34 posts

Urban agriculture in Cuba (image: WikiPedia)

How Cubans’ Health Improved When Their Economy Collapsed

Richard Schiffman | The Atlantic Monthly Apr 18 2013 Sometimes financial crises can force lifestyle changes for the better. When Cuba’s benefactor, the Soviet Union, closed up shop in the early 1990s, it sent the Caribbean nation into an economic tailspin from which it would not recover for over half a decade. The biggest impact came from the loss of cheap petroleum from Russia. Gasoline quickly became unobtainable by ordinary citizens in Cuba, and mechanized agriculture and food distribution systems all but collapsed. The island’s woes were compounded by the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, which intensified the U.S. trade embargo […]

Monsanto’s New Sweet Corn, Another Unregulated, Unlabeled Frankenfood

Organic Bytes #289 Government regulation of genetically engineered crops, already weak, is increasingly non-existent. The latest example of this new hands-off policy is the commercialization of Monsanto’s first flagship product for the produce aisle: genetically engineered sweet corn, containing the Bt toxin and herbicide-resistant genes. Monsanto’s new sweet corn produces Bt toxin, a genetically modified version of an insecticide from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. Until now, Monsanto’s Bt corn and cotton crops have mostly been used in animal feed and highly processed ingredients. Even with this limited exposure, Bt toxin has already been found in the blood of pregnant […]

Pre-mail: Not just a good idea.

WARNING. This is not email. This is pre-mail. It is a new product being marketed on the internet by the company. Please get your friends to visit our web site by simply telling them our easy-to-remember web address. In fact, if you don’t tell 15 of your friends, bad luck will befall you by the end of this day. I am not kidding. This is not a hoax. This is not another “chain mail.” This is for real. Frank Shepherd of Pennsylvania is one sorry man who didn’t tell 15 of his friends. He got cancer and died within […]

United States Is the Laziest Developed Country in the World

Inspired by the Winter Olympics currently being played in Vancouver, the Daily Beast decided to give out virtual medals—for not the most athletic countries, but the laziest. Starting with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s member countries with extensive data available (24 developed countries), the site took four factors into account: calories per day, television viewing, aversion to playing sports, and Internet usage. After weighing the factors, the Daily Beast found that the United States took home gold as the laziest developed country in the world. “America always goes big, or doesn’t go at all,” the site says. “[G]luttony […]

Social Collapse Best Practices

by Dmitry Orlov – 14 February 2009 The following talk was given on February 13, 2009, at Cowell Theatre in Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, to an audience of 550 people. Audio and video of the talk will be available on Long Now Foundation web site. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for showing up. It’s certainly nice to travel all the way across the North American continent and have a few people come to see you, even if the occasion isn’t a happy one. You are here to listen to me talk about social collapse and the various […]

How Aspartame Became Legal – The Timeline

From Rich Murray – 12-24-02 From Norfolk Genetic Information Network (Taken from Welcome to the Spin Machine by Michael Manville ) In 1985 Monsanto purchased G.D. Searle, the chemical company that held the patent to aspartame, the active ingredient in NutraSweet. Monsanto was apparently untroubled by aspartame’s clouded past, including a 1980 FDA Board of Inquiry, comprised of three independent scientists, which confirmed that it “might induce brain tumors.” The FDA had actually banned aspartame based on this finding, only to have Searle Chairman Donald Rumsfeld (currently the Secretary of Defense) vow to “call in his markers,” […]

The New Economics of Hunger

[P]rices for corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, rice and other grains began shooting through the roof… food [is] becoming the new gold…. For the 1 billion living on less than a dollar a day, it is a matter of survival. In a mud hut on the Sahara’s edge, Manthita Sou, a 43-year-old widow in the Mauritanian desert village of Maghleg, is confronting wheat prices that are up 67 percent on local markets in the past year. Her solution: stop eating bread…. The root cause of price surges varies from crop to crop. But the crisis is being driven in part by […]

Willie Nelson: Save Family Farms, Save America

[ Nelson argues that [i]f you care about local and democratic control, demand a Farm Bill that curbs the power of factory farms and the influence of lobbyists for large food corporations. If you care about health and nutrition for children, demand a Farm Bill that puts more fresh, wholesome food in our cities’ schools. If you want your children and grandchildren to enjoy the benefits of a clean environment, demand a Farm Bill that increases protection of our natural resources by helping farmers transition to organic and more sustainable growing methods. As the editors of AlterNet point out, this […]

How Much Fossil Fuel is in Your Food?

