Category Archives: farming


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

Farmer’s Market Finds

I love farmer’s markets.  It’s always wonderful to go and see all of the different vendors offering their products.  To chat with them and learn more about what they do and their vision of real food/real products that they create to share with those who appreciate it.

This past weekend I went to a local farmer’s market with a couple of friends.  It was held at a local brewery and had an eclectic gathering of vendors.  I wanted to share a few that I had the opportunity to visit with.

Bison

Patrick from Katera Exotics shared about their pasture raised Texas bison.  He says they “love them, raise them well, and then we eat them.”  They have two locations, one near San Antonio and one in Katy.  I purchased a sirloin and made it for dinner that night.  It was absolutely delicious!  Raised without hormones or antibiotics on grassland, this is sirloin the way it’s mean to be.

There was a salsa vendor, Shane and Nina of the Salinas Salsa Co.  I confess that I only tried their mild salsa.  It was fabulous but way too hot for this Yankee girl.  I muscled down the rest of the sample because it was so delicious and Shane told me that they are working on a “really mild” version for folks like me that have trouble with the Texas heat.
salsa3

My Texas friends, however, informed me that the mild was, indeed, mild. Whoo boy!

 

jason2An unexpected and delightful stop was my chat with Jason of Leadbelly Elevator.  He’s a perfumer, essential oil product maker, and permaculturist.  We had a fabulous conversation about growing real food, chemical free products, and his commitment to making great products that smell good and are good for you.

Next up was the amazing variety of Texas Hill Country Olive Oils.  I know, hard to believe, but there are parts of Texas that are the right appellation to grow amazing olive oils.  Demetria was happy to sample out her products.  She also had some balsamic vinegars that won rave reviews from my friends.

demetria2
Last, but certainly not least, was the barbecue sauce from The Sauce Factory and my visit with Darrel and Gerald.

bbq2
At first I wasn’t going to buy any but I tried their sugar free (sweetened with stevia) bbq sauce. It was great so I bought a bottle. Then I was tempted by their mustard bbq sauce, tried it and was hooked. So I bought two bottles. I refrained from trying their other varieties for fear that I might come home with five bottles of sauce, but this stuff is good.

Afterwards my foodie friends and I ran down the street to the raw dairy where I bought some butter and got to say hello to these adorable calves and goats.

raw milk

raw milk 2

raw milk 3

 
Farmer’s markets are a great way to connect with the people that make your food. They’re also a wonderful way to get real food. Support your health and your local farmers, you’ll be glad you did.

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 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

On My Mind Monday 12.3.12

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.

The Economic Cost of Food Monopolies – Our food system is broken/breaking down as corporations pursue ever greater consolidation in the race toward profits. This however squeezes out the farmer and isolates us further from our food. I believe everyone should read this report. It’s important that we understand where our food comes from, why costs are rising, and why we need to know our farmer.

Changes ahead for sugar – (starts at 2:40 on the video) US prices 50-70% higher than the rest of the world? Wow that’s a huge jump. Combined with the fact that processed sugar can be as much as 4 times more addictive than cocaine and we have a very expensive health crisis on our hands (in more ways than one). We could all pay attention to the label and eat less sugar.

eFarmony – I love this idea…putting those with land together with those who want to farm it. Sounds like a win-win-win with consumers getting more fresh local produce.

Allergic to spice – We hear a lot about the common food allergies, dairy, peanuts, shellfish, etc. We also hear about food sensitivity conditions the severe celiac disease to a less harmful but still challenging lactose intolerance (a lack of the digestive enzyme lactase). But many people tend to forget that food sensitivities can be to any food substance. While food sensitivities are different than a life-threatening allergy, they are no less severe for their impact on health. If you think you have food sensitivities consider working with a nutrition professional to see how you can identify what may be overwhelming your system.

Horrible Diet Ideas – With the New Year just around the corner many people begin to resolve to lose weight. Unfortunately many of them are seduced by fad diets and celebrity endorsements. Just because someone is famous does not make them an expert on nutrition. Many of these ideas are highly dangerous. If you want to lose weight it needs to be done in a healthy, supportive fashion.

