Friday, December 26, 2008

Human fat for fuel

According to an article in Forbes Magazine, a Beverley Hills doctor has been transforming the fat from his liposuction operations into biodiesel to power him and his wife's SUVs.

Fat--whether animal or vegetable--contains triglycerides that can be extracted and turned into diesel. Poultry companies such as Tyson are looking into powering their trucks on chicken schmaltz, and biofuel start-ups such as Nova Biosource are mixing beef tallow and pig lard with more palatable sources such as soybean oil. Mike Shook of Agri Process Innovations, a builder of biodiesel plants, says this year's batch of U.S. biodiesel was likely more than half animal-derived since the price of soybeans soared.

A gallon of grease will get you about a gallon of fuel, and drivers can get about the same amount of mileage from fat fuel as they do from regular diesel, according to Jenna Higgins of the National Biodiesel Board. Animal fats need to undergo an additional step to get rid of free fatty acids not present in vegetable oils, but otherwise, there's no difference, she says.

Greenies like the fact that waste, such as coffee grounds and french-fry grease, can be turned into power. "The vast majority of my patients request that I use their fat for fuel--and I have more fat than I can use," Bittner wrote on "Not only do they get to lose their love handles or chubby belly but they get to take part in saving the Earth." Bittner's lipodiesel Web site is no longer online.

Using fat to fuel cars might be environmentally friendly, but it's definitely illegal in California to use human medical waste to power vehicles, and Bittner is being investigated by the state's public health department.

Although it's unclear when Bittner started and stopped making fat fuel or how he made it, his activities came to light after recent lawsuits filed by patients that allege he allowed his assistant and his girlfriend to perform surgeries without a medical license.

Monday, December 8, 2008

National and International Melamine Developments


Walgreens is recalling 173 teddy bears with chocolate bars sold in stores since late September 2008. Analysis by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that certain samples of the chocolate provided with the teddy bears were contaminated with melamine. Customers who purchased any of the 173 teddy bears should return them immediately to the Walgreens stores where they were purchased for a full refund. Walgreens already has instructed stores to stop selling the product, which is specifically described as an approximately 9-inch high Dressy Teddy Bear with 4-oz. Chocolate Bar.


The World Health Organization has release tolerable upper limit of 0.2 milligrams of melamine per kilogram of body weight per day. A meeting of food safety experts held by WHO in Ottawa, Canada, made the decision Friday noting that there is no good reason to have any melamine in food products at all.

According to the Associative Press:

Jorgen Schlundt, WHO's director for food safety, said that threshold is lower than the European Union's limitation of 0.5 milligrams. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which originally set its limit at 0.63 milligrams, later reduced its tolerable daily intake to 0.063 milligrams.

WHO's guidance is used by governments to set their minimum food safety standards.

Melamine, a nitrogen-rich chemical used in the production of plastics, was first discovered to be a major problem when it appeared in Chinese infant formula in September. Since then traces have been found in milk products around the world.

Last month the FDA said tests found traces of melamine in the infant formula of one major U.S. manufacturer and cyanuric acid, a related chemical, in the formula of a second major maker.

Schlundt stressed that the threshold the WHO has set — which stipulates that a 50 kilogram (110-pound) person could tolerate 10 milligrams of melamine per day — is not a "safe" level for melamine, but merely the amount a human being can consume without higher health risk.

Melamine is used in some food packaging and can rub off into packaged food products. It also is part of a cleaning solution used on some food processing equipment.

Sick Burger King Stunt

Burger King went on search for Whopper Virgins to do a taste test between the Whopper and the BigMac. I love what they can spend their research dollars on! This is sick.

And here is my counter argument by the New York Times
From an article: As More Eat Meat, a Bid to Cut Emissions

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Purchasing power for peace

I was elated this morning as I smeared Eggplant & Tomato Tapenade on my toast, that I was doing more than nourishing myself, I was helping to bring peace to a region of the world that has been at war for decades.

MEDITALIA™ Tapenades and Pestos are produced in Israel through cooperation between Israelis, Arabs and other neighbours. The olives are grown in Palestinian villages, the glass jars are made in Egypt, and the sun-dried tomatoes come from Turkey. PeaceWorks believes that personal contact between these groups will shatter cultural stereotypes and help people live together peacefully. Five percent of the profits from MEDITALIA™ Pestos and Tapenades go to support the PeaceWorks Foundation to foster peaceful co-existence in the world.

Meditalia is a brand under Peaceworks Holdings LLC pursues profits through our sales of healthful food products that are produced by neighbors on opposing sides of political or armed conflicts, whose cooperative business ventures we facilitate.

Mission And Impact

PeaceWorks is guided by the Theory of Economic Cooperation which states the following:

Mutually beneficial economic initiatives can create good relations between rivaling peoples in the same way that business partners anywhere profit from cooperation in today's marketplace. In this manner, cooperative business ventures that capitalize on the strength of each partner can enable the conditions necessary to achieve long-lasting cultural understanding and eventually even bring prosperity to regions of conflict around the world. PeaceWorks acts at the catalyst for profitable economic interdependence.

Our Cooperation Ecosystem, below, illustrates both levels at which the model works, and the resulting impacts:
  • Commercial Cooperation
  • Businesses profiting from joint ventures gain a vested interest in maintaining and cementing these valuable relationships.
  • Peoples and countries prospering through these cooperative activities gain a stake in the system, furthering stability.
  • Human Interaction
  • People working together under conditions of equality learn to shatter cultural stereotypes and humanize their former enemy.
And this all results in...
  • Job Creation and Export-led Growth

PeaceWorks connects local producers with manufacturers, and buys the food products they create for export. The increased demand thus created results in new jobs, which stimulates local economies and contributes to a rise in the standard of living for their region.

Employment & Technology

Increasing output through exports generates economies of scale and reduces costs, making ventures in regions of conflict more competitive. Export initiatives with overseas partners also benefit from enhanced professionalism, technology transfers and subsequent technical know-how. Peace Building As groups learn to work together, cultural stereotypes are shattered and the former enemy is demystified, and humanized.

Never before have their been so many decisions and impacts on what food you buy. But local to support your local economy, buy fair-trade to help farmers get a farm market price, buy organic to preserve traditional farming methods and biodiversity, buy free range for animal rights, buy grass-fed because it has more conjugated linoleic acid, buy whats on sale, buy Kosher for personal beliefs, buy what tastes good, we have a lot of choices to make significant changes in our world through the food we ate. Never before has a social movement been more entrenched in our everyday decisions as what to buy at market. Choose wisely.

GROW GROW VIRAL, Obamivore's Dilemma!

