The infographic doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story of hunger in the US. It’s so sad – we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet, according to a 2013 report by GlobalPost (an international news service), Chile, Mexico and Turkey are the only developed nations that have a higher level of income inequality.
It is not a lack of food creating the hunger problem in the US and poverty only tells part of the story. Lack of employment, lower wages, lack of any household assets and certain area demographics all work to contribute to a large food insecurity problem in the US.
Please see the infographic below and help us to do our tiny part to help. Through June 30, 2015, we are offering 20% off all product purchases from our website. For every single item sold, we will give $1 to the Vermont Foodbank. So, head over to http://gringojacks.com/market.html, put some stuff in your cart, enjoy our 20% discount, then sit back and enjoy Gringo Jack’s knowing you’ve chipped in! Thank you.
In March of 2010, Gal Luft – Executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security – in his blog post, “Water Crisis, Energy Crisis, Vicious Cycle”, wrote:
“It is widely accepted that water shortage can — and most probably will — lead to military conflict, mass migration, food shortages and a host of other security challenges. What is less appreciated is the connection between water and energy and how intertwined are the energy challenge and the water challenge we are facing today globally.”
Energy alternatives have suffered a lot of bad press and have not been taken seriously. The hoax perpetrated by the conservative right (supported by the oil & gas industries) has seemed to convince many people that climate change is not real. Fear has replaced thought once again. The fear instilled in people that we will not get enough energy or the fear that hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs once they are no longer needed to subject themselves to the life threatening jobs that require them to go deep underground to extract filthy coal.
So, forget climate change and focus on the water crisis. While we can’t see underground to watch the aquifers being drilled deeper and deeper, the statistics of the water crisis can be seen and felt. The droughts are at an all time high and there are numerous pictures in this country alone that can attest to the crisis. The bathtub ring on Lake Mead is enough to curl your hair!
So, why not look at energy alternatives as a way to alleviate the water crisis? The infographic below shows just how much solar energy saves in water over the other popular forms of energy:
The above infographic is not quite accurate if not looking at CPV. Solar technologies do use a modest amount of water. All kinds of thermal power plants use heat to boil water into steam, which runs a steam turbine to generate electricity. The exhaust steam from the generator must be cooled prior to being heated again and turned back into steam. This cooling can be done using either a wet, dry or hybrid method. Solar thermal plants use more water than the solar photovoltaic panels.
However, a new solar thermal plant recently opened in the Mojave Desert that it utilizing dry cooling to reduce water usage to next to nothing.
Check out the water use for the various power plants below.
Finally, getting away from energy and water, below is a linkto an article that is fun at the same time amazing! The future could bring many more ways to conserve while also contributing. Read and enjoy “Solving the Water and Energy Crisis…in One Swell Poop”, by Gar Smith.
In an effort to alleviate the droughts, we are pumping water out of the ground that can’t be replaced. Aquifer water supplies half of our fresh water needs, but as we continue to pump it out of the ground, a looming crisis is just around the corner.
With the developing water crisis, what can we do or what are we doing to alleviate future devastation? What can we do to prevent water from becoming a precious, private commodity available to the rich and scarce to the poor?
We’ve already mentioned desalination. However, desalination has several problems: it is very expensive; very energy use intensive; pumps pull in sea life and kill it, potentially killing entire species or ecosystems; finally, creates about half fresh water from salt water with the other half (brine) sometimes too salinated to put back and sometimes still containing chemicals.
In fact, the brine created from the desalination can contain such chemicals as chlorine, which when mixed with other chemicals can create carcinogens. Acids are another result which can breakdown and destroy tissues in living organisms.
There are alternatives for the present way we utilize desalination, including by way of renewable energy, better pumps and better filters. But are there other ways to manage the water we have prior to having to use desalination?
A watershed is an area in which water from different sources collects into one single place – from both above and below ground. Usually, management of the different sources of this water is fragmented and done by different agencies or departments – some without even the scientific knowledge needed for proper management. Watershed management is when the entire water source is managed in one place. Plans, programs, conservation, etc are all implemented for better water use. Water rights, conservation, quality, drainage, supply, etc are managed by teams of real scientists from disciplines such as storm water experts, environmental experts, as well surveyors and planners.
