Tag Archive | "organic foods"

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Food Should Be Available to All

Posted on 22 August 2014 by Jerry

I wonder if there was sufficient food in the Garden of Eden?  Why is there so much starvation in the United States?  Do we not have plenty of food for everyone?

We may have taken capitalism too far when our poorest citizens are starving.  This leads to big supermarkets avoiding neighborhoods where poor people live because these neighborhoods don’t represent viable business opportunities.  Something is wrong when an elaborate procedure and bureaucracy is set up to take donated food from retail stores, leading to more spoilage, and cart it to a central distribution facility where it is given out.

Having reviewed most of the various non-profit solutions to get surplus food to people that need it, the methods cover the full gamut.  This leads to a belief that we need an organizing principle to guide our efforts.  The most rational organizing principle was used in getting consumers to shop locally avoiding foods that have been sent from a long distance location somewhere around the world.

We should modify this principle to include the following thoughts:

  • We should work to eliminate the middleman between the food and the recipient.
  • We should focus on fruit or other produce that does not require refrigeration.
  • We should give special focus to nutritious foods rather than processed, high calorie junk food with little value to ongoing health.
  • If we have to transport food from its source we should look for the closest location and nearest distribution channel.
  • We need to look for alternate new distribution channels where necessary.
  • We should make minor changes to the responsibilities of existing resources to accomplish increased food distribution.

If we focus on fruit and produce, obviously the easiest distribution is from the fruit tree in the backyard and the residential owner of the property to the front.  In fact, people used to have gardens and plant multiple fruit trees on their property so they would always have fresh fruit and produce.  This was when people did not mind planting and harvesting, which included clean up.

An immediate suggestion would be that these same private fruit trees be repositioned on the property so any passerby can gain access directly to the fruit.  An alternative is that residents be given crates with which to move harvested fruit and surplus produce to the street in front of their house, much as recycling is done today.  This would make the food available to everyone.  These crates should be marked with a sign that says, “To Be Shared with Neighbors” or something similar.

Each city in America, which includes San Francisco, plants thousands of trees each year and takes care of large parks all over the city.  There is little reason beyond tradition that causes a city to select one tree over others or use supervised land for one purpose over another.

The Parks Department could be tasked with planting a variety of fruit trees in public orchards.  At certain times a year, these trees would bear fruit and notices of locations would be circulated.  Parks department employees would be re-tasked with planning these orchards, harvesting the fruit and putting it out for free distribution much as farmers used to do.

While supermarkets make food available for central distribution and do not want to attract an “undesirable” type of person to their locations, their insistence on central distribution increases deterioration of the foods.  This unnecessarily reduces the value of the contribution.

Supermarkets must realize that their customers sort themselves by type of food, location, times of being open, etc.  At the same time there is no part of major cities that do not have the poor or homeless nearby.  This is certainly true for most of San Francisco.

These supermarkets could make surplus foods available only at a few unpopular hours.  This food could be moved into pickup sites on their parking lots with the sites managed by representatives of the food banks that routinely pick the produce up for transport.  By delaying the pickup by a few hours these employees could be re-tasked with distribution before transport.

Again this would protect the freshness of the agricultural products and distribute the produce more widely.  Only the poor would go to the trouble of staying up to these undesirable hours, standing in line and braving their categorization as the urban poor.  It would provide more nutritious food for their consumption and would reduce other expenses, like medical care for malnutrition.

I am amazed however at how few religious organizations directly distribute food to the poor in their surrounding area.  While they each will tell you about the volunteers they send to food banks to pass out Thanksgiving turkeys or the bins they put out for parishioners to donate food they no longer want, they are really sidestepping the issue.  Where is their direct action?  At what door does the line form for those who want food?

These organizations enjoy their non-profit status granted to them by the citizens who pay taxes.  These are the citizens who allow donations to these non-profits to be tax-free.  If we want more of these organizations to distribute surplus food, we can require it as a condition of their non-profit status. This would represent a simple change in the law but it would be very controversial and require a lot of effort.  The religious lobby is very powerful.

Our society needs to restructure its priorities.  We must determine that redistribution of food to help those who need it is a primary objective of those in the grocery business, officials of our local cities and each citizen in their neighborhoods.

This is not a complete listing of steps that can be taken to reduce the intermediaries and simplify processes.  It should show however that concerted effort should be applied to solving the problem of urban hunger.  This is a shared challenge that joint efforts can surmount.  International hunger is another problem that only giving countries can address. This needs to be dealt with in another post.

I am encouraged by entrepreneurs who approach farmers to save fruit and vegetables they would normally toss.  These misshapen products can be sold on a secondary market at a lower price.  I encourage each of you to spend some time brainstorming solutions and to communicate your solutions to your neighbors, retailers in your community and local government.

