Food Choices for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet

All posts in Good News


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

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.

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!

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The Great Tomato Plant Sale. That’s the name given by master gardeners in Contra Costa to the plant sale they held yesterday in Walnut Creek. And it was great! I had no idea so many hundreds of people devotedly grew their own tomatoes. One of the many volunteers hosting the event said to me, “Last year, we planted 4,000 tomato starter plants, and sold out in three hours. So this year, we planted 14,000.”

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It’s a good thing they did. When I arrived a few minutes before the official start time, there was a line three deep winding down the block and around the corner. People had come carrying boxes, flats, and other containers because boy, they were ready to start buying! The mood in the line was friendly but slightly competitive, as we all lusted after the rare heirloom varieties that had been advertised.

Tomatoes come in all colors and have snazzy names. Black tomatoes can be had in varieties called Black Cherry, Black Ethiopian, Black Prince, Chocolate Stripe, and more. Yellow tomatoes rejoice in the names of Yellow Brandywine, Wapsipinicon Peach, and Isis Candy. Classic reds are Box Car Willie, Principe Borghese, Red Zebra, and Cuore de Toro. Then there are Sugar Sweetie, Cherokee Purple, Chianti Rose – oh, you get the idea.

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Master gardeners are people who have taken specified classes through university extensions and passed a rigorous exam. If you want to contact Contra Costa Master Gardeners, they are at

CCMG also collaborated with the Contra Costa Times to create a project called Our Garden, where volunteers and master gardeners offer demonstrations and classes every Wednesday from April through October.

Check it out! These people know how to grow and how to teach. Very inspiring. Stay in touch with Contra Costa Master Gardeners so you can plan to attend next year!

dietitians for prof integrity

Uh oh, food politics again. Here is more proof that we, individual citizens, need to become our own food safeguards. We knew that the FDA and USDA are heavily influenced by meat, dairy, and grain lobbies (and that’s putting it politely), but it’s sad to learn that organizations that we thought were on our side may not be so innocent.

My friend Michele Simon, who runs the watchdog organization Eat Drink Politics, has found that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is way too friendly with major food industries. According to her report, the Academy accepts money from ConAgra (which makes ReddiWip cream in a can, the heavily salted Marie Callender’s products, etc), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (which sued Oprah Winfrey for daring to say she wouldn’t eat another hamburger), Kellogg’s, Mars, and the National Dairy Council.

If you’re a dietitian or nutritionist, you can get continuing education credits by taking a course from Coca Cola (where you will learn that sugar is not a threat to children), Kraft (which makes a cereal that is 55% sugar), Nestle, and others.

Maybe we should not be surprised, then, that the Academy has not yet endorsed important public health measures, such as taxing sodas and labeling genetically modified foods.

But as always, there’s good news just around the corner. Disgusted by this unhealthy partnership, a group of dietitians has recently formed Dietitians for Professional Integrity.

I’m happy to report that, according to food activist Ocean Robbins, over 500 dietitians joined the group – within two days of its launch.