TELL ME SWEET LITTLE LIES
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CORPORATE AMERICA SURELY WOULDN’T LIE
You gotta love the Soda Pop Board of America for its caring attitude about our country’s kids. Over a picture of a smiling mom, a happy one-year-old, and a Coke bottle, the headline says, “For a Better Start in Life, Start COLA Earlier!” Granted, this was the 1940s from the looks of the illustration, but here’s what the copy says: “How Soon Is Too Soon? Not soon enough. Laboratory tests over the last few years have proven that babies who start drinking soda during that early formative period have a much higher chance of gaining acceptance and ‘fitting in’ during those awkward pre-teen and teen years. So do yourself a favor. Do your child a favor. Start them on a strict regimen of sodas and other sugary carbonated beverages right now, for a lifetime of guaranteed happiness.”
Jumpin’ Jehosaphat! Talk about “scientific research” that came straight from from the mind of some advertising copywriter sitting in front of his Royal typewriter! It’s interesting how a “few years” of “laboratory tests” have proven that babies on “a strict regimen” of sugary, carbonated soda pop “have a much higher chance of acceptance and ‘fitting in’” during the awkward teen years, and are guaranteed a “lifetime of happiness.” Those few years of lab tests must have cracked the code on time travel. But I guess that’s what drinking enough sugary, carbonated pop will do to you.
CORPORATE AMERICA SURELY WOULDN’T LIE, PART TWO
The illustration, again from the late 1940s or early 1950s, shows a sextet of very happy creatures on a stage. From left to right, they are a dog, an apple on a branch, a housewife in apron and gingham housedress, a cow, a potato, and a rooster. They are all singing happily and loudly, with their eyes rolled upward, looking at the lyrics of their song, which is “DDT Is Good for Me-e-e!”
CORPORATE AMERICA SURELY WOULDN’T LIE, PART THREE
Calling itself “a sustainable agriculture company,” Monsanto recently released its 2012 sustainability report. Here, in the words of its PR office, are the top couple of paragraphs of the report:
“’Every day we are met with the challenges of a growing planet. We will need to produce more food while using natural resources even more efficiently. We are focused on tools and information that empower the world’s farmers to find solutions to these challenges,’ said Jerry Steiner, executive vice president of sustainability and corporate affairs for Monsanto. ‘This report details our commitment to sustainability, includes a balanced view of our progress to date and examines the challenges we face along our company’s sustainability journey.’
“June 2013 marks the five-year anniversary of when Monsanto made its commitment to sustainable agriculture – pledging to help farmers double yields in our core crops (corn, soy, canola and cotton) by 2030 while committing to produce each ton with one-third fewer resources (land, water and energy). Additionally, the company committed to a goal to help farmers improve their quality of life, including 5 million people in resource-poor farm families by 2020.”
The folks who understand what the term “sustainable agriculture” means also know that Monsanto is the very antithesis of sustainability. This piece of smooth-talking drivel is exactly on a par with encouraging parents to start infants on a strict regimen of sugary soda pop and the happy little DDT song.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NUTTING
Have a supply of fresh or home-grown hazelnuts, pecans, or walnuts? Then you can discover the joys of a flourless nut torte. You can buy nut flours at organic-minded groceries or online, but you’ll have much better results if you grind the nuts fresh yourself, and especially if you give them a light toasting before grinding. The results can be spectacular. Make nut flour at home by grinding the nuts into a fine powder using a food processor or, best of all, use a hand-cranked nut shredder to make thin, flaky little bits of nuts that give the finished torte a miraculous texture. My favorite is a hazelnut torte, and here’s the recipe. Be prepared for rave reviews.
You’ll need a spring-form pan or a cake pan with removable bottom. Use the bottom as a template to cut out a piece of wax paper or parchment paper. Put the bottom into the pan and butter the bottom and sides of the pan. Carefully set the wax paper into the pan so it covers the bottom, and butter it, too. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Have all your ingredients at room temperature, so set them on the counter about an hour before you start the recipe.
12 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
2 cups ground or finely shredded lightly toasted hazelnuts
8 egg whites
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Separate the eggs. Place the yolks into a large bowl and beat for a minute until smooth.
2. Gradually add the sugar, beating the whole time, until the mixture thickens and turns a lemony yellow.
3. Stir in the nuts until well incorporated.
4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, but not until dry.
5. Fold a third of the whites into the nut batter until well incorporated, then fold in the other two-thirds until they, too, are incorporated.
6. Scrape the batter into the pan and set on a middle rack in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
7. Set the pan on a rack to cool. The center will fall slightly. If you used a spring-form pan, unmold. If you used a pan with a separate bottom, run a knife along the inside circumference of the pan, invert the pan onto a clean plate, remove the sides form, Carefully remove the bottom and the wax paper, and voila!
