Category Archives: big-ag

Antibiotic Weedkiller


Understanding glyphosate

There’s an increasing amount of attention to how harmful glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Round Up) is.  Roundup is not only used as a weed killer, it’s now also being used as a desiccant, to dry crops before harvesting. Currently sprayed on wheat, oats, and beans, Monsanto additionally recommends it for desiccant use on flax, non-GMO canola, Non-GMO soy, peas, lentils, and sugar cane.  This increases our exposure to glyphosate dramatically.  

Not only are crops grown with genetic modification to allow for large scale use of Roundup as a weed killer, these crops are being dosed with extra applications before harvesting.  Non-GMO crops can be exposed to Roundup through wind-borne and insect-borne exposures.  Unfortunately, with the use of Roundup as a harvesting agent, now even non-GMO crops may be purposefully sprayed.  For some crops this could mean as many as three deliberate exposures to glyphosate.

Impact of glyphosate

Leaving aside the fact that Roundup is not an effective weed killer1 there are a wide range of issues regarding it’s use

  • large scale harm to the environment2
  • it adversely affects mineral content of the crops3
  • increasing evidence that it causes gut health issues and can damage DNA4
  • the World Health Organization has deemed it a probable carcinogen5

there’s one fact that most people don’t realize.  First developed as an antibiotic, glyphosate was not as effective as it’s developers intended. However they realized that it had potential as an herbicide and a new product was born.  Decades later we are dealing with an increasing fallout in terms of exposure, the impact on the environment, and the increase in illnesses linked to glyphosate exposure.  Increasing numbers of the population are experiencing issues with gut health, autoimmune system challenges, food allergies and more.  Issues that at their root have to do with the very nature of an antibiotic, to kill cells.  Yet we continue to bathe our crops, and our planet, in this persistent, endocrine disrupting, harmful product.

A new herbicide

So why do I mention Roundup?  Because it’s happening again.  Scientists in Australia have discovered that the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin (commonly known as Cipro) appears to be an effective herbicide.  According to Dr. Josh MyIne from the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Western Australia, “It kills plants in a very similar fashion to the way it kills microbes, by binding and interfering with an enzyme called gyrase.”  This may wind up being a case of history repeating itself.  Once again we potentially have an antibiotic being used as an herbicide.  Doubtless it will come with claims that it will be harmless to humans once it’s used for an agricultural purpose.  As we are learning from glyphosate.  This is not true.

Dangers of Cipro

What makes the use of cipro especially concerning is that it belongs to a particular class of antibiotics known as fluoroquinolones.  While a potent and effective antibiotic, this class of medication has a high potential for toxic side effects including pain, depression, CFS, thyroid issues, and more.  I learned a startling amount of information about how harmful these medications can be from The Anxiety Summit Season 4 where my friend and colleague, Trudy Scott, the Food Mood Expert, spoke at length with fluoroquinolone toxicity patient advocate, Lisa Blomquist.  

As yet we have no idea what the potential for harm is from converting antibiotic cipro to an herbicide.  But if we take a lesson from the previous example it does not look promising.  Unfortunately the potential exists for cipro to be brought to agricultural use without examining any of those issues.  




 * * * * *

Glyphosate-resistant Weeds: current status and future outlook
The Environmental Impacts of Glyphosate
3 Damaging Effects of Roundup (and its active ingredient glyphosate)
4 Gut-Wrenching: New Studies Reveal the Insidious Effects of Glyphosate
5 IARC Monographs Volume 112: evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides

Pasteurize Eggs With Radio Frequency

  Eggs are a wonderful part of a balanced nutritional plan.  Despite all of the kerfuffle about the cholesterol in eggs, it’s a healthy food which provides protein and choline.  Each egg delivers a whopping 6 grams of protein while choline is an essential nutrient.   Part of the b vitamin family it is responsible for supporting methylation as well as overall nervous system health.

However eggs can also be an infection vector especially for salmonella.  I was shocked recently when I gave a talk to discover, chatting with attendees afterwards, that not one of them was aware of the huge recall involving nearly half a billion eggs back in 2010.  I have a couple of articles about that time frame from my blog here and here.

According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, “Pasteurized eggs or egg products shall be substituted for raw eggs in the preparation of Foods such as Caesar salad, hollandaise or Béarnaise sauce, mayonnaise, meringue, eggnog, ice cream, egg-fortified beverages and recipes in which more than one egg is broken and the eggs are combined.”  This ruling is for susceptible populations such as the elderly in care home situations, children in preschools, or those who are ill, immuno-compromised, or in hospitals or other health facilities.

Currently in order to pasteurized “raw” eggs they are bathed in hot water for one hour.   In a new process, The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) claims that pasteurizing eggs through radio frequency (heating the egg) followed by a water bath to cool it off will be sufficient to kill salmonella.

