Food Choices for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet


slow money logo

Wouldn’t you love to be able to change our food system? We hear so much about how billion-dollar agribusiness corporations defeat legislation and citizen initiatives, and then strangle the regulations that do pass. But a hopeful movement arose a few years ago that allows people with a lot or a little money to invest in sustainable food.

It’s called Slow Money (obviously emulating the Slow Food movement that began in purposeful opposition to fast food). Its goal is to support entrepreneurs who are building the new food economy.   From its website: Through Slow Money national gatherings, regional events and local activities, more than $30 million has been invested in 221 small food enterprises around the United States since mid-2010.

I attended a Slow Money conference a few years ago and it was fascinating! The range of ideas people presented was impressive, and the business plans looked feasible. Tonight in San Francisco you can go find out what it’s all about. Here’s the agenda:

Agenda overview

6:00 Slow Start – Greetings
6:15 What is Slow Money?
Community introductions
6:40 Entrepreneur Spotlight:
Bittersweet Cafe (community cafes and chocolate makers), Penny Finnie
6:50 Focus topic
Taking control of investment tools Direct Public Offering – a tool for businesses Self-Directed IRA – a tool for investors Overview by Zac Swartout, Cutting Edge Capital
Discussion in breakouts
7:30 SOIL Investor Network – update about current opportunities
7:40 Announcements and upcoming events
7:45 Networking










Go here for information on time and place of tonight’s meeting.

If you can’t make it tonight (I know, I was SLOW about telling you about this) and are in the Santa Rosa area, you might try the meeting of the Slow Money North Bay Group, which meets tomorrow at 6 pm at the Coddingtown Whole Foods Market.

bee opencage 800 4591Time magazine recently ran a cover story on “A World without Bees,” and Scientific American, in its current issue devoted to food, includes an article on the dangers we face because bees, on which our food supply depends, are dying out in unprecedented numbers.

This is not a new issue – we’ve been warned about it for years, and the New York Times reported six months ago that the collapse of bee colonies has accelerated. Reporter Michael Wines spoke to a Montana beekeeper, who said this of his bees: “They looked so healthy last spring,” said Bill Dahle, 50, who owns Big Sky Honey in Fairview, Mont. “We were so proud of them. Then, about the first of September, they started to fall on their face, to die like crazy. We’ve been doing this 30 years, and we’ve never experienced this kind of loss before.”

A class of pesticides called neonicotinoids may be to blame. They persist for weeks or months after being applied to crops to keep unwanted insects away, and bees can apparently overdose on them. The European Union recently banned neonics (starting in December, for 2 years during study). And then there are all the other chemicals we pour into our environment (to the profit of the chemical industry).

Like it or not, we’re in danger, too. As I’ve explained before, bees are now being packed into trucks and driven hundreds of miles from one farm or orchard to another to do their crucial pollinating. These are desperate measures. What you can do: Don’t use chemicals on your lawn or garden!

Related links:
Marla Spivak: Why bees are disappearing | Video on
Colony collapse disorder – Wikipedia

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Did you know there are over 8,000 farmers’ markets in the U.S.? That’s according to the USDA  and that number represents over 3,000 new ones since 2008, when there were about 5,000. There are over 750 just in California – no surprise, really, since we have such great weather for growing — but New York is not far behind. You can search the directory here  and search by location, what they sell, and what kinds of payment are accepted.

That’s 8,000 reasons to have a week dedicated to the farmers who feed us.

In the East Bay, you can find farmers’ markets in Walnut Creek, Orinda, Moraga, Lafayette, Rossmoor, Pleasant Hill, Concord, and two Kaiser locations – and that’s just within a ten-mile radius.

So grab your cloth bags, sunglasses, and sunscreen, and head out to the nearest market to get ready for the coming week.

To learn more about what groups are working to heal our food system, check out the following groups at their websites:

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition,

Environmental Working Group,

National Farm-to-School Network,

National Young Farmers Coalition,

Sustainable Table,

and the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education program.


Did you know that over three thousand (3,000+) non-food substances are legally added to food in the U.S.? Manufacturers can add chemicals that preserve, color, sweeten, and flavor your food, as well as “improve” its texture or other quality deemed desirable by marketing departments. Oh yes, and add artificial vitamins and minerals that processing removed.

We’ve bought this stuff for decades. I shudder to think of the cake mixes I learned to use as a child. And a huge ratio of our food is still processed.

