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.