Organic Food Strengthens Immune System
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You know how the apologists for conventional foods are always telling you that there’s no nutritional benefit from eating organic food? Remember that Stanford study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (Vol. 157, pp. 348-366) that said, to paraphrase, “Nope. No benefit other than a big decrease in the load of toxic chemicals”?
Well, in the very first study ever done on the impact of organic food on intestinal immunity, scientists at the National Research Institute on Food and Nutrition in Rome, Italy, have found that organic carrot consumption stimulated the immune system in laboratory mice—both in their intestinal immune system and other immune system sites throughout their bodies. And the more organic carrots they ate, the stronger the effect. Their study is reported in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (Nov. 2012; Vol. 92, Issue 14, pp. 2913-2922).
To quote from their study, “It is widely accepted that any condition inducing an increase in regulatory T cell levels, locally or systemically, is considered beneficial. Thus the increase in regulatory T cells suggests a positive effect exerted both locally and systemically by organic carrots of the Bolero variety, as compared to a conventionally-grown Danish carrot diet. This is the first evidence of a regulatory T cell increase induced by organic food consumption.”
USDA SETS UP PROTECTION RACKET ON ORGANIC FARMERS
What do you call it when someone comes to your store and says, “Nice store you got here. Be a shame if somethin’ happened to it. But if you pay me a little somethin’, I can make sure nothin’ happens to it”? It’s called extortion—a protection racket practiced by mobs everywhere, right?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and its allies in conventional agriculture have found some pretty ingenious ways to screw organic farmers over the years, but running a protection racket to extort money from farmers whose crops are contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified crops tops them all. To explain what’s going on, let’s use a metaphor.
Suppose you have an open lot next to your property and someone buys it with the intention of building a house. To get the lumber for his house, your new neighbor comes over to your place with a crowbar and starts prying boards and framing off your house and taking them to build his own place.
Let’s say you go to the cops to get him to stop. The cops ask the District Attorney to settle the matter and the D.A. decides that you should either buy expensive insurance against people dismantling your house or shut up about it. Any penalty for the neighbor? Nah.
So, when organic farmers complained to the USDA that transgenic pollen from Monsanto’s GMO crops was contaminating their organic crops, the USDA appointed an “Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture” to settle the matter. The Committee recently decided that the answer to the problem is for the organic farmers to pay to self-insure themselves against unwanted GMO contamination. Any penalty for Monsanto or the conventional farmers? Nah.
The National Organic Coalition (NOC) on November 20, 2012, strongly asserted that this Committee proposal allows USDA and Monsanto to abdicate responsibility for preventing GE contamination while making the victims of GE pollution pay for damages resulting from transgenic contamination. The NOC is a nationwide alliance of organizations representing farmers, environmentalists, other organic industry members, and consumers concerned about the integrity of national organic standards.
In effect, the USDA’s Committee is saying to organic farmers, “Nice crops you got there. Be too bad if they got contaminated and couldn’t be sold as organic. But if you pay my buddies in the insurance industry a little somethin’, you won’t get hurt.”
Don’t we put people in prison for racketeering?
What Could Be Wrong with Baby Carrots?
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Aw—those cute little baby carrots in the plastic bags they sell in the supermarkets. So adorable, even if they are in the shape of .58 caliber Enfield bullets from the Civil War, or the wound-up paper stomps you use in art class to smear your charcoal drawings. And they’re carrots—so good for you, right? Think I’ll pack a few in my kid’s school lunchbox, right? Yum yum—eat ‘em up, right?
Well, according to http://worldtruth.tv/why-baby-carrots-are-killing-you/, when conventional carrots are packaged, the runts and misshapen ones go to the processor, where they’re ground up to a paste, treated with chlorine to brighten their color, and pressed into these faux nuggets of not-goodness. Because chlorine is used in manufacturing, it is not considered an ingredient by the FDA and so not listed as an ingredient on the label.
