My mom has always been a little bit crunchy.
I don't mean that in a negative way.
She was buying organic, natural and fat-free products long before it was cool. It started out as a necessity. She's allergic to onions. If you have ever taken the time to look on the back of pre-made items such as hamburger helper, all-season salt or spaghetti sauce, you would notice onions lurk among the ingredient list on many different packaged foods. So, she learned to make everything homemade, omitting onions.
It wasn't until I started preparing my own food that I truly appreciated how much work went into putting together meals made from scratch for a family of six.
My parents live in a suburb of Kansas City that offers a vast opportunity of choices for food selection. You will most likely find my mom perusing the aisles of Hy-Vee or Trader Joe's, "hunting and gathering," as she likes to call it, to find the best prices and products.
It's easy to fall victim to the marketing anomalies stocked on the shelves of her favorite stores. My mom's most recent purchase included organic fruit snacks made into cow shapes. The United States Department of Agriculture organic certification was stamped proudly on the box and there were cute gummy cows standing in a field with raspberries, strawberries and cherries floating around them.
"These are so cute," she thought. "I bet Kala would love them."
She was right, I thought they were adorable. What's not to love about fruit snacks made into cow shapes?
Not so subtly stamped on each individual packet was this message:
"These yummy cow-shaped snacks are made for kids, but shhh we won't tell if you eat them too. They're more than just delicious: they're also organic, so you know they're made without the use of toxic persistent pesticides and GMOs."
Food Fallacy #1: Raspberries, strawberries and cherries are not GMOs. The word usage lends the consumer to assume other products with similar fruit flavoring could be manufactured with GMOs. The label is telling an obvious truth, but a GMO is still somewhat of a mystery to the average consumer, thus leading to confusion.
Food Fallacy #2: Just because a product has an organic stamp on it does not mean the food was grown totally without the use of pesticides. Jeff Gillman, a professor of nursery management at the University of Minnesota summed it up very nicely in an article titled, organic pesticides: not an oxymoron by Maureen Langlois.
"When people are buying organic food, they often make the incorrect assumption that there are no pesticides," he said.
Naturally occurring chemicals may be used in organic farming practices which are regulated by multiple entities. Simply put, because there is a lack of understanding of the word organic by the general public, it's imprecise language.
Misleading claims and various interpretations of our food system can clog up the aisles of communication between the farmer and the consumer on a daily basis. I completely understand why the average person strolling through the store could get tangled-up in what's really going on with their food. There are fallacies in food everywhere. Heck, I was confused not too long ago myself.
If you prefer to be a little bit crunchy, that's okay. Both organic and conventional farming practices ensure a safe and tasty snack reaches the shelves of whatever store you choose. We should appreciate the vast selection of food choices we have in the U.S., but also take a minute to dispel any misguided marketing information lurking on our food's packaging. Even if that means debunking agriculture myths one organic cow-shaped fruit-snack at a time.