Archive for July, 2009

Spicy Summer Salad

This is one of our favorite summer salads. We always loosely follow the recipe depending on what we have on hand. In the one pictured, everything was from our garden except the red onion. I used zucchini, cucumber, three kinds of tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, jalapeno and green pepper.  Yum!  It’s even better the next day.

Serve with a grilled burger or chicken. You can prepare this recipe up to two days in advance. The longer the vegetables marinate, the more flavor they acquire. Remove the seeds from the pepper if you prefer mild heat.

4 cups halved red, yellow, or orange cherry tomatoes  (use tomatoes and whatever fresh summer veggies  you have on hand – see above)

¼  cup thinly sliced green onions or chopped red onion

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced

¼  cup white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon organic brown sugar, or honey.

¼ cup virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½  teaspoon salt

½  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; stir until blended. Pour vinegar mixture over tomato mixture, tossing to coat. Let marinate, in or out of the refrigerator, at least 1 hour.

Yield:  8 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)

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Why our family eats organically grown food

We had a very dear friend visiting over the Christmas holiday and she was surprised at the number of organic food items we have around here.  “Organic Coffee!” she said, surprised.

It got me thinking about why we eat organic foods.  I’ve been eating natural and healthy food since college.  I was ill in my freshman year and the school doctor suggested I eat a bit more carefully.  So, I started researching diet, food, and various methods of alternative healing.  I learned a lot about how the food you eat can effect your health.

When my kids were little the news started discussing pesticides being sprayed on apples and how it was potentially unsafe for kids.  Then I heard the same about grapes and raisins.  I started looking for organic foods.  At that time (late 1980s) it wasn’t always easy or affordable!  Organic farming was still relatively new and you could only get organic produce and products at the local health food store, but I got what I could and found that even if the produce sometimes looked a little funny (organic used to be less perfect most of the time) it tasted great.

As the kids got older there were more important reasons to look for organic alternatives.

We’ve been having a quiet takeover going on in our food industry.  Monsanto and some of the other food giants have been replacing all of our commercial crops with genetically engineered food crops.  Corn and soy have been the most prevalent and there are a lot of health concerns. What’s really ‘food for thought’ is that corn and soy are in most commercially processed foods. High Fructose corn syrup is in everything from frozen foods to soda.

Dr. Joseph Mercola ( says:

“The technology of genetic engineering (GE), wielded by transnational “life science” corporations such as Monsanto and Novartis, is the practice of altering or disrupting the genetic blueprints of living organisms — plants, animals, humans, microorganisms — patenting them, and then selling the resulting gene-foods, seeds, or other products for profit.”

There’s also been genetic engineering going on in our milk products with recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH/BST).  Shirley’s Wellness café has a great article.     Here’s a snippet:

What is rBGH?

Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone is a genetically engineered copy of a naturally occurring hormone produced by cows. Manufactured by Monsanto Company, the drug is sold to dairy farmers under the name POSILAC, though you’ll also find it called BGH, rBGH, BST and rBST. When rBGH gets injected into dairy cows, milk production increases by as much as 10-15%. The use of rBGH on dairy cows was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in late 1993 and has been in use since 1994. While rBGH is banned in Europe and Canada, and has been boycotted by 95 percent of US dairy farmers, the FDA, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture continue to license the drug (and other new genetically engineered foods) without pre-market safety tests. You can read the rest of the article at the link below.

Just like you can find food labeled organic (which also means that it’s NOT genetically engineered you can find milk and cheese products labeled ‘No rBGH/BST’.

I figure it’s another good reason to eat organically as much as you can. Every little bit helps.

In recent years organic has gone mainstream.  Most supermarkets have an organic produce section and we can even get organic products at Costco. Farm stands and Farmers markets are another great way to find organic and local produce. The costs have become more reasonable too.  The more we buy organic foods the more incentive there will be for farmers to switch their growing process and it’s a great opportunity for small/medium family farms that have been run out of business by the big corporations.  It’s healthier for the growers not to be around all those pesticides, it’s better for the environment and it’s safer for us to eat.

And, don’t forget the good taste!

Here is a UK site that has a great article on the 10 Top reasons to go Organic:

Here’s another one, in the US by the Soil Association:

This is a great resource about all things organic. They have a great newsletter as well as tons of info (and action alerts if you’re so inclined) about genetically engineered food:

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HR 2749: Food Safety’s Scorched Earth Policy

HR 2749: Food Safety’s Scorched Earth Policy


Barbara H. Peterson

HR 2749 is being rushed through Congress, and the house may look to suspend the rules and fast track the bill at Obama’s request. Just what can we expect from this legislation? A lot more of the following: 

Dick Peixoto planted hedges of fennel and flowering cilantro around his organic vegetable fields in the Pajaro Valley near Watsonville to harbor beneficial insects, an alternative to pesticides. 

He has since ripped out such plants in the name of food safety, because his big customers demand sterile buffers around his crops. No vegetation. No water. No wildlife of any kind. 

“I was driving by a field where a squirrel fed off the end of the field, and so 30 feet in we had to destroy the crop,” he said. “On one field where a deer walked through, didn’t eat anything, just walked through and you could see the tracks, we had to take out 30 feet on each side of the tracks and annihilate the crop.” 

In the verdant farmland surrounding Monterey Bay, a national marine sanctuary and one of the world’s biological jewels, scorched-earth strategies are being imposed on hundreds of thousands of acres in the quest for an antiseptic field of greens. And the scheme is about to go national. (Lochhead, C. )

The question that must be asked is, do we really want to destroy our local organic farming industry by poisoning ponds, bulldozing crops and killing wildlife all in the name of food safety? 

