Tag Archives: Organic

Money Where Your Mouth Is.

It’s been quite a while since I wrote a post.  I’ve been busy sorting things out in my head and my heart.

Three guideposts I use when I think about what and how to write:

  • Words should be kind, necessary and true.
  • Ole Golly Waldenstein’s advice to Harriet in Harriet the Spy: “Remember that writing is to put love into the world, not to use against your friends. But to yourself you must always tell the truth.”
  • It has to have some humor.

I certainly wasn’t optimistic myself about the appointees for the new administration, especially as it relates to food. But, there was nothing to write about until actual people had been appointed.

What made me decide this was necessary was a comment from one of my children’s teachers that she thought the new administration was going to enhance organic food production and made standards better. Talk about fake news.

Here’s who I currently know about:

Mike Pompeo. Yes, he was appointed head of the CIA, but did you know he was a champion of the DARK act (which wanted to prohibit labeling of GMOs)?

Rick Perry. The late shows love to make fun of this guy for not knowing what the Department of Energy is, but what is less known is that when Perry was Secretary of Agriculture in Texas, Oprah was put on trial for outing practices in the beef industry that resulted in mad cow disease. He’s been very vocally for Big Ag and fast food, and has sponsored legislation against food activism.

Scott Pruitt. He’s known for suing the EPA, including defending the right of factory farms to pollute drinking water. It’s not surprising, considering that Monsanto is a campaign contributor.

Jeff Sessions. Open supporter of the Monsanto-Bayer merger. He voted for the DARK act, and after his appointment as Attorney General, Monsanto stock has steadily risen.

Sonny Perdue. He’s been tapped to be Secretary of Agriculture. Former Georgia governor, and huge fan of Big Ag, complete with campaign contributions from Monsanto. He’s most famous in the organic communities for signing legislation in 2009 prohibiting standards for poultry farms, and a good weighing in by industry experts (on both sides) is here.

Sigh.

Right after the election, I was talking to a dear friend about going to Whole Foods. She related a story about how clients will sometimes ask her,

“Doesn’t it stress you out because everything’s so expensive?”

“Actually, it’s the opposite. It’s the only place I can f&*cking relax,” she replied.

I’m going to advocate something very Republican. Now more than ever, the choices we make with our pocketbooks are crucial. Look what happened with Nordstrom. Money makes the world go around, and we don’t buy clothes with nearly the frequency we buy food.

So here’s my game plan:

  • Buy organic, buy organic, buy organic.
  • Support establishments that stock locally sourced food, big and small.
  • Find a local farm, and sign up for a CSA. That’s meat and veggies. We need to staunchly support what we have now because if the current administration succeeds in making the changes it wants to, even if we are able to make a change in four years, they might have already dismantled too much.

By the way, if you were looking for the funny part, it was the story about Whole Foods. That’s all I got.

Please don’t touch my shit.

Okay, well, you know while we’re talking about growing food, we were going to get to talking about shit. Because not all shit’s bad. But I seriously didn’t think we’d be talking about human shit.

I know we’re animals, and if we all ate clean food to begin with, and never took any pharmaceutical medicine, our waste products might not be so scary. But let’s think about this for a second.

How much medication do we take on a daily basis as a nation? And where do you think all the side products of that medication go?There are also people who will just pour unused medication down the toilet. Where do you think that goes? Do you think it really gets all filtered out?

Think about what you did first thing this morning. Maybe took a shower and used all sorts of products with sodium laurel sulfate, a host of other chemicals, including parabens which are known to be carcinogenic, and then you put on your makeup and washed your brush to get rid of the bacteria. Have you ever looked at the ingredients list in the back of your cosmetics packaging? We’re washing that stuff down the drain too.

People sometimes say to me, “Well something will kill you, one way or the other.” I can’t argue with that. But I’m not going to help them. And if you think this is just a fact with a small impact, there is actually a court case in Georgia where sewage sludge killed 300 cows. COWS. We’re not talking about the canaries they used to take into landmines that are crazy super sensitive. COWS. Apparently we’ve replaced canaries with livestock as the leading indicators.

Putting this stuff into the ground allows it to be taken up by the food we’re eating so we can put it right back into our bodies. It’s not just crap that’s going down the drain, it’s our health too.

