Archive for the ‘Food Politics’ Category

Even better nutrition advice, this time from Harvard

Harvard Healthy Eating Plate smTwo years ago, the USDA issued a nutrition guideline called MyPlate, which I wrote about here with cautious optimism. It was certainly an improvement over the old food pyramid, but according to the folks at Harvard, it still had flaws. Harvard School of Public Health has now issued its own guide to healthy eating, called Healthy Eating Plate. It, too, uses the visual image of a plate with colored quadrants, but a close look reveals some really valuable improvements.

Perhaps the most important is the emphasis on whole grains (as opposed to the refined ones we’ve become used to). Refining removes many important nutrients and fiber and contributes to metabolic disorders and other diseases, including diabetes. (So why did we start doing it, you may ask…..). I found it interesting that potatoes aren’t on the chart at all!

Dairy is mentioned only following the word “limit”:  Limit milk/dairy, limit cheese, limit butter. This certainly coincides with the environmental reasons for reducing or eliminating dairy, which may be second only to beef as an earth-damaging food source.

The Harvard School of Public Health is more courageous than the captive USDA in saying directly: “Avoid sugary drinks. Avoid bacon, cold cuts, and other processed meats.”

And the good stuff? I thought you’d never ask. You are invited to eat copious amounts of fruits and vegetables. And with the wonderful array of these available and tasty, that’s the best advice of all.

For a longer summary, go here. This website is a goldmine of information, definitions, recipes, and other information about nutrition.

Advertisements

GMO labeling might be on the way

gmo protest

I thought that last November’s defeat of California’s Proposition 37 (mandatory labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms in our food), which I campaigned for, was a bad sign. I presumed the power of Big Food’s $40+million disinformation campaign signaled that lies and public relations would win for the next generation or more.

But a few weeks ago a New York Times article explained the bright side of this turn of events. Reporter Stephanie Strom wrote, “Instead of quelling the demand for labeling, the defeat of the California measure has spawned a ballot initiative in Washington State and legislative proposals in Connecticut, Vermont, New Mexico and Missouri, and a swelling consumer boycott of some organic or ‘natural’ brands owned by major food companies.”

She went on to quote Charles Benbrook, a professor at Washington State University and a brilliant advocate of sustainable agriculture: “The big food companies found themselves in an uncomfortable position after Prop. 37, and they’re talking among themselves about alternatives to merely replaying that fight over and over again… They spent a lot of money, got a lot of bad press that propelled the issue into the national debate and alienated some of their customer base, as well as raising issues with some trading partners.”

This public reaction against Big Food got the attention of some major food executives, who met in January to discuss what to do. Imagine this: some of them actually favor labeling. I’m not holding my breath that they’ll become virtuous – they are, after all, the people who made terms like “natural” and ”cage-free” almost meaningless.

Still, it may be a start.

Fish are disappearing

mbayaq sefood guide

It’s natural to think that there are always more fish in the sea, but our modern fishing methods – which are more like floating industrial packing factories – are scooping up millions of tons of fish. Did you know that trawlers may use heavy nets that reach the ocean bottom to scrape up everything in their path? Such trawlers have left muddy trails so wide and so long that they can be seen from the International Space Station.

As I mentioned in my book, “Fish aren’t the only ones to suffer. Jobs disappear when fisheries go out of business from overfishing; 40,000 jobs were lost when Canada’s Atlantic cod fishery collapsed in the 1990s, and it has yet to recover. Over 72,000 jobs were lost in the Pacific Northwest due to declining stocks. In 2008 and 2009, the fishing season was closed on the West Coast.”

But the problem now faces New England states. According to John Bullard, a member of the New England Fishery Management Council, “We are headed, slowly, seeming inexorably, to oblivion… It’s midnight and getting darker when it comes to how many cod there are,” he said. “There [aren’t] enough cod for people to make a decent living.”  The article describes the anguish of fishers afraid of losing their livelihood, furious that the agency wants to set lower catch limits.

What a dilemma! But should we allow today’s fishers to exterminate the entire stock of fish? I’m reminded of the redwood debate of a decade or so ago, when a wise soul opined: “We’re going to stop cutting down redwoods. The only question is, When shall we do it? Right now, or after they’re all gone?”

