The Pesticide Report Is Out
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PDP is the USDA’s national pesticide residue testing program that analyzes approximately 25,000 samples a year, according to Dr. Chuck Benbrook, writing at www.generationsoforganic.org.
Here are the program’s results for the new PDP, as reported by Dr. Benbrook.
There is first-ever data on three baby foods — pears, green beans and sweet potatoes. In general, the sweet potatoes and pears were pretty clean, but 9 percent of the green bean samples had clearly unacceptable levels of the organophosphate insecticide methamidophos. A remarkable 25 percent of pear baby food samples contained six or more residues, and 3.7 percent of the samples contained 10 residues. Not good. As always, buy organic!
Bee Killing Insecticides
Nicotinyl insecticide residues are extremely common because they are widely used and are systemic – they work by moving into the plant, including the harvested portion. In fact, about 1 in 10 of samples tested by the PDP (across ALL crops) had residues of imidacloprid (Admire), and many fresh fruit and vegetable samples contained residues of two nictoinyls. This is the family of insecticides implicated in honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder.
Extensive testing was carried out on drinking water, including school wells. These data have some surprises– especially the fact that 85 percent of finished drinking water had residues of 2,4-D. This phenoxy herbicide is known to be a significant risk factor for a host of reproductive problems, birth defects, and cancers. It is also linked to a possible, new herbicide-tolerant, genetically engineered corn variety currently under review by the USDA and EPA.
Atrazine (another endocrine disrupting herbicide linked to breast cancer and a host of developmental abnormalities) was found in 95 percent of samples of drinking water! The levels are generally very low, but this year’s PDP confirms that most people living in heavily farmed regions are ingesting three, four or more herbicides daily via finished drinking water.
The PDP survey also includes organic samples. Just as in recent years, the organically grown food tested by PDP in 2010 has substantially fewer residues. When residues are detected, the levels are usually 10 to 100 times lower than in conventional samples. Based on TOC’s “Dietary Risk Index,” typical risk levels in organic foods are 50-200 times lower than in the corresponding conventional foods. Clearly, consumers purchasing organic food to lower pesticide exposures and risks are getting just that.
Glorious, glorious. The summer fruits are here. The stone fruits—cherries, plums, the short season of the apricots, nectarines, peaches, pluots, and plumcots. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, marionberries. The wildings: black caps, wineberries, huckleberries.
Make sure they’re organic. Make some preserves, but easy on the sugar. Better yet, freeze them. Berries are frozen whole on trays then put into freezer bags for cold storage. Stone fruits are pitted and sliced in water, lemon juice, and honey syrup, then frozen in freezer bags—just enough for a portion for dinner. Mix berries and stone fruits for winter compotes.
And just for fun, there’s this poem by Walter de la Mare, entitled, “Berries.”
There was an old woman
Went blackberry picking
Along the hedges
From Weep to Wicking. –
Half a pottle-
No more she had got,
When out steps a Fairy
From her green grot;
And says, ‘Well, Jill,
Would ‘ee pick ee mo?’
And Jill, she curtseys,
And looks just so.
Be off,’ says the Fairy,
‘As quick as you can,
Over the meadows
To the little green lane
That dips to the hayfields
Of Farmer Grimes:
I’ve berried those hedges
A score of times;
Bushel on bushel
I’ll promise’ee, Jill,
This side of supper
If’ee pick with a will.’
She glints very bright,
And speaks her fair;
Then lo, and behold!
She had faded in air.
Be sure Old Goodie
She trots betimes
Over the meadows
To Farmer Grimes.
And never was queen
With jewelry rich
As those same hedges
From twig to ditch;
Like Dutchmen’s coffers,
Fruit, thorn, and flower –
They shone like William
And Mary’s bower.
And be sure Old Goodie
Went back to Weep,
So tired with her basket
She scarce could creep.
When she comes in the dusk
To her cottage door,
There’s Towser wagging
As never before,
To see his Missus
So glad to be
Come from her fruit-picking
Back to he.
As soon as next morning
Dawn was grey,
The pot on the hob
Was simmering away;
And all in a stew
And a hugger-mugger
Towser and Jill
A-boiling of sugar,
And the dark clear fruit
That from Faerie came,
For syrup and jelly
And blackberry jam.
