Friday, December 21, 2012

Fantastic Plastic [Infographic]

In today's consumer world, plastic is everywhere—from plentiful stores of bottled water to disposable plasticware to the containers that hold our store-bought food. It seems like you can't go out shopping without running into a good deal of plastic. And while this material is strong, reliable, and undoubtedly useful, we also may have way too much that isn't being reused.

Recycling plastic uses much less energy than creating new plastic and it conserves our valuable resources. Despite this, only about a third of our plastic products are actually recycled. Among younger generations, the problem of our over-consumption of plastic has been prevalent for as long as some can remember, and yet little has changed or progressed in alleviating the problem.

Statistically, people in the Millennial generation (today's high school and college students, as well as young adults) are much less likely to properly recycle plastic and other materials than those in older generations. If you're of student or Millennial age, take a look at the following infographic—the reality is that younger generations need to start getting serious about recycling, or the future will be robbed of some very valuable resources.

  Plastic Infographic

Monday, December 17, 2012

Revealed: What the Beef Industry Pumps Into Your Dinner

A common industry practice puts consumers at higher risks for eating food contaminated by deadly pathogens -- and that's just the tip of the iceberg. 

By Tara Lohan

If acclaimed authors Upton Sinclair (The Jungle), Jeremy Rifkin (Beyond Beef) and John Robbins (Diet for a New America) haven't given you enough reasons over the last century to be wary of the meat industry, then a year-long investigation by the Kansas City Star may do the trick.

Mike McGraw kicks off the KC Star's investigative series by introducing Margaret Lamkin, who has been forced to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of her life, after a medium-rare steak she ordered three years ago at Applebee's was contaminated with a pathogen. The resulting illness destroyed her colon.

Of course we already know about E. coli and other food-borne pathogens; people have gotten sick from everything from spinach to peanut butter. But the news here is that what sickened Lamkin wasn't just the meat, but a process the industry uses to tenderize it. McGraw explains :
The Kansas City Star investigated what the industry calls "bladed" or "needled" beef, and found the process exposes Americans to a higher risk of E. coli poisoning than cuts of meat that have not been tenderized.

... Although blading and injecting marinades into meat add value for the beef industry, that also can drive pathogens - including the E. coli O157:H7 that destroyed Lamkin's colon - deeper into the meat.
By using this process (which according to the story, 90 percent of processors will use, depending on the cut), people are at a greater risk of exposure to life-threatening illness. And consumers have no way of knowing whether their meat has undergone this process.

Ending up with a fecal-contaminated burger is bad, but it's just the beginning of what the investigation uncovered. Here are the other key findings, as McGraw writes:
  • Large beef plants, based on volume alone, contribute disproportionately to the incidence of meat-borne pathogens.
  • Big Beef and other processors are co-mingling ground beef from many different cattle, some from outside the United States, adding to the difficulty health officials have tracking contaminated products to their source. The industry also has resisted labeling some products, including mechanically tenderized meat, to warn consumers and restaurants to cook it thoroughly.
  • Big Beef is injecting millions of dollars of growth hormones and antibiotics into cattle, partly to fatten them quickly for market. Many experts believe that years of overuse and misuse of such drugs contributes to antibiotic-resistant pathogens in humans, meaning illnesses once treated with a regimen of antibiotics are much harder to control.
  • Big Beef is using its political pull, public relations campaigns and the supportive science it sponsors to influence federal dietary guidelines and recast steaks and burgers as "health foods" people should eat every day. It even persuaded the American Heart Association to certify beef as "heart healthy."
Read the full investigation, and think about how this scenario fits into the larger picture of what we deem acceptable as a food system. Just last month Consumer Reports shared frightening findings about pork.
And there is a ray of good news. Ocean Robbins wrote today:
People are taking an increasing interest in the way that the animals raised for food are treated. In fact, a poll conducted by Lake Research partners found that 94 percent of Americans agree that animals raised for food on farms deserve to be free from cruelty. Nine U.S. states have now joined the entire European Union in banning gestational crates for pigs, and Australia's two largest supermarket chains now sell only cage-free eggs in their house brands.
The demand is growing for food that is organic, sustainable, fair trade, GMO-free, humane, and healthy. In cities around the world, we're seeing more and more farmer's markets (a nearly three-fold increase in the last decade), and more young people getting back into farming. Grocery stores (even big national chains) are displaying local, natural and organic foods with pride. The movements for healthy food are growing fast, and starting to become a political force.