What you can do: Go to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch to see what fish are acceptable to eat, which ones are dubious choices, and which should be strictly off your menu. Better yet: say goodbye to fish altogether.

Nano food — a new form of genetic engineering

You may have heard about nanoparticles – they are tiny bits of matter, microscopic in size, that are being used in a variety of ways. In medicine, nanos are used in detecting disease, delivering drugs, gene engineering, MRI studies, and more.

They are found in over 1,000 consumer products, including car batteries, appliances, alum foil, cosmetics, sunscreens, and computers.  Let’s look at food and kitchen. Nanotech can be round in certain brands of oil, tea, shakes, cutting boards, cleansers, nonstick pans, vitamins, and more. Check out the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) list of consumer products with nanos in them.

So what’s the problem? Nanoparticles have not been tested for health of safety to people and environments! Once again, our dreams of scientific wizardry have come true – and regulators have been outfoxed again. Nanos are able to pass through cell membranes and we don’t know what they can do to us, our children, food, pets, and habitats. According to Ethan Huff, staff writer at Natural News, “Deconstructing and reassembling molecular components and injecting these altered molecules back into our clothing, furniture, cars, and food is really more of a giant experiment in human health than it is a successful technological breakthrough.”

Here’s an interesting email exchange between a writer at E Magazine and a representative of the FDA:

E Magazine: What can you tell me about the prevalence of nanomaterials in our food supply?
Sebastian Cianci:
FDA does not have a list of food products that contain nanomaterials.

E: Where are nanomaterials most often found within food products? In colorings or additives?
S.C.:
FDA does not maintain a list of food products that contain nanomaterials so we cannot reliably answer this question.

I admire the creativity and dedication of scientists — and I also believe we need to test inventions before unleashing them on the public.

GMO campaign just getting started

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We lost on Proposition 37, but the campaign is just beginning! Guess who the opponents of Prop. 37 were? Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, ConAgra, BASF (“The Chemical Company”), Syngenta, and their allies, who put at least $40 million into deceptive ads to defeat Prop. 37 so they could keep earning billions by selling poison. It’s discouraging that their money swayed so many people, because the facts show GMO is not the deliverance they claim.

One of the claims made when genetically modified food was put on the market in the mid-1990s  (over the objections of FDA’s own scientists, by the way) was that crops engineered to withstand pesticides would permit a reduction in the amount of pesticides used. That should have been good for the environment, right?

Yes, if it had lasted more than a few growing seasons. But in fact, pesticide use has gone UP by millions of pounds per year, and I bet you can guess why. It’s called evolution. As has always happened with pesticides, the target creatures (bugs, for instance, or weeds) are not all killed—the strongest survive and produce the next generation. It doesn’t take long for organisms with short life cycles to become resistant to the pesticide in question. Growers solve this problem by using more chemicals, or stronger ones. For years this has been called the “pesticide treadmill” that farmers can’t seem to escape. (Unless they switch to organic).

Just last month a scientific study demonstrated that pesticide use has gone UP since GMOs were introduced. The author concluded, “Overall, pesticide use increased by an estimated 183 million kgs (404 million pounds), or about 7%.”

If that isn’t enough, pesticides are implicated in the mass deaths of millions of bees that pollinate our crops. That is definitely not sustainable! What you can do: keep alert for new strategies to defeat GMOs and the corporations that make billions from them.

Are GMOs sustainable?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the claims made when genetically modified food was put on the market in the mid-1990s  (over the objections of FDA’s own scientists, by the way) was that crops engineered to withstand pesticides would permit a reduction in the amount of pesticides used. That should have been good for the environment, right?

Yes, if it had lasted more than a few growing seasons. But in fact, pesticide use has gone UP by millions of pounds per year, and I bet you can guess why. It’s called evolution. As has always happened with pesticides, the target creatures (bugs, for instance, or weeds) are not all killed—the strongest survive and produce the next generation. It doesn’t take long for organisms with short life cycles to become resistant to the pesticide in question. Growers solve this problem by using more chemicals, or stronger ones. For years this has been called the “pesticide treadmill” that farmers can’t seem to escape. (Unless they switch to organic).

