What are you eating?

We all have the food we trust, and the food we stay well away from. The slightest bruise on a banana would have many of us ready to throw it away. But why should we judge something that seems so insignificant on a small patch of discolouration? It seems we have been changing the crops we grow since the dawn of agriculture, although the science and technology available that allowed us to do this has developed and evolved over time. In the 1700s the human race started to cross breed plants within species. We have changed the wild tomato from a small marble sized fruit to the juicy giants we see commonly today. Even the humble carrot has been modified to be orange, originally white or purple and parsnip-like.

There are many advantages to genetically modified food, mostly that the fruit and vegetables are more tolerant to pests and insects that can often ruin whole fields of crops. Some think it provides an environmentally friendly alternative to pesticides. Consequently, customers get fresh produce quicker. On other occasions produce is genetically altered to better suit the taste of the consumer. For example, making it sweeter, bitter, smaller or bigger.

Concerns have been raised that these foods could pose a threat to the health of the general public. Dean DellaPenna, a distinguished Biochemistry and Molecular Biology professor at the Michigan State University, states. “Risks exist everywhere in our food supply, about a hundred people die each year from peanut allergies. With genetically engineered foods we minimize risks by doing rigorous testing.” More than 60% of all processed foods in the United States, including pizza, cookies and baking powder, contain ingredients from engineered soybeans, corn or canola. You probably have eaten genetically modified food and never noticed. By law if a product contains or consists of genetically altered food it must be labelled stating so, as to give the consumer choice. Although, I have never seen such label. It begs the questions, If the risks are not fully understood, should the products containing these modified foods be more clearly labelled? Should consumers be more educated on these seemingly unknown foods?

Similarly, the human race prefers their food to be perfect on the inside and out. Many of us judge what bag of potatoes, carrots and asparagus we’ll buy based how it looks. Retailer standard is so high that in 2013, produce considered ‘ugly’ contributed up to 40% of all wasted fruit and vegetables. 1.3 billion tonnes of food are wasted each year worldwide, of this fruit and vegetables have the highest wastage rates of any other food. Supermarkets largely added to this, however used their influence to try and combat the wastage. Morrisons created ‘Wonky Fruit & Veg’ to try and help tackle edible food wastage. Other stores like Sainsbury’s and Tesco are contributing by adding produce that would have been otherwise thrown away into soups, recipe boxes, smoothies and juices. In 2017 a report published suggested that the sales of ‘wonky veg’ have risen in the recent years due to retailers acknowledging the problem as well as putting procedures in place to help. Also, more awareness has been generated surrounding veganism and a more plant-based diet, people are becoming increasingly mindful of the benefits to swearing off meat and all products from animals. Including, it can help you lose excess weight. As a nation we eat too much, more than we should. Especially when those who grow our imported fruit and vegetables, are often exploited and over worked, with little to no pay.

In conclusion the life of a banana doesn’t have to end with a bruise. How have you contributed? How will you contribute?

Article by Young Reporter Emma Fowler
First published in Grimsby Telegraph 17th December