Food Choices for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet

All posts in GMO’s

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

Recently, 2 million people in 436 cities in 52 countries (according to organizers)  marched in public protests to show their opposition to the global seed and pesticide corporation Monsanto and everything it stands for. That would include: its development of GMO (genetically modified organisms) food crops, its intimidation of farmers who won’t go along, its history as developer or producer of things like DDT, agent orange, bovine growth hormone, aspartame, nuclear weapons, PCBs, its participation in the “revolving door” in Washington, where industry leaders become regulators or elected officials are given cushy industry jobs after they leave office. Not surprisingly, Monsanto is hugely profitable. According to its 2012 annual report, in the most recent year its net sales amounted to over $13 billion, with a B, 14% more than the previous year..

With the profits goes power. Industry has defeated almost every effort to require labeling of GMO foods (including last year’s Proposition 37 in California). The times may be changing. Connecticut this week actually passed a law requiring GMO labeling, though it’s a conditional one.

Some people don’t agree that there’s a problem. A heated debate recently occurred in the website Motley Fool, which is a commercial financial advice site. The original article, aptly titled “Why is Monsanto the Most Hated Company in the World?”, questioned the validity of claims on both sides, but concluded by saying,

“It seems that GMOs will inevitably become a larger part of our food supply, because the corporate motivator in the United States has proved to be stronger than the citizen motivator in recent years. A few protests won’t change that. It will take concerted, long-running national efforts to change diets and attitudes before Monsanto and its peers are forced to loosen their grip on American farmlands.”

The comments are as revealing as the article – check them out.

Related links:
Ocean Robbins — Call to Action for a Food Revolution
Monsanto gives up fight for GM plants in Europe
Monsanto’s Latest Sneaky Endeavor: Patent Common European Crops

shiitake lg

On Earth Day last week, some friends and I dined at The Vegetarian House, which is both vegan, non-GMO, and organic. Wait – don’t go yet! Vegan is delicious, and I just found out (again) how delicious!

As you may know, a vegetarian does not eat (dare we say, eschews) meat, fish, poultry – anything that was once a living animal. He or she may eat dairy and eggs. A vegan doesn’t eat these either. Just as carnivores wonder how one can live without meat and dairy, I used to wonder how one lived without cheese. But creative vegans have dreamed up incredibly delightful recipes and menus.

bok choy

The six of us chose a variety of dishes and shared, so I got to sample a range of The Vegetarian House’s goodies. I’ll just list a few: Won ton soup (with shiitake mushrooms, bok choy, tofu, cilantro, and more), sweet and sour (pineapple, bell peppers, soy nuggets), clay pot (bean cakes wrapped in seaweed, with gravy and pepper), asparagus (with soy slices, bell pepper, mushrooms), curry masala (jicama, broccoli, shiitake, cauliflower, and more with coconut milk curry sauce) — well, you get the idea. Culinary influences are from China, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Middle East, Europe and the Americas

What other earth-friendly practices do they have? Solar panels on the roof, energy-efficient lighting and appliances, local sourcing of ingredients whenever possible.

We didn’t try the desserts but they look tempting (organic tiramisu, carrot cake, banana fritters, etc.). And even raw desserts – strawberry cheesecake, carob mousse pie, and more. Looks as if I’ll just have to go back there and try them all!

520 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose 95112  (408) 292 3798

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Last month there was good news for those of us who a) want to know what’s in our food, and b) have hopes that a successful food chain can retain (or regain) its moral compass.

Whole Foods, possibly the largest and best-known earth-friendly food chain, announced in early March that by 2018 every product sold in its stores will have a label stating whether or not it contains genetically modified organisms.

Why does this matter? Because there hasn’t been enough independent research to determine whether genetically modified foods are safe – for our bodies and for the environment. I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust that the people whose livelihoods depend on proving something is safe will objectively weigh the evidence – and tell us what it says. My friend Michele Simon has been studying corporate misbehavior for years, and on her website (and accompanying newsletter) you can find out all the reasons you should be skeptical, too.

Five years is a long time to wait for full labeling of GMOs to appear in this chain, but in the meantime you can look for organic foods, which by definition do not have GMOs in them. You can also support the wave of legislative proposals to require labeling of GMOs. According to the Organic Consumers Association, there are 25 states currently working on such laws!

I thought that last November’s defeat of California’s Proposition 37 (mandatory labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms in our food), which I campaigned for, was a bad sign. I presumed the power of Big Food’s $40+million disinformation campaign signaled that lies and public relations would win for the next generation or more.

But a few weeks ago a New York Times article explained the bright side of this turn of events. Reporter Stephanie Strom wrote, “Instead of quelling the demand for labeling, the defeat of the California measure has spawned a ballot initiative in Washington State and legislative proposals in Connecticut, Vermont, New Mexico and Missouri, and a swelling consumer boycott of some organic or ‘natural’ brands owned by major food companies.”

She went on to quote Charles Benbrook, a professor at Washington State University and a brilliant advocate of sustainable agriculture: “The big food companies found themselves in an uncomfortable position after Prop. 37, and they’re talking among themselves about alternatives to merely replaying that fight over and over again… They spent a lot of money, got a lot of bad press that propelled the issue into the national debate and alienated some of their customer base, as well as raising issues with some trading partners.”

This public reaction against Big Food got the attention of some major food executives, who met in January to discuss what to do. Imagine this: some of them actually favor labeling. I’m not holding my breath that they’ll become virtuous – they are, after all, the people who made terms like “natural” and ”cage-free” almost meaningless.

Still, it may be a start.

You may have heard about nanoparticles – they are tiny bits of matter, microscopic in size, that are being used in a variety of ways. In medicine, nanos are used in detecting disease, delivering drugs, gene engineering, MRI studies, and more.

They are found in over 1,000 consumer products, including car batteries, appliances, alum foil, cosmetics, sunscreens, and computers.  Let’s look at food and kitchen. Nanotech can be round in certain brands of oil, tea, shakes, cutting boards, cleansers, nonstick pans, vitamins, and more. Check out the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) list of consumer products with nanos in them.

So what’s the problem? Nanoparticles have not been tested for health of safety to people and environments! Once again, our dreams of scientific wizardry have come true – and regulators have been outfoxed again. Nanos are able to pass through cell membranes and we don’t know what they can do to us, our children, food, pets, and habitats. According to Ethan Huff, staff writer at Natural News, “Deconstructing and reassembling molecular components and injecting these altered molecules back into our clothing, furniture, cars, and food is really more of a giant experiment in human health than it is a successful technological breakthrough.”

Here’s an interesting email exchange between a writer at E Magazine and a representative of the FDA:

E Magazine: What can you tell me about the prevalence of nanomaterials in our food supply?
Sebastian Cianci:
FDA does not have a list of food products that contain nanomaterials.

E: Where are nanomaterials most often found within food products? In colorings or additives?
FDA does not maintain a list of food products that contain nanomaterials so we cannot reliably answer this question.

I admire the creativity and dedication of scientists — and I also believe we need to test inventions before unleashing them on the public.