Saturday, February 10, 2007

9th Annual Farmers Exhibition


The Kansas City Food Circle is hosting the 9th Annual Farmers Exhibition

WHEN:Saturday March 24, 9 AM to 2 PM
WHAT: The Kansas City Food Circle is hosting the 9th Annual Farmers Exhibition:
Meet local organic farmers who can supply high quality organic fruits and veggies and free range, natural meats for the coming seasons, Seedlings for a nearly start on your garding, and Pick up a fre copy of the 2007 Food Circle Producers Directory.
Original music by eco-troubadour, Stan Slaughter.
WHERE: Civic Centr, 13817 Johnson Dr.,Shawnee, KS (Free Admission and Parking)

For more info: Craig Volland, KC Food Circle, 913-334-0556, hartwood2@mindspring.com

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Cloned Animals not Necessary to Sustain U.S. Food Supply


The FDA's recent approval of cloned animals for introduction into the food supply offers no direct or immediate benefit to the general carnivorous public.


Cloned beef? No, thank you.

The FDA's recent approval of cloned animals for introduction into the food supply offers no direct or immediate benefit to the general carnivorous public.

Already our beef is plentiful. Kansas is second in the nation for the number of beef cattle on feedlots with 2.3 million head, according the the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the total number of feedlots with a capacity of 1,000 or more head is 10.7 million nationwide.

Also, cloned animals produce offspring with genetic abnormalities, as attested by K-State's own experts, so the long-term viability of cloned beef cattle is limited at best.

Certainly the element of cost does not work in its favor. Anything that is experimental and lab-intensive isn't likely to be economical. Reasonably priced cloned beef still is years away.

Petri-dish burgers also are not likely to taste any better than your average mass-produced cow. Their genes might be strong, but it's the way they're raised and fed that ultimately affect their sapidity.

If you're looking for superior taste or redeeming nutritive value, try grass-fed beef as an alternative to feedlot cattle, whose meat often is laced with antibiotics. Beef from cows that are allowed to graze is lower in calories and fat and higher in omega-3 fatty acids. For its slightly higher grocery store price tag, at least grass-fed offers some quantifiable benefits.

To date, cloned meat has shown no such benefits. Perhaps down the line it will be practical to have of pens of cows with identical genes, but ultimately, it won't improve the condition of the pot roast sitting on our dinner table.

Setting aside the debate over the ethical soundness of cloning, currently, there is no reason to support the introduction of cloned meat into our food supply.

Megan Moser, Kansas State Collegian, 7/8/2007

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Michael Pollan´s Latest... A must read, if you eat food!


...........Michael Pollan...........



Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy.


Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you're concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it's not really food, and food is what you want to eat.


FROM FOODS TO NUTRIENTS

I t was in the 1980s that food began disappearing from the American supermarket, gradually to be replaced by "nutrients," which are not the same thing. Where once the familiar names of recognizable comestibles--things like eggs or breakfast cereal or cookies--claimed pride of place on the brightly colored packages crowding the aisles, now new terms like "fiber" and "cholesterol" and "saturated fat" rose to large-type prominence. More important than mere foods, the presence or absence of these invisible substances was now generally believed to confer health benefits on their eaters. > >

The first thing to understand about nutritionism--I first encountered the term in the work of an Australian sociologist of science named Gyorgy Scrinis--is that it is not quite the same as nutrition. As the "ism" suggests, it is not a scientific subject but an ideology. Ideologies are ways of organizing large swaths of life and experience under a set of shared but unexamined assumptions. This quality makes an ideology particularly hard to see, at least while it's exerting its hold on your culture. A reigning ideology is a little like the weather, all pervasive and virtually inescapable. Still, we can try.

In the case of nutritionism, the widely shared but unexamined assumption is that the key to understanding food is indeed the nutrient. > From this basic premise flow several others. Since nutrients, as compared with foods, are invisible and therefore slightly mysterious, it falls to > the scientists (and to the journalists through whom the scientists speak) to explain the hidden reality of foods to us. To enter a world in which you dine on unseen nutrients, you need lots of expert help.

This brings us to another unexamined assumption: that the whole point of eating is to maintain and promote bodily health.

Another potentially serious weakness of nutritionist ideology is that it has trouble discerning qualitative distinctions between foods.