Better to nab a few organic whole fresh carrots and peel them, then cut a few crunchy sticks for the kids. Then you’ll know what they’re getting: carrots.
If you are what you eat, then I am certainly partially comprised of Cheez Whiz. As a kid growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, I ate my share of Philly Cheese Steaks and that sandwich was always topped with a pasteurized process cheese spread, of which Cheez Whiz is just one example. But now that I’m a grown-up and interested in eating organic, I wonder what “pasteurized process cheese spread” is? Is it cheese or what?
Well, kind of. It’s made from one or more cheeses, such as cheddar or colby, and may have anhydrous milkfat added. The cheeses are blended and heated with an emulsifier—typically a sodium or potassium phosphate, tartrate, or citrate—and other ingredients such as water, salt, artificial color, and natural and artificial flavors. It can contain a sweetener and a stabilizing agent, such as the polysaccharide xanthan gum or the colloid carrageenan, to prevent separation of the ingredients.
But do we really want to eat all that stuff? Today I went to an event here in Sonoma County called Artisano, showcasing the artisanal foods and wines that are produced here by mom and pop operations. The cheeses were a revelation. Made by hand in small batches, they had a purity of flavor that was astonishing. Almost all used organic milk from cows, goats, and sheep (the sheep milk cheeses are my favorites).
Here are the cheesemakers of Sonoma and Marin counties, and as the Monty Python troupe pointed out in “The Life of Brian,” “blessed are the cheesemakers.”
Snoop around a bit. If you are in these parts, visit a fromagerie. Or order some real cheese to be shipped to you. And for goodness sake, toss out that bottle of Cheez Whiz (unless you just must have an authentic Philly cheese steak).
Availability of these producers’ products varies. Check the websites for details. All are within an hour’s drive from Santa Rosa, Sonoma County’s centrally-located main city, and not much farther from San Francisco.
Achadinha Cheese Company. Good goat cheese since 1955. www.achadinha.com
Andante Cheese. Some of the region’s—even the country’s–best cheeses come from Soyoung Scanlon’s operation. www.andantedairy.com
Barinaga Ranch. Marcia Barinaga’s ancestors were Basque shepherds and she makes her Txiki from raw sheep’s milk. www.barinagaranch.com
Bellwether Farms. The Callahans’ sheep and cows’ milk cheeses are superb. www.bellwetherfarms.com
Bleating Heart. Sheep milk cheese in spring and summer, cows’ milk Sonoma Toma in fall and winter. www.bleatingheart.com
Bodega Artisan Cheese. A man from Peru makes the purest and silkiest goat cheese imaginable. www.bodegaartisancheese.com
Bohemian Creamery. Epoisses-like sheep milk cheese is seasonally available and much sought after. www.bohemiancreamery.com
Cowgirl Creamery. Two gals in Point Reyes on the coast make luscious double and triple cream cheeses. www.cowgirlcreamery.com
Laura Chenel’s Chevre. Laura was one of those who started the craze for great Sonoma goat cheese. www.laurachenel.com
Marin French Cheese. Cheeses similar to Camembert and Brie. www.marinfrenchcheese.com
Matos Cheese Factory. No sign on the road. (707) 584-5283. No credit cards. Best to pick up Joe Matos’ excellent Portuguese-style cheese at a market.
North Bay Curds and Whey. Alissa Shethar uses raw sheep and cows’ milk to make a variety of fresh and aged cheeses. www.northbaycheese.net
Point Reyes Farmstead. Among the best blue cheeses anywhere. www.pointreyescheese.com
Ramini Mozzarella. True water buffalo mozzarella from local animals is a new addition to the cheese scene. www.raminimozzarella.com
Redwood Hill Farm and Creamery. Artisan goat cheese, goat yogurt, goat kefir—you get the idea. www.redwoodhill.com
Spring Hill Cheese Company. Sells a variety of artisan cheeses and cultured butter. www.springhillcheese.com
Tomales Farmstead Creamery. A goat ranch in Tomales, Marin County, bordering Sonoma. Fresh and aged goat cheese. www.tolumafarms.com
Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese. The Italian-Swiss heritage of the owners shows in their aged and fresh goat milk cheeses. Call (707) 762-6182.