Given that salmonella comes from the hen laying the eggs doesn’t it make more sense to treat the hens so they don’t get salmonella?  Unfortunately in this country we prefer to treat the outbreak and the affected ill population.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  Below is a graphic from the presentation I gave at the Weston A. Price Foundation Regional Conference last weekend.

Screenshot 2014-04-03 14.52.29


As you can see from the graphic above, reducing salmonella at the source not only creates a healthier poultry industry, it reduces health care costs.  I’m not sure how much it costs to treat salmonella poisoning for 80,000 people.  And the truth is that may not be an accurate number as no one knows how many cases went unreported.

So while industry may pat themselves on the back for adding another systematic process to food production I have a few issues with this:

  1. I do not consider these eggs to be raw.  Raw means raw, not heated, not radio treated and heated.  True they are marked ‘pasteurized’ but they are not raw.
  2. We are focusing on the wrong side of the equation.  We should be removing salmonella at it’s source.
  3. We are missing an opportunity to reduce health care costs and save lives by changing how we raise poultry (and in Denmark they do it without antibiotics)

The government wars that even undercooked eggs (such as over easy or soft cooked) can be a potential vector for disease.  If you choose to eat raw eggs you may want to consider getting to know your egg farmer and not purchasing from large, confined, commercial egg operations.

photo:  Phichet9707

Factory Farming And Gmo

Over the years farming has changed dramatically.  Shifting from smaller, generational, family farms, that were often handed down and grew a number of different crops to corporate behemoths which grow only one crop, and that is often a commodity crop.  Sadly one of the losses suffered from this shift in the agricultural system is that of a connection to our food.

Most people don’t know who their farmer is anymore.  And there is no accountability for the overuse of chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, and genetic modification.  Corporate farming relies on these chemicals and other additives to increase their profits.

Even more disturbing is the challenges that face those farmers who want to produce organic or sustainable crops.  The subsidies currently paid by the government are for commodity crops and tend to favor the large agribusiness corporations.  These subsidies also make it more profitable as larger operations that focus on subsidy crops receive more funds.  This makes the concept of the family farm more difficult as many small farmers appear to no longer be able to support themselves simply through farming.

It is a sad and startling thought (and I am far from the first person to say this) that organic food production used to be the ONLY form of farming.  As chemical fertilizers, pesticides, larger scale operations, and mono-cropping have been developed they have become the norm.  There is an unfortunate side effect of this with regard to our health and the health of future generations.

The time has come to educate ourselves about where our food really comes from.  And to develop a relationship with those who produce it (to the best of our ability — admittedly this is not always possible in all areas for all types of food).  Most of us are fortunate enough to be able to eat multiple meals in one day.  Doesn’t it make sense to feed ourselves well and support those who grow our food so that we can have the best food possible?


On My Mind Monday 04.29.13

on my mind -- what's in the news


It’s never the same two weeks in a row. A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health. Here’s what’s on my mind.

Carageenan – Made from red seaweed carageenan is not an ingredient that you want in your food.  It’s very irritating to the intestinal tract and studies have shown that it causes ulcerative colitis-like symptoms.  Other studies have indicated that it may even cause malignant tumors.  Unfortunately it is found extensively in our food supply, especially in alternative milk products.

While it is important to read the label in order to avoid this product, it’s not always that easy to find alternative milks without it.  The next best solution is to make your own.  This video on how to make hemp milk from Blendtec shows how simple and easy it is to make your own.   My only changes to the recipe would be to not use agave nectar due to it’s high fructose content.  Use a different sweetener or consider using dried dates.  This recipe is easily modifiable to make almond, cashew, or even rice milk.  If making the milk from nuts or grains consider soaking them for a few hours beforehand to help reduce the phytates and make the nutrients more bioavailable.

Sleep for Fertility – A new study out from Denmark appears to show a correlation between poor sleep and lowered sperm count.  While we all know that good quality sleep is important for overall health, now it appears that it’s also important for fertility.  While the study pointed out that those who sleep less also tend to have other unhealthy habits, there seems to be a correlation between lowered testosterone production accompanying the bad sleeping habits.  While this is not a definitive study it does seem to indicate that it is important to at least consider sleep quality when looking at other male-related infertility issues.

Ag-Gag Outrage – In the news recently is the issue of Ag-Gag laws.  The term was originally created by Mark Bittman and defines  the laws that make it illegal for people to reveal inhumane and unsanitary conditions via surreptitious surveillance at corporate processing facilities or other animal centers such as laboratories.  The truth is without those undercover videos, pictures, and reports we would have no idea of what happens at the facilities where the animals are processed.  Unfortunately every case of undercover surveillance has shown animal cruelty, barbarism, and unsanitary conditions.  The companies claim that these gag laws are needed to protect their “agricultural interests” and further state that employees would be able to report abuses and violations.  The truth is that most employees don’t (and I’m guessing those who do don’t have a job for very long).  Making it illegal to report on illegal, unethical, inhumane treatment of animals does nothing more than protect the companies where it is happening. The latest bill is undergoing review by the Governor of Tennessee.  Current laws are on the books in Iowa, Utah, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Montana and North Dakota.  Consider writing to your representatives if you live in one of those states and let them know your feelings on the matter.