Recently someone asked why I thought that the current food safety legislation would jeopardize organic farming. This is why! People who have no idea what it is to farm, and are in collusion with large corporate food producers, buyers, and sellers, draft legislation that is intolerable to the environment and our health, all in the name of food safety, in order to promote corporate profit. 

Not one instance in “16 years of handling nearly every major food-borne illness outbreak in America, has Seattle trial lawyer Bill Marler had a case where it’s been linked to a farmers’ market” (Marler, B.). Yet, farmer’s markets and local organic food growers who sell at these markets are included in this legislation, and factory farming scorched earth methods are forced on them. 

The Scorched Earth Policy 

It is impossible to sanitize the earth. When slash and burn methods are used to supposedly control pathogens in our food supply, nature’s natural balance is destroyed, and with it our health. “Sanitizing American agriculture, aside from being impossible, is foolhardy,” said UC Berkeley food guru Michael Pollan. (Lochhead, C.) 

Invisible to a public that sees only the headlines of the latest food-safety scare – spinach, peppers and now cookie dough – ponds are being poisoned and bulldozed. Vegetation harboring pollinators and filtering storm runoff is being cleared. Fences and poison baits line wildlife corridors. Birds, frogs, mice and deer – and anything that shelters them – are caught in a raging battle in the Salinas Valley against E. coli O157:H7, a lethal, food-borne bacteria. (Lochhead, C.) 

In fact, in the fierce battle to sanitize the earth, one thing has been overlooked: 

Some science suggests that removing vegetation near field crops could make food less safe. Vegetation and wetlands are a landscape’s lungs and kidneys, filtering out not just fertilizers, sediments and pesticides, but also pathogens. UC Davis scientists found that vegetation buffers can remove as much as 98 percent of E. coli from surface water. UC Davis advisers warn that some rodents prefer cleared areas. (Lochhead, C.) 

Food Safety Fraud Culprits 

So who is behind this massive attack on our food supply? You guessed it – giant food retailers, agri-business, and anyone with a bankroll larger than the state of Texas. It seems that paying “more than $100 million in court settlements and verdicts in spinach and lettuce lawsuits” (Lochhead, C.) as well as realizing a loss in sales is galvanizing these corporate giants to lead the charge in instituting a “quasi-governmental program of new protocols for growing greens safely, called the “leafy greens marketing agreement.”” 

A proposal was submitted last month in Washington to take these rules nationwide.” (Lochhead, C.) And just what is this proposal? HR 2749 Food Safety Enhancement Act. 

A food safety bill sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, passed this month in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It would give new powers to the Food and Drug Administration to regulate all farms and produce in an attempt to fix the problem. The bill would require consideration of farm diversity and environmental rules, but would leave much to the FDA. (Lochhead, C.) 

The requirements of this bill would put small farmers out of business entirely, but this is not the only threat to the little guy. 

Large produce buyers have compiled secret “super metrics” that go much further. Farmers must follow them if they expect to sell their crops. These can include vast bare-dirt buffers, elimination of wildlife, and strict rules on water sources. To enforce these rules, retail buyers have sent forth armies of food-safety auditors, many of them trained in indoor processing plants, to inspect fields. (Lochhead, C.) 

Most of these inspectors have little to no experience other than inside four walls. Take for example Ken Kimes, who owns New Natives Farms in Santa Cruz County. He was told that “no children younger than five can be allowed on his farm for fear of diapers” (Lochhead, C.) 

Reaping the Consequences 

It is this type of micro-management that our entire nation can look forward to if HR 2749 passes. These are rules no-one can comply with other than large factory operations. Not only do they conflict with common sense, but with organic and environmental standards as well. They are causing what they propose to eliminate, and that is, a dangerous, contaminated food supply controlled by no one but the biggest corporations. 

And what can we expect to reap from this harvest? Higher prices due to increased costs to implement the measures and ship the food, nothing but factory-produced food that has travelled for miles to get on the shelf, increased pesticide use, the elimination of organic standards and the family farm, and the rape and desecration of nature itself. 

The consequences of California’s draconian measures which are scheduled to go nationwide with the implementation of HR 2749 are already resulting in irreparable harm. 

…trees have been bulldozed along the riparian corridors of the Salinas Valley, while poison-filled tubes targeting rodents dot lettuce fields. Dying rodents have led to deaths of owls and hawks that naturally control rodents. (Lochhead, C.) 

The Fear Factor 

Why is the public going along with this? 

“It’s all based on panic and fear, and the science is not there,” said Dr. Andy Gordus, an environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Game. 


Preliminary results released in April from a two-year study by the state wildlife agency, UC Davis and the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that less than one-half of 1 percent of 866 wild animals tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 in Central California. 


Frogs are unrelated to E. coli, but their remains in bags of mechanically harvested greens are unsightly, Gordus said, so “the industry has been using food safety as a premise to eliminate frogs.” 


Farmers are told that ponds used to recycle irrigation water are unsafe. So they bulldoze the ponds and pump more groundwater, opening more of the aquifer to saltwater intrusion, said Jill Wilson, an environmental scientist at the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board in San Luis Obispo. 


Wilson said demands for 450-foot dirt buffers remove the agency’s chief means of preventing pollution from entering streams and rivers. Jovita Pajarillo, associate director of the water division in the San Francisco office of the Environmental Protection Agency, said removal of vegetative buffers threatens Arroyo Seco, one of the last remaining stretches of habitat for steelhead trout. (Lochhead, C.) 

