Doesn’t it make your mouth water?
In talking about the meaning of organic foods, many conversations focus on what organic agriculture prohibits: pesticides, genetic modification, sewage, etc. However there is another “no” on the organics list, one thing that does not find itself talked about as often. A lot of us haven’t even heard of food irradiation – let alone why we should be against it – – but now it is time for a change.
So what is irradiation and why is it done to our food? Food irradiation is done in order to destroy microorganisms, bacteria, viruses and insects that might be in food to protect consumers. It is done by exposing the food to ionizing radiation. The irradiation attacks its target by damaging the organisms DNA beyond repair. It kills spoil-causing bacteria, and can stop plants from continuing in their natural ripening process. It breaks down the vitamins and nutrients in our food and diminishes its nutritional value for us, despite it still looking like normal food.
A brief history of irradiated foods tells us that there has been over 50 years of research and testing done with food irradiation starting in 1955. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the irradiation of white potatoes (1960), wheat and wheat powder (1963), meats for astronauts to consume in space (early 1970s), spices, seasonings, pork, fresh fruits, and dry and dehydrated substances (1980s), poultry (1990), and red meats (1997).
So far, Canada, unlike the United State, does not approve of food irradiation on meat or fresh produce. However, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), onions, potatoes, flour, whole wheat flour, wheat, whole or ground spices and dehydrated seasonings are approved for irradiation and sale in Canada.
When looking into seed irradiation, finding facts about it was difficult, however, research kits meant to observe the differences between normal seeds and irradiated seeds were in abundance, which is not all that comforting. One kit’s summary even includes this not-so-heart-warming quote: “Within a few weeks students will clearly note the unusual growth patterns of the irradiated seeds in comparison to the growth of the normal seeds.”
Considering that seeds are at the foundation of the food chain, should it not be a priority to keep them in their natural state, in a form that has survived for centuries, as opposed to cleaning them off with radiation and inhibiting and changing their growth patterns?
Under organic standards, irradiation isn’t allowed, and so no organic products will be exposed to radiation. However, conventional products are not the same. Conventional foods can in fact be irradiated, but they will be labelled if they have undergone this process.
If organic standards are not in favour of food irradiation, should we take into consideration that maybe we should not be eating it? If the food is tampered with and has its genetics contorted do we really want to eat that and let it polymerize into our systems? If we are doing it intentionally, which we are not always doing, wouldn’t it be like taking a bite out of a radiation bar, wouldn’t it?
Now I’m not so sure that my mouth is watering…