Category Archives: environment


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.  

 

 

 

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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

Water Water Where

As we move into the warmer months many people find their water consumption going up.  Drinking more water is the smallest part of our overall use.  However landscaping, washing cars, water activities such as pools, all contribute to higher water usage.  Many of us tend to ignore how much water we use or to be less mindful of ways to conserve this precious resource.  The following infographic highlights the growing stress on our water system.  We all need to learn to think about what and how we are using water.

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Many Uses For Coconut

After being vilified for many years coconut oil is making a comeback.  The oils has a wide variety of uses beyond cooking and can be used as a moisturizer, as a makeup remover, even to help prevent hairballs in cats (seriously).  There are also emerging studies that appear to indicate that the oil can be highly beneficial for brain health, helping with neurophysiological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease.   It turns out the oil may be beneficial for a wide range of health issues.  Dr. Bruce Fife, author of The Coconut Oil Miracle, has a number of articles about this at the Foundation for Alternative and Integrative Medicine.  

From a consumable point of view there’s more than just the oil.  Let’s not forget the tasty and delicious coconut water which provides balanced electrolytes and is a far better beverage than the sports drinks which are touted for that purpose.  After that there’s the meat which is tasty and finding great popularity for baking and for those who choose to follow a paleo lifestyle.  Coconut sugar is even gaining in popularity as a healthier choice for a sweetener.  The list goes on.

However it’s more than just an edible plant.  It turns out that virtually all parts of the coconut are beneficial or purposeful. The infographic below shows a number of ways in which it can be useful.

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On My Mind Monday 03.11.13

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.

Aspartame in Milk – Those of you who follow along on my Facebook page have already heard about this issues and how upset I am. Bad enough that they want to use aspartame in milk. The horror of this newest petition to the FDA is that the organizations involved want the FDA to remove the requirement to label the presence of aspartame in the dairy products. It does currently appear in a number of dairy items but it’s presence must be disclosed. If the request is successful it potentially could mean that you might be consuming dairy with this health-harming product in it. Not a good thing. If you’re as upset as I am, the FDA is seeking public comment and you can tell them how you feel.

Did Your Grandmother’s Smoking Habit Give You Asthma? – This is epigenetics at work. Genetic switches turned on and off by exposures. Although far from definitive it appears that there is a strong possibility that a grandmother who smoked cigarettes can have a genetic impact on her grandchildren even if her own children did not smoke. Hopefully this news will help more people decide to quit smoking.

Pink Slime Mfr Seeking $1.2 BILLION – Apparently if consumers find out what’s really in their food and decide not to eat it rather than accepting that the new paradigm is for the manufacturers to sue those who reported on the issue. Not the person or organization who came up with the term “pink slime” (that would be a scientist at the USDA btw) but the news media because they have deeper pockets. How about instead of trying to feed people food that was made from left-over bits and ammonia they just used real food? Hmmmm…now there’s a thought for you.

What’s Mira reading: I just finished the final revisions on The Pantry Principle and am eagerly awaiting the print proof copy. I think I’ll take a break from reading for a week or so as I’ve read/proofed/edited my own book to the exclusion of almost anything else for weeks.

Video of the Week: Not sure what to think about this, apparently a new(ish) food fraud scandal in China is selling concrete filled walnut shells. The story was originally reported a year ago but has just now surfaced in food news.

photo: Alvimann

On My Mind Monday 12.17.12

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.

Minimum age for energy drinks – While teens may be upset about it I think this is a good idea.  A better idea would be to get rid of these kinds of drinks altogether.  Banned overseas and with some reports linking these drinks to consumer deaths it is not something to take lightly.

Eat for happiness – often we think we’re eating for happiness when we’re actually eating for pleasure.  Sadly we’re also unaware of the effect that this can have on us.  My friend Trudy Scott, Food Mood Expert and author of The Antianxiety Food Solution points out that many people with depression, anxiety, and other neurobiological disorders frequently do better when they change their diet.  Perhaps it’s time we all learned to eat for happiness.

