Category Archives: Food/diet

US to Make Growing Your Own Food Illegal?

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To be honest, I admit that I feel I’m wading into deep waters of ignorance on this one, but I felt compelled to share this link with the audience that follows Excited Delirium.

I’ve seen a few other stories related to the US government’s act to impose limitations on the growth and sale of local or organic foods, but I’m really keen to get feedback from the audience to see what your thoughts are about these rules.  Will farmer’s markets really be wiped out?  Will individuals really be stopped from growing their own tomatoes in their backyard?

Are there other interpretations out there on this issue?  Please post when you have a moment.

And if you don’t feel like posting here, read the comments provided with the link.  There are many who have posted thoughts that might indicate just how pissed Americans are about this legislation.

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$3 Billion Reasons to Beware

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In addition to the tens of billions waiting in the wings, the Conservative government seems to be obsessed with getting Parliamentary approval on a $3 billion slush fund that’s been set up as an ‘instant’ response to Canada’s dire economic situation.

I’m going to start this blog by making a prediction.

I predict that the Conservative government with Stephen Harper at the helm does not have a future.

Fragmentation is pulling these people apart from a number of angles.

  • They’re finding it impossibly hard to keep abortion off the mainstream discussion list.
  • Green energy and cap-and-trade is a reality from their biggest client – the US – and they can’t adjust to it.
  • Give it a little time and some of the uglier elements with the party will likely rear their heads (I’m reluctant to say ‘white power’, but it’s the first phrase that comes to mind).
  • Finally, too many people are out there now questioning the multiple Sybil-like personality switches of our industrious leader (from schoolyard bully to blue-sweater light-weight to tough-talking anti-Obama-ist)

They’re falling apart and yet they continue to lead like their hold on power will never end.  It leaves me mystified and maybe a little frightened.

An example of this hubris?  The tough talk we’ve had to endure for the last two weeks concerning the $3 billion slush fund that they’ve set for spending on projects with fewer or no environmental reviews to them.  The school yard bully has graduated to high school thug.  It’s our way or  the highway, that, incidentally, we won’t build for you unless you’re a FOCer (Friend of Conservatives).

Why is this such an arrogant thing that Canadians should be concerned about, particularly those Canadians and contractors that might be getting these lush contracts from the federal government?  Because when the Conservatives lose their clutch on power in this country, there’s going to be a shit-storm of remediation and auditing going on by a government that gives a damn about where and how taxpayer dollars are being spent.  And when that level of scrutiny comes knocking on your door, you’d better pray you did everything in your power to keep at least 3 to 4 steps removed from the Conservatives because you’ll lose everything.

You should also take the environmental high road, despite Conservative disdain for all things green.  Consumers are too smart, much better informed and watching these people closely to let things slide.

If you don’t believe me, think about the reputation of the companies that were involved with the Liberals AdScam project.  They all got burned and they all went down with the ship.  Of course, some might be doing so on exotic shores, but I think you can catch my drift.

So, I guess the moral of my blog is this:  If you’re lining up at the Conservative trough, think twice.  Tying yourself to a sinking ship could be very bad for business (especially if you’re a Liberal).

Green America: 7 Fixes for the Green Economy

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Green America (was Co-op America) has added 7 recommendations for a new Green Economy. The original link can be found here.

Here’s a quick summary of the 7 fixes:

  1. Green Energy = Green Jobs
  2. Clean Energy ‘Victory Bonds’ (I would buy these!)
  3. Reduce, Reuse, Rethink (hint: consumerism is not the answer)
  4. Go Green, Fair Trade, Local (Use the National Green Pages index – is there a Canadian equivalent? If so, please post it below)
  5. Community Investing (US version – again: a Canadian equivalent anyone?
  6. Shareowner Activism
  7. Building Community

I would argue that there are many, many more: Continue reading

Indian Farmers Committing Suicide en masse … because of GM seeds?

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This story is sad.  It tells about the dismal treatment of a working class in India that has been manipulated into believing it can dig itself out of povery, all for the benefit of a single corporation known as Monsanto.

By Andrew Malone

When Prince Charles claimed thousands of Indian farmers were killing themselves after using GM crops, he was branded a scaremonger. In fact, as this chilling dispatch reveals, it’s even WORSE than he feared.

The children were inconsolable. Mute with shock and fighting back tears, they huddled beside their mother as friends and neighbours prepared their father’s body for cremation on a blazing bonfire built on the cracked, barren fields near their home.

As flames consumed the corpse, Ganjanan, 12, and Kalpana, 14, faced a grim future. While Shankara Mandaukar had hoped his son and daughter would have a better life under India’s economic boom, they now face working as slave labour for a few pence a day. Landless and homeless, they will be the lowest of the low.

Indian farmer

Human tragedy: A farmer and child in India’s ‘suicide belt’

Shankara, respected farmer, loving husband and father, had taken his own life. Less than 24 hours earlier, facing the loss of his land due to debt, he drank a cupful of chemical insecticide.