Investigations like the one done by the Kansas City Star are crucial for public education, as is support for the growing food movement that needs help in turning purchasing power at the market into political power that can affect decisions about food safety and industry practices.

"Big agribusiness would probably like us all to sit alone in the dark, munching on highly processed, genetically engineered, chemical-laden, pesticide-contaminated pseudo-foods," Robbins writes. "But the tide of history is turning, and regardless of how much they spend attempting to maintain their hold on our food systems, more and more people are saying NO to foods that lead to illness, and YES to foods that help us heal."

Beat the Sniffles with Immunity-Boosting Foods

In the midst of the travel and cold season, it’s important to incorporate more immune-strengthening foods in our diet. Try adding more of these vitamin rich foods onto your plate this winter:

Mushrooms: These fungi have powerful disease-fighting properties that go beyond vitamins and minerals alone. While different types of mushrooms have distinct healing properties, all mushrooms are prized for their ability to eliminate mucus and toxins in the body, and their natural detox powers are fantastic for our inner health. Shiitakes fight colds and flu, allergies and a depressed immune system, while white button mushrooms are packed with B vitamins and detoxifying power.

Pickles: Or any fermented food populate your digestive tract with friendly, immune-boosting bacteria that help you assimilate nutrients and stay your healthiest. Some experts estimate that the majority of your body’s immune powers originate in your gut! Good digestion is a major factor in overall health,  so reach for the sauerkraut, kimchi, or miso to maintain the proper balance. Note: be sure your pickles are cured in a salt brine (versus vinegar, like most kinds you find in the grocery aisle) to ensure that they contain good probiotic bacteria.

Green Tea with Lemon: Drinking green tea is not only a stress-reducing ritual, it’s a dose of preventative medicine. A 2010 International Journal of Cancer study found ingesting a little citrus juice with your green tea enhances its disease-preventing potential by stabilizing its natural polyphenols during digestion.

Garlic: A classic cold-fighter, garlic is a strong antifungal, antibacterial food that keeps our bodies adept at fighting off disease by boosting our white blood cell defenses. So, go ahead add in a few extra cloves to soups, stews and sauces this season.

Ginger: Used in ancient medicine, ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory and in case you’re already under the weather, it also eases congestion and existing cold and flu symptoms.

Salmon: This powerful fish has a rare dietary source of vitamin D, an important immunity vitamin (actually a hormone) that may of us lack in the winter when we spend less time under the sun. A 2012 Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry study linked zinc deficiency to disease-related inflammation and even DNA damage. According to the study, about 40 percent of Americans are zinc deficient and deficiency risk increases with age.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Magical Paper Extends The Shelf Life of Produce, Organically

Have you ever come home from the market with armfuls of fresh fruits and vegetables only to find them wilting and rotting in the fridge a mere week later? Or even get home from your local produce market with a box full and anxiously scarf down pounds of fruit before it goes bad? So, the question presents itself: How do we keep produce fresh from farm to fork for an extended amount of time, and thus reduce food waste? The solution came from Kavita Shukla who didn't necessarily set out to solve the issue; her innovation developed from her middle school science project.

After years of research and development Fenugreeen FreshPaper was founded in 2010. The small magic squares of spice-infused paper were  developed as a remarkably effective way to keep food fresh - extending the shelf life of produce up to four times longer than usual.

The exact combination of herbs and spices used in FreshPaper is proprietary, of course, however the only ingredient Shukla will reveal is fenugreek, a spice often used in Indian cooking, which also lent its name to her company. screen-shot-2012-12-12-at-122632-pm
How it works:
"It basically works by inhibiting bacterial and fungal growth, as well as the enzymes that cause fruit to over-ripen," Shukla explains. "The concept is that you can just drop a sheet into a drawer or carton. Sometimes people put it into a fruit bowl. Our customers call it a ‘dryer sheet for produce.'" Each certified organic and biodegradable sheet lasts about two to three weeks, until its distinctive maple-like scent begins to fade. "That's how you know it's no longer active," Shukla explains.
Today, FreshPaper is used by farmers and families across the world and most recently has been made available in Whole Foods Markets. The growing distribution has allowed her to pursue her efforts to begin a "get one, give one" program benefiting local food banks, starting with those affected by Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey. Shukla says the brand has grown entirely by word of mouth, and credits much of this grassroots energy to increased environmental awareness in consumers.
"As we start to learn more about what's going on with food waste, we realize that there's water involved, there's energy costs, land, resources, that go into creating the food that we eat," she says. "And with the economy, people are becoming much more conscious of being wasteful at home, because they know not only are they struggling, but there are people in the U.S. that have no access to fresh food at all. It seems that everyone is coming to understand the importance of buying less or conserving what we have, and how that fits into the larger food crisis."
Fenugreen is a social enterprise with the mission of "Fresh for All." 12-4 12-2 12-1 12-3
[sources: FreshPaperFast Co.]

