Archive for January, 2010

Sustainable farming in the news

Some article from the past week. The first one is such a great idea – Mom

Making Family Farms Profitable

In 1959, the U.S. was home to 4.1 million farms. Today, there are just 2.2 million. Some 40% of American farmers are 55 or older, and young people aren’t exactly lining up to replace them. But a new program in North Carolina hopes to make farming a viable career option once again.

Rutherford County, N.C., has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. Yet some 6000 families own between 5 and 20 acres of land, and chefs in nearby Charlotte, N.C., are in need of fresh produce for their restaurants. Timothy Will, a retired telecommunications analyst, helped wire the region for broadband Internet access and set up an online ordering system—Farmers Fresh Market—that lets Charlotte chefs place orders directly with Appalachian farmers. Next, he convinced the locals to grow more exotic items like lacinato kale and purple beans. (“They’d never seen beans like that before,” Will laughs. “Here, beans are green.”) Two years later, Farmers Fresh Market counts 90 local farmers among its members.

In addition to teaching farmers computing skills and converting a vacant plot into a demonstration garden, Will and his colleagues have introduced sustainable agriculture courses for adults and high school students. “It’s kind of a resurrection of our history,” says Lindy Abrams, a 25-year-old who, after losing her job and enrolling in Will’s adult-education class, now grows vegetables and salad greens on land her granddad once farmed. “People are really excited.”

— Jocelyn C. Zuckerman


Why Big Ag Won’t Feed the World

by Josh Viertel

A year ago I sat in a room at the Earth Institute at Columbia surrounded by executives from big food companies. One of them, I believe from Unilever, clicked to a slide that read “The solution to global hunger is to turn malnutrition into a market opportunity.” The audience—global development practitioners and academics and other executives—nodded and dutifully wrote it down in their notebooks; I shuddered. The experience stayed with me and I haven’t gotten over it. Last month, I had a flashback.

On a Tuesday evening I sat in a room on the 44th floor of a building in the financial district of lower Manhattan with representatives from General Mills, Monsanto, Dean Foods, Deutsche Bank, and the Rainforest Alliance. We were there to speak to institutional investors—the hedge fund managers, bankers, and others who invest in big food companies—about sustainability and food. In particular, we were there to talk about how sustainability and hunger issues may give these companies both exposure to risk and access to opportunity.

    At first glance, these answers make both Monsanto and Deutsche Bank look virtuous. But they rest on a false premise.

It was not your average sustainable food panel discussion. Reflecting back on it, three things jump out at me. The first was a false premise that is taken for fact. The false premise:

Both Deutsche Bank and Monsanto made it clear that they are basing their business strategy on answering a simple question: How will we feed the world in 2050, when the population reaches over 9 billion and global warming puts massive strains on our resources? The answer for Deutsche Bank: increase yields by investing in industrial agriculture in the developing world, with an emphasis on technology; put lots of capital into rural land to shift subsistence and local market agricultures to commodity export agriculture. The answer for Monsanto: increase yields by decreasing resource dependence using genetically modified crops.

At first glance, these answers make both Monsanto and Deutsche Bank look virtuous. But they rest on a false premise: “There will be over 9 billion people by 2050. We have less than 7 billion today, and people go hungry. We need to increase food production if we are going to feed them.” Indeed, there will be over 9 billion people by 2050, and indeed, with less than 7 billion today, people still go hungry. But we don’t need to increase crop yields to feed these people. In 2008, globally, we grew enough food to feed over 11 billion people. We grew 4,000 calories per day per person—roughly twice what people need to eat.

Eric Holt Gimenez, of Food First (The Institute for Food and Development Policy) put it eloquently in a conversation earlier last year: “In 2008 more food was grown than ever before in history. In 2008 more people were obese than ever before in history. In 2008 more profit was made by food companies than ever before in history. And in 2008 more people went hungry than ever before in history.”

Hunger is not a global production problem. It is a global justice problem. We need to increase global equity, not global yields. There may be profit to be made in exporting our high-tech, input-reliant, greenhouse-gas-emitting agricultural systems to the developing world. But let us not pretend it will solve global hunger or address climate change. After all, high-tech, input-reliant, commodity agricultural is a major cause of global hunger and climate change.