Obamnivore’s Dilemma: Foodies suggest Ritchie as “sustainable” ag secretary

By Paul Schmelzer 12/4/08 1:26 PM

A cast of big-name characters is vouching for Secretary of State Mark Ritchie — only their advocacy has nothing to do with the statewide election recount he’s overseeing. Food and environmental activists from Minnesota’s own Winona LaDuke to Omnivore’s Dilemma author Michael Pollan, Diet for a Small Planet author Francis Moore LappĂ©, restaurateur/food activist Alice Waters and poet Wendell Berry have signed a letter [pdf] to Barack Obama calling on him to appoint a Secretary of Agriculture who’ll use the job to address the environment, rural economies and human health. Ritchie, who co-founded the Twin Cities-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy prior to his current high-profile gig, is fifth in a six-name list of options for “the sustainable choice for the next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.”

The 88 signatories — which includes Minnesotans like restaurant owner Lucia Watson, IATP president Jim Harkness and Susan Stokes, head of the Farmers Legal Action Group, among others — write that the secretary’s vision should encompass: “recreating regional food systems, supporting the growth of humane, natural and organic farms, and protecting the environment, biodiversity and the health of our children while implementing policies that place conservation, soil health, animal welfare and worker’s rights as well as sustainable renewable energy near the top of their agenda.”

The six suggested candidates and the letter’s text, after the jump.

1. Gus Schumacher, former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and former Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture.
2. Chuck Hassebrook, executive director, Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, Neb.
3. Sarah Vogel, former Commissioner of Agriculture for North Dakota, lawyer, Bismarck, N.D.
4. Fred Kirschenmann, organic farmer, distinguished fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Ames, Iowa, and president of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, NY.
5. Mark Ritchie, Minnesota Secretary of State, former policy analyst in Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture under Governor Rudy Perpich, co-founder of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
6. Neil Hamilton, Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and director of the Agricultural Law Center, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

Read the full letter:

Dear President-Elect Obama,

We congratulate you on your historic victory and welcome the change that your election
promises to usher in for our nation. As leaders in the sustainable agriculture and rural
advocacy community we supported you in record numbers during the caucus, primary
and general election because of the family farm-friendly p olicies that you advocated
during your campaign.

As our nation’s future president, we hope that you will take our concerns under
advisement when nominating our next Secretary of Agriculture because of the crucial
role this Secretary will play in revitalizing our rural economies, protecting our nation’s
food supply and our environment, improving human health and well-being, rescuing the
independent family farmer, and creating a sustainable renewable energy future.

We believe that our nation is at a critical juncture in regard to agriculture and its impact
on the environment and that our next Secretary of Agriculture must have a broad vision
for our collective future that is greater than what past appointments have called for.

Presently, farmers face serious challenges in terms of the high costs of energy, inputs and
land, as well as continually having to fight an economic system and legislative policies
that undermine their ability to compete in the open market. The current system
unnaturally favors economies of scale, consolidation and market concentration and the
allocation of massive subsidies for commodities, all of which benefit the interests of
corporate agribusiness over the livelihoods of farm families.

In addition, America must come to understand the environmental and human health
implications of industrialized agriculture. From rising childhood and adult obesity to
issues of fo od safety, global warming and air and water pollution, we believe our next
Secretary of Agriculture must have a vision that calls for: recreating regional food
systems, supporting the growth of humane, natural and organic farms, and protecting the
environment, biodiversity and the health of our children while implementing policies that
place conservation, soil health, animal welfare and worker’s rights as well as sustainable
renewable energy near the top of their agenda.

Today we have a nutritional and environmental deficit that is as real and as great as that
of our national debt and must be addressed with forward thinking and bold, decisive
action. To deal with this crisis, our next Secretary of Agriculture must work to advance a
new era of sustainability in agriculture, humane husbandry, food and renewable energy
production that revitalizes our nation’s soil, air and water while stimulating opportunities
for new farmers to return to the land.

We believe that a new administration should address our nation’s growing health
problems by promoting a children’s school lunch program that incorporates more healthy
food choices, including the creation of opportunities for schools to purchase food from
local sources that place a high emphasis on nutrition and sustainable farming practices.
We recognize that our children’s health is our nation’s future and that currently schools
are unable to meet these needs because they do not have the financial resources to inve st
in better food choices. We believe this reflects and is in line with your emphasis on
childhood education as a child’s health and nutrition are fundamental to their academic

We understand that this is a tall order, but one that is consistent with the values and
policies that you advocated for in your bid for the White House. We realize that more
conventional candidates are likely under consideration; however, we feel strongly that the
next head of the USDA should have a significant grassroots background in promoting
sustainable agriculture to create a prosperous future for rural America and a healthy
future for all of America’s citizens.

With this in mind, we are offering a list of leaders who have demonstrated a commitment
to the goals that you articulated during your campaign and we encourage you to consider
them for the role of Secretary of Agriculture.


1. David Murphy, Clear Lake, IA
2. Paul Willis, Thornton, IA
3. Michael Pollan, Berkeley, CA
4. Bill Niman, Bolinas, CA
5. Nicolette Hahn Niman, Bolinas, CA
6. Diane Halverson, Northfield, MN
7. Marlene Halverson, Northfield, MN
8. Aaron Woolf, Elizabethtown, NY
9. Judy Wicks, Philadelphia, PA
10. Wendy Wasserman, Iowa City, IA
11. Anna Lappé, Brooklyn, NY
12. Cornelia Butler Flora, Ames, IA
13. Eleanor Bertino, San Francisco, CA
14. Wes Jackson, Salina, KS
15. Wendell Berry, Port Royal, KY
16. Alice Waters, Berkeley, CA
17. Marion Nestle, New York, NY
18. Bill McKibben, Middlebury, VT
19. Rick Dove, New Bern, NC
20. Ann Cooper, Berkeley, CA
21. Michel Nischan, Fairfield, CT
22. Jerry DeWitt, Ames, IA
23. Michael Dimock, San Francisco, CA
24. Jim Harkness, Minneapolis, MN
25. Frank Reese, Lindsborg, KS
26. Jeff Odefey, Irvington, NY
27. Cathy Liss, Alexandria, VA
28. Eric Schlosser, Monterey, CA
29. Leigh Adcock, Ames, IA
30. Dan Barber, Pocantico Hills, NY
31. Francis Thicke, Fairfield, IA
32. Josh Viertel, Brooklyn, NY
33. Peter Hoffman, New York, NY
34. Tom Philpott, Valle Crucis, NC
35. Hillary Wilson, Valle Crucis, NC
36. Dan Imhoff, Healdsburg, CA
37. Michael Stumo, Sheffield, MA
38. Simran Sethi, Lawrence, KS
39. Lisa Stokke, Clear Lake, IA
40. Sarah Willis, Thornton, IA
41. Peter Kaminsky, Brooklyn, NY
42. Kurt Michael Friese, Iowa City, IA
43. Carl Safina, Stony Brook, NY
44. Anthony Garrett, Washington, DC
45. Eliza Maclean, Snow Camp, NC
46. Odessa Piper, Silver Spring, MD
47. Edward Behr, Barnet, VT
48. Phyllis Willis, Thornton, IA
49. Larry Cleverley, Mingo, IA
50. Jesse Ziff Cool, Menlo Park, CA
51. Curt Ellis, Austin, TX
52. Wenonah Hauter, Washington, D C
53. Patty Lovera, Washington, DC
54. John Ikerd, Columbia, MO
55. Lucia Watson, Minneapolis, MN
56. Deborah Madison, Galisteo, NM
57. George DeVault, Decorah, IA
58. Melanie DeVault, Decorah, IA
59. Andrea King Collier, Lansing, MI
60. Rosiland Creasy, Los Altos, CA
61. John Jeavons, Willits, CA
62. Samuel Fromartz, Washington DC
63. Frances Moore Lappe, Cambridge, MA
64. Denise O’Brien, Atlantic, IA
65. Arnell Hinkle, Berkeley, CA
66. Marjie Bender, Pittsboro, NC
67. Winona LaDuke, Ponsford, MN
68. Diane Hatz, New York, NY
69. Cory Schreiber, Portland, OR
70. Rick Bayless, Chicago, IL
71. Angie Tagtow, Elkhart, IA
72. Ralph Paige, East Point, GA
73. Clara Bingham, New York, NY
74. Arie McFarlen, Dell Rapids, SD
75. Bret Kortie, Dell Rapids, SD
76. Dwight Ault, Austin, MN
77. Amy P. Goldman, Rhinebeck, NY
78. Judith LaBelle, New York, NY
79. Patrick Martins, New York, NY
80. Mary Berry Smith, New Castle, KY
81. John Fisk, East Lansing, MI
82. Tim LaSalle, Kutztown, PA
83. Susan Stokes, St. Paul, MN
84. Jude Becker, Dyersville, IA
90.Ashley Colpaart, MA