The Vermont Watershed Management Division encompasses the following:
Monitoring, Assessment & Planning
Ecosystem Restoration Program
Lakes & Ponds
Some links to learn more about watershed management:
According to watermainbreakclock.com, 850 water main breaks occur EVERY DAY in North America. Since 2000, we have seen over 4 million water main breaks and today alone, at 11:50 am, 423 water main breaks already occurred!
In 2014, California experienced a water main break that spewed 20 million gallons of water into the LA area. Water main breaks are the cause of over 2.5 TRILLION gallons of fresh drinking water a year.
WTH!? These are staggering statistics, so for god’s sake, lets fix the damn pipes! Yes, it is an expensive and difficult fix. Corrosion of pipes is responsible for the major number of main breaks (we’re not even going to get into what that corrosion does to our health, but you can see what one of the corroded pipes looks like and pretty much draw your own conclusions!)
Whether we use PVC pipe or steel lined with concrete, we have got to fix the crumbling infrastructure. Investment is doing just that is beyond most regional governments and must be the project of the federal government. Such an investment would also create jobs and put money into individual economies.
Americans use more water than any other country on earth. According to the United Nations Development Program – Human Development Report 2006 (updated May, 2014), Americans use over 550 litres of water per person, per day. Australians use over 500 litres a day, and comparatively, Chinese a little over 75 litres a day and, Germany about 175 litres.
What are Americans doing with all this water?! Basically, we are squandering it – like we do with so many other resources in this country. Our greed and love of instant gratification leads us to use water with little regard for conservation.
Below are water calculators you can use to see where you can help. The second link will take you to a conservation challenge, as well:
Many of us blithely go about our day thinking water scarcity is the problem of countries like Africa. Even droughts in the US – well, as long as we alternate days using water sprinklers, we’ll be fine.
But we aren’t fine. The dwindling fresh water supply is becoming somewhat alarming. We need fresh water for our food supply and with an increasing population, food shortages will eventually become the norm. California provides 50% of all US grown produce and is facing the worst drought in history. Just as an example, California continues to plant almond farms – producing about 2 billlion lbs of almonds this year alone, roughly 3 times the amount of just 14 years ago. Each almond takes 1.1 gallon of water to produce. Yes, I did say EACH almond, so image 2 billion lbs of almonds!
Just to get us started, here are some remarkable statistics:
While 70% of the Earth is covered by water, only 3% of that water is fresh water. And, about three quarters of all fresh water is taken up with glaciers and ice caps.
1 ton of produce requires approx 1,000 tons of water
Agriculture accounts for about 70% of US water pollution.
California’s draining aquifers have caused parts of the San Joaquin Valley to sink by 11 inches a year. http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/25-shocking-facts-about-the-earths-dwindling-water-resources
The Colorado River no longer runs all the way to the ocean. Nestle is taking anywhere from 250-500 million gallons of water a year from the Colorado River Basin so it can bottle and sell its water. In 2012, while Nestle made over $4B in water sales, the Colorado River Basin has lost over 53 million acre feet of water since 2003. (NASA and the University of California at Irvine)
Desalination, while creating fresh water from salt water, only transforms about half of what is put into desalination. The other half? It becomes twice as salinated and can only be put back into the oceans at a safe salination level. If it can not be returned to the ocean, it is lost.
A US government report states that global demand for water could actually exceed supply by an amazing 40% by only 2030. http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/25-shocking-facts-about-the-earths-dwindling-water-resources
“Hello Ball” (Norton in the Honeymooners) – US golf courses use about 750 billion gallons of water per year
That is just the tip of the iceberg (no pun intended) of horrifying statistics. Below is a map showing groundwater withdrawal in the last three years:
And that is not even as horrible as the Ogalalla aquifer being used to grow corn in the high plains. The withdrawal of this groundwater has far exceeded its ability to replenish itself. Since 1950, the Ogalalla aquifer has lost about 9% of its acre feet.
Next week, we can look at some of the things we are starting to do to arrest this situation that could eventually be our downfall.
Ok, so have you ever eaten some REALLY spicy food and then felt that rush of euphoria? Well, that’s because you’ve just ingested capsaicin, the chemical in hot chiles that release adrenaline and endorphins.
As a matter of fact, research is showing that capsaicin is good for a host of problems including pain, arthritic pain, inflammation and itching. Capsaicin can help cardiovasular health, clear congestion and even boost immunity. Even more encouraging is recent research showing that capsaicin may actually help kill off prostate cancer cells – not cure the cancer, but maybe prevent the cancer.