Use the following links to obtain more information or access the source documents for this article.

http://sf-planning.org/ftp/general_plan/index.htm .  Go to section on Recreation and Open Space.  This covers parks and recreation, land use, etc.

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/douglas/ .  Use search box at upper right to find “Cost to raise a fruit tree”.   Select the first entry that is this document.







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Businesses Join the GM Labeling Fight

Posted on 06 May 2013 by Jerry

We could be cynical about Whole Foods declaring it will require all its suppliers to label products that contain genetically modified ingredients by 2018.  We could be skeptical, if it weren’t so exciting and part of a larger trend of businesses weighing in to protect their interests.  We could see the Whole Foods announcement, known for its “organic” products, as just moving closer to their customers, who have been lobbying the chain to get involved.  On the contrary however, we see it as potentially a historic turning point in the U.S.

The Food and Drug Administration is rumored to be about to approve genetically modified salmon developed by AquaBounty for sale in U.S. stores (see an earlier post on this blog).  This would be a major milestone since it would constitute approval of the first genetically modified animal to enter the U.S. food supply.

This development threatens the natural salmon fishing industry in Alaska and elsewhere.  It has prompted many more businesses to join the anti-GMO ranks.  Trader Joe’s and other grocery retailers representing more than 2,000 stores have announced they will not carry the GM salmon if it is approved for sale.

The prospect of GM salmon has led to the introduction of federal mandatory labeling legislation, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act.  This unites mandatory labeling forces with the fishing industry to continue the fight.  Sponsors of the legislation include U.S. Senators from California (Barbara Boxer), Alaska, New York, and Vermont and House Representatives from Alaska, Oregon, Maine, New York and Washington.

This is not to say the other side of the labeling debate has not been lobbying for its positions.  Quiet meetings between the FDA and pro-GM forces are reported to have taken place as companies lobby for neutered and watered-down labeling requirements that pre-empt the states.  Companies participating in these meetings are said to include behemoths such as Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Pepsi-Frito Lay, and Mars.

State legislation and ballot measures have not yet been successful other than in Alaska where legislation has passed calling for the mandatory labeling of genetically modified salmon. While state labeling bills are still pending in Connecticut, Missouri, Vermont and Washington state, legislation in New Mexico was allowed to die on the state senate floor.

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream also announced it would commit to sourcing non-GMO ingredients for all of its products everywhere by the end of 2013.  They also stated they would transition packaging so all products will be labeled with respect to GMO by the end of 2014.

While owned by international conglomerate Unilever, the terms of its sale required a measure of ongoing independence of a separate subsidiary board of directors unusual to corporate acquisitions.  In addition, some would argue this is not a big deal because of the small size of the B&J product line, that 80% of its ingredients are already non-GMO, and that mandatory labeling is required in the E.U. and U.K.

The U.S. government defines the use of the word organic on a label.  Amongst other things, it identifies products that do not have GM ingredients.  People concerned about the healthiness of their food have a history of paying more for this organic assurance.  Whole Foods has a net profit margin approaching 4% that is more than twice as big as the less than 2% net margin of average retail/wholesale food grocery stores.

Because labeling is a worldwide issue and complex, the identified links below provide additional information.  At present there are 64 countries identified as having mandatory GMO labeling requirements (see below).

For those people looking for a way to be involved or to impact this labeling issue in the U.S. I suggest you put personal pressure on the businesses with which you do business.  We need to learn from the effectiveness of people who lobbied for a change of policy at Whole Foods.

In addition, you should go to www.justlabelit.org.  While hundreds of organizations have declared support for mandatory labeling, Just Label It has become a focal point for individual involvement and grassroots lobbying of elected officials.  I am convinced they are one of the most effective points of entry today.

Use the following links to obtain more information:










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CA Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act

Posted on 28 March 2012 by Jerry

Since the July 5, 2011 reversal of the U.S. position opposing labeling of genetically modified foods internationally (see August 5, 2011 post “Speed/Slow/Stop…or LABEL Genetically Modified Foods”), pressure for mandatory labeling of GM foods in the U.S. has been building.  While there are efforts nationally to produce petitions (see www.justlabelit.org ) and to pass laws to require mandatory labeling, many are not optimistic these efforts will be successful in the near term.  The situation in the State of California may be dramatically different however (see www.carighttoknow.org )

As you probably know California has a history of leading and pioneering in forward looking health and safety issues.  California also has a well developed voter initiative process in which citizens groups can qualify proposed laws for inclusion on the state election ballot once a specific number of voter signatures have been secured.  In the November elections of 2012 California voters will have a unique opportunity to pass ground breaking legislation that requires mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods offered for sale in California.