‘Nuff said.

For more details, read here: Center for Food Safety Sewage Sludge Details

 

Grown Without Pesticides (or at least sarin gas)

Okay, let’s break down the definition of organic a little, with my commentary based on my reading.

Grown without the use of pesticides.

I seriously did not realize this, but apparently one of the first pesticides used in commercial farming was diluted sarin gas. Someone figured out that bugs didn’t tolerate it very well, and it turns out we had stockpiles of it after World War II and we didn’t know how to get rid of it. (The Science of Skinny, Dee McCaffrey)

Organophosphates.  The OPs were discovered in Germany during World War II research on nerve gas poisons. They are still used that way (e.g. sarin).  They are generally more toxic to vertebrates than the chlorinated hydrocarbons, but they tend to be less persistent in the environment. Some of the more common OPs are chlorpyrifos, diazinon, malathion, and parathion. (University of Kentucky Insecticide Overview)

If you want to read more about the link between nerve gases and pesticides, you can go here: New York Times – Nerve Gases and Pesticides

I’m taking a minute for a deep breath. WHAT THE FUCK?!?!  Talk about generational karma from our own experimentation with biochemical warfare.

Given that the way that insects are targeted is through shutting down their nervous systems, it gives me pause when I think about how it might be affecting young children, whose brains and nervous systems are still developing, especially when aggregated through repeated exposure in the diet.

When people talk about these poisons, I often hear the phrase “But it’s VERY diluted.” Sure, I’ll buy that for a dollar (sometimes literally) but then what about aggregate levels over time? How do I know it’s getting purged properly out of my body?

But what about the conflicting definition on Wikipedia that some pesticides are allowed? Here’s how I look at it:

  1. Farmers have gotta have something to keep the insects at bay, whether it be a manual sticky strip that catches flies (seriously, that exists, I have seen it at organic apple orchards)
  2. What is allowed is a subset of what is allowed with conventional produce and
  3. No synthetic pesticides are allowed (more on that later)

A bonus when you choose organic from a small local farm – most of the time they don’t spray with any pesticides. The management of those pesticides often only makes sense when you have a very large property and lots of crops to manage, and not enough people.

When I found out how bad conventional pesticides were, I thought, “WHY THE HELL WERE MY FRIENDS NOT SHAKING ME VIOLENTLY AND HOPPING AROUND LIKE LUNATICS SCREAMING AT ME TO STOP FEEDING MY KIDS THE STRAWBERRIES I THOUGHT WERE GOOD FOR THEM?” Here’s the simple answer – they had no frikkin’ clue. Who the hell had time to read and synthesize all this information running on sleep that’s interrupted multiple times a night and 6,852 requests a day starting with, “Mommy?”

So here I am. Hopping around like a looney. Hold on, I’ll be right back. Just let me grab my gas mask…

 

 

What Does Organic Really Mean?

According to organic.org: “Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones. “

According to Wikipedia:  “Depending on whose definition is used, organic farming uses fertilizers and pesticides (which include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides) if they are considered natural (such as bone meal from animals or pyrethrin from flowers), but it excludes or strictly limits the use of various methods (including synthetic petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides; plant growth regulators such as hormones; antibiotic use in livestock; genetically modified organisms;[1] human sewage sludge; and nanomaterials.[2]) for reasons including sustainability, openness, independence, health, and safety

I’ll add that the animals slaughtered for organic meats are not fed genetically modified corn and soy. If you subscribe to the adage you are what you eat…sigh.

And then there are all the “flavors” (if you will) of organic (also from organic.org):

100% Organic: Made with 100% organic ingredients

Organic: Made with at least 95% organic ingredients

Made With Organic Ingredients: Made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms)

Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.

The next few posts are going to be a breakdown of each of the components mentioned above in the definition, alongside my personal commentary.

Information That Would Have Been Helpful Yesterday

Here’s why I write about food.

