Thursday, June 27, 2013

Solstice Harvest: Garlic

Traditionally, garlic is harvested on the longest day of the year – our summer solstice. If you planted your garlic on time (October – December) your crop should ready by this time. And you will be grateful for those extra hours of daylight – pulling garlic can be a hard, long day’s work – but the rewards are lasting. Harvesting garlic always feels like building a bank account to me – alot of work upfront, but then you have a stock of something valuable – food that will keep for many months and always be useful. What worthwhile recipe doesn’t rely on garlic?

Note sure if your bulbs are ready to come out? Here are some guidelines to harvesting and curing your garlic properly.
  • Know your varieties. Two broad categories of garlic exist: hardneck and softneck. Hardnecks will produce a scape. The scape should be harvested roughly 3 weeks before the bulbs come out of the ground. This way, the plant will know to send its energy down, instead of up, producing nice, big cloves.
  • Bulbs are generally ready when about half of the plant’s green leaves have turned papery and brown. These are your clove wrappers.
    Take a look! the best way to know if your garlic is ready, is to dig up a head and examine its qualities. The bulb should look full, or “dropped,” and in proportion to the neck.
  • Garlic can, of course, be eaten as soon as it is pulled. If you would like to store it, however, it must be cured. To cure garlic, lay the bulbs in a single layer in a cool, dry space with good airflow. Bundles of garlic can also be hung from rafters and dried this way. After 3 weeks, the garlic should feel very dry and you should be able to easily remove any dirt or excess papery skins with a gentle rub with your thumb. Snip the roots and the neck.
  • Always store good garlic at room temperature. Do not refrigerate!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top 10 Healthiest Seeds on Earth

They come in all different sizes, shapes and colours. The seed is an embryonic plant itself and the origin of nutrition. A plant goes to great lengths to produce each seed and fill it with high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, proteins, essential oils and dormant enzymes. If you're looking for a high quality, nutritious and filling snack, seeds are tough to beat. Let's look at the ten healthiest seeds on Earth and how to consume them.

A seed is life. It is a living food. It is impossible to eat a raw seed and not derive nutrition.

Many seeds are edible and the majority of human calories come from seeds, especially from legumes and nuts. Seeds also provide most cooking oils, many beverages and spices and some important food additives.

In different seeds the seed embryo or the endosperm dominates and provides most of the nutrients. The storage proteins of the embryo and endosperm differ in their amino acid content and physical properties.

How to Eat Seeds

There is only one way to derive nutrition from seeds and that is to eat them raw. Once they are exposed to heat, they produce toxic substances and the vitamin, mineral and essential oil profiles are denatured. By roasting a seed, its classification moves from a living food to a dead food. There is no seed on earth that can withstand roasting or heating without breaking down its nutritional components. Always remember, eat seeds them raw. This also means they can be soaked, ground or mashed (i.e. tahini), especially if a seed's shell or coat is too difficult to pierce with the teeth.
  • Choose raw and unsalted seeds
  • Avoid coated or roasted seeds
  • Avoid sugar coated seeds

The 10 Healthiest Seeds on Earth

Chia Seeds 

Serving Size = 1 Tsp

Consider these facts about Chia seeds:
  • 2.5 times more protein than kidney beans
  • 3 times the antioxidant strength of blueberries
  • 3 times more iron than spinach
  • 6 times more calcium than milk
  • 7 times more vitamin C than oranges
  • 8 times more omega-3 than salmon
  • 10 times more fiber than rice
  • 15 times more magnesium than broccoli
The seeds are loaded with vitamins and minerals, are an excellent source of fiber, protein and antioxidants, and are the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Consumption of chia seeds could help reduce joint pain, aid in weight loss, deliver an energy boost and protect against serious ailments such as diabetes and heart disease. The seeds are gluten-free, which also makes them appealing to people with celiac disease or an aversion to gluten.

Consumption of chia seeds may increase blood levels of the long chain omega-3 EPA by 30%, says a new study from the Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina.
Chia seeds are a source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of “short-chain” omega-3 fatty acid, whereas fish is a source of the “long-chain” fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). While growing research has linked consumption of EPA and DHA to heart health, improved brain function and possible other health benefits such as improvement in depression or rheumatoid arthritis, studies are now suggesting that ALA may bring about redistribution associated with heart and liver protection.

Consumption of chia seeds as a source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) may bring about redistribution associated with heart and liver protection. The top benefits of chia seeds are far reaching and as far as superfoods go, this is undeniably one of the top ten.

Hemp Seeds

Serving Size = 1 Tbsp

More people are discovering the nutritional benefits of hemp seed, nut and oil.

Hemp contains:
  • All 20 amino acids, including the 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) our bodies cannot produce.
  • A high protein percentage of the simple proteins that strengthen immunity and fend off toxins.
  • Eating hemp seeds in any form could aid, if not heal, people suffering from immune deficiency diseases. This conclusion is supported by the fact that hemp seed has been used to treat nutritional deficiencies brought on by tuberculosis, a severe nutrition blocking disease that causes the body to waste away.3
  • Nature’s highest botanical source of essential fatty acid, with more essential fatty acid than flax or any other nut or seed oil.
  • A perfect 3:1 ratio of Omega-6 Linoleic Acid and Omega-3 Linolenic Acid -- for cardiovascular health and general strengthening of the immune system.
  • A superior vegetarian source of protein considered easily digestible.
  • A rich source of phytonutrients, the disease-protective element of plants with benefits protecting your immunity, bloodstream, tissues, cells, skin, organs and mitochondria.
  • The richest known source of polyunsaturated essential fatty acids.
According to the hemp growers industry, industrial hemp grown for food, fuel and natural fibers contains virtually no THC (less than .3%).

In fact, when hemp is processed into hemp seed oil and hemp seed milk, for example, it further reduces the minute amount of THC in hemp.

And yet, there's still a stigma due to the long-standing idea that hemp and marijuana are one in the same. Hemp is actually categorized with marijuana as part of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 and is therefore illegal to grow in the US.

The best way to insure the body has enough amino acid material to make the globulins is to eat foods high in globulin proteins. Since hemp seed protein is 65% globulin edistin, and also includes quantities of albumin, its protein is readily available in a form quite similar to that found in blood plasma.

Eating hemp seeds gives the body all the essential amino acids required to maintain health, and provides the necessary kinds and amounts of amino acids the body needs to make human serum albumin and serum globulins like the immune enhancing gamma globulins. Eating hemp seeds could aid, if not heal, people suffering from immune deficiency diseases. This conclusion is supported by the fact that hemp seed was used to treat nutritional deficiencies brought on by tuberculosis, a severe nutrition blocking disease that causes the body to waste away.

Pomegranate Seeds

Serving Size = 1/2 Cup

Pomegranates are a rich source of antioxidants. Therefore, it helps to protect your body's cells from free radicals, which cause premature aging. In simple words, pomegranate juice pumps the level of oxygen in your blood. The antioxidants fight free radicals and prevents blood clots. This eventually helps the blood to flow freely in your body in turn improving the oxygen levels in your blood.

Pomegranates are especially high in polyphenols, a form of antioxidant purported to help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. In fact, pomegranate juice, which contains health-boosting tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid, has higher antioxidant activity than green tea and red wine.