The Real Problem 

The problem does not lie squarely in the lap of the farmer, where this legislation places it. It lies in the processing that happens after the produce leaves the farm. This legislation pronounces a death sentence on all small farmers, organic growers, and our nation’s very health as well, yet fails to address the real problem. “Industry rules won’t stop lawsuits or eliminate the risk of processed greens cut in fields, mingled in large baths, put in bags that must be chilled from packing plant to kitchen, and shipped thousands of miles away” (Marler, B). 

Mass-production is the culprit, not my neighbor down the road who grows strawberries and sells them at the local farmer’s market. Yet the cause of the problem – mass-produced, industrialized food production methods are supported, while the innocent victims – family farmers, organic producers, and neighbors selling fruit at the local farmer’s market – are punished and quite literally put out of business. 

©2009 Barbara H. Peterson


Lochhead, C. (2009). Crops, ponds destroyed in quest for food safety.  SF Chronicle

“I want to live my life in such a way that when I wake up in the morning and my feet hit the floor, satan shudders and says, oh shit, she’s awake!” (Maxine)

Localize yourself!

Barbara H. Peterson

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GM Crops are the Highway to Genetic Holocaust

by Sailendra Nath Ghosh

According to a report in The Hindu of April 13 last, the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice issued three welcome directives to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee while giving a verdict on a PIL petition filed by the Convenor of Gene Campaign, Ms Suman Sahai, an internationally famous Indian geneticist. The directives to the GEAC are that it must (i) consider the toxicity and allergencity of the proposed GM crop; (ii) study the requirement of isolation distance of the experimental field from other fields to prevent contamination; and (iii) post the relevant data on the web so that independent experts could examine the data obtained from the experiments. Pursued in letter and spirit, these could be safeguards against the misuses that the GMO producers are now indulging in, in large parts of the world.

The hon’ble Chief Justice, again, in his speech at the seminar at Chandigarh on “Law and Environment” organized by the Asia-Pacific Jurists Association, warned against corporates “making a fast buck at the cost of nature” and advised the shelving of projects which appeared suspicious from the ecology angle. These were wise sayings indeed and were in accord with the “precautionary principle’ which is basic to good science.

Genetic modification is variously known. It is called “transgenic engineering”, “horizontal gene transfer technology”, and also “recombinant DNA technology”. To call it a “suspicious” project, in 2009, is, however, a gross underestimate. It is the most dangerous technology that mankind has ever known. It is more lethal than nuclear bomb manufacturing technology. Man, even after manufacturing nuclear weapons, can keep these bottled up. But once the products of transgenic genetic engineering are released, their chain reactions are unstoppable.

This brings us to the basics of this technology. Transgenic engineering, by definition, is implanting the gene of an organism into the genome of an unrelated species – for example, the gene of a pig into a tomato, the gene of a snake into an orchid. Since every organismic species has its own natural defense mechanism, the implantation of a foreign gene requires a carrier which can pierce through the target organism’s defense barrier. Commonly, viruses, or combinations of viruses or of infectious bacteria are the vehicles for this kind of gene implantation. Can such atrocious violation of the natural order produce any beneficial result?

The next question is: Will the gene or genes implanted in a species remain confined to the targeted species? Science is clear on this issue. “The very cellular mechanisms that enable the foreign genes to ‘force-integrate’ into the genome can also mobilize these genes to jump out.” Which means, the foreign genes can re-insert into other sites of the targeted organism and also jump out to re-integrate into other organisms by secondary, tertiary, quarternary transfers. Thus, it is a demonic technology. This is tearing apart the genome of every species of the plant and animal kingdom. This is Genetic holocaust. Certainly it is more lethal than nuclear holocaust. In nuclear-bomb-devastated Hiroshima, after 60 years, blades of grass have started growing. But the effects of transgenic engineering are Irretrievable and will last till eternity.

There is a world of difference between genetic engineering—of the type that Borlaung did in the 1960s—and the transgenic engineering that is now being pushed through.

It is because of this that the highly venerated Nobel Laureate in Medicine, George Wald, eminent Professor of Biology, Harvard University, had, at the very beginning of this concept, warned against its pursuit with the following trenchant words:

Recombinant DNA technology faces our society with problems unprecedented not only in the history of science, but of life on Earth. It places in human hands the capacity to redesign living organisms, the products of three billion years of evolution. Such intervention must not be confused with previous intrusion upon the natural order of living organisms: animal and plant breeding……. All the earlier procedures worked within single or closely related species….Our morality up to now has been to go ahead without restriction to learn all that we can about nature. Restructuring nature was not part the bargain…this (new) direction may be not only unwise, but dangerous. Potentially, it could breed new animal and plant diseases, new sources of cancer, novel epidemics.

To hide this hideous character, the companies selling GM products try to allure the farmers by falsely advertising their higher productivity, their lesser requirement for pesticides, hence their supposed environment-friendliness. Some other companies indulge in advertisements about their higher herbicide tolerance.

