reading this week

CNN tells the story of Monsanto (Inspired Bites on
2 million people across the world took part in the March Against Monsanto recently, and one of the only media outlets that covered it was CNN. Robyn O’Brien highlights their coverage in this blog entry and also links to this video, which does a great job of simplifying the issues that have been raised about Monsanto and GMOs. Definitely worth the 7 minutes to watch. (Even just to watch Michael Moss and his fierce eyebrows talk at the end.)

Speaking of Monsanto…

GMO Wheat Found in Oregon Field (NPR)
GMO wheat is not authorized for commercial planting, but an Oregon farmer found it on his land. Wheat is a huge export crop for U.S. farmers, which is why GMO wheat is not authorized to be planted. Other countries, particularly in Europe and Asia, won’t buy GMO products. More tests are being done to determine how the wheat got there and the extent of its presence, but it goes to show how easily these GMOs can sneak into our food supply.

Candy Won’t Make You Fat, Says Study Funded by Big Candy (PopSci)
This article showed up a lot on the Internet a week or two ago and was laughable. The National Confectioners Association funded a study that concluded that candy was not associated with any health risks. Wow! What strikes me, though, is that people are quick to laugh when a candy company funds research that promotes candy as part of a healthy diet, but we listen to soft drink manufacturers and other Big Food/Big Ag companies tell us the same things, with research funded by their own interest groups. When you see a new research study released that touts the health benefits of a food, look closely to see who sponsored the research  An independent or government group? Or industry? 

Too Many Repeat Violators in Hog Slaughter, Inspector General Report Says (Food Safety News)
This statistic is shocking, but not surprising: “The USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service issued 44,128 noncompliance records (NRs), but only 28 of the nation’s 616 swine plants ever faced suspension.” Even those don’t stay suspended for long, and many are repeat offenders. Read the list of offenses and I doubt you’ll be drooling for conventionally raised pork anytime soon. This is why we NEED to fight Ag-Gag laws – our government “inspections” are meaningless.

4 Questions You Should Never Ask at a Farmers Market (Smith Meadows)
I am proud that I’ve never asked these questions at a farmers market, though this article sheds some light on what it’s really like for farmers to participate in these markets.

Scotts Miracle-Gro  – the bird killing company? (Guardian via @unhealthytruth) 
Scotts Miracle-Gro knowingly sold bird seed with unregulated and illegal pesticides for two years. These pesticides are poisonous to birds, but were added to control insects eating the seed in warehouses. Reason #562894 that I won’t buy anything from Scotts – not even their organic products.

reading this week

Best PR that Money Can Buy: A Guide to Food Industry Front Groups (Center for Food Safety)
A new report from Michele Simon, JD, MPH exposing front groups that appear to be acting in the public interest but are funded by the food industry to advance its agenda. The author is a great person to follow on Twitter as well (@MicheleRSimon).

7 Dodgy Food Practices Banned in Europe But Fine Here (Mother Jones)
From Tom Philpott, another food journalist to follow, comes a list of substances or practices banned in Europe for public health and safety reasons that are legal in the U.S., like arsenic in animal feed and endocrine disruptors sprayed on corn. This is a bad thing. 

Replanting the Rust Belt (NY Times)
Great feature article on the food movement in the Rust Belt, including Pittsburgh and Cleveland

Turkey Raised Without Antibiotics Less Likely to Carry Superbugs (Civil Eats)
The headline elicits a resounding “DUH” from me, but it’s worth reading, especially for anyone who has doubts about eating antibiotic-free meat.

Top Tips for Safer Products (Environmental Working Group)
Skin Deep, which I wrote about this week, has compiled a quick guide to making better choices about products to use in your home. Wrote this down to keep in my purse so I always have it to reference when shopping.