Asparagus for blood sugar control? – Like asparagus? It turns out that asparagus may be useful in stabilizing blood glucose levels. More and more readily available at the grocery store it’s tasty and easy to cook.  I love the fact that I’ve got some in my garden, we just finished moving it to it’s new dog-free garden bed. Now to wait and see if it transplanted well.

Looking for a good gentle yoga routine?  Here’s one I like that’s very relaxing and, most importantly, reminds you to breathe deeply.

What am I reading this week?  Truthfully, nothing because I’m still busy at work on my book, The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in your food.  Want to learn more about the book?

Head on over to Facebook and join The Pantry Principle page.  You’ll be able to stay in touch as I start posting healthy tips and news articles.

On My Mind Monday 11.19.12

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.  Read what’s on my mind.

High Riboflavin Linked to Low Lung Cancer Risk – This study was done as part of the Shanghai Women’s Health Study, the participants were non-smoking females.  Not sure what the implication is for those who used to smoke but it sure can’t hurt to make sure you eat foods high in riboflavin. These include:  venison, yogurt, milk, crimini mushrooms, and spinach.

Rooftop Hospital Farms – This is a great way for hospitals to utilize the space on top of their building, create healthy menus for the patients and staff, and help to contribute to a growing eco-friendly environment.  I can also envision this as a potential park-like area for inner-city patients (those able to be ambulatory), and staff to be able to spend therapeutic time in a green environment.

Fat loss odds stacked against you – It’s a never-ending battle of the bulge.  Portion sizes, especially when eating out, are out of control.  Fats and sugars and salts are packed into foods to make them more tempting and convince us to overeat.  It is not in the best (profit-driven) interests of corporations to have consumers who don’t overeat — read overspend on food and then the attendant pharmaceutical/healthcare bills that come along with obesity.  We need to become more aware and more proactive in managing our health and our consumption.

Exercise Your Sperm – Turns out men who exercise not only improve their own health, they also improve the quality of their sperm.  Important for those who want to have children.  Interestingly enough the study found that endurance athletes, such as triathletes, did not have this benefit as they suffered from reduced sperm quality.  Rather it was moderate exercise which promoted the best value of sperm health and hormone levels.

One Can Equals 22 Aerobic Minutes – How hard do you have to work to burn off that cola?  And don’t forget about the immune suppressing effects of all that sugar.  Drinking sugar free?  You’re still taking in toxic chemicals and damaging your health. Do we really need a “calculator” to tell us that soda is not a healthy beverage choice?

I know you hear me on Facebook frequently encouraging alkalizing. Here’s a great video that shows a good explanation of the acid-alkaline balance.  If you’re not already participating, sign up or “like” my Facebook Fan Page to stay connection and be part of the conversation.

photo: mconnors

On My Mind Monday – 11.12.12

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.

Food: An Atlas – It’s an interesting project to map food in a number of different ways; production, distribution, security, and cuisine  Should be fascinating to look at and see where your food is really coming from.

Factory Farms May Raise Blood Pressure – We know factory farms are bad for the animals that are raised there.  Overcrowding and filthy conditions are not good for any living being.  The environmental impact of CAFO’s is huge.  Now it turns out that it may not be healthy for people living nearby either.  While the study is small and the results not firm, it points to another reason why CAFO’s may not be the best way to raise meat.

Meat Inspections Are Down – And speaking of meat, it turns out that our government is inspecting less and less of the meat coming in to this country from other countries.  The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is instead relying more and more on those countries to self-report any issues.  Another good reason to buy local and get to know your farmer.

Women Who Exercise Still Sitting Too Much – Whoops, that would include me.  The health results of sitting are known to be bad for us.  The more we sit the more challenges we face to our health.  I try to be as active as possible but when I added up my hours spent sitting, either at work or at home, it came to far more than I thought it did.  Time to bump up the activity program and try to find ways to be more active during the course of a day.