Its deceptive appeal is so great that even the most enlightened people often get deluded. During a PIL hearing on GMOs, at least one honorable judge out of a three-member Supreme Court Bench headed by the Chief Justice, permitted himself the expression: “GM foods, capable of dramatically increasing productivity, could be the answer to hunger and poverty in India…GM seeds could possibly be a means to eradicate hunger and poverty. Poverty is probably more than dangerous than the side-effects of GM seeds.” (As reported by the Delhi edition of The Times of India of May 1, 2009)

If the honorable judge takes the trouble of making enquiries about the experiences of the people of Argentina, and the farmers of South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and our country’s BT. Cotton growers, he will hasten to revise his own opinion. Brief mention of a few experiences from different countries where “poverty alleviation through GM crops” were tried, would be revealing.

i) Argentina, which was a country that used to produce a surplus of diverse and health-giving food for eight times its population, is now, thanks to its widespread use of GM soya crops, having to import milk, lentils, peas, cotton etc and “communities all over the country are suffering the effects of agrotoxins”.

ii) The use of GM cotton in South Africa, GM sweet potato in Uganda, GM. maize and sweet potato in Kenya—all showed lower yields, proliferation of super-weeds, compulsive use of many times more of pesticides/ herbicides, soil toxicity, and emergence of newer and newer diseases of both mankind and cattle.

iii) In our country itself, the limited use of GM cotton—named B.T. cotton after the bacillus thuringiensis—led to farmers’ suicides due to higher costs and lower yields

iv) The three-year farm-scale evaluation of three spring-sown GM crops—oilseed rape, beet and maize—in the UK by the Royal Society conclusively showed their damaging effects on biodiversity, which is the very basis of sustainability of agriculture. The Royal Society had made it very clear that it would not focus on key questions such as gene flow, transgenic contamination, creation of ‘superweeds’ and ‘superpests’ and would observe only the impact of managing GM herbicide-tolerant crops on farmland biodiversity.

v) In the USA itself, studies showed that in most field trials, the GM crops called “Round-up ready” soyabean showed lower yields than the conventional varieties. Still, the clout of GMO producing companies—Monsanto, Novartis, Du Pont etc.— is so strong that they are being allowed to experiment with many GM crops with impunity.

However, it is worth noting that Mexico has imposed a ban on not only the cultivation of GM corn but also on its research. The anti- GM sentiment in the countries of European Union is so strong that Monsanto, the leading GMO producer, had to discontinue its transgenic wheat and barley seed-making and seed-selling business in Europe as far back in 2003. It had also to withdraw from its kind of research in plant pharmaceuticals.

A question can yet be asked: if GM crops are so unsafe, why are the Americans, who are eating some GM crops for a decade or more, not falling ill on a mass scale? The answer is: hardly anybody dies immediately after eating a GM crop. Apart from acute toxins and allergens, other harmful effects are likely to appear in the longer term, just as the carcinogenous effects of tobacco became apparent after years of smoking. There is no doubt, however, that the health standards of US citizens are fast deteriorating. A review paper by Nathan B. Battalion of Jonathan Campbell’s publication 50 harmful effects of Genetically Modified foods says: “Whereas in 1900, cancer affected only one person in the USA, it is now one out of two men, and one out of three women.” While water, air and food pollution made their contributions to this increase throughout the century, it is the acceleration of use of chemicals as antibiotics, pesticides, weedicides, herbicides that led to galloping increases in “systemic, whole body immune system breakdowns”.

GM crops are inevitably linked with multiplying uses of chemicals in the above forms. According to the review paper mentioned in the preceding para, scientists have found that random combinations of chemicals (mostly pesticides) can cause one thousand times more cancer than the sum of the individual chemicals indicated in separate tests. Even more startling was the fact that some chemicals which were earlier thought to be harmless by themselves, proved lethal in combinations.

In a word, GM crops are fraught with famine, hunger, disease and death.

After these pointers, it is necessary to point out how the Supreme Court’s salutary directives mentioned at the outset may be scuttled.

1. It is common knowledge now that, in the USA, the decision making positions in the FDA (Food and Drug administration), which is supposed to be authority to allow or disallow the cultivation of GM crops have been usurped by persons linked with GMO producer companies. In India, how many among the members of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee are, or would be, really independent and endowed with holistic understanding would need to be probed. As of today, men like Dr P.M. Bhargava, the founder-Director of India’s Centre of Molecular Biology Studies, has no voice there, even though his pointers tally with people’s experiences. Genuine environmentalists have now no place on GEAC. Who will decide the composition of the GEAC?

2. Since transgenic engineering is gunshot-like violence that pierces the nuclear membrane of the cell, should not the GEAC’s every decision be reported to the Parliament and debated before any trial of GM crop in the field is allowed?

3. For the first time in history, the GMO issue has brought about a new nexus—the academic-industrial-military complex. (Earlier, it was industrial-military complex.) Hence the scope for free unbiased debates on the scientific technological level is getting virtually shut out. Prestigious science journals like Science, Nature, New Scientists, Lancet have now come to be dependent on corporate advertisements and sponsorship, often of the whole series of pro-biotech (read pro-GMO) articles. They are now refusing to publish papers by scientists which confirm the early whistle blower’s predictions. Only the involvement of farmers in open debates can clinch the issue. If the debates are limited to the position-holding experts, the Supreme Court’s expectations are likely to be belied.

4. As a result of widespread and mounting consumer rejection of GM crops in the countries of European Union, the US agribusiness is now seeking to profit more from Africa, Asia and Latin America—all in the name of ‘poverty alleviation” and “fighting hunger”. If they can monopolize the seed market and the market for its concomitant agrochemicals, these will be the richest business corporates in the world. Hence they will seek control the research institutes and the Faculties in the Universities by lavish funding. A recent study by the Third World Network—Africa, after offering evidences to show that the GM projects are inappropriate for poverty alleviation, have concluded that “their claim is a public relations strategy to reduce public resistance to GM products and that their carefully crafted and well-funded campaigns are designed to recruit GM advocates: “Politicians have latched on to biotechnology to illustrate their otherwise absent commitment to the poor. Academics have found another fad. Corporations try to sell their (GM producers’) products. Scientists have projects that need funding. The result of all this unjustified publicity is muted debate.”

