Back in 2005 I began studying Buddhism. Very early on in my studies I came across the JOURNAL FOR THE STUDY OF RELIGION, NATURE AND CULTURE, ECOTHEOLOGY ISSUE 9 JULY 2000 and it opened my eyes to a lot of issues surrounding the food “industry” in the United States and how mass production, processing and wasteful packaging is against fundamental Buddhist beliefs. I was a twenty five year old mom to a four year old child who required most of my time and energy, so although this information set off alarms for me, I didn’t explore a personal plan of attack to fix my habits.
As I continued my studies, I would come across many more informative articles about the subject and by 2009, without much effort at all, I began to make small but impactful changes in our home. The very first thing I noticed about converting to a “cleaner diet with less waste” was how time consuming it was. I was spending triple the time shopping, trekking back and forth between 4-5 different markets a week. Add on to that the time I spent trying to find some of my favorite ingredients in their organic, natural state. It required a lot of time, energy and MONEY. It hurt my heart and pockets to spend the extra few bucks per item but it was time I made this change.
Eventually I designed a program in my household that fit our needs. Many who know me have heard of my “Project 80/20” creation. It was simple, 80% of my household foods would be NON-GMO, organic, all natural, locally sourced, unpackaged (bulk) and overall “CLEAN FOODS”. The other 20% of my foods were just regular, run of the mill, foods. If the grass fed, farm to table beef was way out of my budget, I found the next best thing within my price point. If there were foods, like ketchup, that my daughter refused to budge on taste preferences, I’d get the Heinz 57 and call it a day. The bottom line was, this system worked for us and it became law in our home!
There were times when we’d be able to carry our system over from food to cleaning products, lawn and gardening supplies and appliance useage. It was personally fulfilling to live my life consciously and by implementing these changes.
For years, when I was buying organic, I came to terms with the following:
- My fruits were going to be less “appealing” visually
- My produce will be much smaller
- Organic will be more expensive
- There would be times during the year that you couldn’t buy certain vegetables because “out of season” on organic – ACTUALLY MEANS “out of season”
There were many adjustments and exceptions to everything you’ve thought when buying your 100% natural and USDA Organic products.
If you were shopping for meats, that was even trickier. Words like, Grass Fed, Grain Fed, All Natural, Hormone Free, Antibiotic Free, Free Range, Preservative Free, Etc… could really make your head spin. Then the impact it had on your wallet was going to certainly give you the full exorcist head spin full circle. Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!
Let’s fast forward to 2016, we still actively apply the 80/20 Program in our household but it’s become somewhat effortless. I can now get 9/10 of my shopping done in one place, a CHAIN SUPERMARKET like Stop & Shop, Shop Rite and Foodtown. Most of my “big supermarkets” have organic aisles, organic and naturals in every single product from hair products to jello. Plus there’s organic vegetables and fruit found right smack dab in the middle of every single one of your favorite fruits and veggies! Wow! So, I guess you think it has become easier with the abundance of options but it really hasn’t, because something set an alarm off in me recently and I can’t quite shake it.
I knew that as the consumers demanded more healthy and natural products, the grocery gods would deliver. But at what cost? How did these changes happen that fast. How come my ORGANIC apple is now the size of the Non-Organic apple? Why are my natural meats now only pennies more than the regular factory farmed meats? I see fancy new packaging and labeling on products with BIG BOLD letters that say ALL NATURAL and ORGANIC with more “healthy” options than not. Sounds like a good thing, I know! But it just didn’t make sense to me. So, I did what I always do, started to research what the new laws, regulations and standards were on production and labeling I needed to know what changed! (And it’s not very promising!)
So, first off I’ve learned that “NON-GMO” Project is throwing us off. Yes, we want non-GMO foods but be very clear, that does not mean ORGANIC. So, to clear this up, here’s an article I read that was interesting enough to share.
NonGMO & ORGANIC Choices
The advertising game is tricky. Remember, cigarettes used to be marketed towards the younger generation, as non addictive and we were told the rewards of smoking were social acceptance, helpful with weight loss, etc… we now know those are all false. We can also use the “low fat” and “fat free” craze that promises more lean bodies, but in return we were given massive amounts of carbohydrates and sugars (artificial sweeteners that our bodies didn’t know how to process) in return. We saw a rapid rise in health issues after that great marketing push! So is this just another “pull the wool over the consumers eyes” tactic that we are going to regret in a few years? Quite possibly!
Here’s the bottom line, organic agriculture, although synthetic chemical pesticides are generally prohibited, many exceptions are allowed on the basis of “need,” and most “natural” ones, which can be extremely toxic, are permitted. Here’s a quick reference.
Allowed Pesticides for Organics
Now. I’m sure you didn’t read all of that, but to sum it up. Nothing is ALL NATURAL and 100% ORGANIC and does that bother me? Yes, because it’s very misleading to most. I knew there had to be some exceptions but at what cost? So who do we believe about what? That’s where we are today. I read there was an 84% increase in consumers buying organic since 2009 but couldn’t understand how we were able to adjust to this increase without any sacrifice and bottom line is, we didn’t. We simply lowered our standards to meet the demand.
So where do we go from here? Do we stop trying? Absolutely not! This year I planted my own garden, sadly it was a bust. But I learned a lot in the process and I’m sure the next one will be remarkable! I’m going to go back to the good old days, where I had to spend hours shopping and dissecting labels and trying to figure out what is best for us, my family. Trust me, I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet.
Most importantly I want to share this, the USDA Blog site… I have been reading the blog posts and then REALLY reading the comments from the farmers and seeing some real world debate about our food, sustainability and the future of ORGANIC! I encourage you to read the posts, REALLY read the comments and come to a conclusion yourself. Just don’t follow blindly, it’s that simple. MUST READ USDA BLOG & COMMENTS