Tuesday, February 22, 2011

10 Things You Can Do About GMOs in the Food System

This is a great site I recently discovered, with lots of useful info on a wide spectrum of food issues. Gail Nickel-Kailing, Editor/Co-Publisher of GoodFoodWorld, recently sent out this info in GFW's weekly newsletter:

10 Things You Can Do About GMOs in the Food System

(BTW, #8 on her list should read, "To date, the best way to ensure that you are not consuming GMOs is to buy organic food. The National Organic Program does not allows any GMOs in fresh or processed foods.")

Monday, February 21, 2011

Michael Pollan GMO redux

WNYC interviews Michael Pollan on the latest decisions by the USDA to approve GMO alfalfa, sugar beets and a new kind of GMO corn. As always, Pollan manages to lay open the heart of a very complex issue. His point about the lack of independent research on GMO foods is particularly germane, imo.

Check out the interview here, then scroll down the site to "Dish on GMOs." You can stream it from the site or download it to listen to at your leisure. If you're still confused about why GMOs are such a big problem, or you're trying to convince someone who's skeptical about the brouhaha, Pollan's remarks will provide useful talking/argument points. Plus he's the most articulate spokesperson we have.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cooking for both ends of the life cycle

Last week, I had the unique privilege of making soup for two sets of friends on either end of the life cycle. One couple is celebrating the birth of their first child, and the other couple lost their mother/mother-in-law.

As I was cooking my lentils and chopping my garlic and steaming my carrots and celery, I thought about what it means to feed people at these profound, powerful moments in their lives. I didn't come up with any great pearls of wisdom about it. I'm glad to be able to feed my friends when they need it, either because they are celebrating a new life or mourning the loss of a parent. I suppose, in some small way, the food I made provides them some of the energy they need, whether they're changing a diaper or sitting shiva. And so, in some infinitesimal but nonetheless important way, feeding people at times like these allows me to participate in their moment, to nourish them with my love and support, as well as my lentil soup. And really, when I think about it, that is no small thing.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Update: Obama Goes Rogue on GMOs

In the past 3 weeks, the Obama administration has chosen to approve three biotech crops: Roundup Ready genetically modified (GMO) alfalfa, Roundup Ready genetically modified (GMO) sugar beets and a new industrial biotech corn for ethanol production. Obama's recent approval of them will allow them to be planted as early as this spring, despite widespread acknowledgement that these crops are certain to contaminate both conventional and organic farmers non-GMO crops. Only last Friday, the USDA's approval of the new industrial biotech corn for ethanol production occurred despite massive outcry from major food companies who know that it will contaminate and possibly ruin the food they sell to you everyday.
Here's a brief recap of the Obama administration's appalling cave to Monsanto and the biotech industry in just the last 3 weeks.
1. Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO alfalfa - Jan. 27th, 2011 - Over the objections of hundreds of thousands of American citizens, the White House approved this unnecessary crop - despite the fact that 93% of alfalfa hay grown in the U.S. does not use herbicides and that genetic contamination with conventional, non-GMO and organic alfalfa threatens the livelihoods of tens of thousands of family farmers and the food choices of more than 50 million organic consumers.2

2. Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO sugar beets - Feb. 4, 2011 - Defying a court order to complete a proper Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) the USDA announced that it is granting a “partial” approval of Monsanto’s GMO sugar beets, giving farmers and seed dealers the clear signal that final approval is right around the corner. By the time the EIS is expected to be complete, sometime in May, farmers will have already started planting their crop for the next year since the USDA says it gave the green light to avert a “sugar shortage” in the U.S. Sugar beets comprise some 54% of U.S. sugar found in everything from soda, other beverages, candy bars3

3. Syngenta’s Enogen Alpha-Amylase Corn for Ethanol - Feb 11, 2011 -  This new GMO amylase corn product contains an enzyme that allegedly allows an increase in ethanol production with a reduction of natural gas and water usage, thus saving ethanol plants money. While caving to the biotech and ethanol industries, the Obama administration basically ignored the concerns of  leading food manufacturers who fear that if this new industrial corn cross-pollinates with or is accidentally mixed with corn used to make food products, it could lead to crumbly corn chips, soggy cereal and a host of other food processing disasters.4

Despite being comprised of more than 43 powerful companies such as General MillsConAgra Mills, ADM Milling and Quaker Oats, the Obama administration completely dismissed the concerns of the North American Miller’s Association, comprised of some of the largest food manufacturers in U.S. in order to favor the biotech and ethanol corporate agenda, both industries with checkered pasts and products of dubious benefit.

Please take a moment to tell President Obama that you’re outraged over his decision to approve a crop technology that has not lived up to its marketing promises, increasingly harms farmer profitability and has potential negative human health and environmental consequences.

These decisions are a devastating blow to our democracy and the basic rights of farmers to choose how they want to grow food on their land and the rights of consumers who increasingly choose organic and sustainably grown food for its positive health and environmental impacts. 

Let them know that you care about organic integrity by following this link from Food Democracy Now!, then please pass this on. Please join me in telling President Obama that it's time to stand up to Monsanto and reject these GMO crops today!

Living in a food desert

I don't imagine most people reading my blog have ever experienced anything like what Olga Perez describes in this NPR story (fortunately, neither have I), which is all the more reason why you should read/listen to it.

What he said before

Somehow I missed posting this when it first came out two weeks ago, but here 'tis, more wisdom from Marc Bittman.

Monday, February 7, 2011

This is really disgusting

But hardly surprising...
Onward Corporate Food Crusaders!
This is the part that really gets me:

The question is, why should the private sector invest in global hunger?
The Next Billions: Business Strategies to Enhance Food Values Chains and Empower the Poor" financed by (you guessed it) Bill Gates comes right out and says it:
Globally, 3.7 billion people are largely excluded from formal markets. This group, earning US$8 a day or less, comprises the 'base of the pyramid' (BOP) in terms of economic levels. With an annual income of US$2.3 trillion a year that has grown at 8% in recent years, this market spends US$1.3 trillion a year on food. Around 70% of the BOP (2.5 billion people) depends on the food value chain for their incomes, either directly as small scale farmers and farm laborers, or indirectly as small scale entrepreneurs... The BOP represents a fast-growing consumer market.
That's right, folks. We're not concerned about feeding poor people because they're hungry. We want to feed the poor because then they'll buy more of our stuff and become yet another demographic group we can exploit.

Like I said, hardly surprising. This is corporate business mentality at its essence, in all its sickening, appalling rapaciousness. Anyone got a bucket I can throw up in?