Fruit and Veggie Prescription – As the saying goes, ‘Let food be thy medicine.” And in D.C. providers at one health care clinic are encouraging just that, food as preventive medicine.  I love the thought that people are getting prescriptions which they can use at farmer’s markets.  This will hopefully encourage them to return  on a regular basis and to being to use whole foods, fresh foods, as part of their diet.  Hopefully this program will spread across the country.  It is already possible to use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or what used to be called food stamps, at farmer’s markets.  I believe encouraging people to connect with their local farmers, rather than a fast food joint, the better off everyone will be.

Plastic Pollution – I’ve written before, here and here about plastic, its impact on our environment and on our health.  We’ve cut back tremendously on how much we use but it still surrounds us, from our toothbrushes, deodorant containers, freezer bags, and remote controls to the sewing machine, packaging on items we buy, dvd covers, and food containers.  It’s very very difficult to get rid of plastic in our life.  This article showing the overwhelming amount of plastic that finds its way into the ocean it mind-boggling.  Time to get Beth Terry’s book Plastic Free: How I Kicked The Plastic Habit and How You Can Too to find more ways to bump it up a notch.

Expanding the season: I was happy to see this blurb about more farmer’s markets being open for a winter season.  While most people tend to think of farmer’s markets as providing fresh spring and summer foods (think lettuces, tomatoes, peas, peppers, strawberries, and such) there is a whole season that has been bypassed.  Farms can, and do, also produce a bounty of fall and winter crops that are so delicious and bursting with nutrients.  Winter squashes, root crops, and citrus fruits are just a few.  If more farmer’s markets are able to expand their season it means more sales for the farmer, more fresh, local food for you. It’s a win for everyone.

Here’s a video of an American farmer talking about his concerns about the state of farming in this country and global climate change.

In addition to the impending publication of The Pantry Principle there are some exciting developments coming up for my newsletter which will be offering some content not found here on the blog.  If you’re not already signed up, now’s your chance.

photo: mconnors

Christmas Tree Facts

The winter holidays are here.  Decorations are going up.  The wreaths, the lights, the garlands, lots, and lots of tinsel.  And let’s not forget the tree.  The Christmas tree, centerpiece of the holiday celebration.  With ornaments and bows up top, presents and goodies below.  The primary symbol of the holiday gathering for many families all across the country.  And every year there is a dilemma; people struggle with the choice for their tree.  Fresh or artificial?

There are a small percentage who use living trees, brought inside in a tub or burlap. They often plant their tree in the yard after the season.  For them there is not usually a dilemma as they will continue to purchase and plant living trees.  For everyone else there’s a choice to be made year after year.

Live cut or artificial?  With tens of millions of trees sold every year that decision has an amazing impact.

According to the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA), a live Christmas tree outweighs an artificial one due to its many environmental and economic benefits.  It goes without saying that our personal environmental stance would include a live cut tree which does not expose you to pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

  • Environmentally friendly, fresh cut trees are a sustainable resource.
  • The trees help clean the air, protect the soil, and provide wildlife habitat.
  • Planting of natural Christmas trees increases the greenery on the planet. The Christmas tree growers plant one to three new seedlings for every tree that is harvested during the season. 
  • The trees are biodegradable; that means they can be reused or recycled for mulch and other purposes.  Nothing is wasted even when these trees are discarded or disposed. By contrast, an artificial tree may contain lead and non-bio-degradable plastics.
  • The industry employs more than 100,000 Americans.
Learn how to care for your fresh cut tree at the NCTA so it will last all season long.

Christmas Tree Facts - An Infographic by CouponRefund.com
Christmas Tree Facts by CouponRefund.com

photo: Lotus Head

Gmo: What You Need To Know

As election day draws nearer there is an enormous amount of attention being paid to what the voters will do at the polls.  California is in the forefront of the move to label GMOs in food.  Other states have considered it but as of yet none have actually passed such a bill.  The general thinking is that if one state passes this legislation manufacturers will be forced to change all of their labeling nationwide in order to not have to create two forms of packaging.

