Food safety begins on the farm where crops are protected and cared for by farmers for as they grow. It continues in your home with proper storage, handling, preparation and cooking.
Pesticides are products farmers use to protect their plants against harmful bugs, weeds and diseases. By providing this extra defense, farmers can reduce waste in their fields from damaged crops and, in turn, grow more food per acre. Farmers must get certified to handle these products before they can use them. Once they do, their advanced equipment helps them apply the right amount only where it’s needed.
Have you ever worried about the risk of pesticide residue on your food? Good news: You don’t have to! The EPA enforces a strict pesticide evaluation process and, because of that, the fruits, vegetables and soy foods we eat today are safer than they’ve ever been. The average farmer applies only about a coffee cup’s worth of pesticides per acre – about the size of a football field – of crops so most of what they spray is water. Any pesticide residues that may remain on plants in the field decrease considerably as crops are harvested, transported and exposed to light.Plus, by the time food reaches the grocery store, it has gone through testing by the USDA to ensure it meets safety requirements. As an extra safety step, it’s still recommended to wash your fresh fruit and veggies once you get them home.
GMO stands for genetically modified organism, which is a crop that has naturally occurring genes of favorable characteristics added to boost its internal defenses and reduce the amount of inputs a farmer needs to use. Before a GMO crop can be grown, it has to pass over a decade’s worth of thorough research and testing. To date, there has not been one documented health problem related to GMOs according to credible organizations like the World Health Organization and others.
While some GMO varieties have benefits that help farmers, many also have direct benefits for the people who eat them. For example, high oleic soybeans have an improved nutritional profile and Arctic® apples and Innate potatoes®stay fresher longer.
There are only 10 GMO crops currently available: alfalfa, apples, canola, corn (field and sweet), cotton, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash and sugar beets.
There are so many food labels scattered throughout the grocery store, it can make even a simple shopping trip confusing. Here are the USDA definitions to provide some clarification for the most common labels you’ll see:
- Natural: Food that was made without artificial ingredients or added color and was minimally processed. This label is not an indicator of how the food was raised.
- No Hormones Added: Hormones are not allowed in raising pork or poultry, so this label cannot be used on those products unless followed by: “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.” For beef, the label may be used if a producer can prove with documentation that no hormones were used while raising the animal.
- No Antibiotics Added: Meat and poultry products raised without the use of antibiotics throughout the animal’s life.
- Free Range: Products sourced from animals that were raised with access to the outdoors.
- Organic: Food products raised in accordance with federal organic guidelines for pest and weed control, genetic modification, animal raising and the use of additives in processing.