The girls (and boys) Guide to Confusing Food Words
“Food is power. Are you in control of yours?” – John Jeavons
Today’s food market, heavily laden with politics and big business, has developed a long list of confusing and obscure buzz words.
These words are the coinage of food debates and controversy. Words like “organic“, “healthy“, “genetically modified” and “heirloom” are tossed around like candy. Many of us think we know what they mean or, at least, we think we know what they DON’T mean and, most of us are wrong!
Learning the Food Buzz Words can help you make more informed choices and give you the power of knowing you no longer have a fog over your eyes every time you put something in your mouth!
“Our choices at all levels—individual, community, corporate and government—affect nature. And they affect us.”- David Suzuki
• Organic vs Conventional:
When one looks at the time-line of food production the modern definition of the phrases Organic and Conventional is a bit confusing. In any other context, “conventional” would mean the way something has traditionally been done. The established practice or accepted standards. Not the case with food!
For most of human history, agriculture can really be described as organic. It has only been in very, very recent history, the 20th century, that a large supply of new synthetic chemicals were introduced to the food supply. This modern style of production is referred to as “conventional,” even though “organic” production has been the convention for a much greater period of time.
In organic food production, the use of conventional non-organic pesticides, insecticides and herbicides is greatly restricted and only used as a last resort. However, contrary to popular belief, certain non-organic fertilizers are still used.
So, to clarify this confusion, the old and traditional way of growing food without chemicals is termed ORGANIC while growing foods with the newest technologies and chemicals is called CONVENTIONAL.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are any plant, animal or microorganism which have been genetically altered using molecular genetics techniques such as gene cloning and protein engineering. Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods that have had their DNA changed through genetic engineering.
Unlike conventional genetic modification (in this case “conventional” means the traditional way) that is carried out through time-tested conventional breeding of plants and animals. Combining genes from different organisms is known as recombinant DNA technology, and the resulting organism is said to be “genetically modified,” “genetically engineered,” or “transgenic.”
GM products include medicines and vaccines, foods and food ingredients, feeds, and fibers. For example, the gene from a fish that lives in very cold seas has been inserted into a strawberry, allowing the fruit to be frost-tolerant.
In America, there is no law dictating GM food products be labeled or disclosed in packaging.
Plants that have been cross breed with other compatible types of plants (more about different type of plants with plant leaf identification app - https://apps.apple.com/us/app/plantspot-plant-identification/id1437376141 ) in an effort to enhance a plant’s growth, fruiting and hardiness are called hybrids. Many of our modern plants are the results of these crosses.
Hybrid plants are different from GM plants in that they are NOT the result of genetic alterations using molecular genetics but, rather, the result of cross-pollinating plants that are compatible.
Hybrid seeds do not always reproduce true to type. This means that second generation plants may produce different results. If you are buying hybrid seeds, look for seeds which are labeled as reproducing “true to type”.
• Heirloom/ Heritage:
Heirloom plant seeds have been saved and passed down through generations by gardeners looking to preserve their genetic diversity and the unique qualities of the plants they produce. To be capable of being saved, Heirloom plants are Open Pollinated.
• Open Pollinated:
Open Pollinated (OP) plants are plant varieties that are capable of reproducing themselves. OP plants will produce seeds that, when replanted, will produce seedlings that are identical to their parent plant. Not all plants do this.
• Untreated Seeds:
Untreated Seeds have been produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides or genetic modification.
• Biodynamic Seeds:
Biodynamic Seeds are from farms or gardens which use Biodynamic practices of managing land for ecological balance. The organic growing methods and planting cycles are integrated with the local environment where possible.
Monsanto is the world’s largest conventional seed company and the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seeds, selling 90% of the world’s GE seeds. Monsanto’s products have been the target of much world debate related to the future of agriculture and food production.