23 March 2006 | Tom The blurb from Organic Consumers Assn’s Organic Bytes letter runs: An average of over seven calories of fossil fuel is burned up for every calorie of energy we get from our food. This means that the average 2000 calorie daily diet requires approximately two quarts of crude oil to produce, process, package and transport. The processing of just one pound of coffee requires over 8,000 calories of fossil-fuel energy — the equivalent energy found in nearly 30 cubic feet of natural gas, or around two and a half pounds of coal. To reduce the […]

Sweden Plans to Be World’s First Oil-Free Economy

[ This piece about Sweden’s commitment to convert to fossil-free fuels shames the rest of the developed world. Sure, Sweden’s got ethanol on the table as a possible part of its strategy, contra voices of sanity (like that of James Howard Kunstler), insight (like that of Richard Manning), and manifesto (like the editors of The Stranger, who call for real solutions). But at least Sweden is treating the issue of sustainable energy policy as urgent. –BL ] 8 Feb 2006 | The Guardian 15-year limit set for switch to renewable energy Biofuels favoured over further nuclear power by John Vidal […]

Gas Guzzling Food: The SUV in the Pantry

grabbed from Sustainable on 1 Dec. 2005 by Thomas Starrs I spend a fair amount of time thinking about how to reduce my family’s dependence on energy, particularly energy derived from fossil fuels. I commute to work by bicycle or bus, install compact fluorescents when light bulbs burn out, replace major appliances with the most efficient ones I can afford, and cast jealous glances at my friends who drive hybrids or alternative-fueled vehicles. But until recently, I didn’t think of myself as an energy glutton because of the food I eat. Then I read an astonishing statistic: It takes […]

One Roof at a Time

November/December 2004 | Mother Jones by Bill McKibben With no help from the Bush administration — but plenty from Europe, Japan, New York, and California — solar power is edging into the mainstream. If you’re like most Americans, you’ve spent your life invisibly attached to an electric meter. When you wake up and switch on the light, you nudge it forward a little faster. When you toast bread, watch TV, open the fridge, flick on the computer, you push its pace. For all practical purposes, it only goes one way. But in the last few years, a small but quickly […]

Proctor & Gamble “Buzz Marketing” Unit Hit With Complaint

19 Oct. 2005 | USA Today by Bruce Horovitz Is Procter & Gamble — the world’s biggest packaged goods marketer — breaking the law by enlisting teens to coax friends to try teen-tailored products? One consumer advocacy group thinks it is. Commercial Alert on Tuesday filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission that says P&G’s word-of-mouth marketing unit, Tremor, targets teens with deceptive advertising. If successful, the complaint would have broad impact on the ad business. So-called buzz marketing is the industry’s hottest trend. More than 85% of the nation’s top 1,000 marketers now use some form, estimates Marian […]

Solar Cell Panels Made out of Everyday Plastics

[ From the piece: Made of a single layer of plastic sandwiched between two conductive electrodes, UCLA’s solar cell is easy to mass-produce and costs much less to make – roughly one-third of the cost of traditional silicon solar technology…. “We hope that ultimately solar energy can be extensively used in the commercial sector as well as the private sector. Imagine solar cells installed in cars to absorb solar energy to replace the traditional use of diesel and gas. People will vie to park their cars on the top level of parking garages so their cars can be charged under […]

Studies Show How and Why Organic Farming Must Become the Norm in the USA

Organic farming produces same corn and soybean yields as conventional farms, but consumes less energy and no pesticides, study finds Susan S. Lang Cornell University, July 13, 2005 [via agnet] ITHACA, N.Y. — Organic farming produces the same yields of corn and soybeans as does conventional farming, but uses 30 percent less energy, less water and no pesticides, a review of a 22-year farming trial study concludes. David Pimentel, a Cornell University professor of ecology and agriculture, concludes, “Organic farming offers real advantages for such crops as corn and soybeans.” Pimentel is the lead author of a study that is […]

Toxic Contaminant Levels in Farmed and Wild-Caught Salmon Species

PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY, accessed 21 March 2005 through their website Recent studies surveying contaminant levels in farmed and wild-caught salmon have shown that, on average, farmed salmon contain substantially higher concentrations of a variety of persistent organic contaminants such as PCBs, dioxins, and pesticides. These studies indicate that wild salmon, being generally lower in toxic contaminants, is a healthier choice for consumers. However, closer inspection reveals that contaminant levels in individual fish can vary widely across wild and farmed salmon of various species and from various geographic regions, so the issue is not black and white.

