Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bees Without Borders is Sitting in My Kitchen?!?!

So I happened upon this Bees Without Borders video on Time Magazine's website and when watching it, realized that I sampled and then purchased some of their honey at the infamous International Pickle Day on 9/14/08. Who knew?! I thought I was supporting local business, honey making which is vital to agriculture, etc. etc. If anyone doesn't understand that every third or so bite we eat is supported by pollination, they need to get on their science.

What I did not know was that I was supporting the organization which teaches beekeeping to cultures all around the world to propagate fair trade in a nonperishable product that can be produced with little funds, regardless of gender, and add a sustainable source of income to people in poverty. Guess I know where I'm purchasing my honey from now on....


"The only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey....and the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it. " Winnie the Pooh in A.A. Milne's 'The House at Pooh Corner'

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Monsanto and Michael Pollan Talk About Creating a World That Can Feed Itself

This is a video of Michael Pollan discussing food security issues. If you click on the link back to the original article the list of topics at the bottom of this post are there. They discuss hormone use, organics, sustainability, etc. Ideally, I hope to go through all of the links eventually, however, with the current inundation of readings and links from classes, I am certainly short on the time and energy for this to happen soon.

Monsanto and Michael Pollan Talk About Creating a World That Can Feed Itself
by Jasmin Malik Chua, Jersey City, USA on 09.23.08

Michael Pollan and Hugh Grant (president and CEO of Monsanto, not the floppy-haired British actor) on the same panel? Bring it. In this 36-minute video, taken on Sept. 17, 2008, Pollan, Grant, and Sonal Shah, a development expert at, talk about the sustainability of food production.

Held on the Google campus, the panel was moderated by Larry Brilliant, executive director of, who became friends with Grant after the two visited the Doomsday Seed Vault in Norway.

Monsanto: Double yields in 20 years
Grant, who presents Monsanto as a charitable outfit for the better good, is all about the numbers, insisting that the way to solve the world's food problems is to double yields over the next two decades, while reducing water and fertilizer usage. His solution is for us to bulldoze our way out of a potential food-shortage quagmire by planting genetically modified seed. Of course.

Pollan: Create a better food-distribution system
"Yield of what?" Pollan shoots back, noting that Monsanto's history has been growing crops, such as corn and soy, for raw materials, not for human consumption. He also says that GMO crops are not exactly renowned for their high yields and that one of the ways to ensuring food security is to allow farmers to save seed, something Monsanto takes a dim view of.

Another wrinkle in Monsanto's yield-doubling utopia is the fact that producing enough food and getting them into the hands of people are two separate problems, he says. Despite bumper agricultural yields in the United States, for instance, there remain some 35 million Americans Pollan categorizes as "food insecure".

More on Michael Pollan
Video: Michael Pollan, Taking a Plant's Perspective
Michael Pollan: Read it and Eat!
Biofuels, Food, and Sustainability Examined: Michael Pollan Interviewed by Yale Univ.
Michael Pollan on What Sustainability is Really About
Michael Pollan: The Government Makes You Fat
Quote of the Day: Michael Pollan on Eating
Pollan On Organics at Wal-Mart

More on Monsanto
Monsanto Dumping Bovine Growth Hormone
Monstrous Harvest: "The World According to Monsanto" Movie Review
Wal-Mart To Monsanto 'No Thanks For The Bovine Growth Hormone
Monsanto pays $1M for GMO bribe
Business Week on Monsanto, Pickens
Monsanto House of the Future
Monsanto’s Monopoly Challenged in Munich
Battles over Bovine Growth Hormones
Got Hormones? - Hormone Free Milk Not Healthier After All

Thirsty for more? Check out these related articles:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pratt LMS Post Response to Food Fights Comments ~ "Farmer in Chief"

A few of the students in my class know that I am an R.D. and will direct food or health related questions towards me. It's nice that someone thinks I am worth some sort of point of view in these discussions, as I really don't get that impression in class in the slightest. But I the form of an answer to someone's post concerning the amount and quality of fat in school lunches and it's direct weight on performance.