Some of My Best Friends are Germs (NY Times)
Michael Pollan’s Sunday Magazine article on microbes. I’m a big fan of raw and live foods, so I’m happy to see bacteria discussed in this way.

reading this week

Antibiotics in Your Food: What’s Causing the Rise in Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria in Our Food Supply and Why You Should Buy Antibiotic-Free Food (Eating Well)
From one of my favorite journalists, Barry Estabrook, comes a great article about antibiotic-resistant bacteria in our food. (You can get MRSA from the food you eat. Nice, right?) If you read one of the articles I’m posting about today, read this one.

The Problem with Wal-mart’s Hunger Games (Take Part via @andybellatti)
Great article about the way industry tries to spin its charitable work. You can’t create the problem with your low wages and poor healthcare and then turn around and try to act like you want to fight the problem with grants. It ends up turning the very real issue of hunger in America into a marketing gimic. What’s really sad is to see food bloggers give in to promoting their contests, etc.

Victory for Bees (Independent)
The European Union has voted to enact a two-year ban on nicotinoids – the pesticides many believe are responsible for mass bee deaths. (It’s time to follow them, America!)

Heavy use of herbicide Round Up linked to health dangers (Reuters)
Glyphosate, the key ingredient in Round Up, a Monsanto weed killer which is sprayed over millions of acres of crops, was linked to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson’s, infertility and cancers.

Reading (and viewing) this week

I’ve written on GMO labeling before, and this is an issue that is constantly evolving and changing.
On Wednesday, we took another step forward as Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) (otherwise known as my new heroes) with 9 Senate co-sponsors and 22 House co-sponsors, introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-To-Know Act that would require food manufacturers to label any product containing GMOs. If not properly labeled, the product could be classified by the FDA as “misbranded.”
It’s about time. I am working on drafting a letter to send to my legislators here in Pennsylvania, and when it’s ready, I will share so you can pass the word! 
Speaking of legislative advocacy, Ellen DeGeneres had a representative from the Humane Society on her show to talk about Ag-Gag laws. Ellen’s got a wide audience and huge following, not only for her general awesomeness but her advocacy work on the part of animals. I’m really happy to see someone like Ellen educating and encouraging people to take action.
Definitely looking forward to Mark Bittman’s new Flexitarian column. He says the goal is “to marry the burning question “What should I be eating?” with another: “How do I cook it?”
Michael Pollan talking to Stephen Colbert about his new book, Cooked
Yet more proof that eating antibiotics in meat is detrimental to our health: government researchers have found bacterial varieties in meat that are resistant to antibiotics.
Environmental Working Group has some great information on superbugs in meat.

Reading this week

Cook Your Own Food. Eat What You Want. Think For Yourself. (Michael Ruhlman)
If you read no other article I recommend this week, read this one. It’s a great manifesto and one I agree with wholeheartedly.

Ball Heritage Collection jars
As we’re gearing up for canning season, I can’t help but drool over these beautiful blue vintage jars. (Never mind the fact that I have mason jars coming out my ears.)

7 Things You Need to Know About GMOs (Rodale)
A write-up of take-away messages from a film called GMO OMG that debuts at the Yale Environmental Film Festival. (Includes a trailer for the film. I am a documentary nerd and cannot wait for this film to be released to a wider audience.)

Calamity for Our Most Beneficent Insect (NY Times)
An editorial from the NY Times in support of bees

A Constitutional Argument Against the So-Called “Monsanto Protection Act” (
Fantastically reasoned argument (by a lawyer, no less) about the legality and constitutionality of the “Monsanto Protection Act”

Hunger, Obesity and Nutrition; Observations from the Field in Pittsburgh (Center for American Progress)
Interesting article about food deserts right here in Pittsburgh and the challenges faced by these communities; also includes information on great projects that are locally trying to solve this issue, including Just Harvest getting city farmers markets to take EBT cards, edible gardens, and buying clubs.

Reading this week

The New Pork Gospel (One Earth)
A new article by Barry Estabrook, author of Tomatoland and some of the best food journalism out there today, profiling Russ Kremer, a leading advocate for better hog farming. His story is intriguing and inspirational.

