Archive for the ‘Food Policy’ Category

Avoiding GMOs

Avoiding GMOs—It’s Harder than You Think

By Stanley A. Fishman, Author of Tender Grassfed Meat

Want to avoid GMOs? You’re not alone. Polls consistently show that 90 percent of the people polled would not buy a product if they knew it contained GMOs.

Perhaps that is the reason that the United States government has made it illegal for manufacturers and sellers to label a product as containing GMOs.

While 90 percent of the people would not knowingly eat GMOs, it is likely that over 90 percent of the American food supply contains GMOs.

Even Organic Food May Be Contaminated with GMOs

I used to think that I could avoid GMOs by buying organic. Sadly, that is no longer true. Seeds from GMO crops are blown by the wind, or transferred by insects, and can contaminate non-GMO crops, even organic crops.

I learned this the hard way. We buy all of our milk and cream from an excellent local dairy. I was recently shocked to learn that the owner of the dairy had tested the organic grains he bought for his herd, and found that one-third of the grain was contaminated by GMOs. He now tests every lot of grain he gets before feeding it to his cattle. I had thoroughly investigated the dairy, researched their methods, philosophy, and feed. I was convinced that their products were free of GMOs. I was wrong.

The contamination of the Canadian flax crop by GMO flax was described on this website on November 9, 2009.

The situation has been made worse by the weakening of the organic standards. It used to be that the word “organic” meant that everything in the product had to be 100 percent organic and that no GMOs were allowed.

The new organic standards, adopted during the Bush Administration, created three different definitions of organic:

1)“100 percent organic” means that all ingredients in the product must be organic.

2)“Organic” means that no less than 95 percent of all ingredients in the product are organic. The remaining 5 percent do not have to be organic.

3)“Made with organic ingredients” means that at least 70 percent of the ingredients in the product are organic. The remaining 30 percent do not have to be organic.

I’ve seen conflicting information on whether the non-organic ingredients contained in organic products must be free of GMOs.

The contamination of organic crops by GMOs has become such a huge problem that a major effort is under way to test organic products for GMO contamination and to create a non-GMO label.

GMOs Are Everywhere

It is estimated that over 91 percent of the soybeans, over 75 percent of the corn, over 70 percent of the canola, and over 80 percent of the cotton grown in the United States is GMO. Oils made from soy, corn, canola, and cotton are commonly added to processed foods. These oils constitute the vast majority of “vegetable oil” used in the United States. Many other substances made from GMO soy and GMO corn are added to processed foods. Conventional vegetables are often coated with a wax that contains oils made from GMO soy and/or GMO corn.

GMO bacteria and other GMO substances are used in the manufacture of many medications. GMO soy products are often added to supplements. Pesticides containing GMOs are often sprayed on crops. Several artificial sweeteners contain GMOs.

How to Avoid GMOs

Since GMOs are so pervasive, it is hard to avoid them. But it is not impossible. Here are some tips that I use to avoid GMOs:

Avoid Processed Foods

Almost all conventional processed foods contain GMOs. An exception would be processed foods that state they have no GMOs. Even organic processed foods may contain GMOs, due to the contamination of organic crops by GMOs.

The only processed foods I buy are labeled 100 percent organic and do not contain any of the most common genetically altered crops, such as soy, corn, canola, and cotton. I will not buy something that contains “vegetable oil,” as vegetable oil almost always consists of soy, corn, or canola oil.

Eat Only Organic (Or the Equivalent) Dairy Products

Conventional dairy products almost always come from cattle that have been fed GMO feed, such as soy and corn. Some conventional cows have been injected with genetically modified bovine growth hormone. It is important to research the dairy you use to make sure that it really is organic, or the equivalent.

Eat Only Grassfed and Grass-Finished Beef, Lamb, and Bison

Conventionally raised beef, lamb, and bison are usually fed GMO feed.

Eat Only Organic (Or the Equivalent) Produce

Conventional produce is often sprayed with GMO pesticide, and/or coated with wax containing GMO oils.

Don’t Eat Anything Containing Soy, Corn, Canola, or Cotton

Because so many of these crops are GMO, even the organic versions are often contaminated with GMOs.

Only Eat Seafood that Is Wild Caught

Farmed fish and other farmed seafood are usually fed pellets made from GMO soy.

Do Not Use Artificial Sweeteners

Some artificial sweeteners are made with GMOs. If you must use a sweetener, stevia is a natural non-GMO substance.

Only Use Organic Sugar Made from Sugar Cane

At least half of the sugar in the United States is made from sugar beets. As of 2008, most of the sugar beets used for making sugar are GMO. While a Federal judge has recently ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture violated the law by approving the use of genetically modified sugar beets without first having a comprehensive report done on its environmental impact, the Court has not yet, to my knowledge, prohibited the actual sale and growing of these GMOs. Sugar made from sugar cane, is not GMO.

Know Your Source, Buy Local

One of the best ways to avoid GMOs is to buy as much of your food as possible from local farmers and ranchers who do not use GMOs. You can actually ask them how they raise their crops and animals, and find out exactly what you’re getting.

Be Informed and Be Vigilant

Knowledge is power. The biotech industry is constantly trying to introduce new GMO crops and the only way you will know about it is by checking the news on a regular basis. The conventional media is not interested in exposing the existence of new GMOs, and your best source is the Internet. There is no better place to start than this website.

Read more, great Fight Back Friday posts here:

I highly recommend Stanley’s cookbook, we use it all the time. – Mom

Bill Gates reveals support for GMO ag

Found this article this week, and had seen this is the news. I find it so sad that this foundation is using their money to support big ag and not on the way to reliably and sustainably feed the worlds hungry. – Mom

As it has come to dominate the agenda for reshaping African agriculture over the years, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been very careful not to associate itself too closely with patent-protected biotechnology as a panacea for African farmers.

True, the foundation named 25-year Monsanto veteran Rob Horsch to the position of “senior program officer, focusing on improving crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Yet its flagship program for African ag, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), explicitly distances itself from GMOs. “AGRA does not fund the development of GMOs,” the organization’s Web site states.

But AGRA—co-funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, proud sponsor of the original Green Revolution—is just part of what Gates does around African ag. What precisely is the foundation getting up to over there? Is it pushing GMOs on African smallholder farms?

[I have a call into the foundation to ask directly about the role GMOs play in its efforts. I’ll report on the response.]

It has been surprisingly hard to say. Until now.

