I think most people have heard of the term GMO and know that it’s a ‘bad’ thing, but from questions I’ve asked people recently, there still seems to be confusion around what a GMO is and why it’s so bad. For those who are still unsure about GMOs, I’ve provided an explanation, in the simplest way I know how.
What is a GMO?
A GMO is Genetically Modified Organism, containing DNA that has been altered by humans in a lab.
Why Do This?
Genetically Modified seeds are altered to be able to withstand pesticides. This is done so farmers can spray their crops with pesticides, killing the pests and weeds, but not the crops themselves. Animals can also be genetically modified.
What is the Outcome?
Pesticides and our health: What you’re left with is produce that is covered in toxins, and animals full or drugs. Pesticides are obviously very harmful—harmful enough to kill bugs and weeds. Pesticides accumulate in our bodies, and in the long-term, can cause cancer, affect our reproductive system, and disrupt our endocrine system. Children are especially susceptible to the effects of pesticides.
Pesticides and the environment: Pesticides aren’t only killing the “pests,” they’re killing every bug they come across, including lady bugs, honey bees and worms which are the good-guys in the world of agriculture. Pesticides are also depleting the nutrients in the soil, causing fruits and vegetables today to contain less nutrients then they once did. Also, pesticides don’t remain in one place once sprayed; they leach into ground water and end up in rivers, lakes, streams and even our drinking water. Birds that eat insects laced with pesticides are also affected, for example, abnormal eggs have been found in their nests! (Makes me wonder about the human reproductive system…)
How can we avoid the negative effects of pesticides?
To be sure that you’re not contributing to the negative effect of pesticides, avoid buying GMOs, and opt for organic. Although they may be more expensive, in my opinion, it’s a small price to pay for health.
And this is where the soaking-of-the-produce comes into play…
A lot of the time, if I can’t find organic grapes, for example, I’ll just substitute for organic blueberries. But there are times when I’ll need an organic red pepper for Mexican night, and settle for a GMO. When I purchase non-organic produce, I know that it’s most likely been sprayed with pesticides. In order to make them as safe as possible to eat, and contain the least amount of pesticide-residue, I use my momma’s method, and soak them in a sink full of cold water and vinegar. Due to it’s antibacterial properties, the vinegar helps remove the majority (but I’m sure not all) of the toxic residue. To do this…
Soak Your Produce
- Fill the sink up with 3-4 inches of cold water
- Add 1/4 – 1/2 Cup of white vinegar
- Soak for about 30 min
- Rinse with cold water, and place on a tea-towel or absorbent mat to dry
I soak all my produce, organic or not, before putting in the fridge. This makes sure everything is clean (because who knows who’s been handing it), as well as pesticide-free—try to keep your fridge a toxin-free zone. The cold water also brings leafy greens back to life.
The Dirty Dozen
Every year the Environmental Working Group, EWG, puts out a list of the top 12 fruits and vegetables that contain the highest amounts of pesticide residue. These have been named “The Dirty Dozen.” When shopping for these 12 fruits and vegetable, always opt for the organic version, or at the very least, use the soaking method that I mentioned above.
The Dirty Dozen Include:
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Hot Peppers
- Sweet Pepper (Red and Green Peppers)
And last year they added a couple extras, “The Dirty Dozen Plus”…
- Kale and Collards
- Summer squash (eg. Zucchini)
I’ve found it beneficial to write this list in the “Notes” section of my phone and pull it out when I’m shopping. Or, print it out–I’ve attached a printable version at the bottom of the page.
Check out the EWG’s website for more information, as well as “The Clean Fifteen” which contain the least amount of pesticides.