The Vegan lifestyle is arrived at via many different paths. Some come to it by taking a stand against factory farming, and animal cruelty, while others want to be kinder to the earth, and then there is the awareness of the health benefits of a plant based diet. However you end up arriving, once you get here, the days of worrying about Vitamin B-12, and how you’ll get your protein, have been trumped by the advent of vegan processed foods, genetically modified foods (GM foods), and busy lifestyles that leave us putting our health on the back burner.
We longed for convenience and more choices when it came to eating our meals, and those pining’s have been answered¸ and then some. Never before have Vegans had so many foods that cater to our needs, but unfortunately just because it says vegan on the package does not mean that it is good for us. At one time we were exempt from the trappings of the Standard American Diet (SAD), boiling our beans, rice, and stir frying our tofu, we felt strong, and healthy, but now more of us are choosing to depend on processed foods as staples, and using whole foods on occasion.
Don’t be fooled, or taken in by the lure of these processed foods, as they are high in sodium, preservatives, artificial colors, and now GM foods. Unbeknownst to a lot of us, whatever lifestyle you lead, these GM food products, that have been genetically manipulated to provide their own toxic pesticides, and to become herbicide tolerant, allowing farmers to spray herbicides on the plants without killing them, have been creeping into our pantries since the mid 1990’s. It might not be a coincidence that corresponding to that time period, sharp increases in food allergies began to be reported, and they continue to rise. For years scientists, and physicians have been calling for extensive independent testing, and labeling of these foods, as the testing in laboratory animals has shown alarming results including infertility, death, immune changes, gastrointestinal problems, and the list goes on.
The food companies have not been required to label GM foods, although this is now up for debate. Whole Foods Market was the first grocery store chain to stand up to the consumers right to know, now stating that by the year 2018, if any products on their US, or Canadian shelves contain GM foods, they will be labeled as such. According to webmd.com, a conservative estimate compared to other sites, 60%-70% of all processed foods on our shelves contain GM foods.
According to the USDA, and other sources, 90%-94% of Soy in the US is GM, as well as 70%-88% of Corn. You would be hard pressed to find any processed foods that did not contain one, or both of these crops in one form or another. For Vegans, and non-vegans alike, this means soy milk, vegan cheese, tofu, tempeh, soy sauce, miso, and canola oil just to name a few, as well as anything containing soy lecithin, which is used as an emulsifier in products like ice cream, and candy.
As vegans who are concerned about the health of our planet, and our animals, these products are directly affecting them. Their feed is laced with GM products, our bees are pollinating these products, and whether we like it or not, every time we consume these products, we are casting a vote of yes to have more of them.
So what do we do now? In the words of Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.” We know that whole foods that have been grown organically are better for us, and at the moment, the government does not allow foods that are grown organically to come from GM food products.
But, not all of us can afford to eat 100% organic, and most of us do not cook every night, especially if we have families. Our dependence on processed foods can make cooking a meal seem like a mountainous task, but getting back to our roots, getting our hands in the flour, and creating in the kitchen can not only be a meditative process, reducing stress, and elevating our moods, but also time with our families, a way to lighten our footprint on the earth, and a great act of love towards ourselves, and the planet.
My advice as to where to begin with all of this is to continue to educate ourselves, and avoid GM foods as much as possible. Seek out our local farmers, and know what they are growing, eat as many organically grown foods as possible, eat less processed foods, and cook more. Even large cities have urban farmers growing crops on rooftops, so local foods are almost in reach of everyone these days.
You can go a further step, and tell your government that you do not approve, and if writing a letter to the president, or arranging a rally isn’t your thing, no problem, as the biggest impact we can have lies in the products that we purchase every day. If we stop buying processed and GM foods, the companies developing, and feeding us these products will have to change their focus, or disappear all together, and we can take our health back.
Being healthy goes beyond just the foods that we eat, but it is a large part of what supports us in everything else that we do, and a great place to start, and make a huge impact. We can tend to take our health for granted until it isn’t there anymore, and I believe we can do better.
Genetically Modified Corn via Bigstock