THE ESSENTIAL BOOK OF FERMENTATION IS PUBLISHED
The Penguin Group’s Avery imprint has published my latest book, The Essential Book of Fermentation. It identifies fermentation as the engine of all life, whether human, animal, plant, or microbial. It defines what health is and the part fermentation plays in creating healthy creatures and ecosystems, and it gives recipes for making all your favorite fermented foods at home. I had a cup of my own, home-made miso with dinner last night, and I have a glass of my own, home-made kefir every morning. Plus my own, home-made fermented pickles are far better than store-bought. These and 30 other fermented foods are clearly explained and recipes given for them. The book also delves deeply into three favorite fermented products: bread, cheese, and wine.
The Ruth Stout Method of Organic Gardening
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She’s barely remembered now, but Ruth Stout—the sister of mystery writer Rex Stout—taught me more about organic gardening of any other person I ever met in my entire life.
She invented what she called her “no work” gardening method, and while it did cut way down on the work she did in the garden, it really worked. Her vegetable and flower gardens were as bountiful and verdant as any I’ve seen.
Her method boiled down to her deep understanding of how nature works. Of course, when you examine things like this closely, you see that they operate on just a few simple rules. In this, she was much like Masanobu Fukuoka, the Japanese rice farmer who wrote “The One-Straw Revolution.” He reduced rice farming to just three actions each year: spreading the rice straw on the field when harvesting the rice, then sowing the field with clover, and sowing rice when the field is flooded in spring. The straw decays and fertilizes the field as the clover grows over the winter. Flooding the field in spring kills the clover, which further enriches the soil, as the rice germinates to grow toward harvest over the summer.
“Instead of asking, ‘What should I do next?’,” he explained, “I asked myself, ‘What can I stop doing?’”
Ruth’s method was even simpler. In fall and spring—or whenever she had enough mulch—she spread weed-seed-free organic matter on her garden, such as hay that hadn’t set seed, grass clippings, and leaves. That’s it. That’s the method. And the more years you do it, the better the results because the deeper the layer of actively decaying organic matter on the soil surface, the fewer weeds are able to germinate.
Think about wild nature. She doesn’t till the soil; she just spreads the leaves and stalks of last year’s green growth on the soil, year after year, building topsoil. So Ruth was just mimicking nature. When she wanted to plant something in her garden, she’d just kneel down, pull a little of the decaying mulch aside, and tuck a started plant or seed into the hole and cover it over. Because she lived in Connecticut, nature watered her summer garden for her. Ruth’s method works in warm, dry climates, too, but requires additional applications of organic matter and irrigation in the dry summer. But because the soil is so spongy with decaying organic matter, it holds water like a sponge, so watering is not a bothersome chore.
All that decaying plant matter was understandably full of the very nutrients that her crops needed, in the right quantities, supplied when needed.
Ruth was quite a character, with a direct way of speaking born of her upbringing in Kansas and her long years living in New England. There is a film of Ruth and her garden, made in 1976, when she was 92 years old and still gardening with her no-work method. The narration is in English, although it’s been subtitled in what I think is Hungarian. Its quality is loess than perfect, but you do get to know Ruth, see her garden, and watch how little work it really takes to grow food. Here’s the link:
EAT YOUR VEGGIES
Lora Krulak has written a much needed book on getting more organic vegetables into the diet of meat lovers. It’s called Veggies for Carnivores: Moving Vegetables to the Center of the Plate, and is published by Changing Lives Press. You can find it on Amazon for less than $15. It definitely fills a need, since no matter how good steamed kale is for us, we shouldn’t have to eat it every night. Lora’s book is full of recipes and strategies for eating more veggies of a much wider variety than we’re used to. Here’s the link to Amazon, if you’re interested:
MONSANTO GIVES SELF THE WORLD FOOD PRIZE
With much fanfare, the World Food Prize has announced its 2013 winners, and they include genetic engineers from Belgium and the U.S., most notably Robert Fraley, Executive Vice President and Chief Technical Officer of Monsanto, for devising a way to insert foreign genes into plant cells, thus creating patentable GMOs. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the winners, further joining Monsanto and the Obama administration at the hip.
The World Food Prize was dreamed up by Norman Borlaug, an architect of the Green Revolution in the late 1960s and early 1970s, which was a program under the auspices of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines that was supposed to end world hunger by developing better and more nutritious strains of rice. What it mostly succeeded in doing was to vastly increase the amount of agricultural chemicals used around the world on rice crops. Borlaug was one of the chief drivers of the early biotechnology movement that has resulted in giving us GMO foods and patented seeds, allowing Monsanto to advance its plan to corner the market on the world’s most widely planted crops, especially corn, soybeans, and cotton.