Friday, December 5, 2008

Flood Tolerant Rice Breakthrough

An article in the Sacramento Bee reveals that a geneticist at UC-Davis is receiving an award for her work developing a flood-tolerant rice. What is most exciting, is that the research, which was funded partly by USDA, did not use genetic engineering. Scientists identified a gene, called Sub1A, that is responsible for flooding tolerance in rice. "Identifying the gene allowed plant breeders to use "precision breeding" to create new rice varieties that could recover after severe flooding and "produce abundant yields of high-quality grain," the release says.
Pamela Ronald, a professor of plant pathology, Julia Bailey-Serres, a UC Riverside genetics professor and David Mackill, of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, will be given the 2008 U.S. Department of Agriculture National Research Initiative Discovery Award Friday at UC Riverside.
Other than their flood tolerance, the new plants are virtually identical to popular high-yielding varieties.

Flooding in Bangladesh and India reduces rice yields by up to 4 million tons each year, enough to feed 30 million people.

Researchers anticipate the flood-tolerant rice plants will be available to farmers within the next two years.

The plants are not subject to the regulatory testing that can delay release of genetically modified crops because they are the product of precision breeding, not genetic modification, the release states.

Study Background

Ronald led the effort to isolate the gene, and her lab showed that the gene is switched on when rice plants are submerged in water. The project took 13 years to complete.

"To be part of this project as it has moved from my lab in California to rice fields in Asia has been inspiring, and the project underscores the power of science to improve people's lives," Ronald said in a written statement.

The research that led to the gene's isolation was funded by USDA grants to Ronald, Mackill and Bailey-Serres. The breeding work was funded by the USDA and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

All told the USDA allotted nearly $1.45 million to the research project, a UC Riverside news release states.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

weeping willow

This is the tree down the street from my house.

Cut down as neighbors mourned and protest.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Country of Orgin Labeling, Oh, How COOL!

Oh, How COOL!
Ashley Colpaart, RD LD
Policy Chair, HEN DPG

Many of you may have noticed yet another “thing” on your food labels. While Country Of Origin Labeling (or COOL if you wanna be cool) was already printed on wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, the 2008 Farm Bill has expanded the list to cover some muscle cuts of meats, ground meats, perishable agriculture commodities, ginseng and nuts. The implementation is the responsibility of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and so far, as expected, their job has been far from

The legislation has roots in the 2002 farm bill. On January 27, 2004, Public Law 108-199 delayed implementation of mandatory COOL for all covered commodities except wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish until September 30, 2006. On November 10, 2005, Public Law 109-97 delayed implementation of mandatory COOL for all covered commodities except wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish until September 30, 2008.

The bill has been framed as effort to provide consumers with information to make informed decision regarding where their food comes from, partially due to the recent attention to local food movements. What they tried to avoid was the ‘elephant in the room’ to all of us, food safety. The reason to avoid food safety? Maybe it is admitting that there is a problem with food safety in this country? Or maybe we don’t want to offend the countries we trade with? Whatever the reason, you are now going to know if you cow was a Canadian or if your tomatoes have been on further vacations then you.

Like most pieces of legislation there are a few exemptions to rule:
Non-PACA licensed stores- (PACA) Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act is a federal law that regulates the produce industry (this could be butcher shops, convenience stores etc)
Food Service Establishments
Certain Processing Productions
- any covered commodity that has undergone processing that results in a change (cooking, curing, smoking, restructuring)
- any covered commodity that has been combined with another food product that is not water salt or sugar (does this mean a rise in peas and carrots? Oh dear!)

And it is these “exemptions” that seem to be causing a lot of ruckus. Say for instance:
Mixed salad versus bagged spinach? Mixed salad wouldn’t be covered, but the spinach would require labeling. How about a fruit cup that contains melons and strawberries? Nope, does not require a COOL label.

Dried fruit is not subject to COOL labeling requirements since the drying process changes the character of the fruit. Mushrooms, if fresh, are covered. Dried mushrooms are not covered. Packages of different colored sweet peppers (green, yellow and/or red) different colored sweet peppers combined in a package will require country of origin notification because there is one U.S. Grade Standard for sweet peppers, regardless of the color.

And if you think the produce industry is confused on how to implement, the coolness continues for the meat industry responsible for muscle cuts beef, veal, pork, lamb and chicken and the ground counterparts.
a) Product of the U.S.—meat from animals born, raised, and slaughtered in the United States or from animals present in the United States on or prior to July 15, 2008. b) Product of the U.S., Country X—meat from animals born in Country X and raised and slaughtered in the .
c)Meat from these animals were not exclusively born, raised, and slaughtered in the United Statesor imported for immediate slaughter.—meat from animals imported into the for immediate slaughter.
d) Product of Country X—foreign meat imported into the United States

Attempt at implementation has been revealing how meat is carried through the supply chain. From birth, to stockyard, to feedlot, to slaughter, animals can have quite a stamped passport and these complexities of the livestock industry may have some product labels listing multiple countries. That's especially true of ground beef, because some meat processors combine cuts from a number of countries to make ground meat and hamburger patties.

