Wednesday, October 2, 2013

That Time of Year

Just two more Thursday Markets left this season!

But that's not what I meant by the title of this post. I meant "that time of year" in which election signs litter the roadsides. That time of year when political cards and flyers litter our mailbox, and robocallers recharge their battery packs for the Big Push. That time of year--not even counting Government Shutdowns (which may shut down parts of the government, but which certainly send the media industry into overdrive).

I'm not big into politics. My husband will tell you the country would go to pot if all voters were as apathetic as I am, but this flyer in my mailbox yesterday caught my eye enough that I dug it back out of the recycle bin after a minute:

"Hmm...this orange juice label says it contains gluten and pink slime."
Since--apart from Twitter--I'm also media-apathetic, this was actually the first time I heard of I-522 in Washington, an initiative calling for "genetically engineered" food products to be labeled in the grocery store. Folks in California tried to pass a similar measure last year and were shot down, thanks to a major influx of money to the Con side.

So what's this initiative about, and why is it controversial? From my internet exploration, here's what I've figured out, but please let me know in the comments if I've got something wrong.

  • I-522 is based on other GE-labeling requirements found globally and is not stricter than any of them.
  • I-522 seeks to label food products that have been genetically engineered or which contain GE ingredients. Common GE ingredients include: corn, soy, and canola.
  • The key word is product. Foods like hunks of meat, chickens, milk, and eggs are not included, even though the animals may have been fed GE foods. Restaurant food is also exempt.

I can understand why the food industry is going nutso over this. For foodies and farmers-marketgoers, no label is necessary on food products. We've done our research and know all about how most processed foods contain either corn or soy, and how most corn or soy is genetically modified. We don't need no stinking labels. But for the commongarden supermarket shopper, the mere presence of such a label will be off-putting. If you can choose between the non-GE product and the GE product, you will, if you can afford it. GE products will take a hit.

We interrupt this political discussion with a pic of Market flowers

The folks lining up on either side are fairly predictable, with the makers of organic food products on one side and the grocery stores and growers/producers/users of GE ingredients on the other. One endorsement of note on the Pro-522 side is from the United Farm Workers because, as they point out, GE ingredients generally get hit with more pesticides, and it's the farm workers who have to be out in the fields getting overexposed to them.

No one suffered to produce this beauty, however

On the Con side, I totally agree that 522 will lead to bureaucracy and cost increases. I also agree that organic food processors are welcome to label the heck out of all their products' virtues and come at it from that angle. The nationwide growth in farmers markets and organic buying tells me that the movement away from GE ingredients is already under way, and one day, as with cigarettes, U.S. use may plummet, only to market those GE ingredients overseas to whichever poor countries will still take them.

But whether 522 passes or gets shot down, there are some foolproof ways to reduce GE ingredients in your family's diet or eliminate them altogether:
  • Buy raw, unprocessed, non-GE food from your local farmers market.
  • Do more home cooking and eat fewer foods from boxes and jars and cans and bags and frozen sections.
  • In the grocery store, buy organic and raw where you can afford it, and stick to produce from the "Clean 15" when you can't.
  • Shoot for 80/20. There's no getting away from GE ingredients if you ever plan to eat out again, or be invited to friends' houses without making yourself obnoxious. But do what you can, when you can. (My children's school just gave notice that homemade birthday treats will no longer be allowed, the district's policy, I guess, being stick with the poisons you know.)
Bellevue School District, this bouquet is for you

See you all at the Market these last two Thursdays. After that it's Saturdays only. And if you want to get your Skagit River Ranch meat in the off-season, be sure to sign up for their monthly Bellevue Buyers Club, with deliveries made to a home in Bellevue.

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