Monday, June 30, 2008

Biotech's Assault on Mexico

My friend Chris sent me this. The biotech industry is a dark and gloomy place. This stuff gives me the hee-bee-gee-bees. This whole globalization this is about power, money and control. The question is, will be wake up in time?

'Control the oil, you control nations, control the food and you control the people.' Henry Kissinger 1970

Killing Farmers with Killer Seed

As the global food crisis escalates, Big Biotech (Monsanto, Novartis, Syngenta, Dupont-Pioneer, Dow et al) are capitalizing on the desperation of the hungry at runaway prices and rapidly diminishing reserves as a wedge to foist genetically modified (GMO) seeds on a reluctant Third World.

Latin America is a prime marketing target for Big Biotech's little darlings, often tagged "semillas asasinas" or "killer seeds" for their devastating impacts on local food stocks. Now the killer GMOs are suspected of literally provoking murder most foul.

Last October, Armando Villareal, a farm leader in the Mexican border state of Chihuahua, was gunned down after a farmers' meeting in Nuevo Casas Grandes. Villareal had been denouncing the illegal planting of GMO corn in the Mennonite-dominated municipalities of Cuauhtemoc and Naniquipa.

Chihuahua Mennonite communities originally migrated from Canada after a dispute with the Canadian government over education in the 1920s and were granted land by post-revolutionary president Alvaro Obregon. Over the decades, the Mennonites have successfully cultivated up to 60,000 hectares in the northeast of the state. Acutely insular with their signature dress (denim overalls for the men, prairie dresses and calico bonnets for the women) and speaking low-German as befits their European roots, the Mennonites have never integrated into the Mexican mainstream and their success as farmers - they have benefited from Mexican government irrigation projects - has created tensions in a region where aridity limits agricultural production for most farmers.

Hundreds of tractors lined up in a cortege at Villareal's October 15th funeral during which he was compared to another Chihuahua hero, Francisco Villa. Ironically, the slain farmers' leader who claimed to have evidence that the Mennonites' killer seeds had been smuggled in from Kansas, was not opposed to planting GMO corn which his "Aerodynamica" group hoped would save strapped farmers money on pesticides and power costs. His followers had even burnt tractors to demand that the Mexican government grant them permits to plant the transgenic corn.

Eight months later, Armando Villareal's murder remains unresolved.

The Chihuahua farm leader's assassination is not the only death of a militant Latin American campesino being linked to Big Biotech's encroachments. In Parana Brazil about the same time Villareal was gunned down in Chihuahua, Keno Mota, an activist of the Movement of Landless Farmers ("Movimento de Sem Terras" or MST), affiliated with the international poor farmers coalition Via Campesina, was drilled by security guards during an action on an illegal experimental station under cultivation by the Biotech giant Syngenta - the Syngenta plot, adjacent to Iguazu National Park, a protected nature reserve, violated Brazilian strictures as to where such "semillas asasinas" can be planted.

see the rest of the article here

Here is a great interview with Claire Hope Cummings, author of Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A commentary on HFCS

A commentary on HFCS

I must admit that I am pretty discouraged by the recent advertising ploy brought about by the Corn Refiners Association.
Where does real scientifically proven research turn into duping the ignorant public into believing industry agenda?
It is stirring up some dialog on my dietetic practice group: HEN.
Registered Dietitians highlight that their practices are based on scientific principles and current information. In the wake of industry trying to ignore the obvious:
-HFCS is not, and will never be metabolized like sucrose!-
I would like to provide research, made available to me by my good friend Melinda Hemmelgarn, of the Food Sleuth column, in our defense against big corn.

work of Dr. Robert Lustig: which highlights the metabolic pathway of fructose and dangers of overconsumption of HFCS

Fast Food, Central Nervous System Insulin Resistance, and Obesity

The AMA just released a statement about HFS:

Let's hope that my Association, has enough sense to side with science and not with our corporate sponsors: Coca Cola and Pepsi....we all know what side they are batting for!

Note: assuming that most of the corn used to make HFCS comes from biotech
corn, then we have to consider the larger environmental concerns of our
consumption as well.