Meat packers and large agribusinesses initially opposed the rule because they want continued access to imported (often cheaper) meat, without facing a penalty in the marketplace from consumers who may think American meat is safer. They also argued that the label is unnecessary, too expensive and would be a record keeping nightmare (in this case, "they" was Tyson vice president testifying against COOL at USDA education session)

Proponents for the bill consider COOL a feather in their cap. They believe the greatest advantage is knowing exactly where your food comes from. They argue that COOL gives consumers the ability: to support more local economies, to choose fresher food, and could ultimately prevent food safety problems associated with imported foods.

Some caveats, because what would policy be without them?

1. There is a loophole: Food further processed in foreign countries, may still receive US determination i.e. baby carrots

2. Commingled commodities: goods from mixed countries require all countries to be identified i.e. a mixed bin of tomatoes

Whether you are for or against Country Of Origin Labeling, what this bill teaches us is that these laws are never cut and dry. Once the rule making and regulation begins, what sounded like a great idea, can sometime turn into something that is not-so-COOL.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A New Colonialism

In efforts to secure their own food supply, rich countries and corporations are causing panic in the developing world as millions of hectares of agriculture land is being purchased. The article by Julian Borger, Diplomatic Editor for the Guardian, maintains that these types of purchases are benefiting the big guys at the expense of the little guys. Some highlights from the article:

The head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Jacques Diouf, has warned that the controversial rise in land deals could create a form of "neo-colonialism", with poor states producing food for the rich at the expense of their own hungry people.

Rising food prices have already set off a second "scramble for Africa". This week, the South Korean firm Daewoo Logistics announced plans to buy a 99-year lease on a million hectares in Madagascar. Its aim is to grow 5m tonnes of corn a year by 2023, and produce palm oil from a further lease of 120,000 hectares (296,000 acres), relying on a largely South African workforce. Production would be mainly earmarked for South Korea, which wants to lessen dependence on imports.

"These deals can be purely commercial ventures on one level, but sitting behind it is often a food security imperative backed by a government," said Carl Atkin, a consultant at Bidwells Agribusiness, a Cambridge firm helping to arrange some of the big international land deals.

At a food security summit in Rome, in June, there was agreement to channel more investment and development aid to African farmers to help them respond to higher prices by producing more. But governments and corporations in some cash-rich but land-poor states, mostly in the Middle East, have opted not to wait for world markets to respond and are trying to guarantee their own long-term access to food by buying up land in poorer countries.

Even China, which has plenty of land but is now getting short of water as it pursues breakneck industrialisation, has begun to explore land deals in south-east Asia. Laos, meanwhile, has signed away between 2m-3m hectares, or 15% of its viable farmland. Libya has secured 250,000 hectares of Ukrainian farmland, and Egypt is believed to want similar access. Kuwait and Qatar have been chasing deals for prime tracts of Cambodia rice fields.

Eager buyers generally have been welcomed by sellers in developing world governments desperate for capital in a recession. Madagascar's land reform minister said revenue would go to infrastructure and development in flood-prone areas.

Sudan is trying to attract investors for almost 900,000 hectares of its land, and the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, has been courting would-be Saudi investors.

"If this was a negotiation between equals, it could be a good thing. It could bring investment, stable prices and predictability to the market," said Duncan Green, Oxfam's head of research. "But the problem is, [in] this scramble for soil I don't see any place for the small farmers."

Alex Evans, at the Centre on International Cooperation, at New York University, said: "The small farmers are losing out already. People without solid title are likely to be turfed off the land."

Details of land deals have been kept secret so it is unknown whether they have built-in safeguards for local populations.

Steve Wiggins, a rural development expert at the Overseas Development Institute, said: "There are very few economies of scale in most agriculture above the level of family farm because managing [the] labour is extremely difficult." Investors might also have to contend with hostility. "If I was a political-risk adviser to [investors] I'd say 'you are taking a very big risk'. Land is an extremely sensitive thing. This could go horribly wrong if you don't learn the lessons of history."


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Merrigan for Undersecretary of Marketing and Regulatory Programs.

Tuft's very Kathleen Merrigan's name has been popping around the bloggersphere for a possible position as Undersecretary of Marketing and Regulatory Programs. As a student in two of Merrigan's classes, I can attest that she is a strong choice for anyone looking for "hope" for the American food system. Kathleen's admirable work in developing the USDA Organics standards, oversight in the Agricultural Marketing Service and breadth in the inner-workings of Washington's political climate all position her as a quality candidate. Of course, her student's would find the news bitter/sweet, I think they would all agree that her place in Washington is well needed.

You can read a bit more on Merrigan at Chewise.

From Wall Street to Main Street

As congress moves to bail out some of the largest corporations in order to prop up the economy, main street is jumping on the bandwagon to ask for a little help in these hard times. Is this the 'new New Deal?' Everybody seems to need a bailout.

Democratic Senators are working to pass the Reid-Byrdecon Stimulus Bill. In response to higher unemployment, rising food costs, higher energy costs, State budgets in crisis, and increased dependence on foreign oil, President-Elect Obama has called for a second stimulus bill to jump start the economy and help Americans recover from the recession.

It is well known that the hits on Wall Street take a few months to trickle down to Main Street. The bill focuses on the areas of society that are being hit the hardest:

Unemployment: "The U.S. economy has lost jobs every month this year, a total of 1.2 million jobs, with almost half of the job losses coming in the last 3 months alone." The bill would extend unemployment benefits by seven weeks in all states.

State Economies: The package includes $37.8 million to help States reduce their share of Medicaid, in order to ease the budget shortfalls affecting local economies.

Auto-Industry Assistance: $25 billion in loans with required long term financial plans.

Tax Relief for New Car Purchasing: to help tax payers afford new cars, while propping up the automobile industry.

High Food Costs: "$445 million for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program (which would allow 600,000 women and children to receive WIC benefits, meet some of the rising demand due to a faltering economy, and allow states to avoid creating waiting lists). $50 million is included for Food Banks, $8 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food program, and $60 million for senior meals programs (18 million more meals)."

High Energy Assistance: In order to help Americans cope with spiraling energy costs, $500 million is included for weatherization programs.

Energy Independence: The stimulus makes major investments in electrifying vehicles with $300 million for advanced battery research, and $1billion for the advanced battery manufacturing loan guarantee program which will authorize over $3.3 billion in loan guarantees. In addition, the stimulus includes $500 million to help local governments improve energy efficiency; $500 million for additional energy efficiency and renewable energy research, development and deployment; and $140 million for electricity transmission improvements.

Caring for the Environment: Over $5 billion is included for environmental clean up, urban and rural clean water systems, and for maintenance of our parks, forests, and wildlife refuges.

Building Infrastructure and Creating Jobs: The stimulus package includes: $13.5 billion for building and repairing highways, bridges, mass transit, airports, and AMTRAK, creating 470,000 jobs.

