Saturday, December 12, 2009

The celebration of oil - aka - hanukkah [Part1]

We are just starting the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, and a week long cooking event filled with OIL! There is so much to know about oil in our diets these days. Some are good for us, and in moderation, our bodies need oils to function well. However, these days many oils in store bought foods are hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, high oleic, modified, iteresterified, etc...all of those words you will find in the ingredient list of packaged foods, and none of them are good for you. I try to eat mostly, whole foods, so I am able to avoid these most of the time, but I do have one big challenge when buying cooking oil, and the answer can't be found on any labels: Genetically Modified Organisms.

Most people in the U.S. have no idea that most bottles of cooking oil in a regular grocery store are made from genetically modified or engineered ingredients. When I go to the chain grocery store near my home, in the cooking oil section I primarily find 3 kinds of oil: vegetable (soy), canola, and corn. All of these oils are made from three of the most highly genetically modified crops grown in this country. However, nowhere on the bottle or in an ingredient list are they required to tell us that.

It is easy to find scientists who will tell you that there is no proven harm to eating geneticaly modified foods. I don't believe this for a second, and find it to be incredibly arrogant for anyone to make such a statement. These ingredients have only been in our food supply for a short time, and had very little testing before they were introduced. I did hear a study once where they gave mice a choice between two seemingly identical foods, one was genetically modified and the other wasn't and the mouse always chose to eat the non-genetically modified food. There is a difference.

As a logical argument, changing the basic genetic structure of an organism couldn't possibly be good for us, or for the environment, genetic engineers are messing with mother nature, with no idea of the consequences. Genetic modification is not the same as grafting or the crossing of plant varieties that farmers and nature have done for generations. The genetic engineering of food can have devastating effects on agriculture. (Check for more info and links on this and many other sustainability issues)

I sometimes feel that I have so much information about our food system and ingredients in our food supply, that it makes it very hard to shop for food. Now that I don't live near a great food coop, I have to go to numerous stores, farmers markets and farms to supply my family with healthy "natural" and affordable foods. It seems that it is much more effort than it should be. Fresh, affordable, sustainably grown and raised foods should be accessible to all people, not just those of us who have the passion to learn about and seek them out.

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