In a speech at the World Food Prize gathering last week, Bill Gates himself chided the critics of GMOs—and shed some sunshine on the foundation leadership’s philosophy on ag development. At one point, he declared, “some of our grants [in Africa] do include transgenic approaches, because we believe they have the potential to address farmers’ challenges more efficiently than conventional techniques.”

Gates’ speech seems like a significant event to me—the World Food Prize website describes it as his “first major address on agriculture.” One of the major knocks on the foundation’s Africa efforts is the lack of democratic accountability and transparency. Since the foundation’s careful message management makes it hard to figure out precisely what it’s getting up to, I’m glad to see its leading light airing his views freely.

Gates opened with a standard-issue awestruck paean to Norman Borluag, recently deceased architect of the original Green Revolution. Gates delivered a rather unnuanced assessment of Borlaug’s legacy. Gates declared: “He [Borlaug] proved that farming has the power to lift up the lives of the poor.”

Really? To be sure, Borlaug’s “dwarf” hybrid seed varieties, when coupled with the heavy fertilizer and pesticide doses they need to thrive, dramatically increased yields in the places where the Green Revolution took root—the main success story being India.

But higher yields drive down crop prices—and increased use of imported inputs requires the taking on of debt. Rather than boosting the fortunes of most farmers in its purview, the Green Revolution drove hundreds of thousands into ruin. The survivors consolidated land holdings. The big got bigger and the poor tended to leave the land—too many of them ending up as excess labor in urban slum zones.

Maybe Gates didn’t mean that Borlaug’s efforts improved the lives of farmers, but rather the lives of non-farming urban dwellers. As he later says in the speech, also in the context of Borluag’s legacy, “better farming can end hunger and poverty and lift whole countries out of poverty.”

To be sure, many people were predicting famine for India in the 1960s, and the availability of cheap grain engendered by the Green Revolution no doubt forestalled widespread starvation. But it’s demonstrably wrong to claim that the Green Revolution ended hunger and poverty in India.

Indeed, hunger rates remain appalling in India—site of the Green Revolution’s greatest putative success. From a 2008 report by the International Food Policy Research Institute:

    According to the 2008 Global Hunger Index, India ranks 66 out of 88 nations (developing countries and countries in transition). Despite years of robust economic growth, India scored worse than nearly 25 Sub-Saharan African countries and all of South Asia, except Bangladesh.[Emphasis added.]

The bit about India faring worse than “nearly 25 Sub-Saharan African countries” is particularly noteworthy, given that the Gates Foundation is explicitly spearheading a “new Green Revolution for Africa.” Of course, the original Green Revolution in India lies in shambles —the water table has been tapped near dry by massive irrigation projects in the zones where the Borlaug program took hold, and the remaining farmers there are struggling mightily with crushing debt loads and heightened pesticide-related cancer rates.

To be fair, Gates did point to “excesses” of the first Green Revolution, naming “too much irrigation and fertilizer” as examples. He vowed to avoid those mistakes in Africa. He insisted, more than once, that ecological sustainability was critical to the foundation’s project. Yet he repeatedly emphasized that increasing gross production—the Borlaug project of squeezing as much yield out of a piece of land as possible—was the key.

And that led him to the most fiery moment of his speech (if this dour man’s demeanor can ever be described as “fiery”): the part where he denounced unnamed “environmentalists” who are somehow blocking GMO seeds from entering Africa.

“This global effort to help small farmers is endangered by an ideological wedge that threatens to split the movement in two,” Gates declared. He decried what he called a “false choice” between a “technological” approach geared to boosting productivity and an “environmental” one geared to sustainability. “We can have both,” he said.

He went on: “Some people insist on an ideal vision of the environment which is divorced from people and their circumstances. They have tried to restrict the spread of biotechnology into sub-Saharan Africa without regard to how much hunger and poverty might be reduced by it, or what the farmers themselves might want.”

The Gates Foundation, by contrast, isn’t so demure. In an apparent reference to this project with GMO seed giant Monsanto, Gates allowed that “one of our [unnamed] private-sector partners” is working on a genetically modified drought-tolerant corn variety for African farmers. The seeds will be available to farmers royalty-free—meaning that farmers will pay market price for the seeds themselves, but not pay the hefty biotech premium Monsanto normally slaps on top. It’s unclear whether seed-saving will be allowed under the arrangement.

According to the above-linked press release, the magic seeds are expected to come online in 2018. Gates emphasized repeatedly that as climate change proceeds apace, greater and greater swaths of Africa will face persistent drought conditions. In pushing for drought-tolerant seeds, Gates is swinging for the fences—looking for a single big solution to feed Africa’s drought-stricken areas.

For me, this deal raises questions that cut to the heart of the Bill Gates approach to African ag.

First of all, it can’t be noted often enough that a) GM agriculture’s much-hyped ability to boost yields, taken as a given by Gates, has thus far proven purely spectral; b) there’s serious evidence, despite a paucity of cash for critical research and heavy-handed control of research by seed companies,  that GMOs cause health problems; and c) GMOs have so far proven quite proficient at generating unintended ecological consequences, such as the rise of “superweeds.”

There’s no room for any of that in Gates’ discourse.

Further, I absolutely agree with Bill Gates that there’s no zero-sum tradeoff between productivity and sustainability. But I urge him to tear his gaze away from the biotech lab and train it toward the field, where the best research on organic ag is being done. Indeed, one of the great benefits of organic farming is its long-term focus on soil health—and healthy soils can increase productivity over time without massive ecological externalities.

Here’s a summary of a 2005 paper published in Bioscience comparing yields of organic and conventional corn. The 22-year study compared yields of corn and soy for the following systems: 1) conventional chemical-based agriculture; 2) organic ag using manure for soil fertility; and 3) organic ag using “green manure” (nitrogen-fixing cover crops) for fertility. From the summary, here’s the key nugget of the study:

    “First and foremost, we found that corn and soybean yields were the same across the three systems,” said [researcher David] Pimentel, who noted that although organic corn yields were about one-third lower during the first four years of the study, over time the organic systems produced higher yields, especially under drought conditions. The reason was that wind and water erosion degraded the soil on the conventional farm while the soil on the organic farms steadily improved in organic matter, moisture, microbial activity and other soil quality indicators. [Emphasis added.]

Note well the “especially under drought conditions” bit. Here is a technology for “drought-tolerant” corn that’s ready right now—no need to wait until 2018. It doesn’t rely on the benevolence of Monsanto to waive a technology fee; and there are no questions about seed-saving. It asks no one to accept a drop in long-term productivity as the price paid for sustainability. And not only does it help farmers adapt to climate change with its drought-tolerant qualities, but it helps mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon. From the summary:

    The fact that organic agriculture systems also absorb and retain significant amounts of carbon in the soil has implications for global warming, Pimentel said, pointing out that soil carbon in the organic systems increased by 15 to 28 percent, the equivalent of taking about 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per hectare out of the air.

