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Have you been watching RTE’s new series “What are you eating”? It started a couple of weeks ago and is on every Wednesday on RTE 1 at 8.30pm. The programme looks at what Irish people are eating and how food manufacturers and supermarkets are driving demand for cheap food often devoid of nutrients, laced with artificial chemicals, preservatives and additives in order to prolong shelf life, titillate your taste buds and ultimately addict you to their product.
Excerpt from the RTE website…..”Up until the 1950s food was a relatively simple matter: you bought meat from the butcher, bread from the baker, vegetables and fruit from the greengrocer. Most shopping was done daily – usually by housewives – and the choice was narrow. Back then expenditure on food was a relatively large part of the weekly household income and keeping food fresh was a constant battle. Fast forward to the present day: mass production, intensive farming, refrigeration, freezing, and food technology have given us more choice and lower prices than our grandmothers could have imagined. But in order to titillate our palates with all this choice, the food manufacturers have had to find ways of keeping food fresh for longer whilst maintaining competitive price points. This means that a sizable proportion of all food stocked by your local supermarket has been processed and processed doesn’t just mean cut and packaged, it means flavoured, irradiated, stabilised, enhanced and coloured, and it affects everything from your bagged salad leaves to your fruit to your 6-pack of chicken fillets. It begs the question: do you know what you’re eating?”
The episode that we watched last week (broadcast the 20th of April) was particularly interesting because it focused on fruit and vegetables. We learned that 50 years ago, a head of broccoli was 30% more nutritious than the modern broccoli of today because 1. Conventional agriculture has depleted the soil and 2. some nutrients have been dramatically reduced due to taste preferences and economic reasons. As old fashioned broccoli has a bitter flavour, over time growers have bred the bitterness out of it in order to sell more – but we’ve lost most of the vitamins and minerals as a result – so much so, modern broccoli was described as “almost a Junk food” by the Director of the Botanic Gardens – because it provided almost no nutritional value! We were also warned that the Cavendish banana that we know and love will almost certainly go extinct in the next 5-10 years because of a fungus that is infiltrating crops worldwide. This disease has taken hold of the banana crop as a direct result of monoculture and intensive conventional farming. Mother Nature is catching up on us – this happened to us before when a different variety of banana called the Gros Michel went extinct in the 1950s and now it’s happening again with the Cavendish banana. Why is history repeating itself? And why have we not learned?
When you work against nature - spraying the ground with toxic chemicals, planting large fields of the same crop year on year, dumping toxic waste into our rivers and streams, feeding animals a GMO diet unnatural diet – you might profit in the short term but not in the medium or long-term. Mother Nature always wins in the end. GMO crops become resistant to the chemical sprays and the fields develop never seen before “superweeds”. The bees are being killed off and it’s so bad now in China that some farmers need to pollinate crops by hand! When we look at the price of a product in the supermarket, we think “that’s good value” but we don’t see the hidden cost of the carbon footprint, the damage to the environment and the destruction of our local economy. The cost you see on the label price is not the full picture and it’s not the cost that society pays now or in the future. Just because we can buy green beans all year round (flown in from Kenya) - doesn’t mean we should.
So what’s the alternative? Well for starters, we should all eat a wider variety of fresh produce – even the “yucky” vegetables occasionally! It’s too easy to continue to eat the monotonous, “meat and 2 veg” style dinner. Why not skip the meat, add some fresh herbs and spices and colour your plate with fresh vegetables – with a view to “eating the rainbow” of colours and varieties. We can all grow our own food - that would be the best option and you can’t get more local than that. Even if it’s only a pot of fresh herbs in the window – it’s fun, easy and you don’t need much room. We should all plant a few flowers outside for the bees – they need our help and we need them! We should find more environmentally friendly ways to kill weeds – Roundup (made by Monsanto) is so toxic and has been declared “probably carcinogenic to humans”, it should be banned from our gardens and from our food supply. We should eat as much seasonal food as we can. At Green Earth Organics, we have lovely fresh salad leaves growing on our organic farm at the moment. Our salad is freshly harvested three times a week, is full of nutrients and tastes delicious. The salad leaves from our farm are a little more peppery (aka flavour!) compared to the chlorine-washed “modified atmosphere packed” bland-tasting leaves you find at the supermarket … AND they are far more nutritious.
If we want a world that provides us with nutritious healthy food, we need to vote with our wallets and shop with ethical companies that protect the environment, not exploit it.
P.S. From the farm this week, we have lots of tasty fresh produce available here including radishes which my son Joe helped me pick! You can view the photos on our Facebook page and the latest videos on our blog. www.greenearthorganics.ie