|Posted by Simon & Shelley on March 21, 2011 at 6:21 PM||comments (0)|
Laura Sevier: What inspired you to make the film about the food industry?
Robert Kenner: I had read Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma. I realised I knew so little about where food comes from and how much our food systems had been changed.
The illusion is that food comes from a farm with a white picket fence and barns but it's not. It's from huge mega factories where tens of thousands of animals are confined in one space. Waste used to be fertiliser - now it's a pollutant. The pieces of the system no longer make sense.
LS: Did you set out to listen to all sides of the story - from organic farmers to Monsanto?
RK: I thought it would be interesting to talk to everyone - food companies, industrial and organic farmers and have a conversation about how we can feed the world.
Little did I know how off-limits the food world would become and how much industry does not want you talking about this subject. I went from one company to the other - in the film you only see ten or so but actually there were dozens that did not want to talk to us.
I realised the system was off limits. Ultimately in the US food products have started to have more rights than we as individuals. There are laws in place to protect companies - known as 'veggie libel' laws - that stop you from insulting a product or endangering profits of a corporation. [Food libel laws or food disparagement laws exist in 13 US states]
LS: Can you tell me about the legal challenges you faced with this film?
RK: The irony is that it's more frightening to talk about it here than in the States. I didn't realise what we faced until we talked to Barbara Kowalcyck, a food safety advocate whose son died having contracted E-coli from a tainted hamburger. She mentioned what happened to Oprah Winfrey who, on a program about BSE in 1996, expressed concern about the safety of eating hamburgers. [Texas ranchers sued Winfrey under a food libel law, although in 1998 the jurors rejected the $11 million dollar defamation lawsuit.]
I ended up spending more legal fees on this film than the past 15 films combined - times three! The world of corporate food is a very litigious world. They will do everything to stop you from getting people to think about this subject. It made my life very frightening. If I'd known all this before I started out, I might have had second thoughts about making this film.
We went through the film and thoroughly fact-checked every single statement.
I took things out of Food Inc that I thought were true but [over which] I didn't want to spend time in court.
LS: Did legal opposition from various companies force you to edit out parts of the film?
RK: No-one forced me to but there was always the inherent threat. In our attempt to reach companies we'd call and say, 'We're talking about so and so. Don't you want to comment?'
With Carole Morison, the chicken farmer who worked for Perdue Farms - she said she's immune to antibiotics and that she had been feeding her chickens a feed additive made from arsenic (as requested by Perdue).
We spoke to Perdue who said: 'we stopped doing that [arsenic] a day or two ago so Carole is incorrect.' They defended the practice in the recent past! I took out that bit from the film to err on the side of caution.
LS: What was the most shocking aspect of making the film?
RK: There were two things. One was early on when we went to a hearing about whether to label cloned meat. A representative from the meat industry said it would be 'too confusing for the consumer'. I realised I had entered an Orwellian world where people are being 'protected' by not being told.
Then when I asked food safety advocate Barbara Kowalcyck what food she eats and she couldn't answer me or she'd be sued. I realised it was not a film about food: it was a film about rights. Seeing how food products now have more rights than individuals - that was more frightening than seeing how the food was produced.
LS: In the film there is a focus on the food system in the US - does the situation apply to the rest of the world?
RK: This is not a film about the US. I thought of filming in other countries and you could have been told the exact same story. It might have started in the US, but it is spreading. It's starting to happen here and it happens in Asia.
LS: How was Food Inc received in the US when it was released last year in June?
RK: It became one of the most successful documentaries of all time. The amount of press we got was really incredible. For a while we were the number one selling DVD on Amazon ahead of all the Hollywood movies.
It's very gratifying to see how much it played into growing food movements and how passionate people are and how it cuts across ideological lines. There is something about food that does cut across ideological lines - we all have to eat!
LS: In the film you tell people to 'vote with their fork'. Is consumer power enough to change this system? Obviously it's a matter for the regulatory agencies too but as Food Inc reveals, the FDA and USDA are somewhat toothless...
RK: It's a two-pronged battle. Consumers do have the power to vote three times a day. But you've also got to create a level playing field. Unfortunately if you're subsidising food that's not good for us it means that poor people are having to buy cheaper calories and these cheaper calories are making us sick. It also takes consumer consciousness to infringe this group. It's never going to change unless we have a movement to help us change it.
As a common movement gains strength it's able to put pressure on governments all over the world. Entrenched corporate power is only concerned with the very short term, in looking after its own bottom line. You can still make money selling healthy food too. We need to know how to put pressure on and pay the real costs of food. We all love cheap food - but we're beginning to see the hidden cost of it.
LS: What do you hope people will take away from the film?
RK: That the system is unsustainable. We've created a world where we're using up our natural resources and, in doing so, robbing our children and our grandchildren. We have to think about growing and producing food in a fairer way.
We have to return the balance of power towards individuals and away from the corporations. The film does show Walmart in a good light for helping to ban a growth hormone given to cattle to produce more milk.