Moreover, in a 2008 paper (PDF), the U.N.‘s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) endorsed organic ag as a way to boost food security and improve farmer livelihoods in Africa. Concluded the FAO:

    Organic agriculture can increase agricultural productivity and can raise incomes with low-cost, locally available and appropriate technologies, without causing environmental damage. Furthermore, evidence shows that organic agriculture can build up natural resources, strengthen communities and improve human capacity, thus improving food security by addressing many different causal factors simultaneously … Organic and near-organic agricultural methods and technologies are ideally suited for many poor, marginalized smallholder farmers in Africa, as they require minimal or no external inputs, use locally and naturally available materials to produce high-quality products, and encourage a whole systemic approach to farming that is more diverse and resistant to stress. [Emphasis added.]

Gates cash could go a long way in dispersing the skills and (relatively low-cost) equipment needed for effective organic farming in Africa. Why not, for example, fund a dramatic expansion of the Soil, Food, and Healthy Communities project that’s proving so successful in Malawi?

So where’s the Gates cash, and the fiery speech from the foundation’s leader defending organic ag from its critics? Now, it’s true that the Gates Foundation does fund research into alternative, low-input agriculture. Just this past spring, the foundation awarded $1.3 million to World Watch to study such techniques for improving ag productivity in Africa.

But let’s look at funding levels. The above-mentioned Monsanto GMO corn project got $42 million from Gates—and an additional $5 million from the Howard Buffet Foundation, run by the son of investor/insurance magnate Warren Buffet. The Worldwatch grant is loose change in comparison. (When I get a Gates official on the phone, i’ll ask about other organic-style programs they’re funding.)

Given the pro-high-technology thrust of Gates’ speech, this imbalance is hardly surprising. As I took in the video of Gates’ speech and heard him go on about the “needs of small farmers” and the critical role of biotech in serving those needs, I couldn’t help but think of him as a kind of unelected agriculture commissioner for the African continent. And I wondered how many African farms will survive the embrace of the great software magnate.


Read more great, Fight Back Friday posts here:

Joel Salatin Farming Heavyweight

Joel Salatin, America’s farming heavyweight

Joel Salatin.

by Staff Writers

Swoope, Virginia (AFP) Oct 16, 2009

A diehard activist for some, a pioneer for others, Joel Salatin is fighting against America’s genetically-modified foods and for local subsistence farming.

Leading his crusade from the heart of the Shenandoah Valley in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, this anti-globalization messenger who dubs himself a “Christian Libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer” has become the face of healthy eating and agriculture.

“The desire from consumers to eat this kind of food is exploding,” Salatin said at his 500-acre (200-hectare) farm in Swoope, Virginia.

Small farmers’ markets — still scarce just a few years ago — are now in full swing in the United States.

The online Farmers’ Market Directory lists 5,274 markets across the country, a 13 percent rise from 4,685 a year ago. The number has grown by nearly 4,000 nationwide since 1994.

“Nobody trusts the industrial food system to give them good food,” said Salatin, surrounded by the many cows, pigs, turkeys, rabbits and chickens he raises in methods that remain unconventional in the highly-industrialized US agricultural sector.

“The distrust is very real.”

An iconoclast who has authored several books with titles like “Everything I Want to Do is Illegal,” Salatin makes regular media appearances and now spends a third of his time at conferences.

But farming is still a family affair built over three generations on the rocky terrain of his “Polyface Farm”.


and turkeys run free here, transported in a chicken coop built on wheels to a different pasture every three days.

The 1,000 cows and 700 pigs raised for meat each year change pastures every week.

Salatin, 53, hails his “healing farming” method, where each animal plays an environmental role.

“The cows shorten the grass and the chicken eat the fly larvae and sanitize the pastures. This is a symbiotic relation,” he explained.

This natural approach to farming is just as profitable as industrial farming, Salatin insists, because he saves where big chicken and beef producers are forced to invest in structures, drugs and labor.

His customers are 400 families, about 50 restaurants and a dozen shops in the area. He also charges 800 dollars for a two-hour tour of his farm.

“Yes, the prices are higher, but it’s because all of the costs are in the price of this chicken and you are paying it here at the cash register, not paying it in sickness and disease and pollution and stink,” he explained.

But his unorthodox methods leave some thinking Salatin is a “terrorist”, he claimed, “because the new word is science-based agriculture and this is not science-based.”

Salatin’s products are not certified as organic — a booming food sector in the United States, now accounting for 3.5 percent of all food sales — because he refuses to do the necessary inspections and paperwork.

“We are beyond organic,” exclaimed Salatin, observing that government-certified organic meat products do not necessarily come from chicken and cows on pasture.

“Organic doesn’t mean what people think it means.”


Read more, great Fight Back Friday posts here:

Here’s a link to one of Joel Salatin’s great book,

We Can Feed The World

I was so happy to stumble across this article a few days ago. I make home made kefir and the wonderful grains I use, I got from Edwin. I didn’t know the history of his farm. What a great inspiration! –   Mom

“We Can Feed the World,” Says Ed Shank, As He Transitions from Feedlot to Organic Raw Dairy Operation

The empty confinement area at The Family Cow farm. It’s almost eerily quiet in the huge holding area that was once the center of Edwin Shank’s confinement dairy in central Pennsylvania. In the adjoining photo, you can see the empty structure, where hundreds of cows were once kept 24/7.

The action is now several hundred yards away, out in the pasture, where 275 cows grazed on Saturday afternoon, and the main sound was that of orchard grass, blue grass, rye grass, and clover being ripped and chomped by the hungry animals. The other sound was the uneven melody of about 1,000 broiler chickens and laying hens grazing in an adjoining pasture.

It’s been nearly four years since Ed Shank made the decision to end years of running a confinement operation as the fourth generation owner of The Family Cow farm, and transitioned to an organic system, modeled heavily on Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm, and Mark McAfee’s Organic Pastures Dairy Co. Since it takes three years to transition from a conventional to an organic system in any event, it’s only been in the last year that The Family Cow farm has been able to sell its raw milk, eggs, beef, and chicken as organic products.

In the process of making the transition, Edwin Shank is seeking to disprove the arguments of both agriculture experts and some raw milk advocates that conventional dairies shouldn’t even attempt to become sellers of raw milk, not to mention grass-fed beef and pastured chicken. “The dairy inspectors always told us, ‘If you do raw milk, you’ll be okay, but your customers won’t. Of course, that hasn’t happened.”