E. Coli and Ground Beef Recall, Again

Maybe the importance of food saftey is gaining ground. Once again, the USDA has announced a recall by Kroger, an Ohio based retailer, on their ground beef due to E. Coli.
From USDA:
"The products subject to recall include all varieties and weights of ground beef products bearing a Kroger label sold between May 21 and June 8 at Michigan and Columbus and Toledo, Ohio Kroger retail establishments. These ground beef products also include a sell-by date between "05/21/08" and "06/08/08."

32 are already sick. And its a Class I recall:
USDA Recall Classifications

Class I This is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.
Class II This is a health hazard situation where there is a remote probability of adverse health consequences from the use of the product.
Class III This is a situation where the use of the product will not cause adverse health consequences's not what's for least in Ohio and Michigan.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why are Farmers an Endangered Species?

Guest writer: Andy Sarjahani of Living the Intense Dream

Wouldn’t it be easier to just get our food from the grocery store and not have a care in the world about where it came from, who it came from, or how it was raised? Of course it would! Ignorance is bliss, amen? There is quite a problem though – we are not ignorant. Upton Sinclair ushered in a new concept for Americans. We were rudely awakened from our bliss and thrust into a world of knowing - knowing that perhaps the food industry (or any other industry for that matter) doesn’t necessarily look out for the “consumer”. Yet we were simultaneously empowered to influence what is brought to our plates. We raised a ruckus and the Federal Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 were born.

It has been well documented by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture that our current methods of feeding ourselves are purely unsustainable. We are a society that demands evidence prior to implementation of any change. This is a reasonable request of course. My professional organization’s (American Dietetic Association) “Evidence Analysis Library” was basically established in an effort to provide all practicing Registered Dietitians with a compass for critical decisions in practice. Now it seems as if the evidence for a total paradigm shift in our food systems appears to be sprayed in neon-green across the wall.

The idea of “going local” (meaning purchasing what foods are possible locally) is quite admirable but should we do more? Is it truly enough to simply swing by the Farmer’s Market in the Prius to throw some arugula, heirloom tomatoes, fresh eggs, and maybe a leg of lamb into our cloth bags? This valiant effort may really only be a cortisone shot. Everyone gets to feel warm and fuzzy, then we all head home to our water-saving showerheads, CFL’s, and solar panels. The food will be stowed away in an “Energy Star” eco-fridge and then eaten with bamboo utensils on plates made of recycled glass. We are allowed to have our cake and eat it too - the harmony of a comfortable life and the mental serenity of knowing we “lived green today”. We rave about helping each other out and living in community and so forth, yet none of us has to do the actual work of providing the nourishment.

Well, the people standing behind that booth at the Farmer’s Market aren’t exactly growing younger. The average age of farmers in the United States is 60 and only 1-1.5% (depending on the source) of the United States has chosen the agrarian livelihood. Unless they have magically transported themselves from the world of Tuck Everlasting then that green cake might not be around too much longer. A colleague and young vegetable farmer, Zoe Bradbury, recently wrote a dynamite piece for The Grist that addresses this issue from a different angle - oil.

Why is it then that no one wants to live the glorious agrarian life and “return to the land”? Wasn’t the revolution ignited by the idealistic hippies of the 1960’s supposed to catapult us back into this harmonious agrarian life? Having interviewed those who lived and breathed the communal lifestyle, things didn’t work out so swell for a variety of reasons. Who really wanted to milk the goats or make yogurt or weed the garden or can the beets when there was F-U-N to be had? Sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll seemed to edge out self-sufficiency and never relinquished its edge.

In a sense, the situation has not truly changed. We prefer our cush “8-5’s”, weekends, sick leave, vacation, health insurance, and general predictability. None of that really exists when one “goes back to the land”. Perhaps this is why no one wants to farm any more. When one dares to sustainably farm on a small-scale (be it livestock or vegetable), they invite an entire platter of unpredictability into his or her life. Predators (owls and coyotes), pests/insects, weather (consider the current flooding in Iowa and Wisconsin), equipment breakdown/damage (a freezer breakdown with meat in it may wipe out one fourth of a farmer’s expected profit for a year), the market (who will pay for the pricey goods on a consistent basis?), and all other “X” Factors. An example of an “X” factor would read as follows: a torrential downpour comes and you are repairing the sheep fencing on your farthest pasture but before you can get to your baby chicks (several acres away) to put them back into the brooder house to keep warm, 10 of them have been suffocated to death as they were clamoring to find warm space. That’s an approximate loss of $43.06 (assuming current feed and energy prices) and a whole heap of guilt for not fulfilling your duty as part of your role in animal husbandry . Throw in the current array of farm policy that basically says to my generation, “Go big (i.e. corporate) or go home” and you have the ideal formula for extinguishing the small-scale, sustainable American farmer.