Friday, December 7, 2012

Labeling GMO Crops [video]

The current issue isn't about banning GMO crops in the United States, it's about labeling them - a consumer's right to know. We will work on getting them banned as our next step.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

saving food from the refrigerator


Although we think and talk about food on a constant basis, do we really know how best to preserve it or do we become lazy and leave the responsibility to technology? Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Jihyun Ryou thinks we no longer understand how to treat food. Her Save Food from the Fridge project involves placing certain foods on a group of "knowledge shelves" outside the fridge. With the goal of a better relationship with our food we may be able to waste less and conserve more energy, without sacrificing design aesthetics.
"Observing the food and therefore changing the notion of food preservation, we could find the answer to current situations such as the overuse of energy and food wastage. My design is a tool to implement that knowledge in a tangible way and slowly it changes the bigger picture of society. I believe that once people are given a tool that triggers their minds and requires a mental effort to use it, new traditions and new rituals can be introduced into our culture." - Jihyun Ryou
Her beautifully designed storage shelves aim to "re-introduce and re-evaluate traditional oral knowledge of food, which is closer to nature. Furthermore, it aims to bring back the connection between different levels of living beings, we as human beings and food ingredients as other living beings." For instance, the egg holder shelf includes a drop down cup of water to test the eggs. A ripe egg will always sink in water, so before breaking it open you can check to see its freshness. There is also a set of spice jars equipped with lids that hang down small bags of rice inside the jar. The rice is said to absorb humidity and keep the spices dry. There is even a hybrid apple/potato holder which keeps potatoes in a dark cabinet. Particularly focusing on the food preservation, it looks at a feasible way of bringing that knowledge into everyday life.


What do you know about GMOs? [Infographic]

A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism altered to incorporate genes of a desirable trait. Information on GMO labeling has been recently covered in the news, specifically regarding California's Prop 37 and has been a trending topic amongst the blogging community, but what do you really know about them? Luckily the folks over at Visualism have put together an infograph for you to test your knowledge on GMOs. And while barely scratching the surface on the entire GMO debate, we think it's a good starting point and worth the share.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bundle Up! Tips on Staying Warm this Winter

The leaves have all fallen, the holiday lights are hung, fresh tracks are being made at ski resorts. That's right, winter is on its way and the folks at inspired habitat have put together some comprehensive, eco-friendly tips on how to stay warm without cranking up the thermostat.

Get audited – before you do anything, have a home energy audit done. You’ll find the areas of your home that really need work, and find more effective ways to go green while staying warm. An added bonus: many energy retrofit rebate programs require an energy audit be conducted prior to any work.

Cover bare floors – use area rugs to help insulate against hard floors that feel cooler than surrounding air. If your feet are cold, you’ll feel cold. Of course, putting on a pair of cozy socks or soft slippers helps too.

Heat the space you use – if your home doesn’t have climate zones, use space heaters to heat up only the small spaces you are using rather than your whole home. Get a heater with a timer and thermostat to prevent overheating.

Go programmable – install a programmable thermostat to keep your home warm when you are there and not-so-warm when you’re not. Turn your thermostat down at night to reduce heating bills significantly (up to two percent for every degree you go down).

Harness the sun – open drapes on sunny windows to let the sun heat your home, then close them (with heavy curtains) at night. Keep windows that face away from the sun covered to prevent heat loss. It’s a simple system that can reduce your heating costs by up to 15%.

Seal it up – replace weather stripping around doors and windows. Seek out air leaks around ductwork, in the basement, and around crawl spaces; then fix them.

Get serious – upgrade your insulation, especially in the attic and around the basement. Install storm windows, or upgrade to low-E windows to help prevent drafts and heat loss (especially prevalent with single-pane wood-frame windows).

Embrace it – reach for your fuzziest socks and coziest sweaters, then curl up with a soft throw and something warm to drink. It’s a set of little luxuries you won’t be able to enjoy in summer, so indulge while you can. Besides, wearing sweaters and comfy socks means you can set your thermostat down another degree or two.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Organic Food Products To Be Tested For Residues Starting In 2013

by: redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

In order to make sure that farmers are not using banned pesticides or genetically-modified organisms, organic food will be forced to undergo periodic residue testing starting in 2013, USDA officials have announced.