So what changes are necessary for us to feed the world? In 2005, the World Bank, the FAO and the UNDP brought together 400 leading natural and social scientists, representatives from government (including the U.S.), private sector and non-governmental organizations to ask how we would feed the world in 2050. It’s called the IAASTD report, and it just came out last year.

The scientists concluded that genetically modified crops and chemical agriculture had failed to show much promise in feeding the world. They won’t be a big part of the solution. Instead, tomorrow’s agriculture will need to be much more regionally controlled and locally adapted, and will need a diversity of approaches to meet the challenges of climate change and resource scarcity. The result is a farming system that uses water frugally, sequesters carbon, and doesn’t require external inputs.

A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists called Failure to Yield found that genetically modified crops have not delivered on increased yields. In fact, nearly all of the gains in yields over the last two decades can be attributed to other practices. Vast tracts of rainforest are indeed being cut down to plant commodity crops, particularly soy. This deforestation isn’t happening because the varieties are old, unimproved, and not intensive. These are acres of chemically farmed, genetically modified crops.

The IAASTD concluded that if we want to feed the world, we need regional ownership and control, locally adapted varieties and practices, and farmers to grow for subsistence and local markets—and we don’t need export commodities.

“So,” I said to the institutional investors, “I’ve got good news, and I’ve got bad news.” The good news is that feeding the world in 2050 is completely possible; these solutions are within reach. The bad news is that there isn’t a ton of money to be made by a small number of companies in doing it. You can make money investing in technology and putting great gobs of capital into rural land that currently doesn’t have it, but you will likely be exacerbating climate change and global hunger, not fixing it.”

This, of course, gets to the heart of what it means to help.

When I was a little boy, my dad was building a tool shed in our back yard. It looked like fun, and I had always wanted to use a hammer. I wandered out to help him as he sawed a two-by-four. I picked up a hammer and some nails and started pounding them, without any particular plan, into a piece of wood. My dad looked over at me and said, “Josh. Tell me, what are you doing?” “I’m helping.” I responded, completely sincerely. He gently explained to me that if you want to help, first you have to ask the people you want to help what they need. In this case, he told me, he could really use someone to sit on the sawhorse to hold down the piece of wood he was trying to saw, so it didn’t bounce all over the place. When I protested that that wasn’t nearly as fun as pounding nails, he agreed with me.

“You are welcome to pound nails into that board,” he explained. “Just don’t pretend you are helping me build this shed.” Yes, global hunger is a market opportunity; some corporations will make money treating it as such. But it in so doing they are about as likely to end hunger as seven-year-old me was to build a shed by pounding nails into a piece of plywood.


Save the Planet: Eat More Beef


Grass feeding required Cattle on this Hardwick, Mass., farm grow not

on feedlots but in pastures, where their grazing helps keep carbon

dioxide in the ground

On a farm in coastal Maine, a barn is going up. Right now it’s little

more than a concrete slab and some wooden beams, but when it’s

finished, the barn will provide winter shelter for up to six cows and

a few head of sheep. None of this would be remarkable if it weren’t

for the fact that the people building the barn are two of the most

highly regarded organic-vegetable farmers in the country: Eliot

Coleman wrote the bible of organic farming, The New Organic Grower,

and Barbara Damrosch is the Washington Post’s gardening columnist. At

a time when a growing number of environmental activists are calling

for an end to eating meat, this veggie-centric power couple is

beginning to raise it. “Why?” asks Coleman, tromping through the mud

on his way toward a greenhouse bursting with December turnips.

“Because I care about the fate of the planet.”

Ever since the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization released a 2006

report that attributed 18% of the world’s man-made greenhouse-gas

emissions to livestock – more, the report noted, than what’s produced

by transportation – livestock has taken an increasingly hard rap. At

first, it was just vegetarian groups that used the U.N.’s findings as

evidence for the superiority of an all-plant diet. But since then, a

broader range of environmentalists has taken up the cause. At a

recent European Parliament hearing titled “Global Warming and Food

Policy: Less Meat=Less Heat,” Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, argued that reducing meat

consumption is a “simple, effective and short-term delivery measure

in which everybody could contribute” to emissions reductions.