The pomegranate, with its edible seeds inside juicy sacs, is high in vitamin C and potassium, low in calories (80 per serving, which is just under one-third of a medium fruit), and a good source of fibre.

The antioxidant properties of a pomegranate prevent low-density lipoprotein cholesterol from oxidizing. This essentially means that pomegranates prevent the hardening of the artery walls with excess fat, leaving your arteries fat free and pumping with antioxidants.

"Mice that drank pomegranate juice were able to significantly reduce the progression of atherosclerosis, [by] at least 30 percent," said study co-author Dr. Claudio Napoli, a professor of medicine and clinical pathology at the University of Naples School of Medicine in Italy.

Pomegranate health benefits run bone deep; it can reduce the damage on the cartilage for those hit with arthritis. This fruit has the ability to lessen the inflammation and fights the enzymes that destroy the cartilage.

Flax Seeds

Serving Size = 1-2 Tsp (ground)

Dietary fiber from flaxseed suppresses rises in blood levels of lipids after a meal and modulate appetite. University of Copenhagen researchers report that flax fiber suppresses appetite and helps support weight loss.

Flax has been cultivated for centuries and has been celebrated for its usefulness all over the world. Hippocrates wrote about using flax for the relief of abdominal pains, and the French Emperor Charlemagne favored flax seed so much that he passed laws requiring its consumption!

The main health benefits of flax seed are due to its rich content of Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), dietary fiber, and lignans.

The essential fatty acid ALA is a powerful anti-inflammatory, decreasing the production of agents that promote inflammation and lowering blood levels of C-Reactive Protein (CRP), a biomarker of inflammation. Through the actions of the ALA and lignans, flax has been shown to block tumor growth in animals and may help reduce cancer risk in humans.

Lignans are phytoestrogens, plant compounds that have estrogen-like effects and antioxidant properties. Phytoestrogens help to stabilize hormonal levels, reducing the symptoms of PMS and menopause, and potentially reducing the risk of developing breast and prostate cancer.

The fiber in flax seed promotes healthy bowel function. One tablespoon of whole flax seed contains as much fiber as half a cup of cooked oat bran. Flax's soluble fibers can lower blood cholesterol levels, helping reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Ground flax seed provides more nutritional benefits than does the whole seed. Grind the seeds at home using a coffee grinder or blender, and add them to cereals, baked goods and smoothies.

Pumpkin Seeds

Serving Size = 1/2 Cup

They are the only seed that is alkaline-forming in this world of highly acidic diets.

Add pumpkin seeds to your list of foods rich in protein. 100 grams of seeds on a daily basis provide 54 percent of the daily requirement in terms of protein. Most of us pop pills to replenish deficiency of vitamin B-complex, try pumpkin seeds next time. Pumpkin seeds are a good source for vitamin B like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 and folates.

For those who are down in the dumps, pumpkin seeds can help fight through depression. The chemical component L-tryptophan is the secret ingredient to boost your mood. Did you know that pumpkin seeds can prevent kidney stones? Studies suggest that pumpkin seeds can help prevent certain kidney stone formations like calcium oxalate kidney stone.

Pumpkin seeds even hold the secret to fighting parasites, especially tapeworms.

Apricot Seeds

Serving Size = 1/4 Cup

Apricot kernels are, like most nuts and seeds, very nutritious. Among the nutrients they contain is one called amygdalin, which is also known as vitamin B17. This attacks cancer cells, and thus can help prevent cancer from breaking out in our bodies.

Amygdalin (vitamin B17) is contained in many hundreds of foods, but ones that are particularly rich in amygdalin have disappeared to a large extent from our Western diet. People throughout the world who still eat a traditional diet, have been found to be largely free from cancer. These diets are rich in foods containing amygdalin.

Apart from apricot kernels, examples of other amygdalin rich foods are bitter almonds (amygdalin tastes bitter - sweet almonds do not contain it, and apricot kernels that are not bitter do not contain it). Other foods containing amygdalin are apple pips, grape seeds, millet, broad beans, most berries, cassava and many other seeds, beans, pulses and grains - but not ones that have been highly hybridized.

For prevention, however, Dr Ernst T Krebs Jr., the biochemist who first produced laetrile (concentrated amygdalin) in the 1950s, recommended that if a person would eat ten to twelve apricot kernels a day for life, then barring the equivalent of Chernobyl, he is likely to be cancer free.

Sesame Seeds

Serving Size = 1/4 Cup

Sesame seeds may be the oldest condiment known to man. They are highly valued for their oil which is exceptionally resistant to rancidity.

Not only are sesame seeds a very good source of manganese and copper, but they are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc and dietary fiber. In addition to these important nutrients, sesame seeds contain two unique substances: sesamin and sesamolin. Both of these substances belong to a group of special beneficial fibers called lignans, and have been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effect in humans, and to prevent high blood pressure and increase vitamin E supplies in animals. Sesamin has also been found to protect the liver from oxidative damage.

Sunflower Seeds

Serving Size = 1/4 Cup

Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamin E, the body's primary fat-soluble antioxidant. Vitamin E travels throughout the body neutralizing free radicals that would otherwise damage fat-containing structures and molecules, such as cell membranes, brain cells, and cholesterol.

Sesame seeds have some of the highest total phytosterol content of seeds. Phytosterols are compounds found in plants that have a chemical structure very similar to cholesterol, and when present in the diet in sufficient amounts, are believed to reduce blood levels of cholesterol, enhance the immune response and decrease risk of certain cancers.

Sunflower seeds are a good source of magnesium. Numerous studies have demonstrated that magnesium helps reduce the severity of asthma, lower high blood pressure, and prevent migraine headaches, as well as reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Cumin Seeds

Serving Size = 1 Tbsp

Cumin is a seed that has been used since antiquity. This traditional herb is known for its health benefits and medicinal uses for hundreds of years. Cumin is useful for digestive disorders and even as an antiseptic. The seeds themselves are rich in iron and help boost the power of the liver.

Cumin also helps relieve symptoms of common cold. If you have a sore throat, try adding some dry ginger to cumin water, to help soothe it. Cumin juice makes for a great tonic for the body even if you don’t have a specific ailment. It is said to increase the heat in the body thus making metabolism more efficient.

It is also considered to be a powerful kidney and liver herb which can help boost the immune system. It’s also believed that black cumin seeds can treat asthma and arthritis.

Grape Seeds

Serving Size = 1-2 Tbsp

Grape seeds have a great concentration of vitamin E, flavonoids, linoleic acid and polyphenols.

Grape seed extract may prevent heart diseases such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. By limiting lipid oxidation, phenolics in grape seeds may reduce risk of heart disease, such as by inhibiting platelet aggregation and reducing inflammation. A study published in the journal Carcinogenesis shows that grape seed extract (GSE) kills squamous cell carcinoma cells, while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

Grape seeds may even reduce the infectivity of Norovirus surrogates according to research published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Seeds anyone?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Supermarket Without Bees

Between Colony Collapse Disorder, declining genetic diversity, loss of crop diversity, and exposure to pesticides, these are tough times for honeybees. North American honeybee populations are declining at a rate of around 30 percent per year, and the British Beekeepers Association said more than a third of colonies died in England this past winter.

That means trouble for our food supply. One out of every three bites of food is pollinated by bees and other pollinators.

