According to a new survey, American moms may be building their grocery lists based on misinformation about how their food was grown and raised. The Gate-to-Plate survey of more than 1,000 moms was commissioned by CommonGround, a grassroots coalition of farm women who want to foster conversations among all women – on farms and in cities – about where our food comes from and how it is raised. Survey results, which have been distributed nationally to a wide variety of media outlets, highlight the amount of confusion surrounding the labels attached to certain foods and what some production practices actually mean.
Through the study, CommonGround provides not only insight into what questions consumers have about food but also offers the women who make up CommonGround, volunteer family farmers, as a resource for those interested in finding answers and having an open, honest discussion.
"The CommonGround program grew out of a new demand from consumers for food information," says Kentucky CommonGround farmer-volunteer Ashley Reding, who grows soybeans, corn and winter wheat in Howardstown, Ky. "The goal of CommonGround is to be a resource to provide moms with facts and information that can help them make informed food choices. As a farmer and a mother, I want individuals to feel empowered to make food choices based on facts and not fear."
The study found many areas where confusion may be causing consumers to select specific products including:
The facts: Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering may not be used and organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides. However, more than 50 synthetic substances may be used in organic crop production if other substances fail to prevent or control the target pest. All foods – whether organic or nonorganic – must meet certain health and safety regulations before being sold to consumers.
While one-fourth of the moms who participated in the survey said they had never heard of genetically modified foods, the majority of moms question the safety of GMO foods. Nearly half – 43% – of moms in the survey believe that GMO food is nutritionally and chemically different than non-GMO food.
The facts: All GMO foods are still exhaustively assessed for safety by groups like the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the 12+ years that modern biotech crops have been commercially grown, there has not been a single documented case of an ecosystem disrupted or a person made ill. GMO foods are nutritionally and chemically identical to food grown from non-biotech crops.
HORMONES IN MEAT
More than half of moms in the survey said they believe it is important to feed their families hormone-free poultry and pork – even though it may cost more to do so.
The facts: There's no need to pay extra for poultry or pork that's labeled hormone-free. USDA prohibits farmers from using hormones to raise chickens and pigs.
More than half – 53% – of moms surveyed said it's important to purchase food labeled "all natural," whenever possible, because it is a more nutritious choice for their family.
The facts: All-natural doesn't mean nutritional benefits. As required by USDA, meat, poultry and egg products labeled as "natural" must be minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients. However, the natural label does not include any standards regarding farm practices and only applies to processing of meat and egg products.
More than half of moms surveyed said locally produced foods are always better for the environment.
The facts: Purchasing locally grown food is a great way to support farmers in your community but does not always benefit the environment. Sometimes it takes more energy to grow and harvest local food than it does to grow it elsewhere and have it shipped.
Seven out of 10 moms surveyed believe the family farm is dying in the United States.
The facts: Between 96% and 98% of the 2.2 million farms in the United States are family farms. Seven out of 10 moms in the survey agree that farmers should be a key resource for individuals seeking information related to food and farming, yet only one out of five moms surveyed seeks information from farmers.
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