Sports Drinks Overhyped – “There isn’t much evidence that sports drinks improve athletic performance.”  Truthfully not many people work out enough to need a sports beverage.  Not only that, most sports drinks are filled with garbage ingredients.  Consider drinking water, a great hydrating beverage.  Need electrolytes (and I mean really need them), then try coconut water, a perfectly balanced electrolyte beverage.

If you’re going to add more exercise to your routine, don’t forget to add in stretching.  And to do stretch properly as demonstrated in this video.

photo:  mconnors

Organic Or Conventional?

The news headlines are once again blaring headlines about no significant nutritional difference between conventional and organic produce.  At a base level that appears to be true.  Foods grown in similar soil will have similar nutritional benefits.  The plants are only able to get so much out of the soil.

However, and this is not disputed in the new but certainly seems to be minimized, the chemical residues are higher for conventionally grown produce.  This is because in order for food to be considered organic there is a standard which prohibits the use of a vast array of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  That chemical burden on your body can be considerable.  This alone makes it worth purchasing organic, especially for the “dirty dozen,” those fruits and vegetables most likely to be highly contaminated by pesticide residue.

There was a modest mention made of the fact that organic produce appears to be higher in antioxidants.  Since antioxidant value was not considered as part of the overall nutritional value of the food this appears to have been discarded as a strong reason to purchase organic.  There are, however, a growing number of studies which show that antioxidant value is highly beneficial for the body, especially when it comes to a wide number of diseases and health conditions.

Another important fact to consider, which the articles don’t discuss, is that organic produce is not allowed to be genetically modified.  Given the number of genetically modified crops (and the growing number under application for approval) it makes sense to purchase organic in order to avoid that in your food.

And a final thought on this issue, which the articles tend to gloss over, is that meat and dairy products from organically fed animals (meaning the animals are not allowed to be given added hormones, antibiotics, and are not allowed to be fed genetically modified or pesticide laden foods) do have significant differences.  Organic animal production means the animals are not allowed to be given added hormones, antibiotics, and are not fed genetically modified or pesticide laden foods.  The antibiotic issue is an important one for animal products.  When we eat continual low level antibiotics it is bad for our overall health and can encourage bacteria to become anti-biotic resistant.

Organic dairy products are measurably higher in protein and beneficial fatty acids.  Eggs also have a better fatty acid profile.  Studies show that organic meat is lower in fat and has a better overall fatty acid profile making it a healthier choice for consumption than conventionally raised animals and animal products.

Ultimately the choice of what to eat and how to spend your grocery dollars is up to you.  But before you make those choices make sure you have all the facts, not just a scaled down “no nutritional difference” newsbyte.

On My Mind Monday 08.20.12

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.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

Hot cocoa may boost seniors’ brain power – cocoa flavonols are gaining increased recognition for their healthy properties.  There were also positive changes for cardiovascular health and blood pressure modulation.  One of the drawbacks is that this study was sponsored by Mars, one of the co-authors is a Mars employee, and Mars provided all of the cocoa samples.  So while this is interesting as a start, there need to be more studies, that are done in a more controlled, less corporate connected studies.

Dry farming – Given the drought many areas of the country have been experiencing it may be time to resurrect this “old-fashioned” way of doing things.  A side benefit is increased nutrient density and flavor in the crops.  This appears, to me, to be a much better alternative to water waste and over-use of fertilizers and other agricultural chemicals.

5 years to “fix” antibiotic overuse in farm animals – This issue has been going on far too long.  The vast majority of antibiotics in this country are used in animal farming.  The consequences are dire as more and more superbugs are created due to the amount of antibiotics people eat from meat and dairy products.  You are what the animal you eat ate.  [it’s okay, go back and re-read that once or twice if you need to, it’s confusing to read/write but makes total sense once you understand it]  I’m outraged that it’s been decades already and this issue has not been addressed.  Now we’ve given the system another five years to begin to make changes,  It’s overwhelming and it’s wrong.  Animals that are bred for food need to be raised humanely and treated well, not crammed together and given antibiotics as a routine matter-of-course.