Housing: The Committee bill includes $700 million for capital funding grants to public housing agencies and $200 million to provide housing agencies with additional funding to alleviate the increased costs of energy.

Improving the Quality of Life for Military Families: $175 million for the construction, replacement, and improvement of military family housing at Army and Air Force installations, and an additional $75 million for the construction of child development centers at Navy installations.

Education and Job Training: $2.5 billion is included for school repairs, $600 million for youth training and dislocated workers, $200 million for the Community Services Block Grant, and $36 million for homeless education.

Health: $1 billion to restore some of the purchasing power of NIH that was lost because of inflation in the past five years and allow NIH to award as many as 2,700 new research project grants that could lead to cures and treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and many other devastating diseases.

Small Businesses: The stimulus provides $615 million to support $22.5 billion in zero-fee loans to small businesses under the 7(a) program and the 504 program. The bill also provides $1 million to support $10 million in new microloans for small businesses and $4 million for critical technical assistance for these “micro” borrowers.

Border Security and Crime Fighting: The bill includes over $1 billion for border security and other homeland security investments.

Science: $675 million for NASA, Department of Energy and Cyber Security.

Disaster Assistance: Relief support for farmers facing crop damage, and community disaster loans.

Consumer Protection: 13.1 million to permit prompt implementation of new authorities enacted in the 2008 Farm Bill (P.L. 110-246), $75 million for the FBI for agents to investigate rising claims of mortgage fraud, and $10.5 million for the Treasury Inspector General to conduct critical reviews of bank failures.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

foodies loose their focus?

While I honor and respect idealism more than the next guy (it is encapsulated in my blog title after all), I am disgruntled to see this post on the Comfood listserv this morning:
I have just begun and am soliciting help in my quest. I would love it if you could assist me in getting the word out.Direct link to petition:

And my blog (petition can be signed directly from blog):
I would first like to thank Blane Friest and welcome him to the movement and the 493 signers of the petition for thinking big and having passion. While this is an exciting time in the US to push for change, we (the food movement) have to be strategic and realistic about our agenda. A good friend once told me, "passion without focus is futile" and it indeed is. Not understanding the history of US Agriculture, not understanding the status quo and not understanding politics may be our biggest downfall. While we all want to move mountains, my friend, mentor, and farmer Mary Jo Forbord would ask “do you think it doesn’t make any difference to move a glacier an inch?” I had to admit, that’s a pretty powerful movement. It has helped me through discouragement time and time again. Progress can be slow, but you never know when a breakthrough will occur. "Mice make elephants dance"

"The solutions are in the connections."

The idea for Michael Pollan for Secretary of Agriculture is far fetched. Lord knows he won't want to take the salary cut. But what can we do? I think that the great Debra Eschmeyer said it best:
It has been quite public who the main candidates are:

Rounding out the list of prospective nominees are Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, National Farmers Union President Tom Buis, House Agriculture Chairman Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson and and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. (House 1979-87; Senate 1987-2005).

Why not use this opportunity instead to educate the new Administration-elect on what our priorities are for a good, fair, and safe food system?

Let's not talk about individuals, let's talk priorities through policies and action. Here are some very quick examples:

Child Nutrition Reauthorization--Every four or five years (coming up in 2009), there is an opportunity for all of those concerned with the health of our nation’s children to evaluate, defend, and improve the federal Child Nutrition Programs. Nourishing kids and community is the promise of farm to school. With the authorization of the National Farm to School Program in 2004, and the tremendous growth and interest in farm to school programs, the time is ripe to support that promise and voice ideas that include locally and regionally grown foods in national meal programs. Learn more:

Other Campaigns underway:Eat the View: "Eat the View" is a campaign to urge President-elect Obama to replant a large organic victory garden on the First Lawn with the produce going to the White House kitchen and to local food pantries."Eat the View" is coordinated by Kitchen Gardeners International, a Maine-based 501c3 nonprofit network of 10,000 gardeners from 100 countries who are inspiring and teaching more people to grow some of their own food.

White House Organic Garden: TheWhoFarm (aka The White House Organic Farm Project) is a non-partisan, petition-based initiative to respectfully request that our 44th President oversee the planting of an organic farm on the grounds of The White House, our nation’s First Home, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC.

Food Declaration: The Declaration is meant to provide 1) A clear statement of what kind of policy is needed now, endorsed by a broad base of organizations and individuals with a long-established commitment to a healthier food and agriculture.; 2) An invitation to all Americans to join in the improvement effort by taking action in their own lives and communities and by offering them a way to call on policymakers to support comprehensive change. 3) A set of principles from which policy makers can craft policy that will lead to a healthier system.

This topic is also covered by Steph Larson at Ethicurean.

And now for something completely different:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama's Secretary of Agriculture

The one appointment that "foodies," "locavores," policy makers, farmers, food companies and manufactures and any other group interested in food, have their sites on is the Secretary of Agriculture. It can make or break the movement towards sustainability and set the agenda on a "status quo" route or a "change" route.

There is much speculation in the bloggersphere on this appointment, but it is hard to say how serious any of the names being kicked around are. This is a cross post from the Organic Consumers Union about the dangers of Govern Vilsack of Iowa:

  • Six Reasons Why Obama Appointing Monsanto's Buddy, Former Iowa Governor Vilsack, for USDA Head is a Terrible Idea
    OCA, November 12, 2008

Nov. 12, 2008

* Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack's support of genetically engineered pharmaceutical crops, especially pharmaceutical corn:

* The biggest biotechnology industry group, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, named Vilsack Governor of the Year. He was also the founder and former chair of the Governor's Biotechnology Partnership.

* When Vilsack created the Iowa Values Fund, his first poster child of economic development potential was Trans Ova and their pursuit of cloning dairy cows.

* Vilsack was the origin of the seed pre-emption bill in 2005, which many people here in Iowa fought because it took away local government's possibility of ever having a regulation on seeds- where GE would be grown, having GE-free buffers, banning pharma corn locally, etc. Representative Sandy Greiner, the Republican sponsor of the bill, bragged on the House Floor that Vilsack put her up to it right after his state of the state address.

* Vilsack has a glowing reputation as being a schill for agribusiness biotech giants like Monsanto. Sustainable ag advocated across the country were spreading the word of Vilsack's history as he was attempting to appeal to voters in his presidential bid. An activist from the west coast even made this youtube animation about Vilsack
The airplane in this animation is a referral to the controversy that Vilsack often traveled in Monsanto's jet.

*Vilsack is an ardent support of corn and soy based biofuels, which use as much or more fossil energy to produce them as they generate, while driving up world food prices and literally starving the poor.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I just finished an article that changed my life. It is in this month's issue of Ode Magazine- a publication about positive news, about the people and ideas that are changing our world for the better.