And of all the animals that humans eat, none are held more

responsible for climate change than the ones that moo. Cows not only

consume more energy-intensive feed than other livestock; they also

produce more methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – than other animals

do. “If your primary concern is to curb emissions, you shouldn’t be

eating beef,” says Nathan Pelletier, an ecological economist at

Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S., noting that cows produce 13 to

30 lb. of carbon dioxide per pound of meat.

So how can Coleman and Damrosch believe that adding livestock to

their farm will help the planet? Cattleman Ridge Shinn has the

answer. On a wintry Saturday at his farm in Hardwick, Mass., he is

out in his pastures encouraging a herd of plump Devon cows to move to

a grassy new paddock. Over the course of a year, his 100 cattle will

rotate across 175 acres four or five times. “Conventional cattle

raising is like mining,” he says. “It’s unsustainable, because you’re

just taking without putting anything back. But when you rotate cattle

on grass, you change the equation. You put back more than you take.”

(See the top 10 scientific discoveries of 2009.)t works like this:

grass is a perennial. Rotate cattle and other ruminants across

pastures full of it, and the animals’ grazing will cut the blades –

which spurs new growth – while their trampling helps work manure and

other decaying organic matter into the soil, turning it into rich

humus. The plant’s roots also help maintain soil health by retaining

water and microbes. And healthy soil keeps carbon dioxide underground

and out of the atmosphere.

Compare that with the estimated 99% of U.S. beef cattle that live out

their last months on feedlots, where they are stuffed with corn and

soybeans. In the past few decades, the growth of these concentrated

animal-feeding operations has resulted in millions of acres of

grassland being abandoned or converted – along with vast swaths of

forest – into profitable cropland for livestock feed. “Much of the

carbon footprint of beef comes from growing grain to feed the

animals, which requires fossil-fuel-based fertilizers, pesticides,

transportation,” says Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s

Dilemma. “Grass-fed beef has a much lighter carbon footprint.”

Indeed, although grass-fed cattle may produce more methane than

conventional ones (high-fiber plants are harder to digest than

cereals, as anyone who has felt the gastric effects of eating

broccoli or cabbage can attest), their net emissions are lower

because they help the soil sequester carbon.

From Vermont, where veal and dairy farmer Abe Collins is developing

software designed to help farmers foster carbon-rich topsoil quickly,

to Denmark, where Thomas Harttung’s Aarstiderne farm grazes 150 head

of cattle, a vanguard of small farmers are trying to get the word out

about how much more eco-friendly they are than factory farming. “If

you suspend a cow in the air with buckets of grain, then it’s a bad

guy,” Harttung explains. “But if you put it where it belongs – on

grass – that cow becomes not just carbon-neutral but

carbon-negative.” Collins goes even further. “With proper management,

pastoralists, ranchers and farmers could achieve a 2% increase in

soil-carbon levels on existing agricultural, grazing and desert lands

over the next two decades,” he estimates. Some researchers

hypothesize that just a 1% increase (over, admittedly, vast acreages)

could be enough to capture the total equivalent of the world’s

greenhouse-gas emissions.

This math works out in part because farmers like Shinn don’t use

fertilizers or pesticides to maintain their pastures and need no

energy to produce what their animals eat other than what they get

free from the sun. Furthermore, pasturing frequently uses land that

would otherwise be unproductive. “I’d like to see someone try to

raise soybeans here,” he says, gesturing toward the rocky, sloping

fields around him.

By many standards, pastured beef is healthier. That’s certainly the

case for the animals involved; grass feeding obviates the antibiotics

that feedlots are forced to administer in order to prevent the

acidosis that occurs when cows are fed grain. But it also appears to

be true for people who eat cows. Compared with conventional beef,

grass-fed is lower in saturated fat and higher in omega-3s, the

heart-healthy fatty acids found in salmon.

But not everyone is sold on its superiority. In addition to citing

grass-fed meat’s higher price tag – Shinn’s ground beef ends up

retailing for about $7 a pound, more than twice the price of

conventional beef – feedlot producers say that only through their

economies of scale can the industry produce enough meat to satisfy

demand, especially for a growing population. These critics note that

because grass is less caloric than grain, it takes two to three years

to get a pastured cow to slaughter weight, whereas a feedlot animal

requires only 14 months. “Not only does it take fewer animals on a

feedlot to produce the same amount of meat,” says Tamara Thies, chief

environmental counsel for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

(which contests the U.N.’s 18% figure), “but because they grow so

quickly, they have less chance to produce greenhouse gases.”