So why are chemicals used in our food banned in other countries? Dyes, brominated vegetable oil (which I wrote about in January), growth hormones given to animals, arsenic, and more, are banned in Europe. See this article from Dr. Mercola.

We’ve reached some kind of dystopia when Russia bans American food, in this case, meat, because of a feed ingredient called ractopamine. Since we export half a billion dollars worth of beef and pork to Russia, this is not a small item. The USDA asked Russia to postpone the requirement, and the New York Times suggested it was retaliation for American actions on Russian human rights violations.

Michale Pollan’s recent book Cooked urges us to prepare our own food. Pollan is a shameless, enthusiastic promoter of meat, speaking and writing cheerily about slaughtering and butchering, but he does have a point: we should be preparing more of our own food. That’s one way to get us out of some dangers posed by industrial food.

PS. Don’t you wonder if the manufacturers eat their own products?

Related links:
Revealed: Shocking list of popular foods and drinks readily available in U.S. grocery stores that are BANNED in other countries because their chemicals are deemed ‘dangerous’
80 percent of US packaged foods may contain dangerous chemicals

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A five-year study of over 73,000 people found that eating meat can shorten your life. To support longevity, the following kinds of diets worked the best, in this order:

  • Pesco-vegetarian (fish is the only animal product eaten)
  • Vegan (no animal products at all)
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian (no meat, but includes dairy and eggs)
  • Semi-vegetarian (meat 2 x week or less)
  • Meat regularly included in diet

The study, published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Internal Medicine),  Vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality in Adventist Health Study 2  was conducted on members of Seventh-Day Adventist churches. Considering that the SDA philosophy discourages meat eating, one might assume that even the meat eaters in this study consumed less than average Americans. Yikes! So if researchers had included a group of average American meat eaters, the benefits of omitting meat would probably be even more obvious.

The researchers, led by M.J. Orlich, concluded, “Vegetarian diets are associated with lower all-cause mortality.” So regular meat eaters come in, shall we say, dead last. And from other sources we know that the worst meats are highly processed ones like sausages.

Another study, published earlier this year by S. Tonstad and colleagues in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Disease,  found that “Vegetarian diets (vegan, lacto-ovo, semi-) were associated with a substantial and independent reduction in diabetes incidence” (Vegetarian diets and incidence of diabetes in the Adventist Health Study-2).

My headline is strongly worded – obviously there are exceptions to this research because so many factors are involved in health and longevity. But if anyone tries to tell you that going vegetarian is riskier than eating meat, you can tell them they just might be dead wrong.

Related links:
Vegetarians live longer, but it’s not because they don’t eat meat
Vegetarians May Live Longer

Face it, most of us are not going to become biotech scientists. We may have doubts about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but we aren’t equipped to retort to Big Food’s spin departments, which assure us that these crops are safe to eat (and will solve world hunger, not hurt ecosystems, etc.). But recently, someone who IS an agricultural researcher shared his experience. And it isn’t a pretty picture.

Thierry Vrain writes  in the post “Former Pro-GMO Scientist Speaks Out On The Real Dangers of Genetically Engineered Food“: “The Bt corn and soya plants that are now everywhere in our environment are registered as insecticides.” That’s right, the PLANTS are INSECTICIDES.  Vrain continues, “But are these insecticidal plants regulated, and have their proteins been tested for safety? Not by the federal departments in charge of food safety, not in Canada and not in the U.S.”

I can’t say it better than the repentant scientist. He adds, “There are no long-term feeding studies performed in these countries to demonstrate the claims that engineered corn and soya are safe. All we have are scientific studies out of Europe and Russia, showing that rats fed engineered food die prematurely. These studies show that proteins produced by engineered plants are different than what they should be. Inserting a gene in a genome using this technology can and does result in damaged proteins. The scientific literature is full of studies showing that engineered corn and soya contain toxic or allergenic proteins.”

This report and others can be found on the Food Revolution Network, headed by John and Ocean Robbins. This site is a goldmine of reports, health information, videos, and other resources for everyone who wants to participate in what the Robbinses rightly call The Food Revolution.

Additional important links:
Ted Talk: Birke Baehr: What’s wrong with our food system
Dean Ornish, MD — Healing Through Diet
Jeffrey Smith — Why Europe Labels GMOs