The article is called: Slow and Steady Wins the Race. It reminds me of the theme of the book: Living at Natures Pace by Gene Logdson. I recommend reading this, and think of how we can contribute in this big picture idea. I hope you find it as engaging as I. This section is off the website, but I recommend picking up this month's issue called Eat, drink and be healthy with an article from Frances Moore Lappe on Courage. Good stuff for 'intelligent optimists.' All for now.

Slow and steady wins the race
Carleen Hawn | November 2008 issue

The need for speedy profits has brought the world's financial system to its knees. Financial high-flier Woody Tasch believes his Slow Money movement, which invests in sustainable agriculture, can put the economy back on its feet.

Woody Tasch: "The Earth isn't expanding indefinitely. We only have so much soil, water and air."
What if you were told that one solution to crises such as global warming and the worldwide financial meltdown could be unearthed in the simple act of growing your own food? Nothing drastic; nothing revolutionary. Just a window box for a tomato plant in your kitchen.

"It's remarkable, but people who grow their own food, who reconnect with the soil, can immediately appreciate the implications of an economy that doesn't respect the power of ecology," says Woody Tasch, somewhat quixotically. But Tasch is no quack. He's chairman of the Investors' Circle, a national group focused on funding socially responsible companies. Since 1992, Investors' Circle has placed $130 million into 200 such businesses and venture funds. Today, sitting in the bar of a San Francisco hotel, Tasch orders a local Syrah and a fresh batch of the bar's potato chips. "I like them because they make them here," he explains.

"Reconnecting with the soil" may sound like a bohemian throwback. But despite the progress the environmental and sustainability movements have enjoyed in recent years, Tasch believes one aspect of social responsibility has been left out that can no longer be neglected: a more personal connection to our food. Already imposing for his height (6'2'', some 1.9 meters), Tasch gets more and more excited as he talks. He leans into the table and gesticulates as he tosses names about—Thomas Malthus, Google, Wal-Mart, American farmer and man of letters Gene Logsdon. But it all comes down to Earth and back to sustainable agriculture.

For years, Tasch, 57, has promoted a philosophy of socially responsible investment, prioritizing the social good over the urge to make a quick buck under an ethos known as "patient capital." Today, Tasch believes, if we have any hope of curing society's greatest ills—much less fixing the reliance on rapid growth and rising debt that created the current crisis in the global financial markets—being "patient" with our capital is no longer enough. We need to be slow. To explain what he means, this month Tasch unveils his latest investment treatise in the form of a book entitled Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered (Chelsea Green Publishing). Slow Money, Tasch writes, is "a new vision for investing that looks above the top line and below the bottom line [by] put[ting] soil fertility back into the calculus of investing."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

ADA, Dietitians, Corporate Sponsorship & HFCS

December 14, 2007: assistant editor at In These Times, Jacob Wheeler wrote an article called Corporate Potluck: Dietitians and their company sponsors make strange buffet fellows which highlighted the corporate industry partners attending the American Dietetic Association's 2007 Food and Nutrition Conference(FNCE).

March 1, 2008: American Dietetic Association Welcomes The Coca-Cola Company as an ADA Partner. The press release says:

The program provides Partners a national platform via ADA events and programs with prominent access to key influencers, thought leaders and decision makers in the food and nutrition marketplace.

About the time the dietitians were becoming critical of their own association, criticism was coming from the very influential and proficient author and renowned food policy advocate Marion Nestle. She quotes on her blog:

Respected ADA colleagues: as long as your organization partners with makers of food and beverage products, its opinions about diet and health will never be believed independent (translation: based on science not politics) and neither will yours.

Furthermore, an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History or Four Meals and more recently In Defense of Food, An Eaters Manifesto, Micheal Pollan had this to say:

Well, nutrition science is very compromised by industry. Organizations like the American Dietetic Association take sponsorship from companies who are eager to find -- you know, be able to make health claims.

Soon the Corn Refiners Association launched a PR campaign that took Dietitians along with them with a full page ad in the Washington Post: "Registered Dietitians agree that HFCS is the same as table sugar and can be enjoyed in moderation."

This year at the American Dietetic Association Food and Nutrition Conference in Chicago, The Corn Refiners Association had an exhibit that included information about "the many ways corn based ingredients are contributing to great-tasting food and beverage choices and to innovations that enhance nutrition and help reduce calories and fat."

I guess the question is, who is suppose to be teaching who about nutrition?

I can attest, not all Registered Dietitians believe that everything can be enjoyed in moderation. There is more impact from consuming HFCS than the human nutrition implications.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Cast your vote for a healthy, sustainable future in election

thanks to my fried Melinda

If last week’s chilling tale about biotechnology and the widespread planting of largely unregulated, inadequately tested bioengineered crops wasn’t scary enough, sit tight. I’ve saved another frightening feature for the final days preceding Halloween, and Election Day.

You see, the unlabeled "Frankenfoods" that line our supermarket shelves today are largely the result of political decisions, manipulated by corporate interests. For example, recall that in 1992 then Vice President Dan Quayle, under the influence of Monsanto, announced that "no new laws would be passed to regulate biotechnology."

Today, most corn, soy and canola crops grown on U.S. soil are genetically modified, placing our planet and personal health at unknown risk.

Who knew that our votes for president and state and local representatives could trickle down and affect our water, air, soil and food quality? In fact, every bite of food we take hinges on local, state and national policy.

Consider concentrated animal feeding operations, better known as "factory farms." As Amy Peterson, doctor of veterinary medicine at Johns Hopkins University, explains, consolidating and confining animals on an "industrial scale" has a "serious impact" on our natural resources because of the tremendous volume of urine and feces generated from thousands of animals living in dreadfully close quarters.

And that’s just a whiff of this stinking horror story. Peterson studies antibiotic-resistant bacteria and how antibiotic resistance develops as a result of routinely feeding antibiotics to animals to enhance growth.

"This is not just a food and farm issue," she said. We are losing our ability to treat infections in human populations, and we are creating "more virulent forms of antibiotic-resistant bacteria." They’re present in air and contaminated water from CAFOs. And, Peterson added, they can even be present on raw meat from CAFOs that’s sold in supermarkets.

"On the most basic, grass-roots level of democracy," said Michael Holzknecht, former Hickory County prosecuting attorney, "we can elect county commissioners who will instate and uphold county health ordinances that protect our natural resources, children’s health and property rights."

Want to have a family picnic in the wafting aroma of hog or chicken excrement? I didn’t think so. But when we elect representatives who receive funding and side with corporate agribusiness interests, then we give a free pass to factory farms to suck money from our local economies, harm our health and tear at the social fabric of our rural communities.

What’s really scary is that, according to the Federal Election Commission, just slightly more than half - 56.7 percent - of all eligible voters cast their ballots for president in the 2004 election.

That’s frightening because democracy depends on full, active and informed participation in our government.

Be smart and speak out. In the remaining few days before the election, get to know where your candidates stand on issues that protect your basic rights. Who funds your candidate’s campaign? How does your candidate intend to support small, independent family farmers?