The World Food Prize is administered by Iowa industrialist John Ruan III. Its sponsors (predictably) include:
Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Archer Daniels Midland Company, Bankers Trust, Cargill, Elanco, General Mills, Hormel, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Pork Foundation, Iowa Soybean Association, Land O’ Lakes, Nationwide Agribusiness, PepsiCo, Soyfoods Council, Syngenta Foundation, Wal-Mart, United Soybean Board, and the USDA Agricultural Research Service, among others.
Many of these same corporations and institutions (which reads like the most important players in Big Biotech Ag) also sponsor the Normal Borlaug Hall of Laureates, devoted to honoring those people past and present who ostensibly have done the most to ease world hunger, but who in reality have done the most to advance biotechnology’s ever-increasing stranglehold on world agriculture.
Here Comes Trouble
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The press has been full of stories about Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, two whistleblowers who released classified information about this country’s activities that they deemed morally objectionable.
While their human stories are compelling, less is being said about the real story. The real story is the worldwide surveillance apparatus the National Security Agency is constructing out of the view of any except those in the Executive Branch of our federal government. Even Senators and Representatives in Congress didn’t know how comprehensive this surveillance is.
But through the actions of these brave Americans who have literally risked their lives to uncover the hidden world of the NSA, we are beginning to see glimpses of a much bigger picture than any we might have imagined, although many years ago, both George Orwell and Franz Kafka imagined it. Let’s look at some pieces of the puzzle that have recently come to light:
• The NSA has compiled phone records of virtually all Americans and many others around the world.
• The NSA has compiled the internet activity of virtually all Americans by twisting the arms of the internet service providers. Yahoo brought suit to stop this invasive collection as a violation of the Fourth Amendment, but a judge dismissed their claim.
• Police departments across America are compiling databases of DNA records of anyone arrested for any reason, whether they were subsequently arraigned or released.
• All of this information is being collated and entered into easily searchable software on mega-computers.
This is more like Big Daddy than Big Brother, and Big Daddy is looking more and more like a very stern fellow indeed. All this started under George Bush after 9/11 traumatized the nation. It has not only continued under Barack Obama, but expanded exponentially—very disturbing and disappointing for a President who is a Constitutional scholar.
If you want to see the first baby steps of the result of the creation of this superstructure of surveillance, think back to the Occupy movement a short while ago. The New York Times and many other respected news sources have noted that local police forces were unleashed against the Occupiers through coordination by the federal government. And yet, if you remember, Occupy was a peaceable movement for redress of grievances—namely the unpunished criminality of Wall Street and the big banks in crashing the economy. The Constitution specifically guarantees the people the right to peaceably assemble for redress of grievances. What else is the aggrieved populace supposed to do, other than to assemble and let their voices be heard?
Ben Franklin, that fun-loving realist, is supposed to have said, at the end of the Constitutional Convention, that “we have given you a republic—if you can keep it.”
Why is a blog about organic food flying political warning flags like this one? Because organic farming and gardening is an activity of the people, not the huge corporations. Oh, some big corporations buy and process organic ingredients to cash in on the public’s preference for clean, wholesome food, but where the tractors or shovels meet the soil, that’s where the folks who care about the environment are found. Organic growers are the yeoman farmers of our time.
“Yeoman farmers?” Yes, the battle between small family (yeoman) farmers and Big Agriculture goes back to the very beginning of this country. At the end of the Revolutionary War, the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, were in favor of a strong central government with most power in the hands the landed few, and looked to commercial and industrial expansion. An opposing faction, led by Thomas Jefferson, believed in the primacy of local government and a mainly agrarian national economy, based on small independent farmers.
We who are part of the organic movement, whether we grow organic food or simply buy it, are in the tradition of Jefferson. As someone in that camp, I find the wholesale invasion of privacy and consolidation of information about our citizens to be nothing short of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
“We the People” are rapidly losing our grip on our constitutionally guaranteed American freedoms, and if we don’t prove to be the home of the brave, we will surely no longer be the land of the free. ###
Organic Food: The Right Side of History
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The history of the conventional food production system in this country for the past century shows the same kind of technological arc that has taken us from horses and buggies to the space station, from the telephone to the smart phone, from radio to hi def TV, from the adding machine to the computer, and the examples could go on through most areas of human endeavor.
Except that with food, more technology is not better. The best food is simply grown, in good soil, without chemicals, hormones, and genetic modifications. The best peach is just a peach.