So what would a supermarket without bees look like? At a Whole Foods location in Rhode Island, that question was answered with this incredible data visualization. It turns out that if honeybees went extinct, Whole Foods would lose 237 of the 453 products in its produce section. Here's a snapshot of what we would lose: apples, onions, avocados, carrots, mangoes, lemons, limes, honeydew, cantaloupe, zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, cucumbers, green onions, cauliflower, leeks, bok choy, kale, broccoli, broccoli rabe, mustard greens. In other words, lots.

Scary stuff. Read this to see how you can help.

[via SHFT]

Is Sustainable-Labeled Seafood Really Sustainable?

Capt. Art Gaeten holds a blue shark that was caught during a research trip in Nova Scotia. Scientists are studying the impact of swordfish fishing methods on the shark population.

Part one of a three part series by Daniel Zwerdling and Margot Williams for NPR.
Listen to the story here.

Rebecca Weel pushes a baby stroller with her 18-month-old up to the seafood case at Whole Foods, near ground zero in New York. As she peers at shiny fillets of salmon, halibut and Chilean sea bass labeled "certified sustainable," Weel believes that if she purchases this seafood, she will help protect the world's oceans from overfishing.

But some leading environmentalists have a different take: Consumers like Weel are being misled by a global program that amounts to "greenwashing" — a strategy that makes consumers think they are protecting the planet, when actually they are not.

At Whole Foods, the seafood counter displays blue labels from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an international, nonprofit organization. The MSC is a prime example of an economic trend: Private groups, not the government, are telling consumers what is good or bad for the environment. The MSC says its label guarantees that the wild seafood was caught using methods that do not deplete the natural supply. It also guarantees that fishing companies do not cause serious harm to other life in the sea, from coral to dolphins.

The idea is spreading fast throughout the food industry. Megachains like Target, Costco and Kroger are selling seafood with the MSC label. McDonald's says you are munching on "certified sustainable" wild Alaskan pollock every time you eat a Filet-O-Fish sandwich. The fast-food company has used MSC-certified fish since 2007 in the U.S., and as of February, they are putting the MSC logo on their fish sandwich boxes.

Poll results from a recent survey of 3,000 Americans, conducted on behalf of NPR, by Truven Health Analytics. Questions were asked — in general — about sustainable seafood and labeling.

Consumers like Weel say the labels help them feel better about the products they buy. "I want to feel that I'm doing the right thing," says Weel, a pediatrician, as her 4 ½-year-old daughter bolts into the vegetable aisle in neon-colored boots. When Weel shops for seafood, she says, she wants to make choices "that will help preserve the wild fish populations in the oceans."

Executives at Whole Foods say they are helping consumers do exactly that, by pledging in recent years to sell as many MSC-certified products as possible. Seafood is the last major food that people catch in the wild, and "we can't just go out and find more fish to catch," says Carrie Brownstein, global seafood quality standards coordinator for Whole Foods.

Brownstein cites a 2012 United Nations report that warned that almost 30 percent of the world's wild fisheries are "overexploited," and more than 57 percent of wild fisheries are "at or very close" to the limit.

Other groups have devised ranking systems for seafood. The Monterey Bay Aquarium labels products like a traffic light — green, yellow or red — to urge shoppers to buy or avoid a particular fish. The Blue Ocean Institute has a similar system. The MSC reports it has labeled roughly 8 percent of the global seafood catch, worth more than $3 billion. That makes it the most widespread and best-known rating scheme around the world.

A recent survey of 3,000 Americans, conducted on behalf of NPR, suggests that a majority of consumers want to feel good about the seafood they buy. The poll by Truven Health Analytics found that almost 80 percent of the people who eat seafood regularly said it is "important" or "very important" that their seafood is sustainably caught.

If they buy MSC-labeled seafood, they may be paying a premium. Brownstein says Whole Foods charges more for some of its seafood labeled "certified sustainable," although she wouldn't give numbers. Some fishing industry executives told NPR that they are getting roughly 10 percent more for their MSC-labeled products than for seafood that's not certified sustainable.

That's one reason why many environmentalists who supported the MSC in the past say you might be troubled to know what the MSC and supermarkets like Whole Foods are not telling you:

"We would prefer they didn't use the word sustainable," says Gerry Leape, an oceans specialist at the Pew Environment Group, one of the major foundations working on oceans policies. Leape has supported the MSC for more than a decade as a member of its advisory Stakeholder Council.

But he and other critics say that the MSC system has been certifying some fisheries despite evidence that the target fish are in trouble, or that the fishing industry is harming the environment. And critics say the MSC system has certified other fisheries as sustainable even though there is not enough evidence to know how they are affecting the environment.

When a customer sees the MSC's sustainable label at the supermarket, "the consumer looks at the fish and says, 'Oh, it has the label on it, it must be sustainable,' " Leape says. "And in some fisheries that the MSC has certified, that's not necessarily the case."

Biologist Susanna Fuller, co-director of marine programs at Canada's Ecology Action Centre, agrees. "We know ... that blue stamp doesn't mean that you're sustainable," she says. When asked if consumers should choose MSC-labeled seafood, Fuller pauses. "It's a gamble," she says.

Still, even the MSC's sharpest critics say they support the broad ideas behind the organization and its stated goals.

"Originally I thought it was a good idea," says Jim Barnes, director of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, a network of dozens of environmental groups around the world. "The world needed something like this to help steer consumer decisions, and so I wasn't against it at all at the beginning. And I'm not totally against it now." But Barnes worries that the MSC is straying from its mission and needs a dramatic overhaul. "It can be a force for good. If it continues on the path that it's on, however, and doesn't solve a lot of these issues that have been raised," he says, "I don't think it will be."

Protecting The Oceans And The Bottom Line

The MSC was born because of a crisis.

Michael Sutton, one of its founders, says that he and his colleagues dreamed up the idea after the cod industry collapsed off the Nova Scotia coast in 1992. Cod fishing had been the foundation of the region's economy and culture, worth an estimated $700 million each year. But when the cod population plunged to a fraction of previous levels, the Canadian government banned cod fishing — putting thousands of people out of work.

Rupert Howes is CEO of the Marine Stewardship Council. "We want to see the global oceans transformed onto a sustainable basis," he tells NPR.

"It was so bad in some of these coastal communities, the government had to send in suicide-prevention teams," recalls Sutton, who was then vice president of the World Wildlife Fund. "We were not only trashing our marine environment, but we were ruining the character of coastal communities that had existed on fisheries for centuries," Sutton says.

Sutton and other environmental advocates, and many scientists, warned that the cod collapse taught the world a sobering lesson: Government agencies that were supposed to monitor and regulate fishing were often doing a lousy job. Cod weren't the only fish in trouble. Studies showed that populations of major species like swordfish, marlin and tuna were plunging too. "So we needed to do something drastic," Sutton says.

He and colleagues decided to convince industry executives that protecting the oceans would also protect their bottom line. Sutton made a pilgrimage to the Unilever conglomerate, then one of the largest producers of frozen seafood — including fish sticks.

"My pitch to Unilever was, 'The future of their frozen fish business is at stake,' " Sutton remembers. "Overfishing is not only bad for the environment, but it's really bad for business, because it means that they're not going to have fish in the future the way they have them today."

Unilever and the World Wildlife Fund joined hands in 1997, and set up the MSC. Unilever eventually sold its seafood subsidiary and left the program, but the founding partner left its mark: From the day the MSC opened its doors in London, it has been a balancing act between industry and the environment.