If that isn’t enough, pesticides are implicated in the mass deaths of millions of bees that pollinate our crops. That is definitely not sustainable!

Just last month a scientific study demonstrated that pesticide use has gone UP since GMOs were introduced. The author concluded, “Overall, pesticide use increased by an estimated 183 million kgs (404 million pounds), or about 7%.”

Show your support for food that is healthy for person and planet: Vote YES on Proposition 37.

Guess who the opponents of Prop. 37 are? Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, ConAgra, BASF (“The Chemical Company”), Syngenta, and their allies, who have put at least $30 million into deceptive ads to defeat Prop. 37 so they can keep earning billions by selling poison.

Vote YES on Proposition 37.

GMO and your right to know

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proposition 37, on the ballot this November, says: “Commencing July 1, 2014, any food offered for retail sale in California is misbranded if it is or may have been entirely or partially produced with genetic engineering and that fact is not disclosed.” In other words, we will get to know if our food contains genetically modified organisms (GMO, sometimes called GE for genetically engineered). That’s all Prop 37 does: ask for a truthful label. If people still want to buy GMOs, they can.

Why is it so important to label genetically modified foods? Many people think it’s a basic right, to know what’s in their food. Doesn’t this seem reasonable to you? There are supposed advantages: According to the World Health Organization, “All GM crops available on the international market today have been designed using one of three basic traits: resistance to insect damage; resistance to viral infections; and tolerance towards certain herbicides.”  GMO means that among other things crops are modified so they can withstand more pesticides. Corn, for instance, can now survive huge doses of Monsanto’s pesticide Roundup – because of genes from other organisms. Pesticides, which some GMOs are created to encourage, are linked to Parkinson’s disease in humans and definitely poison our air, soil, and water.

Millions of dollars are being spent to defeat Prop 37 by big chemical and food manufacturing companies: Monsanto, DuPont, Dow AgroSciences, ConAgra, Grocery Manufacturers Association, Cargill, BASF Plant Sciences, and dozens more are funding attacks on the proposition.

Here are their “reasons” to vote no: “Food will become more expensive” – how? They claim “Prop. 37 would add another layer of bureaucracy and red tape for food producers and increase food costs.” What bureaucracy? Oh, they must mean the existing agencies that prosecute fraudulent advertising. Another reason: It’s an expensive “payday for trial lawyers.” Well, only if companies fail to obey the law.

And the most hilarious “reason”: a few exemptions in the proposed law are “politically motivated.” We are shocked, shocked! Advocates of truthful labels are “politically motivated”!  This accusation comes from companies that contribute millions to defeat this proposition and other attempts to regulate them, contribute to politicians’ election campaigns, hire public relations firms to “spin” the truth and slime the messengers, and offer lucrative jobs to regulators so they’ll leave government and join the corporations.

This last is called the “revolving door” and is very real.  Here are some people who have worked for Monsanto AND held government jobs (before or after): Marcia Hale, Monsanto’s Director of International Government Affairs. Under President Clinton, she was on the senior White House staff. Mickey Kantor, on the board of Monsanto, was Secretary of Commerce. Carol Tucker-Foreman was a lobbyist for Monsanto and in the White House department of Consumer Affairs. Margaret Miller was a supervisor at a Monsanto Chemical laboratory, and became the Deputy Director of the Food and Drug Administration. That’s only part of a very long list. To see the rest of the folks who played both sides, go here  and click “Monsanto’s Government Ties.”

We must sadly admit that our regulatory agencies are hopelessly outgunned – and that’s why Prop 37 was started in the first place. Politicians won’t do it, regulators are being bullied or bought off – now it’s up to us, the citizens, to demand a simple thing: honestly labeled food.

To find out more, go to The Organic Consumers Association and California Right to Know.   To see what pesticide and food corporations have to say, go to noonprop37.com. (Notice it’s “.com”, a commercial site funded by Monsanto, Dow, Grocery Manufacturers, and their allies). For general information on GMOs, visit the World Health Organization or The Human Genome Project.

For yourself, for your children, for the environment, and for democracy, on November 6 vote YES on Proposition 37.