I’ve long argued that state ag departments, which are supposed to be in the business of promoting agriculture and farm viability, should help dairies out of the downward-spiraling conventional dairy business, and educate farmers who are interested in how to safely make the kind of transition Ed Shank is making, together with his wife, Dawn, and six children.

As he took me on a whirlwind tour of his operation just off I-81, with its 120 acres of pasture, small farm store, and airy home, Ed made the point a few times that he’s a poster boy for the viability of such transitions. As enthusiastic as he is, he cautions that it’s not a simple proposition. “It’s never going to work for the farmer who maintains his old mindset. He has to read. He has to get past the idea that production, production, production is important. He has to change his mentality.” Ed Shank holds a chicken, as cows graze on an adjoining pasture.

Farmers who approach such a transition only from the vantage point of increasing their profits “shouldn’t try to make the change. Raw milk in a confinement setting won’t work.”

But for those farmers willing to change their way of thinking about farming—from one of maximizing productivity to one of creating an ecologically sustainable system—“this is a model that is so repeatable,” says Ed. “We can feed the world.”

Part of his enthusiasm stems from the contrast with his feedlot operation, which involved hauling in feed for the cows, and hauling out their manure. The new sustainable system involves moving the cows from one pasture to another in line with growing grasses. The chickens follow the cows, and spread their manure around, as well as reduce the population of flies and other bugs. “This green grass is a solar panel,” says Ed, looking over his cows. “The cow is the harvester. She is powered by solar energy… The harvesting and hauling of feed is done by the cows and the hauling of manure is done by the cows.”

Another part of his enthusiasm stems from the changed nature of his interaction with customers. “You have these families that are thrilled that we are producing food for them,” he says. “Before, I sold to a dairy co-op. Now I sell to a mom and dad and children coop. Those co-ops say sometimes, ‘We pray for you.’ I don’t think the big co-ops ever prayed for me.” Not only that, “We’re glad the cows have a nicer life.”

The entrance to The Family Cow farm. So far, The Family Cow is selling its products both through its farm store and through groups of consumers placing orders via email. With 275 milking cows, Ed Shank has instantaneously become the largest raw dairy operation in the East.

He is extremely grateful for the outside assistance he’s received. “I can’t say thanks enough to Mark McAfee and Joel Salatin and the Weston A. Price Foundation for their help and for preparing people’s minds where they are ready for this sort of thing. It’s been a liberating experience for us.”


Read more great posts on Real Food Wednesday, here:

Millions Against Monsanto Campaign

Join Organic Consumers Associations campaign to mobilize one million consumers to end Monsanto’s Global Corporate Terrorism.

Below are just a few reasons to join OCA’s campaign:

Multi-Billion $$ Monsanto Sues

More Small Family Farmers

Percy Schmeiser is a farmer from Saskatchewan Canada, whose Canola fields were contaminated with Monsanto’s genetically engineered Round-Up Ready Canola by pollen from a nearby farm. Monsanto says it doesn’t matter how the contamination took place, and is therefore demanding Schmeiser pay their Technology Fee (the fee farmers must pay to grow Monsanto’s genetically engineered products). According to Schmeiser, “I never had anything to do with Monsanto, outside of buying chemicals. I never signed a contract.

canola field and tractorIf I would go to St. Louis (Monsanto Headquarters) and contaminate their plots – destroy what they have worked on for 40 years – I think I would be put in jail and the key thrown away.”

Rodney Nelson’s family farm is being forced into a similar lawsuit by Monsanto.

Support Schmeiser, Nelson and hundreds of other farmers who are being forced to pay Monsanto to have their fields contaminated by genetically modified organisms.

Sign OCA’s “Millions Against Monsanto” petition. These petitions will be physically delivered to Monsanto and related court hearings.

Monsanto Brings Small Family Dairy to Court

Oakhurst Dairy has been owned and operated by the same Maine family since 1921, and Monsanto recently attempted to put them out of business. Oakhurst, like many other dairy producers in the U.S., has been responding to consumer demand to provide milk free of rBGH, a synthetic hormone banned (for health reasons) in every industrialized country other than the U.S. Oakhurst Dairy

Monsanto, the number one producer of the rBGH synthetic steroid, sued Oakhurst, claiming they should not have the right to inform their customers that their dairy products do not contain the Monsanto chemical. Given the intense pressure from the transnational corporation, Oakhurst was forced to settle out of court, leaving many other dairies vulnerable to similar attacks from Monsanto.

Monsanto Hid PCB Pollution for Decades

Anniston, Alabama CitizensANNISTON, Ala. — On the west side of Anniston, the poor side of Anniston, the people grew berries in their gardens, raised hogs in their back yards, caught bass in the murky streams where their children swam and played and were baptized. They didn’t know their dirt and yards and bass and kids — along with the acrid air they breathed — were all contaminated with toxic chemicals. They didn’t know they lived in one of the most polluted patches of America.

Now they know. They also know that for nearly 40 years, while producing the now-banned industrial coolants known as PCBs at a local factory, Monsanto Co. routinely discharged toxic waste into a west Anniston creek and dumped millions of pounds of PCBs into oozing open-pit landfills. And thousands of pages of Monsanto documents — many emblazoned with warnings such as “CONFIDENTIAL: Read and Destroy” — show that for decades, the corporate-giant concealed what it did and what it knew… (Read more…)

Monsanto’s Agent Orange: The Corporation Continues to Refuse Compensation to Veterans and Families for Exposure to the Toxic ChemicalChild at Vietnam War Memorial

The negative health effects, due to exposure to Monsanto’s Agent Orange, have been well documented over the past three decades. The dioxin in Agent Orange has been accepted internationally as one of the most toxic chemicals on the planet, causing everything from severe birth defects, to cancer, to neurological disorders, to death. But Monsanto has successfully blocked any major movement towards compensating veterans and civilians who were exposed to the company’s Agent Orange.

Long before Agent Orange was used as a herbicide in the Vietnam war, Monsanto knew of its negative health impacts on humans. Since then, Monsanto has been unsuccessful at covering its tracks and has even been convicted of fabricating false research documentation that claims Agent Orange has no negative health effects, other than a possible skin rash. Thanks to Monsanto’s influence, the Center for Disease Control also released a report claiming veterans were never exposed to harmful levels of Agent Orange.

Agent Orange VictimAs a note, from 1962 to 1970, the US military sprayed 72 million liters of herbicides, mostly Agent Orange, on over one million Vietnamese civilians and over 100,000 U.S. troops. As a result, within ten years of the close of the war, 9170 veterans had filed claims for disabilities caused by Agent Orange. The VA denied compensation to 7709, saying that a facial rash was the only disease associated with exposure.

