Before concentrating in Agricultural Studies last semester I was unfamiliar with the chemical herbicide known as glyphosate, but as it happens glyphosate is the center of a great controversy in modern agriculture. This herbicide is non-selective, meaning it kills all plants indiscriminately. It is generally applied before seeding to rid fields of pests and weeds. When farming with little to no tillage (plowing) many farmers say it is almost a necessity to apply it. Glyphosate is frequently sold under the name Roundup. Glyphosate is persistent in soil but usually breaks down eventually. In the E.U. there were recently efforts to ban the chemical, but last winter it was approved for use for the next 5 years.
Companies, most notably Monsanto, insist that there are little to no health risks associated with glyphosate when used as instructed. However there are several documented cases where excessive exposure to glyphosate through the skin and/or lungs caused severe irritation and birth abnormalities especially when farm workers apply it without using gloves or protective clothing. Glyphosate residues can also be commonly found on produce grown in fields where it was applied, which means there is a small risk that it could accumulate in the body over time. The easiest way to protect yourself from this risk would be to wash your produce before consumption.
For further information on the subject I recommend this documentary(Glyphosate: The Sick Children of Argentina). It was originally from Deutsche Welle News though I am currently unable to find it on their site.
Colmar was the first town I ever visited in France and also the first class trip I ever took with my Spring Abroad Program, (IES Abroad Freiburg: Language and Area Studies). We took a bus in for the day and walked around town after visiting the Colmar’s St Martin’s Cathedral. This Alsace town is just as pristine and quintessentially French as it appears in these photos.
To top off the experience, a few of my new friends and I went on an hour long search for a cafe to share an Escargot appetizer. (Most places were closed because it was Sunday). We all ordered in subpar German as we’d only been in Europe for a few days and were still somewhat jet lagged. The waitress answered back to us in English as most Europeans will do to you despite your best efforts to speak in the local languages. Since we all shared one pricey Escargot platter I had exactly one Escargot, which I can only describe to have tasted like chicken. Some things are universal I guess.
Be sure to follow my travel adventures on instagram at: @colormeadri
Till Next Time,
Food Politics has always been a great topic of interest of me. In fact it is the social issue that got me interested in studying Sociology in undergrad. I’ve just finished the documentary Sugar Coated, and I think it does an excellent job at raising awareness of the health and social consequences of the sugar industry. It’s available on Netflix which I think makes it pretty easy to access for a lot of folks.
It’s not that sugar in itself is bad. Of course the sugar that is in fruits and vegetables occur naturally and we need to eat it to survive. However, sugar in the modern world is added in large quantities to almost everything we eat and given as many as 48 different alternative names that disguise it’s presence. Processed foods in particular are marketed to people often as being low fat, low calorie in order to attract sales, but in order to make up for the blandness of foods which have lost some flavors in the production process, unreasonable amounts of sugar are added to them.
Reported findings of medical studies over the past few decades on sugar consumption have often been deemed as inconclusive. It is highly likely that the sugar industry has invested lobbying money in order to downplay the effects of overdose on sugar and the consumption of some modified sugars which may be hard for the body to digest. In the past it was difficult to conclude with certainty to the public that heavy sugar consumption could be linked to many non-communicable diseases and conditions such as blood glucose issues, tooth decay, cognition related problems, and even increased risk for heart disease or cancer. This is largely in part to the reality that illnesses are influenced by a myriad of factors, and without the ability to isolate them in medical studies proving a link between sugar and disease is difficult, but over time more and more experts have been trying to warn consumers of the health risks of heavy sugar consumption.
As with anything, don’t just take my word as truth. Explore for yourself. Watch this film. Read some books. Talk to your doctor or dietary specialist and get that important second opinion, but whatever you do, read the labels on your foods! Don’t just be satisfied with vague statements on the front of the packaging that claim “healthy”, low calorie”, or even in some cases claims of “no added sugar”. Read your nutrition facts. You may be surprised (and slightly disgusted) by the amount of sugar we let slip by us. Take control of your health today. Our health is one the most important things we can protect in this world.
Yesterday I rewatched the documentary Food Inc., a movie which never fails to remind me to keep checking my food labels, and in general question where my food comes from. I was going to write a synopsis of the movie but I found a really excellent compilation of highlights from it:
Overview of Food Inc.
Documentaries and books enlightening us on where our food comes from and how big food companies control market prices are a great resource and I’m glad they exist. But I recall a couple they interviewed in Food Inc. that often fed their kids fast food and junk food knowing it wasn’t good for them. They felt they had no other choices for feeding their family because vegetables and fruits from the supermarket were too expensive, whereas chips, sodas, and hamburgers were an affordable way to at least make their kids feel full at night.
I was struck by a scene of the family at the supermarket. The youngest child’s eyes lit up at the sight of a discount on pears, only for her to be let down by her older sister who had to tell her that they still wouldn’t be able to afford them.
At the end of this documentary, they say everyone gets three votes a day on the kinds of food we all want to be sold to us, but my first thought was, Not everyone is even sure if they can put three meals a day on the table for their family.
It’s great to be informed about where our food comes from. It’s great to try to eat healthy, but next time you sit down to eat, please remember all the families that can’t afford to buy healthy food and those who don’t even have close access to stores that sell healthy food if they could afford it in the first place.
Food Inc.’s message about getting to vote about which foods are sold to us every time we go to the store is still a great one. For those of you who can afford to, try to buy more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods. If middle to upper class Americans start demanding healthier food, prices for these foods will go down and maybe someday buying quality food for one’s family won’t be just a luxury.