No one ever called us aside when we became young adults and said, “Here is how to keep your shit together, which includes your financial health, your mental health, your physical health, your spiritual health.” We were just thrown out in the world, all trying to do the best we could with limited information that wasn’t necessarily consolidated or even organized, and certainly without a lot of context. Some of us do better than others in different areas; it depends on your family of origin and how well they did. (At least when you first branch out on your own, trying to figure out what it means to be a grown up.) And then before you know it, you’re responsible for little people. There is nothing more powerful to show you up on how well you know something than trying to teach it to someone else.

With regard to nutrition, this wasn’t really a problem until we started to mess with the food chain. You can get away with eating a lot of “real food” that is considered horrible for you (bacon, butter, bread, home-made cookies) when it isn’t genetically modified or processed so the sugar content is triple what I would make in my own kitchen.

As a country, very few people are aware what good nutrition is. Most physicians are not required to take a single course in nutrition before graduating from medical school. The situation is … not awesome. (For an article about the current state of nutrition education, see here The State of Nutrition Education at US Medical Schools, Journal of BioMedical Education) So when my primary care says, “Are you eating healthy?” and then I see her tucking processed protein bar loaded with GM soy and corn fillers alongside additives and colors into her coat pocket, I assume that’s what she means is the standard.  Our nutritionists are, as Dee McCaffrey says in The Science of Skinny, resort nutritionists. We go to them as a last resort. I’ve gone to a nutritionist to get counseling and vet our family diet; you know who sits in the waiting room with me? Cancer patients. Why does it have to get so bad before we make a change?

It’s kind of like when I was first pregnant and there were only three people who would tell me the truth about the unpleasant parts of the experience. When I asked the others why they wouldn’t be honest with me, they said, “Because I didn’t want to scare you.”

Well, maybe before you  made that decision for me, you should have asked me if I thought I could handle it. I was about to be a mother and you treated me like a small child. How the hell was I supposed to know it was time to grow up? Betty Friedan might have been on to something when she talked about generations of infantilized of women in The Feminine Mystique. Back to pregnancy advice – seriously, as pure personal courtesy –  I would have appreciated a heads up that when I farted it would be able to clear a room.  Like Adam Sandler in The Wedding Singer, “THINGS THAT COULD HAVE BEEN BROUGHT TO MY ATTENTION YESTERDAY.”

I think the real reason that no one wants to say is because they’re afraid that you  might respond with, as I did in my head many times before I finally figured it out, “Nope. Can’t be that. I will END you if you give me one more goddamned thing to do, and that seems like a shit ton of work. Go fuck yourself, you hippie freak.” I used to think the super healthy people were judging me. Sometimes they were. But when I think back, I realize that more often than not, the expression on their faces that I had taken to mean “You suck as a mom and you’re poisoning your children” was really “I wish I had the words to tell you without sound like a whack job and I’m trying to so hard to bite my tongue right now because I like you as a person and I don’t want to scare you.”

Maybe it’s not about scaring people and motivating them through fear, it’s about trusting them to be able to handle the truth. So get ready. The next few posts are going to be about what organic really means versus conventional versus genetically modified. My sister once told me after she saw me rubbing my husband’s feet, “I can’t un-see that.” If you don’t want to read, skip the posts under Going Organic, because some things you just can’t un-know.

Who Is Me?

Booyah

I totally stole that phrase from Stephen Colbert.

You might be wondering, “Who IS this lady?” (The word lady might be interchangeable with a good many others, but I’m sticking with “lady” right now because it gives you lots of freedom to choose which way you’d like to go with it.)

I’m a mom of two kids, ages 6 and 8. They’re absolutely awesome. Except when they’re not. And I write about both scenarios here, because let’s face it – even when they’re not that awesome, they’re still awesome.

I came to my views and knowledge about food from an experience that began two and a half years ago where I was basically pulled aside with my older child, a boy, and told “Um, he has some issues.” They were categorizing his behavior within the confines of Sensory Processing Disorder, which basically translates into “signals get crossed in the brain and so some things don’t work correctly”. For more about Sensory Processing Disorder, read here: Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation.

I signed him up for all the treatments, had endless conversations with my husband about whether or not this was even real (there is a whole contingent out there that thinks this is a made up thing that kids outgrow), and even ended up paying for Occupational Therapy treatments out of pocket (to the tune of $100/session weekly because after a while they aren’t covered by insurance without an autism diagnosis – thanks, Blue Cross Blue Shield –so much for the Cadillac of insurance).