Twelve jolly gallipots
Jill put by;
And one little teeny one,
One inch high;
And that she’s hidden
A good thumb deep,
Half way over
From Wicking to Weep.
Observe Nature’s Rules–Or Else!
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If organic farmers and gardeners have any goal, it’s to work with nature instead of against her. The idea is that nature’s laws are inviolable without causing illness, pain, and suffering. You can try to short circuit nature’s rules, but you only end up hurting yourself, because you are part of nature and subject to her laws as much as the weeds in the fields, the trees in the forests, and the rest of the animals that live there.
What does this mean practically? Well, nature has set up a system of barriers to keep species, genera, and families of plants and animals separate. A horse can mate with a donkey, but the resulting mule will always be sterile and unable to reproduce. Nature doesn’t favor intergeneric crosses. Even moreso, you can’t cross a muskrat with a fish. Not only won’t you get viable offspring, you won’t get any offspring at all. And you certainly can’t cross a corn plant with a bug. Nature’s barriers to these kind of reproductive attempts keep species separate, so that humans beget humans, rabbits beget rabbits, and mayflies beget mayflies.
You wonder what’s wrong with genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? What’s wrong is that scientists lay out the genes of organisms and start mixing and matching organisms that nature would never allow to cross. They take a gene from a mouse and put it into a cat. They take a gene that manufactures toxins and put it into corn plants. They can make a hamster that glows in the dark by inserting a gene for phosphorescence from sea plankton into the hamster’s DNA. And then companies like Monsanto claim that genetic engineering simply does what nature does all the time when plants and animals cross. No—they do something fundamentally wrong. Nature will make sure there’s payback for this.
And she already has started. We now have superweeds that resist herbicides because the genes inserted into crops to resist hedrbicides have jumped into weeds bordering the fields. We have insects that now can resist the toxins in Bt corn created by genes from a bacterium called Bacillus thuringeiensis.
And now dairy farmers in Germany are suing Syngenta because their dairy cows fed this GMO corn are dying—whole herds of them.
Meanwhile, Monsanto is threatening to sue the state of Vermont if Vermont dares pass a law requiring food containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as such. But they can’t do that in California, where a ballot measure this fall asks citizens whether they want their food labeled if it contains GMO products.
Monsanto knows that once the label indicating the presence of GMO products in foodstuffs goes on the products, you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.
Let’s hope all Californians who eat organic take the opportunity this fall to shove Monsanto’s genetically modified food right back down its throat.
This from The Times of India:
“Five million Brazilian farmers have taken on US based biotech company Monsanto through a lawsuit demanding return of about 6.2 billion euros taken as royalties from them. The farmers are claiming that the powerful company has unfairly extracted these royalties from poor farmers because they were using seeds produced from crops grown from Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds.
“In April this year, a judge in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, ruled in favor of the farmers and ordered Monsanto to return royalties paid since 2004 or a minimum of $2 billion. About 85 percent of Brazil’s massive soyabean crop output is produced from genetically engineered seeds.
“Farmers say that they are using seeds produced many generations after the initial crops from the genetically modified Monsanto seeds were grown. Farmers claim that Monsanto unfairly collects exorbitant profits every year worldwide on royalties from “renewal” seed harvests. Renewal crops are those that have been planted using seed from the previous year’s harvest. Monsanto disagrees, demanding royalties from any crop generation produced from its genetically-engineered seed. Because the engineered seed is patented, Monsanto not only charges an initial royalty on the sale of the crop produced, but a continuing two per cent royalty on every subsequent crop, even if the farmer is using a later generation of seed.
“Monsanto gets paid when it sell the seeds. The law gives producers the right to multiply the seeds they buy and nowhere in the world is there a requirement to pay (again). Producers are in effect paying a private tax on production,” Jane Berwanger, lawyer for the farmers told the media agencies.
It was 102 F. here today, and we’re in Sonoma County, an oceanside county that’s usually cool. What to drink on a hot day like this? Besides ice water, if you don’t have to work and can relax, think bubbly wine. Sparkling wine is refreshing due to its high levels of tartaric and malic acid, its carbon dioxide bubbles, and its crisp fruitiness. It doesn’t have to be expensive Champagne. Ruffino makes an excellent Italian prosecco—the Italian sparkler—with a price that ranges between $11 and $13. Prosecco used to be sweet and fizzy, but is more genteel these days, and a good bargain. You can still use it with peach juice to make a bellini, but for a treat, make a fruit yogurt smoothie and top it off with a half cup of prosecco. Chill a bottle and you will find plenty of good uses for it on hot days like today.
