COLUMN: Read the label to change food’s role in your life

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By Cheryl Steenerson

By now we’ve all heard about the devastating earthquake in Haiti. It is a disaster for untold numbers of people and it should make us all stop and think. Is our house as prepared as it should be? What if we had no stores right now? Food means survival.

No matter what you think, we are not invincible here in our little piece of Kentucky paradise. We could have a 7.0 earthquake right here. The New Madrid seismic zone fault lies over on the western boundary of the state, near the Paducah area. It is the most seismically active region in the United States east of the Rockies. Another area, the Southern Appalachian Seismic Zone, extends into the eastern areas of Kentucky.

While we hope that we never have to go through such a disaster, the events in Haiti should bring home just how important food is for our very health and survival. With New Years just behind us, many of us may have made a few resolutions to change the role of food in our lives, but healthy living isn’t as easy as it once was when our ancestors lived here.

Science and technology have made a big difference in our diets, most of it for the good. More people have enough to eat. It’s easier to get food to those who need it. My concern is everything that’s in it these days and the long-term effects on our health.

Soy has come on to the food scene like a gangbuster in the last century. Soy is a bean that is a great source of protein. It provides nutrients from amino acids that non-meat eaters need. It even gets into our food chain through animals, since a large portion of livestock feed contains soy products.

Soy is also an additive, found in 70 percent of our foods, to make it more nutritious. Soy can be added to wheat flour to boost the protein (fortified flour) and is found in many baked goods, cereals, and crackers. It is the major source of protein in some infant formulas. It’s also found in such diverse foods as canned tuna, sauces, soups, and, of course, Asian food. It’s even in Hershey chocolate bars. The only way to find out if it’s in what you’re eating is to carefully read the label.

Today, soybeans grown in America are genetically modified. Technically, only nine out of ten seeds are modified. The genes inside the seeds have been inoculated against the herbicide Roundup Ready.

Think of a flu shot. We get inoculated against the flu by taking a flu shot. This technology works in a similar way. Farmers can plant these soybean seeds and then spray their fields with Roundup as often as necessary to keep down weeds and get a cleaner and more bountiful harvest.

Scientists assure us that the herbicide comes in such small amounts that it is safe. I believe it’s like my penny jar. Over a period of time, it adds up to a lot.

Remember, 70 percent of the food we buy in grocery stores contains genetically modified organisms. Reading the labels will not tell you that, because we don’t require companies to tell us.

We are fortunate to have all that we have here in our country, but food means survival, and we need to quit ignoring what’s in it. Now, get started planning that garden. Check out those seed catalogues and pay close attention to the types of seeds that you’re ordering. Remember that old saying, “we are what we eat.” Happy growing.

Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News. She can be reached via e-mail at paysteen@localnet.com.