Friday, April 5, 2013

The Friday Question: When Shopping for Food, What Matters Most to You?

Eco-novice wants to know your food priorities.

Between California's recently defeated Proposition 37, which would have required the labeling of GMO foods, and the recent so-called Monsanto Protection Act (protecting biotech companies from future litigation if it turns out that GMO seeds are dangerous), GMOs and how to avoid them have been all over the news and blogosphere during the past six months.

Which has made me realize, GMOs have never been a top issue for me.

Sure, I avoid them. I switched to organic canola oil (which I use in large quantities for bread and most high-temp cooking) when I read that almost all conventional canola oil is GMO. I know that almost all corn is GMO, so I do try to buy most things with corn as a main ingredient organic (organic products cannot contain GMOs). I would never eat a genetically engineered animal on purpose.

Of course I supported California's Proposition 37. I would like to be the one to determine whether scientific innovations in agricultural with very short track records and questionable research are relevant to my food purchases or not. 

And, yes, I think GMOs are a bad idea. Or at the very least, an idea that doesn't have enough rigorous science behind it to merit their widespread and ever-growing creation and application.

But I've never participated in a GMO-free month or scrutinized blog posts with lists of items that might or do contain GMOs. I've never gone through my pantry to identify and toss any item that might have GMOs. Honestly, I'm not sure exactly why, but it just doesn't push my buttons the way other food issues do. I often buy conventional chips as long as the ingredient list is short (potatoes, oil, salt), knowing full well that the vegetable oil might be GMO. I guess I think I'm better off putting my money and energy into finding healthy alternatives to the chips, like a new homemade snack.

All this GMO business has made me think about what ARE my food priorities. What matters most to me when I shop for food? Where do I draw the line and when am I willing to compromise? 

I'm not sure it's possible to determine which factors matter THE MOST in terms of the environment or health. A lot depends on what values or issues are most important to you: animal welfare, social justice, exposure to toxins, sustainability, water pollution, slave labor, climate change, antibiotic resistance, supporting local farmers, etc. There are so many things wrong with conventional agriculture and livestock, so many issues to choose from!

So what matters most to me? When I'm shopping for food, my priorities (in rough order) are:

For packaged/processed foods

Luckily I don't drink much besides (filtered tap) water, (local organic) milk and the occasional juice, so at least I don't have to think too hard about the beverages I drink. I'm trying to be more conscious about the rain forest (palm oil) and slave labor (chocolate) as well. But honestly it's sometimes tough to keep track of all these issues. Instead I find it easier to focus on eating as many whole unprocessed foods purchased directly from local producers as possible.

What are your food priorities? And why?

Photo credit: NatalieMaynor


Cindy @ OnePartSunshine said...

My priorities are pretty much the same as yours. I admit that I haven't been paying much attention to GMOs but I have been hoping that my food choices will naturally lead to non-GMO foods. I think I will start paying more attention!

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

Cindy, it's true that a lot of my priorities overlap -- for example, I accomplish many of my goals by shopping at the farmers market and purchasing from farms that are certified organic or organic in all but certification.

Anonymous said...

I think you should move GMO's higher on your list. Do you realize GMO's are contaminating other crops? Bad on two counts: Monsanto is sueing farmers if GMO's are found in their fields (wind pollinated) and winning, also if this is allowed to continue there won't be any crops left that don't have GMO's in them. These reasons are just the tip of the iceberg.

Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

Anonymous, I kind of agree with you. Since writing this post, I've been reading a little more about GMOs. I think they have serious detrimental potential on a grand scale probably more so than on an individual. But I still think I'll focus more on buying whole foods instead of processed foods. It is more and more in the back of my mind when I'm on the chip aisle though.


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