The agency first implemented regulations governing organic food production 10 years ago, and since then, only a select few private and accredited firms have been responsible for testing the farms that grow such produce, according to Bill Tomson of the Wall Street Journal.

The reason, he says, is that current USDA regulations offer “little guidance” regarding testing procedures — specifically, the reasons behind such examinations and the scheduling of them.
All organic food processors must undergo an initial inspection in order to become certified as organic food producers, Tomson explains, but there are regulations on the books requiring farms to be re-evaluated on a regular basis.

“The USDA said it is mandating that agents test annually a minimum of 5% of the farms or production facilities they are contracted to monitor,” the Wall Street Journal reporter wrote. “That is enough testing, the USDA said, to discourage use of prohibited substances without raising costs to the organic industry that has to pay for the testing.”

Currently, there are less than 100 accredited agents allowed to complete residue tests on the approximately 30,000 organic food producers across the globe that currently market their ware in the US, Tomson said.

The USDA will reportedly allow those agents to determine the 5% of the farms that will be tested each year, as mandating which facilities are tested would increase costs.

“The USDA said the new testing requirements will protect the integrity of the organic food industry. Periodic residue testing, it said, will discourage the mislabeling of organic food that consumers buy in supermarkets,” he wrote on Friday.

Tomson added that it was “an audit performed by the USDA’s inspector general that the USDA said prompted its decision to mandate periodic testing. Auditors interviewed four of the agents that monitor organic food producers in the U.S. and found that none of the agents were conducting periodic testing.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The "Green" Christmas Tree

For many families, the centerpiece of Christmas celebrations is the luminous, awe-inspiring tree decorated with care in the living room. But with all the options now available, how do you know which Christmas tree is the greenest choice for the environment?

The question for many is deciding between a real, fresh tree or a fake tree.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) nearly 29 million households purchase a live tree each year. Most Christmas trees are now raised on established farms, meaning deforestation isn't an issue, but they must be shipped, often over long distances. They do require pesticides and fueled vehicles to maintain and transport, and often end up taking up space in landfills.

On the other hand, most artificial Christmas trees are made in China, typically from oil-derived, pollution-releasing polyvinyl chloride (PVC). A number have been found to contain lead. Once finally disposed of, artificial trees will last for centuries in landfills. Roughly 70% of Americans choose artificial trees these days.

Advocates of "going artificial" point out that a one-time purchase of a fake tree can save gas otherwise used for annual trips to a tree farm or shopping center, not to mention for cross-country shipping of the tree to the point of sale. If your family keeps the faux fir for many years, even generations, the oil savings could certainly add up to more than what it took to make and ship the product in the first place. But that is an "if," and all too often people upgrade to a fancier model, or abandon their old one after a move or after the boughs get bent in the attic.

So, what's the "greenest" Tannenbaum? While a number of factors are to be considered, including where you live, how you celebrate and precisely what you buy, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Going with a real tree?
Try to choose something locally and organically grown. You'll cut down on CO2 emissions and help prevent the environmental degradation wrought by pesticides on big conventional operations. The NCTA locator site features a list of beautiful live Christmas tree providers across the country. When you are finished with your tree, be sure to convert it to mulch or compost.

Going with an artificial tree? 
Try to choose one that is made in the U.S., this greatly decreases the chances for contamination with lead or other toxins, preserves domestic manufacturing jobs and reduces shipping. If you must get rid of your artificial tree, check with local charities, shelters and churches to see if they can use it. Most recycling programs do not accept them, and they'll take many centuries to degrade in landfills.

Growing a tree? 
Buy a living, plantable "bulb" tree. Inside, the tree can wear ornaments and garland, and after Christmas it can be transplanted outdoors. You'll be adding to the planet's lungs and fighting global warming, as well as providing wildlife habitat. If you live in an apartment, or don't have room in your yard for an evergreen, see if you can donate it to a person or place within your community.

Going with creativity? 
Try to fashion your own "tree" from items around your home or even natural materials like driftwood, pine boughs or cones, branches and similar. You won't be contributing to any new resource use and will be giving your own creativity a chance to flourish.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kaiser Permanente advises customers against GMOs

It has come to our attention that Kaiser Permanente, the largest managed healthcare organization in the United States, has advised its members against GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in food.

In its Northwest Fall 2012 newsletter, Kaiser suggested membership limit exposure to genetically modified organisms.

