Soda tastes like….well, I shouldn’t say it here.

McDonalds – I agree, not because of the GMO concerns, but instead because I’m opposed to the way that animals are treated in factory farms.  That said, I love my Big Macs way too much to give them up (Don’t bother calling me a hypocrite — I’ll just agree with you).

Canned tomatoes – I kinda-sorta agree, but mostly because I like fresh tomatoes, or tomatoes from a glass bottle.  I am somewhat concerned about BPA and would like to see more studies done on it, but I do not think that the danger is nearly as clear-cut as presented in this article.  My family and I really don’t eat that much canned produce simply because we’re not all that thrilled by how it tastes.

Bread – I don’t agree.  Certainly some people can have reactions to certain things in bread (like gluten) but the idea that modern wheat is some kind of lurking poison is a bit over the top.

Industrially produced hamburgers – Define industrially produced and I’ll tell you my opinion.  Then tell me exactly how I tell if a burger is industrially produced.  If it means I need to give up Five Guys….

Corn – I don’t agree, but I do love this line from the beginning of the article “Today’s corn plants are more like little pesticide factories with roots.”  It conjures a cool dystopian image in my head.  Look, every plant produces chemicals to defend itself from predators.  It’s true, we gave corn a new one by using genetic engineering, and now we’re able to grow corn by using fewer insecticides, almost all of which are much more potentially damaging to us and the environment than the Bt we’ve put into corn.

White chocolate – Umm – I don’t know what to say about this one.  I like it and I don’t see anything in the write up that convinces me it’s bad.

Artificial Sweeteners – I agree.  I can’t stand the flavor and I’ll admit to having headaches which have coincided with ingesting certain artificial sweeteners.

Sprouts – I think that sprouts are generally safe, but there’s no denying that there have been some instances recently where sprouts were found to be contaminated with one disease or another.

Butter flavored microwave popcorn – Sure, popcorn with real butter tastes better, but I like this stuff too – that said, I am concerned about the factory workers who suffer from popcorn lung as noted in the article.

Food Dyes – I agree, if only because fruity pebbles and the like look so scary!

Chain restaurant ice cream – Um…no — I love ice-cream any way it comes.

2 thoughts on “My Thoughts on 14 Foods…”

  1. Hi,
    I just found your website by way of the website for the 2013 Master Gardener college. Lots of great information here, with lovely pictures.

    I normally don’t feel compelled to comment on blogs but, well, at the risk of being thought of as too serious or obnoxious I thought I’d add a couple thoughts.

    I think it is great that you are honest and I do understand your comments are meant to be light hearted…unfortunately, I think many people are like minded. We’re pretty complacent with the way things are, so long as we’re comfortable and don’t feel we’re directly affected. You’re right, there are still pesticides sprayed on strawberries. But I do feel there is merit to voting with our dollars for organic. My daughter has been a part-time organic farmer over the past three years (her job supports her low paid farm work). I’m not a huge fan of lists like this. I think they distill too many serious issues down to snippets. As for industrial produced hamburgers, I think it would be a sound guess that anything coming from a fast food or chain restaurant likely comes from a CAFO. There is a woman in MI–Lynn Henning–who I learned of a couple years ago. She did water testing that showed how CAFOs hurt water quality near her. I have to drive an hour from me to procure food for my grandchildren. They have had health issues. Eating better food, derived from animals that were raised on a grassfed diet in particular, has been better for them. I have seen the changes in their behavior. Yes, just anecdotal but still…I can’t define industrial farming but I know if I saw pictures I could identify. I have visited the farms where we’ve sourced our meat and I’ve seen how the animals are raised. I have even followed one to slaughter.

    As for the corn issue, this isn’t just about plant breeding and simply creating “better” plants. This is what I used to believe. Your statement on corn is what really provoked me to write to you. To talk about GMO corn honestly and fully, one, I believe, needs to talk about politics and monopolies. I know there is territory that many, including me, don’t want to ponder…but, hey, this is our precious food we’re talking about here. There is research suggestive that GMO corn needs more pesticides and that we are inadvertently creating “superbugs”. It makes farmers reliant on the chemical-seed package. Further, it favors industrial farming. I know many small farmers–some even grow corn, though it is not profitable for them to do so, they do it at the request of some of their CSA members. Farming on a smaller scale allows greater opportunity for polycultures. The set up of small farms is highly variable but in my experience, the setup of industrial farms is largely similar—huge monocultures. I believe there were some protests in Mexico a couple months back over GMO corn. The issue surrounding GMO corn isn’t just about GMOs. There is also the issue of the GMO seed contaminating nonGMO farms. I have met many younger, new farmers that marry their academic botany related knowledge with their hands-on apprenticeships on farms to grow food on small organic farms. I have seen how productive they are; I have seen how luscious the crops are. I have learned of the great deal of knowledge they use to design & work on the farm. The knowledge is not spray or IPM or GMO plantings. This is knowledge the next generation of farmers will need. GMOs do not enhance this knowledge either. I agree with you, some of these things on the list are alarmist and painted in large brush strokes. The corn issue to me, though, is tragic.

    As for ice cream, I have a relative with cancer that has chosen to modify his diet since his diagnosis. His love is ice cream. Since his diagnosis, he has been reading labels on processed foods. Aside from about two brands, he says the bulk of the ice creams have an abundance of extra ingredients, e.g. it is hard to find an ice cream made of the basic ingredients. I’ve seen with my grandkids, who love processed foods, how hard it is to find food composed of “real” ingredients. This concerns me.

  2. Shel, thank you so much for commenting! Your arguments are articulate and you provide excellent reasons for why you make the decisions that you do. I respect your well thought out value system too much to argue with you on most of the points you make. it’s obvious to me that your decisions are not frivolous. That said, there is one thing that you mention above that I’d like to address. I agree wholeheartedly that GMO corn is about monopolies and politics, and that is something that I’m concerned about — I freely admit that I don’t like the control that just a few companies have. That said, I think that we need to look at GMOs as a useful tool in the production of food. While it is true that more pesticides are sometimes used on GMO crops than conventional, this is not ordinarily the case, and when they are used more often the active ingredient is usually glyphosate. I’d rather have a lot of glyphosate sprayed on the fields than a little atrazine. Different pesticides have different toxicities and different dangers. There are some insects that are developing resistance to Bt corn, this is to be expected. It doesn’t make them superbugs — it just makes them typical insects that have learned to live with an insecticide. I do wish we’d been more careful so that the resistance happened more slowly, unfortunately we weren’t and now we need to deal with it. Thanks again for writing! I don’t usually discuss my books on this blog, but I think you might enjoy my book How The Government Got in your Backyard.

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