So just what is this miracle substance and how does it work? Capsaicin is the substance in chiles that gives the chiles their pungent flavor and aroma. It produces mild to intense heat in spicy chiles – depending on the ‘Scoville’ scale heat units (heat level) for the chile. To put that in perspective, let’s look at Gringo Jack’s for a start.
Our guajillo chile sauce is our hard working sauce. Made with guajillo chiles, we say that it is the milder of our red chile sauces. Guajillo chiles sit around 2,000-5,000 on the Scovile scale. Our chipotle sauce is our spicier sauce made with chipotle chiles (dried jalapenos). The chipotle chile sits on the Scoville scale at around 5,000-8,000.
Ok – so now, lets look at the cayenne pepper – 30,000-50,000 on the Scoville scale! Imagine the difference in heat between the cayenne pepper and a chipotle chile. But is gets better folks. The hot chocolate habanero? 400,000 on the Scoville scale. Really. 400,000. And if you want to get ridiculous, there is always the Chocolate Bhutlah which ranks at over 1.5 MILLION on the Scoville scale. Even that chile can’t beat the Carolina Reaper sometimes hitting the 2 million mark. Ghost peppers? Often referred to as the hottest pepper in the world and the butt of joke and funny videos – just over 1 million Scovilles.
There are thousands of cultivars of chiles. The hotter the chile, the more capsaicin. That could explain the ever increasing obsession by some to grow the next hottest chile.
So what is the point? Besides the funny videos of people eating chiles that make them cry, there are terrific reasons to get to know some of the spicy chiles. I don’t think we all need to go out and learn to cook with the Carolina Reaper. But, the higher the capsaicin level, the more the health benefits. Pure capsaicin measures 16,000,000 on the Scoville scale, so that isn’t happening!
So, how does capsaicin help and what are the health benefits? First of all, the bad rap that chiles get involves ulcers. Not only do chiles NOT cause or aggravate stomach ulcers, they can actually help by killing bacteria and also buffering the stomach lining. Now, what else can it do?
Relieves Pain & Inflammation
When it is topically applied, capsaicin lowers the amount of something called Substance P, the chemical that helps send pain signals to the brain – also associated with the inflammation process. From osteoarthritis to diabetic neuropathy, capsaicin is the natural way to alleviate pain. Applied topically, capsaicin can also alleviate itching from psoriasis.
Chiles are high in antioxidants which helps kill the free radicals in your body – free radicals being a precursor to atherosclerosis.
Studies are showing that capsaicin can also reduce blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and platelet aggregation, while increasing the body’s ability to dissolve fibrin, a substance integral to the formation of blood clots.
Congestion Relief and Immunity Booster
The heat from the capsaicin also stimulates secretions that help clear nose and lung congestion. And those beta-carotene vitamin As? Well, chiles are loaded with them and Vitamin A is the first defense against infectious pathogens.
Reduce or regulate blood sugar?
In the July 2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Australian researchers studied the effect of capsaicin on insulin and blood sugar. It appears that a meal consumed with chiles reduces the body’s insulin requirements. If chiles are regularly consumed, the amount of insulin needed goes even lower.
“Plus, chili’s beneficial effects on insulin needs get even better as body mass index (BMI, a measure of obesity) increases. In overweight people, not only do chili-containing meals significantly lower the amount of insulin required to lower blood sugar levels after a meal, but chili-containing meals also result in a lower ratio of C-peptide/ insulin, an indication that the rate at which the liver is clearing insulin has increased.
The amount of C-peptide in the blood also shows how much insulin is being produced by the pancreas. The pancreas produces proinsulin, which splits into insulin and C-peptide when secreted into the bloodstream. Each molecule of proinsulin breaks into one molecule of C-peptide and one molecule of insulin, so less C-peptide means less insulin has been secreted into the bloodstream.” – WHFoods
How cool is this? Capsaicin may help the spread of prostate cancer!
While this is still being studied, it looks as if capsaicin may actually help kill off prostate cancer cells. In the March 15, 2006 issue of Cancer Research, study shows that capsaicin triggers suicide in both primary types of prostate cancer cell lines, those whose growth is stimulated by male hormones and those not affected by them. In addition, capsaicin lessens the expression of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), inhibits the ability of the most potent form of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, to activate PSA, and directly inhibits PSA transcription, causing PSA levels to plummet.
Our own garden grown chiles! Dig-It Gardenworks – you’re the best!
