The good, the bad, and the ugly

The good: I’d meant to post about this a few days ago, but I kept forgetting. Michael Pollan, of The Omnivore’s Dilemma fame, wrote a great piece in New York Times magazine about how the government’s first efforts decades ago to advise Americans about food has led to our modern inability to recognize what “food” really is. He says that science has taught us much, but it also shows us how much we really don’t understand about the intricacies of food and how it works (for example, antioxidants in food seems to prevent cancers, but antioxidants by themselves don’t work as well, if at all). He sums up by saying we should eat “food”—as in actual, real food, not processed garbage with ingredient lists you can’t pronounce. And my favorite: if a package makes health claims, avoid it, as that means it has less health in it than the “silent yams” over in produce. Hehe. He talks about the rise of “nutritionism,” which I found fascinating, as I’d never thought of the food situation in those terms. His final pronouncement is to eat only what your great-grandmother would recognize as food.

The bad: Contrast that line of thinking with this one, about how “cloneburgers” won’t come with labels. I really have been lax in keeping up with food news, because I wasn’t aware of how close the government is to approving cloned meat. Considering how and why the government proclaims something as “safe,” especially taking into account Pollan’s article and just how much government proclamations of what-is-safe have changed over the years, I know I wouldn’t eat cloned meat if you tortured me OR paid me. Perhaps I might in, say, 50 years, after all the initial guinea pigs have tested it for me. If we can’t see how nutrients interact with foodstuffs in order to do good for a human body, what might be the effects of cloned molecules? Maybe nothing; maybe they really are just the same as “real” meat molecules. But who wants to test that? My life and my quality of life is worth too much to me. I’ll stick to organics and real food, thanks.

The ugly: This particular part of the second article really caught my attention: “The dairy industry says the bill [to label cloned products] would hurt their business. ‘A huge burden would be on every single milk, cheese and ice cream company in this country, large and small, to provide 100 percent traceability and segregation and labeling of their milk,’ said Susan Ruland, spokeswoman for the International Dairy Foods Association.” What bothers me is that they complain that providing “traceability” would be such a problem…shouldn’t we be able to know, easily and simply, where the hell our food comes from? The fact that it’s so shrouded in mystery, treated like a corporate secret the masses needn’t concern themselves with, is how the industry can get away with what it does. If more people were actually aware of just where their food came from, they wouldn’t eat most of it.

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