Posted comments stemming from the link to the article "Farmer in Chief" from the NY Times Magazine. Here is the first paragraph of this article, an open letter:

Dear Mr. President-Elect,

It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food. Food policy is not something American presidents have had to give much thought to, at least since the Nixon administration — the last time high food prices presented a serious political peril. Since then, federal policies to promote maximum production of the commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat and rice) from which most of our supermarket foods are derived have succeeded impressively in keeping prices low and food more or less off the national political agenda. But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact — so easy to overlook these past few years — that the health of a nation’s food system is a critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your attention. ...
My answers as posted:

Amanda, I certainly want to answer you on the concepts of fresh ingredients in promoting health and performance. And while a leaner and more clean fat approach is certainly a start and shows results, it merits mention that the techniques of farming and regionality that Pollan refers to are often with less antibiotic use and food served with the aid of fewer preservatives which is another factor being studied in the diet changes in elementary and high school children. Due to a very very busy work day, I will find you a few studies on it tomorrow and post them. Also, I will be happy to direct you to some information on the burgeoning problem of the "certified organic" standard v. local foods.

However, if you have not read Michael Pollan's books: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural history of Four Meals, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, The Botany of Desire: A Plant's Eye View of the World, or his earlier works, you should pick one up at the library and read it. His name will most definitely come up repeatedly in the media as a purveyor of a more sustainable move of the human diet. With the growing importance of water conservation, carbon neutrality, and self accountability in areas like personal consumption choices, hubris and ignorance about livestock and agricultural is really going to come to the forefront. Unfortunately, the food lobbying in this country as well as the strong farm-state coalition will assuage these issues as much as possible (as evidenced in this past summer's farm $300 billion bail outs). It really will come down to personal choices and localized food movements to get these concepts like that have been recently addressed by the UN on lessening meat consumption. Regardless of anyone's enjoyment of meat, there is literally no argument that it is, as the industry is today, sustainable. And frankly, there is no medical need for humans to eat meat so that will never be an issue in this argument.

While I often recommend to my patients that they lessen the meat and change the type of meat in their diets, those are usually health or weight management issues. Frankly, for all other healthy people, it needs to be a choice based on logic that the industry is pushing out fossil fuels, eating up land, and wasting a disgusting amount of potable water and a meat-reliant diet is at this point, selfish and unnecessary. So yes, Meryl, I think that this should be a political issue of regulation and that if people want to eat meat, they should have to really pay the actual cost of it. Eating meat at each meal or everyday is kind of like driving a Hummer to run your errands; It's wasteful and just because you are "allowed" doesn't mean you should. Eating less meat and researching what you're eating is going to begin to look like the seafood industry where people check their Monterrey Bay Aquarium fish lists to determine whether they should order something from a menu.

If anyone has any questions re: the nutritional need of meat in your diet, feel free to email me. Apologies that I have to answer clients first, but I will try to answer your questions as quickly as possible with supporting evidence.

Meat Contributes to Climate Change
UN on Livestock production of fossil fuels being worse than automobiles
FAO Information on Meat and the Climate
Livestock Creating too Much Nitrogen
Livestock Use of Water Statistics

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Summary of NO MEAT Month

So, I kind of made it through the month of September without incorporating meat into my diet. I know some people think I cheated since I ate eggs and they debate that they are meat, but until they get their Registered Dietitian's licensure, they can basically suck it. I am going to break this into a few categories as there is so much concept in this process that needs to be somewhat organized.

The Math ~ These facts can stand on their own. They do not need to be supported by any nutrition information whatsoever, it's all math and science. HA!

In order to produce one pound of edible meat (without bone, etc.), approximately 5,000 gallons of water must be used. Therefore, you could say that you could either shower for a year or eat a pound of meat. If I were to eat an average of three servings of meat a day (not counting fish, obviously), that would be nine ounces of meat. Therefore over 30 days, that would be approximately 17 pounds of meat, which equals 85,000 gallons of water, or 17 years of showering. Compare it to 25 gallons for the production of one pound of grain. Replace my 17 pounds of meat with 17 pounds of grain and you only net 425 gallons of water in production. In a water conscious world (which is what we should be living in, forget oil), meat consumption should plummet. Don't even get me started on the the CO2 savings here. People, get educated! It's in the numbers.

Here's another number: 149 lbs. (67.7 kg.). This is my weight at the beginning of September. Having recently fractured my skull, I gained a few pounds not being able to work out and I maintain that a quick way to shed some of that weight is to drop meat from your diet. People assume that being turned into a carboholic will keep that weight on, but that did not seem to be the case. I went from eating pasta once every 2-3 weeks to sometimes twice a day. I still don't really like potatoes or bread, but because I was making things for Andrew, I had quite a bit myself. And we went through a straight liter of olive oil in 30 days. And I lost almost 6 pounds (4% of body weight), and trust that I have been doing about nada in the exercise department. There are pants being brought out of storage.

