Sunday, September 26, 2010

The organic conundrum

Over the past year, we have made some significant changes in the way we eat and the way we shop for food.   It all started last summer, when I first picked up a copy of Barbara Kingsolver's book  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  It chronicles her family's attempt to eat like locavores, grow their own produce, raise their own heritage turkeys and make every meal from scratch for a year.
Our decision to change our eating habits was further fueled by two movies: Food, Inc and King Corn.  Both movies reveal some disturbing secrets and practices in the US agricultural industry.  It's not a pretty story.
So we started shopping for our produce at the local farmer's market, buying the organically grown fruits and vegetables.  Shopping for food at the average grocery store, or even Whole Foods, presents some problems for us.  How hard-core do we want to get with shopping in an environmentally friendly way?
I may pick up an brand known for being organic or all natural, and having sustainable company practices.  I may feel good knowing that I'm supporting a business which is small, or local, or both.  But I may actually be supporting a huge company I am trying to boycott because of GMO's, lack of sustainability practices, or ties to the dreaded Monsanto.
Case in point: I love Kashi Go-Lean.  But did you know that Kashi's parent company is Kellogg's?  That's right, Kellogg's, whom I am boycotting because of their refusal to stop using GMO's in their product.  Another case in point: Cascadian Farms.  An organic label which has been purchased by general Mills, who have fought legislation requiring GMO foods to be labeled as such.
I  suspect the list of safe brands for me will be quite small once I'm done looking into this issue, which begs the question:  Do I buy organic labels because I want to feed my family organic food, or do I follow the food trail and make sure that these labels are not owned by large corporations whose values do not align with mine?

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