Lately I’ve been having “issues” for lunch. Since my job moved next door to a big tech company that has a cafeteria with a salad bar and grill, I’ve become extremely conflicted over my food choices. At first I was thrilled to have access to it, but now I am questioning my sanity. So I made a visit to a respected Viennese doctor so he could help analyze my predicament. (Please note that Dr. Sigmund Food pronounces the letter “w” as a “v.”)
Dr. Food: Vhat brings you to my couch today?
Lentil Breakdown: The salad bar. I know for the price, the ingredients probably aren’t organic, and it has opened up a can of worms.
Dr. Food: Vhat vurms?
Lentil Breakdown: Pesticides, genetically modified crops, growth hormones and antibiotics, for starters.
Dr. Food: Ah, fear of za unknown. Vhere does zees anxiety stem from? Between za vurms and za stems, it sounds organic!
Lentil Breakdown: Well, everything in the salad bar looks good to the naked eye, but I see the celery, bell peppers and spinach and think about how those three are on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list for the highest pesticide count. And I wonder where the large batches of lettuce and spinach are from. Could they have e coli? Were they sitting in some Con Agra warehouse before traveling 1500 miles on a Sysco truck? If so, how much fuel did it use to get here? Are there any items from Chile which consumes even more fuel or from China or Mexico with lax environmental regulations?
Dr. Food: I detect a leetle overactivity in za brain. Vhy must you assume za vurst? Ver your parents vorry varts?
Lentil Breakdown: Yes, my parents were worry warts, but not about this. I am creating my own legacy. And Dr. Food, I am not assuming the worst. I am voicing legitimate concerns based on facts. When I see the edamame beans and tofu and corn, I'm thinking that since they aren’t organic, they are from Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds. Only organic soy and corn are guaranteed to be GMO-free (Genetically Modified Organisms). Did you know that 91% of soy, 85% of corn, 88% of canola and 71% of cotton is genetically modified in the U.S. and we don’t even know it since labeling is not required?
Dr. Food: So? Vhat’s za vurst that could happen to us from zees seeds?
Lentil Breakdown: Haven’t you heard that this Frankenstein farming may be dangerous? According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, there are serious health risks associated with genetically modified foods, such as allergies, infertility, immune problems, faulty insulin regulation and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. And the FDA is not even looking out for us! They just approved another one of Monsanto's GMO crops the other day—alfalfa! Doctor Food, it really bothers me when we buy GMO products because as consumers, we're the ones creating the demand for it. It’s kind of like in that Field of Dreams movie, “If you build it, they will come.” Only it’s “If we buy it, they will make it.” Except this field stars soybeans and corn, not Kevin Costner. But I’ve seen his acting. He may be genetically modified too.
Dr. Food: Who is zees Kevin Costner and vhy does he dance vith volves?
Lentil Breakdown: Never mind the wolves! It’s the other animals I’m worried about (although according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the gray wolf is endangered, so I’m worried about him too). But if meat is not organic, chances are it's from some big-agro industrial farm that uses rBGH growth hormones. According to the Center for Food Safety, 80% of cattle raised in the U.S. have been pumped full of hormones to increase body mass, and these hormones are not considered safe for humans or the environment. Some researchers think that hormones are creating early puberty in girls and an increased risk in breast and prostate cancers. And antibiotics are given to the majority of farm animals because they're sitting all cooped up in their own filth! And Jesus, the cheeses! The dairy and eggs are full of them too! These antibiotics create antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans, which means when we’re sick and really need antibiotics, they won’t work anymore!
Dr. Food: Vell, how about a leetle tuna fish? That never hurt nobody.
Lentil Breakdown: Wow, Dr. Food, you are so last century! According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, most canned tuna is on the “Avoid” list. For the price, the cafeteria's tuna probably isn't a "Best Choice." Not to mention it's full of mercury, so if you do eat it, you should limit your intake, according to EWG's Tuna Calculator.
Dr. Food: Vell, then eat some beans and call it a day.
Lentil Breakdown: I usually do eat some legumes like garbanzo or kidney beans, but I know they’re canned. Did the can's plastic lining contain Bisphenol A? Did you know that BPA is an endocrine disruptor and has been declared toxic to human health and the environment?
Dr. Food: Geez! Isn’t zees still better than eating at Mickey D's?
Lentil Breakdown: Yeah, if you skip the salad dressings with the hydrogenated oils and high-fructose corn syrup. I make my own from the cruets of olive oil and balsamic vinegar they have. That way I’m in control.
Dr. Food: Maybe it's time to throw caution to za vind and order something from za grill.
Lentil Breakdown: I've had the veggie burger that they put on the grill, and it's very tasty. Its meaty flavor is reminiscent of the flame-broiled Whopper. But I can tell it’s made out of soy, and for the price, it’s probably not organic, so it's a GM...oh...boy. Here we are. Right back where we started. It’s not easy being me!
Dr. Food: I see you have many issues!
Lentil Breakdown: And we haven’t even gotten to fair trade coffee, tea and chocolate or what farm-raised salmon is doing to the ecosystem! Did you know that the government is on the verge of passing legislation for allowing the first genetically modified salmon? Oh, and did I mention the plastic containers you put the salad in? How come everyone isn't thinking these thoughts? Where is the outrage? This is our planet and our food supply! I thought we were the change we'd been waiting for, but I'm still waiting! Doc, I'm exhausted. Would I be better off with my head in the sand? I try to be a conscious person, but all these choices are making me crazy!!
Dr. Food: I thought everything vee do is unconscious. You mean vee have choices? Now you tell me!
Lentil Breakdown: Of course we have choices. We can carry with us the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides and the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Pocket Guide. We can eat less meat and buy dairy and eggs without rBGH growth hormones and antibiotics. We can think of ways to save plastic. We can read labels and web sites and try to know the origins and implications of what we buy. Yet all this makes me a buzzkill to be around, according to my former friends. How come I'm the enemy? I'm not even a PETA member!
Dr. Food: Vell, I see vee have years of verk ahead of us.
Lentil Breakdown: Is your couch made from organic cotton?
Dr. Food: For za price, probably not. I got it at IKEA.
Lentil Breakdown: Doctor, I’m afraid our time is up.