Archive for January, 2011

NFL SUPERBOWL-A Health Hazard

January 31, 2011

This weeks Superbowl has evolved into the Meca for sports fans. But eating of grilled meat before and after the game is equally popular and we know now very dangerous.

Dear, Mr. Goodell-NFL Commissioner

Your prompt suspension of Michael Vick for abusing animals is to be commended. However the massive abuse and killing of animals the primary food prepared and eaten before and during NFL games is much more damaging not only to the animals but to those who unwittingly consume them.

Research published by The World Cancer Fund, the American Institute for cancer Research and the Harvard School of Public Health shows that increased risk of both cancer and heart disease result from eating red meat. Red Meat includes hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, and Philly Steak sandwiches, which are popular at your games. Further these studies show that grilling of red meat causes the production of nitrosamines and hydrocarbons, which are known carcinogens.

I know you are sensitive to your public image and your influence on the young. The grilling of these products which you encourage before the games and which your owners supply during the games amounts to a huge public health hazard. I know that the NFL does not want to be known as a supporter of the #1 and #2 killers of Americans and out of control health care cost. But how else would you describe your current food policy in view of this research?

All of this research can be found on our website fixingourfood.com

Sincerely,

Donald Kerstetter

AMERICA’S FOOD SYSTEM-Viewed from Space

January 29, 2011

Can you imagine what the activities on earth look like from outer space? Every spring we denude massive areas of the earth’s surface, which has had minimal cover all winter. We then spray chemicals on the surface and plant something in the first week of May which later turns into a tall green plant. Over winter but particularly in early May through mid-June heavy rains often cause the unprotected earth to erode into the rivers, which now laden with the soil cascade downstream into Coastal Estuaries. In addition the observer sees thousands of stockyards crowded with animals both open and undercover each with an adjacent lake filled with animal manure, which can be seen to overflow periodically, and runoff into the same rivers adding to the brownish water flowing down to the Coastal Estuaries. The water maintains a mahogany color through most of the summer culminating in massive fish kills during August.

Observing this from outer space over decades the man and his friends speculate as to why these earthlings are destroying their soil and their water on such a mass scale?  The alien from space finally is given an opportunity to visit earth and given a choice of places to visit. he chooses Iowa, which seems to be the center of this strange activity. He chooses the farm of Francis Thicke who has a relatively small pastured based farm, whose land is not participating in this massive destructive activity. After asking what is going on here? Francis says that what the alien sees is a method of growing a raw material called corn which is used to feed animals which has evolved into the primary food for most people. Most of the animals are ground up and made into products called hamburgers and sausages, which are sold on most every corner in urban areas. Francis tells the alien that after 60 years of this activity about half the dark colored topsoil has now been lost down the Rivers. He also explains that the spraying he has observed in early May is chemical fertilizer, which stimulates corn growth but also massive algal growth in the water and further clouds the water and sucks out the oxygen thus killing all the water species. Francis also explains that the Government has been subsidizing much of the cost of this feed production for over 50 years, which encourages the continuation of the whole concept.

Francis states that this whole food production system is being questioned for many reasons and suggests that the spaceman take a look at http://www.fixingourfood.com. Last year long-term research studies were released by the World Cancer Research Fund and Harvard’s Nurses Health Studies which showed that the countries 2 major diseases are most likely caused by the dominance of hamburgers and sausage, and other red meat and dairy in the American diet. Both these studies are archived under cancer/heart disease on the website. Billions of dollars are spent each year on expensive pills and procedures to fight cancer tumors, treat clogged arteries, and high blood pressure, repair heart damage and treat diabetes and strokes. Scientists Walter Willett of Harvard University is actively involved in both studies and should be consulted to answer questions. Also The Johns Hopkins School of Public health has extensively studied animal meat production. Their Dr. Robert Lawrence can be contacted at their website. Dr Lawrence is also very familiar with the carcinogens generated by grilling these hamburgers and sausages which start the cancer process. Grilling of this meat is common at Sporting events such as the upcoming Super Bowl where 105 thousand people will gather to watch football and eat grilled meat both in the parking lot before the game and prepared by the stadium during the game.

