The other day Ini brought home one of those nutritional ad magazines from a local health food store. You know the ones – they have a few articles worth reading, but they’re mostly full of health product ads. After reading through it, we used it for kindling.
It reminded me of how far we have come from a whole food diet being enough in our culture and that the trend for anything out of balance in our systems is to throw some expensive pills at it, instead of looking at lifestyle or dietary shifts foremost. Even health conscious, organic buying, body aware people do this. Hell, I’ve even done it. I digress.
Contained within this ad magazine was a shocking article about a new GMO potato, which its creator publicly speaks against for being “toxic.” Those of us who grow food (around the world) have long fought against the genetic modification revolution because of its short sided approach that simply doesn’t know what it doesn’t know yet pushes on anyway. Essentially, I ask, Why mess with something that is so perfect? Humans have been selecting varieties they like for aeons and we have a pretty good collection that gets better all the time.
What shocked me about this potato – and it’s a real cause for concern – is that the scientists silenced melanin creation accounting for a potato that doesn’t bruise, show disease and that stays white regardless of state or care during transportation.
This is really bad news for consumers, though it’s clear why companies that want greater useable crop yields would create such a thing and that companies prioritizing uniform looking food would want it.
Tons of food is thrown out per year due to bruising or because it doesn’t look pretty. As an organic farmer, we always joke that some of these foods are just the ones that end up on the farmer’s plate. In most cases, you can just cut around it and ugly fruits and veggies don’t have anything inherently wrong with them. Yet, a vegetable that has a bruise, but doesn’t appear to is a real cause for concern.
Caius Rommens, one of the scientists responsible for this potato in particular, is speaking out against this and has even written a book called Pandora’s Potatoes in which he decries the accumulation of toxins that can take place due to the silencing of certain genes (which they’ve done in this potato). Toxins such as alpha-aminoadipate (a neurotoxin) and tyramine could be silent accumulators in the unassuming consumer base. (source)
On top of this, the GMO potatoes are still bruised – you just can’t tell they are bruised. They could be far along in providing a home for a dangerous pathogen, rot or another non edible decomposition process and still appear white!
While this is a cautionary tale, consumers (who are lucky enough to have this information reach their ears) may be left wondering how they can sidestep this monstrosity. Here are a few alternatives to eating the ever-white non-bruising Franken-potato:
At the store always buy organic potatoes or, better yet, buy potatoes at your local farmer’s market from someone you have a relationship with. This is because GMOs still aren’t required to be nationally labeled so you can’t be sure what you’re getting unless it’s organic or you know the grower!
I didn’t mention this, but the original article I read also threw some serious hate at potatoes for not being healthy! I was aghast and as I read it started getting angry, which sparked a lively discussion with Ini. Potatoes are a basic human survival food, helping countless generations of people stay alive! How dare some modern calorie-counters write an article steering people away from their consumption. Long live the potato and buy organic!
Eat (and even grow your own!) alternatives to the potato
At Mountain Jewel, we grow potatoes every year. Due to our love for them, they rarely make it to winter storage, but we also grow a host of other tubers that can be used in similar ways. You may consider growing some of these plants alongside the familiar papa.
- Jerusalem Artichoke or Sunroot
- These, as many gardeners can attest, are vigorous and easy to grow tubers that produce a brilliant sunflower to boot! You can roast, boil, eat fresh, ferment, dry, make into soups or bake the sunroot. Also known as fartichokes, they also can up gas production in the intestines, but this usually (backed by a Mountain Jewel experiment) goes away after a few meals of eating them.
- Sweet Potatoes or Yams
- On our homestead we love growing Sweet Potatoes. They are so easy to grow and give you a nutritious green all year long as well as a delicious trove of roots at harvest time. I remember hearing a story of a Harvard professor who, when asked what the one food is that he would bring to a deserted island, said the sweet potato for it provides so many of our nutritional needs!
- A native to North America, the groundnut is a tuber with a climbing vine and a sweet pea like flower. These perennials fix nitrogen in the soil, slowly amending it over time and producing their own fertilizer as they grow! There are many human cultivated varieties prized for their size and flavor.
We also have Chinese Mountain Yam growing on our homestead, but yet have to make a meal out of it, but that’s another option. What are some other favorites of yours?
While Monsanto and Simplot (the company responsible for this Franken-potato) carry on with their disastrous plans, we can take our food security into our own hands.
This means knowing where our food is coming from and paying those people legitimate prices for their products! While the cost of living in many ways has continued to rise with inflation, the cost of food statistically has not risen along with it! That means that we expect the same prices we grew up with for potatoes, eggs, veggies, bread, milk, etc and we expect farmers to be able to meet those prices.
GMO and mass scale farms can, but oftentimes organic produce gets nearer to the true cost of high quality food production. Don’t be afraid to plan for this and set aside a little more money in your budget to pay for higher quality food. It certainly helps create the world you want to live in, but it also helps those farmers continue their good business of growing healthy food that’s good for you and the soil and water. Furthermore, the food will provide more nutrients and minerals which makes up your body, the sacred temple of yours during your lifetime on earth!