To Allan Savory, the economies-of-scale mentality ignores the role

that grass-fed herbivores can play in fighting climate change. A

former wildlife conservationist in Zimbabwe, Savory once blamed

overgrazing for desertification. “I was prepared to shoot every

bloody rancher in the country,” he recalls. But through rotational

grazing of large herds of ruminants, he found he could reverse land

degradation, turning dead soil into thriving grassland.

Like him, Coleman now scoffs at the environmentalist vogue for

vilifying meat eating. “The idea that giving up meat is the solution

for the world’s ills is ridiculous,” he says at his Maine farm. “A

vegetarian eating tofu made in a factory from soybeans grown in

Brazil is responsible for a lot more CO than I am.” A

lifetime raising vegetables year-round has taught him to value the

elegance of natural systems. Once he and Damrosch have brought in

their livestock, they’ll “be able to use the manure to feed the

plants, and the plant waste to feed the animals,” he says. “And even

though we can’t eat the grass, we’ll be turning it into something we



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Making Great Sauerkraut

By Stanley A. Fishman, Author of Tender Grassfed Meat

Sauerkraut is one of the oldest foods. It was used by the ancient Chinese, the Romans, the steppe nomads, and many others. “Sauerkraut” means sour cabbage. In its purest form, it consists of cabbage and salt that has been lacto-fermented. The fermentation process uses beneficial bacteria to transform the cabbage into a nutritional powerhouse that is an excellent source of Vitamin C, minerals, B vitamins, and many other nutrients. Sauerkraut is loaded with beneficial bacteria. These beneficial bacteria improve digestion, strengthen the immune system, and protect against many diseases. Alternative physicians in Germany use sauerkraut to treat many illnesses.

Making sauerkraut used to literally be a matter of life or death for many people in Europe and Asia. For most of these people, sauerkraut was the only source of vitamin C available during the long cold winters. If people do not get enough vitamin C, they will develop scurvy, a disease that first causes the teeth to fall out and which will eventually kill the victim.

Sauerkraut was traditionally eaten in small quantities, as part of a larger meal. I eat 3 to 4 tablespoons a day, as part of a larger meal. In fact, my body craves some sauerkraut with every meal. Traditional peoples usually had some form of fermented vegetable with every meal.

Traditional sauerkraut is a live food, whose nutritional value is dependent on the beneficial bacteria it should contain. Unfortunately, most of the “sauerkraut” found in the supermarket is a dead food, where the beneficial bacteria have been killed by vinegar and other ingredients. This allows the “sauerkraut” to stay on the shelves indefinitely, but I see little point in eating it. There are some brands of sauerkraut that can be found in the refrigerated section of the supermarket. These brands have some live cultures, which is why they must be refrigerated. You can also order traditionally made sauerkraut over the Internet, and some of it is very good, especially the sauerkraut made by Amish farmers. This sauerkraut tends to be very expensive, both in price and in shipping cost.

What sauerkraut do I recommend? Well, the best sauerkraut I ever had, by far, is the sauerkraut we make ourselves. I found that making sauerkraut is much simpler than I thought. I only know how to make sauerkraut using a Harsch Crock, which is a stoneware container that has been specifically designed for making sauerkraut. The crock is not cheap, but it should last a lifetime if you are careful with it. Harsch Crocks are widely available over the Internet and you can often find a deal.


I recommend the following equipment for making sauerkraut:

•Harsch Crock, 7.5 liters

•Weight stones, (these come with the Harsch Crock)

•Stainless steel tongs

•Stainless steel potato masher

•Large stainless steel bowl

•Cabbage slicer, (you can use a food processor or anything that can shred cabbage)


If your Harsch Crock is a different size than 7.5 liters, adjust the amount the amount of cabbage and salt proportionately.

7 medium organic cabbages, about 12 pounds.

Approximately 5 tablespoons coarse grey French sea salt, (we use Celtic Sea Salt®)

1.Remove the core and outer leaves from the cabbage, and then wash well with filtered water, preferably reverse osmosis. Dry the cabbage. Save a few of the outer leaves.