Unable to pay back the equivalent of two years’ earnings, he was in despair. He could see no way out.

There were still marks in the dust where he had writhed in agony. Other villagers looked on – they knew from experience that any intervention was pointless – as he lay doubled up on the ground, crying out in pain and vomiting.

Moaning, he crawled on to a bench outside his simple home 100 miles from Nagpur in central India. An hour later, he stopped making any noise. Then he stopped breathing. At 5pm on Sunday, the life of Shankara Mandaukar came to an end.

As neighbours gathered to pray outside the family home, Nirmala Mandaukar, 50, told how she rushed back from the fields to find her husband dead. ‘He was a loving and caring man,’ she said, weeping quietly.

‘But he couldn’t take any more. The mental anguish was too much. We have lost everything.’

Shankara’s crop had failed – twice. Of course, famine and pestilence are part of India’s ancient story.

But the death of this respected farmer has been blamed on something far more modern and sinister: genetically modified crops.

Shankara, like millions of other Indian farmers, had been promised previously unheard of harvests and income if he switched from farming with traditional seeds to planting GM seeds instead.

Beguiled by the promise of future riches, he borrowed money in order to buy the GM seeds. But when the harvests failed, he was left with spiralling debts – and no income.

So Shankara became one of an estimated 125,000 farmers to take their own life as a result of the ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops.

The crisis, branded the ‘GM Genocide’ by campaigners, was highlighted recently when Prince Charles claimed that the issue of GM had become a ‘global moral question’ – and the time had come to end its unstoppable march.

Speaking by video link to a conference in the Indian capital, Delhi, he infuriated bio-tech leaders and some politicians by condemning ‘the truly appalling and tragic rate of small farmer suicides in India, stemming… from the failure of many GM crop varieties’.

Ranged against the Prince are powerful GM lobbyists and prominent politicians, who claim that genetically modified crops have transformed Indian agriculture, providing greater yields than ever before.

The rest of the world, they insist, should embrace ‘the future’ and follow suit.

So who is telling the truth? To find out, I travelled to the ‘suicide belt’ in Maharashtra state.

What I found was deeply disturbing – and has profound implications for countries, including Britain, debating whether to allow the planting of seeds manipulated by scientists to circumvent the laws of nature.

For official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture do indeed confirm that in a huge humanitarian crisis, more than 1,000 farmers kill themselves here each month.

Simple, rural people, they are dying slow, agonising deaths. Most swallow insecticide – a pricey substance they were promised they would not need when they were coerced into growing expensive GM crops.

It seems that many are massively in debt to local money-lenders, having over-borrowed to purchase GM seed.

Pro-GM experts claim that it is rural poverty, alcoholism, drought and ‘agrarian distress’ that is the real reason for the horrific toll.

But, as I discovered during a four-day journey through the epicentre of the disaster, that is not the full story.

Monsanto

Death seeds: A Greenpeace protester sprays milk-based paint on a Monsanto research soybean field near Atlantic, Iowa

In one small village I visited, 18 farmers had committed suicide after being sucked into GM debts. In some cases, women have taken over farms from their dead husbands – only to kill themselves as well.

Latta Ramesh, 38, drank insecticide after her crops failed – two years after her husband disappeared when the GM debts became too much.

She left her ten-year-old son, Rashan, in the care of relatives. ‘He cries when he thinks of his mother,’ said the dead woman’s aunt, sitting listlessly in shade near the fields.

Village after village, families told how they had fallen into debt after being persuaded to buy GM seeds instead of traditional cotton seeds.

The price difference is staggering: £10 for 100 grams of GM seed, compared with less than £10 for 1,000 times more traditional seeds.

But GM salesmen and government officials had promised farmers that these were ‘magic seeds’ – with better crops that would be free from parasites and insects.

Indeed, in a bid to promote the uptake of GM seeds, traditional varieties were banned from many government seed banks.

The authorities had a vested interest in promoting this new biotechnology. Desperate to escape the grinding poverty of the post-independence years, the Indian government had agreed to allow new bio-tech giants, such as the U.S. market-leader Monsanto, to sell their new seed creations.

In return for allowing western companies access to the second most populated country in the world, with more than one billion people, India was granted International Monetary Fund loans in the Eighties and Nineties, helping to launch an economic revolution.

But while cities such as Mumbai and Delhi have boomed, the farmers’ lives have slid back into the dark ages.

Though areas of India planted with GM seeds have doubled in two years – up to 17 million acres – many famers have found there is a terrible price to be paid.

Far from being ‘magic seeds’, GM pest-proof ‘breeds’ of cotton have been devastated by bollworms, a voracious parasite.

Nor were the farmers told that these seeds require double the amount of water. This has proved a matter of life and death.

With rains failing for the past two years, many GM crops have simply withered and died, leaving the farmers with crippling debts and no means of paying them off.

Having taken loans from traditional money lenders at extortionate rates, hundreds of thousands of small farmers have faced losing their land as the expensive seeds fail, while those who could struggle on faced a fresh crisis.