Today, the MSC has more than 100 employees worldwide, including about 60 at its headquarters in a renovated building down the street from St. Paul's Cathedral.

"MSC has a global vision," says Rupert Howes, the organization's chief executive officer. "We want to see the global oceans transformed onto a sustainable basis."

MSC's System Of Certification 

Swordfish from Canada are marked with a label from the Marine Stewardship Council at a Whole Foods in Washington, D.C. The MSC says its label means the fish were caught by a sustainable fishery, but critics says it's not always so clear.

Here's the MSC's basic idea: Executives of a growing number of food companies want to be "green." Some genuinely want to protect the environment; others may be mainly seeking a marketing edge. But when it comes to seafood, those executives don't have the time or knowledge to figure out which fishing companies are plundering the ocean and which ones are doing a good job. So the MSC does the work for them.

The MSC does not certify fisheries itself. Instead, a fishery that wants the label hires one of roughly a dozen commercial auditing companies to decide whether its practices comply with the MSC's definition of "sustainable." The MSC's standard for sustainability includes dozens of items, but they're designed to assess whether the population of a fishery's target species is healthy; if the fishing practices don't cause serious harm to other life in the sea — including by accidentally catching other animals, which is called bycatch; and if the fishery has good management. If the commercial auditors give the fishery a passing score, then the fishery gets the right to use the blue "Certified Sustainable Seafood" label. It can be a long and expensive process. Some certifications have taken years, and the fisheries have paid the auditing firms up to $150,000 or more.

Howes says that when a store sells MSC-certified seafood, the label announces to consumers, "We care where our fish comes from." He adds that as a growing number of food companies sell MSC-labeled seafood, executives of fisheries that don't have it are motivated to join the program. That catalyzes "real and lasting change in the way the oceans are fished," Howe says.

During the MSC's first decade, there wasn't much demand for sustainable seafood by the U.S. food industry, and the MSC "almost went bankrupt," Sutton says. And that put the spotlight on the MSC's financial model.

The way that executives structured it, MSC's budget comes partly from foundation grants. But some revenue comes from the licensing fees that MSC charges businesses for the right to sell seafood with the MSC label. So as long as many supermarket chains were not promoting it, the MSC wasn't getting much money.

Then, in 2006, everything changed. The MSC and its supporters had sent a series of delegations to Bentonville, Ark., world headquarters of Wal-Mart. The delegations helped convince Wal-Mart executives to promise that all the seafood they sell in the U.S. would be MSC-certified by 2012.

"We had to get Wal-Mart," Sutton says. "The significance of their commitment, of course, is that once Wal-Mart made a commitment to the Marine Stewardship Council, every other major retailer had to follow suit, because none of them wanted to be less progressive than Wal-Mart." Sure enough, other discount chains promised to go sustainable, too. "Overnight, the demand far outstripped the supply," says Sutton, "and so the suppliers had to catch up."

Since Wal-Mart made its pledge in 2006, the MSC system has certified seven times as many fisheries as it did during the same period before, according to NPR's analysis. Still, the MSC system has not been able to certify enough seafood for Wal-Mart to meet its 2012 deadline, according to Bob Fields, a senior buyer for Wal-Mart and Sam's Club.

The explosion in sales of MSC-labeled products at leading chain stores has transformed the organization's finances. The year that Wal-Mart pledged to promote MSC-labeled seafood, the MSC received most of its income from foundation grants — 75 percent, according to the MSC annual report. Meanwhile, it received only 7 percent of its income from label licensing fees.

Today, those licensing fees generate more than half of the MSC's revenue.

And since Wal-Mart executives embraced sustainable seafood, the MSC has also received millions of dollars in grant money from the Walton Family Foundation, which was created by Wal-Mart's founder and is governed by his descendants. The Walton Family Foundation has become one of the MSC's largest donors, according to financial reports. The director of the foundation's environment programs, Scott Burns, served on the MSC's board of directors before he went to Walton.

Critics say that the day Wal-Mart embraced sustainable seafood, it was a blessing for the MSC system — and a curse. The critics charge that the MSC system has compromised its standards to keep up with the booming demand from Wal-Mart and other chains that followed suit. Fuller, of the Ecology Action Centre, says she has watched the MSC system "struggling with meeting the demands of the system that they helped create ... They have ended up having to lower the bar."

When ocean specialist Daniel Pauly, a fisheries professor at the University of British Columbia, talks about the MSC today, he sounds dispirited. Pauly took part in early meetings in London that helped create the MSC and now says he has lost faith in the system. "The MSC is doing the business of the business community," Pauly says, not the environment.

Capt. Art Gaeten holds a blue shark caught off the coast of Nova Scotia during a research outing. Studies show that 35 percent of sharks caught by swordfish boats die either on the hook or within days of release.

Balancing 'Sustainable' Swordfish With At-Risk Sharks

Some environmentalists and scientists say if you want to understand why they're losing faith in the MSC, look at the battle over certifying Canadian swordfish. Next time you buy swordfish at a store like Whole Foods, it might come from a controversial fishery off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Fishermen have known for ages that when they go swordfishing in some parts of the Atlantic, they will accidentally catch sharks — lots of sharks, says Steve Campana, who runs the Canadian government's Shark Research Laboratory, near Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Steve Campana runs the Canadian Shark Research Laboratory. He works to tag sharks with satellite transmitters to find out how long they survive after being caught and released.

When NPR caught up with Campana one morning, he and his research crew were heading into the Atlantic on a 34-foot trawler, the Dig It. They were planning to attach sophisticated satellite transmitters to blue sharks.

"On average, from what we've seen over the years, the swordfishermen catch about five blue sharks for every one swordfish," Campana said, holding onto a metal strut as the Dig It bounced through the waves. Add it up, studies suggest, and Canada's long-line swordfish boats — so named because they typically let out 30 or 40 miles of fishing line, dangling more than 1,000 hooks — accidentally catch tens of thousands of sharks every year.

This touches on one of MSC's three fundamental rules, even though studies show swordfish are plentiful. The second rule says that a fishery is not sustainable if it does not maintain "the integrity of ecosystems" — which means, in part, that it's not sustainable if there is too much bycatch.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, which is funded and appointed by the Canadian government, has warned that the main kinds of sharks that swordfishermen accidentally catch are "threatened" or "endangered" or "of special concern."

Swordfishermen generally release the sharks. But there had been few studies on what happens to those sharks after fishermen let them off the hooks — until Campana and his colleagues came along. About six years ago, they started tagging sharks with satellite transmitters before fishermen set them free.
Shark charter operator Art Gaeten (right) and recreational shark fisherman Shawn Knowles struggle to hold a blue shark in position while shark biologist Anna Dorey attaches a satellite tag to its back. Researchers say about five blue sharks are caught for every one swordfish. Scientists are trying to determine what happens to the sharks after they are released.

During one outing, the crew showed how they do it: They snagged a 5-foot blue shark on a hook baited with mackerel, reeled it in, and then pinned the thrashing shark against the boat's broad, flat railing. They jabbed a satellite transmitter, which looks like a turkey baster with a barb on one end, into the shark's leathery skin.

