Friday, October 29, 2010

Texas Food Stamp Challenge

I found this challenge while surfing the internet earlier today. I saw a close relationship with our class discussion today, as well as other ones in the past about hunger and the relationship with food in the United States.
It seems like a really interesting idea and a good way to raise awareness.
Do you think that you could live on $4.50 a day? Or even less?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Raj Patel discusses Stuffed and Starved

What do you think about Patel's perspective? Do you think he is correct in his diagnosis of the problems with the food system? Do you agree or disagree with the kinds of solutions he suggests (getting angry rather than feeling guilty, having a "democratic conversation about food" rather than approaching the issue as consumers, etc.)?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Transgenetics WILL be for the good

I am fascinated by genetic research and the GMO. I started my search, looking for some currently events to place a spotlight on this wonderful field. What I found, article after article, was a plethora of negative opinions, angry writers with mobs of supporters. None of them, however left me feeling any less supportive of genetic research. So I searched more, and found an article from the NY Times published on October 7th.

Modified-Salmon Fight Showcases Risks, Rewards of Engineering Wild Species

What I found was finally an unbiased report on GMOs.

It is clear that we Americans did not get off on the right foot addressing many agribusiness issues. GMOs are no different and I fully expect more adverse results from our eagerness to invent and make profit.
The FDA and USDA are making strides in the right direction. This article does cite that the FDA has launched a program to overhaul its biotech program. The USDAs biotech division has requested $5.8 million to assess environmental risks.

Within this lengthy article many fascinating issues are brought up, here is just a few:
-Creating a non-reproducing salmon may be harder than expected, carp have already shown the ability to overcome the current sterility measurements being used.
-Analysis on potential escaped salmon around Prince Edward Island and Panama has not been conducted.
-GM grass for golf courses, created to resist the weedkiller Roundup, has spread into the wild in Oregon.

It is clear that any support for genetic modification will result in many angry people. I am OK with people being angry, they should be. We are a corrupted country run by the rich who want to get richer. What we need is control of our country and its leaders, and not the extermination of genetic research.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Cost of Calories

I thought this: was an interesting graphic. It shows a lot of the topics we've been talking about in class, in particular the rise in obesity in the United States and some of the social circumstances that have served as catalysts in this process.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Response to the 'Ideology of Nutritionism'

I found the recent class topic on nutritionism especially telling about how humans respond to and deal with complex issues involving multiple factors. These issues may include things like health and hygiene, environmental sustainability, macroeconomic analysis, etc. Sometimes the path towards a viable solution to issues in these areas may be hindered by a habit to condense or even polarize the issues. When thinking about maintaining a healthy body, it’s hard to weigh and balance factors like diet, genetic predisposition, sleeping patterns, psychological responses to stress and pleasure, etc. And yet these are all macro-level products of even more complex interactions at the biochemical level. So it’s easy to understand how, given these complex issues, there would be a certain inclination to resort to simple answers and explanations.

One of the problems Gyorgy Scrinis highlighted in his article, “On the Ideology of Nutritionism”, that perfectly exemplifies this phenomenon was that of ‘second-order nutritional reductionism’ (p.41). Second-order nutritional reductionism is the focus on individual nutrients, and how they individually benefit the health of the human body. Of course this is complete nonsense, because all nutrients benefit the health of the human body by interacting with several other nutrients in complex biochemical reactions. Resorting to second-order nutritional reductionism would be like taking apart the human body, molecule by molecule, and then from scratch, deciding which parts are necessary for your survival.

The problems of nutritional health in today’s society aren’t new 21st century problems; in fact, the problems are caused by a larger systemic inadequacy of society that the public health community has been trying to confront for some time- a scientifically illiterate populace. I am not saying that science is the absolutely most important pillar of a society. I’m saying that science education is the necessary solution for the way our society responds to the problems it’s facing at present. The way food and weight-loss industries are taking advantage of the lure of second-order nutritional reductionism is reminiscent of the era of ‘snake oil medicine’ in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in which noxious concoctions were being sold to the public with absolutely no ingredient labeling. Examples of these patent medicines include names like ‘Dr. Kilmer’s Swamp Root’ or ‘Dr. Moore’s Indian Root Pills’, which mostly contained substances like alcohol, laxatives, and in one occasion, organophosphates to rig chemical tests.