What Worked?
  • It was a Godsend that this month was a great harvest month for the Greenmarket in the New York Metro area. There is literally no reason that you should be without vegetable choices since they are all around the city and have plenty of options. Luckily, I am schooled in doing more than making salads, although I have to say, those were some good heirloom-type salads I had.
  • Debbie Meyer Green Bags! These things work on the simplest concept that the bags are treated to wick away that pesky ethylene, a chemical compound which hastens the ripening of fruits and vegetables. These bags allow your vegetables to last so much longer! Totally worth it and at your local Tarjay.
  • Cooking Light has long been one of my favourite magazines for recipes. I am much more visual a learner than any other sort, so their having photographs to accompany their recipes is a huge help! I am letting my subscription go as it is a waste of paper seeing as their site has all their recipes in their database. I know that website aren't run on unicorn farts and rainbows, but still...less wasteful. I look something up at least once a week on there...pickles, potato salad, you name it.
  • I may have fell more in love with Morningstar Farms fake meat (analogs). I know they are a company pretending to be small and cute and organic when they are really just a subsidiary of Kellogg Company, but they do have some tasty stuff that fills in the gaps where meat would have otherwise likely been the option du jour. Given better selections of meat analogs, I would hope to find a less corporate producer. Drop another scoop in the moral chore bucket.
  • Andrew also gave up meat this month. His agenda was not the same as mine, but it is easier when the kid you are sharing the table with is not heffing back a slab of ribs or two dozen ribs. Trust.

What Didn't Work?
  • I think the first big problem with NO MEAT month for me was that it coincided with the beginning of the fall semester for grad school and for the rugby season. I just did not often make the effort due to a lack of time or a lack of energy to make as many meals as I really should have. And then once I ran out of Easy Mac....
  • My worm box died while I was on vacation. This made me feel kind of like a total wastoid for just throwing out my organic waste and once again made me want to move to San Francisco where the municipal garbage service picks up compost materials for you. Geez, Bloomberg, why don't you get on it.
  • My friends are kind of dicks. I think that it is largely American hubris that people think their ways of living are superior to other people's or that they should be shooting off their opinions on anything. I do often pass judgment on what people eat as a function of being an R.D. but at the same time, it is likely solicited. Let's just say, there are people I think less of now with their "But meat is good, " and their "You're such a hippie." No, I am just brighter, more principled, and better educated than you.
  • Living in the ghetto is in no way food friendly. The "grocery" stores here maintain very little edible produce (even less edible meat to be honest) and are only good for packaged basic foods. Tragic. We wonder why diabetes is rampant...even outside of personal accountablity. But I guess I would never invest in this neighborhood given the chance either to be honest. Damn.
  • Vegetables are actually more expensive than meat. This is such a mindfuck of a concept. They take far less cost of production, water, labor, etc. This is truly sad and wrong.
  • Companies need to be more straightforward in their packaging. When I pick up a can of vegetable soup...I want it to be all vegetables. I don't want to have it already in the pan heating and then read the label and find a meat composite somewhere down the line of the ingredient list. Bad Progresso, bad!!

What did I miss?
  • Maruchan Instant Lunch Chicken Ramen cups
  • hot wings (Largely, with Poon at the Lion's Head. I should have taken rugby and football seasons into account here, clearly.)
  • PD II's ribs (Doubtful would I miss any other ribs or any other rib sauce.)
  • shrimp (Now not to be eaten since they are on the don't buy list. Thanks Monterrey Bay Aquarium!!)
  • sushi (Sweet lord in heaven did I have a problem with this. Maybe it was my body trying to react to the mercury shortage in my system? Although sweet potato tempura rolls are acceptable, I guess.)
In summary, I will resume eating sustainably farmed/fished animal sources. Yes, this will mean a little more work on my part, more questions asked, etc. I will likely have one serving a week of the following: poultry, red meat, fish. Andrew has decided he will bring back fish, occasional poultry, and no red meat. Every few months we will go back to lactoovovegetarian status for a month or two to detox ourselves and feel less like all the other self-centered people polluting the earth so they can have a cheap cheeseburger.

~beth who thinks people should eat to live rather than eat to pollute...

Welcome, Baby Bert!

Friends Jody and Adam finally had their silly baby, Baby Bert, on September, 30th. It's like he knew I was starting to eat meat again on October 1st and wanted in on the action. Fiendish baby.... He was 7 lbs. flat and 20.5 inches long and is modeling a jaunty green pea hat and stunning striped blankie roll.

~beth who is suspicious of babies in general.