And then they let the shark go, the transmitter protruding like an unsightly growth. The device is equipped with a computer chip that records data every 10 seconds, including where the shark goes, how deep it goes, and how long it stays there. After about 10 months, the tube pops off the shark and floats to the surface, beaming all the information via satellite to Campana. When the transmitter shows that a shark went to the deepest part of the sea and just stayed there, Campana knows when and where the shark died.

Campana and his colleagues published some of their first findings based on these studies in July 2009, in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series. Their studies showed that up to 35 percent of the sharks caught by swordfish boats die, either right on the hook or within days after the fishermen set them free. The findings suggested that Canadian swordfish boats accidentally kill almost two sharks for every swordfish they catch.

Campana says that when you put these findings in context, it is troubling. Other studies suggest that the populations of major kinds of sharks in the North Atlantic have plunged as much as 40 to 60 percent in just the past few decades. "Any time you see consistent declines like that, and the fact that all of these large sharks seem to have declined all over the world," Campana says, "it's just a worrisome pattern."

The president of Canada's swordfish industry, the Nova Scotia Swordsfishermen's Association, dismisses Campana's conclusions. Campana's report on shark deaths could not have come at a worse time for Canada's swordfish industry. Only months before the report was published, the association, which catches most of Canada's commercial swordfish, had applied to the MSC for certification. The industry sells much of its swordfish to Whole Foods and other stores in the U.S.

Those conclusions "were not close to what the industry felt was reality," Troy Atkinson, president of the association, says while sitting in his store, crammed with giant spools of plastic fishing line and boxes of heavy metal hooks. He runs the main business that supplies equipment to Canada's swordfishing fleet.

"We're sometimes portrayed as a bunch of cowboys out to harvest the last buffalo," he says. "We're portrayed as some of the worst in the world. And it's just not correct."

Atkinson cites reports by other researchers that conclude that the population of blue sharks off the coast of Canada is healthy – especially reports by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which represents dozens of governments whose nations fish the Atlantic. So, Atkinson says, Canada's swordfishermen could catch and kill even more sharks without hurting the environment.

Other studies suggest the evidence is contradictory, and that scientists don't know for sure what is happening to sharks across the Atlantic. For example, the optimistic ICCAT researchers whom Atkinson cites acknowledge that their conclusions are "highly uncertain" because they're based on unproven assumptions and incomplete data. However, studies showing that blue sharks have sharply declined focus on a limited region.

So scientists and environmentalists were dumbfounded in early 2012 when the MSC system decided that Canada's swordfish industry can use the label "Certified Sustainable Seafood."

"That is absolutely the kind of fishery that should not be certified," says Leape of Pew Environment Group. "That fishery is outrageous."

Certifying Canadian swordfish "is the worst thing they can do, says Fuller, of the Ecology Action Centre. "That is not at all the way it should go."

A Program Based On 'Science And Evidence'

The Ecology Action Centre and dozens of other environmental groups denounced the MSC. The groups said in a letter to the MSC system that roughly 10 percent of Canada's swordfish are caught with harpoons — a method environmentalists support because there is hardly any bycatch. But the long-line boats that supply most of the swordfish catch a "staggering" number of sharks, as the environmentalists put it. "Certifying [Canada's long-line swordfish boats] compromises the credibility of the MSC," the groups warned, "and the sustainable seafood movement as a whole."
Howes, from the MSC, disagrees. He says the controversy over Canadian swordfish "illustrates a key feature of the MSC program, which is the fact that the program is premised on science and evidence. That fishery has met the MSC standard."

The analysts who evaluated the fishery for the MSC system agreed that the swordfish boats do kill large numbers of sharks. They acknowledged that the optimistic studies on sharks that the swordfish industry cites are uncertain, but they concluded that the weight of evidence suggests it is "highly likely" there are plenty of blue sharks left in the sea. The analysts also stressed that, by all accounts, other countries kill far more sharks than Canada's swordfishermen do. So, they said, Canada causes only a small part of the bycatch problem.

"We are not saying that shark bycatch doesn't matter," says Howes. "What we're saying implicit within the labeling of that fishery is, the shark bycatch of that unique individual certified fishery is safe. It's within ecological limits."

Barnes, of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, says the controversy over Canadian swordfish illustrates why the booming demand for sustainable seafood actually threatens to hurt the movement more than help it. "The bottom line is that there are not enough truly sustainable fisheries on the earth to sustain the demand," Barnes says. "The retailers and wholesalers all want access to this kind of label because they're trying to ... make money with their consumers. There's nothing wrong with that; that's how the world works."

But Barnes charges that the MSC is labeling some fisheries as sustainable — even when they are not — partly to fill the seafood counters at Wal-Mart and other large chains. "I'm not down on Wal-Mart at all, don't get me wrong," he says. "But to get on line with big chains as your goal leads you down a path that I don't think the originators of the MSC intended."

Howes could hardly disagree more. "If you really want to contribute to the transformation of our economic systems more generally, you've got to engage with the big guys. And therefore, I absolutely welcome Wal-Mart's commitment," he says. "That will drive change."

Howes continues: "Will that overload the MSC system? No."

He argues that there's no way the MSC could label problem fisheries sustainable just to satisfy demand, because, he says, the certifiers evaluate each fishery based only on scientific evidence. But he adds, "We want to see oceans fished sustainably forever. We're not going to achieve that by becoming a small niche organization that engages with a handful of perfect fisheries."

Researcher Barbara Van Woerkom contributed to this story.

[via NPR]

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Organic Continues Double-Digit Gains

As organic increases after year, recent surveys have some of us wondering: How much can organic grow amid continued consumer confusion?

Last year was another banner one for the organic industry. SPINS tracked a 12 percent increase in sales of organic products across all channels, and the Organic Trade Association reported that a whopping eight in 10 parents now buy organic at least some of the time. “I would characterize the industry as exploding,” says OTA Executive Director Christine Bushway. “It was an incredible year of double-digit growth across many categories.”

Although there are many positives, the news is not all good for organic. Some industry observers—and several recent surveys—point out that mainstream consumers still don’t grasp what the USDA Organic seal means or how it benefits them, and many view it with suspicion. If this problem isn’t solved, the organic bubble could burst, fears Maryellen Molyneaux, founder and president of Harleysville, Pa.-based Natural Marketing Institute. “Consumers are very confused, and it is not getting better,” she says.

New categories and newcomers

Looking first at the good news, industry observers say organic’s steady post-recession return to double-digit growth has been driven significantly by longtime organic consumers broadening their purchases across more categories, such as textiles, body care and supplements. “People interested in organic are considering not just what they put in their bodies, but also what they put on their bodies,” Bushway explains.

Click here to get the complete 2013 Market Overview with all of the charts and data included.

For instance, organic mattresses and cotton textiles are “going gangbusters,” she says. With organic cotton retail sales rising 20 percent, from $4.3 billion in 2009 to $5.16 billion in 2010, according to the 2010 Global Market Report on Sustainable Textiles. “Now you can buy reasonably priced organic bed linens at Target and Walmart.” Also, according to SPINS, sales of organic body care products climbed a jaw-dropping 34.9 percent across natural and conventional channels in 2012, while organic vitamins and supplements increased 20.2 percent.

Besides committed consumers buying more, organic continues to slowly attract newcomers, many of them parents drawn to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Organic seal out of concern for their families’ health. According to the OTA’s U.S. Families’ Beliefs and Attitudes study, 81 percent of surveyed families say they buy organic (up from 73 percent) in 2009. Forty-one percent are “new entrants” to the market, and nearly half say they buy organic food because it is “healthier for me and my children.” As for what items these shoppers are buying, 97 percent said they purchased organic fruits or vegetables in the past six months, while 85 percent bought breads and dairy.