Five A Day For Fish? Veggie-Eating Creatures Healthier For Humans

4 March 2004 | Scripps Howard News Service by Joan Lowy You are what you eat, even if you’re a fish. And fish that thrive on veggies tend to be less toxic than flesh eaters. With new studies showing PCBs, dioxin, and pesticides in salmon and mercury in canned tuna, consumers who find themselves struggling to figure out what’s safe to eat will find some species of fish are high in contaminants, while others are generally low. The reason is usually diet — some fish eat smaller fish, but other fish eat veggies and tiny organisms.

Rocket Fuel Chemical in Breast Milk?

Rocket Fuel Chemical Found in Breast Milk of Women in 18 States 24 February 2005 | by Robert Roy Britt A toxic component of rocket fuel has been found in breast milk of women in 18 states and store-bought milk from various locations around the country. The chemical, perchlorate, can impede adult metabolism and cause retardation in fetuses, among other things. It leaches into groundwater from various military facilities. Previous studies have found perchlorate in drinking water, on lettuce, and in cows milk.

Newsletter Worth Reading: OrganicBytes

[ I’ve sung the praises of, DemocracyNow!, and other sites before. Now it’s worth bringing OrganicBytes (from to your attention! There’s an excerpt of the newsletter below. FYI: It only comes out every week or two. –BL ] Organic Bytes #49 Food and Consumer News Tidbits with an Edge! 1/28/2005 Subscribe __________________________________ ALERT: NEW EPA DEAL LETS FACTORY FARMS POLLUTE AIR WITHOUT RESTRICTION The day after the inauguration, January 21, the Bush Administration signed an agreement that allows factory farms to freely violate any and all clean air standards for the next two years, and forgives these same companies […]

Syngenta’s Massive Lobbying Keeps Carcinogenic Corn Pesticide on Market

Company spent $260,000 lobbying for herbicide Oct. 27, 2004 | Associated Press by FREDERIC J. FROMMER WASHINGTON – The manufacturer of a herbicide that has been linked to frog deformities has spent $260,000 lobbying the Environmental Protection Agency and other government officials, an Associated Press review of disclosure forms shows. Syngenta Crop Protection, which makes the herbicide atrazine, enlisted former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole to meet with White House officials on at least one occasion. Dole represents the U.S. affiliate of Swiss-based Syngenta as well as the Kansas Corn Growers.

EPA Will Use Poor Kids as Guinea Pigs in New Study on Pesticides

16 Nov. 2004 | Organic Consumers Association Study Launch Date Suspended Until Early 2005 Offers Public Comment Period The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), led by Bush appointees, is seeking input on a new proposed study in which infants in participating low income families will be monitored for health impacts as they undergo exposure to known toxic chemicals over the course of two years. The study entitled Children?s Environmental Exposure Research Study (CHEERS) will look at how chemicals can be ingested, inhaled or absorbed by children ranging from babies to 3 years old. For taking part in these studies, each family […]

Canadian Oil from Tar Sand: Mr. Sandman, Bring Me Some Oil

[ Oil reserves elsewhere are not what they once were … It is not easy and it is not cheap, and through most of the 1980’s and 1990’s, it was not attractive to pursue, because there was plenty of crude oil available from more convenient sources and the market price was too low to reward large-scale tar sands development. –BL ]31 August 2004 | New York Times by SIMON ROMERO

Shrooms: Not Just For Salad Anymore

August 29, 2004 | A visionary biologist says mushrooms are potent antiviral and antibacterial agents, as well as key boosters to the human immune system. They also might end up saving the Earth. by Kelly Hearn, AlterNet To lots of folks, a middle-aged man who says mushrooms can save the world falls into the category of turbo-freak. But to some environmentalists, scientists and major investors, Paul Stamets is the trippiest of profitable kings. “Mushrooms restore health both on the personal and ecological level,” says Stamets, mycologist and owner of Fungi Perfecti, a family-owned mushroom business in Shelton, Wash. “Mushrooms […]

‘The Oil We Eat’: Following the Food Chain back to Iraq

[ Manning insightfully connects meat protein output to fossil fuel input, wheat to imperialism. The underlining is mine. Thanks to Matt Miller for forwarding the article. –BL ] February 1, 2003 | Harper’s Magazine by Richard Manning The secret of great wealth with no obvious source is some forgotten crime, forgotten because it was done neatly. –Balzac The journalist’s rule says: follow the money. This rule, however, is not really axiomatic but derivative, in that money, as even our vice president will tell you, is really a way of tracking energy. We’ll follow the energy.

