The Shift Network Blog

Food that's Healthy for People and for the Planet

By John Robbins and Ocean Robbins (Excerpt from their Healthy Kitchen Guidebook)

At the Food Revolution Network, we want to help you eat more real, organic, sustainable, plant-strong, non-GMO, humane, locally grown, and fair trade food. Here’s why…

Real

Decades of food science have resulted in the cheapest, most abundant, most addictive, and most nutritionally inferior food in the world. The sheer number of chemical food additives in use today is staggering, particularly since some of them have simply been declared safe by the companies making them, without testing or oversight from any governmental agency. In today’s world, eating real food is an act of liberation. When you eat food that comes from plants, instead of food that is manufactured in plants, your body will thank you for the rest of your life.

Organic

The number of chemicals that are used in the growing and production of industrial food is not only alarming. It is also rising at an exponential rate, with the result that these highly toxic agrochemicals are increasingly contaminating our bodies and the environment. Even the umbilical cord blood of newborn infants has been found to be polluted by pesticides.

Pesticide residues in food are regulated by the Food Quality Protection Act, but independent scientists have repeatedly found that the “allowable” levels for specific pesticides still pose substantial health risks. The pesticides used in U.S. food production have been linked to cancer, birth defects, autoimmune diseases, asthma, autism, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and many other diseases.

Studies comparing the concentrations of pesticides and their metabolites in people eating conventional vs. organic diets have shown 1) that diet is the primary route of exposure, and 2) that the more organic food you eat, the less you are exposed to these highly toxic chemicals. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pesticide exposure because their developing organ systems are less able to detoxify poisonous chemicals.

Sustainable

Sustainable food helps protect the environment, saves family farms, enhances biodiversity, protects rural communities, empowers workers, has higher nutrient value, replenishes topsoil, and tastes better. Current industrial food production practices, on the other hand, seem to assume that we have another Earth handy to use after we finish trashing this one.

Plant-strong

It’s almost impossible to exaggerate how disastrous are the health, humanitarian, and environmental impacts of large scale animal agriculture. But as great as it is, the measure of the devastation is also the measure of how much is to be gained by a shift toward a whole-foods plant-strong diet.

On a personal level, eating a whole-foods plant-strong diet greatly enhances the health of your cardiovascular system, strengthens your immune system, reduces your risk of cancer and many other illnesses, and enlarges your capacity to enjoy life. On a planetary level, it also markedly lowers your environmental footprint, saves a tremendous amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and spares animals from the abysmal conditions of factory farms.

When you eat mostly (or all) plants, you’re taking a powerful stand towards protecting the whole earth community, and for a long, healthy and happy life.

Non-GMO

The vast majority of corn, soybeans, canola, cotton, and sugar beets grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered (GE), which makes them Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

Monsanto and its allies claim that GE crops increase yields and are a solution to hunger and malnutrition. But after spending billions of dollars and over 30 years of research, the promises that GE crops would feed the world and provide enhanced nutrition have proven to be an abject failure. In fact, a comprehensive study evaluating the performance of GE crops by the Union of Concerned Scientists was titled “Failure To Yield” precisely because this claim was found to be completely untrue.

Monsanto also claims that GE crops use fewer and safer chemicals. But GE crops have in fact increased overall usage of pesticides by hundreds of millions of pounds. More than 85 percent of the GE crops planted in the world today have been genetically engineered by agrichemical companies like Monsanto to be able to withstand massive sprayings of the companies’ proprietary herbicides. A recent, peer-reviewed assessment based on pesticide data from the USDA shows that these crops have resulted in an increase of 527 million pounds of herbicides being sprayed in the U.S. compared to what would likely have been the case without GE crops.

Monsanto and the other biotech companies spend billions of dollars in advertising, marketing, lobbying, and opposing ballot initiatives that would require GE foods to be labeled. This massive spending has perpetrated myths that are utterly false. The truth is that many credible scientists have significant concerns about the safety of these crops for human and animal consumption, and that the environmental impacts are documented and alarming.