As a last result, I changed his diet. One of my closest girlfriends, who has a child with ASD said, “Have you looked at dyes? There is a lot of chatter on discussion boards about ASD behaviors that worsen with exposure to dyes, especially certain colors.”

We took out the dyes, and I am sure that had a positive effect, but the door had already been propped open. Once you start looking at the miniscule ingredients list on the back of the package, you start to wonder what that strange compound three up from the dyes is, and then you start to wonder why sodium laurel sulfate (which is an ingredient in soap) needs to be in cake mix.

Intuition told me that the answer wasn’t just the dyes. It was the whole shebang. We changed our entire diet. The ENTIRE thing. Everything 100% organic, no processed foods. After three weeks, we started to see changes. They seemed subtle but the best way I can explain it is that I got to the end of my day and I didn’t want to medicate myself with two glasses of wine. (Even though it has resveratrol, which is good for you, damn it!). After three months I had a different kid. After two years, I have a child who has surpassed other kids considered “normal” in behavior. And when he can keep himself together, it’s a hell of a lot easier for me to, as well.

Almost every posting that you will see about food on my blog is the result of hard earned knowledge through experience or the dozens of books I read about nutrition. Oh, and you know how they say everything you do for love is returned a thousand fold? The Universe threw me a bone. Once we changed out the diet for the entire family, I lost twenty five pounds. I now weigh the same amount I did in high school. Booyah!

Here was another added bonus. My now five year old, who I always thought was just “emotional”, got sweeter. (And yes, you can read that as less bitchy if you want, but I don’t think it’s totally fair to call a five year old bitchy. But it is fair to call a thirty five year old bitchy, which is what I was at the time we switched our diets.)

Turns out that because I wasn’t cattle prodding these little people’s nervous systems with food that didn’t serve them, they could relax and get to the business of being healthy and growing.

And to that, I say, “Cheers”, resveratrol and all.

Please support GMO Labeling

We’re going to change history; we’re going to turn the Titanic around this time before it hits the iceberg; we’re going to miraculously stop the insane, suicidal march now presided over by the governments of the world; and it’s going to happen because we say so.

-Marianne Williamson, The Age of Miracles

 

Our family eats organic. All the time. Not because it’s trendy, not because we are independently wealthy. (We are neither of those things, by the way.)

We eat that way because when we stopped eating GMOs, our kids’ behavior changed. They became, well, fun to be around. They stopped pestering me like Sheldon knocking on Penny’s door in The Big Bang. No more tantrums for no apparent reason. Turns out they can keep their act together. I just needed to stop cattleprodding them by feeding them additives and neurotoxins. Sounds like inflammatory language and I’ve gone off my rocker and become some nutty hippie, but do a little reading on what’s going on in our food chain, and your mouth will drop open. And then you’ll clean out your pantry.

But whatever you think about whether GMOs are safe or not, you should be able to choose. If they aren’t labeled, how are you to know? Isn’t one of the core American values that I get to decide for myself and my family?

Last week I got this email from Food and Water Watch:

The House of Representatives recently passed Monsanto’s dream bill – a bill that will prohibit states from labeling genetically engineered foods.

Can you ask your Senators to oppose any bill that tries to take away labeling for genetically engineered foods?

Why is this important? In poll after poll, more than 90% of people want food to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. Several states have already passed laws requiring labeling, including Vermont, which will require labels on all foods starting next summer, unless this terrible bill passes through Congress and is signed into law by President Obama.

It’s really important that your Senators hear from you, so they’re not misled by the Big Food Corporations that want to prohibit GMO labeling.

The lobbyists for Big Food have been busy on Capitol Hill and in-district during the Congressional summer recess. Too many members of Congress are confused by the language in the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act.” It sounds good doesn’t it? [Food and Water Watch] has been calling it the Denying Americans the Right to Know Act (DARK Act).

At the end of the day, it all comes down to who gets to decide what you are eating. Shouldn’t that person be you?

Senators could be taking up this bill when they come back after Labor Day. Can you ask your Senators to oppose any bill that tries to take away labeling for genetically engineered foods?