Small-scale, sustainable farming needs our help and this means going far beyond buying local. We all play important roles, however big or small, in this movement. We do need a massive influx of young and energetic people into the world of small-scale, sustainable farming but that most certainly does not exclude everyone one else from participating in other vital roles. It is absolutely essential to push boundaries in public policy right now that lure young Americans into the unpredictable, yet fulfilling agrarian life of a small-scale producer of food. The allurement of a self-sufficient, unpredictable lifestyle only sounds like an oxymoron until you experience it for yourself. Where are the gentle (or even forceful) nudges that say to young Americans, “Come make a living growing good, clean, and healthy food for your fellow man while saving the planet and being self-sufficient!” Unless these nudges (from government, the media, and the general public) are imminent, then we’ll be driving our hybrids to the local “big box” to procure a delectable selection of produce and meats shipped from somewhere and grown somehow by somebody.

Monday, June 23, 2008


High Fructose Corn Syrup(HFCS) is back in the news. I was flipping through the Wall Street Journal today and ran across an article detailing the Corn Refiners Association's fight to preserve its reputation from being entangled with the obesity epidemic, as current research has suggested.

The expensive ad campaign is being targeted at mothers/woman. I continued my reading, only to flip to the actual full-page ad in the Journal. They claim that HFCS is metabolized the same as sugar and honey. While that is partially true, fructose actually enters the Kreb Cycle to steps ahead of glucose, thus entering the system more rapidly. Not to mention the research about the effects of fructose, insulin resistance, and metabolic dyslipidemia found in the journal of Nutrition and Metabolism

You can learn all about this garbage at the new website, SweetSuprise.
The page, picturing a ear of corn say: Time for a little food for thought, don't you think....yeah, I think:

Not "natural" Not "real food" Not "good for you"

gee whiz

Friday, June 20, 2008

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Seems that the powers that be, or at least the lobbying of multibillion dollar beverage companies, have decided that HFCS(street name) is in fact NATURAL. What ever that means.

A District Court in New Jersey has rejected a claim that Snapple drinks marked "natural" really are not.

..."Stacy Holk, who had filed the suit on behalf of herself and other consumers, had maintained that the use of the term 'natural' was deceitful because the drinks contained HFCS, a "highly processed sugar substitute", which is created through "enzymatically catalyzed chemical reactions in factories"....

Last time I checked, chemically altering something, makes it unnatural. Correct me if I'm wrong.

FDA continues to be a stick in the mud on this issue, and will allow industry to make the rules. That's our tax money at work. And the corn producers are dancing a ditty! Drink up!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Another good local food site

Amanda asked:

"Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's recent book: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle? It details her family's experiences eating only locally derived foods."

I have heard of this book, but haven't yet read it. I will try to get a copy at Bookpeople before I head off to Boston.

I did however come across this site:

James and Alisa set out to try an all local foods diet that came from 100 miles away. They finished the journey by writing a book:

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally

Worth taking a peak at I'm sure. I was humored by Anothony Bourdain's comment of their adventure:
"I think they're nuts!"

Thanks for your comment Amanda! Keep 'em coming

Monday, June 16, 2008

Food Miles program and Good Quote

This site will help you fined what is fresh near you. Just enter your state and season.

"Food and nourishment are right at the point where human rights and the environment intersect." -Alice Waters Excerpt from Thinking outside the Lunchbox- Center for Ecoliteracy

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Eating Bugs

Thanks to Chris once again. This article is facinating! Makes you wonder.