So, by now you are probably ready to dive into the amazing world of chiles! In our next blog posts, Gringo Jack’s will be offering some wonderful and easy recipes all using these amazing wonders.
Today is the quintessential fall day in Vermont (of course, after the leaves have fallen). Gaining an hour this morning was a beautiful thing, but the second we stepped outside, we knew this fall day was heralding winter’s call. My weather app said 42 degrees and underneath, it showed “feels like 22”. Seriously?!
If it wasn’t for squash, some of us might be a bit depressed at the start of “stick season”. But, lucky for us, there is squash! And I don’t mean squash – that stuff you eat as the side vegetable on your dinner plate. I mean SQUASH – one of the most versatile of earth’s bounty! From sweet to savory and everything in between, plentiful fall squash offers a plethora of opportunity for a healthy, fun and “foodie” experience.
Squash is from the plant family called Cucurbitaceae, or sometimes called the gourd family. There are over a hundred varieties of cucurbitaceae, squash being a part of the cucurbita along with pumpkin and zucchini. Squash is the fruit of various parts of the cucurbita and falls into two categories: winter and summer squash.
Winter squash is so named for the times when survival completely depended on foods that could last from fall through december and later. However, squash is not just for survival anymore. You can make squash a part of any meal and any dish from salads to desserts. You can pan sear it or grill it, bake it or even smoke it!
So, squash risotto to squash soup
How about squash brulee for dessert!
So, below is a list of the various kinds of winter squash and then how to choose and cook your squash:
Acorn – no real sweetness, so best combined with other ingredients (like raisins); should not be cured as it reduces storage life; also keep at under 55 degrees
Butternut – oh, such sweet flesh! Definitely cure
Spaghetti – looks like pasta, so why not use like pasta; holds up to robust sauces; cure
Carnival – sweet & dense
Kabocha – sweet; Japanese pumpkin; delicious
Hubbard – use the smaller ones for less moisture content; cure
Pumpkin – go for the smaller “sugar” pumpkins
Buttercup – like butternut sweetness, but denser; cure
What does it mean to “cure” the squash? Curing removes the excess moisture in the squash. Hence, the sweetness is more concentrated. It also allows for less rot and longer storage. To cure, simply store in a warmer location allowing a lot of air to circulate – usually for about 10-14 days.
Remember the days all houses would have a “root cellar”? Food could be stored there to last longer. Gone are the days of the root cellar, but no worries – some squash will stay good for months in a cool room – others up to a few weeks or longer. You know – that room that never seems to get any heat? Store them there and you can have meals all winter into spring!
Choose squash that doesn’t have any soft spots. If a part of the vine is still attached, it will stay fresh longer.
Here are some awesome tips for preparing and cooking squash.
Keep squash dry
Using a longer kitchen knife, slice a side of the peel of the squash down the side (or on the bottom depending on the squash) so that you can lie it flat on a cutting board. It is easier to work with now.
Peel the squash with a chef’s knife or a great peeler. It will be a lot easier if you find a carbon steel blade vegetable peeler (anywhere on Amazon or eBay). I bet Kerry at Vermont Kitchen Supply has these! Peel a thin layer.
When cutting the squash in half, which can be harder than it sounds, try using a mallet with the knife – softly!
When scooping the seeds out, why not keep them, spray with olive oil, sprinkle a little sea salt and roast them!
Try not to cook squash in water – it will dilute the flavor. Instead, cook squash on high heat in order to “caramelize” the squash and bring out the sweetness and flavors.
To get you started, below is a recipe from Whole Foods for simple, caramelized on the outside and soft on the inside, butternut squash bites.
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F. Halve the squash lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out and discard seeds.
Peel with a vegetable peeler
Cut into 1-inch cubes. Transfer to a large, rimmed baking sheet. Toss with oil, salt and pepper and spread out in a single layer. Roast, tossing occasionally, until just tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Per Serving:150 calories (30 from fat), 3.5g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 300mg sodium, 27g carbohydrate (3g dietary fiber, 5g sugar), 3g protein
So what oil should we be cooking with? Even more important than the health factor is the heating temperature of oils. Known as the smoke point, each oil can take a certain temperature before bad things start to happen. The smoke point is actually that – the point at which the oil begins to smoke. The smoke point is when all the nutrients begin to degrade and potentially harmful compounds begin to form.
