Hacham Yom Tov Yedid Last Chief Rabbi of Halab
By: Alyssa Elbogen
Generally speaking, we all take our health seriously. We go for check-ups, we meticulously follow the doctor’s orders, and we do our own research. We care – for good reason – about keeping our bodies healthy, and, more than anything, about keeping our families healthy.
In addition, we tend to be skeptical about diet fads and new perspectives. Rightfully so. We should ask questions, and hesitate before accepting everything we’re “fed.” At the same time, however, an overly skeptical and closed-minded approach can be dangerous. Ultimately, we need to stay educated and in the loop.
I’m not here to preach any particular diet. But I’d like to talk about the Organic Revolution and why it is so important to understand what it is about.
Behind the Organic Revolution lurks the thing it sprang out from: genetic modification of our food.
The Torah explicitly forbids “kilayim”– crossbreeding seeds or animals. Of course, like every Torah topic, there are many volumesof literature surrounding this prohibition, and my intent here is certainly not to delve into halachic intricacies. However, already the Torah warned against tampering with nature and its products.
Alas, not too long ago, a company called Monsanto began to modify produce so it would grow faster and be larger and sweeter. The company did this by forcing genes from species such as bacteria and viruses into seeds. These products are commonly known as “GMOs” – Genetically Modified Organisms, or “GE” – Genetically Engineered. Monsanto also developed pesticides and herbicides to kill bugs and weeds in its gardens, and their GMO seeds were designed to be able to survive those chemicals.
Let’s face it – a chemical which kills bugs and weeds is not something we really want to be eating. There are many issues with pesticides and herbicides, as well as with GMOs, of which we mention here just several.
Plants and insects are more ancient and structurally sound than chemicals, and so, over time, the bugs and weeds became resistant to the pesticides and herbicides. Monsanto responded by creating stronger poisons to kill these sturdier bugs and weeds. As a result, our food became even more “pumped” with anti-superbug and
All the washing and scrubbing will not remove pesticides or herbicides from food. They are sprayed on the produce throughout the growing process and absorbed into the food just like the rain and the sunlight. It is an inherent part of non-organic foods.
Moreover, recent studies have shown the grave effects of GMOs on animals, including organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility. And many popular crops are being genetically modified, including corn, soy, cotton (for oil), canola,potatoes, alfalfa, squash, sugar (from sugar beets) and papaya.
Back to the Garden
So what does this have to do with “organic”?
For many years, we were sold mass-produced food that is either genetically engineered or has been sprayed with herbicides andpesticides over an extended period of time. It was commonplace, and as natural to us as anything else. But today there is a lot of information out, and awareness is on the rise. Many people have come to the realization that we’ve got to get ourselves backto the garden, and to go organic.
Organic implies that a plant is from non-GMO seed and that it was not sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. For dairy and meats, it means there were no hormones or antibiotics given to the animals and that they were fed an organic diet. And since they were not sprayed with harmful chemicals, organic foods contain higher supplies of vitamins and minerals without any of the toxins that conventional produce comes with.
This is very big news. This is very important news. We need to accept the Organic Revolution as redemptionary for our community. The potential for healing and growth through organic food is incredible. It is much better, as the Rambam wrote, to eat a little of something healthy than to eat a lot of something unhealthy. Better to eat clean, nutritious food than larger amounts of conventional food.
It is so difficult to accept this information. We have become resistant to it, because we are so accustomed to the abundance and accessibility of conventional produce.
But we, as a nation, have also become less healthy. And we need to see that, too.
Once upon a time, family gardens were as common as family kitchens. Growing vegetables and herbs is actually simpler than we may think, most of the time, and the health benefits are enormous.
So let’s support each other in making the switch to amazing, healthy food. Healthy food must be organic. We canmake the switch. It is not impossible. One of the most important keys to good health is right under our noses. We just need to pick it up and unlock the door to cleaner, safer and more healthful food for ourselves and our loved ones.