2.Do the following steps, one cabbage at a time:

a. Shred the cabbage into a large bowl. (We use a cabbage slicer, but I think most food processors could be used for this.)

b.Use tongs to pick up enough cabbage to form a layer in the bottom of the Harsch Crock. (I use three large tongs full, but you might need more, depending on the width of your crock.)

c.Sprinkle between ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt over the layer.

d.Use a potato masher to crush and compress the cabbage layer as much as you reasonably can. This is very important, as it is crucial for the cabbage to release some of its liquid. You usually won’t see much liquid in the first few layers, but don’t worry, the repeated compressing will eventually give you enough liquid.

e.When the layer is well compressed, repeat steps b through d until you have used all of the shredded cabbage in the bowl. When you have used all the shredded cabbage in the bowl, shred the next cabbage, and repeat steps b through d until all the cabbages have been shredded and compressed into the crock.

3.Place a couple of the outer leaves you saved on top of the compressed cabbage. Place the weight stones on the leaves and press down gently but firmly on the stones (we press with the tongs) until they are covered with liquid. Put the cover on the crock. Move the crock to a convenient place in your kitchen (not next to the oven or stove), where it can rest for three days. Fill the gutter at the top of the crock with filtered water (preferably reverse osmosis).

4.Let the crock rest in the kitchen for three days. Check each day to make sure the gutter is fairly full of water. Do not open the crock, not even once.

5.After three days, remove some of the water from the gutter, so the crock can be carried without spilling. Move the crock to a cool place. We use our garage, but a basement or root cellar would be even better. Fill the gutter with filtered water. Let the crock rest for 21 days. Do not open the crock before then, not even once. Check each day to make sure the water gutter is full. How much water you will need is totally unpredictable. Don’t panic if the water gutter is empty, just fill with filtered water. We never check more than once a day and every batch has been great.

6.After 21 days, the sauerkraut should be ready. Use tongs and a ladle to put the sauerkraut and its juice into Mason jars. It will keep in the refrigerator for many months. Then get started on the next batch.

Now you have my secret recipe for sauerkraut. It gets much easier each time we make it. Making sauerkraut is a job for at least two people, but the rewards are great.

Stanley kindly sent us some of his Sauerkraut last month and it was the best we’ve ever tasted. So good we bought a crock (see a great resource on the links page) and have made our own. We can’t wait until it’s ready! Stanley’s amazing cookbook, Tender Grassfed Meat is available at Amazon, link below.

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Red Lentil Soup

Now that it’s cold and rainy – it’s soup season.  We make a lot of broth, both chicken and beef and it’s nice to use them in other soups too.  This is a great one. It’s my own personal mix of an Indian style and a Lebanese style red lentil soup.

As usual, things always taste better if they’re fresh and organic.


     6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferable organic & homemade

     2 ½ cups organic red lentils

     3 tablespoons organic olive oil

     1 tablespoon minced organic garlic, about 3 cloves

     1 large organic onion, chopped

     1 tablespoon ground cumin

     1 teaspoon turmeric powder

     1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

     1/2 teaspoon celtic or sea salt, or to taste

     1 or 2 bunches organic spinach, washed and dried

     2 medium young organic potatoes, white or red, cubed

     1/2 cup chopped cilantro

     1 lemon cut into 6-8 wedges


Sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil, over medium heat, until softened, about 3-5 minutes.

Add lentils, broth & spices.  Bring to a boil and then turn the heat to medium low and simmer for 45 minutes.  If the soup is too thick you can add 1 – 2 cups of water.

Add potatoes and simmer for another 30 minutes or so until the lentils and potatoes are getting tender. Add spinach and let simmer another 10-15 minutes. 

Just before serving add chopped cilantro and a wedge of lemon. People can add a squeeze to their bowl, as desired. You can also add a spoonful of plain yogurt on top, just before serving.  Makes 6-8 servings.

Serve with homemade naan or any type of artesian, whole grain bread.

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GMOs in the News

Non-GMO label getting a local push by Lundberg Family Farms


Posted Jan. 11th

RICHVALE — Lundberg Family Farms is among the leaders in a trend to label foods as non-GMO.

GMO stands for genetically modified organisms, which are created through transferring genes from one organism to another.

Most Americans consume genetically modified foods every day. The majority of soy, cotton, corn and canola grown in the United States contains genetically modified crops, most of which have been altered to resist pests and weeds.

