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SPOTLIGHT
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Here's a little food for thought

Published on -6/17/2013, 4:35 PM

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I love my grocery store. It's one of my favorite errands, shopping the sales circular and getting a look at what's new. I like the customer service and amenities. I usually run into someone with something to say, and pass a little time in conversation.

Occasionally my trip times out so there are no lines, and only a few shoppers. This is the easy-browsing time of day, a good time to read the labels and peruse the new items. The produce market is a treat for the senses. It's visually stunning and smells wonderful. The stockers have done their job; all the vegetables and fruits lie in clean baskets or stack neat as a pin in spacious isles. The stainless steel of the scales shines and the floor is clean, making a picture of fresh abundance.

This is my domain, the only place I am truly comfortable. I know food. Well, I know a lot about food. I know kitchens, big and small. I can feed an army and save a buck, those are my super powers. I'm proud to have worked alongside the best cooks in the county, and I've learned something from every one of them. I remember them all.

No kitchener is complete without a garden, and I learned from the best, although I haven't had a garden in a few years. Water is low come July and August, and I gave up trying to nurse along a garden under the brutal western Kansas conditions. I loved it when it was working, though.

So now I enjoy the fruits of others' labor. And their vegetables. And their grains, and nuts and meat. I pay more attention to the food I buy, and I began looking past the price to the production and marketing of the food I eat, the food I feed others.

And I'm sure I can get a witness here -- it's a mess.

Who do you believe? Everyone says they have the right science. Most of the time, the people telling me they have the best science are only selling their particular science, the one that makes them the most money. It is also the one I'm paying for at my beautiful grocery store.

And as far as the science goes, who really gets what the chemists are doing? They say it's safe, but when the science is new and untested, you can't really say it's safe. It takes years to study the impacts created by new science. I look at the evisceration of the FDA and other regulatory agencies as the removal of sensible impediments. We have to be able to study the science objectively, without interference or manipulation from those who have a financial stake in the outcome.

I need to mention now that the policy chief for the FDA is Michael Taylor, whose previous job was as an attorney for Monsanto. There's nothing like a huge conflict of interest to make me mistrust the government.

Further research, some going back to 1996, uncovers memos from the FDA that alerted the government to negative impacts from genetically modified foods. As it turns out, modifying the genes of our corn with Roundup is a shortsighted grasp at huge profit and global market domination. Research from the American Academy of Environmental Medicine cites animal studies that showed increases in "infertility, accelerated aging, dysfunctional insulin regulation, changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system and immune problems, such as asthma, allergies and inflammation." (www.aaemonline.org/gmopost.html)

It was decided by international experts that the "science" behind GMOs was misleading. It takes a lot of looking, but I found that these "products" were implemented in the food supply without any further evaluation. No human studies were done after animal studies showed problems.

Conversely, the FDA regulates the organic food market extensively. Organic foods are costly because of the regulation (fda.gov) and in particular the definitions of "natural" and "organic" that force the growers to higher standards, although the FDA and the USDA are nearly impotent to enforce the regulations.

There are serious problems with the American food supply chain, and every one of them comes down to Wall Street. Thanks to the science of profit, we have dairy cows raised with growth hormone that significantly increases the risk of certain cancers, and grains modified for yield that have side effects in immune deficiency. We have created super weeds that can't be killed, while we wait on the science of profit to come up with another herbicide.

So where are we, when we view the customer-friendly grocery store? We are in the leap of faith. We are mid-air, over the wanton profiteering of Big Ag and the disregard for public safety, suspended with our shrinking wallets, when all the industry is lying to get ahead. Who do you believe -- the chemist trying to find cures or the one that's making more disease?

One of the big selling points of the state is "every Kansas farmer feeds 155 people every year." But what are we feeding all those people? I suppose most farmers think Cargill and Monsanto are their friends, kindred spirits in the quest for more and better food, without stopping to notice that the big winners in the food economy are on Wall Street, not Main Street.

It's something to think about when you go to the doctor, and wait for the test results. It's something to consider when you admire the perfect-looking food at the grocery store.

Then think about what can be done to fix it. Then maybe vote with your wallet, because the government seems to be in the Big Ag Bag.

Mary Hart-Detrixhe is a lifelong resident of the prairie and Ellis County. Her work can be found at www.janeQaverage.com.

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