The battle has been heated and intense with both sides contributing money to try to reach out to California voters and garner their support.  The chain of food ownership has become startlingly clear as the Cornucopia Institute put together this infographic showing who contributed what to the campaign.  Consumers were truly able to see that although companies like Cascadian Farms Organic, Larabar, and Kashi have a reputation as being consumer friendly and producing clean products, they are in fact owned by major corporation such as Kellogg and General Mills.  These giant food producers have a vested interest in maintaining our state of ignorance and have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to convince consumers to vote against GMO labeling.

This is not just an issue that we face here in the US.  All over the world governments and consumers are rethinking the use of GMO.  Just last month Russia suspended the use of GMO corn after a controversial French study showed ill effects in lab animals.  This study has since been brought into question however many of the issues it raised are valid and warrant further study.

This is not, however, the first time that there have been issues with GMO corn.  Back in 2005 there was a German study which showed severe health effects and damage to the liver and kidneys causing the German government to call a halt to the use of the corn.  A 2009 study done in Austria showed that there was a link between GMO crops and a decline in human fertility.

In August of this year two Australia farmers began to travel around New Zealand educating farmers against GMO crops.  As is the case here in the US, those that do not want GMO crops have no recourse if their fields are “accidentally” contaminated.  However there is no way for them to protect against wind, flood, and animals carrying seed.  All of these are potential methods of contaminating crops.  Monsanto has a known reputation for suing farmers for theft if their fields become contaminated, even if this contamination is against the wishes of the farmer.  The only way to protect against GM is to keep it out of the country.

In this video (1.5 hours but worth watching) Jeffrey Smith, the Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology talks about GMO crops and their effects.

You can also watch the movie The World According to Monsanto to learn more.

If you want to read further about GMOs consider the following books:

At this point it may be difficult to stop the spread of GMO crops.  I believe it should be stopped and I believe it should be eradicated to the best of our ability.  But even more importantly I believe that we should have the right to know what’s really in our food.  I will be watching the election to see what happens in California.  I will be hoping that Californians lead the way in supporting our right to know what’s in our food.

photo: faul

On My Mind Monday 08.27.12

news | photo: mconnors

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

Re-homing chickens – Most people are not aware of the fact that chickens do not lay eggs their entire life.  Just for a few years; and  yet they can live to be as much as 15 years old.  So what happens to them when they are no longer “productive?”  In the case of a commercial egg operation they’re usually slaughtered.  But now an organization is finding new homes for chickens who are no longer laying eggs.  A very cool concept and definitely part of the ethical cycle of respect for the animal.

The undervalued superfood – I love the concept of superfoods, and there are many, which do not need to come from other continents.  There are so many wonderful, health-supporting foods all around us.  In this case the newest “super” food to get attention?  Beans.  High in fiber and protein, stabilizing for blood sugar, fabulous for intestinal health, these are just a few of the wonderful reasons to eat beans.

Consumers are bad at math – We are bad at shopping math and  marketers use this to their advantage.  While it’s harder to do this kind of math ‘on the fly’ when you’re shopping and in a hurry to get home with your purchases, I’ve realized it’s something I need to focus on more in order to make sure I am getting the best deals I can for my family.  My important addendum?  Make sure you are not hungry when you are shopping, that’s just going to make things worse.

Ten Year Old Convinces Corporation To Give Up Styrofoam – This is one of those stories that I love.  We are surrounded more and more by kid-advocates who are taking the lead in changing the world around them and changing it for the better.  Birke Baehr, a future farmer, spreading the word about sustainable agriculture, and Julia Bluhm, who convinced a major magazine to start using un-photoshopped pictures in their pages are among just a few of the young heros making a difference.  I think they are wonderful and amazing.

For today’s video we have a great one from my friend Julie Matthews – Making Veggie Latkes, a wonderful way to get more veggies into a picky eater.  This recipe also deals with issues for those whose bodies don’t handle starches well.

Julie also has a great cooking program available on her website.  If you’re looking to make changes to your diet, either because of Autism or because of a need to follows GAPS, SCD, Feingold, Body Ecology or other dietary protocols, this is the program for you.