Humane

Something has happened to the way animals are treated in modern meat production that is a disgrace to the human spirit, and a violation of the ancient human-animal bond. On one hand, the corporations that run industrial factory farms tell the public that they treat farm animals like members of their own families. But on the other, they fight hard to get legislation passed that exempts farms animals from even the most minimal protection from cruel treatment. This has produced a heartbreaking situation. More animals are being subjected to more torturous conditions in the production of meat, dairy products and eggs in the U.S. today than has ever occurred for any reason anywhere in world history.

You don’t have to be a vegetarian or an animal rights activist to find these conditions appalling. Respect for animals is fundamental to our humanity.

Locally Grown

Locally grown food is full of flavor. When crops are picked at their peak of ripeness, they taste better. When you buy produce at a local farmer’s market, you often get food that has been picked within 24 hours of your purchase. Foods that have traveled a great distance have to be picked days if not weeks before they are ripe.

Local fruits and vegetables also have more nutrients. Food imported from far-away places has often sat in distribution centers before it arrives at your local store. Studies have shown that vitamins, phytochemicals, antioxidants and many other important nutrients decrease as fresh food ages.

Local food supports your local economy. The money you spend goes to local growers and farmers. It stays in your local community where it is reinvested in local businesses and services.

Local food is safer. The more steps there are between you and your food’s source, the more chances there are for contamination. Food grown in distant locations has a higher potential for food safety issues at harvesting, washing, shipping and distribution.

Local food has a lower carbon footprint. Shipping food across distances burns fossil fuels and generates more greenhouse gas emissions.

Local food connects you to people and the planet. When you take advantage of farmer’s markets, farm to table programs, and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), you strengthen your connection to your bioregion, and know a lot more about your food and the people whose labor provides it for you.

Fair Trade

Coffee is the world’s second most valuable traded commodity– after oil. Chocolate is pretty popular, too. Unfortunately, both coffee beans and cocoa beans are often picked by people who are not paid nearly enough to have a decent life, and in some cases by child slaves. Some coffee industry executives say the labor issue isn’t their concern. “This industry isn’t responsible for what happens in a foreign country,” says Gary Goldstein of the National Coffee Association, which represents the companies that make Folgers, Maxwell House, Nescafe, and other brands.

If you prefer to buy coffee, chocolate, and other foods that are grown and harvested under fair trade conditions rather than sweatshop labor conditions, your best bet is to purchase Fair Trade Certified products.


To learn more about John Robbins, Ocean Robbins and their Food Revolution Network, click here.

John Robbins is the author of nine bestsellers that have collectively sold more than 3 million copies and been translated into 31 languages. These include Diet for a New America, The Food Revolution, Healthy at 100, and (with Ocean Robbins) Voices of the Food Revolution. John is Founder and Board Chair Emeritus of EarthSave International, and co-founder and co-host of the 100,000+ member Food Revolution Network. He is recipient of the Rachel Carson Award, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, the Peace Abbey’s Courage of Conscience Award, Green America’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and many other accolades. He lives with his wife of 48 years, Deo, in California. connect with is work at foodrevolution.org.

Ocean Robbins is co-founder and CEO of the 150,000+ member Food Revolution Network, adjunct professor in Chapman University’s Peace Studies Department, and co-author with his dad, bestselling author John Robbins, of Voices of the Food Revolution. At age 10, Ocean was baker, salesman, accountant and owner of “Ocean’s Bakery”, which sold natural and organic baked goods to hundreds of customers in his neighborhood. He launched Youth for Environmental Sanity (YES!) at age 16, and directed the organization for 20 years. Ocean has spoken in person to more than 200,000 people and facilitated hundreds of gatherings for leaders from 65+ nations. He is a recipient of many awards, including the Freedom's Flame Award and the national Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service. Learn more about his work at foodrevolution.org.