We are ignorant and uniformedwhen it comes to food. We put the food in our mouth without even thinking about the consequences. Eat now, eat later; we never stop to think about what we are eating or where it comes from. The food now is heavily processed and genetically modified. Our meat is raised in cruel, cramped, and diseased conditions and most of us have no idea. Obesity and autoimmune diseases are at an all time high, and food is to blame, but it is also the solution. Diet now more than ever impacts our health. Way more than we give it credit for. Before this class, I thought I knew about food. I was just as ignorant as the average American is today. This class has changed that, but there is still so much we don’t know.
We want it now. Large factory-farm companies have taken advantage of the fact that we don’t ask questions about where our food comes from, as long as it is convenient. They have kept us in the dark. Jonathan Safran Foer, the author of Eating Animals, said the most disturbing thing about factory farms are the locked doors, “well, the first thing I learned about animal agriculture is that it’s very difficult to learn anything at all” (Foer). It is our right to know as consumers what we are eating and how it is made. There are PETA videos that show the gruesome treatment of these animals that end up on our plates, but PETA has a reputation for being over the top and extreme. Nobody wants to watch that if they have a choice. We would rather just ignore the problem and eat what is in front of us.
Is ignorance really bliss? We are supporting factory farms and therefore cruelty towards animals without even realizing. By doing nothing, we are in fact responding. Silence is consent. However, when did our society get so out of line in which supporting animal torture is a choice, “we don’t need the option of buying children’s toys made with lead paint, or aerosols with chlorofluorocarbons, or medicines with unlabeled side effects. And we don’t need the option of buying factory-farmed animals” (Foer). Unfortunately, the day that factory farming doesn’t exist is long gone. I have read Eating Animals, watched PETA videos, and know more about the food industry than the average American and yet I still eat meat. I realize that is hypocritical, but I am not trying to guilt trip you into becoming a vegetarian. The choice of eating factory-farmed meat should be an active and informed decision by the consumer, not a blind one.
The students of Santa Clara University don’t know they are eating genetically modified corn, and there is a good chance the rest of Americans don’t know either. When I surveyed the students, some of them didn’t even know what genetically modified meant, let alone if it was in their food. Companies have done a good job at keeping us unaware that we are eating them. Caitlin Shetterly developed an allergy to genetically modified corn and realized she had been eating way more GMO corn than
she initially thought, “it came under the guise of dozens of names like xanthan gum, natural flavors, free-flowing agents, vitamin E, ascorbic acid, citric acid, cellulose, and dextrose to name a few” (ELLE). In the documentary “King Corn”, two college students show just how much genetically modified corn the United States is making. At the amount we produce, it is no surprise how easily it has infiltrated our grocery stores. Because the FDA doesn’t require labeling, it is even harder for the consumer to be informed about what they are eating.
When I first decided to go on a gluten free diet for my Lupus, I didn’t realize how much food affects our health. We are currently in the “midst of an allergy and autoimmune epidemic” states Marc Rothenberg. People have been developing allergies to GMO’s and don’t even know. If they just changed their diet, their health would dramatically improve. When I switched to my new diet, I experienced a state of stability in my autoimmune disease. Because of going gluten free, I was able to be in the longest remission I have ever had. Food didn’t cause my disease, but it did become the solution I didn’t know I was looking for.
However, obesity is caused by food. But it can also be solved from switching eating habits. It is easy to blame the consumer for their terrible eating habits. They know what they are eating isn’t healthy, but companies like KFC aren’t telling them to what extent. KFC had an instant chicken scandal. Their chicken supplier in China was injecting growth hormones to speed up the process and make the chickens fatter, but they were also making the consumer fat. KFC and their parent company Yum! Brands Inc. didn’t even get rid of the chicken supplier until after the scandal broke in China and the public was pressuring them. The increase of hormones and antibiotics in factory farmed chicken, specifically Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), and the “instant chicken” contribute to the obesity epidemic and consequently type two- diabetes. Western companies like KFC are supposed to have stricter food standards and better quality. What passes for “chicken” these days isn’t even chicken and the consumer is unknowingly eating modified versions of it. The chicken isn’t the only thing being modified. A typical fast food meal is almost all genetically modified with corn. The soda has high fructose corn syrup, the fries are fried in a corn oil, and the meat is corn fed beef. Is that anywhere on a menu? No.
Looking back to the beginning of this class, I can’t believe how much I didn’t know about the food on my plate. It made me question whether I would have ever known this information if I never took this class. Sadly, the answer is probably not. This is the truth for most Americans, they will probably never know enough about where their food comes from and what is in it. Even though I didn’t necessarily change my eating habits, I am only one person. What if the world knew as much as I did about the food industry. Could the industry revolutionized, and therefore improve our health? Even if nothing changes, they should at least have the information to know that they should. When more people became aware of the problem of GMO’s in food, Whole Foods Market took their concerns into account. By the year 2018, this grocer giant will be the first to require labeling of all genetically modified food sold in their U.S. and Canada stores. “We are putting a stake in the ground on GMO labeling to support the consumer’s right to know,” said Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market (Huffington Post). Because of competition, their requirement is likely to domino effect, and soon every store will have GMO labeling. It is a start in the right direction.