5. Apart from the above ways of controlling scientific and technological manpower, questions will be raised about the “unfeasibility” of maintaining distance from non-GM crop-growing fields for preventing contamination. A famous case in Canada may be mentioned here. The University of Manitoba sought to establish the distance that genetically modified pollen could travel. They found that wheat pollen would stay airborne for at least one hour. They related it to wind speed. If you had a 35 kilometres per hour wind speed, how far can it travel? Canola pollen stays airborne for nearly three hours. So, if there is 35 kph wind, how far should be isolation distance? If your pollen gets into a whirlwind, it could travel over 60 km! In our country, the problem can be even greater. Hence maintaining safe contamination-free distance will be more problematic.

The solution is to ban GM research and GM cultivation altogether. As the great scientist-philosopher Heisenberg said, demonic technology-based enterprises should never be allowed.

Armchair politicians would ask: is there any way to increasing food production without using GM seeds, without the use of chemical fertilizers? In our country, there are numerous examples where organic farming, aided by Earthworm culture (vermiculture), yields much more, both quantitatively and qualitatively, than these anti-natural methods ever can.

A book titled Organic Farming Source Book, which was originally published a decade and half back, is being republished by the Other Book Store, Mapusa, Goa. The stories narrated there are living proofs of the truth that bounteousness is in-built in Nature. We need to know how to harness it.

A Postscript

India is home to a vast reservoir of biological—hence genetic wealth. This is the foundation of the country’s food and nutritional security. Preserving the wild relatives of crop plants in the vicinity is the surest means of infusion of healthier germplasms—and hence of crop improvement and abundance. Selection by farmers and cross-breeding, if necessary, is a superior alternative to any kind of genetic engineering, which invariably reduces diversity. As for transgenic engineering, it should never, never be allowed.

The author is one of the country’s earliest environmentalists and a social philosopher.

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Earth Democracy Author, Vandana Shiva, Speaks at WMU

I got to hear and meet Vandana Shiva last March. She’s an amazing women and is doing a lot to help the farmers in India get away from GMO’s.  Here’s a recent interview with her.

Activist Vandana Shiva Recently Spoke at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo

Indian activist and author Vandana Shiva spoke at Western Michigan University last Thursday on the theme of sustainability, the topic of one of her most recent books,Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace.

Shiva began her talk by saying that we live in extremely important times, because the paradigm of fossil fuels consumption is killing us. She also used a comment from the founder of the Indian Satyagraha movement, Mohandas Gandhi. Gandhi, when writing about the Western World, said that it “only promotes consumerism and comfort.” But, this model, according to Gandhi, is one that is self-destructive.

Corporate Globalization is a Dictatorship

Shiva then went on to talk about corporate globalization as a form of dictatorship. Corporate globalization uses force to achieve its goals as well as legal and institutional constructs such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). One example the author gave was how the global grain giant Cargill took control of the agricultural policies under the GATT/WTO. Shiva said they wrote the agreement and essentially represented the US at the international level to push through an agricultural policy that would allow them control of much of the world’s grain market.

Another way that Cargill has negatively impacted local agriculture is their dumping of soy oil on the market in India several years ago. Shiva said they were able to do this with huge subsidies, also part of the WTO agreements, which undercut the local market. People could not compete with the price of the soy oil, which was not nearly as good for human consumption as the dozens of other oils that Indians used. In response, women organized a Satyagraha campaign and made their own oil in defiance of the law.

Intellectual Property Rights and Seed Theft

The other main issue that Shiva addressed was the destructive consequences of intellectual property rights. Intellectual property rights were essentially an expansion of traditional property rights that included seeds, humans, and any other form of life. India had a non-patent framework for products built into their constitution, but that changed with the WTO. What this has meant is that Monsanto controlls 95% of the global seed store. Seeds–which are the ultimate regeneration resource–have now been privatized.

This control of the global seed stock is being manifested in three ways. First, corporations are using genetic modification that necessitates the use of more pesticides, most of which are manufactured by the same corporations. Second, the control of global seed stock means that these corporations can control the price of seeds. So for example, last year Monsanto raised corn seed costs from $200 a bag to $300, which meant that they profited even more off world hunger. The third way they control seed stock was to legally insert into the WTO agreements the inability of farmers to save their own seeds, thus making them dependent on companies like Monsanto to buy their seeds.

One crop where this seed control has been devastating for Indian farmers is with cotton. The GMO cotton seeds that Indian farmers are now forced to buy also require large amounts of pesticides and farmer just end up going into debt. This crisis has resulted in a great deal of resistance, but it has also meant that many Indian farmers have taken their own lives. Shiva said that over 200,000 farmers have committed suicide as a protest of the seed control. One irony with this is that the highest areas of suicide are the same area of Indian where Gandhi’s campaign of homespun cotton began, a campaign that complimented a national boycott of British made clothes from cotton.

Climate Chaos or Earth Democracy

Shiva also addressed the issue of Climate Change, which she said is an inaccurate way of naming the problem. We should call it climate chaos, because with Global Warming, weather patterns have become unpredictable and destabilizing. This, the author/activist said was due to our addiction to fossil fuels.

    “We are not phasing out fossil fuels, because they are now used in agribusiness. The toxic nature of fossil fuels agribusiness is killing the soil. 40% of greenhouse gases are produced because of the way we grow and distribute food.”