Mercury in many lakes, rivers

24 August 2004 | USA TODAY by Elizabeth Weise and Traci Watson One third of the nation’s lake waters and one-quarter of its riverways are contaminated with mercury and other pollutants that could cause health problems for children and pregnant women who eat too much fish, the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday. States issued warnings for mercury and other pollutants in 2003 for nearly 850,000 miles of U.S. rivers — a 65% increase over 2002 — and 14 million acres of lakes. The warning level is the highest ever reported by the EPA. It is partly a result of states […]

Long-term Global Warming Worse Threat than Terrorism

The end of the world is here 5 August 2004 | Disasters spawned by global warming are no longer science fiction, Ross Gelbspan argues in “Boiling Point” — they’re already here. by Katharine Mieszkowski In Scotland, hundreds of thousands of arctic terns, kittiwakes, guillemots and great skuas suddenly aren’t having any babies. The culprit? Global warming has disrupted their food supply, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The seabirds feed primarily on sandeels, a small silvery fish that once teemed along the northern Scotland seashore. But changes in sea temperature and currents caused by the […]

Dupont Denies Poisoning Consumers with Teflon Products

DuPont, Now in the Frying Pan 8 August 2004 | New York Times by AMY CORTESE TEFLON has been hugely successful for DuPont, which over the last half-century has made the material almost ubiquitous, putting it not just on frying pans but also on carpets, fast-food packaging, clothing, eyeglasses and electrical wires – even the fabric roofs covering football stadiums. Now DuPont has to worry that Teflon and the materials used to make it have perhaps become a bit too ubiquitous. Teflon constituents have found their way into rivers, soil, wild animals and humans, the company, government environmental officials and […]

Subway: Junk Food, Junk Economy

13 July 2004 | by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman The American Heart Association’s (AHA) recommendations are revered as pure fact by doctors and patients alike. But as is the case in most sects of the U.S. government, a public institution’s policies can also be heavily swayed by corporate dollars. As an example, AHA only endorses Bayer aspirin, and in return, Bayer “donates” $500,000 to AHA every year. Since 2002, Subway has also been riding the AHA bandwagon.. In exchange for $10 million in “donations” over the course of 5 years to AHA, Subway can proudly plaster the AHA’s […]

Despite PCB and Mercury Health Risks, Bush Admin. Aims to Weaken Standards For Industry Friends

[ This article follows up another printed here in April. –BL ] Charlie Tuna: Unsafe At Any Speed June 29, 2004 | The EPA and two doctors’ groups have issued strong warnings about the dangers of eating mercury-laced fish. Then why is the White House working to loosen restrictions on mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants? by Sharon Lerner Remember when fish was the healthy choice? Today, the pluses of seafood — being low in saturated fat and high in omega-3 oils — are offset by creepy mounting knowledge about how much pollution has become a part of most fish […]

Global Population to Level Off?

[ Environmental author Bill McKibben argues that global population may peak within a generation: We’ve increased the population fourfold in that 150 years; the amount of food we grow has gone up faster still; the size of our economy has quite simply exploded. But now — now may be the special time. So special that in the Western world we might each of us consider, among many other things, having only one child — that is, reproducing at a rate as low as that at which human beings have ever voluntarily reproduced. Is this really necessary? Are we finally running […]

TV linked to kids’ attention problems

[ Thanks to Eva Dadlez for passing this article along. –doclalor ] April 5, 2004, Associated Press by Lindsey Tanner CHICAGO (AP) — Researchers have found that every hour preschoolers watch television each day boosts their chances — by about 10 percent — of developing attention deficit problems later in life. The findings back up previous research showing that television can shorten attention spans and support American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that youngsters under age 2 not watch television. “The truth is there are lots of reasons for children not to watch television. Other studies have shown it to be associated […]