Of course it’s different for today’s nutritional health issues, in which the most of the ingredients in manufactured foods are far from poisonous. But it shows an exaggerated consumer confidence in the industries to know what’s right for them, to know that single nutrient or health myth that would serve as a panacea for all of their problems. What is necessary is to get consumers to make choices based on scientifically rational terms, to be familiar with the scientific and, especially, clinical terms relevant to their health, and to get them to understand how to rationalize issues on a scale involving multiple factors.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Which Companies Are Buying into Organic?-Animation

This animation was in the yogurt presentation given by Megan and myself. It shows how in the past ten years large multinational companies have been buying up small scale organics, but letting these companies keep their names. This gives consumer the idea that they are supporting small scale organics when most of the profits are going to the larger companies. Some examples are how Stonyfield is primarily controlled by Dannon, and Odwalla is now owned by Coca-Cola.

The animation is here:

In the animation the small green dots are organic companies, the large yellow circles are multinationals, and the blue dots are strategic alliances.

The animation is originally from this site:

which also has several useful pictures to show what companies own what.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Whole-Grain Pastas

Growing up with an Italian mother, I consumed endless amounts of pasta as a child. So naturally, an article in the New York Times about whole-grain pastas caught my attention. The pasta I have eaten for most of my life has been the white, refined variety, by no real choice of my own. This is of course the type that covers the majority of the shelves in the supermarket. Whole-wheat pastas are relatively new to the market, but are increasing in popularity due to the rising number of health conscious consumers. However, not all wheat pastas are created equal.

White pastas are usually made using high-yielding durum wheat. Wheat pastas need more texture to hold together, which can be done one of two ways. Either low-yielding wheat varieties are used or high-yielding wheat is used and fortified with additives like flaxseed, and legume powder. Unfortunately, the latter is more common because low-yielding durum wheat and ancient types of wheat like farro, spelt, and einkorn are less profitable to produce. This parallels the corn industry in that farmers are forced to grow modern high-yielding varieties of seeds to be profitable and meet the demands of food processing companies.

Ancient wheat naturally contains healthy nutrients and proteins, but industrial agriculture has hybridized this wheat into modern, nutrient depleted varieties. High nutrient and fiber contents not only make the pasta healthier, but also better tasting. It is a shame that we have taken something naturally good for us and evolved it into something of lower quality to make products like Kraft macaroni. There are selective brands that make wheat pasta from these ancient varieties, but the pasta comes at a high price.

Since I first noticed the whole-grain pasta options in the grocery store, I was excited to try them. Now I always buy whole-grain when I can. In general the wheat pastas with additives are often not as tasty as those without. Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at NYU interviewed in the article, recommends eating whole-wheat pasta high in fiber with no additives. The growing demand for whole-grain pastas has pushed companies to develop better tasting varieties and has increased the selection of whole-wheat pasta in the stores. Hopefully whole-grain will continue to gain popularity in pasta as well as other products. Today pasta remains one of my favorite meals and I particularly enjoy the Barilla whole-grain pastas.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Beef or Tofu?

When I first saw the title of an older New York Times article, from August 6, 2010, I thought it was a silly question, one with too obvious an answer. "At Vegan Weddings, Beef or Tofu?" seemed to me to be barely a question at all.
Tofu, of course, you would think, should be the right answer. Or roasted vegetable lasagna. Or mushroom and pumpkin risotto. Or a summer vegetable tart. Or any number of many delicious and festive cake.

But instead, I was surprised to read that Chelsea Clinton, a vegetarian who was married over the summer, served short ribs at her wedding. As a vegan who wants to get married someday, I started to ponder: what would I do?

Coming from a family who only serves plant-based fare, I have seen enough dinner parties, barbecues, graduation banquets, and general get-togethers without meat. Even on Easter, we serve what we affectionate call “the traditional Easter pizza” instead of the standard ham or lamb. My family has been blessed to have been spared loutish guests like the article’s Patrick Moore, who not only snuck out of a wedding for a chicken sandwich, but had the audacity to bring it back! He says, “I know it’s your day, but it’s not all about you. Why have a wedding if you’re going to be like that? Just print a bumper sticker." By “be like that,” does he mean honor the couple’s sense of morality and ethical value set? Isn’t that what the wedding, and all weddings, are about? Of course hosts should consider the comforts and pleasures of their guests, but wedding attendants will not go into meat withdrawal in an afternoon.