Shiva believes that the only way to move away from this addiction to fossil fuels, as it relates to agriculture, is a shift to localism, “The local level is where the change must happen, with food production and energy creation. Local food systems are very important and are even an antidote for wars,” Shiva said. “Why did the US go to war in Iraq? Oil. The same is true for Afghanistan and other parts of the world.” She then said that a shift to bio-fuels is not a sustainable solution either. “If all of the corn that is grow in the US right now is used for bio-fuel it would only provide 7% of the fuel needs. So, if the appetite of resource consumption continues then wars are inevitable.”

The author/activist said that the only viable transition away from this corporate structure is what she calls earth democracy:

    “The current economic system is based on theft. We have to restore our economy. I started the seed saving group Navdanya as a way of defending life. Life is to be shared, not bought and sold. The earthworm does not eat up the soil that it lives in, it enriches it. We need to catch up to these other species. We need to look to them as teachers, these species, the soil, because that is where life gets renewed. The soil is an alternative to the collapsing economy, to the fossil fuel destruction, and it is an alternative to wars.”

Shiva concluded by saying that earth democracy is different than electoral democracy because in electoral democracy you expect someone else to do it for you, but with earth democracy we must make the changes ourselves.

Posted by Jeff Smith

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Interview with Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin is a hero to those of us want to eat real food, raised by real farmers. Here’s a great interview Joel gave recently.

Sustainable Farmer Joel Salatin Goes Beyond Organics

By Jedd Ferris

Polyface Farm’s Joel Salatin explains how his heritage-based practices have restored the natural cycle of his land in the Shenandoah Valley.

On a modest, idyllic 550 acres in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm has given the modern food industry a lesson in agrarian integrity. On his pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm, Salatin raises animals with ethically and ecologically sound methods that mimic natural movement patterns and preserve the landscape.

The self-declared “Christian-Libertarian-Environmentalist-Capitalist-Lunatic” has entered the national spotlight as a main subject in Michael Pollan’s bestseller, The Ominivore’s Dilemma and the upcoming film Food, Inc. The author of six of his own books, Salatin is not shy about his beliefs. He bluntly speaks out about the disgraces he sees in the current industrial food system, and lately he  spends about one-third of his time giving lectures.

The Polyface Farm land was purchased by Salatin’s parents in 1961, and today the farm remains a small family-based operation, anchored by Salatin’s son Daniel and a meager staff of fewer than two dozen, which includes interns and apprentices.

At his farm, Salatin offers complete transparency. He invites his customers to visit the farm and see how the animals live. Despite a great increase in demand for Polyface’s sustainably produced meats, shipping farm-fresh meats is not an option, as it goes against Salatin’s principle of recreating a local food chain. He invited BRO to the farm in late spring.

BRO: What should people know about the meat they get at Polyface?

JS: Our cows are moved every day to a fresh paddock, so we’re mimicking the patterns of herbivores in nature. They’re moving away from yesterday’s manure. We take the natural, moving, mobbing, mowing pattern as a template. Fertile soils of the world have been built with herbivores. This grazing allows grass to grow through its cycle. If everyone practiced this pattern, we’d sequester all of the carbon that’s been emitted in the industrial age in fewer than 10 years.

Good food should be aesthetically pleasing from field to fork. We’re standing here among thousands of chickens with no odor. A good food production model doesn’t force a huge landscape change. It’s gentle on the land. It actually nests into its ecological umbilical cord. We only touch each square foot of land once a year with these birds. We move them every morning, so they get fresh salad every day, away from yesterday’s excrement. This is to eliminate pathogens that affect crowded chickens. We also don’t want to exceed the carrying capacity of the soil.

BRO:  What’s the difference between this and free range?

JS: The pastured poultry is what we’re most famous for. We don’t call it free range. We call it pasture. Most free range chickens are on a dirt pile. That’s where we differ from operations that don’t have a portable infrastructure to give them fresh ground every day.

BRO: Can you explain what you mean by “beyond organic” in describing Polyface?

JS: Organic has become an extremely loose term that people don’t really understand. Now it’s been codified by the government and prostituted, so industrial food can enter the marketplace under the guise of organic. We’re beyond organic in that we put the animals on fresh grass and move them around all the time. We process at the farm with neighborhood labor.

BRO: What are your thoughts on vegetarianism and benefits to land use?

JS: Animals are one of the most healing things possible on the landscape, if they’re managed and raised properly, especially herbivores. The main reason for vegetarianism is an anti-vote against inhumane industrial agriculture. That is certainly valid, but I think it would be a lot healthier to turn that into a positive vote and purchase from grass-based farm outfits. The data that supports a conclusion that eating beef is a leading cause of global warming is based on grain-based industrial feed lot production. As soon as you go to a paradigm of a perennial, non-tillage, self-fertilized system, all that negative data goes out the window.

Beyond that, vegetarianism is actually totally foreign to the three-trillion member community inside of us. On this planet, things are being eaten all over the place, whether it’s the preying mantis eating an insect or a lion eating a wildebeest. From any way you want to look at it, there’s no ecological reason for vegetarianism.

BRO: What is your vision for the future of farming in this bioregion?

JS: I envision entrepreneurial local food collaboration, where we actually consume what’s grown here. Right now in the developed world, only five percent of the food consumed is produced locally. Food should be grown and eaten in its own region. People need to find their own kitchens and begin eating more seasonally.

BRO: What’s your biggest frustration in running this type of farm?

JS: Government regulations. The market is there, but the only reason we don’t have a more viable local food system is because of malicious, capricious regulations that put undue burdens on small producers and give big producers a free pass. I’m not just talking about the USDA. The problem also includes zoning regulations that don’t let somebody, for example, sell a quiche they made in their house because they’re in a zoned residential area. It’s the ultimate compartmentalized society. Throughout history the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker have been embedded in the village, not confined to their living quarters, so they have to drive somewhere to get to work.

