How Blessed Are We On Thanksgiving?

We all know that Thanksgiving is tomorrow and it’s one of my favorite holidays, it’s probably one of yours too. It’s a holiday that allows you to kick-back and relax, spend time with loved ones, think about what we are grateful for, and of course eat lots and lots of FOOD. The average American consumes about 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day and probably does not think twice about how unusual it is to have that much food available to them in a single day compared to the amount that an average person consumes per day in some other parts of the world.  On a day we celebrate being grateful for the things in our life, we may overlook how blessed we are to be able to have so much food available to us.

Let’s take a look at an example of what an average American would eat at Thanksgiving dinner below:

ThanksgivingUSmealBlogAs you can see, this is only ONE meal.  If you’re anything like me, you would also choose to eat breakfast in the morning.  Compare this list with another list, below, that is an example of what a middle-class family in Guatemala would eat in a typical day:

DailyFoodGuatemalaIt is certainly a much shorter list than our Thanksgiving dinner.  I mentioned above that this is what a day of meals looks like of a middle-class family in Guatemala, but 53% of Guatemala’s population lives in poverty.  A lot of families live on less than $2 per day and the menu above would look a lot like how the Thanksgiving feast looks to Americans.  In other words, it would look like generously more food than they are used to.

For this reason, almost half of Guatemala’s children under the age of 5 suffer from chronicundernutrition. As you can see from the example directly above, it would be hard for a growing child, or even an adult, to get all of their essential nutrients without a wide variety.  It is impossible to get those essential nutrients eating even less than that on $2 a day.

So when you sit down to eat on Thursday, be thankful for not only your friends and family, but your health, and their health, as well as the amount of delicious, nutrient-filled food in front of you.  Some of it may not be the healthiest, and that is okay, but be thankful for the variety in your meal and remember there are individuals in the world who don’t have this privilege.  You may even start considering to research programs that help the less fortunate.  Even better, you may decide to take part in one of these programs as the Christmas season quickly approaches.

I truly hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Take the time to practice being grateful and helping others realize all of their overlooked blessings as well.

 

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” -Anne Frank

 

 

Pro or No GMO?

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When most people hear the words, “genetically modified food,” they immediately think of negative adjectives like unnatural, dangerous and environmentally detrimental. I, like many Americans, am guilty of these judgments. Before I started working at the Mathile Institute, I made a huge effort to steer clear of anything that could have been genetically engineered in the grocery store. I searched for “Certified Organic” and “Non-GMO” labels like it was my last dying duty. But why did I buy into the insane societal fear of genetic modification, when in reality, I had no idea what those words even meant?

The collective opinion against GMOs is largely due to the power of social media. However, we are hardly to blame. When old biases surrounding a heated topic like GMOs are enforced on a large scale, it is easy to passively stand by instead of detaching the hard facts from the current “social hype.” Many of us fear the social isolation that could potentially occur from expressing an unpopular opinion, like pro GMO, openly. This spiral of silence, which is very prevalent in scientific debates, leaves us frightened and misinformed by inflated misconceptions.

Those in opposition of GMOs are probably very familiar with the Gilles-Eric Séralini corn study, which claimed that rats developed cancer after they were fed genetically engineered corn. However, the mediated-realities that promote this study do not reveal that the rats were already prone to cancerous tumors. There was also no control group for the rats that ended up developing growths. This two-year study involving 200 rats hardly stands up to the fact that thousands of farmers have not seen a similar cause-effect relationship between their GE animal feed and the health of their livestock.

GMOs are safe for both animals and humans. Genetically modified technology simply takes some of nature’s desirable traits, and adds them into our food. This process is done without any harmful substances or chemicals. Although the controversy surrounding GMOs is quite new, we have actually been unknowingly, and safely, eating genetically modified food for two decades. Most of the food that we eat, which contains corn or soy, was made from genetically modified ingredients. Still not convinced that GMOs are safe? Take it from the experts. The US National Academy of Sciences has stated that, “no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.” The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Medical Association and the European Commission has also recognized that GMOs are just as safe as conventionally produced crops.

GMOs are crucial on a domestic and global level. We are estimated to have 9.6 billion people on earth by 2050. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN has estimated that we need to grow 70% more food to make up for this drastic population increase. Without an increase in supply to match this demand, food prices will increase and food shortages will become prevalent, especially in underdeveloped countries. GMOs are the answer to this problem. GMO technology increases food production, reduces costs and lowers prices. The high-yield, high quality crops produced with this technology will deter hunger, and therefore, save lives. GMOs also play a sizable part in the fight against malnutrition. According to the World Health Organization, 250,000 – 500,000 children develop blindness every year due to Vitamin A deficiency. Half of these children will die within a year after losing their vision. Gene variations have been discovered that can change nutrient lacking white corn into orange corn, which is very high in pro-vitamin A carotenoids, a substance that improves eyesight and immune health. This is just one example of genetic modification being used to meet the needs of a suffering population, an especially important aspect in developing countries where people are not lucky enough to have access, let alone easy access, to nutrient rich foods.

Although there is much opposition to the use of GMOs, I believe this period of doubt is necessary. When the public is presented with a possible threat, it is important to evaluate whether or not there is enough risk to cause true concern. The large debates surrounding GMOs will bring real facts into light, and eventually, the masses will see how genetic modification can save numerous lives and protect our food security for the future.