The space alien went back home but decided to keep secret what he had learned. While he was convinced by what he had been told nobody would believe such a story. Nobody would believe that America is deliberately destroying their natural resources to produce food that is destroying their health. He wasn’t sure that even the scientists he talked to, all specialist in their field, comprehended the full picture.

Focus on Ethanol-Not what they Want!

January 26, 2011

This letter to the editor of the local Star Democrat was published on 1/26/11

Industrialization of agriculture has been hugely successful if judged by the standards of industrialization in that it has produced plenty of cheap animal food for humans. In so doing the production process has abused our animals, destroyed our topsoil, destroyed Chesapeake Bay, and most other rivers and Estuaries, and now we know that most of the food, particularly the red meat is destroying our health.

The results of Industrialization processes are almost instantaneous when applied to cars, weapons systems or moon rockets but when applied to human food, health and the environment, results are delayed by many decades. It took at least 3 decades for underwater grass to begin to disappear in Chesapeake Bay after chemical nitrogen application rates were multiplied to raise field corn to produce CAFO chickens and other food animals. The same delay occurred with oxygen dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and worldwide. It took decades for short cuts in soil management (2- crop or less soil management systems) to show up in National Soil depletion numbers. The human body is the ultimate in adaptative design. When industrialization made meat available and affordable most people in affluent societies switched to primary meat based diets particularly in the U.S. It took 6 decades for health results to appear. Now in 2010 these results have appeared and have been documented in studies by the World Cancer Research Fund and Harvard University’s long term Nurses Health Study. These studies and other studies of severe public health issues by Johns Hopkins School of Public Hearth show that cancer. heart disease are the result of the dominance of animal food in our diets. All these studies can be found on our website.

Don Kerstetter at fixingourfood.com

America’s Largest Problems-State of the Union

January 25, 2011

Thoughts before the State of the Union address:

On the eve of the State of the Union address, it is time to focus on the biggest problems facing the Country. Certainly on the list is healthcare cost. But will it be  mentioned in context with the American red meat and sugar based diet. Certainly the President with access to the Countries knowledge base is familiar with the World Cancer Study and the Harvard Nurses Health study recently published which connect the American red meat diet to these diseases. Certainly the President and his wife are aware that sugar and obesity are connected. Certainly the President is aware that corn is the common denominator between these products. But the President is also aware that Iowa is not yet ready to renounce corn and that Francis Thicke’s new vision for Iowa agriculture lost the recent election for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. But Francis got a surprising 38% of the vote. Al Gore recently admitted that Corn Ethanol is a bad idea but that he had to support it to win in Iowa. We know that the President’s focus is on the 2012 elections and once again because  Iowa will be among those casting the first vote it will be very hard for him to face America’ largest problem, CORN. If he does he deserves our support.

Comments after the speech

I conclude that he doesn’t have a clue about our food system disaster. He has mentioned that  living in the White White House is like living in a bubble but he does have a Secretary of Health and Welfare. I wonder if she is as clueless?

 

 

Is Modern Chemical Agriculture Destroying Itself

January 22, 2011

Evidence presented by The Institute of Responsible Technology of prematurely dying corn and soybean crops during 2009 and 2010 indicate that this might be true. According to plant pathologist Don Huber who has studied Glyphosate a widely used chemical which is the heart of modern corn based agriculture, premature death of corn and soybean crops is increasing, resulting in dramatically lower yields. Monsanto and other Chemical companies have developed corn and soybean hybrids that can survive glyphosate spraying while weeds will not survive this spraying. The spraying can be seen when the corn is several feet high in early June when huge 90-foot sprayers take to the fields. Glyphosate ready crops were first introduced by Monsanto, who produces the glyphosate Roundup, in 1996 and have been the basis of Industrial agriculture Nationwide since that time. Monsanto is continuing to develop other Roundup ready crops. The latest is Roundup Ready Alfalpha, which organic farmers are fighting on the basis that the overspray is affecting all crops. There is also evidence that glyphosate is causing over 40 plant diseases and endangering human and animal health. As with any chemical widely introduced into the environment adverse effects will take decades to show up. The classic is the chemical DDT which destroyed fish hawk reproduction in the 70’s and while banned since the mid-70”s still shows up in aquifer water.