In 2002, Vietnam requested assistance in dealing with the tens of thousands of birth defects due to Agent Orange. In order to avoid medical compensation expenses, Monsanto continues to claim this now banned chemical is not toxic. (Read more..)

Taxpayers Forced to Fund Monsanto’s Poisoning of Third World

Monsanto has also been implicated in the indiscriminate sale and use of RoundUp Ultra in the anti-drug fumigation efforts of Plan Colombia. Of the some $1.3 billion of taxpayers’ money earmarked for Plan Colombia, Monsanto has received upwards of $25 million for providing RoundUp Ultra.

Damaged Banana CropsRoundUp Ultra is a highly concentrated version of Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide, with additional surfactants to increases its lethality. Local communities and human rights organizations charge that Ultra is destroying food crops, water sources and protected areas in the Andes, primarily Colombia.

Paradoxically, the use of RoundUp Ultra has actually increased coca cultivation in the Andes. As local farming communities are increasingly impacted by RoundUp Ultra fumigations, many turn to the drug trade as a means of economic survival. Regional NGOs have estimated that almost 200,000 hectares have been fumigated with Ultra under Plan Colombia.

Monsanto’s Roundup Pesticide Killing Wheat

Monsanto also produces the most commonly used broadleaf pesticide in the world, glyphosate–or Roundup. In addition to its inherent toxicity as a chemical pesticide, Roundup has now been found to aid the spread of fusarium head blight in wheat. This disease creates a toxin in the infected wheat, making the crop unsuitable for human or animal consumption. Canada’s wheat industry is currently being ravaged by this disease. At the same time, the widespread use of Roundup has resulted in the formation of “super weeds” — unwanted plants that have developed an immunity to these pesticides. Read study linking Monsanto’s Roundup to Cancer.

Monsanto Takes Ownership of Public Water Resources

Polluted Farm Water

Over the past century, global water supplies have been contaminated with the full gamut of Monsanto’s chemicals, including PCBs, dioxin and glyophosate (Roundup). So now the company, seeing a profitable market niche, is taking control of the public water resources they polluted, filtering it, and selling it back to the people. In short, Monsanto is making a double profit by polluting the world’s scarce freshwater resources, privately taking ownership of that water, filtering it, and selling it back to those who can afford to pay for it.

Monsanto’s GE Seeds are Pushing US Agriculture into Bankruptcy

Genetically engineered crops are causing an economic disaster for farmers in the U.S. So says a new report released by Britain’s Soil Association. The report is a massive compilation of data showing GE crops have cost American taxpayers $12 billion in farm subsidies in the past three years. “Within a few years of the introduction of GM crops, almost the entire $300 million annual US maize exports to the EU had disappeared, and the US share of the soya market had decreased,” the report said. In addition, the study says that GE crops have lead to an increased use of pesticides, while resulting in overall lower crop yields.  Read more here:

Cotton Farmers Going Bankrupt from Monsanto’s GE Cotton

In India the financial figures for the recent cotton growing season have finally been crunched. Indian Cotton FarmersiaAlthough Monsanto convinced many of India’s farmers that buying the more expensive GE cotton seeds would result in higher yields and better cotton, the reverse is actually true. Crop yields for GE cotton were 5 TIMES LESS than traditional Indian cotton and the income from GE cotton was 7 TIMES LESS than conventional cotton, due to Monsanto’s cotton having lower quality short fibers. As a result of the insurmountable deluge of debt accrued from paying more for the GE seeds and having a weak crop, more than 100 Indian farmers committed suicide in the last year. Read more here,

Join Organic Consumers Association, Millions Against Monsanto campaign here,

There are a lot of great action alerts on the page to sign as well.

Jeffrey M. Smith – Everything you have to know about GMO’s

Jeffrey M. Smith, the brilliant author of Seeds of Deception has released a wonderful video, called Everything you HAVE TO KNOW about Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods.

You can watch the video here or at his site,

Everything You HAVE TO KNOW about Dangerous Genetically Modified Foods from Jeffrey Smith on Vimeo.

If you watch it here at Moms for Safe food, I highly recommend that you visit Jeffrey’s site,  as well.

Jeffrey M Smith is an international best selling author and is the leading spokesperson on the health dangers of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). He documents how the world’s most powerful Ag biotech companies bluff and mislead critics, and put the health of society at risk.

He has a wealth of great articles and you can find a wonderful, free, Non-GMO shopping guide that everyone should have a copy of.

Thank you Jeffrey, for all you do!


Read more, great, Real Food Wednesday posts here:

Below’s a link to Jeffrey’s bestselling book, Seeds of Deception.  I highly recommend it too.

Food is Power and the Powerful are Poisoning Us

by Chris Hedges

Our most potent political weapon is food. If we take back our agriculture, if we buy and raise produce locally, we can begin to break the grip of corporations that control a food system as fragile, unsafe and destined for collapse as our financial system. If we continue to allow corporations to determine what we eat, as well as how food is harvested and distributed, then we will become captive to rising prices and shortages and increasingly dependent on cheap, mass-produced food filled with sugar and fat. Food,

along with energy, will be the most pressing issue of our age. And if we do not build alternative food networks soon, the social and political ramifications of shortages and hunger will be devastating.

The effects of climate change, especially with widespread droughts in Australia, Africa, California and the Midwest, coupled with the rising cost of fossil fuels, have already blighted the environments of millions. The poor can often no longer afford a balanced diet. Global food prices increased an average of 43 percent since 2007, according to the International Monetary Fund. These increases have been horrific for the approximately 1 billion people-one-sixth of the world’s population-who subsist on less than $1 per day. And 162 million of these people survive on less than 50 cents per day. The global poor spend as much as 60 percent of their income on food, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute.

There have been food riots in many parts of the world, including Austria, Hungary, Mexico, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Yemen, Mauritania, Senegal and Uzbekistan. Russia and Pakistan have introduced food rationing. Pakistani troops guard imported wheat. India has banned the export of rice, except for

high-end basmati. And the shortages and price increases are being felt in the industrialized world as we continue to shed hundreds of thousands of jobs and food prices climb. There are 33.2 million Americans, or one in nine, who depend on food stamps. And in 20 states as many as one in eight are on the food stamp program, according to the Food Research Center. The average monthly benefit was $113.87 per person, leaving many, even with government assistance, without adequate food. The USDA says 36.2 million Americans, or 11 percent of households, struggle to get enough food, and one-third of them have to sometimes skip or cut back on meals. Congress allocated some $54 billion for food stamps this fiscal year, up from $39 billion last year. In the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, costs will be $60 billion, according to estimates.