Called the “California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act” the proposed legislation requires mandatory labeling when a food is:

  • “any genetically engineered raw agricultural commodity”
  • a “processed food that is made with or derived from any genetically engineered ingredient” or
  • any “processed food that is made with or is derived from any ingredient that may be genetically engineered” shall include a conspicuous statement which says “MAY CONTAIN GENETICALLY ENGINEERED INGREDIENT(S)”

While this legislation has elements which do not go far enough, it does represent a landmark step.  An example of an area that could be strengthened is its failure to call for labeling of food from any animal that has not itself been genetically engineered but has been fed or injected with genetically engineered food or any drug that has been produced though means of genetic engineering.  The proposed law also excludes labeling of food solely because it includes one or more genetically engineered processing aids or enzymes.

In any case, this is a ballot initiative you should support with your contributions and votes. Quoting Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, “Successful activists take the progress that is offered and demand more.”  Let us pass this law as written as a beachhead for the rest of the nation.  For voters from other states use this as a template for your own local initiatives. 

Remember, this legislation does not change the food choices you are given in your local store.  It also does not limit the genetic engineering the industy performs.  It merely gives you more information about what you may consume yourself or serve to your family.  It only equips you to make a more informed choice.

 Use the following links to review the actual wording of the voter initiative and visit the websites of organizations driving this issue:

To read the initiative after accessing carighttoknow.org, select “About”, then select “The Initiative”:




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Nope I’ll Pass Addendum

Posted on 20 October 2011 by Jerry

In a related article dated September 25, 2011 entitled Nope I’ll Pass on That, But Gimme Some of That, we provided lists from two separate articles that would be of use to shoppers for food.   One article identified a list of foods stack ranked by measured pesticide residues. Another article identified varieties of Heirloom or natural seeds that could be purchased from identified sources in order to insure you avoid genetically engineered foods when planting a garden or crop acreage.

Now in a new posting from the phillyburbs.com entitled, Some Genetically Modified Foods there is a list of known genetic modifications by crop or foodstuff.  The article complains that it is virtually impossible to identify all of the genetically modified foods because there are no laws in the U. S. that force disclosure of genetic modifications.  This is a reasonable list however that describes some of the modifications, how widespread they are and what products contain them as ingredients.   Use the link below to make a copy of the article.  Refer to an earlier article if you want the latest on GM food contamination of human blood.  See article, Where There’s Toxins, There’s…What?” under genetic engineering.

Use for following link for more information:



October 8, 2011, San Francisco, Genetic Engineering


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Nope, I’ll Pass on That…But Gimme Some of THAT

Posted on 15 October 2011 by Jerry

In a related editorial, Speed/Slow/Stop…or Label Genetically Modified Foods (July 10, 2011), we shared USDA statistics on adoption of genetically modified crops in the United States.   Consistent with insuring we have sound information to guide our food consumption, we’d like to share two useful lists.  The Environmental Working Group has published a list of produce and fruit with higher and lower levels of pesticide residues.  A link to the list appears below.  Topping the list of 53 produce and fruit choices with the highest levels of pesticide residues are: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, and spinach.  At the bottom of the list with the least pesticide residues are: onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, and asparagus.

Identifying sweet corn as one of the more pesticide free vegetables is problematic since 65% of planted acres of corn in the U.S. have been genetically modified.  You have a better chance of avoiding genetically modified foods if you buy organic.  There is an excellent article appearing in the September 25, 2011 issue of the New York Times Style Magazine.  The article, Children of the Corn, by Verlyn Klinkenborg is about an Iroquois Indian tribe’s heritage of growing natural corn.  In the article is a section entitled Essentials – Heirloom Agriculture, referencing seed catalogs for heirloom varieties, most of which – though not all – are also organic.  Cited were Comstock Garden Seeds – www.comstockfeere.com, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – www.rareseeds.com, and Seeds of Change – www.seedsofchange.com. It also identified where one can order heirloom varieties of fruit trees, at Trees of Antiquity – www.treesofantiquity.com.  Best sources for native corn were Native Seeds/Search – www.nativeseeds.org and Sandhill Preservation Center at www.sandhillpreservation.com.  If you have land available for your own garden or crops and are looking for natural seed varieties, we would point you to these sites.

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, in Chapter 13: Protect Life Imperative – Synthetic Biology, genetic modification is explored.  In addition, in the Genetic Engineering/Synthetic Biology category of this blog are articles that discuss some of the hazards of genetically modified crops and foods.

Use the following links for more information:








October 5, 2011, San Francisco, Genetic Engineering

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