Monday, May 23, 2011

Monsanto foiled in U.S. Court

Great news about Monsanto, for a change:

From the Center for Food Safety: 


San Francisco, CA – May 20, 2011 – Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a summary order concluding a long-standing lawsuit over the impacts of genetically engineered (GE) ”Roundup Ready” sugar beets. As a result, previous court rulings in favor of farmers and conservation advocates will remain, including the order requiring the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prepare a rigorous review of the impacts of GE sugar beets, engineered to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, before deciding whether to again allow their future commercial use.

Here's a link to the complete news release:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tomato dreams...

I planted our tomatoes today; one Sungold, a delicious, incredibly sweet orange cherry tomato:

one heirloom yellow Brandywine:

and two Early Girls, which are good for canning (I don't have pictures of them, but imagine your standard-sized red round tomato).

It was actually hot in the sun while I was working and getting my hands dirty in the soil of our garden bed (I almost never remember to wear gloves). I still have dirt in the cracks of my fingers, a sure sign of spring's arrival.

I never tire of planting things, just as I continue to be awed by the miracle of tiny seeds morphing into enormous zucchini, or 4-inch starts becoming 6-foot tomato plants heavy with fruit. It's a timeless source of amazement for me, one that will never diminish.

I dream of August and the longed-for taste of a tomato exploding in my mouth with that first, sun-warmed bite.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Alex Ross likes us...he really really likes us!

Alex Ross, classical music critic for The New Yorker, wrote this on his blog, regarding the Oregon Symphony's performance at Carnegie Hall this week:

"OREGONIANS TRIUMPHANT (accompanied by a great photo of Carlos Kalmar with his fantastic conductor hair flying)

Spring for Music is heading into the home stretch, with two concerts remaining. Last night's performance by the Oregon Symphony, under the direction of Carlos Kalmar, was pretty extraordinary; you can listen online. The good folks at NPR Classical are archiving all the concerts in the series. I will have more to say in a future issue of The New Yorker."

I'm a huge fan of Ross' writing; I don't make a habit of reading lots of music criticism, unless it's for work, but he's a cut above everyone else out there today. I'm also kind of in awe of him; he's a year younger than I am, has a dream job and won a MacArthur Fellowship a few years ago for his book, The Rest is Noise. Talk about setting a high bar...

Oh, and the New York Times liked us too:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

shameless self-promotion(s)

Check out my latest gig, for the Jewish Review, Portland's bi-weekly Jewish rag...

I'll probably be writing several times a month for them; you can always access the JR online, if you're outside Portland, here.

Also, the Oregon Symphony heads to Carnegie Hall this week to perform in a new music festival, Spring for Music. Here's an overview from Anthony Tommasini, music critic for the NYT:

I won't be going in person, but my notes will be there, in the program book. It's a great program, titled Music in a Time of War. Here's more info.

So how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Write, write, write!

Trying to fight my yetzer cynique...

In Jewish tradition, we learn about the yetzer tov and the yetzer ra, the good inclination and the bad inclination. Both are locked in constant conflict, each trying to dictate our actions and reactions. I submit there's a third inclination, the yetzer cynique, or cynical inclination. I must admit I have more trouble not giving in to my yetzer cynique than I do resisting my yetzer ra (I'm basically a good person, after all, however boring that sounds).

So imagine the difficulty I have containing the old yetzer cynique when I read this:


Launch of Major New Food and Ag Policy Initiative
Long-Term Initiative Funded By Eight Leading Foundations

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 27, 2011 – On May 3, eight of the world’s leading foundations will launch a major new initiative designed to impact food and agriculture policies on a global scale.  

The world will have more than 9 billion people to feed by 2050, with two-thirds of them living in cities, putting greater demands on our agricultural and environmental resources. Current food and agriculture policies cannot meet the needs of this future without drastic consequences for our environment, health and rural communities.   

This initiative is funded by Ford FoundationBill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The McKnight FoundationRockefeller Foundation and The Walton Family Foundation.

Please join us for a press conference detailing how the initiative will engage on food and agriculture policy on May 3, 2011 at 10 a.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Who:    Deborah Atwood, Executive Director
Dan GlickmanCo-Chair, former USDA Secretary under President Bill Clinton
Gary HirshbergCo-Chair, President and “CE-Yo” of Stonyfield Farm
Jim Moseley, Co-Chair, former USDA deputy secretary under President George W. Bush
Emmy Simmons, Co-Chair, former assistant administrator for Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade at U.S. AID
Todd Barker, Partner, Meridian Institute

What:  Launch of a new initiative to transform food and agriculture policies

Where: The Fourth Estate, National Press Club
529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor, Washington, D.C.

When:  Tuesday May 3, 2011, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.

It sounds good, doesn't it? But I can't help thinking this is just one more instance of the haves taking over food production from the have nots. Given the USDA's conflicted mission: to promote US agribusiness and to safeguard our food supply (guess which one wins out 95% of the time), I question the integrity of any current or former USDA official. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation I've already written about, and their love affair with technology over sustainable socially just solutions (particularly with regard to their advocating GMO crops, esp. in Africa). So much as I'd like to think Bill and Melinda are doing a good thing here, I have serious doubts.

Anyone else's yetzer cynique sending off warning bells?

Eric Schlosser on food elitism

Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, wrote this in the Washington Post a few days ago. He makes great arguments against the idea, promoted by agribusiness, that advocating for sustainable food systems is inherently elitist, and makes them well.

Here's my favorite part:

"Calling these efforts [by Alice Waters, Jamie Oliver and Michelle Obama, among others] elitist renders the word meaningless. The wealthy will always eat well. It is the poor and working people who need a new, sustainable food system more than anyone else. They live in the most polluted neighborhoods. They are exposed to the worst toxic chemicals on the job. They are sold the unhealthiest foods and can least afford the medical problems that result.
A food system based on poverty and exploitation will never be sustainable."
Worth reading.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tell President Obama No GMO beets and alfalfa

Please join me in telling the Obama administration it's time to halt the sale and planting of Monsanto's Roundup Ready GMO alfalfa and sugar beets until proper independent peer reviewed science can be conducted.

On January 17, 2011, Dr. Don Huber, an internationally-recognized plant pathologist sent a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack attempting to warn him of a serious problem facing U.S. agriculture. This letter, marked “CONFIDENTIAL and URGENT”, warned Secretary Vilsack of a previously unknown pathogen, “new to science” that “should be treated as an emergency”.

Huber’s letter discussed the new pathogen in the most dire terms, saying that the findings of this top team of scientists had already discovered a link between the new pathogen and the steady rise of plant diseases in Roundup Ready corn and soybean crops and in association with high rates of infertility and spontaneous abortions of animal livestock.
Huber warned Secretary Vilsack that the discovery of the new pathogen was “highly sensitive information that could result in a collapse of U.S. soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies.”

Unfortunately, less than 3 weeks later, the Obama administration approved 2 new Roundup Ready GMO crops, which are set to be planted this spring.

Please join me in this urgent action telling President Obama and Secretary Vilsack to halt the sale and planting of Monsanto's Roundup Ready GMO alfalfa and sugar beet seeds until more independent scientific testing can be conducted to ensure the safety of our food supply.

Watch the interview with Dr. Huber and learn about the science at Food Democracy Now! -