TOM HORTON & DRK-The Tragic Story of Corn

January 17, 2011

Tom Horton’s excellent article which appeared in Chesapeake Bay Magazine in November of 2010 is the start of the corn story but the full story includes not only the loss of Chesapeake Bay, the loss of the Nations Health, but how our public health and safety is being corrupted on a massive scale.

THE CORN QUESTION BY TOM HORTON

It was a bitter pill to swallow last year when Jenny and I had to give up our four-stroke Honda outboard with less than 200 hours on it. The engines carburetor simply could not handle the gunk build–caused by ethanol– that is now legally required in all but a few Counties around the Bay.                                                             I was doubly griped because of the source of the ethanol, which is a far bigger problem than the ubiquitous gasoline additive itself. I speak of corn. It’s a pretty sight to see it growing across Chesapeake region farms and to watch each fall as combine’s shell it into mountains of grain. And corn based ethanol is certainly safer than what it replaced—MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether), a gas additive that is now banned as a suspected carcinogen.

But those who work with water quality around the Bay and coastal waters worldwide know the dark side of corn all too well. As we currently grow it corn is horribly polluting. To realize the high yielding potential of modern corn hybrids, growers must supply it with lots of nitrogen fertilizer. Even when farmers supply it with only what their crops needs, corn can only utilize about 37% of the applied nitrogen—even less in drought conditions. The rest ends up in ground water where substantial amounts eventually seep into the Chesapeake Bay.

In the Bay nitrogen grows excessive algae, which decompose and sucks life-giving oxygen from the water. The dead algae also cloud the water, shading out vital light from underwater grasses that provide habitat for a variety of aquatic life. The two million or so acres of corn grown across the Chesapeake’s six-state watershed are major reason agriculture remains the single largest source of water pollution for the Bay. The story’s the same for the Gulf of Mexico. Its oxygen deprived “dead zone” is the size of the State of New Jersey some years, courtesy of the nitrogen that washes down the Mississippi from the Midwest, which grows the bulk of the Nations 85 to 90 million acres of corn.

Soaring demand for corn to supply government subsidized ethanol plants a few years ago caused Bay region farmers to convert about 200,000 acres of land from mostly low polluting uses like hay and pasture, to additional corn acreage, adding millions of pounds of pollution to the Bay. While ethanol demand has since slumped and corn acreage decreased slightly, ethanol is here to stay, taking a quarter of the US corn crop, a force for keeping more land in corn.

You could have hardly concocted a worse response than corn based ethanol to start weaning the US from dependence on petroleum (ethanol is usually 10% of the fuel in your tank nowadays). Making the additive from corn is so energy intensive that we get at best, about 25% more energy from a gallon than the energy it takes to produce it. And a gallon of ethanol powers a car about two-thirds as far as a gallon of pure gasoline.

It is considerably more efficient to refine ethanol from sugar cane, which is grown across the southern U.S.; but for that crop the Federal subsidies favor sugar not ethanol, so cane growers are not inclined to get into the fuel business.

A byproduct of making corn ethanol called distillers grains is now being widely fed to dairy cattle in the Chesapeake region. This makes their manure already a pollution problem even more potent (higher in phosphorous which stimulates algal growth in the water)

We need to phase out subsidies for making ethanol from corn and step up research on how to make it from other less polluting plants like switchgrass. Even more important, we can start right now growing corn and other polluting crops like soybeans in less polluting ways. A proven solution is to follow the fall harvest with winter “cover crops”— grains like oats and rye grown solely to suck up excess nitrogen before it runs into the waterways. Maryland farmers with financial assistance from State taxpayers are putting large acreages into winter cover crops. Virginia and Pennsylvania are doing far less, as are Midwestern farm states.

Meanwhile, back on the boat, we’ve been doing ok with ethanol in our new outboard a Mercury direct injection two stroke. But don’t let anyone tell you that this is a good route to energy independence. Corn, The way we grow most of it now, only looks green.                      Tom Horton

Website manager Don Kerstetter picks up the story from here: I tried to find the current uses of field corn from USDA. They must know since they keep meticulous records on everything but they would not tell me. A paper on biofuels published by Great Lakes Bioenergy research Center in September 2010 stated that 80% of total corn production in the U.S. is used to feed animals and most of it goes to feed ruminants (cattle).