“GMOs have been added to our food supply since 1994, but most people don’t know it because the United States does not require labeling of GMOs,” according to the newsletter.

Sounding like a radical organic health proponent, the huge corporate Kaiser continued, “Despite what the biotech industry might say, there is little research on the long-term effects of GMOs on human health.”

Independent studies have shown GMOs to cause organ damage in rats and the inability to reproduce. Kaiser gave tips on how its members can avoid GMOs, including buying organic, looking for the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal and to download the “ShopNoGMO” app.

 [via: Willamette Live]

Monday, November 19, 2012

"Oprah's Organics" to Hit the Shelves

It appears that the media mogul Oprah Winfrey is venturing into the organic food business. Several applications for "Oprah's Organics" were filed last month, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The filings indicated toiletry items such as soaps, oils, hair products, sunscreen, as well as expanding into food products like salad dressings, frozen vegetables, soups and more. In addition, applications for "Oprah's Farm" and "Oprah's Harvest" were also submitted. According to the New York Post:
The addresses for the applicant's include the Wilshire Boulevard addresses of Winfrey's business and the Chicago address of Winfrey's Harpo Inc., offices. Winfrey, who launched her own girls' school in South Africa and has topped Forbes' list of highest-paid celebrities this year earning an estimated $165 million, already owns hundreds of acres in Maui, which include a large farm and a bed and breakfast. A rep for Winfrey told us: "The trademarks were filed for Oprah's farm on Maui to enable the farm to grow and distribute produce on Maui and throughout the Hawaiian Islands."
What sounds like a forward-thinking business venture expanding from Oprah Winfrey's empire could be more than just a publicity stunt or even "fall-back plan" as O.W.N struggles to survive on television.

As a savvy businesswoman, Oprah may have identified the organic market as a commercially viable space that she can easily dominate on store shelves. If she can get millions of viewers to read books together, she could definitely get millions of consumers to buy her organic brands. So how would this affect the industry at-large?

Some are saying this would spawn an "Oprah Effect" in organics, similar to "Dr. Oz Effect" within the natural products industry. Oprah was the catalyst that launched Dr. Oz into celebrity status, essentially building his brand and image.

It is unlikely we will see an increase in organic produce growth as her Hawaiian farm is limited to inter-island distribution. However, once her brands meet organic certification, we might see some serious competition on the mainland in organic salad dressings, beverages, packaged foods and even personal care products.
Competition is a good thing. Savvy customers reaching for Oprah's brands will instinctively compare prices with established organic brands. Customers who may have never purchased organic goods before will seek Oprah's for the sake of novelty, and perhaps continue with a new buying habit.
A line of Oprah-branded organic foods has the potential to reach more people, thus expanding access to areas where organic is not currently recognized or valued. With this in mind, along with a healthier farming environmental impact in Hawaii, we'd like to welcome Oprah to the organic scene.

[sources: NY Post, New Hope 360]

Thursday, November 15, 2012

let's not forget to be thankful for the earth

Thanksgiving is just a week away and many of us will be surrounded by friends and family enjoying an amazing home cooked meal of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy. With delicious food on our minds, we often forget how the Thanksgiving holiday affects the environment. Of the 248 million turkeys raised each year, over two-thirds (that's 82.67 million turkeys) are consumed each Thanksgiving.. For many Americans, turkey is a must-have during the holiday feast, even with it, there are ways to have a healthier, more sustainable "Turkey Day".

buy local

As a measure to reduce carbon emission, it's best to purchase your turkey from a local, organic source which helps keep agriculture thriving in your area. Check for a comprehensive database for all things organic. Organic turkeys ensure that no pollution will enter the air or water as a result of harmful pesticides and hormones, thus making them taste better ultimately better for you. Additionally, when buying produce make sure to buy local and organic and in-season vegetables. This will reduce the carbon emissions of your Thanksgiving. If you're unsure of which vegetables are in season, click here.

limit travel

Many Americans hit the road to visit family and friends; this is one of the hidden greenhouse gas creators during the Thanksgiving holiday. When possible, make sure to carpool to your dining destination, or invite your neighbors into your home, keeping everyone close and strengthening the community while reducing the ecological impacts of the holiday. According to, if every family reduced their Thanksgiving gas usage by one gallon, we would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one million tons each year.

reduce waste

Like many people, the meal is the favorite part about the holiday. However, Americans waste about 25% of food each year on Thanksgiving. To reduce this, plan your meals appropriately. A rule of thumb is to have a main course, four sides, and a dessert - assume each person will have about one pound of turkey and approximately one-fourth of a pound of each side. If you still end up making too much, remind your guests to bring food storage containers and send them home with a 'doggie bag' or donate them to local homeless shelters. Composting the remaining scraps is another sustainable alternative.


