Yesterday what remains of the FDA under the Bush regime opened the lead doors to allow Big Ag and Big Industrial Food to start irradiating the life out of the iceberg lettuce and spinach you eat. The FDA claims that nuking these leafy greens is required to keep us safe from the E. Coli and other fecal coliforms (nerdspeak for "shit germs") found to have contaminated the food we bring home to eat. The Bushies, their moles in the Federal agencies that once protected us, and the corporatists they all serve are — as usual — lying through their coliform encrusted teeth. Our menus — and our choices — need not be collapsed down to the binary option of "nuked food vs poop food". "Let them eat shit" is the GOP’s de facto public safety policy, but we don’t have to swallow it.
We also don’t have to swallow the lie that irradiating greens would prevent most cases of food born illness the greens may carry. The majority of food borne illness linked to greens come from viruses, not bacteria. Irradiation won’t kill the viruses — but it does increase the greens’ shelf-life. Gee – wonder what the real agenda is?
So what’s the big deal about putting irradiated food in our mouths? We still kiss our partners after they’ve had dental X-rays and nothing bad happens, right? Well, we do — but if the dentist used the radiation doses used to blast our food, when we went to kiss our partners the skin would be sloughing off their faces — in the few days before they died from radiation exposure.
The whole purpose of food irradiation is to kill living organisms: bacteria. The radiation required is called "ionizing radiation". That’s radiation so strong it produces "ions": atoms and/or molecules with an electron knocked off by the radiation. The result can be atoms and/or molecules that have to suck an electron off one of their neighbors (creating "free radicals" who then need to suck electrons off one their neighbors — creating a daisy chain of electron thefts). With higher energies and doses, the result can be molecules (a molecule is a chain of atoms connected through "shared" electrons) blasted into bits. When we get a dental X-ray — or a CAT scan — we’re exposed to low levels of ionizing radiation. That’s why dentists and doctors now try and take as few X-ray or CAT scan as pictures as possible — the greater our bodies’ exposure, the greater our risk of permanent damage from the radiation.
When Big Toxic Food blasts bacteria with radiation, the goal is to use levels of radiation so high that the bacterial molecules are broken apart — and the bacteria die.
So what — broken bacteria just give us more protein in our hamburger patties and lettuce, right?
Nope. Plants like lettuce and spinach (and grains and herbs and spices and fruits and veggies) and animal foods (like meats and poultry and seafood) nourish us because they contain molecules we require to live. Some of the molecules are small: like amino acids (building blocks of protein) and sugars (buliding blocks of starches). Other nutrient molecules are relatively huge — like many vitamins. "Vitamins" is a general name for nutrient substances we depend upon to live — though we may only require small doses to stay healthy. Some vitamins have structures so complicated that humans can’t directly copy the structure to "synthesize" the molecule, but instead must rely on clever microbes to make the vitamin for us. We then eat the vitamins in our food (or microbes create them in our own guts), and we get to live. Yay nutrients! Yay vitamins! Yay (beneficial) microbes!
The industrial strength radiation used to kill bacteria in our food is so strong it also can break apart large nutrient molecules — including large vitamin molecules…like Vitamin C. The industrial strength radiation used to kill bacteria in our food is also so stong it creates "free radicals" — the conga line of pickpockets that each steal an electron from their neighbors.
Hey — as Carl Sagan would say, a bite of food has "billions and billions" of electrons. What’s the big deal if the atoms in our spinach salad wanna toss around a few particles? What are we – the subatomic food police? Why worry about "free radicals" — isn’t that what conservatives used to do?
The problem with "free radicals" is that — unlike academic Marxsts who only harm by inflicting terminal boredom, "free radicals" in our food actually change the molecular compostion of our food. One thing "free radicals" can do is make food more rancid. Another thing free radicals do — sometimes acting along with the fragments of molecules broken apart by ionizing radiation — is to bring about the creation of molecules that weren’t there before. Many of these molecules are toxic to us. Yep — irradiated food makes toxic molecules — substances known to harm us.
Mmmm. More molecules means more food — right? Sorry, Homer. Some molecules nourish us — other molecules poison us. Though we’ve evolved to eat food on a planet blasted by cosmic rays, we and the foods we eat have also evolved to survive consuming these foods. We didn’t evolve consuming foods blasted by industrial radiation strong enough to kill off E. Coli and delay the plant from spoiling. Instead, we evolved eating foods that need to have shit germs — like E. Coli — washed off them in the kitchen sink. That’s why — for centuries — humans have observed that washing food can decrease illness. Food without clumps of dirt and shit also tastes better. Irradiated food stuffs, on the other hand, appear to make animals sicker.
The FDA approved mutant foods — genetically modified organisms — after the noted Naturale Philosophere Dan Quayle simply decreed that gentically modified foods are equivalent to foods that didn’t have alien species’ DNA forced into them in Monsanto’s labs. The conclusion — the that mutant foods are the same as non-mutant foods — existed before experiments testing the question were ever perfomed.
Most of us don’t know it, but the FDA also approved food irradation in the same manner. Just as the FDA bowed to powerful industries that had Federal officials in their pocket when approving Frankenfoods, the FDA had earlier bowed to nuclear and Big Industrial Food lobbies when approving irradiated foods. So — courtesy of the usual corporatist takeover of Federal the regulatory agencies created to protect us from industry — we now have the FDA telling us the latest experiment on us and our food is juuust fine. Of course, just as in the earlier cave-ins, the whole "approval" process is religion, not science. Industry has faith they can make more money blasting food with high-strength radiation than they would make if they actually had to carefully prepare food and throw away spoiled meat, poultry, fish, and produce. Industry’s faithful worshippers in the Executive and Legislative branches carry the Holy Texts of regulation and legislation. And we get to eat industrially irradiated lettuce and spinach — along with industrially irradiated meat, poultry, shellfish, wheat, wheat flour, and spices…and those yummy Frankenfoods.
Ain’t life as a lab rat for Big Industrial Food grand?
Nope. We don’t have to live (and die) this way. Centralized food processing — transporting ingredients to fewer and fewer food factories, preparing them together, and then transporting the ingredients out from the central processing factories across the nation and the planet — is the most energy wasting system ever created for food preparation. Just like centralized energy production, the system benefits megacorps at the expense of our health and wallets.
E. Coli and the other fecal coliforms don’t come from plants; plants don’t have intestines. E. Coli and the other fecal coliforms — the "shit bacteria" — come from animals. When our peppers or lettuce or tomatoes or other produce are contaminated with E. Coli, that’s becuse animal waste got mixed onto the plants. Bringing the plants together in one place — and washing and mixing them together — ensures a small amount of shit germs get spread through a huge amount of prepared food. Which is how our ground meat and prepared produce and other foods get so contaminated that food megacorps want to save money by nuking their delectable contaminated wares before the crap ends up on our plates.
What to do? Whenever possible:
(1) Eat locally — try and buy locally raised and grown produce, meat, and poultry.
(2) Prepare your own food from scratch. The fewer processing steps, the fewer the chances to contaminate them in industrial food preparation.
(3) Buy organic. Organic standards forbid irradiation.
(4) When possible, garden and support farmers’ markets
(5) Eat food in season
(6) Defeat corporatist candidates.