Taping of Farm Cruelty is Becoming the Crime (NY Times)
Article about Ag-gag laws across the country. The woman tries to make a comparison between agricultural practices and open heart surgery to support these laws and it is quite honestly the most ridiculous abuse of metaphor I’ve ever seen.
Dateline: Hormone Disruptors (NBC News)
Reporter Andrea Canning has herself and her children tested for hormone disruptors (like BPA) and has some interesting (and not at all surprising) results (The above link is to part 1.)

Farmstand App 
A new app that allows you to find local farmers’ markets and see what’s fresh. Only for iPhone so far, but hopefully some day for Android!

Why You Shouldn’t Wrinkle Your Nose at Fermentation (NPR)
Fermented foods have tons of benefits. Healthy for you and delicious to boot. There’s nothing like freshly fermented sauerkraut, and kombucha is quickly becoming one of my favorite beverages.

What’s New in Food Marketing? Protein! (Food Politics)
Marion Nestle rounds up recent discussion on pumping food products with extra protein as a marketing ploy.

Hello, My Name is Porterhouse Chop (NPR)
Pork industry is renaming cuts of pork in order to help consumers understand cuts of meat. I swear, the food industry thinks we’re all six years old. 

Reading this week

The Dark Side of Soy (UTNE Reader)
Mary Vance Terrain explores the risks of soy consumption, which has been sold to consumers as a healthy alternative food. 

Mother Earth News apps
I subscribe to Mother Earth News and Mother Earth Living magazines, and they offer great free apps for starting gardening for food, as well as canning.

What are the solutions? A Place at the Table, reviewed (Civil Eats)
Review of a new documentary from the people that brought us Food, Inc. I definitely need to see this.

Obama signs the Monsanto Protection Act (Food Democracy Now)
Forget for a moment the fact that SAUDI ARABIA has more stringent laws about food labeling than we do in the United States, it’s so disappointing to see President Obama giving in to the corporate interests of Monsanto, DuPont and the like. (Particularly when he made campaign promises about GMO labeling.)

Aspartame in Milk (Food Law Firm)
This is crazy scary. A carcinogen in milk? With no label? Pass me a glass of raw milk, please.

Links from the Farm to Table Conference

Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund
“FTCLDF protects the rights of the nation’s family farms, artisan food producers, consumers and affiliate communities to engage in direct commerce free of harassment by federal, state and local government interference; it protects the rights of farmers and artisanal producers to make their products available and the rights of consumers to access the foods of their choice from the source of their choice.” In other words, these guys help defend the little guys. Plus they have great bumper stickers and t-shirts.

Edible Allegheny
Local food magazine – amazing resources, especially when you are looking to source local foods or support restaurants that do so

Marty’s Market
Located in the Strip District (and with PARKING), Marty’s is a “community-minded market featuring clean, regional and unique food items.” (I used a quote from their promotional materials because I’ve been there and I agree.) And, they serve brunch. Enough said.

Berglorbeer Farma
Sells shitake logs (logs that come “preloaded” with spores to grow mushrooms at home) among lots of other cool stuff

PG Plate
A new food themed website from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Bumbleberry Farms
Local honey from Somerset, Pa. We tried the salted honey caramel and it was insanely good. Mark has put some in his coffee as a sweetener, but you can also eat it straight out of the jar like a boss.

Zukay Live Foods
Live, fermented foods, including kvass and even salad dressings.

Reading this week

I thought I’d try to share links weekly to the things I’m reading online on many different topics. Whatever is of interest that particular week, I’ll share.

Want to be happier? Eat seasonally  (Attune Foods via Eating Rules)
Great arguments for eating seasonally and the benefits you reap from doing so.

Whole milk or skim? Study links fattier milk to skinnier kids (NPR)
A new study shows a link between reduced fat milks and higher body weights. (I am happy to see clinical studies backing up the idea that whole fat milk isn’t something we should avoid.)

Banning the Big Gulp Ban (NY Times)
Columnist and food policy advocate Mark Bittman discusses Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban being struck down by a judge.

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food (NY Times Magazine)
A peek into the new book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss. I cannot wait to read this – it seems extraordinarily well researched and compelling.