I have just finished up my last farm visit as part of Illinois Farm Families City Moms for 2015. And, I wanted to summarize some of the common myths out there in the media, and used by marketers to make a sale, that were busted for me during this year of visiting farm families all over northern Illinois.
MYTH: "Organic" means "pesticide free"
FACT: "Organic" is a term that is regulated by the USDA and FDA. To use the term organic on your product, you DO have to meet certain guidelines, as outlined here. And, to use pesticides on an organic crop, it has to be an organic pesticide. Organic substances are not all "good for you" - they are just organic, meaning "of, relating to, or derived from living matter." People often think of manure or compost, which are both organic. But arsenic is also organic. The level of pesticide, organic or conventional, is not controlled by these labels, and you cannot really know whether that conventional product has more or less pesticide than the organic. You just know that pesticide that was used fit the organic guidelines. So, just be a savvy consumer and realize what is marketing and what is useful for your family. And wash your fruits and vegetables!
MYTH: There are antibiotics in our meat and milk supply
FACT: While sometimes it is necessary to give an animal an antibiotic to treat an illness, so it does not spread to the rest of the herd, it does not mean those antibiotics are in our food. There are well documented "withdrawal" times for every medicine. Farmers and their veterinarians know these withdrawal times. No animal is milked or sent to harvest until all of that antibiotic has left their system. Additionally, the great majority of antibiotics used on animals are not the same ones being used by humans. What's more, you don't have to even trust the farmer on this! The USDA is on hand all day, every day, at every milk intake plant or harvest facility, testing animals and milk. If the milk or animals are ever found to have broken the rules, the entire load of milk or animals is rejected, the farmer doesn't get paid, and they are put on a watch list. When on that list, they are subject to further scrutiny and testing that costs them more money. Farmers want to follow the rules. Farmers want to make money on milk or animals they have spent money to raise. It's their livelihood. It's that simple.
MYTH: Non-GMO means healthier and safer for your family
FACT: First, it might be useful for you to know why GMO foods were begun in the first place. Along with corn and soybeans, another early successful GMO seeds was for papaya plants, and the seed allowed for an entire crop to be saved from a very invasive virus that, if left alone, would have eradicated them from the planet. You can learn more about that here. Additionally, GMO seeds have increased yield on plants, allowing leaders to feed more people with less land around the globe, where there are increasingly more mouths to feed. GMO seeds require less pesticide use than non-GMO crops. And, in over 40 years of testing, there has not been one test that has indicated there is any change to your food, eating GMO or non-GMO. This is a multi-layered topic, but you should know there is no empirical evidence to support the claim that non-GMO foods are healthier or safer for your family.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of the things I have learned as a City Mom. I am now a more informed consumer for me and my family. I am so very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this program.