While a big feast can generate holiday bliss, festive decorations can also contribute. When decorating, keep in mind sustainable, homemade ways to give your home the Thanksgiving vibe. Use items from your yard - gather pine cones, twigs, and leaves to create a centerpiece. Pair candles with walnuts to create a modern tablescape.

be thankful

With cheer in the air around the holiday seasons, it's always important to thank your family and friends for an amazing year, but we should also appreciate the earth for supplying us with an amazing place to live, beauty to view, and food to eat. Do your part to have a sustainable, healthy Thanksgiving to make sure there are more beautiful holidays for generations to come.
[source: US Census]

Monday, November 12, 2012

Reclaiming Outdoor Advertising

Urban Air: Los Angeles Artist Transforms Billboards Into Floating Gardens - Liz Dwyer

Imagine sitting in traffic during your daily commute and instead of seeing the clutter of countless billboard advertisements you see gardens floating in the sky. That’s the kind of green experience Los Angeles-based artist Stephen Glassman wants us to have as we travel through our urban landscape. His Urban Air project hopes to transform the steel and wood frames that hold billboard advertising into suspended bamboo gardens.

Glassman’s been creating large-scale bamboo installations across Los Angeles since the aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. He came up with Urban Air because—like many of us who live in congested cities—he saw a need for more fresh, green space, and a greater connection to humanity. The idea won the 2011 London International Creativity Award and proved so inspiring that Summit Media, a billboard company based in Los Angeles, actually offered to donate billboards along major streets and freeways.

As you can see in the video above, to create the garden billboards, Glassman and his team simply remove the commercial facade and modify the existing structure by installing planters, filling them with live bamboo, hooking up a water misting system and connecting them to a wifi network that monitors the environment. Then, says Glassman, “when people are stuck in traffic” on the 10 Freeway instead of seeing advertisements, they “look up and they see an open space of fresh air.”

The project’s hoping to raise $100,000 through Kickstarter to structurally retrofit the first prototype billboard, secure licenses, permits, and insurance, and pay for cranes to help install everything. They hope to spread the idea across the globe so they’re also producing “a system ‘kit’ that enables any standard billboard to be easily transformed to a green, linked, urban forest.” While it can be argued that it seems like a hefty sum for just one billboard and a toolkit, seeing a beautiful garden suspended in air sure beats having to look at another advertisement, right?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What To Takeaway From Prop 37's Defeat

If you haven't heard yet, California's Proposition 37 did not pass, therefore there will be no mandatory labeling of genetically modified food, well....yet.  The ballot initiative dramatically gained attention leading up to the vote as massive amounts of opposition commercials hit the airwaves. Corporations not supporting the initiative spent more than $46 million, compared to the mere $9 million raised by organic advocates, activists and the general public. And while the narrow margin of the vote - 47% for labeling, 53% opposed - still doesn't push the initiative into action, it's a lot closer than expected, but a loss is still a loss.

Here are 5 takeaways from yesterday's vote from Marc Brush of New Hope 360:

1. Consumers do prefer natural food, but they don't particularly care right now about what that means. Whether this apathy manifests in the rampant abuse of natural product claims or our dogged lack of transparency concerning GM ingredients, mainstream consumers will vote for natural in polls but not on ballots, and only at the shelf if the price is right.

2. You really can buy the vote in America, at least on the rough and tumble terrain of state politics. Whether you view the opposition's messaging as consumer education or a nefarious disinformation campaign, the fact remains that $46 million in organized advertising tabled this initiative. In this light, food reformists need concern themselves much more with campaign finance reform and the mechanisms of politics than they ever have in the past. You could even argue that there is no true food reform without political reform first.

3. Most of the leadership in natural & organic food did not step up to the plate for this initiative. For whatever reason—imprecise language, litigation exposure, economic pressure—only a small handful of companies contributed meaningful levels to this particular cause. Spotlight on Nature's Path, Dr. Bronner's and Lundberg Family Farms for giving until it hurt.

4. This is not a death blow for the non-GMO movement, but let's be honest. It's serious. California was the state to make this happen, and now it serves as a very public proxy for the country's lack of conviction around this topic. If I was in the business of agitating for GM labeling, I would now focus the lion's share of my efforts and resources on Just Label It at the national level.