Organic baby food spiked in 2012, driven in part by the massive mainstream expansion of Plum Organics and its squeeze-pack baby food. (Plum brought in $80 million in 2011 and made the Inc. 500 list of the nation’s fastest growing companies.) “With organic baby food, parents are really getting on board,” says Kurt Jetta, CEO of the TABS Group, a Shelton, Conn.-based consumer analytics company.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Chipotle Becomes First US Restaurant Chain to Voluntarily Label GMOs

 By Jonathan Benson
For Natural News

The recent decision by Whole Foods Market to label all genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) sold in its stores by the long-off date of 2018 looks silly and almost meaningless compared to the right-now policy of fresh food chain Chipotle, which is officially the first and only major U.S. food supplier to voluntarily label GMOs.

On its “Ingredients Statement” website, Chipotle clearly outlines which of its food products contain GMOs, and also states that it is working aggressively to source completely non-GMO ingredients for all of its products as it moves forward.

Chipotle has always marketed itself as a healthy alternative to fast food, having taken steps from the beginning to eliminate things like dairy products produced using the artificial growth hormone rBST, for instance, and replacing them with pasture-raised dairy products. Chipotle has also played a key role in propelling forward the local agriculture movement by sourcing as many locally-grown and organic ingredients as possible, and eliminating artificial additives and other toxins commonly used in fast food.

But now Chipotle has set the bar even higher, and by choice, delineating each and every ingredient used in its meats, beans, rice, and dressings, and clarifying which ones contain GMOs. The primary GMO offender, as you will notice on Chipotle’s “Ingredients Statement” page, is soybean oil, which is reluctantly used in several of the chain’s meat and rice products. In fact, this commercial frying and cooking oil appears to be one of the only, if not the only, GMO ingredient still used by Chipotle.
“Our goal is to eliminate GMOs from Chipotle’s ingredients, and we’re working hard to meet this challenge,” explains the page. “For example, we recently switched our fryers from soybean oil to sunflower oil. Soybean oil is almost always made from genetically modified soybeans, while there is no commercially available GMO sunflower oil. Where our food contains currently unavoidable GM ingredients, it is only in the form of corn or soy.”
You can view the Chipotle “Ingredients Statement” page here.
Note: all items containing a “G” in the pink box contain GMOs.

Whole Foods’ track record on GMOs an embarrassment to the health freedom movement

While much of what Chipotle sells still admittedly contains GMOs in the form of corn and soybean oil, the company’s willingness to be forthcoming with its customers and the public about this fact is highly commendable. And it is a lot more than we can say for Whole Foods Market, which is still not being completely honest with its customers. The fact that Chipotle is already voluntarily labeling GMOs, and clearly indicating its intent to continue phasing them out right now, shows that Whole Foods’ 2018 labeling deadline is more of a political move to save face than a practical move to actually get the job done.

Other health food retailers like Trader Joe’s have already phased GMOs out of their private label brands, while health food stores like Natural Grocers source only organic produce and require that their packaged food suppliers fully disclose the source of any potential GMO ingredients. Natural Grocers even states directly on its website that, as a company, it does not consider GMOs to be at all safe for human consumption.

But Whole Foods, despite being a prominent leader in health food industry, has long taken the most ambiguous stance on GMOs. Besides its recent GMO labeling announcement and adoption of Non-GMO Project labeling back in 2009, both of which are commendable in their own rite, Whole Foods has not been nearly as forthcoming with its customers about GMOs, and yet continues to charge a premium for its products. While eventual labeling in 2018 may still be a positive step forward, it clearly lacks the proactive approach already being taken by companies like Chipotle.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Evidence of GMO Harm in Pig Study

A groundbreaking new study [1] shows that pigs were harmed by the consumption of feed containing genetically modified (GM) crops.
  • Press release from Sustainable Pulse ( and GMWatch (
GM-fed females had on average a 25% heavier uterus than non-GM-fed females, a possible indicator of disease that requires further investigation. Also, the level of severe inflammation in stomachs was markedly higher in pigs fed on the GM diet. The research results were striking and statistically significant.
  • Find a clear summary of the study here
  • Find the full paper here
Lead researcher Dr Judy Carman, adjunct associate professor at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia,[2] said: “Our findings are noteworthy for several reasons. First, we found these results in real on-farm conditions, not in a laboratory, but with the added benefit of strict scientific controls that are not normally present on farms.
  • Find all the background on this study and on Dr. Judy Carman here.
“Second, we used pigs. Pigs with these health problems end up in our food supply. We eat them.

“Third, pigs have a similar digestive system to people, so we need to investigate if people are also getting digestive problems from eating GM crops.

“Fourth, we found these adverse effects when we fed the animals a mixture of crops containing three GM genes and the GM proteins that these genes produce. Yet no food regulator anywhere in the world requires a safety assessment for the possible toxic effects of mixtures. Regulators simply assume that they can’t happen.

“Our results provide clear evidence that regulators need to safety assess GM crops containing mixtures of GM genes, regardless of whether those genes occur in the one GM plant or in a mixture of GM plants eaten in the same meal, even if regulators have already assessed GM plants containing single GM genes in the mixture.”

The new study lends scientific credibility to anecdotal evidence from farmers and veterinarians, who have for some years reported reproductive and digestive problems in pigs fed on a diet containing GM soy and corn.[3]

Iowa-based farmer and crop and livestock advisor Howard Vlieger, one of the coordinators of the study, said: “For as long as GM crops have been in the feed supply, we have seen increasing digestive and reproductive problems in animals. Now it is scientifically documented.

“In my experience, farmers have found increased production costs and escalating antibiotic use when feeding GM crops. In some operations, the livestock death loss is high, and there are unexplained problems including spontaneous abortions, deformities of new-born animals, and an overall listlessness and lack of contentment in the animals.

“In some cases, animals eating GM crops are very aggressive. This is not surprising, given the scale of stomach irritation and inflammation now documented. I have seen no financial benefit to farmers who feed GM crops to their animals.”

Gill Rowlands, a farmer based in Pembrokeshire, Wales who is also a member of the campaign group GM-Free Cymru, said: “This is an animal welfare issue. Responsible farmers and consumers alike do not want animals to suffer. We call for the rapid phase-out of all GMOs from animal feed supplies.”

Claire Robinson of the campaign group GMWatch said: “Several UK supermarkets recently abandoned their GM-free animal feed policies, citing lack of availability of non-GM feed. We call on the public to visit the new citizens’ action website, where they can quickly and easily send an email to the supermarkets asking them to ensure their suppliers secure certified GM-free animal feed. This will mean placing advance orders for GM-free soy from countries like Brazil.”

Study details

The research was conducted by collaborating investigators from two continents and published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Organic Systems. The feeding study lasted more than five months, the normal commercial lifespan for a pig, and was conducted in the US. The pigs were slaughtered at the usual slaughter age of over 5 months, after eating the diets for their entire commercial lifespan.