Other genetically modified foods may contain higher nutrients, are more tolerant to adverse growing conditions or produce higher yields.

Previously there has been no organized system in the United States for people to know whether the foods they buy contain GMOs.

Over the past two years, Lundberg Family Farms, which produces organic rice products, and others in the organic industry have created a new labeling system and verification process to label foods as “non-GMO.”

The group is a nonprofit organization called the Non-GMO project.

Grant Lundberg, chief executive officer of his family’s business in Richvale, said Lundberg Family Farms has long been opposed to genetically modified foods, created through biotechnology.

Some genetically modified crops, such as corn and soybeans, spread pollen easily and can cross-pollinate with other crops, Lundberg explained.

“There is the potential to lose a lot of genetic history because when a product is released, it is very hard to keep it contained,” Lundberg said.

Some food consumers have also had difficulty if they want to buy foods that do not contain genetic modifications.

About two years ago, the company that specializes in organic rice products joined other natural food companies to develop a nonprofit group to label non-GMO products, “to give the consumers an informed choice about what they are eating,” Lundberg said.

The program has set up a “supply chain from seed breeders all the way through to retailers and consumers,” he continued.

The program includes a third-party verification process, followed by inclusion of the non-GMO label.

“We know our customers have those concerns,” Lundberg said. “The person who goes into the natural food store has certain expectations of their food. Our hope for the project is that we’re creating a standard.”

Other companies that helped fund the labeling project include Whole Foods Market, Eden Organic, Nature’s Path and United Natural Foods.

Lundberg said many foreign countries, including Japan, Australia and the European Union, require labeling if products contain genetically modified foods, which creates a trade barrier for some U.S. products.

“The general U.S. ag policy has been pro-GMO,” Lundberg said.

Currently, 50 brands in the United States and Canada have signed up for the new non-GMO project, he said, accounting for about 3,000 products.

Part of the labeling criteria includes a protocol to trace, test and segregate foods used, said Megan Westgate, executive director for the Non-GMO Project, based in Southern California.

The standard chosen by the group is 0.9 percent or less GMOs in foods — the same standards used in the European Union, Westgate explained.

The goal of the program is to make testing very efficient, so companies that do not use genetically modified foods don’t end up spending a lot of money on testing.

For example, Westgate said, 91 percent of soy grown in the United States is genetically modified. If a company uses soy oil, testing each truckload could cost up to $16,000 a year.

But if the soy oil is tested further up the supply chain, the cost for testing is greatly reduced, she said.

“We’re creating a structure in making non-GMO an affordable and practical thing.

“The most efficient place to test is when a crop is processed,” Westgate said.

In the next couple of months, companies will be using up the remainder of their packaging material and rolling out with the redesigned containers that include the non-GMO seal.

She said the hope is that people will see the labels and become more informed about GMOs.


Supermarket News Forecasts Non-GMO uprising

By Jeffrey Smith

Author and founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology

Posted: January 8, 2010 05:26 PM

For a couple of years, the Institute for Responsible Technology has predicted that the US would soon experience a tipping point of consumer rejection against genetically modified foods; a change we’re all helping to bring about. Now a December article in Supermarket News supports both our prediction and the role the Institute is playing.

“The coming year promises to bring about a greater, more pervasive awarenes” of the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food supply, wrote Group Editor Robert Vosburgh, in a trade publication that conventional food executives and retailers use as a primary source of news and trends in the industry. Vosburgh describes how previous food “culprits” like fat and carbs “can even define the decade in which they were topical,” and suggests that GMOs may finally burst through into the public awareness and join their ranks.

Vosburgh credits two recent launches with “the potential to spark a new round of concern among shoppers who are today much more attuned to the ways their food is produced.” One is our Institute’s new non-GMO website, which, he says, “provides consumers with a directory of non-GMO brands . . . developed for the 53% of Americans who say they would avoid GMOs if labeled.'”

The other launch is the Non-GMO Project, offering “the country’s first consensus-based guidelines, which include third-party certification and a uniform seal for approved products. . . . The organization also requires documented traceability and segregation to ensure the tested ingredients are what go into the final product.”

He alerts supermarket executives that, “the growth of the organic (which bans GMO ingredients), local and green product categories reflects a generation of consumers who could be less tolerant of genetic modification.”

