By Dr. Mercola
On November 5, residents of Washington State voted on a law to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) foods. It will take a few more days before we know the results, but regardless of the vote tally we are winning the very tough battle against the chemical and junk food companies.
I want to personally thank everyone in Washington State who cast their vote for the people's initiative 522, "The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act" and those who actually helped in the campaign.
The momentum gained is a remarkable victory in itself, achieved in the face of enormous resistance from multi-billion dollar food and biotech corporations—which, by the way, tried to hide their identities from voters by laundering their campaign donations through a “brand defense” account created by the Grocery Manufacturers Association of America (GMA).
It didn’t work, however. The GMA was sued by the state Attorney General for violating the state’s campaign disclosure laws, and within days, the identities of the companies paying to defeat I-522 were released.
Not surprisingly, the list contained the usual suspects. Pepsi, Coke, and Nestle—authorities of junk food and primary purveyors of chronic disease—were the top funders trying to hide their stance to avoid backlash from the customers they deceive.
'Victory Gardens'—A Step Toward Fixing a Broken System
One of my most consistent messages through the years has been that, in order to take control of your health, you need to address your diet. Processed foods are one of the primary drivers of chronic disease, so switching from processed foods to natural (ideally organic) whole foods is the first step.
Seeing how the food industry as a whole has no incentive whatsoever to sell and market whole foods, I’ve long promoted the idea of procuring your foods from local farms, farmers markets and coops.
Another strategy, which I believe is a step toward fixing this broken food system—especially if done en masse—is to grow your own fruits and vegetables.
The idea of planting War Gardens or Victory Gardens goes back to World War I and II, and was advertised as a way for patriots to make a difference on the homefront. The National War Garden Commission was launched in early 1917 by a wealthy American timberman, and this simple strategy proved to be life-saving during both wars.
To combat food shortages, citizens were encouraged to plant Victory Gardens to supply themselves and their neighbors with fresh produce. During the Second World War, an estimated 20 million Americans answered the call to action, planting over five million gardens on private and public land, producing up to 10 million tons of fresh produce annually.
This amount equaled that of all commercial production of vegetables, and by the end of World War II, the food produced by private citizens exceeded $1.2 billion. In Great Britain, the success of the US campaign spurred Britons to follow suit. There, private gardens ended up being the source of about 40 percent of the nation’s vegetables.
At present, the “war” we fight is the war against a food industry that over the last 60 years has surrendered its morals and abandoned its original mission to produce and sell safe, healthy nutritious foods. Chemical agriculture and the junk food industry have hit rock bottom, purposely addicting and marketing to kids while deceiving consumers about the real long term safety of their 'foods'.
Despite obstacles, including agricultural subsidies that favor production of processed foods and junky snacks, I believe the current situation can change if enough people understand some simple truths about what makes for a healthy diet, which I detail in my free Optimized Nutrition Plan. The foundational premise of any health-promoting diet is whole food, and the greater the portion consumed raw, the better.
Planting your own Victory Garden can go a long way toward healthier eating, and in the long run, it can provide incentive for industry-wide change, and a return to a diet of real food, for everyone, everywhere. One of the best ways to put your toe into the water in this process is to start growing spouts for your salad, as I discuss below.
Can You Grow Fresh Food in the Winter? Sure You Can!
Growing your own food has many rewards, from providing you with fresher, uncontaminated produce and cutting your grocery bill, to increasing your sense of well being and slashing your risk of depression.
In fact, according to a recent survey for Gardeners World magazine,1 80 percent of gardeners reported being “happy” and satisfied with their lives, compared to 67 percent of non-gardeners. And the more time spent in the garden, the higher their satisfaction scores—87 percent of those who tend to their gardens for more than six hours a week reported feeling happy, compared to those spending less time in their gardens.
But how do you grow your own food during winter months? And what if you don’t have a lot of space? Don’t worry. You can grow healthful food year-round, even in small spaces! While you could certainly grow an outdoor winter garden, using cold frames, one of the simplest and most inexpensive alternatives is to grow sprouts.
As an added boon, they offer rapid rewards. Unlike a conventional vegetable garden, you’ll have food ready for harvest in about a week! Best of all, you can sprout seeds indoors in any season, which means you can eat fresh raw nutritious food year-round. In fact, sprouts are among the most nutrient-dense foods out there. Depending on the sprout, the nutrient content can increase as much as 30 times the original value within just a few days of sprouting.
Topping the list are sunflower seed and pea sprouts, which are typically about 30 times more nutritious than organic vegetables. Both also provide very high quality protein. Sunflower and pea sprouts are among my own favorites. Broccoli sprouts, known for their anti-cancer activity, are another excellent choice.
Sprouts are a perfect complement to fermented vegetables which are also easy and inexpensive to make at home, from scratch. My primary meal of the day typically consists of about half a pound of sunflower sprouts, four ounces of fermented vegetables, half a large red pepper, several tablespoons of raw organic butter, some red onion, a whole avocado and about three ounces of wild Alaskan salmon or organic, pastured chicken.
Planning Your Victory Garden
If you’re tight on space, I’d recommend getting Alex Mitchell’s book, The Edible Balcony, in which she details how to grow fresh produce in small spaces. Filled with beautiful color photographs throughout, the book helps you determine what might work best for you, depending on your space and location, and guides you through the design basics. There are ingenious solutions for virtually every problem you might encounter.
For example, instead of flowers, window boxes can hold herbs, greens, radishes, scallions, bush beans, strawberries, chard, and chiles. You can also maximize your horizontal space by adding hanging planters and wall-mounted planters. Just start small, and as you get the hang of it, add another container of something else. Before you know it, large portions of your meals could come straight from your own edible garden.
Whether you’re working with planters or have a large enough yard to dig up a garden patch, you can get a nice head-start by growing seedlings. Once the danger of spring frost has passed, you can transplant them into your garden.
Growing seedlings, which can take between four and 12 weeks to sprout, will allow you to harvest your vegetables four to six weeks earlier than had you planted the seeds directly outdoors. This can also be particularly useful in areas where the growing season is short.
Regardless of what fruits or veggies you’re growing, I recommend using fresh heirloom seeds. The ones I sell in my online store are from Baker Creek Seed Company, which specializes in traditional heirloom seeds from the 19th Century and is dedicated to promoting and preserving both traditional agriculture practices and culinary heritage.
Personally, I garden both indoors and outdoors. As I mentioned previously, sprouts are one of my favorite indoor, year-round, tight-space crops, as they provide such great nutrition. For more tips on starting your own garden—whether large or small, indoors or outside, for winter or spring—please see my previous articles on the following topics. To browse through all the gardening articles on my site, see my Organic Gardening page:
It’s Time to Celebrate—and Continue the Movement!
It thrills me to be able to replace my typical call to action with a big THANK YOU! Know that your involvement, your financial donations, and your outreach to educate friends and family is finally coming to fruition.
Last year, we lost the vote in California’s Prop. 37 by the narrowest of margins. However, the Prop 37 campaign created massive awareness across the US, awakening millions of Americans to the issues surrounding GMOs. With mounting evidence of harm, food companies and biotech companies can no longer be allowed to hide such ingredients. You have the right to know what you’re feeding your family.
This is a major step toward correcting the problems within the food industry. But we can do more. Planting “Victory Gardens” across the nation will help support a growing movement toward a saner, healthier America. I encourage you to join us, and grow some food of your own. If you have a surplus, give some to your neighbors. Also remember you can ferment your veggies, which will provide you with superior, nutritious foods during the winter months. This is how your ancestors used to feed themselves, and it’s time to revive some of this crucial knowledge about food.