It’s cherry season and the first cherries are now being sold at roadside stands and in the stores. They are labeled “red cherries,” obviously because the sellers either don’t know, or don’t want you to know, the inferior varieties that they are. They are also conventional cherries, drenched in chemicals. I avoid them assiduously. Soon enough will come the organic bings. They are the best cherries in the world. Bide your time. And don’t buy the first peaches or apricots, either. They are woefully inferior and won’t even ripen properly. Wait for mid-season stone fruits. Mid-season and late-season fruits are the best. And make sure they’re organic.
Biodynamics’ Mojo–Is It Real?
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Organic gardening and farming concerns itself with the aspects of growing plants and animals in ways you can see, touch, hear, taste, and smell. In other words, the five senses. Biodynamic horticulture and agriculture also is concerned with these things, but adds the sixth sense. In other words, the things you can’t hold in your hands, but which have an effect on growing creatures nevertheless.
Some are obvious, like sunlight. On the physical level, the sun is the engine of life on earth, supplying the fuel that drives life onward through its generations. Akhenaton’s monotheistic sun worship wasn’t far off the mark, for if anything sustains life on this planet, it’s the sun. You can’t hold the sun, but you can feel its effects. Many plants even follow its path across the sky each day. Sunlight showers the earth with tremendous energy at every moment. And not just physical energy, but on the higher level that biodynamic founder Rudolf Steiner spoke about, with spiritual energy, too.
Musician Bobby Hebb wrote a song called “Sunny,” which seems to be about his girlfriend but can easily be read as a prayer of praise to the light– physical, metaphysical, and spiritual–that illumines the world and saves our souls:
Sunny, yesterday my life was filled with rain.
Sunny, you smiled at me and really eased the pain.
Oh, the dark days are gone and the bright days are here,
My sunny one shines so sincere.
Oh, Sunny, one so true, I love you.
Sunny, thank you for the sunshine bouquet.
Sunny, thank you for the love you brought my way.
You gave to me your all and all,
Now I feel ten feet tall.
Oh, Sunny, one so true, I love you.
Sunny, thank you for the truth you’ve let me see.
Sunny, thank you for the facts from A to Z.
My life was torn like windblown sand,
Then a rock was formed when we held hands.
Sunny, one so true, I love you.
Sunny, thank you for the smile upon your face.
Sunny, thank you for that gleam that flows with grace.
You’re my spark of nature’s fire,
You’re my sweet complete desire.
Sunny, one so true, I love you.
What are some of the other invisible forces that engage with gardening and farming practiced in accordance with nature’s laws?
How about the moon? It waxes and it wanes in the light that it gives. It pulls daily upon the earth’s oceans as they rise and fall as tides. The moon completes its cycles in 28 days, the same as a woman’s cycle of capability to conceive and incapability to conceive. Coincidence? Hardly. The moon is at work on the vast oceans as well as the human body and its functions. Biodynamics believes that root crops are best planted during the waning moon and fruit and seed crops in the waxing periods.
Is it wrong to think that other celestial influences might affect plants and animals on our farms and in our gardens? We can’t see or feel the earth tilting as the seasons pass, but all life on earth is strongly attuned to it.
We can’t see the earth’s magnetic field, but it’s strong and affects our crops and animals. Birds have tiny magnets in their heads that use the magnetic field to navigate long distances. The field affects incoming solar radiation to create the auroras’ shimmering curtains. The field turns the needle on your compass. Why wouldn’t it affect the crops that grow in your fields?
You can’t see gravity, but it turns the emerging plant roots toward the center of the earth and the flowers and seedheads toward the sky. It holds the farmer to his field. It lets the apple fall from the tree. And it’s invisible.
“The Secret Life of Plants” is a book about how plants respond to human feelings, growing better when they receive love and less well when they are hated. One suspects that this is only the tip of the iceberg of human-plant communication. Inter-plant communication is also well-documented and happens through pheromones and plant hormones, among other channels.
