Tag Archives: Mother Jones

Much more about those bee deaths

Local Toronto event this Saturday May 24th, 2014

From Tom Philpott, on Mother Jones:

“It’s a hard-knock life, scouring the landscape for pollen to sustain a beehive. Alight upon the wrong field, and you might encounter fungicides, increasingly used on corn and soybean crops, and shown to harm honeybees at tiny levels. Get hauled in to pollinate California’s vast almond groves, as 60 percent of US honeybees do, and you’ll likely make contact with a group of chemicals called adjuvants—allegedly “inert” pesticide additives that have emerged as a prime suspect for a large bee die-off during this year’s almond bloom. Continue reading

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Big sugar’s sweet little lies

From  Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens in Mother Jones

“….Their winning campaign, crafted with the help of the prestigious public relations firm Carl Byoir & Associates, had been prompted by a poll showing that consumers had come to see sugar as fattening, and that most doctors suspected it might exacerbate, if not cause, heart disease and diabetes. With an initial annual budget of nearly $800,000 ($3.4 million today) collected from the makers of Dixie Crystals, Domino, C&H, Great Western, and other sugar brands, the association recruited a stable of medical and nutritional professionals to allay the public’s fears, brought snack and beverage companies into the fold, and bankrolled scientific papers that contributed to a “highly supportive” FDA ruling, which, the Silver Anvil application boasted, made it “unlikely that sugar will be subject to legislative restriction in coming years.” Continue reading

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“Green revolution” not so green?

From Tom Philpott, in Mother Jones:

“In 1968, India’s farmers cranked out a record-setting wheat crop at a time when many observers feared the nation would plunge into famine. That triumphant harvest represented the culmination of decades of work by a group of foundation-funded US technocrats. Their effort, which became known as the “green revolution,” still casts an imposing shadow more than four decades later.

Its technological architect, the Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug, was all but beatified upon his death in 2009. In its obituary, Reason Magazine proclaimed him “the man who saved more human lives than anyone else in history,” while The New York Times wrote that he “did more than anyone else in the 20th century to teach the world to feed itself.” Continue reading

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Mother Jones’ surprising raw milk story

From Kiera Butler, on Mother Jones:

“Over the past year, I’ve been involved in an illegal, underground, super-secret speakeasy. I smuggled contraband to my house, even distributed it among my friends. Nope, not meth: milk. Creamy, delicious, unpasteurized milk.

When I first tried raw milk, I found the taste odd, but soon I came to crave its distinctive flavor. Better yet, I was told it could cure my allergies and eczema. “People see amazing results when they give this stuff to their kids—they have ear infections and asthma and allergies, and with raw milk it goes away,” says Mark McAfee, CEO of Fresno, California-based Organic Pastures, the nation’s largest raw-milk dairy. McAfee pointed me to a peer-reviewed study suggesting a link between raw-milk consumption and diminished allergy rates—as the theory goes, raw milk contains proteins and compounds that somehow keep the immune system from overreacting to allergens. Continue reading

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How Stanford study sells organics short

From Tom Philpott, in Mother Jones:

“Is organic food little more than a trumped-up marketing scheme, another way for affluent consumers to waste money? A just-released paper by Stanford University researchers—and the reaction to it by the media—suggests as much. (Abstract here; I have a copy of the full study, but can’t upload it for copyright reasons.)

“Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce,”declared a New York Times headline. “Organic food hardly healthier, study suggests,” announced CBS News. “Is organic healthier? Study says not so much, but it’s key reason consumers buy,” the Washington Post grumbled. Continue reading

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How the NY Times went too far…

From Tom Philpott, on Mother Jones:

“In a much-discussed feature that led the Sunday New York Times business section, Stephanie Strom reignites the long-simmering debate about whether the organic label has been essentially bought out and drained of meaning by gigantic corporations. She paraphrases Michael Potter, founder and CEO of one of the last independently owned organic companies, Eden Foods, like this: “He calls the certified-organic label a fraud and refuses to put it on Eden’s products.”

A fraud, huh? Strom’s story raises many important points that need to be thought through and debated. But it misses a key one: The organic label, for all the untoward influence of Big Food players like dairy giant Dean Foods, still means something. If you buy food labeled organic, you can be reasonably sure it was grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, without genetically modified seeds, without (in the case of dairy, meat, and eggs) antibiotics and other dodgy pharmaceuticals, and on farms required to have a plan for crop rotation and (quoting straight from federal organic code) to “manage plant and animal materials to maintain or improve soil organic matter content.” (For a primer on why I find the latter bit so impressive, go here.) Even the most processed certified-organic item on the supermarket shelf contains raw plant and/or animal material that was raised in ways fundamentally different than nonorganic fare. Continue reading

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Story about FDA spying on American raw milk farmers using undercover agents echoes the Michael Schmidt case

Although Infowars.com (the source of this story) is a site that deals in the sort of information that in many circles is dismissed as conspiracy theory, the history of Michael Schmidt’s raw milk trials in Ontario echoes several of the themes that are discussed in this article. During Michael’s most recent trial in 2009, it became clear that the local health unit had dispatched an undercover agent to infiltrate the ranks of Michael’s raw milk cowshare members, to gain his trust and to acquire raw milk and raw milk products for testing.

And, as became evident during the course of the trial, this undercover agent, Susan Atherton, wasn’t lying about needing raw milk to address her chronic health issue. The sad part of the story is that she never did get to drink the raw milk she acquired from Michael Schmidt’s farm. It was all sent away for testing. And it wasn’t tested for pathogens. It was merely tested to confirm that it really was raw milk. Well, duh, did they really suspect that Michael was providing cowshare members with pasteurized milk?

We’re left wondering if undercover agent Susan Atherton ever recovered from her sickness. Maybe raw milk would have helped as she told Michael she hoped it would. But she would have had to actually drink it for that to happen, not just buy it and pass it along to her health department handlers. It would seem she paid a high personal price for “just doing her job”. Continue reading

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