We also need to figure out how to create another system. The current food system is all based on oil. If you believe in peak oil we're going to run out at some point. We need to think about how to feed the world and what's sustainable. People should have the right to know the consequences and the cost of the industrial food system.
|Posted by Simon & Shelley on February 28, 2011 at 9:40 PM||comments (0)|
A plant pathologist experienced in protecting against biological warfare recently warned the USDA of a new, self-replicating, micro-fungal virus-sized organism which may be causing spontaneous abortions in livestock, sudden death syndrome in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soy, and wilt in Monsanto’s RR corn.
Dr. Don M. Huber, who coordinates the Emergent Diseases and Pathogens committee of the American Phytopathological Society, as part of the USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System, warned Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that this pathogen threatens the US food and feed supply and can lead to the collapse of the US corn and soy export markets. Likewise, deregulation of GE alfalfa “could be a calamity,” he noted in his letter (reproduced in full below).
On January 27, Vilsack gave blanket approval to all genetically modified alfalfa. Following orders from President Obama, he also removed buffer zone requirements. This is seen as a deliberate move to contaminate natural crops and destroy the organic meat and dairy industry which relies on GM-free alfalfa. Such genetic contamination will give the biotech industry complete control over the nation's fourth largest crop. It will also ease the transition to using GE-alfalfa as a biofuel.
"My letter to Secretary Vilsack was a request to allocate necessary resources to understand potential nutrient-disease interactions before making (in my opinion) an essentially irreversible decision on deregulation of RR alfalfa," Huber told Food Freedom in an email.
But, he cautions:
"Although the organism has been associated with infertility and spontaneous abortions in animals, associations are not always evidence of cause in all cases and do not indicate what the predisposing conditions might be. These need to be established through thorough investigation which requires a commitment of resources.
"I hope that the Secretary will make such a commitment because many growers/producers are experiencing severe increases in disease of both crops and animals that are threatening their economic viability."
On Feb. 16, Paul Tukey of SafeLawn telephoned Dr. Huber who told him, “I believe we’ve reached the tipping point toward a potential disaster with the safety of our food supply. The abuse, or call it over use if you will, of Roundup, is having profoundly bad consequences in the soil. We’ve seen that for years. The appearance of this new pathogen may be a signal that we’ve gone too far.”
Tukey also conveyed that while Huber admits that much further study is needed to definitively confirm the link between Round-Up and the pathogen, “In the meantime, he said, it’s grossly irresponsible of the government to allow Roundup Ready alfalfa, which would bring the widespread spraying of Roundup to millions of more acres and introduce far more Roundup into the food supply.”
Huber, who has been studying plant pathogens for over 50 years and glyphosate for over 20 years, has noticed an increase in pathogens associated with the herbicide. In an interview with the Organic and Non-GMO Report last May, he discussed his team's conclusions that glyphosate can, “significantly increase the severity of various plant diseases, impair plant defense to pathogens and diseases, and immobilize soil and plant nutrients rendering them unavailable for plant use.”
This is because “glyphosate stimulates the growth of fungi and enhances the virulence of pathogens.” In the last 15-18 years, the number of plant pathogens has increased, he told the Non-GMO Report. “There are more than 40 diseases reported with use of glyphosate, and that number keeps growing as people recognize the association (between glyphosate and disease).”
In his undated letter to the USDA, Huber highlighted "the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions over the past few years in US cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations." He reported that spontaneous abortions occurred in nearly half the cattle where high concentrations of the pathogen were found in their feed. Huber notes that the wheat "likely had been under weed management using glyphosate."
Last year, Argentine scientists found that Roundup causes birth defects in frogs and chickens. Publishing their paper, "Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Produce Teratogenic Effects on Vertebrates by Impairing Retinoic Acid Signaling," in Chemical Research in Toxicology, Alejandra Paganelli, et al. also produced a large set of reports for the public at GMWatch:
"In Argentina and Paraguay, doctors and residents living in GM soy producing areas have reported serious health effects from glyphosate spraying, including high rates of birth defects as well as infertility, stillbirths, miscarriages, and cancers. Scientific studies collected in the new report confirm links between exposure to glyphosate and premature births, miscarriages, cancer, and damage to DNA and reproductive organ cells."
One of the researchers, Andrés Carrasco, told GM Watch, “The findings in the lab are compatible with malformations observed in humans exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy.”
When trying to present these findings to the public in August of last year, Dr. Carrasco and the audience were attacked by 100 thugs who beat them and their cars with clubs, leaving one person paralyzed, Amnesty International reported. Local police and a wealthy GM rice grower were implicated in that attack.
In a 2009 study, researchers linked organ damage with consumption of Monsanto’s GM maize, based on Monsanto's trial data. As we reported last year, Gilles-Eric Séralini, et al., concluded that the raw data from all three GMO studies reveal that novel pesticide residues will be present in food and feed and may pose grave health risks to those consuming them.
In a 2005 paper published in Environmental Health Perspectives, Sophie Richard, et al. compared the toxicity of Roundup with that of just glyphosate, its active ingredient. They found Roundup to be more toxic, owing to its adjuvants. They also found that endocrine disruption increased over time so that one-tenth the amount prescribed for agriculture caused cell deformation. Citing other research, they also reported that Roundup adjuvants bond with DNA.
