Unstoppable Empowerment with Zen Honeycutt
Zen Honeycutt is the Founder and Director of Moms Across America, the author of Unstoppable–and an unstoppable force when it comes to advocacy work and empowering people who eat.
She’ll be speaking on the Optimal Health Panel at the Conscious Life Expo. We had the opportunity to talk to her about her work. We wanted to know some of the following: How can we be advocates for our own selves in terms of lifestyle. How can we be more empowered? How can we make decisions that empower not only ourselves but our communities?
Where do you suggest that people get started with these kinds of initiatives in their own lives/ What can a busy mom do to help their own children?
Zen Honeycutt: I find that one of the easiest and most digestible (no pun intended!) forms of education is movies and short films. So how I first learned about all of this was with Robin O’Brian’s short TEDx Talk (18 minutes), called “Patriotism on a Plate.”
From there I watched “Genetic Roulette” by Jeffrey Smith. And of course we have our own short film called “Communities Rising” on YouTube. More recently there’s a film called “Secret Ingredients” that Jeffrey Smith also made. My family is one of the families that is featured in it. It’s an excellent film that’s really more feel-good, it’s not as intimidating as “Genetic Roulette.” It’s about your family getting better and feeling good and feeling capable to take on school and your job and everything just through eating organic food, and making that change.
“Secret Ingredients” is very empowering. So I would first start with educating yourself by researching what’s going on in with our food supply. There are some great movies including “Modified,” also “Secret Ingredients,” “GMO RGN,” and “Genetic Roulette.” The first step is to just to know more about food supply so that you feel comfortable knowing what to buy and what not to buy. That would mean purchasing organic as much as possible.
Many people have seen the growth of the Non-GMO Project Verified label, and we are very glad that they’ve raised awareness about GMOs to the extent that they have. However, consumers should know that the Non-GMO Project Verified label does not mean no toxic pesticides. It does not mean that it’s free of glyphosates, for instance, which is in Round Up and is the most widely used herbicide in the world. A product could be a bread that’s Non-GMO Project Verified, but that bread could be made of wheat which is sprayed.
So it’s important for food that you purchase to be organic as much as possible. What is even better is organic and non-GMO Project Verified together. Once our Moms Across America Gold Standard verification seal is out on the market then you’ll be able to know that brand has gone through extraordinary efforts to have that product not only be good for our families but good for the planet.
That’s what I think I’m the most proud of: Inspiring people to not just learn more but to also take action and to partner with their family members to get healthier, and to partner with their community to be healthier.
I believe that we’re the ones in charge of our health, we’re in charge of our communities’ health. Then regardless of what the government does we can make great strides in our health and the future of our country.
Does it ever feel overwhelming? Have we gone past a point of no return or are there things that we can actually still do?
Yes absolutely! Anybody that looks at the labels in grocery stores or hears about what’s going on with the food supply is justified in feeling overwhelmed! There is so much that our federal government is not doing that they should be doing. That can occur as overwhelming to us.
How do you impact whether or not the federal government keeps the food supply safe? That’s a really daunting task. And that’s why Moms Across America is so intent on – the first word of our motto is ’empowered’ – Moms helping kids. We’re intent on empowering people with the information. Our mission is to educate and empower mothers and others with actions and solutions to create healthy communities. We primarily do that with educating consumers and inviting them to take action within their family and their local community and also with policy and government and with food manufacturers. We try to cover all three bases.
Because moms buy 85% of the food we feel that we have the greatest potential for influence on the food supply with moms. That’s why we focus on the actions that you and I can take every day in purchasing food that is organic versus non-organic.
Now that does mean that you may need to plan ahead if you’re traveling and find a Whole Foods or a Sprouts or a natural grocers and plan to stop at that grocery store. You may need to ask the hotel to please have a refrigerator or a microwave or something. Because otherwise when you travel or when you’re out driving your kids around you’re likely to stop at a fast food restaurant and eat GMO toxic chemical food.
