The New Home Economics


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The time for natural animal fats is NOW

I saw this a couple weeks ago and I can’t get it out of my head.

A mother orangutan hugs her daughter as bounty hunters move in - the pair was saved at the last minute by an animal rescue group

[original source article]

Palm oil, dudes. It’s in EVERYTHING. And the increasing demand for it is causing unprecedented rainforest destruction and killing of anything that stands in the way, including orangutans.

I see two ways of addressing this.  Number one: reduce the number of highly-processed foods we consume, since so many of them contain palm oil. It’s tricky to puzzle out which products have it, because it’s usually simply labeled “vegetable oil.”

But secondly, can we also get over ourselves and start using animal fats in cooking, as people did for millennia? I’m talking about lard. Beef tallow. Duck and goose fat. Buttah. Not only are these traditional fats rich in fat-soluble vitamins, they are also cheap and easy to produce locally since they are byproducts of the meat industry. They can also easily be obtained without resorting to pesticides, GMOs, or deforestation. A win for all of us, including small family farmers AND orangutans.

And don’t think you’re innocent if you shop at natural foods stores — many natural foods products contain palm oil because, let’s be honest here, it does have some health benefits and is seen as an alternative to highly processed, GMO-based oils such as corn, canola and soybean.

Don’t be afraid of lard, OK?

For many more resources on traditional fats, visit the Weston A Price Foundation.


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Round-up resistant weeds

The NY Times (via Cornucopia Institute) today had a story about Round-up resistant weeds:

“It is the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,” said Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts.

There is one [small] positive aspect to this:

The superweeds could temper American agriculture’s enthusiasm for some genetically modified crops. Soybeans, corn and cotton that are engineered to survive spraying with Roundup have become standard in American fields. However, if Roundup doesn’t kill the weeds, farmers have little incentive to spend the extra money for the special seeds.

Fortunately for now, the problem does not appear to be widespread.  But we all know how evolution works, and our current factory-scale agriculture is contributing to a faster-than-normal evolving of weeds, bugs, and other problems that people have been dealing with for millennia.  And the main problem with that is: we’re creating problems faster than we can solve them.

Anyway, here’s the article on Round-up resistant weeds.

Update, 5 May 2010: Marion Nestle of the excellent blog Food Politics explains the science of how weeds become resistant to glyphosate (Round-up).


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GMO corn linked to organ failure

Join the fight against Monsanto:  three varieties of their genetically modified corn are now linked with organ failure in rats, when consumed longer than 90 days.

“our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity…”

More information here.

Update: A friend of mine pointed out that the toxicity in the rats could have been due to the pesticides, not the GMOs, a good point.  There are still many, many other things about GMOs to get nervous about.


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Movie review: The future of food

tortilla

I knew I was going to be angry when I watched this movie.  The Future Of Food was made in 2004, so it is a bit of a pre-cursor to movies like Food, Inc and Fresh.

The main focus of this movie is genetically modified foods, and there is more than enough bad news here to fill a full-length documentary.  They discuss the process for how scientists get cells to accept these new genes: apparently, the genes have to be attached to some sort of virus that will invade the cell and set up shop.  The cell is altered in many ways other than just the addition of the new trait.

Is this a necessarily bad or dangerous?  The problem is:  we don’t know.  We have no idea.  They’ve done very little testing, and some studies that have shown negative effects on animal test subjects have been immediately squashed by industry.

The film explores many of the aspects of these wide and varied problems.  Among them:

Because the US allows patents on living organisms, Monsanto (our major agriculture corporation) owns the rights to all these plants.  But unfortunately plants reproduce themselves.  So once that seed is out in the world, if it accidentally spreads to your yard, Monsanto can hold you liable for growing their product without a license.  Several farmers are interviewed who have been sued for this very thing.

The very fact that these plants are reproducing themselves out there in the world is also a huge problem.  Stands of old-world strains of corn, wheat, etc. are being contaminated.  In the film they test some corn in a remote location in Mexico (a country which is fighting HARD against GMO’s).  They find some of the mutant Monsanto genes in the corn.

This is especially scary since Monsanto currently holds patents on several genes known as “terminator genes.”  These render all seeds that a plant produces sterile.  Hence, you can’t save seeds to re-use them for next year. You must buy next year’s seed.  Imagine the consequences if these became widely used, and genes started spreading far and wide.  75% of farmers in the world save and re-use seed.  You think we have starvation issues now?

When the film was made, five years ago now, the fight against GMOs was in its infancy in the US.  I’d like to think we’ve made some progress.  However, GMOs still do not require labelling, which would be such an important first step towards creating a database of known reactions to them.

If you feel anywhere near as passionately about this as I do, please check out the Institute for Responsible Technology for more information.