Such negative findings probably explain why Monsanto and other biotech firms so vociferously block independent research.
Tom Laskawy at Grist estimated that in 2008, nearly 200 million pounds of glyphosate were poured onto US soils. But, he notes that “exact figures are a closely guarded secret thanks to the USDA’s refusal to update its pesticide use database after 2007." This figure more than doubles what the EPA estimates was used in 2000.
|Posted by Simon & Shelley on February 5, 2011 at 11:17 AM||comments (0)|
Humans have been drinking and trading raw milk and its products (cheese, yogurt, kiefer, etc.) throughout history. The bulk of the world favors raw milk. France, for example, provides vending machines for travelers. Even England’s monarch is a raw milk fan. Brian Lewis reports:
“It’s also said that Her Majesty is so keen on it that when grandsons princes William and Harry were at Eton, raw milk from the monarch’s Windsor dairy herd was delivered daily to them at the school.”
Risk aside, I tried my first raw milk while writing this. So far, so good. Not dead and not strapped to the porcelain bowl.
By denying our right to eat food with which we evolved, the FDA ignores science. Just as the biotech industry ignores scientific reality that genes operate on an entire genetic platform that is influenced by an internal and external environment, the myopic Germ Theory also ignores the role that our entire organismal system plays on whether we become sick or stay healthy. To quote Joel Salatin once more:
“This industrial food experiment, historically speaking, is completely abnormal. It’s not normal to eat things you can’t spell or pronounce. It’s not normal to eat things you can’t make in your kitchen…. And as more people realize that this grand experiment in ingesting material totally foreign to our three-trillion-member internal community of intestinal microflora and -fauna is really biologically aberrant behavior, they are opting out of industrial fare.”
Not just natural milk fans, but all who seek private food arrangements will appreciate Raw Milk Revolution. The number of cases discussed and his close look at the scientific arguments provide solid ground for defending the right to make our own food choices. He also reveals just how far CorpoGov will go in shutting down all competition to industrial food. The book is indispensable for anyone writing about the food wars: key arguments, cases, people, and organizations are listed in the expansive index for easy reference.
Gumpert closes his book with a warning:
“If secretive government regulators are successful in their efforts to deprive consumers of unpasteurized dairy products, they will be emboldened to push us farther toward their vision of reliance on sterile factory food.”
|Posted by Simon & Shelley on January 31, 2011 at 7:18 PM||comments (0)|
According to Richard C. Cook, veteran Project Manager for the U.S. Treasury Department and Policy Analyst for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:
"Cheap, mass-produced foods are largely based on grains and beef raised by massive agribusiness firms, so that the atrocious American diet is inextricably linked with capitalist enterprise controlled by Wall Street. A key ingredient is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), suspected of being a major cause of diabetes and heart disease, as well as obesity. Much of the HFCS is extracted from corn grown from genetically modified seed, which has been rammed down the throats of American farmers, again by the massive agribusiness firms such as Monsanto.
"American farming at present is completely incapable of supplying nutritious foods on a scale that would make a difference. In order to furnish natural and healthy foods to poorer markets would require a revolution in American farming where small family farms using heirloom seeds and natural farming methods would once again become prosperous. Unfortunately, this sector has been destroyed by agribusiness and by the federal government policies, not to mention bank lending practices that favor it. We also have a massive food chemical industry, closely aligned with the pharmaceutical industry that thrives on doctoring unhealthy and non-nutritious food, with the aid of the Food and Drug Administration, which approves their chemical formulas”.
|Posted by Simon & Shelley on January 26, 2011 at 7:23 PM||comments (0)|
Birds that are good egg layers are often not good meat producers! However, heritage breeds are not genetically engineered to be specialized and so lay eggs as well are produce tender, delicious meat.
Columbian (picture) are solid egg layers and all round meat birds making them an ideal multi-purpose breed.
Leghorns are kept for egg production. They lay white eggs. They are able to forage for themselves and so are good for free range situations, although they do not go broody as well as some of the other breeds. Basically this means that they are not good about hatching their eggs if you want to raise chicks on your homestead. They also don't produce alot of meat.
Bantams lay tiny eggs which are often colorful pastels. These birds are small and make good pets or show birds for children.
Plymouth Rock is a heritage breed. As with most heritage breeds you will find that it is multipurpose. It is a good egg layer, a good brood hen, and produces a fair amount of meat. It is a docile breed.
Rhode Island Red - another heritage breed that is dual purpose and lays abundant numbers of eggs and is probably one of the best dual purpose breeds for a small homestead.
Delawares are excellent egg layers, a good dual purpose breed. They are listed as critical on the American Livestock Conservancy list.
Holland, another breed on the critical list. This is currently one of the rarest of the heritage breeds and one of the few that lays white eggs.
Wyandottes are not particularly rare, however they are a heritage breed.
Silkies are so cute moderate egg layers provide specialist meat rarely used in the West and tend to be very good for hatching as they go broody quite easily.