When an oil makes certain claims such as heart healthy or packed with antioxidants or helps to lower cholesterol, remember that these claims are no longer true once they pass their smoke point. In fact, not only are the health benefits destroyed, but you could be ingesting carcinogens. To clarify even further, an oils smoke point is dependent on how refined the oil is. More refine, higher smoke point. Less refined, lower smoke point. Obviously, for cooking we are looking for a higher smoke point.
So, below are several factors we want to look at when choosing an oil:
Types and ratios of fat content
Process – chemical or pressed
We’ve created a chart that will give us some of useful information when choosing an oil.
We can infer much through this chart! First, you can see that Butter and Flax should not be used for high heat cooking as it has the lowest smoke point (along with the unrefined sunflower and safflower).
Conversely, canola, peanut, palm, corn and most of the refined oils are good to cook with. However, let’s now look at the rest of the information.
While you can cook with palm oil and coconut oil (as well as butter on low heat), they are also the highest in saturated fats – coconut oil being a whopping 91% saturated fat! To break it down further, however, both coconut and palm oil are very high in lauric acid (of the saturated fat), hence the coconut oil craze, since lauric acid is also used medicinally. So, at this point, we certainly would not cut those two oils from our choices.
Now, take palm oil. High smoke point and high in lauric acid of the saturated fat. However, palm oil also has a 10:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3. That would probably cut palm oil from our list of choices. Again, canola oil comes out on top with a 2:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3.
Let’s look at deep frying. Temperatures for deep frying are between 325-400, so we need an oil that has a smoke point over 325. Looking at our chart, we can infer several things:
Walnut oil has to be at least semi-refined, however also has a terrible Omega ratio and is expensive
Sunflower oil also has to be semi or fully refined, and also has a terrible Omega ratio.
Soybean oil again, has to be semi or fully refined with a lousy Omega ratio.
The same goes for sesame, safflower oil and peanut oil.
Olive and corn oil has a great smoke point, but a crappy Omega ratio.
Turns out, canola oil has a great smoke point, is the lowest in saturated fat and has the best Omega ratio! Of course, this is assuming you are using expeller pressed, non-gmo canola oil so that you are not destroying the Omega 3s with the heat and chemical extraction and refinement method. Add non-GMO and you have the perfect oil for high heat cooking!
My favorite two oils are expeller-pressed, non-GMO canola oil and extra virgin olive oil. For low heat cooking, I use the extra virgin olive oil for flavor and the extra nutrients in olive oil. For any high heat cooking, I always use the good canola oil.
I am trying to find ways to incorporate some of the other oils into my diet, but on a limited basis. I am definitely falling on the coconut oil, all the time craze as I believe the huge saturated fat level should be mitigated with moderation use.
So, there we go. Gringo Jack’s uses expeller-pressed, non-GMO canola oil for our chips because we did the research and want to make the best possible product we can for you and your family. I mean, hey a snack is a snack, but snacks made with good ingredients have their place and a rightful place it is – I mean, how dull diets would be without them!
The food world is getting harder to navigate. Remember the 1960s and 70s when eggs were good for you? Then they were bad, then good, then bad and now good. My goodness, why can’t the healthy food community make up its mind?!
Well, science dictates the changes in healthy eating advice. The more we know, the more we can get a handle on whats good and what isn’t. We are learning so much more, so much faster as our scientific knowledge increases exponentially. The more we learn about decoding dna and the more we learn about genes, the more we can narrow down what is good and what isn’t.
However, that knowledge also lends itself to changing the foodscape. GMOs are an example of a “little bit of knowledge”. So, not only do we have to keep up on what foods are healthy and unhealthy, but now we have a much wider variety of foods and food processes to study.
This is where oil comes in. What oil is healthy? Can I cook with a certain oil? The internet is ripe with information for an against certain oils. For example, there has been a huge campaign against canola oil. Canola oil originally came from the rapeseed and was very high in erucic acid – a known toxin responsible for anything from heart to lung problems. In the 1970s, a group of Canadians cross bred a new, benign plant for canola oil. This new breed was called canola (Canadian oil low acid).
Of course, after this, the scientist at the forefront of this went to Monsanto where a genetically modified canola (still rapeseed, but no longer the toxic rapeseed) was created to withstand Round-Up. Now, most of the canola oil made and consumed is genetically modified Remember, the original rapeseed developed by the Canadians was not a GMO – it was naturally crossbred.
