(BPT) - Kids around the country are heading for school. For parents, now is the time to think about providing nutritious meals in kids’ lunch boxes and on the kitchen table – keeping them energized and focused throughout the day, and above all else, healthy.
This fall, U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance wants to help families make informed decisions when it comes to those nutritious meals and learn how food gets from the farm to kids’ plates. More and more, people have questions about food production, food safety and health. These are always top of mind for any of us, but they take on even more importance when you’re providing meals for children and your family.
Three key food issues have been getting increasing attention lately and it’s important to know what these really mean when it comes to choosing and preparing your food:
Are GM foods a healthy option?
Since 1995, food from genetically-modified (GM) seeds have been commercially available and have been proven safe for human and animal consumption. GM seeds undergo testing for safety, health and nutritional value. This regulation is overseen by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Research shows that the current commercial crops from GM seeds have the same nutritional properties as non-GM seed crops and are not harmful for humans and animals to consume.
Farmers have been genetically altering plants and seeds through selective breeding to improve characteristics such as hardiness, yield, taste and nutrition for thousands of years. Today’s GM seeds are part of this evolution. Their development is sped up and more precise by inserting the genes from one plant into another in a laboratory setting. These crops can be grown using GM seeds: sweet corn, field corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beets, papaya, alfalfa and squash.
What is the difference between organic and non-organic, and is it really important to me?
The main difference between organically and non-organically grown foods is the production method – those who raise organically grown food must follow a strict set of guidelines outlined by the USDA. The USDA organic label indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Like many other value-added products, organic food can be more expensive because, in some cases, it costs more to produce. A common misconception is that the increased cost of organic food relates directly to its superior nutritional value, which is unproven.
Another common misconception about organic food production involves pesticide and fertilizer use. Organic farmers can choose from organic-certified pesticides and fungicides, which are outlined by the USDA Certified Organic program. They can also use organic matter (livestock manure) for fertilizer.
Are antibiotics being used to treat farm animals harmful to me and my family in our food?
Antibiotics are used to ensure animal safety, food safety and the safety of humans and our health. A common misconception is that antibiotics used on animals will be present in the meat you buy at the store. All animals treated with antibiotics go through a withdrawal period and must meet standards for antibiotic residue before the meat enters the food supply, ensuring that any animals treated with antibiotics are safe to enter the food supply.
Another common concern is that antibiotic use in animals has contributed to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a concern for both animal and human health and antibiotics are crucial to all of us. To date, there has been no proven link to antibiotic treatment failure in humans due to antibiotic use in animals raised for consumption.
“Providing a variety of food choices is very important to America’s farmers and ranchers, but ensuring that consumers have the right information to make the right food choices for them is just as important,” says Katie Pratt, an Illinois farm mom and U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance spokesperson. “Being an informed food consumer will help ensure healthy and nutritious meals for your kids and family throughout the upcoming school year.”
For more information about food production and the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, visit www.FoodDialogues.com. Wholly or partially funded by one or more Checkoff programs.