5. What exactly did that $46 million buy the companies who spent it? Time, and time alone. Given the escalating awareness surrounding this issue, the global call for labeling in most developed countries, and the relentless drive for transparency across industries but especially in food, the prospect of unlabeled GM food in America is increasingly remote. Another few years of it, however, makes that $46 million money well spent.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hidden GMOs in Packaged Food

Grab any packaged food in your pantry and read the label. The following are ingredients that may contain GMOs, unless certified organic or non-GMO.

Aspartame (also called AminoSweet®,    NutraSweet®, Equal Spoonful®, Canderel®,  BeneVia®, E951)
baking powder
canola oil (rapeseed oil)
caramel color
citric acid
cobalamin (Vitamin B12)
condensed milk
confectioners sugar
corn flour
corn masa
corn meal
corn oil
corn sugar
corn syrup
cottonseed oil
food starch
fructose (any form)
glutamic acid
glycerol monooleate
high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
hydrogenated starch
hydrolyzed vegetable protein
inverse syrup
invert sugar
lactic acid
malt syrup
malt extract
milk powder
milo starch
modified food starch
modified starch
mono and diglycerides
monosodium glutamate (MSG)
oleic acid
phytic acid
protein isolate
soy flour
soy isolates
soy lecithin
soy milk
soy oil
soy protein
soy protein isolate
soy sauce
stearic acid
sugar (unless specified as cane sugar)
teriyaki marinades
textured vegetable protein
tocopherols (vitamin E)
vegetable fat
vegetable oil
vitamin B12
vitamin E
whey powder
xanthan gum
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) although usually derived from corn, is probably not GM because it is not likely made in North America.

Groceries as Communities for Change

Photo: Kathy Geissler Best / SF

[via SF Gate]

One year after Occupy Oakland, we find that what seemed to have so much potential produced little to resolve our communities' social and economic problems. Yet the Occupy Wall Street movement did illuminate a very important and growing sentiment: People want to have a meaningful role in creating greater social equality and economic resiliency in their communities.

What's needed now is to connect that public sentiment with initiatives to create a long-term and sustainable plan that allows concerned citizens to take action beyond protest, and with the resources they have.

We are businessmen, but we are not Wall Street. We're grocers. Our expertise is in providing good food to people, but we do much more than just stock and sell food. The essence of our work is to build community and provide an anchor for thriving neighborhoods.

 How? We incorporate into our daily work tested models and solutions for some of the most significant problems that our communities face. And we do it in partnership with our communities, enabling customers to play an active role.

Why is a grocery the locus for change? Because the need for food, when ignored, becomes a conflagration of other concerns, starting with health problems and ending in economic instability and violence. The very fabric of communities falls apart when the dinner table doesn't anchor our families.

When Sam Mogannam took over Bi-Rite Market in the San Francisco's Mission District in 1997, the neighborhood was a haven for drug dealers and pimps. His response: He took bars off the windows. Next, he replaced the processed and junk foods on his shelves with fresh and high-quality foods. People told him he was crazy. Today, Bi-Rite is touted as a national model for how neighborhood grocery stores can help transform communities.

What Bi-Rite offered was a way for the community to rebuild itself. And people responded. When Mogannam took over, that block of 18th street had less than 40 jobs; it now has more than 400.

Ahmadi is working on a start-up grocery business, called People's Community Market, in the lower-income neighborhood of West Oakland that faces many of the same challenges seen in the Mission District 20 years ago. Although it has yet to open its doors to the public, People's Community Market is using a local solution for citizen action - a grassroots community investment campaign. The campaign enables people of all economic backgrounds - including the 99 percent - to actively participate in their local economies by becoming shareholders in this business. This is not a donation. This is real investment, creating community ownership, in a business whose primary purpose is to make a positive impact on the well-being of the community, and bring its shareholders a modest return.

The project is an outgrowth of 10 years of community work by the People's Grocery.

Our efforts offer a way for community members a way to engage, beyond protesting, in building concrete, local and sustainable solutions to social and economic problems. Annually, West Oakland residents spend $58 million on grocery purchases. Nearly 70 percent of that is spent outside the community, and thus is a lost opportunity to build strength from within.

 The time for protest has passed. It's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Let's build the world we want - together. Business can be part of the solution.