Please allow me to sit back with an I-told-you-so grin of satisfaction. Two years ago, I wrote a newsletter article describing three components that would move the market on GMOs:

1. The Non-GMO Project’s new “widely accepted definition for non-GMO” would spark a GMO cleanout, starting with the brands in the natural food industry.

    Our Institute endorses the Non-GMO Project and encourages food companies to enroll their products with this excellent nonprofit organization. Their official seal was introduced in October 2009 and has quickly become the national standard for meaningful non-GMO claims.

2. “Providing clear Non-GMO product choices” with our Non-GMO Shopping Guide would make it easier for consumers to select “non-GMO products by brand and category.”

    The same Guide is available as a website, a spread in magazines, a pocket guide, a two-sided download, and coming soon, a mobile phone application.

3. “Educating Health-Conscious Shoppers” about the health effects of GMOs is the key means by which GMOs will become a marketing liability—the next culprit.

From, and read the rest here:

Will Organic farmers embrace GM crops to help feed the world?

Posted on: January 14, 2010 12:19 PM, by Pamela Ronald

In an interview with The Times, Gordon Conway, Professor of International Development at Imperial College London and a former government adviser said that the ban on organic farmers using GM crops was based on an excessively rigid rejection of synthetic approaches to farming and a misconception that natural ways were safer and more environment- friendly than man-made ones.

I completely agree with Gordon Conway that it makes sense for farmers to use the most powerful tools available to make their production more sustainable. Still, I think it unlikely in the short term that organic farmers will embrace the concept.

It is not that feeding the world, health of the consumers or care of the land are unimportant issues, it is just that the organic “brand” is now making a lot of money for all in the industry (Farmers, food processors, large corporate retailers such as Whole Foods, etc) and so there is zero incentive to change certification rules.


If you go to the link above, there are some great comments and I’m sure we could all add some more!  – Mom

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Food Fight Documentary Review

Food Fight is a great new documentary that we watched over the holidays.  It’s a bit different than some of the other documentaries that we’ve reviewed in that it shows the history of food production in our country and gives detailed answers about what is wrong with our food supply and how we can fix it.

There are a number of wonderful interviews with Alice Waters, Michael Pollan & Marion Nestle, among others.

One quote from Michael Pollan says, “The industrial food system is not doing what a food system is supposed to do – which is to keep a population healthy. Our food system is making us sick”

The original farm bills were created to help feed the hungry and when women went into the workplace during World War 2, they wanted convenient ways to prepare foods and so the start of processed foods was born.

The goal of farms used to be feeding people with good food at a reasonable price. When Earl Butz became head of the USDA his goal changed to profit and creating cheap food. “Grow as much food as you can”, he said, “We’ll sell it.” Then food production changed to quantity, instead of quality.

Our farmers did not benefit from the subsidies, the buyers do.  The big corporations who buy the corn and soy cheaply and use it to make the processed food that’s destroying people’s health and well-being. Fruits and vegetables –  that we need for good health are considered specialty crops. Those are the farmers we need to subsidize, corn and soy are not what we should be eating and don’t support us being healthy.

During the early 1970’s Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse and through her restaurant she supported a network of local and organic farmers.  She set a whole new food economy into motion, because she found that local and organic food just tasted better.

We have of course since learned that aside from taste it’s better for our health, our farmers health, and the environment as well.  The movie really brings home how the choices we make every day for every meal really make a difference in our food supply.

This is a great movie, interesting and informative too.

Before you prepare your next meal – watch this movie!  

        Sheri – Moms for Safe

You can find out more, or buy the movie here:

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Three Approved GMOs Linked to Organ Damage

Three Approved GMOs Linked to Organ Damage

by Rady Ananda

In what is being described as the first ever and most comprehensive study of the effects of genetically modified foods on mammalian health, researchers have linked organ damage with consumption of Monsanto’s GM maize.

All three varieties of GM corn, Mon 810, Mon 863 and NK 603, were approved for consumption by US, European and several other national food safety authorities. Made public by European authorities in 2005, Monsanto’s confidential raw data of its 2002 feeding trials on rats that these researchers analyzed is the same data, ironically, that was used to approve them in different parts of the world.