Food shortages have been tinder for social upheaval throughout history. But this time around, because we have lost the skills to feed and clothe ourselves, it will be much harder for most of us to become self-sustaining. The large agro-businesses have largely wiped out small farmers. They have poisoned our soil with pesticides and contaminated animals in filthy and overcrowded stockyards with high doses of antibiotics and steroids. They have pumped nutrients and phosphorus into water systems, causing algae bloom and fish die-off in our rivers and streams. Crop yields, under the onslaught of changing weather patterns and chemical pollution, are declining in the Northeast, where a blight has nearly wiped out the tomato crop. The draconian Food Modernization Safety Act, another gift from our governing elite to corporations, means small farms will only continue to dwindle in number. Sites such as La Via Campesina do a good job of tracking these disturbing global trends.

“The entire economy built around food is unsafe and unethical,” activist Henry Harris of the Food Security Roundtable told me. The group builds distribution systems between independent farmers and city residents.

“Food is the greatest place for communities to start taking back power,” he said. “The national food system is collapsing by degrees. More than 50 percent of what we eat comes from the Central Valley of California. What happens when gasoline becomes $5 a gallon or drought sweeps across the cropland? The monolithic system of food production is highly unstable. It has to be replaced very soon with small, diverse sources that provide greater food security.”

Cornell University recently did a study to determine whether New York state could feed itself. The research is described in two articles published in 2006 and 2008 by the journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. If all agricultural land were in use, and food distribution were optimized to

minimize the total distance that food travels, New York state could, the researchers found, have 34 percent of its food needs met from within its boundaries. This is not encouraging news to those who live in New York City. New York once relied on New Jersey, still known as the Garden State, instead of having food shipped from across the country. But New Jersey farms have largely given way to soulless housing developments. Farming communities upstate, their downtowns boarded up and desolate, have been gutted by industrial farming.

The ties most Americans had to rural communities during the Great Depression kept many alive. A barter economy replaced the formal economy. Families could grow food or had relatives to feed them. But in a world where we do not know where our food comes from, or how to produce it, we have become

vulnerable. And many will be forced, as food prices continue to rise, to shift to a diet of cheap, fatty, mass-produced foods, already a staple of the nation’s poor. Junk food, a major factor in obesity, diabetes and heart disease, is often the only food those in the inner city can buy because supermarkets and nutritious food are geographically and financially beyond reach. As the economy continues to deteriorate, the middle class will soon join them.

“It is clear to anyone who looks carefully at any crowd that we are wasting our bodies exactly as we are wasting our land,” Wendell Berry observed in “The Unsettling of America.” “Our bodies are fat, weak, joyless, sickly, ugly, the virtual prey of the manufacturers of medicine and cosmetics. Our bodies have become marginal; they are growing useless like our ‘marginal land’ because we have less and less use for them. After the games and idle flourishes of modern youth, we use them only as shipping cartons to

transport our brains and our few employable muscles back and forth to work.”

Berry, who lives on a farm in Kentucky where his family has farmed for generations, argues that local farming is fundamental to sustaining communities. Industrial farming, he says, has estranged us from the land. It has rendered us powerless to provide for ourselves. It has left us complicit in the corporate destruction of the ecosystem. Its moral cost, Berry argues, has been as devastating as its physical cost.

“The people will eat what the corporations decide for them to eat,” writes Berry. “They will be detached and remote from the sources of their life, joined to them only by corporate tolerance. They will have become consumers purely-consumptive machines-which is to say, the slaves of producers. What… model farms very powerfully suggest, then, is that the concept of total control may be impossible to confine within the boundaries of the specialist enterprise-that it is impossible to mechanize production without mechanizing consumption, impossible to make machines of soil, plants, and animals without making machines also of people.”

The nascent effort by communities to reclaim local food production is the first step toward reclaiming lives severed and fragmented by corporate culture. It is more than a return to local food production. It is a return to community. It brings us back to the values that sustain community. It is a return to the recognition of the fragility, interconnectedness and sacredness of all living systems and our dependence on each other. It turns back to an ethic that can save us.

“[The commercial] revolution … , ” writes Berry, “did not stop with the subjugation of the Indians, but went on to impose substantially the same catastrophe upon the small farms and the farm communities, upon the shops of small local tradesmen of all sorts, upon the workshops of independent craftsmen, and upon the households of citizens. It is a revolution that is still going on. The economy is still substantially that of the fur trade, still based on the same general kinds of commercial items: technology, weapons, ornaments, novelties, and drugs. The one great difference is that by now the revolution has deprived the mass of consumers of any independent access to the staples of life: clothing, shelter, food, even water. Air

remains the only necessity that the average user can still get for himself, and the revolution has imposed a heavy tax on that by way of pollution. Commercial conquest is far more thorough and final than military defeat.

“The inevitable result of such an economy,” Berry adds, “is that no farm or any other usable property can safely be regarded by anyone as a home, no home is ultimately worthy of our loyalty, nothing is ultimately worth doing, and no place or task or person is worth a lifetime’s devotion. ‘Waste,’ in such an economy, must eventually include several categories of humans-the unborn, the old, ‘disinvested’ farmers, the unemployed, the ‘unemployable.’ Indeed, once our homeland, our source, is regarded as a resource, we are all sliding downward toward the ash heap or the dump.”

© 2009

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should

Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.”

Growing Local Farm Movement is Expanding to Meat

It’s great to see articles like this in the mainstream media.  Local, sustainable farmers are the most important people in having a safe and healthy food supply – Mom

By Wes Little

ELBERTON, Georgia  — In a parking lot in suburban Atlanta, customers mill in the summer heat, waiting for freezer bags full of beef, pork, chicken and other meats.

Tim Young raises cattle, pigs, chicken, turkeys and more on his “beyond organic” farm.

The draw that pulled them away from their grocery store and to the tailgate of a packed freezer truck? The meat is from animals raised naturally on a small family farm just two hours away.

“By supporting local farmers, we are essentially voting to support the local economy,” said Anthony Chan, a member of a group that gets its meat monthly from Nature’s Harmony Farm in Elberton, Georgia.