What I’m Reading:

Drop Dead Healthy: One Mans Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs.  One man’s mission to learn how his body works, to lose weight, lower his cholesterol, and attempt to turn himself into the ultimately healthy person.  Mr. Jacobs took two years to learn everything he could about his body.  The book is a rather self-depreciating, humorous, fact-filled look at all the things we don’t know which impact our health.   Breaking the quest into 27 smaller tasks he focuses one-at-a-time on various parts of his body such as The Stomach, The Heart, The Ears, The Butt, etc.

Given his day job as the editor at large for Esquire magazine he had access to an astounding array of experts for support and information.  Each chapter has one or more experts that he consulted to learn the latest information about the science and theories behind what it takes to find health for that body part.

He didn’t limit himself to mainstream medicine and modern theory.  He was on a mission to try it all and to learn everything he could.  Along the way he submitted himself to various activities such as a Caveman Workout (running barefoot and bare chested through Central Park), a pole dancing class, neurofeedback, and joining a laughter club.  He also shared his thoughts and reflections on how he feels physically and/or emotionally after trying many of these, being mindfully aware of how his focus is affecting him.

Scattered throughout the book are checkups where he lists his weight, and a few other variable facts (such as how many pushups he can do).  The appendices at the end of the book is filled with tips, the highlights of what he learned during the year-long experiment.  It’s a quick and easy read, yet filled with fascinating facts and some good ideas about how to become healthier.

On My Mind Monday 7.09.12

news | photo: mconnors

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.

How can a big gulp look so small? – Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban has raised all kinds of backlash across the system.  The biggest misconception put forth is that we “know” how much we are consuming.  Manufacturers keep trotting forth this phrase each time they feel threatened to limited by any type of legislation that may impact their ability to peddle their product.  Frequently it’s the least healthy manufacturers who complain the loudest.  So now another study has been done that once again proves that our brains don’t do geometry very well.  We are not accurately able to gauge how much we are consuming, instead cueing off the size of the container.  This study, to my mind, confirms a study previously done with bottomless bowls of soup.  We do indeed eat with our eyes, frequently over-eating because we rely on visual cues.

Our Daily Bread – a slightly modified take of the work they’ve published in their book Hungry Planet: What The World Eats, Peter Menzel and Faith D’Alusio have an exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston.  It shows a wide variety of people with the food that they plan to eat for that day.  The variety and circumstances are startling.  It gives one definitely pause for thought.  I hope the exhibit is very successful and even more that it will travel around the country, perhaps making it’s way to a museum in Houston so that I can go see it.

Food Companies Concerned About Sustainability – As more consumers become more educated, more companies are beginning to listen.  Realizing that they need to be aware of and involved in this issue as well if they want to sell their products.  As always I propose we start with whole foods, but I do believe that sustainable practices across all parts of the food spectrum are important.

Nutrition Education on Wheels – This looks like an interesting concept.  Using a food truck and providing recipe cards and cooking demonstrations people are getting some ideas for how to use the food they get to make healthy, nutritious meals.  This is an idea that I think could be expanded greatly all across the country.  It seems to me that it would not only help people to eat healthier, but also to help avoid food waste as people often don’t use what they don’t know how to use and it sits until it becomes inedible.  I hope to see more food trucks like this.

EU Organic Label Now Mandatory – Well this just proves that it can be done.  It can’t come to our shores fast enough in my opinion.  I even like the symbol they chose.

I use a LOT of onions in my house.  I’ve tried to grow there but here in my hot, piney woods garden they have not done well.  Out of two onion sets I got one reasonable size onion, yes, one onion.  The others all seemed to melt and disappear into the garden.  I’m still not sure how that happens but I’ve decided that, for now, growing onions is not for me. I continue to use them as they are flavorful and a great, healthy way to punch up your recipes but, for now, I’m still buying instead of growing them.  As a good source of vitamin C onions also provide a lot of phytonutrients.  They are considered to be beneficial for heart health and are also anti-inflammatory.  Using them can be a challenge however as chopping a spherical object into nice tidy dices or even slices isn’t always easy.  Learning the proper way to chop onions is a handy skill.  Here’s a great video demonstrating how to do it.