The Committee of Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN) and Universities of Caen and Rouen studied Monsanto’s 90-day feeding trials data of insecticide producing Mon 810, Mon 863 and Roundup® herbicide absorbing NK 603 varieties of GM maize.

The data “clearly underlines adverse impacts on kidneys and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, as well as different levels of damages to heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system,” reported Gilles-Eric Séralini, a molecular biologist at the University of Caen.

Although different levels of adverse impact on vital organs were noticed between the three GMOs, the 2009 research shows specific effects associated with consumption of each GMO, differentiated by sex and dose.

Their December 2009 study appears in the International Journal of Biological Sciences (IJBS). This latest study conforms with a 2007 analysis by CRIIGEN on Mon 863, published in Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, using the same data.

Monsanto rejected the 2007 conclusions, stating: “The analyses conducted by these authors are not consistent with what has been traditionally accepted for use by regulatory toxicologists for analysis of rat toxicology data.”1

In an email to me, Séralini explained that their study goes beyond Monsanto’s analysis by exploring the sex-differentiated health effects on mammals, which Doull, et al. ignored:

“Our study contradicts Monsanto conclusions because Monsanto systematically neglects significant health effects in mammals that are different in males and females eating GMOs, or not proportional to the dose. This is a very serious mistake, dramatic for public health. This is the major conclusion revealed by our work, the only careful reanalysis of Monsanto crude statistical data.”

Other problems with Monsanto’s conclusions

When testing for drug or pesticide safety, the standard protocol is to use three mammalian species. The subject studies only used rats, yet won GMO approval in more than a dozen nations.

Chronic problems are rarely discovered in 90 days; most often such tests run for up to two years. Tests “lasting longer than three months give more chances to reveal metabolic, nervous, immune, hormonal or cancer diseases,” wrote Seralini et al. in their Doull rebuttal.2

Further, Monsanto’s analysis compared unrelated feeding groups, muddying the results. The June 2009 rebuttal explains, “In order to isolate the effect of the GM transformation process from other variables, it is only valid to compare the GMO … with its isogenic non-GM equivalent.”

The researchers conclude that the raw data from all three GMO studies reveal novel pesticide residues will be present in food and feed and may pose grave health risks to those consuming them.

They have called for “an immediate ban on the import and cultivation of these GMOs and strongly recommend additional long-term (up to two years) and multi-generational animal feeding studies on at least three species to provide true scientifically valid data on the acute and chronic toxic effects of GM crops, feed and foods.”

Human health, of course, is of primary import to us, but ecological effects are also in play. Ninety-nine percent of GMO crops either tolerate or produce insecticide. This may be the reason we see bee colony collapse disorder and massive butterfly deaths. If GMOs are wiping out Earth’s pollinators, they are far more disastrous than the threat they pose to humans and other mammals.


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Tapioca Pudding

Tapioca Pudding

As three of our four chickens are now laying eggs, I was looking around for some egg recipes and remembered how much my husband loves tapioca pudding. I had organic pearls in the cupboard so I decided to make pudding.  It’s easy to make pudding from scratch and so good!

Look at the instructions on the package of tapioca that you buy. Some small pearl tapioca requires overnight soaking in water. If your package has that requirement, reduce the milk in the recipe to 2 1/2 cups from 3 cups.


    * 1/2 cup organic small pearl tapioca (Do not use instant tapioca)

    * 3 cups whole real, raw milk

    * 1/4 teaspoon salt

    * 2 eggs, preferably organic and pasture – or backyard – raised

    * 1/2 cup of organic sugar or Rapadura sugar

    * 1/2 teaspoon of organic vanilla

    * 1/2 teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg


1 –  Combine tapioca, milk, and salt in 1 1/2 quart pan on medium high heat. Stir until boiling. Simmer 5 minutes, uncovered at the lowest possible heat, adding sugar gradually.

2 –  Beat eggs in a separate bowl. Mix in some of the hot tapioca very slowly to equalize the temperature of the two mixtures (to avoid curdling).

3 –  Return eggs to pan with tapioca. Slowly bring mixture barely to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and stir several minutes at a low simmer, stirring constantly until you get a nice thick pudding consistency. Cool 15 minutes. Add vanilla and nutmeg. You can spoon the pudding into individual serving bowls or into a covered casserole.  We like to chill it in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving, but you can serve it either warm or chilled.

Serves 4-6.

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