Otto Von Bismarck, the 19th-century Prussian politician, said: "Laws are like sausages; it is better not to see them being made." But he was dead wrong. We had better pay close to attention to how both are made because our very health and future of our nation depend on how we feed ourselves.

I believe we have reached a critical fork in the road. We are heading quickly down the consolidated and contracted highway lined with genetically modified monocultures that leave us vulnerable to crop failure, contamination and disease. Think sharecroppers on steroids.

The risky road depends heavily on pesticides and fossil fuels and leads to famine.

My advice is to use this election to apply the brakes and steer hard down the road our forefathers valued - towards agricultural biodiversity, organic farming methods, independent family farmers, strong rural communities and true democracy.

Learn more. Visit the Center for Responsive Politics:

Monday, October 20, 2008

ADA, Corporate Sponsors, Food Industry

As my email and snail mail box become engulfed with cards from Cargill, The Beef Council & Coca Cola, I can't help but respond to the many people that have engaged in dialog regarding ADA's corporate sponsors and the upcoming FNCE sessions. I hope free IPODs and Tiffany's jewelry don't put rosey colored glasses on my fellow Dietitian's ability to think critically.

I thought I would share two important pieces published this month:

10 Things the Food Industry Doesn't Want You to Know --Two nutrition experts argue that you can't take marketing campaigns at face value:

I have also attatched: Can the Food Industry Play a Constructive Role in theObesity Epidemic? published this month by JAMA. In it, it cites our Association: While we may realize and argue the importance of corporate sponsorship, let us not forget those in the Public Health arena who remain critical. From the article.

"Food companies also donate large sums of money to professional associations. In return for a donation to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), Coca-Cola becomes an ADA partner and receives "a national platform via ADA events and programs with prominent access to key influencers, thought leaders, and decision makers in the food and nutrition marketplace."13 Some professional associations continue to accept fees to endorse sugary breakfast cereals and processed snack foods, even though this practice was considered potentially deceptive by state attorneys general nearly a decade ago."

"But inferences from any one action miss a fundamental point: in a market-driven economy, industry tends to act opportunistically in the interests of maximizing profit. Problems arise when society fails to perceive this situation accurately."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Urban Eco Blogger

My dear friend and blogger, Adrienne Clements, has rolled out her new blog: Urban Eco Nest all about how to live sustainable on a small scale.
Check out the Urban Eco Nest to discover the latest tips, ideas, news, and innovations that apply to sustainable urban living. Prepare to be flooded with the latest information in innovative design, technology, products, and methods to achieve sustainability on the urban level. I believe every scale makes a difference in creating true change. I encourage you to join the journey to achieving urban sustainability and to learn some great tips along the way!

Visit Adrienne and show her some love.

FDA offices open in China, India, Europe and Latin America

This was posted on my On the Pulse c/o the American Dietetic Association.

FDA Offices opening in China, India, Europe, and Latin America

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will send the first U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) staff to China, India, Europe, and Latin America before the end of 2008, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced today, part of a global effort to safeguard food and medicines produced overseas, and sold in the United States.

The first overseas office will be in China, with staff put in place in Beijing this year. Additional staff will join in 2009 in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. HHS/FDA plans on establishing its second overseas office in the Republic of India, with staff first posting to New Delhi in 2008 and at least one additional office to follow in 2009.

In both nations, FDA plans to work closely with local authorities as well as industries that ship food and medical products to the United States to improve safety efforts. Their activities will include providing technical advice, conducting additional inspections, and working with government agencies and private sector entities interested in developing certification programs.

HHS/FDA will also be opening overseas offices in Europe and Latin America before the end of 2008, with a fifth office in the Middle East to follow soon in early to mid-2009.

Last year, the United States imported more than $2 trillion worth of products, from roughly 825,000 importers, through over 300 Ports–of-Entry. All projections indicate this volume will continue to rise sharply over the coming years as the scale and complexity of international trade multiplies.

More information on efforts to improve import safety is available at

Friday, October 10, 2008

Renegade Lunch Lady

I saw this post on Calorie Lab:

Renegade lunch lady says good lunches a social justice issue

Ann Cooper, the director of nutrition for the Berkeley Unified School District, told the EG ’07 conference that changing the way kids eat is a critical mission and that failure could lead not only to shortened lives for them but also a wrecked environment and a less successful nation.

EG (like the Latin for “for example”) is an annual shindig that brings together the best minds in entertainment, technology and the world of ideas to discuss all sorts of issues of importance to society. The video of Cooper’s talk was recently made available online by TED (aka Technology, Innovation, Design).

This lady really gets me fired up. I love how she clues into the fact that this is a social issue.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Melamine Assumption

The FDA has released an Interim Safety Risk Assessment of Melamine and Melamine compounds in food. From the release:
A safety/risk assessment is a scientifically based methodology used to estimate the risk to human health from exposure to specified compounds. It is based on available data and certain scientific assumptions in the absence of data. The purpose of the FDA interim safety/risk assessment was to identify the level of melamine and melamine-related compounds in food which would not raise public health concerns. The interim safety/risk assessment evaluated the melamine exposure in infant formula and in other foods.

My opinion: What function does melamine have in the human diet anyway? My professional opinion, avoid it. I wonder if they would start putting it on the food label?!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Prairie Horizon's Farm Tour and HEN meeting

My dietetic practice group of the American Dietetic Association- Hunger and Environmental Nutrition(HEN) convened on Mary Jo Forbord's organic farm in Minnesota for strategic planning, epicurean delights, and amazing convergence of ideas and ideals. After an introductory semester of US Agriculture, I was able to take a field trip into the heart of America to see a history of farm policy in action.

My photos tell the story. Enjoy.

In 1973, the oil crisis, Vietnam war, Watergate and inflation were on the rise. As hunger and depression hit the rural areas, Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butts enters the scene. His motto's:
'fence row to fence row' and 'get big or get out!'

Fern Gale Estrow- New York- MS, RD, CDN - Policy Guru - Driving us home.
Kelly Horton- Seattle- MS, RD, CD Tufts Food Policy Graduate: owner of Connect Nutrition - Co-pilot.

Me with my backseat companion and cohort, Caroline Baum Webber PhD RD- Professor and Director of Dietetic Internship at Western Michigan.

Sunset over the farm.

Back row: Melinda Hemmelgarn MS RD:The Food Sleuth, Susan Roberts JD MS RD: Visionary HEN Mama, Fern
Front row: Caroline, Lynn Mader MBA RD: The All Star, me, Chris Wharton PhD-Nutrition Professor at ASU, but also a rock star: Our Presidential Hopeful, Andy Sarjahani, (almost) RD, Sustainability Soilder at Virginia Tech: Intensity Builder who always lives the dream, Angie Tagtow MS RD LN, Consultant & Food and Society, Ames, Iowa: The Teacher, The Inspiration.