In the wake of the panel's recommendation that we cut down on saturated fat, a recommendation seconded by the 1982 National Academy report on cancer, Americans did indeed change their diets, endeavoring for a quarter-century to do what they had been told. Well, kind of. The industrial food supply was promptly reformulated to reflect the official advice, giving us low-fat pork, low-fat Snackwell's and all the low-fat pasta and high-fructose (yet low-fat!) corn syrup we could consume. Which turned out to be quite a lot. Oddly, America got really fat on its new low-fat diet--indeed, many date the current obesity and diabetes epidemic to the late 1970s, when Americans began binging on carbohydrates, ostensibly as a way to avoid the evils of fat.

First, while it is true that Americans post-1977 did begin binging on carbs, and that fat as a percentage of total calories in the American diet declined, we never did in fact cut down on our consumption of fat. Meat consumption actually climbed. We just heaped a bunch more carbs onto our plates, obscuring perhaps, but not replacing, the expanding chunk of animal protein squatting in the center.

But if nutritionism leads to a kind of false consciousness in the mind of the eater, the ideology can just as easily mislead the scientist. Most nutritional science involves studying one nutrient at a time, an approach that even nutritionists who do it will tell you is deeply flawed. "The problem with nutrient-by-nutrient nutrition science," points out Marion Nestle, the New York University nutritionist, "is that it takes the nutrient out of the context of food, the food out of the context of diet and the diet out of the context of lifestyle."

The good news is that, to the carrot eater, it doesn't matter. That's the great thing about eating food as compared with nutrients: you don't need to fathom a carrot's complexity to reap its benefits

One last example: People who take supplements are healthier than the population at large, but their health probably has nothing whatsoever to do with the supplements they take--which recent studies have suggested are worthless. Supplement-takers are better-educated, more-affluent people who, almost by definition, take a greater-than-normal interest in personal health--confounding factors that probably account for their superior health.

Scientists study what scientists can see.

No one likes to admit that his or her best efforts at understanding and solving a problem have actually made the problem worse, but that's exactly what has happened in the case of nutritionism. Scientists operating with the best of intentions, using the best tools at their disposal, have taught us to look at food in a way that has diminished our pleasure in eating it while doing little or nothing to improve our health. Perhaps what we need now is a broader, less reductive view of what food is, one that is at once more ecological and cultural. What would happen, for example, if we were to start thinking about food as less of a thing and more of a relationship?

"Health" is, among other things, the byproduct of being involved in these sorts of relationships in a food chain--involved in a great many of them, in the case of an omnivorous creature like us. Further, when the health of one link of the food chain is disturbed, it can affect all the creatures in it. When the soil is sick or in some way deficient, so will be the grasses that grow in that soil and the cattle that eat the grasses and the people who drink the milk. Or, as the English agronomist Sir Albert Howard put it in 1945 in "The Soil and Health" (a founding text of organic agriculture), we would do well to regard "the whole problem of health in soil, plant, animal and man as one great subject." Our personal health is inextricably bound up with the health of the entire food web.

1. Eat food. Though in our current state of confusion, this is much easier said than done. So try this: Don't eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. (Sorry, but at this point Moms are as confused as the rest of us, which is why we have to go back a couple of generations, to a time before the advent of modern food products.) There are a great many foodlike items in the supermarket your ancestors wouldn't recognize as food (Go-Gurt? Breakfast-cereal bars? Nondairy creamer?); stay away from these.

2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims. They're apt to be heavily processed, and the claims are often dubious at best. Don't forget that margarine, one of the first industrial foods to claim that it was more healthful than the traditional food it replaced, turned out to give people heart attacks. When Kellogg's can boast about its Healthy Heart Strawberry Vanilla cereal bars, health claims have become hopelessly compromised. (The American Heart Association charges food makers for their endorsement.) Don't take the silence of the yams as a sign that they have nothing valuable to say about health.

3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number--or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.None of these characteristics are necessarily harmful in and of themselves, but all of them are reliable markers for foods that have been highly processed.


4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. You won't find any high-fructose corn syrup at the farmer's market; you also won't find food harvested long ago and far away. What you will find are fresh whole foods picked at the peak of nutritional quality. Precisely the kind of food your great-great-grandmother would have recognized as food.

5. Pay more, eat less. The American food system has for a century devoted its energies and policies to increasing quantity and reducing price, not to improving quality. There's no escaping the fact that better food--measured by taste or nutritional quality (which often correspond)--costs more, because it has been grown or raised less intensively and with more care. Not everyone can afford to eat well in America, which is shameful, but most of us can: Americans spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their income on food, down from 24 percent in 1947, and less than the citizens of any other nation. And those of us who can afford to eat well should. Paying more for food well grown in good soils--whether certified organic or not--will contribute not only to your health (by reducing exposure to pesticides) but also to the health of others who might not themselves be able to afford that sort of food: the people who grow it and the people who live downstream, and downwind, of the farms where it is grown.

