The old adage "you are what you eat" has a lot of people horrified these days, as we begin to realize just what it is we're actually putting into our bodies. Anyone who's worked at a beef packing plant, commercial chicken farm or sausage-making facility knows just how quickly a food can go from delicious to stomach-churning given the right amount of knowledge.
Realizing the true source and contents of much of what's sold in today's grocery stores can have a similar effect. But trying to discern fact from fiction when it comes to determining what's best to eat, where to purchase it and how to support producers whose methods are in keeping with our own moral compasses is downright dizzying.
The deluge of information offered via the Internet has been literally life altering for many when it comes to areas of food and health – better understood today as essentially one and the same. As the Internet Reformation charges on, an estimated 2.8 billion people worldwide, or 39%, were Internet users by the end of 2013. Short of net neutrality laws that will price a connection out of reach for many or a collapse of the electrical grid, that number will surely continue to grow steadily.
We billions perusing the web now find ourselves with access to realms of previously unknown or hidden material that ranges from ho-hum to enlightening to absolutely shocking, from ridiculous nonsense to compellingly documented evidence and everything in between.
Naturally, in all those bits and bytes the disinformation and misinformation are rampant, often hidden in otherwise accurate information, which makes it very difficult to discern what's true and what's not. After all, those who work so hard to keep certain facts hidden have much to lose when truth comes to light.
Just this week another article came out about a mainstream science journal having published a report claiming a particular strain of biotech corn owned by Monsanto is not toxic to mammals. Problem? The study was conducted over a whopping three-month span and both co-authors apparently have ties to the biotech industry. Only one example where conflict of interest leads a reader to question the validity of information presented.
Fill in the blank: "The most challenging topic I've ever tried to thoroughly research is _______." Most readers would probably be hard pressed to choose just one answer. Thinking people are constantly searching for answers to the multitude of questions our curious brains seem to randomly generate.
Anyone who's dug deeply into the topic "healthy eating" will surely agree this is one subject on that list. And when it comes to today's "hot topics" surrounding food and farming, the view becomes even hazier.
What are these hot topics? Let's throw out a few issues and see if their mere mention generates any reaction on your part: Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Pesticides. Fertilizers. Roundup. Corporate farms. Sustainable farming. Organic. Natural. Free range. Cage free. Feedlot. Pastured. Grass-fed. Growth hormones. Antibiotics. Raw. Pasteurized. Gluten intolerance. Monsanto. Seed saving. Seed patents. Farmer suicides. Lawsuits. USDA. FDA. Canadian Food Inspection Agency. European Commission. Free-trade agreements. TTIP. Trans-Pacific Partnership.
If any of those issues cause you to feel at least some confusion, doubt or irritation, you're not alone! Those are the kinds of hot topics we'll focus on in this column as we explore the rapidly growing organics sector in more detail. Definitions will be the centerpiece at our next meal.
Until then … eat well, be well!