To make things worse, as you know, oil has to be extracted from nuts, seeds, grains, fruits and vegetables. There are several methods for doing this, but most of the canola oil you buy at the grocery store is extracted using the chemical solvent method. Using a chemical solvent, usually hexane, over 90% of the oil is able to be extracted. However, this chemical is poisonous. In fact, just breathing hexane can cause nausea and headaches and attacks the central nervous system. So, the hexane has to come out later. The hexane is removed with high heat. However, while this process removes the hexane, it is unclear as to whether there are trace amounts left and whether these trace amounts are unsafe. High heat could turn whatever amounts are left into an inhalant. Also, the high heat degrades the oil and changes the flavor (sometimes completely ruining the flavor altogether) as well as the nutritional makeup. Actually, it is truly gross – you can find videos on the internet that will show you how the extraction is done and you may not want to eat after that! Actually, here is a link to one of those videos:
So along comes non-gmo, expeller pressed oil. Utilizing the Canadian cross bred canola, the oil is extracted via the centuries old natural method called expeller pressed. A purely mechanical method is utilized and presses the seeds or fruits until oil comes out. This method is definitely not as effective as the chemical solvent and gets only about 60-70% of the oil (as opposed to over 90% from the chemical method). Hence, expeller pressed is more expensive.
The difference, however is night and day. Forget the flavor which is hugely different from its chemical induced counterpart. The method makes the difference between consuming poison to consuming one of the healthiest coils out there. Add non-GMO to the mix and what you have is now an oil lowest in saturated fat of all oils and has an omega-6 / omega-3 ratio of 2:1! Also, it has the highest smoke point (ie: canola oil 375 vs safflower or sunflower t 212 degrees),so that it makes it one of the best oils to cook with. Once oils get heated past their smoke point, you wind up with carcinogens and free radicals – just what you DON’T want in your healthy stir-fry!
Next week, I’ll offer up a chart with all the oils, the advantages and disadvantages of each. But, before ending here, you should know that Gringo Jack’s uses ONLY non-GMO, expeller pressed canola oil in both our chips AND our restaurant frying! How many restaurants can tell you that your fries, chicken etc is fried in non-toxic, non-GMO expeller pressed oil?
So, just what are the advantages and disadvantages of GMO labeling?
To recap, we know that GMOs themselves have advantages and disadvantages:
potential less use of pesticides
increased food production in poor countries
perhaps lower food prices
potential for increased vitamins & minerals
increased disease resistance
increased shelf life
removal of certain allergens
less need for water
no long term studies, so potential for food safety issues & unknown health risks
the ability for large corporations to patent food source
potential for new allergens
risk of antibiotic resistance
potential increase in use of pesticides (because of the resistance)
potential for unknown toxins
unknown potential harm to the environment and animal/insect species
potential for toxicity with an over ingestion of certain vitamins and minerals
Given these issues, labeling seems the natural thing to do. And polls show that a large majority of the public wants to see labeling. And yet, states are having a hard time passing labeling laws.
Most countries that have labeling laws are national with a national standard. The US is trying to pass laws regionally because the FDA states that GMO foods are, in essence, the same as non-GMO foods and therefore, need not be regulated separately. This dictate leaves states no choice but to act on their own.
Enter the problems. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of GMO labeling:
Labeling gives the public information about what they are buying and consuming. The “right to know” extends to this “food processing attribute”.
Consumers could make more informed buying decisions
It might encourage more companies to use non-GMO ingredients so they would not have to label. This has been shown to be the case in at least six-ten other countries where labeling is mandatory.
Groceries will probably cost more as the manufacturers will have to pour a lot of money into testing and segregation. Labels would have to be remade and, more than likely would have to be generic across state lines.
Smaller food producers and specialty food producers would feel the cost burden much more and, if they are able to continue doing business, the products would bear a greater cost – and the consumer might not be able to afford products from smaller food producers.
States, farmers and food producers could be tied up in expensive litigation.
Having state laws and not using a national standard could create more confusion in the public’s mind. In some cases, the consumer could be deceived into thinking a food doesn’t contain GMOs, when in fact it does. For example: a small food producer in Vermont is required to label. Since they can not afford to have labels for one state and a different label for another state, all the products are labeled. That product is then sold on a shelf in a state without labeling laws. The product next to it comes from a large company that can afford to have separate labels for labeled stated and unlabeled law states. The consumer looking at the two products would be deceived into thinking the product without the label does not contain GMOs.