Nature’s Harmony is a member of a growing local-food movement, often referred to as Community-Supported Agriculture. Video Watch video of Nature’s Harmony »

The CSAs, as they’re called, are a model in which consumers pay for their food in advance and receive it directly from the farmer. Working much like a magazine subscription, customers pay for a period of usually at least six months and receive packages either at the farm or at established delivery locations like the one in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

Although thousands of farms have sprung up over the past two decades selling fruits and vegetables using the system, experts say there are probably only a few dozen that, like the Georgia farm, offer meat.

Farmers Tim and Liz Young raise cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys and lambs on their 76-acre farm in northeast Georgia, near the South Carolina state line.

The couple describes their farming technique as “beyond organic,” saying they use no artificial fertilizers, growth hormones or antibiotics and don’t keep their animals penned up.

Life on their property — where cattle and sheep graze in open fields and chickens follow along to clean up after them — looks much like the classic image of a family farm. But the couple say they consider themselves healers to both their customers and, according to their Web site, a food system that “had become a machine with little regard for food safety, food taste and animal welfare.”

“People are becoming very disconnected from the food system,” Liz Young said. “Buying from a local CSA or just shopping at a local farm, you can see where it’s coming from. You can talk to the farmers and figure out how the animals or the produce is raised.”

The couple has 50 subscribers, plus a waiting list, and say 2,000 people receive a newsletter on the farm’s activities.

Members of the nation’s handful of meat CSAs, and the thousands of others, offer a list of reasons.

The food is healthier and tastes better, they say. They like supporting their local economy. Eliminating cross-country delivery is better for the environment, as are the sustainable farming techniques the farmers tend to use.

“Being part of a CSA means that I know the first names of the people who are raising the meat I eat,” said Andrew Johnson of Kansas City, Missouri, a member of the Parker Farms meat CSA in Richmond, Missouri. “Whereas, with the meat I buy from the grocery store, I don’t know where it came from or who raised it.”

Others say they appreciate that animals from the usually small family farms don’t spend their lives in processing plants, conditions that advocates call inhumane.

Because CSA members deal with the farmers directly, they are able to visit the farms and see exactly how their food is produced. The transparency, they say, creates an incentive for farmers to raise their animals as naturally as possible.

“If we have any questions about how it is being grown, we can simply visit the farm ourselves,” said Kristen Johnson, Andrew’s wife.

Robert P. King, a professor of applied economics at the University of Minnesota, said that although community-supported agriculture “provides a good opportunity for farms that want to use sustainable practices to actually do well in the marketplace,” it’s nowhere close to challenging conventional agriculture’s domination of the food market.

King said geographic availability can be limiting to CSAs. Generally, they require a rural area suitable for farming near an urban area that provide enough customers to make it work.

And then, King said, there’s the cost. Operating on a smaller scale and avoiding mega-farm practices designed to cut costs and improve yields almost always mean higher prices.

A six-month Nature’s Harmony membership ranges from $360, or $40 a month, for a poultry-only delivery to $840, or $140 a month, for 20 pounds of a variety of meats.

“Is it as cheap as the lowest-price chicken in the grocery store? Absolutely not,” Tim Young said. “But with our prices and the prices of any sustainable farmer, you’ve got everything baked in: the cost to the environment, the cost to the health care system, the cost of producing that animal [in a humane way].”

Johnson said that any difference in prices at the Missouri farm, which charges a $1,150 annual fee, are worth it.

“I don’t think it is significant, but if it does end up costing a bit more, it is still important to us to make this a priority,” he said. “There are other expenses I am willing to give up rather than give up a safe, trusted food source.”

The Youngs hope more people will get the chance to choose.


“There’s a big, burgeoning demand out there for local meat, for local food, for organic foods and we’d like to see more famers step up to fill that demand,” Tim Young said. “We’re trying to do that but we can never meet the demand that’s out there.

“We’d love to see more farmers try to do what we’re doing.”

Read more great, Fight Back Friday posts here,

Don’t Let Obama Put GMO Boosters in Charge of Food Safety!

* By Alexis Baden-Mayer, Esq.

      Organic Consumers Association

      Straight to the Source

Genetically modified foods are not safe. The only reason they’re in our food supply is because government bureaucrats with ties to industry suppressed or manipulated scientific research and deprived consumers of the information they need to make informed choices about whether or not to eat genetically modified foods.

Now, the Obama Administration is putting two notorious biotech bullies in charge of food safety! Former Monsanto lobbyist Michael Taylor has been appointed as a senior adviser to the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner on food safety. And, rBGH-using dairy farmer and Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff is rumored to be President Obama’s choice for Under-Secretary of Agriculture for Food Safety. Wolfe spearheaded anti-consumer legislation in Pennsylvania that would have taken away the rights of consumers to know whether their milk and dairy products were contaminated with Monsanto’s (now Eli Lilly’s) genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH).

Please click here to send a message to President Obama, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (oversees FDA) demanding Michael Taylor’s resignation, and letting them know that you oppose Dennis Wolff’s appointment.

About Michael Taylor

Michael Taylor is a lawyer who has spent the last few decades moving through the revolving door between the employ of GMO-seed giant Monsanto and the FDA and USDA. Taylor is widely credited with ushering Monsanto’s recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) through the FDA regulatory process and into the milk supply — unlabeled. A Government Accounting Office (GAO) investigated whether Taylor had a conflict of interest and or had engaged in ethical misconduct in the approval of rBGH. The report’s conclusion that there was no wrongdoing conflicted with the 30 pages of evidence that Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) described as proof that “the FDA allowed corporate influence to run rampant in its approval” of the drug.

Taylor is also responsible for the FDA’s decision to treat genetically modified organisms as “substantially equivalent” to natural foods and therefore not require any safety studies. The “substantially equivalent” rule allowed the FDA to ignore evidence that genetically engineered foods, including soy, are in fact very different from natural foods and pose specific health risks.

In November 2008, Tom Philpott reported that Taylor was among President-Elect Obama’s “team members” looking at energy and natural resources agencies, including USDA. In March 2009, President Obama announced the creation of a White House Food Safety Working Group to improve and coordinate the government’s approach to the nationwide food safety crisis. Agri-Pulse reported that Taylor was “the leading candidate to staff the White House [food safety] working group.” While anti-GMO activists, including the Organic Consumers Association, protested — OCA members sent 13,435 letters to USDA Sec. Tom Vilsack, who co-chairs the Food Safety Working Group with HHS Sec. Sebelius — Taylor laid low. He was nowhere to be found at the White House Food Safety Working Group’s May 13th Listening Session. But, the rumor proved true. On July 7, 2009, the FDA announced that Taylor had joined the agency as senior adviser to the commissioner.