Back: Mary Jo Forbord RD: Co-owner of Prairie Horizons Farm, Family Farm Visionary & Hopeful and HEN Historian, Barbara Hartman RD West Virgina: Spiritual Mama and Guide; Helen Costello MS RD LS- New Hampshire and Friedman School graduate: Or, Melinda, Susan, Fern.
Backrow: Christina Dyer MS RD NYC: The General, Caroline, Lynn, me Chris, Andy, Chief, Angie, Kim Prendergast MS RD- Massachusetts: Our President and Kelly.

Farmer Luverne Forbord takes us on the farm tour.

The dogs run along side, until they hop up for a ride.

Mary Jo explains the challenges of being organic is a conventional and industrial agriculture world. Their love for the land and respect of ecosystem is apparent in everything they do.

Buffer Zone- Since the Forbord's farm is surrounded by GM corn from Cargill, they have opted to utilize some of their own acereage for a buffer zone. Although it is the other farm's responsibility, they came to the conclusion it is more energy efficient than going to court.

The old dairy farm that Laverne grew up on. The silos were built with 20% interest in the 70's during times of grain surplus. They now sit empty since their cattle are grass fed.

Luverne and Mary Jo have a vision of turning the old farm and farm house (below) into a education and community center. They are considering a farmers market, interns and want to utilize the house for guest to come learn and write about an important practice that is eroding away from farms in America.

This could be my home one day.

Erosion is not a new topic to conventional farming and the issue continues to grow due to monocropping and lack of care to the soil. A talk with Angie Tagtow revealed more of the destruction happening in Iowa:

During June 2008, 60% of Iowa's counties lost an average of seven tons of soil per acre as a result of the flooding. That is 15,680 pounds of soil lost in one acre in a month. Year-to-date erosion data have identified several areas in Iowa that have lost upwards of 56 tons of soil per acre. That is more than 125,000 pounds of soil lost per acre in eight months. According to Soil Science Society of America, it takes 500 years to build up one inch of topsoil. Without significant transformation in agriculture and land use policies and practices which protect, preserve and build fertile soil, the astounding loss of soil will significantly deteriorate the ability to grow healthy, fresh food and sustain societies.

How' that for homeland security?

This is about 5 feet of erosion on the Forbord's property line going into the Cargill field. GM corn and soy continues to be planted here annually. Another issue is the lack of biodiversity, which directly translates to the American diet.

The Forbords are also running out of pasture this season due to the lack of rain in the last three months. These soybeans, which typically would be harvested and then dried, have dried out in the fields.

The Forbord's beef. These guys were (hold your ears guys) going to slaughter the next day.

He was not too happy that we were visiting.

Picking crab-apples. In this area, the Forbord's had brought in a herd of goats to do some clearing work, and clear they did. Across from here they are attempting to regrow some of the lost native prairie lands. It is said that only 1% of the native prairie's remain in the area. The regrowth project is being done completely by hand.

Kelly and her crab-apples.

Chief takes a ride.

Laverne let me drive the tractor as Chris, Cristina and Kim held on for dear life. Apparently I was a natural. This tractor is from the 50's!

Letting the clutch out nice and easy.

The HEN founders/grandma's: Helen, Mary Pat Raimondi, Barb, Sue and Angie.

The guys harvest food from the garden for our Iron Chef competition. I think Chris found a good one. The secret ingredients were Apples and Farrow (a grain).

Our team's meal.

Me pondering the plight of the organic farmer and the need for a major overhaul in the agriculture policies enacted in this country to help save the family farm.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Melamine Hits the US, what a suprise.

FDA Updates Health Information Advisory on Melamine Contamination

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is alerting consumers that seven Mr. Brown instant coffee and milk tea products are being recalled by the Taiwanese company, King Car Food Industrial Co. Ltd., due to possible contamination with melamine. King Car Food Industrial Co. used a non-dairy creamer manufactured by Shandong Duqing Inc., China, which was found to be contaminated with melamine. The recalled products are:

  • Mr. Brown Mandheling Blend Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
  • Mr. Brown Arabica Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
  • Mr. Brown Blue Mountain Blend Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
  • Mr. Brown Caramel Macchiato Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
  • Mr. Brown French Vanilla Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
  • Mr. Brown Mandhling Blend instant Coffee (2-in-1)
  • Mr. Brown Milk Tea (3-in-1)

The FDA recommends that consumers not consume any of the above Mr. Brown instant coffee and milk tea products. The FDA also recommends that retailers and foodservice operators remove the products from sale or service.

As of September 25, 2008, the FDA testing of milk based products imported into the United States from China has not found melamine contamination.

The FDA is working with regulatory agencies in other countries. The New Zealand Food Safety Authority reports that its testing of White Rabbit Creamy Candies has shown melamine contamination at high levels. In light of the widespread contamination of milk and milk-based products in China and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority’s finding, the FDA recommends that consumers not eat White Rabbit Creamy Candy and that retailers and foodservice operations remove the product from sale or service.

To date, the FDA is not aware of any illnesses in the United States stemming from consumption of either White Rabbit Creamy Candy or the Mr. Brown instant coffee and milk tea products.

Individuals who have experienced any health problems after consuming either White Rabbit Creamy Candy or any of the identified Mr. Brown coffee and tea products are advised to contact their health care professional.


On September 12, 2008, in light of reports from China of melamine contaminated infant formula, the FDA issued a Health Information Advisory to assure the American public that there is no known threat of contamination in infant formula manufactured by companies that have met the requirements to sell such products in the United States. That advisory also warned members of Chinese communities in the United States that infant formula manufactured in China, possibly available for purchase at Asian markets, could pose a risk to infants.

The FDA had contacted the companies who manufacture infant formula for distribution in the United States and received, from the companies, information that they are not importing formula or sourcing milk-based materials from China.

At the same time, the FDA—in conjunction with state and local officials—began a nation-wide investigation to check Asian markets for Chinese manufactured infant formula that may have been brought into the United States. In particular, this effort focused on areas of the country with large Chinese communities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and New York. To date, investigators have visited more than 1,400 retail markets and have not found Chinese infant formula present on shelves in these markets.

The FDA also advises consumers not to purchase infant formula manufactured in China from Internet sites or from other sources.

The FDA has taken, and will continue to take, proactive measures to help ensure the safety of the American food supply. In conjunction with state and local officials, the FDA will continue to check Asian markets for food items that are imported from China and that could contain a significant amount of milk or milk proteins. In addition, the FDA has broadened its domestic and import sampling and testing of milk-derived ingredients and finished food products containing milk, such as candies, desserts, and beverages that could contain these ingredients from Chinese sources. Milk-derived ingredients include whole milk powder, non-fat milk powder, whey powder, lactose powder, and casein.

In addition to state and local governments, the FDA is working in close cooperation with Customs and Border Protection within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, other federal agencies, and foreign governments.