Valley Ford Cheese Company. Estero Gold is a brisk, nutty, Asiago-like cows’ milk cheese. www.valleyfordcheeseco.com
Vella Cheese Company. One of Sonoma County’s oldest fromageries, known for its Italian-style stravecchio cheese. www.vellacheese.com
Weirauch Farm and Creamery. Nicely aged sheep and cows’ milk cheeses from their site east of Petaluma. www.weirauchfarm.com
Prop 37: Down But Not Out
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Well, it cost Monsanto and friends $45 million, but they succeeded in sending Prop 37 in California to defeat. Now the good news:
It didn’t lose by much—about 47 to 52 percent. Something like 4.7 million people voted for the proposition, which would have required genetically modified foods to be labeled as such. That is a huge number of people who understood that they have a right to know what they’re eating. This is a huge base of people on which to base the next campaign—and the next campaign is coming.
Monsanto and friends could only succeed in defeating Prop 37 by lying. Their entire campaign was just a pack of lies. The biggest lie of all was that it would cost the average family $400 extra per year in rising food costs. To put a few words on the labels? In the 40 or so countries around the world that require labeling of GMOs, including all of Europe, Canada, India, and China, there have been no noticeable increase in food costs.
Prop 37 was a valiant effort and it brought a lot of attention to the problem of GMOs in the food supply. Millions are now aware of Monsanto and friends’ trickery and deceit. We will require labeling sometime in the future. Even the Yankees don’t win the World Series every year.
And remember, it’s not hard to avoid GMOs in your food. Just eat organic.
If you have a Walgreens near you, look for a new brand of household products called Ology. The products are free of harmful chemicals. Exclusive to Walgreens, the Ology brand features a line of baby and personal care products, as well as household cleaners. It answers the growing consumer demand for toxin-free products. Because of Walgreens extensive reach in all 50 states, it will be the first nationally accessible brand of its kind.
Several consumer groups helped drive support for the U.S. Senate’s recently approved chemical reporting bill, The Safe Chemicals Act of 2012. If passed, it will be the first overhaul of the federal chemical law since 1976. The new bill will require manufacturers to prove that ingredients in everyday consumer products are safe for human health. Today, that task falls on the Environmental Protection Agency, which doesn’t have the resources to test tens of thousands of chemicals that go unregulated in the marketplace.
To learn more and to take action by urging your Senators to support The Safe Chemicals Act of 2012, visit http://www.nrdc.org/health/toxics.asp?gclid=COj8hd-BxbMCFUxxQgodJiQAgg.
American Academy of Pediatrics Misses the Big Picture in Its Flawed ‘Organics’ Analysis
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Sometimes it seems that the mainstream—whether mainstream medicine, nutrition, or other health-related discipline—just can’t quite wrench its mind out of the obsolete mindsets of the past and realize that organic agriculture and the food it produces is key to the sustainability of farming for the long term and key to health for all the creatures involved, including us humans. And so mainstream medicine (in this case), in its tortured yet futile attempt to dismiss organics as a central factor in good health, ends up turning common sense on its head—a vantage point from which it misses the big picture entirely.
I received the following article by Charlotte Vallaeys of the Cornucopia Institute a short while ago. She brilliantly illustrates this point. Ms. Vallaeys is Director of Farm and Food Policy at the Institute. She holds a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a Master of Science from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
I asked her if I could use her entire article in Organic Food Guy and she kindly agreed. And so this week, I turn the stage over to Charlotte Vallaeys. Her article is important, insightful, and enlightening.
By Charlotte Vallaeys
For the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has weighed in on organic foods for children. Its news release was widely covered in the national media.
