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.