Archive for February, 2014

What We Don’t Know Can Harm Us….

February 27, 2014

 When considering the cost of food/groceries, we really have to add in the cost of medical treatment for conditions caused by our food choices. Food raised or produced in environmentally friendly conditions is, in my experience, safer and more economical in the long run.

Today, it is difficult to know what is in the food, much less what is known to be harmful to human health. Food industry whistle blowers get the same treatment that is laid on political whistle blowers. Here is a current example in the news.

 Tyron Hayes, Professor of Integrated Biology at UCBerkeley, was hired by the pharmaceutical company, Syngenta, to research the effect of the herbicide/pesticide Atrazine on frogs. Hayes is a reputable researcher who has been studying frogs for many years. Hayes found that Atrazine caused sexual abnormalities in frogs: males started developing ovaries and laying eggs. Other researchers continued to expand his research and found that human babies exposed to Atrazine do not develop normally sexually. Atrazine causes the body to make too much estrogen, which promotes breast cancer. Syngenta also makes a chemical that blocks estrogen production and is used to prevent cancer.  This is obviously a nice arrangement for Syngenta.

 Syngenta did not like Hayes’s findings and asked him to do a repeat study and manipulate the data. Hayes refused and resigned from the project.Then, Syngenta tried to purchase the original data so that it would not be published. Hayes published the data in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature, and Environmental Health Perspectives (a NIH publication). Next, Syngenta hired scientists to refute Hayes’s data and discredit him as a scientist.Syngenta reps passed out discrediting flyers at his lectures, and whispered threats in Hayes’s ear that he could be lynched or his wife and daughter could be sexually abused.

 If we want to keep each other well, we need to be alert to what threatens our health. Given the details of consequences to whistleblowers like Hayes, Silkwood, Asange, Snowdon, Manning, and Greenwald, these scare tactics are designed to let corporations reign at the expense of the rest of us. Significantly, while some universities, anxious to obtain research money, actually fire whistle blowers, UCBerkeley is made of finer stuff and gives us hope that the tide may be turning.

 If we want to be proactive about aquiring safe food, it’s time to be thinking about creating our own gardens, creating our own compost by recycling kitchen scraps, contacting our local farmers at farmstands we frequent in summer, freezing or preserving our own food, community garden sharing, or signing up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership. Supermarkets are slowly expanding their organic produce offerings based on how much we buy on a regular basis and what we request.

 There are fringe benefits to cultivating a garden, starting small and seeing what works. Gardens allow us to stay connected to the fresh life within the soil and all the worms, frogs, bees, butterflies and other life forms, ourselves included. Together we can promote and claim healthy gardens of foods and flowers that nourish.

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This is our home….

February 13, 2014

 “Our earth is composed of a fragile ecosystem that is our home and we need to take care of our home,” warns Canadian environmentalist, David Suzuki.

With the world’s farmlands shrinking due to drought, chemicalization, grazing, and growing practices, alarms sound daily the world over. The current most egregious episode is taking place in Sochi, Russia. I wonder how many people, excited about the Olympic Games, realize that they are being held where people’s extensive farmlands and homes were taken by eminent domain for a pittance and sold for a huge profit to provide a few week’s entertainment for the privileged. Sochi’s crisis is a classic example of Milton Friedman’s approach: create a crisis and let the big corporations take over and make huge profits at the expense of the less fortunate. In this case, everyone in Sochi was displaced with no chance of going back. The lovely town residents knew has been replaced by an Olympic city.

 Unlike Katrina and the tsunami in Indonesia (which resulted in similar patterns of corporate profit), after the Thailand tsunami, Thai citizens immediately returned to their towns,  roped them off against corporate takeover, and rebuilt their communities themselves. They learned from Indonesia that they needed to take care of the land themselves if they were ever to be able to reclaim their communities.

 Here in the land of too much, we swing on the see saw of the sugar and wheat cravings with overconsumption and we struggle with the effects of obesity and multiple health problems. At the same time, food industry corporations exhort us to be fat-free. Yet, we need fat to maintain healthy skin and other tissues, to transport fat soluble vitamins, for proper functioning of our nerves and brain, i.e., to wrap insulation around our nerves so they can send electrical messages to our brains. Fats also make our body cell membranes semi permeable so they can regulate what goes in and out, and more….

 Taking care of our land puts us in the most favorable position to access foods that sustain us. Grass fed livestock, organic poultry and eggs, raw cheese from grass fed cows, butter, avocado and coconut products all have the potential to satisfy our fat needs without adding excess weight. Paying careful attention to healthy fat consumption, a growing number of people are discovering that they are able to lose weight and eliminate carbohydrate cravings. NPR referred to several studies this week. No surprise, the diet principles they observe simply consist of whole foods that respect our fragile ecosystem.

 As far back as the sixties, studies of autopsies of American Korean War casualties showed marked atherosclerosis (plaque lined arteries), the result of a generation being raised on homogenized milk. The homogenizing process spins out the fat molecules to particles so tiny, they all quickly pass through the intestinal wall to the liver, and on to line arteries, etc. Raw milk fat molecules pass through at a smaller rate, leaving more to nourish the intestinal wall itself.

 Our land includes not only land in northern NH, but also elsewhere in the country, such as the Tar Sands project that threatens the Oglala aquifer that waters our Midwestern breadbasket. Taking care of our land means buying as much as we can from local farmers we trust, and requiring labels on foods that tell us what we are about to consume. If there is nothing to hide, labels are a simple matter.

 Health is all about reclaiming home and letting our food be our medicine. The healthier we feel, the more we will enjoy and care for our home.