There are energies and laws in nature that we can’t see, except for their effects on physical matter, including plants and animals. One is the tendency for flowing matter to form vortices when its flow is disturbed. It happens in water as whirlpools occur behind a stick plunged into a flowing stream, in living tissue such as the chambers of the heart, and in the air behind the beating of birds’ wings. If you look closely at wood, you see the same flowing forms created in the slow motion of yearly growth. It happens on a microscopic scale and up through the whorl of hair on the back of your head, the whirlpool of water that swirls down your drain, all the way to the great spiral galaxies in the far universe. Why vortices and not some other flowing form? Because physical laws are at work guiding the process, and nature’s laws apply, no matter what the level.
Biodynamics takes these phenomena and others into account and is a kind of “organic-plus.” Truth be told, the tenets of biodynamics were laid down in the 1920s by the metaphysician Rudolf Steiner, predating the development of the organic method of gardening and farming by a decade.
Besides all those invisible influences on the garden, what about those that are not only invisible to our conscious minds, but the ones that spring unbidden from our subconscious minds? I’m talking about the times when you think you should call someone, and when you do, you find they were simultaneously calling you? Or when you’re planting beans in a row and a small, still voice says, “Save a few beans and plant them over there,” and they turn out to be the best bean plants in the garden? Or when you see a bee pollinating a flower on an apple tree and are struck by the beauty and simplicity of nature’s plan, so you mark that blossom and plant the seeds of the apple that grows from the marked flower, and one of those seeds produces what many consider to be the best apple in the world—which is just what happened to Mrs. Richard Cox in England in 1838 and the apple she grew was Cox’s Orange Pippin, to this day considered one of the finest-tasting apples in the world?
If you like organic and biodynamic food, be aware that all this kind of stuff goes on for the gardeners and farmers who grow it.
The Trouble with City Thinking
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The organic mindset is simple: nature’s ecosystems are perfect, or at least as perfect as she’s been able to make them up to this evolutionary point. They only become imperfect when human beings who think they know better than nature try to change them, or who find her ecosystems in some way annoying or disrupting of human intent.
The ultimate insult to nature is genetic modification, which derails her millions and even billions of years developing creatures who contribute their bit to one of her ecosystems. Scientists unspool the DNA of farm crops and muck around with it by inserting chunks of genes from other creatures. Some of this is silly: the gene for phosphorescence was taken from a sea creature and inserted into a cat’s DNA to get a glow-in-the-dark cat. Other GMOs are truly dangerous. Scientists have put the gene that creates a toxin deadly to caterpillars and other wormlike larvae and put it into corn. The result is that new superworms resistant to the toxin have evolved and are threatening American corn crops. Same thing with plants genetically engineered to survive being dosed with herbicide. New superweeds have developed resistance to the herbicides, too. Nothing hastens evolution like trying to clamp down on life’s natural processes. Nature will always win.
Shakespeare saw this 400 years ago. In Romeo and Juliet, the Friar is delivering a soliloquy on nature when he says, “For nothing so vile on the earth doth live, but to the earth some special good doth give.” That’s country wisdom. But there is a strain of city-oriented thinking espoused by those who don’t understand nature’s perfection. Some examples of city-person thinking:
I had a friend once upon a time who lived and worked in New York City. I worked with him for nearly two years, before I left the city to move deep into the countryside in eastern Pennsylvania. Having grown up in the country in that area, I felt quite at home there, relishing the huge diversity of life and life forms on my property, which included high, rocky slopes; low marshy ground; a running spring of good water, and forest all around. My New York friend drove out to see me and after an hour or so, he asked me, “How can you stand to live here?” I asked him what he meant. “There’s nothing here,” he said. Now that’s blatant city thinking.
A friend from Los Angeles and I were talking just a few weeks ago and I was admiring the ravens who had chosen our forested hillside as a place to hang out and “awk” to each other, for that’s the sound they make. “I don’t like the ravens,” he said. And then he said that he didn’t like the raccoons, possums, or turkey vultures, either, but did like the hawks. It astonished me. You can’t pick and choose among the ecosystem’s inhabitants. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle—you can’t appreciate the whole picture unless all the pieces are in place. Liking hawks but disliking ravens is city thinking.