Scientists including pasture farmer Francis Thicke reporting in his excellent book “A New Vision for Iowa Agriculture”, generally believe that the U. S. has lost half its topsoil since Industrial Agriculture began following World War II. The USDA recommends a minimum 3-crop system for row crops plus annual winter cover crops. Grain farmers use 2 crop rotations at best and many use mono-cropping in the Midwest. The National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), which is responsible for preserving the nations topsoil, allows grain farmers to take short cuts in soil management on a massive scale in the U.S. where bad soil management practices have been institutionalized by grain farmers while many in mainstream academia with knowledge of good soil management practice raise no objection.             The Thousands of Concentrated Animal Feed Operation (CAFO) facilities shown on our Factory Farm Map are conceptually incompatible with public safety and public health, and are contaminating aquifers with nitrate, soil and air with deadly antibiotic resistant pathogens and contaminating the food animals themselves with diseases.  Since The Johns Hopkins School of public health published the Pew Commission report on farm animals in 2008 they have been advocates for major changes most ignored by local State and Federal officials. They describe these facilities as perfect pathogen incubators. Please read their report (our reference #21). These facilities produce 3 times more manure all more dangerous because of antibiotic resistant pathogens than human manure without any treatment requirement.

When these facilities first started farmers were offered reasonable contracts. Now that farmers have mortgaged themselves to build the facilities the Integrators with little competition have reduced payments and forced upgrades leaving farmers stuck with bad economics which has adversly affected the economics of local communities. A glance at the National Factory Farm Map confirms that both dairy and beef cattle dominate land use but in some areas including areas of Iowa, North Carolina and Pennsylvania Hogs are dominant. But the environmental and economic destruction of rural communities is just the tip of the iceburg.                                       Studies published in 2010 by the World Cancer Research Fund and The American Institute for Cancer Research show that red meat (beef, pork, lamb, and goat) is a primary cause for increased cancer risk. Not only is it a convincing increased risk for colorectum cancer but suggestive for 6 other cancer types.                           Also in 2010 Harvard University published the first results of the Nurses Health Study involving 84,000 nurses, which began in1976. They also found that red meat was the major cause of Coronary Heart Disease. Harvard Universities’ Dr Walter Willett who was involved with both studies indicates that soon to be released studies on diabetes and stroke will show similar results. He also reports that other studies at Harvard show that adolescents and people in early adulthood are particularly vulnerable to red meat the dominant CAFO product. So we have an agriculture production system focused on meat and dairy which is taking shortcuts, causing the destruction of our most important natural resources, and also increasing the risk of our dominant diseases and escalating health care cost.

Does it make any sense to continue destroying our most important Natural Resources, and to systematically abuse our food animals (see our animal abuse post) to produce products that are this destructive? By directly subsidizing corn, by failure to enforce its own soil management guidelines, by failure to enforce current public safety laws and animal abuse laws  government at all levels is the great enabler of this flawed system                                                                                                              But there is reason for hope. Many people particularly young people are increasingly attracted to Vegan restaurants and vegan home cooking, not because of these issues but because the food is tastier, more satisfying, and exciting than animal based food. (see our post on Horizons restaurant in Philadelphia). There are two other advantages to eating a plant based diet:

1.The food is less expensive

2. It takes 14 times less land to eat the plant directly as opposed to having an animal eat the plant and then eating the animal. Our fast growing population will not have sufficient land to support this inefficient system.

Horizons- an exciting eating experience & more

January 12, 2011

Chef Rich Landau started Horizons restaurant in the suburbs of Philadelphia because of his love of cooking and his conscious objection to cutting up animals for food.

We went to his restaurant now in downtown Philadelphia a few months ago because of our growing concern about the environmental destruction caused by corn feed used in CAFOs and the damage to the environment caused by raising animals in their own feces in these perfect pathogen incubators described by scientists at Johns Hopkins University in their magazine (see our reference # 21). We also have an increasing concern about the connection between most of the meat produced by these facilities and the US cancer and heart disease epidemics as described in long term studies by Harvard University and by world studies described in our recent posts.

