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Five Most Dangerous Food Health and Safety Issues Facing Southwest Missouri


1.  Indiscriminant use of pesticides

Pesticide exposure is associated with respiratory problems, memory disorders, dermatologic conditions, cancer, depression, neurologic deficits, miscarriages, and birth defects.  Imported fruits and vegetables from South America (a common source for tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes and pineapples among others) are more likely to contain high levels of pesiticides - even pesticides banned from use in the United States.

Organically grown foods have 1/3 as many pesticide residues as conventionally grown foods.  A 2006 study measured levels of organophosphates (a common group of insecticides) in 23 school children before and after replacing their diet with organic foods.  Organophsophate exposure dropped dramatically and immediately when the children switched to an organic diet.

2.  Origin and traceability of foods

When you select foods at the grocery store or sit down to a meal at your favorite restaurant, do you have any idea where the food came from, who grew it or how it was grown?  In almost all cases the answer is most likely 'no'.  Perhaps that lack of knowledge doesn't prevent you from enjoying that food, but what if suddenly you needed to know?  What if there was a recall of that food or you became sick from eating it?  From salmonella contamination of fruits, vegetables, greens and peanut butter to meats tainted with E. Coli, it takes a well informed person to keep up with all the food recalls.  Moreover, if you or your family member did become sick at some point wouldn't you want to know who or which company was responsible?  Wouldn't you like to know where that food came from and who grew it?  Once again in most cases, tracing that food to its country or origin, let alone the farm where it was grown, would be very difficult.

With locally grown foods, origin and traceability are part of the built in value.  Not only do you know where it was grown but in most cases you can meet and talk to the farmers who grew it.  You can talk to them about their farming methods - use of pesticides, fertilizers, and sources of their seed.  In the case or organic farmers you can discuss with them how they reutilize the natural resources of their farms to sustainably grow the food you enjoy.  You can also feel good knowing that you are supporting the local job market by purchasing food grown right here in southwest Missouri.

3.  Nutritional value of foods

The industrialization of agriculture has given the U.S. a solution to one problem but created several more.  Perhaps one of the most concerning is the loss of nutritional value in our foods.  Most industrial farms focus on the so-called macronutrients in the soil - nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) - or NPK. 

Organic growing methods result in higher levels of vitamins and anti-oxidants, polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), lower levels of nutritionally undesirable compounds such as heavy metals, mycotoxins and pesticide residues.

4.  Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)

A genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically engineered organism (GEO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes. This DNA is then transferred into an organism, giving it modified or novel genes.

The use of genetically modified organisms has sparked significant controversy in many areas. Some groups or individuals see the generation and use of GMO as intolerable meddling with biological states or processes that have naturally evolved over long periods of time, while others are concerned about the limitations of modern science to fully comprehend all of the potential negative ramifications of genetic manipulation.

The safety of GMOs in the foodchain has been questioned by some environmental groups, with concerns such as the possibilities that GMOs could introduce new allergens into foods, or contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistance.Although all studies published to date have shown no adverse health effects resulting from humans eating genetically modified foods,environmental groups still discourage consumption in many countries, claiming that GM foods are unnatural and therefore unsafe.  Such concerns have led to the adoption of laws and regulations that require safety testing of any new organism produced for human consumption.

5.  Salmonella and other processing concerns

Whether it is salmonella in tomatoes, pepper, greens, alfalfa sprouts or peanut butter, health warnings and recalls at numerous large scale producers (including some that are operating under USDA organic certification) are cause for concern. 

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