GMO labeling moves to DC – Although Prop 37 did not pass in California it did one very important thing.  It opened the doors to the debate and let people begin to realize just how contaminated their food might be.  No wonder the manufacturers don’t want you to know what’s really in your food.  As public awareness grows so does public support.  One good resource to help you learn about GMOs and how to avoid them, aside from my book, is the Non-GMO Shopping Guide from the Institute for Responsible Technology.

photo: alvimann

Monsanto And Gmo: Taking Over Your Food

It appears that the rights of corporation have prevailed over the rights of people. HR 933 was approved and signed by President Obama.  Tucked into a spending bill which was supposed to prevent government fiscal shutdown, most of those who voted for the bill were unaware of this “act” which was inserted by Missouri Senator Roy Blunt.  With it’s passage, the act effectively allows Monsanto the right to do whatever it wants.

In short this bill now gives Monsanto the right to plant Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) even if a federal court has ruled that the organism presents a danger to the environment.  In other words, even if crops are clearly determined to be dangerous, they cannot be stopped because Monsanto has been given the authority to do as they wish. This legislation effectively gives Monsanto the right to override the government on this issue.  I believe this is a very dangerous state of affairs and one which will have severe consequences.


On My Mind Monday 4.9.12

news | photo: mconnors

It’s never the same thing two weeks in a row.  This is a snapshot of what I find interesting; information about health, nutrition and holistic living.  Read what’s on my mind.

World’s Largest Rooftop Farm – Farming is changing and no is no longer only the traditional large acreage farm.  Bringing fresh food to the city by utilizing spaces differently is a great idea.

Michigan calls heritage pigs invasive – It’s beginning to look like BigAg is trying to control your food even further by potentially driving small heritage pig farmers out of business. Not content to allow these smaller farmers a share of the market they’ve found a way to class their pigs as part of an invasive species and to get the government to buy in to it.  I hope that this is overturned…we need genetic diversity in all populations and I am a firm believer in preserving heritage breeds.

Food Adulteration – Food adulteration has been around for millenia.  It is a sad truth that when someone makes money selling a food product the temptation to make more money by stretching the product is there. Some examples include:

  • using cheaper oils like corn in premium, more desirable products such as olive oil
  • honey, there is a huge adulteration of honey, often with high fructose corn syrup
  • coffee can be stretched through the use of chicory, roasted corn, and even legumes
Because the adulterants are not listed on the label it can be difficult to know what you are getting.  Sadly the Food Fraud Database is difficult to use and results are not clear. This once again highlights the need to know where your food is coming from and to, whenever possible, know your producer.
Gleaning – There appears to be a growing number of gleaning operations as a way to finish off the harvesting of fields with the food collected often going to food banks and soup kitchens.  In many places that I have traveled in the US I am often startled to see food going to waste.  A recent trip to Austin, TX revealed loquat trees bursting with fruits that were falling off the trees and rotting on the ground.   Many homes in California have citrus trees and don’t use them all, to the point where the food goes to waste. Farms often leave the last bit of produce because it’s not worth the effort to go get it.  Yet the ability to deliver fresh food to those in need is a priceless gift.  It does however require labor to collect and distribute the food.  Finding gleaning organizations where you can donate your extra produce or labor can be a little difficult to find.  Here is one, you can also run a local search to look for more in your area.

This is a fascinating idea. Being still relatively new to Texas I find that I have a difficult time growing vegetables in my backyard (we seem to be doing okay with fruit trees so far which is great) and would love a concept like this where someone who knows the area could help. The video is from a few years ago but Your Backyard Farmer is apparently still going strong in the Portland, OR area.

To read:

I just heard about Make the Bread, Buy the Butter and am adding it to my get-and-read list.  I’ll be interested to see what the author recommends.  It’s true that there is a lot we can make but is it worth the effort and do we want to take the time to do it.  Fermented foods are high on my list but I truly can’t see myself making butter.  I do make pickles and jams but not nearly as much as I used to (mostly because we don’t go through them as fast now that the kids are grown).  What I’ve always found fascinating is how many things can be made by hand that we’ve forgotten or lost the art of doing.  One of my little cooking friends was astounded one day when they were visiting and we made pudding together.  In their experience pudding always came from a box.  Part of my interest in this book is not only about the time however.  Some things I make, such as mayonaise, because I object to the added ingredients and homemade is a way to avoid that.