06/7/16

The One Question You Should Be Asking at the Farmer’s Market

Farmers Market Stand3What questions do you ask the farmers at the farmer’s market? Here’s how mine used to go:

  • Me: Are your vegetables organic?
  • Farmer: No, sorry.
  • Me: That’s too bad.
  • Farmer: It’s really expensive to get certified, you know.
  • Me: Ok, well what pesticides do you use, exactly?

The conversation quickly goes over my head. By now I’m also getting dirty looks for holding up the line. Sheesh, all I wanted to know is if these sweet potatoes are worth the slightly higher price compared to those at the neighboring stand. Isn’t there an easier way to differentiate the quality of the products at the different stands? Why yes, there is a better question. And one whose answer you can judge in 5 seconds or less. Continue reading

10/4/14

My Visit to a Working Amish Dairy & Cattle Farm

Image courtesy of wikipedia.

Image courtesy of wikipedia.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the columns of grey smoke I saw in the distance, beyond acres of corn and soy fields, was the first clue we had arrived in Pennsylvania’s Amish country. The next clue was a man riding an adult-sized scooter on the side of the quiet country road. He was dressed in the tell-tale suspendered pants over a loose-fitting shirt that I’ve seen before. Then we finally spotted our first horse-drawn buggy, holding up a line of cars. Continue reading

01/8/14

GMO Labeling – Not So Black and White After All

I want to know what’s in my food. I am skeptical of many of the novel, new foods and production methods food producers are employing to supposedly “enhance” foods, which is usually marketing spin for production changes that serve primarily to increase profits, regardless of the impact on public health.  The last thing that I want is to permit the food industry to take this deception even further by sneaking biologically altered ingredients into our foods without us even knowing it.

So I should be in favor of GMO labeling, right?

Egg CartonAbout 4 months ago, I began this blog post with the aim of arguing in favor of GMO labeling and exposing the holes in my opponents’ arguments. In order to do this effectively, I had to really understand the other side. So I devoted countless hours to listening to various authorities who argued against labeling for various reasons. And that’s when things got complicated.  One by one, each of my arguments fell apart. Confusion led to frustration which lead to fear. Fear that I’ve been so ignorant and probably still am. Fear that I might tip over to the “dark side” and join the likes of Monsanto, the most vilified entity in the natural foods community. Fear that I would lose my readers.

After more than 40 revisions to this article, I’ve decided to go ahead and publish it now, despite being more undecided than ever on this very polarizing topic.  As with my journey to learn more about the complex issues surrounding vaccines, I invite you to join me on my at this critical juncture in my journey toward greater understanding through openness, objectivity and humility. Continue reading

09/20/13

Paranoid About Poop? The Truth About Fecal Contamination & A Better Way to Reduce Your Risk of Illness

Milk shouldn’t be drunk raw because, well, look at where the cow’s udder is located – at the same end of the cow as her…<gulp>…”you know what!”

This is the message I heard a government official deliver in response to a presentation advocating raw milk by Sally Fallon Morell of the Weston A. Price Foundation. That official was Heidi Kassenborg, director of the Dairy & Food Inspection Division of Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

The venue was an open debate, put on by Harvard University’s Food Law Society. It’s been a year and a half since the debate, but I still can’t get out of my head  the cartoon image of the cow that  Kassenborg displayed so prominently in her presentation.  The implication was that it should be obvious to anyone, even a child, why milk shouldn’t be drunk raw.

This got me thinking more and more about poop/feces/manure/bodily waste or whatever you want to call it and whether it’s necessarily as dangerous and sickening as it’s made out to be. Not that I *want* to be consuming it, but how diligent must I be about ensuring that I or my child never come in contact with it? Is this even realistic? And is that a valid reason to think twice about drinking raw milk? Continue reading

09/8/13

The Problem With Our Food System: According to Wendell Berry

I could hardly contain my excitement when I came upon this powerful, astute and somehow poetic portrayal of the problems with our food system – a topic I love to write and debate about, although never so eloquently or succinctly. Therefore, I want to share with you this short excerpt from the book Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community. It is a series of essays written by the award-winning author and agricultural activist Wendell Berry. Continue reading

05/30/13

Uh-oh! Is our Wheat Supply Contaminated with Unapproved GMOs?

stockvault-wheat-field131117This morning NPR reported that a farmer in Oregon found some Roundup-resistant wheat growing on his land. He sent it to a lab for testing. That lab, and then subsequently the USDA, both confirmed that the plants were genetically modified.  About a decade ago, Monsanto did create Roundup-resistent varieties of wheat, which they tested in wheat fields in 16 different states, but those field trials ended in 2005 since the wheat industry didn’t want it. It has never been approved by the U.S. government for commercial use.

Continue reading

05/13/13

Why Europe Cares More About GMO’s Than The U.S.

In 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) stated that, “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified (GM) food.”   These include infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM has asked physicians to advise all patients to avoid GM foods. But how can people avoid GM foods when they are not labeled as such?

The United States has tried numerous times to pass GM labeling legislation, with the most prominent recent example being proposition 37 in California, which failed just like all prior attempts. Contrast this with the European Union, which passed GM labeling laws back in 1997 when the first Genetically Engineered (GE) corn (maize) crops were being planted.  Far fewer safety studies had been done back then, but the Europeans had strong feelings on the topic nonetheless.

Why do the U.S. and Europe have such diverging attitudes on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)? Here’s my list of the top 7 reasons followed by what those of us who want labeling legislation in America can do about it:

Continue reading

03/1/13

Two Weeks Without Wheat: Why and How I Did It – Plus Recipes

I’ve been wondering why wheat is getting such a bad rap lately.  We’ve known for some time that refined flour contributes to metabolic problems, like cavities, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.  What’s new is the growing number of people having severe and immediate reactions to wheat or the gluten in the wheat. Celiac disease is on the rise, but many other people have digestive, autoimmune or neurological issues, such as IBS, Hashimotos, depression, autism and ADHD, the symptoms of which appear to be vastly diminished when wheat/gluten is eliminated from the diet. But how could wheat really be the culprit, since it is a traditional food that’s been consumed by humans for thousands of years? Continue reading

03/3/12

What Does “Organic” Really Mean? (Part 1 – Produce & Wine)

A friend recently told me that she no longer eats conventional processed sugar, but has switched to Stevia. I was very proud of her for making this switch. It wasn’t until later in the conversation that I learned that she isn’t actually crumbling dried green leaves into her tea. She buys her Stevia from Whole Foods. It comes as a white powder, wrapped in convenient serving-size  paper packets.  I told her that I’m skeptical because this sounds like it’s just as processed as white cane sugar. After all, how do you take a green, leafy herb and turn it into a white powder without significantly altering the biology of the product and therefore impacting how your body synthesizes it? That’s when she retorted, “it’s ORGANIC stevia” with great emphasis on the word “organic.” In other words, she was convinced that this product was good for her and that clearly my insinuation that it’s not good for her was off base. Continue reading

10/4/11

Terroir of the Turnip: The Importance of Soil Management & Why Most Vegetables Aren’t as Nutritious As You Think They Are

Wine lovers seem to care a lot about “terroir“, or the patch of land on which the grapes used in making their wine were grown. You could have two wines that use the same grape varietal, same vineyard management techniques and the same production methods, yet one will sell for 10-100 times the price of the other if grown on particular plots of land in Burgundy, France. Similarly, the most valuable Bourbons come from Kentucky and the surrounding area, thanks to the low iron and high limestone content of the water under the ground. Why does this affect price so much? Because of the difference in taste imparted, thanks to the terroir. So then why doesn’t terroir matter for other foods, like turnips? Continue reading