What have we come to expect as a culture? As we discussed in class, culinary culture is socially constructed. Has our convenience based culture created a situation where we come to expect whatever we want, at all times, regardless of circumstance? Has it come to a point that even on a day devoted to love and becoming family, you are unable to put aside your demands for a particular meal? Is it possible that people have become so accustomed to the "have-it-now" culture that we presently live in, that they are unable to set aside their desires for others? I certainly hope not.

I know that I will have a vegan wedding. Even if I were inviting world famous chefs, as the couple in the article were, I would only serve vegan fare. If a chef is unable to appreciate the taste and quality of food made without “enhancement” from animal products, what kind of true appreciator of food is he? For me, the question beef or tofu? is barely even an issue. Tofu. If someone was unable to go an afternoon without meat to celebrate with me, then they’re probably not the kind of person I want at my wedding. I like to think that my future wedding guests would just be happy to celebrate and have a good time with me…regardless of what I was serving for supper.

What do you think? Should vegans serve honey and dairy? Vegetarians serve meat? Baptists and straight-edgers serve champagne? Should people of certain religions serve their versions of unclean food, be it meat, seafood, pork, or something else not kosher or halal? Where do you draw the line, if there is one at all?

Thursday, October 7, 2010


After all the times that Monsanto has come up in class, I found this article rather amusing. It ties in completely with what we've been talking about as far as concerns about GMOs. It seems that the seed companies have finally found a way to set the price too high for seeds, and that action hurt Monsanto's sales. Especially since the more expensive seed did not have a higher yield than the less pricey version.

The article also touches on some patent laws that don't seem to follow the company overseas since Monsanto is has generic Roundup competition from China. Although Monsanto remains strong in the U.S. it is not popular in Europe, due to the resistance to GMOs.

The combination of problems for the seed giant further call into question the limits of GMO possibilities. If Monsanto's new plants don't grow better than the old ones, then it becomes very hard for the company to keep making profits and to stay ahead of the competition.

However, I think more competition would be good for the general health of farming. If the different companies start from different stocks of seed, then competition becomes another way to help maintain genetic diversity.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fast Food

I found this article particularly interesting because growing up my family and I would constantly be on the go. We would always be juggling different sports between my brother and I, and different school events between my parents, along with their jobs. Fast food would always be looked upon as a solid solution to dinner or lunch and even sometimes breakfast.

I chose this edit because I thought it related to myself and possibly others. I use to eat a lot of fast food. I think the main reason for this is like what I mentioned above, constantly being on the go. Now a days, I find time to pack a healthier snack, something that is organic or close to it. I look back on eating fast food and it makes me sick in a way. It would be very interesting to see what they are pumping into all these meats and vegetables that they serve, and stress are healthy for average people. I would love to see a behind-the-scenes and watch peoples reactions. I feel as it would not be what some people would expect.

I really like the correlation between the tobacco industry and the fast food industry. I think it makes sense in a way. Obesity can be closely related to fast food, something that does not help your overall health. Same can be said for tobacco products, something that does not help your overall health. It will be interesting to see what will happen to this industry in the years ahead to see if any lawsuits come from it and their outcomes. I for one, try and stay away from fast food as much as I can and prefer the much safer and healthier route with organic or natural foods.

Anyways enjoy the reading and keep in mind the healthier way. You may seem pressed for time when rushing from something to something, but try and make the better choice for a more healthier way.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Stephen Colbert on immigrant farm workers

On 9/24 Stephen Colbert testified in Congress to support resolving the issue of illegal immigrants working on US farms.

Stephen Colbert is a television personality most popularly known for his show "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central, a satirical news show.

I noticed several correlations to material we have covered in class:
-Illegal farm workers (the subject)
-The growing number of obese Americans
-Farms relocating outside of the U.S.
-Genetic engineering
-Work conditions for farm employees
-Low wages of farm employees

I believe he had the right idea about giving illegal immigrants thier green cards. If they have rights then perhaps a chain reaction can start that will eventually lead to a more safe agricultural system. He highlights this issue with an excellent point regarding thier rights. This point speaks to a root cause of our faulted agribusiness.

-Steven Foster