So it takes a little more effort, but when you do that you are giving yourself the best opportunity to not only feel good but perform your best. Whether it’s for a job or vacation, it really is the best thing for your body and for you family, frankly, for you to eat organic. Because when you don’t and you feel bad, you end up being cranky with your loved ones, the people who matter most to you and not able to do things like practice yoga or exercise. If you’re feeling sick you’re not going to feel like exercising. It really is in all of our best interests to eat organic, to feel good, to be able to perform to our fullest potential and accomplish what we set out to do in life.
That’s why I say health comes first. Without health we won’t have mentally sane people making policy decisions for our government. We won’t have mentally sane police officers, and teachers, and caregivers, and people next to us on road next to us driving a 2,000-pound car! We need everybody to be healthy.
When my children had autism, allergies, autoimmune issues, asthma, and were sick and then began to get better when I fed them organic, I realized it wasn’t enough for my family to eat organic and get better. Their future spouses are out there somewhere! I want them to be able to have healthy families someday, to be able to procreate and have healthy children and experience the profound love that it is to have a family. But they won’t be able to do that if their spouses are eating toxic food. So that’s why this is a community issue and even a global issue.
That’s why so much of our work has taken me to places like Japan and China and New Zealand and Australia and not just the US. Even though Americans eat the most GMOs in the world and we have the worst health, the health in other countries around the world is failing fast too. We believe that’s because they’re consuming agrochemicals and GMOs at increasingly high rates.
I watched the movie Dark Waters. On the way home, we talked about how we think that non-stick pans may have been discontinued in the US but we still see them, right? If the regulators found that it’s connected to 6 different cancers here in the US, why would they still be around? Well they could be made in China. The thing is these chemicals could be polluting the water in China which is then used in agriculture fields in China, which grows a lot of our organic food.
We can’t control the environment of the food that’s grown in China. It would make all the more sense to encourage our government, instead of growing grains, the majority of which are shipped to Japan and China and other countries to feed animals – Why not grow food locally here where we can control the inputs, the environment? It doesn’t make sense that the majority of the soy that we grow is GMO and it’s shipped to other countries to feed animals, when 80% of the soy we import that’s used in our organic food comes from other countries. 80% of the soy that’s used in something like an organic veggie burger comes from other countries. That doesn’t make any sense to me.
If we’re going to put America first, we would be focused on growing food here that feeds us first. We would be focused on being able to supply that. What happens in China impacts the beans on my plate today. What happens in America who is growing GMO grains for the Japanese impacts Japan and it impacts my child because our country is drinking that water that is polluted by the grains that are grown for China or Japan. It’s a very interconnected global supply.
Do you think there’s any benefits to eating more locally or shopping at farmers markets?
Absolutely! I would totally encourage people to know their farmers. You can know if your farmer says they only feed their chicken organic grains, or they’re grass fed, pasture-raised – even if it’s not certified – if you know them and you see them and how their farm is you can trust that they’re raising healthy food.
If you’re getting your vegetables locally at a farmers market you can talk to that farmer. They know you, you know them. You might not be able to see their practices, but if they assure you that they’re not using Round Up and toxic chemicals then you can feel more assured. It’s always preferred that you purchase organic and local and whole foods. As much as possible avoid eating processed food. One thing I really want to touch upon for your readers is that many people who do yoga live a healthy lifestyle and they prefer to eat vegan and vegetarian and gluten-free but that is only helpful if it is all also organic.
The ingredients that are in those foods (gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian) such as chickpeas, or gluten-free grains, or wheat which are very common in veggie burgers, or white beans, black beans, or oats – those are the most likely to be sprayed with glyphosate as a drying agent and contain high levels of glyphosates. I want to make that really clear. The highest levels of residues on food in the American food supply are on oats, wheat, garbanzo beans, peas, beans, legumes. It’s the grains, barley, buckwheat, all of the different types of beans that are dry.
If you are eating vegan or vegetarian and consuming, for instance, oatmeal for breakfast, hummus with pita bread for lunch, and pasta for dinner with maybe a piece of whole grain bread – you are going to be consuming the highest levels of glyphosates out of any diet. Even more than a junk food diet.
It’s one of the things I most wish that people who are trying to eat healthy should know. It cannot just be vegan, it cannot just be vegetarian, it cannot just be gluten-free and be healthy, it must also be organic.