When crops failed in the past, farmers could still save seeds and replant them the following year.

But with GM seeds they cannot do this. That’s because GM seeds contain so- called ‘terminator technology’, meaning that they have been genetically modified so that the resulting crops do not produce viable seeds of their own.

As a result, farmers have to buy new seeds each year at the same punitive prices. For some, that means the difference between life and death.

Take the case of Suresh Bhalasa, another farmer who was cremated this week, leaving a wife and two children.

As night fell after the ceremony, and neighbours squatted outside while sacred cows were brought in from the fields, his family had no doubt that their troubles stemmed from the moment they were encouraged to buy BT Cotton, a geneticallymodified plant created by Monsanto.

‘We are ruined now,’ said the dead man’s 38-year-old wife. ‘We bought 100 grams of BT Cotton. Our crop failed twice. My husband had become depressed. He went out to his field, lay down in the cotton and swallowed insecticide.’

Villagers bundled him into a rickshaw and headed to hospital along rutted farm roads. ‘He cried out that he had taken the insecticide and he was sorry,’ she said, as her family and neighbours crowded into her home to pay their respects. ‘He was dead by the time they got to hospital.’

Asked if the dead man was a ‘drunkard’ or suffered from other ‘social problems’, as alleged by pro-GM officials, the quiet, dignified gathering erupted in anger. ‘No! No!’ one of the dead man’s brothers exclaimed. ‘Suresh was a good man. He sent his children to school and paid his taxes.

‘He was strangled by these magic seeds. They sell us the seeds, saying they will not need expensive pesticides but they do. We have to buy the same seeds from the same company every year. It is killing us. Please tell the world what is happening here.’

Monsanto has admitted that soaring debt was a ‘factor in this tragedy’. But pointing out that cotton production had doubled in the past seven years, a spokesman added that there are other reasons for the recent crisis, such as ‘untimely rain’ or drought, and pointed out that suicides have always been part of rural Indian life.

Officials also point to surveys saying the majority of Indian farmers want GM seeds  –  no doubt encouraged to do so by aggressive marketing tactics.

During the course of my inquiries in Maharastra, I encountered three ‘independent’ surveyors scouring villages for information about suicides. They insisted that GM seeds were only 50 per cent more expensive – and then later admitted the difference was 1,000 per cent.

(A Monsanto spokesman later insisted their seed is ‘only double’ the price of ‘official’ non-GM seed – but admitted that the difference can be vast if cheaper traditional seeds are sold by ‘unscrupulous’ merchants, who often also sell ‘fake’ GM seeds which are prone to disease.)

With rumours of imminent government compensation to stem the wave of deaths, many farmers said they were desperate for any form of assistance. ‘We just want to escape from our problems,’ one said. ‘We just want help to stop any more of us dying.’

Prince Charles is so distressed by the plight of the suicide farmers that he is setting up a charity, the Bhumi Vardaan Foundation, to help those affected and promote organic Indian crops instead of GM.

India’s farmers are also starting to fight back. As well as taking GM seed distributors hostage and staging mass protests, one state government is taking legal action against Monsanto for the exorbitant costs of GM seeds.

This came too late for Shankara Mandauker, who was 80,000 rupees (about £1,000) in debt when he took his own life. ‘I told him that we can survive,’ his widow said, her children still by her side as darkness fell. ‘I told him we could find a way out. He just said it was better to die.’

But the debt does not die with her husband: unless she can find a way of paying it off, she will not be able to afford the children’s schooling. They will lose their land, joining the hordes seen begging in their thousands by the roadside throughout this vast, chaotic country.

Cruelly, it’s the young who are suffering most from the ‘GM Genocide’  –  the very generation supposed to be lifted out of a life of hardship and misery by these ‘magic seeds’.

Here in the suicide belt of India, the cost of the genetically modified future is murderously high.

Using Melamine to Boost Protein

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This site offers some background information concerning the use of melamine in foods made and delivered from China.

The ‘bottom line’ provided sums everything up nicely:

Know where your food comes from and how it’s produced. This may sound like an impossible task, and in many cases it will be. Particularly if you depend on processed and commercially farmed foods.

However, if you purchase your raw dairy , grass-fed meats , and free-range eggs from local farmers that adhere to organic farming practices, you can eliminate much of these worries since their livestock must be put out to pasture and eat what God intended for most part of the year, instead of relying on potentially contaminated animal feed.

This reference page contains links to a long list of organizations that can help you find local sources for high quality organic foods.

In other words, when shopping for food, always ask these three questions:

  1. Why should I trust any food from China?
  2. Why should I purchase any food that has been processed?
  3. Why would I buy anything but food from people I know?

As the author admits, there are obvious challenges to these questions.  Sometimes, people simply need basic processed food to get them through a busy day.  I appreciate that because we’re all time-pressed.  And getting to know everyone on your food supply chain?  Pretty much impossible, isn’t it?

Well, I think it’s worth the effort when faced the risk of being poisoned for profit.