Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Millions Against Monsanto: How You Can Make A Difference

Monsanto is the most noxious corporation on the earth. I've been saying this for a while. Now the Organic Consumers Association has put together a brilliant, well-organized campaign to do something about it: Millions Against Monsanto.

This isn't an issue of Democrat vs. Republican, or liberal vs. conservative, or anything like that. It's human vs. corporation. Or even, the survival of our species vs. the hubris and greed of one generation.

For some background oh Monsanto, check out the Millions Against Monsanto page. I can also recommend a few documentaries: Food, Inc., The World According to Monsanto, and The Future of Food. And lots of books. And the web page of a brave man, Percy Schmeiser.

Millions Against Monsanto is starting by lobbying to require labeling of genetically-modified food. Monsanto has fought labeling so successfully that not only is labeling not required, but it is in fact against federal law for local jurisdictions to pass laws requiring labeling!

If GM foods are safe, as Monsanto claims, then why oppose labeling?

And if the FDA is indeed a government watchdog working in the interests of the people, then why are they restricting our access to information?

You may be reading this and wondering if it affects you, because you don't know whether or not you consume genetically modified foods. That's exactly the point. The truth is that if you ever eat corn, sugar, soy, canola, potatoes, or tomatoes, it does affect you, because in the US, these may be genetically modified. And if nothing changes, the list will soon expand to include wheat, alfalfa, and salmon (!). No labeling required in the US.

To put this in perspective, at least 15 countries do require labeling, including Russia. Is Russia really ahead of the US on consumer safety? In this case, yes.

Believe it or not, this is just the start of the problems with Monsanto. Read here about PCBs, Agent Orange, intimidating small farmers, taking ownership of public water resources, and so on.

I urge everyone to join the campaign, join the Facebook page, and join your local chapter. The lines of battle have been drawn, and it's time for us to defend ourselves against Monsanto's willful recklessness.

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesday.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Factory Food In The News

Nationwide study finds U.S. meat and poultry is widely contaminated: Multi-drug-resistant Staph found in nearly 1 in 4 samples, review shows. According to this article from a non-profit biomedical research institute, when a survey was done of supermarket meat from five cities,
Nearly half of the meat and poultry samples — 47 percent — were contaminated with S. aureus, and more than half of those bacteria — 52 percent — were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics, according to the study published today in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
So we should do something about this, right? Why don't we go inside factory farms and meat processing facilities, and shed some light on the situation? Send investigative journalists in to document things?

Unfortunately, the factory food industry is one step ahead of us. If a new Minnesota bill becomes law, anyone caught going undercover to document animal abuses at a factory farm could be sentenced to 5 years in jail.
[A]nyone who produces a recording of an image or sound occuring at an animal facility—or anyone caught possessing or distributing such content—could be charged with a gross misdemeanor. Presumably, that would include anyone who shared a video on YouTube.
So no longer would we be able to see such inspiring videos as these.

Similar laws have already passed in other states. And whose name do you think came up in the middle of all of this
? You can probably guess (from Grist):

Monsanto has more facilities in Iowa than in any other state in the country, with more than 25 offices. The company is heavily invested in the bill's outcome because "crop operations" are also covered, which would apply to Monsanto's seed houses, pesticide manufacturing plants and research facilities throughout Iowa. The biotech and crop chemical giant wouldn't want any undercover videos produced on its clock, apparently. 
That's a bit ironic, however, given the fact that Monsanto investigators are notorious for trespassing on farmers' property and going to extreme measures to produce evidence of seed patent infringement, including posing as land mappers or even joining a local Alcohol [sic] Anonymous group to gain the farmers' trust and gain video access to their fields. Talk about undercover.
Taco Bell has the answer to all of these problems: Put less meat in your meat! They were recently sued by a woman alleging that the "beef" in their beef tacos contained less than 50% beef. Au contraire, they responded, our beef contains closer to 88% beef! Hmm. Their ingredient list is not inspiring, and their explanation is weasely. But at the end of the day, it's not all that different from the worst of the processed food you can buy at the supermarket.

Bon appetit, folks.

Friday, April 15, 2011

New York Times Article Suggests That Sugar Is Toxic

This weekend's New York Times Magazine contains an article by Gary Taubes entitled Is Sugar Toxic?

Taubes, author of the best-selling Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, starts by citing a lecture given by UCSF professor Robert Lustig arguing that sugar is toxic in the amounts that we are consuming today in the United States, and that sugar consumption is implicated in heart disease, diabetes, and cancer—the "diseases of civilization". He goes farther, saying it's not even clear that there's a "safe" level of sugar consumption, per se. Sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup are similarly risky, as far as he's concerned, due to their fructose content, and because of the way the body metabolizes fructose. This also means that fruit juice is no better than soda, from a metabolic point of view at least.

It's not a new argument, but it's one that has been consistently shouted down by folks with a commercial interest in the sugar industry, or with some other sort of bias.

Let's hope the "sugar is toxic" theory gets a fair hearing this time around. Maybe, just maybe, the times are desperate enough that truth might trump profits and entrenched interests.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Book To Buy Today: Walk Out Walk On, by Deborah Frieze and Margaret Wheatley

A friend of mine has co-authored an important book. The authors are trying to make it a best-seller on Amazon by getting as many people as possible to buy it TODAY!

It's called Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now.

Sitting around fretting about the future of the human race is a favorite modern activity. Too many people, not enough food, climate change, not enough of this, too much of that. Most of the solutions being offered by development bankers, politicians, economists, and scientists merely shift problems from one place to another, postpone the day of reckoning, and/or create fragile interdependences that are certain to end badly, especially for the poor.

High-tech "silver bullets", like miraculous new sources of energy, won't solve the problems. Even if we do manage to create such new technologies, they are all too likely to perpetuate the status quo wherein the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and indigenous people lose their land.

Deborah Frieze and Margaret Wheatley have boldly created a window into something different.

Read this book to hear inspiring stories about people who step forward, people who are personally invested in the problems being solved and who work together; and about communities that exchange ideas with other communities as peers, rather than having short-sighted non-solutions handed down to them from a distance.

Using these stories as a starting point, Walk Out Walk On captures insights about change better than anything else I've read. It is like going on your own learning journey, with these two very wise guides.

I hope that by reading this book, others will be inspired, and the gears of change will start turning.

As the Zapatistas say: "Otro mundo es posible."

Buy it on Amazon today by clicking here.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Food In Post-Earthquake Japan

Here's a a brief report on what's happening with food in Japan, via David O'Neil, a leading expert and consultant in the field of public markets and their local economies. The biggest issues may be (1) public perception, and (2) problems with refrigeration due to power outages. "…[F]ood from japan is still far safer & of higher quality than most products from elsewhere."

The rest of David O'Neil's blog is an excellent resource for folks interested in public markets.