Finally, I have a friend who raises bees. He became aware that California buckeye’s flowers are toxic to bees. The buckeye is a pretty, compact woody plant with long panicles of very fragrant white flowers in late spring, followed by big nut-like fruits that are like large versions of horse-chestnuts, to which the buckeyes are related. This beekeeping friend has a buckeye on his property, so to prevent harm to his bees, he cut it down. This is heavy duty city thinking. Doesn’t he know that bees are smart when it comes to their own bee business? If buckeye flowers are toxic, will bees gather their pollen and nectar and carry them back to the hive to kill off everyone? No—with the wisdom nature gives them, they will avoid the buckeyes. I went to a farmers’ market this morning, and by the parking lot were many plants and trees in bloom, all being worked busily by honeybees. There was also a big buckeye and you could have looked all day, but you wouldn’t have found a single bee working those flowers.
Because of faulty city thinking, bees are smarter than the man who supposedly “keeps” them.
The organic mindset is pure country thinking, always working with nature, not against her.
The Real Answer to Clean Food
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Now that the Cornucopia Institute has revealed that the National Organic Standards Board—the body tasked with making sure organic food remains pure and free from harmful and synthetic substances—is packed with corporate shills who are allowing all kinds of garbage into our food supply (it makes me cry to think of it, but it’s evidently true), what’s someone who wants to eat clean, humanely produced, chemical-free, environmentally sound food to do?
The answer, of course, is to get off corporate America’s gravy train altogether—the gravy is flowing one way only. Stonyfield Farms? Horizon organic milk? Straus Organic Dairy? Cascade Farms vegetable products? Kashi cereals? All the supposedly organic food at Whole Foods produced by corporate behemoths? No thanks. I don’t believe you anymore. It’s all just propaganda. We poor, trusting souls who desperately want to believe that there’s an organic industry out there caring about what we care about–? No way. They are all just a bunch of money-grubbers using the organic angle to hook us and deliver money from our pockets to theirs.
When the National Organic Standards Board was first established, it was an accurate representation of real organic farmers. But over the years, the weasels in Big Ag have wormed their way into the board and turned it to their program—just visit the Cornucopia Institute’s website (www.cornucopia.org) and read “The Organic Watergate” to corroborate that for yourself.
So what are we to do?
Well, here’s the thing. The organic method of gardening and farming works and it works really well. So if it’s at all possible, the very best thing you can do is grow as much food as you can. Then you’ll be sure it’s organic.
But if you can’t?
Then you need to make contact with local farmers, through farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture, googling on the internet, through friends, or however you can. Buy from them if you trust them. And how can you trust them? Used to be, organic farms were certified by certification agencies like CCOF, Tilth, NOFA, and QAI. But given the despicable takeover of the National Organic Standards Board by false fronts for Big Ag, who can even trust the certifiers anymore? Chemical agriculture has co-opted the organic movement and ruined it for everyone. Thanks a lot.
The more I look around our culture these days, the more convinced I am that it is all propaganda. Everyone is out to spin us, delude us, disinform us, misinform us—do you trust what you hear from political ads? Neither do I.
We have friends who have chickens. These chickens have free run of the property during the day and are locked up safe from the fox at night. We buy two dozen eggs from them every Sunday at a little farmers market in Glen Ellen. They are the best eggs I’ve ever encountered. The yolks are deep orange and the whites have sturdy integrity.
I once lived in the Pennsylvania Dutch farm country and bought a pound of butter from our farmer friends every couple of weeks. The butter was so good that my friend, an Englishman, enthused over it so intensely that I bought a pound for him from time to time. I also bought bacon from a farm couple who raised their own pigs and smoked the bacon in their own, century-old smokehouse. I’d rather take my chances with a mom and pop farming couple than eat “organic” food whose profits go to General Mills.
You are most likely to find real producers of organic food at farmers markets these days. Certainly not from the big corporate agricultural firms at Whole Foods. I encourage you to go to these markets, get to know your farmers, establish relationships, visit the farms, and proceed from there. And grow your own organic food whenever and however you can.
The modern world is marvelous in many ways, but not in the amount of propaganda and sheer lies that marketers are telling us. Let’s get back to basics on our own.