The internet printer – apparently coming soon to a printer near you…the ability to print a roll of tweets, fb postings, recipes and more.  One of the challenges that I see for this product is that they are claiming that it is using thermal paper just like in cash register receipts.  These receipts are coated in BPA which makes the printing process easy.  Unfortunately it flakes off very easily, adhering to your fingers and then contaminating whatever you touch.  If you have to handle receipts wash your hands thoroughly before touching food.

And not one, but two videos this week to make up for no videos last week.

Rescuing bees

Raising Chickens

This is a complete turn-around in how to raise chickens. I love the fact that these chickens do really go outside. There are some companies that claim their chickens have access to the outdoors but they raise them in such a way that the chickens won’t go outside when the option is offered to them. These are very healthy, happy looking birds.

On My Mind Monday 4.23.12

news | photo: mconnors

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

The mother who stood up to Monsanto in Argentina – Monsanto and their agrochemicals are not only problematic here in the US, but are having a hugely negative effect around the world.  We often don’t hear much about what is happening in other countries, sometimes leading us to believe we are the only ones fighting.  Sofia Gatica plans to take on Monsanto not only in Argentina, but all across South America.

Canadian nutrition labels often misleading – This is, to put it bluntly, extremely frustrating.  Calories, fat, sugar, were all potentially understated.  And positive ingredients were possibly overstated.  This means that some foods looked far healthier than they actually are.  If you can’t rely on the nutrition label to accurately relay the facts of the food it becomes even more difficult to make appropriate choices.  Whole food still is the best way to go.  However we live in a real world and that does include the influence of other foods.  The label is one way to help you navigate prepared or processed foods.  Unfortunately it appears that this was widespread across a wide variety of manufacturers.  Kraft and Heinz were included, but so were companies such as Eden Organic, Kashi, and Amy’s Kitchen.  While the issue will hopefully be resolved, this situation does beg the question, what about the other locations where these companies sell their products.  Like the United States.

Football fields to farms – Given how committed many schools are to their football teams this article caught my eye.  Becoming partners in the community and helping to support agriculture in an area that was classified as a food desert, the college is making a difference.  Even better they have added farming as part of the curriculum so their students can learn how to take care of the land.  Knowledge that they will surely take with them when they graduate.

A week in the life of a food stylist – I’ve always been interested in food photography and food styling.  I’m not very good at it and really appreciate the beautiful work of those who are.  But the truth is sometimes a little sad because the food isn’t always how it appears.  “1:40pm: We got some sad mangos today. It happens. I had to give them a soak in water with a little bit of food coloring added to so that I could boost the color and “mango-ness” of them.” Artificial colors…rats.

Fermentation – that’s on my mind a lot as I make fermented foods such as kefir and fermented vegetables.    I was really pleased to come across this BBC Radio 4 program on The Fermentation Revival which included some members of the UK chapters of the Weston A. Price Foundation, an organization which promotes traditional foods, as well as an interview with Sandor Katz.

Here’s a video of Sandor Katz demonstrating making fermented saurkraut.

Two books on fermentation that have recently come out which need to go on my purchasing list:

Wardeh Harmon is a wonderful and knowledgeable traditional foods expert who I met at the Wise Traditions Conference 2011 in Dallas.  It was great to get to spend a little bit of time with her at the conference and I’ve enjoyed following her online.  The book looks great and is sure to be a wonderful addition to any traditional, nourishing foods kitchen.

If you’re going to get into fermenting foods I strongly recommend that you purchase a set of pickle weights made by my friend Sandy Der.  I bought mine two years ago and love using them.  They’re cute, functional, and work very well.

And if you want to get serious about fermenting foods you’ll need to pay a visit to the nice folks at Cultures for Health, they’ve got just what you need to get started.  My water kefir culture, also known as tibicos, came from them and is going strong.  I’m thinking about separating some of them to try to make ginger beer which my husband used to drink as a kid and loves.

disclaimer:  cmp.ly/5