Regardless, Vermont has now passed a labeling law. Smartly, the law establishes a defense fund to defect against potential lawsuits. And there is a whopper out there – a lawsuit filed by the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, International Dairy Foods Association and the Snack Foods Association. Even Ben & Jerry’s is getting in the fray helping to raise funds for the defense of the law – a renamed ice cream, “Food Fight – Fudge Brownie” shows a box on the front of the ice cream that reads “Food Fight Fund”. $1 of each pint sold will go to the fund.
Attorney General Bill Sorrell has filed a brief defending the new law and asking the lawsuit be thrown out.
The lawsuit claims that the labeling law exceeds state authority and violates food manufacturer’s right to free speech to not label something they don’t feel necessary. Defense of the law need only look to NY and the recent upheld law requiring calorie content be listed on chain restaurant food.
Either way, we should all get ready. Whether it happens today or several years from now, labeling is probably coming to a state near you!
First, allow me to apologize – a family issue prevented me from being able to devote time to writing. But, we’re back now! Thank you to all that have been following this blog.
If you take an initial look at the issue of labeling, you might wonder what could be controversial. I mean, letting the public know seems the right thing to do, right?
So why are the big-ag companies doing back flips to keep labeling laws from going into effect? Unfortunately, part of the reason is because they know that people are still widely uneducated when it comes to GMOs. If a label says anything like “contains or may contain GMOs”, an automatic assumption may be made that GMOs are bad. Also, the more the anti-GMO groups put out information on GMOs and stages protests, etc, the more influence this will have on the fears of consumers. (Please keep in mind that this post DOES NOT mean to imply that GMOs are safe or unsafe – merely just perusing the thoughts and feelings of the public and what might go on in their minds.)
You see, friends – fear tactics are not a tool solely for Republicans – Liberals sometimes practice the same fear tactics. Playing to people’s innate tendency towards fear works, despite being a sleazy way to get people on your side.
But, this issue isn’t about fear. It is about informing people about what they are buying. Cigarette pack warnings are an attempt to instill fear and make people reconsider buying cigarettes with negative messaging. GMO labels are not implying any negative – they are simply telling you what is in your food. A better comparison would be allergen statements or even ingredients – both are simply telling the consumer what is in the product.
Labeling GMOs is really a debate over labeling process attributes. Should food processing, of which GMOs are one process, be labeled? There are several ways to go here:
1. Legislation that does not allow any GMO process statements – either containing or not containing GMOs.
2. Legislation requiring all foods containing GMOs to be labeled. A statement would accompany such label that disclaims government judgment on the safety of GMOs.
3. Voluntary labeling with the use of GMOs or the absence of GMOs. This seems somewhat arbitrary, leaving consumers confused.
4. Voluntary labeling of the use of GMOs, but again, requiring a statement accompanying the non-GMO label that disclaims government judgment on the safety of GMOs.
The first option no longer seems viable as anti-GMO groups are not going away and neither is the issue. By not allowing any labeling of process attributes, consumers could make a judgment call with little to no information. (Yes, you might say that many people already do that when they go out to vote, but I digress! ;-)). Lack of information leaves a ripe ground for conspiracy theories!
The second option might work as some of the onus is no longer on the small manufacturer to get verified, even though they will still have to go through the work of getting in house paperwork on ingredients to make sure they are not using GMOs. But either way the issue goes, no longer are we going to be able to ignore the issue, so this could be the best option.
Under the anti-labeling guise, the third option above would be a continuation of what we have now. However, that option – in my mind – is the least viable. The confusion it creates in the minds of consumers is unfair, not only to the consumer, but to smaller manufacturers. If one product is labeled non-GMO and another product is NOT labeled non-GMO, the natural inclination of a consumer is to believe that the product not labeled does contain GMOs. But the cost of getting verified non-GMO is prohibitive to many manufacturers that might actually be non-GMO, but can’t afford to get verified.
Gringo Jack’s is going through the process of getting non-GMO verified and I can attest to several things: it is very expensive and it is extremely time consuming and frustrating. The requirements for paperwork are over the top (more on that in another post!) and it is a continuing cost every year once accomplished.
So, we’ve presented the beginning of the labeling issue, but there is so much more – evidenced by the many dollars being spent on the part of the anti-labeling campaigns as well as local governments fighting the groups fighting the labels. Money is being poured into lawsuits, campaigns, advertising, marketing etc and so this issue deserves more time.
Next week will delve into what both sides have to say about the labeling.