Brahm Ahmadi is the founder and CEO of the new West Oakland business, People's Community Market. Sam Mogannam plans to open his second market in San Francisco next year.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chefs Back Measure on Labeling G.M.O.’s

By Stephanie Strom, Diner's Journal, New York Times

Alice Waters / Laura Morton for The New York Times 
More than 700 of the nation’s chefs and professional foodies, from prominent names like David Bouley to up-and-comers like the chef Bryant Terry of Oakland, have lined up to support a California ballot measure that would require food companies to label products containing genetically engineered ingredients.

“We’re talking about the provenance of food, and there’s nothing more important to chefs like me,” said Alice Waters, the founder of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and legendary proponent of locally grown foods. “We need to know where our food comes from and how it’s produced, who produces it. That’s the bedrock of what we do.”

Ms. Waters said she initially thought she needed to do no more than vote “yes” for the ballot measure, Proposition 37, when she went to her polling place on Nov. 6. But a visit to Sonoma County from Carlo Petrini, the founder of the slow food movement, convinced her that she needed to become more active.

“He had come to talk about Slow Food and the change in leadership, but the first thing he started talking about was Prop 37,” Ms. Waters said, referring to the nonprofit Mr. Petrini founded in 1989 to nurture the movement. “He talked about Europe looking to the vote in California and how we needed to take this on, and I decided then that I needed to do whatever I could.  I needed to get active.”

So she sent out an e-mail late Friday night, asking chefs she knew around the country to lend their support to the campaign to get the ballot measure passed. By Monday morning, 100 chefs had signed up, and 200 more quickly signed on once word got out on Twitter and other social networks.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bouley became the 516th chef to sign onto the cause.

“Whether it’s calorie labeling in chain restaurants or chefs putting on their menus what farm they bought the lamb from, people want to know more about their food and where it comes from,” said Peter Hoffman, chef and founder of the now-closed Savoy, a farm-to-table pioneer in SoHo, and the Back 40 restaurants. “So this isn’t about whether G.M.O. is right or wrong, it’s about transparency. And when someone opposes transparency, what does it tell you?”

Mr. Hoffman noted that avoiding foods with genetically engineered ingredients is becoming harder and harder. For instance, he said he recently learned that most white vinegar sold in supermarkets comes from corn and thus is likely to be genetically modified.

Dan Barber, the executive chef and an owner of the Blue Hill restaurants, joked that he himself engages in genetic engineering, together with his partners at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, a nonprofit farm and education center in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., that supplies some of the ingredients used in the dishes he makes at his restaurants.

The current menu, for instance, features a new, proprietary variety of squash that he and his partners at the farm have grown by cross-breeding conventional squashes. “That sometimes results in some outrage from customers initially until we explain what we’re doing,” Mr. Barber said.
But he makes a distinction between what he is doing and what the food and agribusiness companies that have poured tens of millions of dollars into opposing the ballot measure are doing. “They are inserting genes at will, sometimes from completely different species, and creating things in a lab that would never occur in nature,” Mr. Barber said. “We don’t support that.”

Friday, October 26, 2012

Infograph: What Does "Organic" Really Mean?

[via Loku


There's an App for That

While we all sit on the edge of our seats awaiting the results of the upcoming proposition in California, the folks over at Fooducate released a phone app designed to tell you if there are GMO ingredients in your food. In an effort to eliminate nutrition label confusion the app provides the user with GMO information for about 200,000 products.

And while the app cannot replace individual due diligence and mainly common sense shopping, it's always nice having more options to educate the general public on the importance of GMO labeling.

iPhone screen shots

Learn more about Fooducate Apps on their website:

[via Fast Co.]

Dr. Oz Officially Endorses GMO Labeling

Arguably the most influential health expert in the US, Dr. Mehmet Oz, has officially endorsed Proposition 37 in California, which makes GMO labeling on many (not all) food products. If this imitative passes in the state of California, it will set wheels in motion for all food companies nationwide. With only two weeks until the election, the Dr. Oz endorsement is a key development for those in favor of food freedom.
According to the press release, Dr. Oz concluded his show on Wednesday, Oct. 17 about the topic of GMOs with the following quote: “”Right now we have no way of knowing which foods have been genetically modified. I believe you should have that right,” said Dr. Oz, at the conclusion of the segment, titled GMO Foods: Are They Dangerous to Your Health? “I prefer to be cautious.”

Now that Dr. Oz is on board, the pendulum should swing back in the direction of common sense, and in favor of GMO labeling. Companies change labels all the time, so adding a small “May contain genetically modified ingredients” tag to their products shouldn’t be too taxing. Thankfully, the truth is coming out about GMOs, and the revolution is underway. [via The Natural Independent]