Monday, January 13, 2014

Food in the New Millenium; An Inferiority Complex

As you may or may not already know, there is a lot of discussion and controversy about our food system especially here in the United States, or as I have come to affectionately call it "Merica".
Among the issues are genetically modified organisms (GMO's), the ever decreasing varieties of vegetables currently being grown, and of course the debate over nutrition.
It is this last point that I have recently been thinking about.  Now the common debate is more about high calorie low nutritive value "foods" such as chips, soda, fast food, processed food , etc.  I however, began thinking about nutrition in real, actual foods such as fruits & vegetables.
Here was my thought.  We seem to be facing an increasing public health problem, not simply due to eating too much of the wrong things like sugar (in various forms), fats and salt but also because we are incredibly deficient in many nutrients.  This began when my wife quoted an author saying that "we are not deficient in medications, we are deficient in nutrients".  This got my gears turning about how it is that we as a nation choose to grow the vast majority of our food.  Farmers typically rotate crops in their fields each season (most notably soybeans and corn but also real vegetables) because different vegetables need pull different nutrients from the soil and so this keeps from depleting too much, supposedly.  If the majority of vegetables grown commercially are grown "conventionally" with chemical fertilizers, it seems that the only nutrients being regularly replenished are Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium, leaving a chunk of micro nutrients missing over time.  This deficiency rolls downhill into our diets terminating in compromised health and well being. 
A remedy for this unsustainable method of food growing is to recycle the remnants of the previous seasons plants as well as food scraps into compost that can be used to feed future vegetables.  Including some small stone particles in the compost can be a good way to add back the micro nutrients as well.  A good example of this method is vermicomposting.  Feeding plant waste and food scraps (including egg shells) to worms, they are broken down rather quickly and turned into rich dark organic matter, to facilitate this process, the worms need fine particulate sand and gravel dust to fill their gizzards which help them digest their food.  This particulate is constantly moving through the worms (literally) and in the process is digested itself, broken down into its mineral components which become readily available to plants.  Now I haven't done any scientific experiments or long term studies (although history may offer some insight) but could the results of practicing this far more sustainable growing technique be any more dangerous than splicing together genes from completely unrelated organisms?
Just a thought.

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