You can’t buy a glass of raw milk legally in Virginia, even though it’s legal in 22 other states, and no one is getting sick. Our ability to make our own food choices is being infringed upon by people who tell us it’s safer to feed our kids Twinkies and Mountain Dew than raw milk from a neighbor.

BRO: What makes these battles worth it to farm this way?

JS: I want to leave a better world for my children and grandchildren. If things keep going the way they’re going, the only choice my grandchildren will have is Archer Daniels Midland eradiated, amalgamated, red dye 29, fecal junk.

BRO: Has your outlook on farming become more positive with public awareness?

JS: I am positive about what you and I can do as individuals, but I’m not positive about the agenda of the industrial food system to demonize and marginalize the type of food I want to produce. There’s a bill running through Congress right now that would allow the USDA to come onto any farm and determine if it is using scientific practices in the name of food safety. Scientific practices means industrial feed lots. Scientific means eggs come from nine birds cooped in a 19 x 22-inch cage with eight other cages stacked high in a confinement factory house. What I do is considered non-scientific. In the food system, we are at Wounded Knee. The industrial food system is not going to be happy until those of us who adhere to heritage-based principles are exterminated or put onto the reservation.

BRO: So we need a food revolution?

JS: I say we need a Food Emancipation Proclamation that would give us, as eaters,  autonomy over the food that we eat. The only reason the founders of the Constitution didn’t give us that right is because they couldn’t have envisioned the day that selling a quiche to a neighbor would be considered illegal. What good is it to have the freedom to assemble, own firearms, or pray, if we don’t have the freedom to obtain the food that gives us the energy to shoot, pray, and preach?

BRO: Are we shedding the perception that local food is elitist, due to the higher price?

JS: I don’t know if we’ve turned the corner on that yet. People need to know that much of the cost of local artisan food has nothing to do with inefficient delivery or production. It has to do with the onerous government regulations that are non-scalable. A normal business that is our size should be paying $2,000 for worker’s comp, but we have to pay $10,000 because we don’t fit into a specific category. A lot of the problem is strictly regulatory requirements, as opposed to inherent inefficiency of small-scale production.

BRO: How does the work you do relate to your faith?

JS: I believe we don’t own the earth. We’re just pilgrims going through it. I do what I do as a steward of creation. God put us here to nurture his creation, not pillage, rape, and extract everything in the short term. In spiritual terms, I am in the business of trying to build forgiveness into nature. All of our farming techniques nest into the landscape as opposed to dominating the landscape.


Joel Salatin’s website,

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Why Eat Local & Organic

It’s turned into list week, this week. Found this great list about why we should eat local and organic.

Reasons to Support Local Food:

   1. Produce Ripens Longer – Because of the relative ease of bringing produce to market, fruits and vegetables can be allowed to ripen until the last possible minute, giving you extremely juicy and tender fruit and veggies ready to eat.

   2. Produce is Very Fresh and Nutritious – When ripe produce is picked it naturally starts to lose taste and nutritional value. Farmers market produce is usually picked the same day or the day before. The fresher the produce, the tastier and more nutritious it is!

   3. Better for the Environment – Local food travels less distance from farm to mouth, meaning fewer carbon emissions from transportation.

   4. Diversity of Produce Variety and Animal Breed – Farmers markets bring many different varieties of produce and livestock to consumers, many specifically adapted to the local environment. Different varieties bring diverse kinds of tastes, textures, and color to the table.

   5. Appreciate Seasonal Food – Eating seasonally means eating foods when they are tastiest and least expensive. Waiting to eat that first tomato or melon of the summer is one of the most enjoyable parts of the season!

   6. Eat More Safely – Direct contact with farmers means getting to know how your food is grown and where it comes from. Knowing exactly where your spinach comes from means not having to worry about outbreaks of E. coli in California-grown spinach.

   7. Preserve Farmland – The support of small farmers who go to market translates to the preservation of local open spaces like farms and pastures.

   8. Support the Local Economy – Money spent locally generates more income for the local economy. Money spent locally stays local and encourages local economic growth.

   9. Establish Positive Relationships – Interact with neighbors at a farmers market. Listen to good music and make friends. Studies cite good relationships are one of the biggest indicators of happiness. Farmers markets create a meaningful place in which to live and work.

Reasons to Eat Organic Foods:

   1. Nutrition – Studies show that organic produce contains more nutrients than non-organic produce.

   2. Healthy Environment – Organic farming is usually based on sustainable methods of production that support biodiversity within the soil and the farm. Organic production uses less energy than conventional production and does not pollute water and air sources.

   3. Improved Soil and Prevent Erosion – Millions of organisms live in the soil.  Using compost, crop rotation, and other methods, organic farmers prevent erosion and maintain and improve the complexity of soil while growing food. A healthy soil is essential for healthy plants, increasing their resistance to pests and disease and giving high yields. Studies also show that using organic methods increases long-term production as well as show that soil on organic farms absorbs more CO2 than on non-organic farms.

   4. No Pesticides –  Using smart sustainable growing methods, the need for pesticides and herbicides is eliminated. This in turn means no pesticide residue on produce and a healthier biodiverse ecosystem.

   5. No Antibiotics – Animals kept with organic standards have no antibiotics in their meat, eggs, or milk.

   6. Good Livestock Conditions – Organic standards ensure the good treatment of animals. They eat no animal byproducts. Access to fresh air, water, sun, pastures and organic feed enable the healthy growth of livestock. Healthy animals mean safe and excellent quality meat, eggs, milk and cheese.