As Philpott describes in a July 8th article, Taylor’s food safety agenda is to “shift much more of the burden for funding food-safety operations to the state and local level” and to promote HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) systems where the points in a process that pose the most risk are identified and “fixed” with remedies like ammonia washes and irradiation. Taylor’s approach — putting a few bandaids on an industrialized food system gone wrong — is in direct conflict with organic practices and is likely to unduly burden small producers.

Taylor has long been hostile to real food safety. While working as a lobbyist, Taylor authored more than a dozen articles critical of the Delaney Clause, a 1958 federal law prohibiting the introduction of known carcinogens into processed foods, which had long been opposed by Monsanto and other chemical and pesticide companies. When Taylor rejoined the federal government, he continued advocating that Delaney should be overturned. This was finally done when President Clinton signed the so-called Food Quality Protection Act on the eve of the 1996 elections.

Taylor is featured in the documentary,  The World According to Monsanto, which you can watch on OCA’s Millions Against Monsanto page.

About Dennis Wolff

Dennis Wolff is the Secretary of Agriculture for the State of Pennsylvania. Wolff also is a dairy farmer and owns Pen-Col Farms, a 600-acre dairy cattle operation. Wolff has championed agribusiness interests as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Agriculture, including banning local dairies from marketing their products as free of Monsanto’s rBGH. Wolff is a member of the Agriculture Technical Advisory Committee to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO has been largely credited with forcing so-called “free trade” on farmers and consumers around the globe, undermining national sovereignty and food safety. Finally, Wolff  was a strong proponent of the “ACRE” initiative (Agriculture, Communities and Rural Environment), which gives the Pennsylvania state attorney general’s office the authority to sue municipalities over local farm ordinances deemed to exceed state law, depriving communities the right to ban toxic sewage sludge, factory farms, and GMOs.

Aside from having absolutely no experience in meat inspection, the chief food safety responsibility of the USDA, Dennis Wolff should be rejected for any post within the Obama Administration for the hostile position he has taken, as Pennsylvania’s Agriculture Secretary, against consumers’ right to know what is in our food. According to the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Wolff:

* Tried to ban all labeling of dairy products that didn’t use genetically engineered growth hormone (rBGH or rBST). This was an outright violation of freedom of speech of the dairy processors and the farmers who supplied them.

* Said that consumers were “concerned or confused” about the labeling and said his department received “many calls” about it. Yet when a New York Times reporter asked him about this, Wolff couldn’t provide any surveys showing consumers were confused and could not come up with the name of ONE CONSUMER who had complained.

* Held one meeting of the so-called Food Labeling Advisory Committee and said they recommended the labeling ban. Yet the committee never voted on anything and never made any recommendations specific to dairy. Moreover, the group most affected by the rules and most opposed to them, the PA Association of Milk Dealers, was never even invited to the meeting.

Read more great Real Food Wednesday posts here,

Michael Pollan’s latest thoughts on the White House Kitchen Garden

Michael Pollan first called for an edible landscape at the White House way back in 1991, during the Bush I era.

    Imagine an 18-acre victory garden on the grounds of the White House, managed according to the highest organic principles. This garden, which need not contain any broccoli, would stand as a paradigm of environmental responsibility.

    The White House has enough land to become self-sufficient in food — a model of Jeffersonian independence and thrift. Alternatively, a White House garden could help supply food for Washington’s poor. Depending which party is in power, a few elephants or donkeys should be maintained for the purpose of fertilization.

    Earlier this week, he was interviewed on Fresh Air, mainly about his new piece in The New York Times Magazine, Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch: How American cooking became a spectator sport, and what we lost along the way.

At the end of the interview, guest host Dave Davies and Michael Pollan had this exchange :

    DAVIES: You know, last October, you wrote a piece in the Times Magazine called “Farmer in Chief,” which was an open letter to the next president – the election was still going on then. And you essentially argued that changing the way we grow and process food was critical to energy policy and, thus, a matter of national security – you know, the way we grow and process food at an industrial scale and transport it thousands of miles drains energy, pollutes the environment and harms our health. And you said that it’s really important for the next president to take a lead in changing things. How would you rate President Obama on the challenge of rebuilding the food culture?

    Mr. POLLAN: Well, I think Obama’s taken some very encouraging steps. I think that Obama has shown that he recognized the links between the way we grow food and feed ourselves and the health-care crisis on the one side and the climate-change and energy crisis on the other.

    So I’m encouraged by some of the rhetoric. I’m encouraged by some of the appointments. There are some progressive people in the USDA, the Department of Agriculture. And there has been the new agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, has spoken in, you know, very encouraging terms about the importance of local food systems, the importance of farmers’ markets, the importance of organic food.

    So all that is very encouraging, I think. But, you know, frankly, the most important thing that’s happened has been the garden that Michelle Obama planted, which has had a galvanizing effect around the world.

    There’s now a garden in Buckingham Palace. People are planting gardens all over America. You can’t find seeds in garden centers, there’s such a run on gardening. I think that’s a very encouraging thing. I don’t think it is merely symbolic. And by the way, I think it’s very deliberate on the part of the Obamas. I think they understand that before you can begin to change this food system, you need to raise consciousness about it because for a lot of people, the food system works just fine.

    There’s plenty of cheap and abundant food. The fact that it makes people sick, the fact that it takes an enormous toll on the environment, on animals, on workers, isn’t really clear to everybody so that there’s a kind of raising of consciousness that needs to happen. And I think that Michelle Obama is playing a very important role in that. And then you can follow, one hopes, with a different kind of farm bill that would encourage the kind of fresh, local food that Michelle Obama has been extolling.

    So, you know, I’m encouraged. I don’t see any evidence that they’re willing to take on agribusiness in any significant way yet. I think what’s more likely to happen is that this administration will take steps to educate people on the value of real food and cooking and that they will also do things to promote local food economies.

    Whether they will also go after the large food companies, it may happen in the anti-trust realm. It might happen with the farm bill, but there is, you know, some huge obstacles to real reform at that level, beginning with the agriculture committees in Congress.

-Michael Pollan’s next book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma Young Readers Edition, hits bookstores in October.

-For more on the Buckingham Palace vegetable garden, see Obama Foodorama’s post, The ‘First Lady Factor’ In Action? A New Organic Vegetable Garden At Buckingham Palace.

-If the new Pollan article puts you in a cooking mood, perhaps as a service to military families, see Obama Foodorama’s post, Supporting Our Troops: The Michelle Obama Military Family Menu…With Recipes.

Oldschool photo of Michael Pollan gardening with his son Issac courtesy San Francisco Chronicle photo by Penni Gladstone.


Read more great, Fight Back Friday posts here,