June 9th 2008, Time Magazine, pp. 47-49
by: Bryan Walsh/Richmond
Eating Bugs. They're packed with protein and environmentally friendlier than other meat. But can greenies kick the ick factor?,9171,1810336,00.html

Article excerpt:

In the US, we're more accustomed to exterminating insects that to eating them, but in scores of countries around the world - including Thailand, where food markets are stocked with commercially-raised water beetles and bamboo worms - bugs have long been a part of a well-balanced meal.....

Incredibly efficient to raise, insects are also crawling packets of nutrition. A 100 grams (3.5 oz) portion of cooked Usataterpsichore caterpillars - commonly eaten in Africa - contains about 28 grams of protein, slightly more than you'd get from the same amount of chicken. Water bugs have four times as much iron as beef.....

'We think bugs are dirty, disease laden or otherwise dangerous to eat - though they're not, as long as you cook them properly, are not allergic to shellfish (which, like insects, are arthropods) and aren't collecting bugs from fields that have been hit with pesticides......'

I can see body builders trying to up their protein by snacking on these suckers. If food prices keep going up, we may have to think about some alternatives. Water bug prescription for your anemia? Yum.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Organic Lawsuit

A press release by the Organic Consumers Association has found that carcinogenic 1,4-Dioxane, was found in Leading "Organic" Brand Personal Care Products.
"1,4-Dioxane is considered a chemical "known to the State of California to cause cancer" under proposition 65, and has no place in "natural" or "organic" branded personal care products."

The products include:
JASON Pure Natural & Organic
Giovanni Organic Cosmetics
Kiss My Face
Nature's Gate Organics

Thanks to Dr. Bronner. A name I know I can trust...his were found not to Contain 1,4-Dioxane. That's my Doctor.

The suit, filed in Alemeda County can be read here.

Press Release

Nestle and Child Advertising

Nestle never ceases to amaze me with their profit driven tactics. CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest)as well as US Rep Edward Markey are attempting to encourage Nestle to join other industry leaders in a effort to cut down advertising to children.

What is strange, is that Nestle has already committed to these types of advertising limitations in other countries.
Nestle's USA page touts their commitment to Health and Wellness. Some of Nestle's brands include: BABY RUTH®, HOT POCKETS®, and NESTLÉ® Superior Quality Milk Chocolate.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

MRSA varient in Food Chain

It was only a matter of time that the overuse of antibiotics in our food chain and in our environment in general would catch up to us. MRSA is a possibly leathal infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria — often called "staph." While typically a concern in hospital settings, new research is revealing that MRSA is being found in the food chain. Moreover, it was reported that there are more fatalities from MRSA then from AIDS. Unfortunatly the USDA has turned the blind eye and do not test for MRSA, even through recent studies out of the University of Iowa have shown that "70% of pork tested had MRSA!" It potentially can be found in chicken, beef and lamb as well.

As usual, Tom Phillpot or Grist has written a great article on this topic.

Thousands protest US beef in South Korea

Tens of thousands of demonstators filled Seoul in order to protest Lee Myung-bak's agreement to resume suspended imports of American beef.

..."Both Seoul and Washington defended the safety of American beef. But protesters said they saw in the way their leader, nicknamed the Bulldozer, reached a beef deal with Washington signs of an "authoritarian leader," out of touch with common people and "tone-deaf." They accused Mr. Lee of being too eager to please the United States, even at the expense of the health of his own people."...

So my question is how come our own citizens don't stage the same types of protests? Tomatoes today, ground beef recalls last week. Food safety is increasingly a hot-topic.

green house gases and your food

Research put out by the journal of Environmental Science and Technology shed some light on the environmental impact of the food we eat. With everyone trying to decrease their "carbon footprint" and go "green" I wonder how many people would jump on the bandwagon if they knew that cutting their beef intake would make all the difference.

Despite significant recent public concern and media attention to the environmental impacts of food, few studies in the United States have systematically compared the life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with food production against long-distance distribution, aka “food-miles.” We find that although food is transported long distances in general (1640 km delivery and 6760 km life-cycle supply chain on average) the GHG emissions associated with food are dominated by the production phase, contributing 83% of the average U.S. household’s 8.1 t CO2e/yr footprint for food consumption. Transportation as a whole represents only 11% of life-cycle GHG emissions, and final delivery from producer to retail contributes only 4%.