Can I mention one more thing? The Impossible Burger is simply not as healthy as people are claiming it to be. 80% of the ingredients can be either GMO or sprayed with glyphosates as a drying agent, because they’re not organic. To have that bleeding look, the soy that is used in the Impossible Burger contains 46 proteins which have not been safety tested and approved for human consumption.
Our greatest concern that this company is not being forthright about the health impact of their burger. They’re claiming that it’s healthier for the environment and it simply is not. Using GMO soy and GMO ingredients and glyphosate-sprayed ingredients in your burger simply perpetuates the GMO monocrop culture which is happening today. You use GMO soy in your burger, you’re promoting GMO soy. The spraying of Round Up on GMO soy and the destruction of the soil, which means less carbon sequestration, increases climate change. They’re actually contributing to climate change and to the poisoning of the soil and water and marine life and animals by supporting GMO soy through purchasing the Impossible Burger. Now the Beyond Meat Burger is better because it’s non-GMO but it’s not organic. We hope that they will go organic soon and we hope that people will purchase organic alternatives.
Now I’m not promoting meat, I’m very concerned about the misleading health statements about the Impossible Burger and I urge people to purchase organic alternatives instead. That’s what’s healthy for the planet, and regenerative organic is even healthier because that regenerates the soil.
Do you find that there’s a greater conversation happening right now around regenerative agriculture?
Oh absolutely. I’m thrilled to be able to connect and collaborate and talk to people like Pat Carrigan from OCA–The Organic Consumers Association. He is lit up about the advances that are happening in regenerative agriculture. Farmers from all across the country are learning about regenerative organic agriculture and are transitioning their farms and are seeing massive benefits in less than a year .
When the soil quality improves, that soil is able to absorb more water. So it prevents drought. The water isn’t running off the field, it’s absorbing into the soil. They’re able to sequester more carbon and the nutrients in the soil increase. So the nutrient density in the plant increases. When the nutrient density in the plant increases, the plant is healthier. When the plant is healthier, it attracts fewer pests. Pests are attracted to unhealthy plants; it’s nature’s way of culling the herd. If there’s a sickly-looking plant the bugs will come and eat it, kill it off.
If you have healthy plants you have fewer plants so you have less pesticides or none. You have fewer weeds as well. It is less likely for certain weeds to grow in soil that have a healthy content of minerals. When you have healthy soil you have fewer pests, fewer weeds, healthier nutrient density, and the human beings and animals that then eat that plant are healthier too.
We’re seeing throughout America an improvement in the soil and in the nutrient density of plants that are grown with regenerative, organic agriculture. The opposite is true of GMO monocrop agriculture. When you put a chemical on a crop it’s going to go into the soil and kill off the earthworms and the good bugs. It’s going to get into the water and pollute the marine life and the drinking water, it’s been found in the rain. It’s all connected. We need to remember that with our food choices. When we choose to purchase healthier food, like organic food, we are actually impacting the health of farm workers, earthworms, fish, and children.
In Japan they say, “Thank you for everything and everybody that has supported making this food that I’m about to consume.” It’s a prayer of interconnectedness. I love that. When you’re grateful for all of those people before you consume your food, I guarantee you you’re going to have a more enjoyable eating experience, and digestive experience. You’re going to feel better eating that food.
Felicia Tomasko has spent more of her life practicing Yoga and Ayurveda than not. She first became introduced to the teachings through the writings of the Transcendentalists, through meditation, and using asana to cross-train for her practice of cross-country running. Between beginning her commitment to Yoga and Ayurveda and today, she earned degrees in environmental biology and anthropology and nursing, and certifications in the practice and teaching of yoga, yoga therapy, and Ayurveda while working in fields including cognitive neuroscience and plant biochemistry. Her commitment to writing is at least as long as her commitment to yoga. Working on everything related to the written word from newspapers to magazines to websites to books, Felicia has been writing and editing professionally since college. In order to feel like a teenager again, Felicia has pulled out her running shoes for regular interval sessions throughout Southern California. Since the very first issue of LA YOGA, Felicia has been part of the team and the growth and development of the Bliss Network.