However, the vast majority of our conventional food is manipulated with technologies from the seed to your shopping basket. And these technologies are increasingly toxic. Way back when, it was simply chemical fertilizers and pesticides that consumers were exposed to. Today—there are hundreds of chemicals used on the farm and in the food processing plants that are dangerous to our health.
You have a part to play in the alternative to this toxic food culture. By choosing to eat organic food, you take the seeds away from Monsanto, the chemicals off the farm, the additives out of the hands of the food processors, and you are left with wholesome foods produced in enriched soil on safe and naturally sustainable farms, and you bypass the conventional food system entirely. Each dollar you spend on organic food is a vote for a proper food supply. You are supporting the seedspeople, the farmers, the field workers, the humane animal raisers, and the benign marketers of good food.
CONNECTICUT PASSES COUNTRY’S FIRST GMO LABELING LAW
After a lot of back and forth maneuvering, the Connecticut legislature has passed, and the governor signed, the nation’s first law requiring that GMO crops be labeled. Here’s a cheer to the Nutmeg State. May all our other states follow suit.
CHAIRWOMAN OF SENATE AG COMMITTEE PLEDGES TO OPPOSE THE MONSANTO PROTECTION ACT
WASHINGTON — Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee, pledged to oppose the extension of the so-called the Monsanto Protection Act, a victory for advocates who have been pressing for its repeal.
Stabenow made her pledge in a conversation with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who has been pushing the Senate to vote on an amendment to the farm bill that would repeal the provision. That vote was blocked by Republicans and the Senate voted to end debate and move to final passage.
When two senators have a pre-arranged public conversation on the Senate floor, it’s known as a colloquy and is typically the bow that ties up a deal struck beforehand. While Merkley was unable to get a repeal vote, the colloquy is a significant win for him, with Stabenow promising she will oppose any attempt to extend the Monsanto Protection Act in backroom negotiations.
EPA RAISES ALLOWABLE LIMITS ON ROUND UP IN FOOD
When mounting evidence says glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Round Up herbicide, does more damage to our health and environment than we thought, why does the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) responds by approving higher, not lower, allowable limits of the pesticide residue.
This month (May, 2013) the EPA announced a final ruling to increase, yet again, the allowed residue limits in food and animal feed of glyphosate to 100 parts per million (ppm) and 40 ppm in oilseed crops.
The EPA ruling defies sound science and undermines public health. Peer reviewed studies show rats fed diets as low as 2 ppm of glyphosate were 70 percent to 80 percent more likely to develop tumors. Infertility, affecting both the sperm and the egg, was documented in animals subjected to glyphosate residue levels as low as .05 ppm. Birth defects in frog and chicken embryos resulted after being subjected to glyphosate residues of just 2.03 ppm.
Yet the EPA claims glyphosate is only “minimally toxic” to humans, and 40 to 100 ppm is nothing to worry about?
The EPA’s decision is all the more unjustifiable in light of two recently published, peer reviewed studies revealing glyphosate to be a far greater threat to human health than previously determined.
According to a study published in the journal Entropy in April 2013, glyphosate is related to debilitating diseases like gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The study says the negative impact on the human body is “insidious and manifests slowly over time, as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body… it may in fact be the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment.”
A 2012 study published in the journal Archives of Toxicology showed Round Up is toxic to human DNA even when diluted to concentrations 450-fold lower than used in agricultural applications. Industry regulators and long-term studies look at glyphosate in isolation, instead of looking at Round Up’s full formulation, which includes secret added ingredients. These “confidential” and unlabeled ingredients, when measured as a whole, affect all living cells, including human cells.
Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world. According to the EPA, at least 208 million tons of Round Up were sprayed on GMO crops, lawns and roadsides in the years 2006 and 2007. In 2007, as much as 185 million pounds of glyphosate was used by U.S. farmers, double the amount used just six years ago.
A 2009 study found that Americans use about 100 million pounds of glyphosate annually on their lawns and gardens. It’s safe to assume all these number are much higher now. Why? Because GMO crops are now being invaded by new strains of herbicide-resistant “superweeds” requiring higher and higher doses of poison.
FORMER GMO ADVOCATE CHANGES HIS TUNE
Thierry Vrain, a former research scientist for Agriculture Canada, had the job of addressing public groups to reassure them that GM crops and food were safe, a task he did with considerable knowledge and passion, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola on his website.
But Vrain, who once touted GM crops as a technological advancement indicative of sound science and progress, has since started to acknowledge the steady flow of research coming from prestigious labs and published in high-impact journals; research showing that there is significant reason for concern about GM crops – and he has now changed his position.