"Eat less" is the most unwelcome advice of all, but in fact the scientific case for eating a lot less than we currently do is compelling. "Calorie restriction" has repeatedly been shown to slow aging in animals, and many researchers (including Walter Willett, the Harvard epidemiologist) believe it offers the single strongest link between diet and cancer prevention. Food abundance is a problem, but culture has helped here, too, by promoting the idea of moderation. Once one of the longest-lived people on earth, the Okinawans practiced a principle they called "Hara Hachi Bu": eat until you are 80 percent full. To make the "eat less" message a bit more palatable, consider that quality may have a bearing on quantity: I don't know about you, but the better the quality of the food I eat, the less of it I need to feel satisfied. All tomatoes are not created equal.

6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves. Scientists may disagree on what's so good about plants--the antioxidants? Fiber? Omega-3s?--but they do agree that they're probably really good for you and certainly can't hurt. Also, by eating a plant-based diet, you'll be consuming far fewer calories, since plant foods (except seeds) are typically less "energy dense" than the other things you might eat. Vegetarians are healthier than carnivores, but near vegetarians ("flexitarians") are as healthy as vegetarians. Thomas Jefferson was on to something when he advised treating meat more as a flavoring than a food.

7. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. Confounding factors aside, people who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than we are. Any traditional diet will do: if it weren't a healthy diet, the people who follow it wouldn't still be around.

In borrowing from a food culture, pay attention to how a culture eats, as well as to what it eats. In the case of the French paradox, it may not be the dietary nutrients that keep the French healthy (lots of saturated fat and alcohol?!) so much as the dietary habits: small portions, no seconds or snacking, communal meals--and the serious pleasure taken in eating. (Worrying about diet can't possibly be good for you.) Let culture be your guide, not science.

8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden. To take part in the intricate and endlessly interesting processes of providing for our sustenance is the surest way to escape the culture of fast food and the values implicit in it: that food should be cheap and easy; that food is fuel and not communion. The culture of the kitchen, as embodied in those enduring traditions we call cuisines, contains more wisdom about diet and health than you are apt to find in any nutrition journal or journalism. Plus, the food you grow yourself contributes to your health long before you sit down to eat it. So you might want to think about putting down this article now and picking up a spatula or hoe.

9. Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet. The greater the diversity of species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases. That of course is an argument from nutritionism, but there is a better one, one that takes a broader view of "health." Biodiversity in the diet means less monoculture in the fields. What does that have to do with your health? Everything. The vast monocultures that now feed us require tremendous amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to keep from collapsing. Diversifying those fields will mean fewer chemicals, healthier soils, healthier plants and animals and, in turn, healthier people. It's all connected, which is another way of saying that your health isn't bordered by your body and that what's good for the soil is probably good for you, too.

Like: A little meat won't kill you, though it's better approached as a side dish than as a main. And you're much better off eating whole fresh foods than processed food products. That's what I mean by the recommendation to eat "food."

This brings us to another unexamined assumption: that the whole point of eating is to maintain and promote bodily health.



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Monday, February 05, 2007

Hemp is legal! Kind of...


Potential First U.S. Hemp Farmer Gets Fingerprinted (TreeHugger)


A North Dakota man aims to be the first hemp farmer in the United States. That is, the first one since the practice was made illegal in 1938 and only allowed again temporarily as part of the WWII war effort. After 10 years of recent effort by North Dakota lawmaker David Monson, he is now poised to receive a license to grow the crop beloved by sustainability advocates

Monson turned in an application Monday to the state Agriculture Department to become the nation's first licensed industrial hemp farmer along with a set of his fingerprints, which will be used for a background check to prove he is not a criminal.

Hemp, a cousin of marijuana, does not have the drug's psychoactive properties however the federal Drug Enforcement Administration still has to give its permission before Monson, or anyone else, is allowed to grow industrial hemp.

When the DEA smoke clears, North Dakota may be the first to break important farm ground. Six other states have also authorized industrial hemp farming, but yet to push their initiatives into action. Those others states are Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana and West Virginia.

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Web 2.0


Heard the term "Web 2.0"? Not sure what it is? Here is the latest digital analysis from Dr. Wesch (Anthropology Professor at Kansas State) that helps put things into perspective in an appropriate medium. This video helps explain what this coblog is after, and why it can be given the label "Web 2.0".

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