While the AAP should be commended for acknowledging the potentially harmful effects of pesticide residues on conventional foods, their report—and associated press coverage—is seriously flawed in its basic approach to agrochemical contamination in our food supply and the associated threat to public health.
Even though the AAP acknowledges that many pesticides are neurotoxins, that studies have linked exposure to pesticides to neurological harm in children, and that a recent peer-reviewed study correlated higher pesticide residue levels in children with higher rates of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the AAP is cautious about reaching a conclusion regarding the harmful effects of pesticides.
Why such a reckless approach? AAP explains, “No studies to date have experimentally examined the causal relationship between exposure to pesticides directly from conventionally grown foods and adverse neurodevelopmental health outcomes.”
With this statement, the AAP suggests that it considers existing knowledge about toxic pesticides to be inadequate and incomplete for the purposes of recommending organic foods for children, which have been shown in peer-reviewed published studies to radically reduce children’s pesticide exposure.
The pediatric group suggests, as agrochemical manufacturers have for decades, that the question of whether pesticides harm children will remain unanswered until results from experiments provide definite proof of harm. With this expectation, the AAP joins the agribusiness and pesticide lobbyists in setting an impossible standard. Let’s step back for a minute and imagine what such an experimental study would look like.
Children in such experiments would need to be assigned to two different groups: ‘Group Conventional’ which would receive only conventional foods with the documented pesticide residues, and ‘Group Organic,’ on a 100% organic diet. But exposure to pesticides starts before birth, so to control for this confounding factor, the experiment would have to begin with the mothers while pregnant—also grouped in ‘Group Conventional’ and ‘Group Organic.’
Then, in order to definitively link dietary pesticide exposure to harmful outcomes, the two groups of children would need to be raised in sterile, confined isolation, to shield them from all other environmental toxins. After all, if raised in a typical household, in the soup of chemicals contaminating our air and water, and synthetics commonly found in our homes, the pesticide industry could easily dispute the study’s results.
Other factors would need to be controlled as well. Other than the conventional v. organic factor, the diets for the two groups would have to be identical. In fact, the children would have to be force-fed; if, for example, several of the children in ‘Group Conventional’ simply pick at their vegetables and refuse to eat them, but most of the children in ‘Group Organic’ do consume all their veggies, the agrochemical industry could again rightfully claim the study to be invalid because of these differences.
Moreover, we know that effects of pesticides can be long-term, especially pesticides that are carcinogens or endocrine disruptors. So to understand the effects of dietary pesticides on health outcomes in adulthood, the experiment would have to run for decades.
The problem is clear: a study that could definitively prove that pesticides cause adverse health effects in humans would be logistically near-impossible, not to mention highly unethical.
The AAP suggests that conventional foods, which carry well-documented pesticide residues, should not be considered harmful to children until the results of impossible experiments prove otherwise. This is the approach that acts in the interest of the pesticide industry, because it lets them off the hook.
But shouldn’t the AAP act in the interest of children and public health? When pesticides have been found to be toxic and carcinogenic to lab animals, have been correlated with higher rates of ADHD in children, and have been shown to lead to neurological harm in farmworkers and their children, the basic assumption should be that they are harmful until proven safe, not the other way around.
Many parents opt for organic foods for their children, because they appropriately approach toxic pesticides using the Precautionary Principle: synthetic compounds that are designed to kill living organisms should be presumed dangerous to growing children until proven otherwise. And the only way to remove your children from this huge, uncontrolled experiment is by refusing to offer them foods with agrochemical residues—by choosing organic.
The burden of proof should lie with the pesticide manufacturers, who must conclusively demonstrate that their toxins are safe. It should not be the responsibility of our children to prove, decades later, that the pesticides they consumed as kids contributed to their generation’s health problems.
By failing to come out strongly in favor of organic foods, the AAP does a serious disservice to the health of our children and the well-being of future generations.