Food Choices for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet

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You probably knew that rainforests are in deep trouble, and that our food choices are part of the problem. Palm oil is a major culprit, since in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, forests are being cut down to make room for palm oil plantations. Not only the forests, but creatures that live in them are endangered, including orangutans and rhinos.

Not to mention that the palm oil mill pollutes twice as much water as every unit of palm oil produced..

World Wildlife Fund, in its current newsletter, points out “To make noodles “instant,” manufacturers flash-fry them in palm oil to evenly dry the strands—a process that links instant noodles to environmental damage because the production of palm oil is one of the leading drivers of deforestation.”  One more reason to let go of processed foods as much as you possibly can!

There are two eco-labels that might help. WWF supports them, while RAN thinks they’re insufficient. Anyway, here they are. Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil ( began in 2001 when World Wildlife Fund proposed it, and was formally launched in 2003, based in Switzerland.  It’s a pretty complicated consortium of organizations from many countries that sign an agreement to support sustainability in the palm oil supply chain.

Green Palm is a subsidiary of a British oil importer and manufacturer. It has an interesting plan. Enterprises that produce certified sustainable palm oil can register their product with Green Palm. Then it seems they can sell their certificates. Is this like carbon cap and trade credits? Go here and see what you think.

Of course, by reading labels you can also avoid palm oil altogether. This may not be easy, since the stuff is everywhere. According to the Rainforest Action Network it can be found in “ice cream, cookies, crackers, chocolate products, cereals, breakfast bars, cake mixes, doughnuts, potato chips, instant noodles, frozen sweets and meals, baby formula, margarine, and dry and canned soups.” Go here for more info.

Related links:
The Problem with Palm Oil
Norway Cuts Palm Oil Consumption 64% in One Year
How to Stop Buying Palm Oil and Help Save the Orangutans

British recycle poster WWII lg

Actually, hundreds of thousands. This month, Israeli archeologists convened a conference called “The Origins of Recycling” to share their knowledge about the history of clever re-use. Dozens of scholars discussed findings that even before we were homo sapiens, we were reusing materials in Spain, North Africa, Italy, and Israel. A cave near Tel Aviv that was used by pre-humans two hundred thousand years ago (and more) yielded flint chips that had been turned into small blades.

Reporter Ariel David  writes, “A dry pond in Castel di Guido, near Rome, has yielded bone tools used some 300,000 years ago by Neanderthals who hunted or scavenged elephant carcasses there, said Giovanni Boschian, a geologist from the University of Pisa. ‘We find several levels of reuse and recycling,’ he said. ‘The bones were shattered to extract the marrow, then the fragments were shaped into tools, abandoned, and finally reworked to be used again.’”

This confirms findings reported a year ago. Middens (trash dumps) have been archeologists’ gold mines for decades, as they sort through the remains of past civilizations to discover how people lived. Meanwhile, Americans are throwing away not only food but also tons of other stuff. Don’t you wonder what future explorers will think about our landfills?

Forget the Paleo diet (It’s nonsense, anyway). Embrace your inner Paleo recycler!

Related links:
History of Recycling
Cavemen Recycled? Evidence Suggests Prehistoric Ancestors Repurposed Everyday Objects- Huffington Post


Suppose we could get all the protein and leather-like fabric to satisfy the world’s population – without ranches and slaughterhouses? Sounds like a dream to anyone who is concerned about animals and the environment.

Tofu and TVP satisfies a lot of us BUT you can’t wear them. Enter, stage right, a man named Andras Forgacs, an entrepreneur whose experience in tissue engineering includes making materials for pharmaceutical research and replacing damaged human tissues. (You’re probably seen pictures of the human ears that can be grown in a lab).

In his TED talk, Forgacs outlines the virtues of what he calls a “Humane, sustainable new industry.” A biopsy is used to acquire the initial cells, which are then grown in some sort of medium. (We’d need to know what that medium is made of). Then the “biofabrication” factory would work it into collagen, form sheets, make layers, design it for various qualities, and use less chemicals than in the traditional tanning process. End result? “Cultured leather” made with no waste and, best of all (I hope) no tormented animals.

Forgacs acknowledges that it would be wise to start with leather, as people would be more willing to try it. We could have our experiment without eating it. As an opponent of GMO, I would need some convincing. Forgacs’s description of biofabrication sounds different from GMO – the product is grown in a cell medium, not engineered at the DNA level. At any rate, I share Forgacs’s vision of a world, unlike today, when we do NOT keep and kill 60 billion land animals for meat, dairy, eggs, and leather, as we do now. Given the immense environmental destruction caused by livestock worldwide, he adds, “What’s crazy is what we do today.”

Related links:
Biofabrication: a 21st century manufacturing paradigm
Biofabrication – IOPscience


This Wednesday evening, October 2, an interesting event is taking place in Mountain View. The Silicon Valley Innovation Institute is hosting an evening called Perspectives on Innovations in Food (Consequences or Breakthrough?). As you can tell by the title, controversy will not be avoided. SVII has for some years brought together thought leaders on various topics, with the goal of generating creative solutions.

Panelists include Dr. Ed Bauman, a pioneer in the field of holistic nutrition for over 35 years; executive chef Alan Finkelstein; Kathryn Sucher, a recognized authority on how diet, health, and disease are affected by culture/ethnicity and religion; raw food chef Jillian Love; and myself as moderator.

I hope you can attend! This will be an interactive forum and your input is expressly solicited and welcomed.  As the even description says, “Although we seed the discussion with subject matter experts, the audience is also comprised of subject matter experts whose expertise lie in a larger range of topics. And it is within this cross fertilization of intelligent communication that innovation can often occur.”

Hangen Szechuan Restaurant (2nd Floor)

134 Castro St. Mountain View, CA 94041

Appetizers will be provided!  (Waiter service will also be available for menu items.)

Pre-Registration Tickets ($20)   Use code RIEBEL to get a discount.

More info at   Register at

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