168 newly-weaned pigs in a commercial piggery were fed either a typical diet incorporating GM soy and corn, or else (in the control group) an equivalent non-GM diet. The pigs were reared under identical housing and feeding conditions. They were slaughtered over 5 months later, at the usual slaughter age, after eating the diets for their entire commercial lifespan. They were then autopsied by qualified veterinarians who worked “blind” – they were not informed which pigs were fed on the GM diet and which were from the control group.

The GMO feed mix was a commonly used mix. The GM and non-GM diets contained the same amount of soy and corn, except that the GM diet contained a mixture of three GM genes and their protein products, while the control (non-GM) diet had equivalent non-GM ingredients. Of the three GM proteins in the GM diet, one made a crop resistant to being sprayed with the herbicide Roundup, while two were insecticides.


Claire Robinson, GMWatch, UK | | within UK: 0752 753 6923 outside UK: +44 752 753 6923
Dr Judy Carman, Adelaide, Australia | Email:
Mr Howard Vlieger, Maurice, Iowa | Email:


1. Judy A. Carman, Howard R. Vlieger, Larry J. Ver Steeg, Verlyn E. Sneller, Garth W. Robinson, Catherine A. Clinch-Jones, Julie I. Haynes, John W. Edwards (2013). A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and  GM maize diet. Journal of Organic Systems 8 (1): 38-54. Open access full text:

2. Dr Judy Carman, BSc (Hons) PhD MPH MPHAA; Epidemiologist and Biochemist; Director, Institute of Health and Environmental Research, Adelaide, Australia; Adjunct Associate Professor, Health and the Environment, School of the Environment, Adelaide, Australia

3. For example:

Farmer interviews in the 2012 film, Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives, directed by Jeffrey Smith

Squirrels Prefer Organic Over GMO Corn

Paul Fonder had heard about experiments showing that when given the choice animals will prefer non-GMO over GMO corn.

After reading an article from the May 2008 issue of The Organic & Non-GMO Report, “Mice eat farmer’s non-GM corn, ignore GM,” Fonder decided to try an experiment himself.

“I was curious to see what kind of corn squirrels would favor,” said Fonder, an organic dairy farmer in Big Stone City, South Dakota.

Squirrel always ate organic

Last fall, Fonder conducted an experiment in his backyard. He built a squirrel feeder and put genetically modified corn fresh from a neighbor’s field on one post and one-year-old organic corn on the other.

The squirrels ate the organic corn first. “You would expect squirrels to prefer fresh corn over corn that’s a year old, but they totally preferred the organic corn,” Fonder said.

Fonder repeated the experiment five times, using different varieties of organic and GM corn. Each time the squirrels ate the organic corn. They would eventually eat the GMO corn but only after the organic corn was gone.

“The squirrel could have switched to GMO, but it didn’t,” he said. “It knew it was different.”

Fonder posted his findings on Twitter and Facebook, and his experiment went viral, receiving 20,000 Facebook likes.

A representative from Pioneer Hi-Bred seed company even contacted Fonder and suggested that a more accurate test would be to use the same varieties of non-GMO and GMO corn.

Transitioned to organic dairy production

Fonder, his brother, and four cousins transitioned to organic dairy production in 2003. “We got tired of riding the conventional milk roller coaster and using the chemicals,” he said.

Other farmers tried to discourage Fonder from going organic. “We told ourselves that if others can do it we can too,” he said. “All the things people try to scare you with about weeds and health (problems) of cows (with organic farming), it’s not true.”

Fonder and his family sell milk to Organic Valley. “Organic Valley has been good to us and is real good about educating farmers,” he says. “They are a wonderful co-op to work with.”

Fonder still finds his experiment hard to believe and hopes it contributes to greater awareness of GMO the risks. “It’s one thing to read about it; it’s another to see it. I just want to educate people. Monsanto has something to hide,” he says.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Top 10 Natural & Organic Food Trends

Sterling-Rice Group (SRG) has identified the top 10 natural and organic food trends that will influence mainstream grocery shelves soon. With a breadth and depth of culinary experience, the brand strategy, innovation, and communications firm has counseled and created foods for several of the largest food companies in the world.
  1. Wholesome Foods Just for Men: Manly yogurt and jerky-fruit bars? Male-oriented health foods, with an emphasis on food-as-fuel, are on the rise.
  2. Higher-Order Benefits: Brands move away from functional benefits (like weight loss and immunity) and go loftier, promising clarity, calm, inner peace, and bliss.
  3. Greens Leave the Salad Bowl: Power-packed greens like kale and arugula are becoming familiar to the mainstream, so they are expanding their reach, bringing health benefits to teas, snacks, and sweets.
  4. Upscale Natural Ingredients Fortify Water: Waters get a boost with rare natural ingredients, such as birch tree juice, olive oil, and highly alkaline fulvic minerals, which add luxury to hydration.
  5. Unexpected Textures Redefine Beverages: Chewy drinks? Multisensory shoppers get a splash of excitement with chewy chia juice or syrupy flaxseed infusions.
  6. High-Tech Mock Meats: Meat consumption is declining and fake meats are becoming very convincing. Faux grilled chicken strips fool expert foodies, and meat is even being 3-D printed using real animal cells. Meat lovers can enjoy their savory protein without a trip to the butcher case.
  7. Clean, Allergen-Free Alternative Proteins: One in four people have a food sensitivity, so natural and organic brands are delivering new alternatives. The standout is pea protein, which is high quality and free of dairy, soy, and gluten.
  8. Indulgent and Interesting Nut Butters: Made-over classics, including everything from fruit to chocolate, espresso, and flavorful seeds and spices, have adults reaching for the jar just as often as kids.
  9. Bringing Positive Nutrition to Dessert: Functional and nutritious desserts make us wonder if we have to eat our dinner first. "Fully functional" cookies promote wellness and detoxification while frozen yogurt pops pack 20 grams of protein.
  10. South American Superfoods Add Nutritional Street Cred: Acai berries, goji berries, and chia seeds are South American superfoods, but look for more outstanding options like acerola cherries, Peruvian purple maize, and Chilean maqui fruit in juices and energy drinks. 
[via: NewHope360]

Reduce Your Water Bill with a Rain Barrel

Also help reduce harmful runoff with rain water harvesting.

If you are not ready to install a green roof yet, you can achieve some of the same benefits with a low-cost solution: a rain barrel, which captures rain water that would otherwise run off of your roof.
One of the main benefits is to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff. Typically rain water flows off roofs, driveways, parking lots and other "impervious surfaces" into storm drains, which discharge either into community sewer systems or into nearby streams. In the first case, rain over-burdens sewers, leading to overflows that can contaminate public swimming beaches. In the latter case, rushing stormwater can erode stream banks, introduce pollutants and ruin habitat for fish and other aquatic life.

A second benefit is for your wallet. You can use water captured in rain barrels to irrigate your lawn and garden, saving on utility bills. (In water-stressed regions, or during droughts, this water-conservation technique may be a necessity, given the imperative to conserve water.)

The drier the climate, the more water gets dumped outdoors, according to research by Aquacraft. In the desert Southwest, as much as 60% of home water usage occurs outdoors, whereas the figure is as low as 20% in wetter regions, like the Northeast. In summer, not surprisingly, the percentage of water used outdoors spikes, as we water lawns and gardens.