   7. Clear Costs of Production – Organic food has no hidden costs – organic means no federal subsidies, no environmental damage and cleanup, no hazardous waste disposal, no illnesses from chemicals and pollution, and less medical care due to healthier eating.

   8. No GMOs – Organic certifiers prohibit genetically modified organisms, which have not been extensively researched in respect to possible effects on human health. GMOs may also endanger a diverse seed supply, local farming, and biodiversity.

Reposted from the original site,

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10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs

These are the reasons so many of us are worried about GMO’s. This is a good list to pass along to everyone you know. It’s time to put an end to GMO’s!

Environmental Threat

GMOs are, hands down, the greatest environmental threat to our planet. GM crops cross-contaminate. This is also one of the big reasons that gmos are such an environmental threat. They can invade and mutate regular crops, which will be a world-wide disaster. We would lose our seed independence and seed purity. All our soy, canola, sugar beet and cotton crops would be transformed into sterile GMO crops.

No Testing

GMOs have never been test and studies done show that they’re not safe for people, animals, or the environment. Because they have not been tested, all GM food should be taken off the market until proven safe.

No Labeling

Consumer polls show that 80-95% of Americans want GE foods to be labeled — mainly so that we can avoid buying them! Nearly two-thirds of the products on our supermarket shelves contain genetically engineered ingredients, and there’s no labeling.

Health Risks

Scientists warn that GM food may set off allergies, increase cancer risks, produce antibiotic-resistant pathogens, damage our food quality and produce dangerous toxins in our environment. GMO fed animals had higher death rates and organ damage in scientific studies.

GMOs will increase the risk of antiobiotic -resistant strains of bacteria

Due to the use of antibiotic resistent genes in GM food, the British Medical Association cited this as one reason why they called for a global moratorium or ban on GM foods, warning that the allergenic potential of GMOs is uncertain, unpredictable and untestable.

Threat to Organic Farming

GM crops cross-polinate: Canadian organic farmers can no longer grow canola and soybean crops organically. The seed stocks of those two crops are now totally contaminated by GMOs, which cross-pollinate into other market garden crops form the brassica family.

Threat to Small Farms

GM sees are made to be non-renewable. The seeds can’t be saved and planted the next year as darns have done for  millenium. For farmers and consumers this means higher costs, which is putting many farmers into debt and driving them to go out of business and even commit suicide. 1500 Indian farmers committed mass suicide recently after being tricked into switching to planting GM seeds. GM crops also fail to deliver promised benefits including increased yields. In reality, the yields of the GMO crops have decreaded and farmers are using three to five times more chemicals because of the GM superweeds that have developed.

GM Fed Animals have Higher Death Rates

In the FlavrSavr tomato study, a note in the appendix indicated that 7 of 40 rats died within two weeks and were replaced. In another study, chickens fed the herbicide tolerant “Liberty Link” corn died at twice the rate of those fed natural corn. But in these two industry-funded studies, the deaths were dismissed without adequate explanation or follow-ups. GMO’s are being fed to our commercial livestock.

Global Monopoly

GM crops and seeds are owned by one multi-national corporation: Monsanto (Agent Orange, RoundUp, Aspartame, Posilac). They are buin up seed companies, seed cleaners and suing farmers when their product drifts onto farmland. We have anti-trust (monopoly) laws in the U.S.;  it’s time our government put them into use.

Threat to our Fertility

A long-term feeding study commissioned by the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety, confirms genetically modified (GM) corn seriously affects reproductive health in mice. Non-GMO advocates, who have warned about this infertility link along with other health risks, now seek an immediate ban of all GM foods and GM crops to protect the health of humankind and the fertility of woman around the world.

Threat to Our Children’s Health

Children face the greatest risk from the potential dangers of GM foods. Children’s bodies develop at a fast pace and are more likely to be influenced and show the effects of genetically modified (GM) foods. That is why independent scientists used young adolescent rats in their GM feeding studies. The rats showed significent health damage after only 10 days.

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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Review

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the story of author Barbara Kingsolver and her family and their quest to eat locally and in season for one year.

She packed up with her husband and two daughters and moved from Arizona to their farm in VA where they’d been spending their summer for many years. This time they were planning on staying and spending a year eating what they could find locally and grow for themselves.

The book reminded me of how much we take for granted with our mass produced food.  Winter tomatoes are not a local food – and you can tell by the taste!  Having to wait for the fruits and vegetables of summer was both an adventure and a challenge to the author and her family, and it’s one she shares with us.  The book is full of funny and touching stories of their trials along the way.  Daughter Lily’s plans, and how they changed, about going into the egg business, the first tomatoes and cherries of the season, the abundance of tomatoes and what to do with them.

There are also mouthwatering recipes throughout the book, many of which have already been added to my own.  This book is chock full of information about farming, food and cooking too.

I loved this quote, as it really does seem to relate to what’s going on with our own food supply these days, “When centralization collapses on itself, as it inevitably does, back we go to the family farm. The Roman Empire grew fat on the fruits of huge, corporate, slave-driven agriculture operations, tot eh near exclusion of any small farms by the end of the era. But when Rome crashed and burned, its urbanized citizenry scurried out to every nook and cranny of Italy’s mountains and valleys, returning once again to the work of feeding themselves and their families”

I first listened to this on audio-book, read by the authors and I really enjoyed their reading.  As wonderful a writer as Barbara is, she is that great of a reader too. As is her husband Steven and daughter Camille.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a terrific book for anyone interested in real food, cooking, gardening and stories of home. A wonderful book, highly recommended in any format.

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