Different food groups exhibit a large range in GHG-intensity; on average, red meat is around 150% more GHG-intensive than chicken or fish. Thus, we suggest that dietary shift can be a more effective means of lowering an average household’s food-related climate footprint than “buying local.” Shifting less than one day per week’s worth of calories from red meat and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet achieves more GHG reduction than buying all locally sourced food.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Stevia hits shelves

Stevia will be sold on the shelfs with the other sweeteners even though they have not received GRAS(generally recognized as safe)approval from FDA.

What is interesting to me in this article is the amount of time this particular company Wisdon Natural Brands has waited to get approval from FDA, while Coca Cola can propose their own research to push it through to market.

"Coca-Cola and Cargill recently published science backing their ingredient Truvia but have yet to bring it to market although a launch looks imminent."

See the complete article @

Urban Roots

A friend asked me to post this to the listserve:

Urban Roots is a youth development program that uses sustainable agriculture as means to effect lasting change for youth participants, and to nourish East Austin residents who currently have limited access to healthy foods.

I had the pleasure of meeting some of the kids involved in this program at the Farmers Market in Austin last night. The kids are so excited about this project and proud of their new found skills.

I thanked greatly them because they have partnered with Meals on Wheels and More and have been able to provide our clients with fresh onions and lettuce from their harvest this year. An amazing community partnership I thought you would appreciate. The video is done by Alanna Jones a Journalism Graduate Student at the University of Texas at Austin

About the program:
Another approach:

Praise the Lord!

Thanks to my good friend Chris McCullem for sending me this. Now that's the Christian way!

Pope urges countries to combat causes of hunger, malnutrition

More than 250 faith-based organizations called on summit leaders to eliminate the root causes of hunger such as poverty and unjust social structures. In a statement released to journalists, the faith-based coalition, which includes dozens of Catholic religious orders and nonprofit organizations, echoed the concern the pope expressed in his message for the protection of small farmers. Family farms play a key role in building food self-sufficiency for local communities, the statement said. It also called for more simple, sustainable lifestyles in wealthy countries, cautioned against genetically modified foods and urged further review of biofuel production. [...]

Catholic News Service, by Carol Glatz, 06.03.2008

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


This may not be food related, but its good news to me!
Now what are jerks going to drive?

End of The Road For Hummer After Sales of ‘World’s Most Anti-Environmental Car’ Dive
by Andrew Clark

Loathed by environmentalists, military-style Hummers have survived years of vandalism, arson and abuse. But the lumbering American gas-guzzling vehicles have met their match in the rocketing cost of filling a tank with petrol.

Alarmed by a slump in demand for vehicles that consume vast quantities of fuel, Hummer’s owner, General Motors, is reviewing the future of the Hummer brand which was originally a civilian version of the US military’s armoured Humvee. The struggling Detroit-based carmaker said it was considering off-loading the business - and with US sales plunging, its prospects are cloudy.

Texas Tomatoe Recall over Salmonella

One more reason to eat organic, homegrown, and local tomatoes:

State health officials Tuesday warned consumers to avoid eating uncooked tomatoes believed linked to an outbreak of potentially deadly salmonella poisoning in Texas and eight other states.

The state health department warned against eating uncooked Roma tomatoes and larger round tomatoes. Smaller round tomatoes sold attached to the vine and homegrown tomatoes were exempted from the alert.

Not to mention, does anyone notice how nasty tomatoes taste these days?
Homegrown is the way to go, if they make it through the Texas heat.

UN Food Summit Menu

In 2002 the UN Food Summit menu was a topic that received much criticism, and rightfully so. Starving people in developing countries wait for decisions to be made, while heads of states(the decision makers) enjoy lavish meals....seems a bit strange to me.

2002 menu

Foie gras and toast with kiwi fruit
Lobster in vinaigrette
Fillet of goose with olives
Seasonal vegetables
Compote of fruit with vanilla
Vins multiple fine wines

I guess they wised up for this years summit.

2008 menu

Vol au vent with sweetcorn and mozzarella
Pasta with cream of pumpkin and shrimps
Veal olives with cherry tomatoes and basil
Fruit salad with vanilla ice cream
Vin Orvieto Classico Poggio Calvelli 2005