As Environmental Work Group recently pointed out, if we use tap water to irrigate, we're essentially wasting our own tax dollars, which have gone toward treating that liquid to drinking water standards.
Commercial rain barrels can be attractive, and can be built to prevent mosquito breeding and make hooking up gardening hoses easy. But you can also make your own rain barrel (The Environmental Protection Agency offers a how-to pdf. Some of the commercial options on the market include:

  • Smartware's 48-gallon recycled plastic rain barrel with a classic look ($119 at
  • Algreen's 65-gallon plastic rain barrel, clay-like appearance and space for a containter garden ($151 at
  • Great American Rain Barrel's handsome 60-gallon barrels can be easily linked to increase storage capacity ($199 at
  • Grow and Make's 50-gallon barrel made from recycled olive oil bins ($150 at
  • SpringSaver's 51-gallon rain barrel, in five styles ($130 at
  • Santa Fe's 47-gallon rain barrel, in a terracotta-style finish ($149 at
  • Gardener Supply Co.'s faux sandstone 75-gallon rain barrel ($199 at

Monday, June 10, 2013

Make Your Own Energy Bars

Pro-Bar founder Art Eggertsen's recipe for a protein-rich calorie grenade. With dates, maple syrup, and Grand Marnier, you can't go wrong.

1 ½ lbs chopped dates
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp fresh orange zest or Grand Marnier, or ¼ tsp orange extract
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp allspice
1 tsp cardamom
½ c dried currants or other dried fruit
½ c chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds
½ c of your favorite
granola or toasted oats

1. Chop the dates and combine them with the maple syrup, vanilla, orange, salt, and spices.
2. Stir in the currants, nuts, and granola until you have a firm consistency.
3. On a lightly oiled baking sheet, roll out the mixture to a uniform thickness of about ½ inch.
4. Chill in freezer for 15 minutes, then cut into bars.

Friday, June 7, 2013

10 Ways to Cancer-Proof Your Barbecue

Summer is here. With it come vacations, lush gardens, and barbecues with friends and family. Unfortunately, barbecued food has been linked to an increased risk of cancer.  But you can have your barbecue and your health too with if you follow these suggestions.

1.  Keep a watchful eye to avoid barbecue flare-ups and the resulting charring of your food.  Charred food is linked with the creation of carcinogens.

2.  Cook over lower temperatures. Use low to medium cooking temperatures. When foods like meat are heated over high temperatures or come in contact with flames, compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can form. Both compounds are known carcinogens. Of course you don’t need to pronounce them or spell them to reduce your risk of exposure to these carcinogens. Of course if you’re cooking meat or poultry always be sure that the inside temperature reaches a high enough temperature to kill microbes.

3.  If you’re cooking meat or poultry, marinate it in olive oil and lemon juice-based marinades. Research shows that these two items reduce the formation of cancer-causing compounds by up to 99% while cooking, while adding flavor and helping to keep it moist.

4.  Choose naturally low fat foods
like vegetables, lean cuts of meat, poultry or fish.  Heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are primarily formed when fats are heated to high temperatures or fall into the flames and create smoke. Low fat foods reduce the chance of these compounds forming at all.

5.  Trim excess fat from meat prior to cooking it (for the same reason as number 4).

6.  Add fresh or dried herbs to cut your cancer risk.
These herbs include:  basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage. Food Safety Consortium scientists at Kansas State University discovered that using basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, or sage in marinades drastically reduces the formation of HCAs.  Simply use one or more of these herbs, preferably fresh, in a marinade prior to and during cooking.  They reduce cancer risk and add tremendous flavor.

7.  Avoid overcooking vegetables.  The longer they cook the more certain vitamins like vitamin C and B-complex vitamins break down.  New research in Molecular Biology Reports shows that Vitamin C reduces the cancer-causing effects of HCAs.

8.  Add more vegetables to the grill.
One of the easiest ways to cancer-proof your barbecue is to add more veggies.  Making kebabs is a great way to do this.  If you’re cooking meat on kebabs, the veggies will keep it moist and add fiber, flavor, and nutrients.

9.  Include cruciferous vegetables in every barbecue. New research in Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention shows that cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates that form cancer-protective compounds known as isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates have been shown to protect against HCAs and PAHs, making them especially great to cancer-proof your barbecue. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.

10.  Clean your grill prior to every use. Not only is it more appetizing to eat food that’s been cooked on a clean grill, but you’ll reduce the amount of char that you’ll be eating.  The charred parts of food can cause free radical formation in your body and since free radicals are linked with premature aging, disease, and tissue damage, it’s best to reduce your exposure as much as possible.

[via: Care 2]

Connecticut First State to Approve Labeling Genetically Modified Foods

Connecticut on Monday became the first state to pass a bill that would require food manufacturers to label products that contain genetically modified ingredients — but only after other conditions are met.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he would sign the bill into law, after reaching an agreement with the legislature to include a provision that the law would not take effect unless four other states, at least one of which shares a border with Connecticut, passed similar regulations.

The Connecticut bill also hinges on those states including Northeastern states with a total population of at least 20 million.

“This bill strikes an important balance by ensuring the consumers’ right to know what is in their food while shielding our small businesses from liability that could leave them at a competitive disadvantage,” Mr. Malloy said in a statement issued over the weekend after negotiations on the necessary provisions.

The legislature passed the bill on Monday, 134 to 3.

More than 20 other states are considering labeling laws, including New York, Maine and Vermont. Early polling suggests widespread support for a ballot initiative that would require labeling in Washington, as concern spread about the impact of genetically engineered salmon and apples on two of the state’s marquee businesses.

In 2005, Alaska passed a law requiring the labeling of all genetically engineered fish and shellfish, but Connecticut would become the first state to adopt labeling broadly.

Cathleen Enright, executive vice president for food and agriculture at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said the industry supported voluntary labeling for genetically engineered ingredients. Dr. Enright noted that the Food and Drug Administration typically required labeling of foods only when issues like food safety, consumer health or nutrition were at stake.

She also said labeling by an individual state might put that state’s industry and businesses at a disadvantage compared with other states.

Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, called Connecticut’s move an “important first step,” and “a reminder of where the tide is going on this issue.”

Mark Kastel, co-director of the Cornucopia Institute, a liberal farm policy research group, said that while the triggers were unusual, they could work to the labeling movement’s advantage. “The hurdles in the Connecticut bill, if surmounted, would mean a critical mass in the marketplace that would emulate the impacts that would have materialized if California had passed its ballot initiative,” Mr. Kastel said.

Big food and seed companies like Monsanto and Dow spent tens of millions of dollars last fall to help defeat a ballot measure in California that would have required labeling.

But whether other states will go as far as Connecticut is unclear. In New Mexico, the state Senate voted not to adopt the report of its committee recommending labeling, effectively killing the labeling effort there. Efforts in Vermont, Hawaii and Maine have stalled.

And on Monday, the New York labeling bill was defeated in committee after members, including several who were co-sponsors of the legislation, were lobbied intensely by a representative from the Council for Biotechnology Information, a trade group whose members are BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroScience, DuPont Monsanto and Syngenta — all major makers of genetically modified seeds and pesticides that work with them.

Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, Democrat of Manhattan, said there were more than 40 co-sponsors when it went into the committee. “We had the votes lined up to pass this, and then the lobbyist for Monsanto and the other big seed companies showed up and was speaking to members and calling them and visiting their offices,” she said.

Ms. Rosenthal said she intended to continue to press for a labeling bill in New York. 

[via NY Times]