Horizons is one of eight upscale meat free restaurants Nationwide recommended by Chef Tal Ronnen in his excellent book “the conscious cook”.

We went to the restaurant with low expectations expecting a dull eating experience and found just the opposite. We are now well along a pathway to meat-free eating. It is turning into  a very positive and exciting experience.

ANIMAL FACTORIES- Anti-Nature? You Judge!

January 6, 2011

Tom Horton wrote an excellent article in the November issue of Chesapeake Bay Magazine describing corn production as the major cause of nutrient pollution in the US primarily responsible for destroying most rivers and major estuaries such as the Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay as species habitat. He also cited Federally subsidized corn ethanol as a destroyer of engines. He did not mention short cuts in soil management that have squandered half of the nations topsoil according to some scientists.

But the story of  corn does not end there. Eighty percent of the corn goes to feed animals in Animal Factories( CAFOs) which an increasing number of farmers are opposing because of the economic and environmental damage caused to them and their communities. Their story is told in David Kirby’s book Animal Factory (see animal abuse post) which has led these farmers to start a web site, Socially Responsible Agriculture, and offer their services advising communities on how to avoid being exposed to these facilities. Farmers in Kirby’s book refer to CAFO’s as anti-nature. Is nature fighting back?

1. In the most comprehensive review of the world’s research on Cancer Prevention, The World Cancer Research Fund & The American Institute for Cancer Research published their report (see cancer & heart disease archive) by 200+ researchers and doctors. Their recommendations were #1 eat a plant based diet and #2 avoid red meat (beef pork. lamb and goat) plus dairy and processed meat.The Factory Animal Map shows that red meat and dairy factory locations dominate many landscapes.

2.In June 2010 Harvard University published it’s decades long study (see summary archived under heart disease) on Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). Conclusion: high red meat intake increases risk of coronary heart disease and CHD risk can be reduced by shifting sources of protein in the US diet. The Head of their nutrition department has advised that similar results will be published shortly for diabetes and stroke and that people in adolescence and young adults are particularly vulnerable.

3. People living in or traveling through an area within 3 miles of CAFO facilities are exposed to deadly antibiotic resistant pathogens including MRSA (the hospital pathogen) which contaminates workers, neighbors, and hospitals. MRSA kills more people each year than the aids virus. (See our reference #21 ). We have notified MDE of an elementary school within this distance with hi-speed fans blowing pathogens in its direction. MDE tells us they only respond if there is an odor complaint.

4. CAFO’s produce 3 times more manure nationwide than humans, none treated, and it is many times more dangerous due to feed additives which include antibiotics, growth hormones, appetite enhancers such as arsenic, and distillers grain. The manure, also very high in phosphorous, is spread on farm fields close to these facilities exposing not only humans close by but the products that are grown in these fields.

5. Testing of aquifers under two of these facilities on the Delmarva Peninsula by The Maryland Department of Environment showed that  levels of nitrate already elevated many times over the normal background level of 0,3 mg/l  by adjacent corn field fertilizer over-application was as high as 80mg/l or 200 times the normal background level.

6. Treatment of animals in CAFO facilities was described very well by conservative writer Mathew Scully quoted in our animal abuse post. This treatment ranges from negating life as an animal being to the physical abuse by minimum wage workers trying to stay employed and given the impossible task of getting very large animals to do what their instincts and the terrorized screams of their fellow beings tell them they should not do. No being deserves this treatment.

Government officials at all levels Local, State, and including the Congress of the United States are subsidizing this broken agricultural/ meat & dairy production system  not only with cash subsidies but more importantly providing hidden subsidy by ignoring clean air and water laws, animal abuse laws, USDA guidelines for soil management all adding up to support of the two most deadly killers of its citizens heart disease and cancer. Indeed nature is effectively fighting back.

Does it make any sense for anyone to eat meat laced with unhealthy additives, the bulk of it the cause of major diseases, and all of it destroying our most important natural resources?

There was a time when my answer might have been different but now that I have been exposed to high quality plant food prepared by top chefs my answer is absolutely it makes no sense at all.