Vrain cites the fact that it is studies done by Monsanto and other biotech companies that claim GM crops have no impact on the environment and are safe to eat. But federal departments in charge of food safety in the US and Canada have not conducted tests to affirm this alleged “safety.”
Vrain writes: “There are no long-term feeding studies performed in these countries [US and Canada] to demonstrate the claims that engineered corn and soya are safe. All we have are scientific studies out of Europe and Russia, showing that rats fed engineered food die prematurely.
“These studies show that proteins produced by engineered plants are different than what they should be. Inserting a gene in a genome using this technology can and does result in damaged proteins. The scientific literature is full of studies showing that engineered corn and soya contain toxic or allergenic proteins.
… I refute the claims of the biotechnology companies that their engineered crops yield more, that they require less pesticide applications, that they have no impact on the environment and of course that they are safe to eat.”
This misunderstanding is the “one gene, one protein” hypothesis from 70 years ago, which stated that each gene codes for a single protein. However, the Human Genome project completed in 2002 failed dramatically to identify one gene for every one protein in the human body, forcing researchers to look to epigenetic factors — namely, “factors beyond the control of the gene” – to explain how organisms are formed, and how they work.
According to Vrain: “Genetic engineering is 40 years old. It is based on the naive understanding of the genome based on the One Gene – One Protein hypothesis of 70 years ago, that each gene codes for a single protein. The Human Genome project completed in 2002 showed that this hypothesis is wrong.
“The whole paradigm of the genetic engineering technology is based on a misunderstanding. Every scientist now learns that any gene can give more than one protein and that inserting a gene anywhere in a plant eventually creates rogue proteins. Some of these proteins are obviously allergenic or toxic.”
In other words, genetic engineering is based on an extremely oversimplified model that suggests that by taking out or adding one or several genes, you can create a particular effect or result. But this premise, which GMO expert Dr. Philip Bereano calls “the Lego model,” is not correct. You cannot simply take out a yellow piece and put in a green piece and call the structure identical because there are complex interactions that are still going to take place and be altered, even if the initial structure still stands.
MEXICO PROTESTS MONSANTO WITH A CARNIVAL OF CORN
On May 25, an estimated two million people across 50 countries participated in the global March Against Monsanto..Organizers estimate that these protests against the U.S.-based transnational biotech corporation were one of the largest days of coordinated action in history. Yet, despite the high level of coordination, the local actions were not all orchestrated by professional organizers — and nor were the resulting actions all traditional marches.
On Saturday, about 2,000 participants gathered in Mexico City for the Carnaval del Maíz, a “Carnival of Corn” to celebrate Mexico’s rich diversity of native corn, threatened by Monsanto’s plans to introduce a genetically modified variety of the crop. The fact that Mexico’s manifestation of the global March Against Monsanto took the form of a carnival is no coincidence. The current generation of Mexican activists is looking for new strategies to fight for social justice, and the March Against Monsanto provided an opportunity to fuse tradition and innovation into the building blocks for a global food revolution.
GLOBAL REPERCUSSIONS FROM ROGUE GMO WHEAT DISCOVERY
The U.S. wheat industry is reaping the swift global repercussions of the genetic pollution caused by Monsanto’s rogue glyphosate-resistant wheat on an Oregon farm, writes Andrea Germanos in Common Dreams.
“This will have an impact worldwide, because our trading partners do not want genetically modified wheat,” Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, told Bloomberg News. Katsuhiro Saka, a counselor at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, added, “In most countries the unapproved genetically modified wheat would be a target of concern.”
Japan and South Korea suspended some imports of American wheat, and the European Union urged its 27 nations to increase testing, after the United States government disclosed that a strain of genetically engineered wheat that was never approved for sale was found growing in an Oregon field.
CONGRESS HIDES ITS FARM SUBSIDY PAYMENTS FROM THE PRESS
Fifteen members of Congress or their spouses received $237,921 in federal farm subsidy payments last year, according to a new analysis of Agriculture Department data by the Environmental Working Group.
The nonprofit advocacy group’s latest survey comes as Congress begins to debate farm legislation that will reform the agriculture safety net — and potentially reduce transparency in the government’s support system for farmers, sparing lawmakers headlines about government help they receive.
The House and Senate farm bill drafts eliminate most direct payments and instead boost subsidies for farmers to buy crop insurance that protects against losses from weather or price changes. Since the government divulges the names of people who get the payments but not the insurance subsidies, the Environmental Working Group’s Scott Faber says the bills as they stand now would reduce government transparency.
“Although much ballyhooed, the end of direct payments really heralds the replacement of an inequitable and transparent safety net with a more inequitable and less transparent safety net,” Faber said.