 

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On My Mind Monday 7.02.12

news | photo:  mconnors

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

Tending the Body’s Microbial Garden – It seems that mainstream science is beginning to realize that wholesale, repeated slaughter of our intestinal flora may not be such a good thing. Holistic practitioners have been saying for decades that supporting the gut is key to supporting health. Starting with a baby’s first inoculation via the birth process to our exposures we build a hopefully healthy intestinal eco-system.  When we take antibiotics and wipe out both good and bad bacteria there are negative health effects that accumulate from this overarching destruction.   I’m glad to see that mainstream science is beginning to recognize the benefits of a healthy digestive system.  If you want to learn more consider reading Liz Lipski’s amazing book, Digestive Wellness.

Meat Without Drugs – For those Omnivore and Flexitarian eaters out there this is a huge deal.  The FDA has known for decades that the producers in the meat industry over-use antibiotics in order to keep their animals healthy in spite of overcrowding and filthy conditions.  The problem is that those antibiotics are still present in the meat when you eat it, leading to a regular low level exposure.  Over 70% of all antibiotic use in this country is in animal feed.  That’s an astounding number.  It appears that this situation may also be one of the leading causes behind antibiotic resistant bacteria.  We are essentially inoculating our bodies over and over again.  You can avoid eating meat with antibiotics in it by purchasing organic, purchasing meat labeled “raised without antibiotics”, or purchasing directly from a farmer that you trust.  And support this campaign, sign the pledge.

More than honeybees – It turns out the dangers from our damage to the environment are affecting more than just honeybees.  One big takeaway from this article is how the loss of meadows and wildflower habitats is affecting the bee population.  They need to have a wide mixture of plants available for foraging.  All the spaces that we consider weedy and remove or cover over or control by mono-cropping are exactly the spaces needed by the bees.  And we need them to pollinate our food.  It is, after all, an eco-system and one which we need to respect.

Olive Oil and Slippery Politics – sadly it’s not just in this country that politics and corporate aims challenge the issues of sustainability and environmental responsibility.  Unfortunately this compounds the situation already clouded by adulteration of olive oil.  To my mind the solution is simple and straightforward.  Stop adulterating the product, support small farmers, accept that this is a regional product that does best when produced sustainably.  However the EU’s solution is to create an overwhelmingly tragic repeat of what has happened to the dairy industry in this country by paying farmers to stock a reserve which will at some point no longer be acceptable for consumption.  It’s difficult as consumers to know what makes a good choice for olive oil, to know who is not adulterating and who is not being squeezed out (sorry) by corporate interests.  I know of a few producers that I believe sell a clean, quality product if you are interested in purchasing your olive oil for quality and purity.  Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard in Elmendorf, TX, Texas Hill Country Olive Company in Dripping Springs, TX, and the Chaffin Family Orchards in Oroville, CA.  High quality olive oil costs more, but you can tell by the flavor that you are getting an amazing product.

Farm to Dumpster – So much of our food is wasted.  In a world where there is growing disparity between the food haves and the food have-nots this is a deep shame.  In a world where food costs are rising this is sad.  In a world where the environment is stressed and global warming is a reality, this is just wrong.  We need to do better.  We need to be more mindful about our food and how we use it.  Learn more and make changes….start with Jonathan Bloom’s excellent book, American Wasteland.

What I’m Reading:

Cooking for Isaiah by Silvana Mardone – This book was on a friend’s cookbook shelf and she pulled it down to share a recipe that she particularly liked with me.  Flipping through the pages it looked amazing and, more than that, delicious.  I am one of those people who truly does READ a cookbook.  Reading through the pages of this one is a journey through foods that signify comfort and love.  But they come without gluten and dairy, a huge issue for many people.  I was so inspired by this book that before I was done reading it I ran to the grocery store to buy the gluten free flours to make Sivlana’s mix.  The one issue with her mix is the use of Xanthan Gum which is a binding agent.  Some people can be very sensitive to it and suffer from flatulence or bloating when eating it.  I haven’t experimented enough with the mix and the recipes to know if it’s okay to leave it out but I must say the recipes I’ve tried so far have all been amazing.

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