Archive for the ‘Water Quality’ Category

Our Pink Slime Food System

April 12, 2012

Finally one small aspect of our failed Industrial Food Production System has gotten some attention as the Wall Street Journal, the Nations leading business publication, the NY Times and others began reporting on “Pink Slime”. The Industry formerly used the meat scraps ligaments, bone particles, etc. left after butchering for dog food. Some time in the mid two thousands the industry with USDA approval began  high speed blending of this material for use as a cheap hamburger filler. Among other advantages was the reduction in cost to the Federal school lunch program by 3 cents a pound. They also added ammonia hydroxide to kill the e-coli, which was becoming an increased Public Health risk. The e-coli bacteria develop as a result of feeding corn in lieu of grass to cattle and destroying their rumen’s natural digestive ability to kill bacteria. Ground meat is particularly vulnerable to extensive contamination because the e-coli on the surface become mixed throughout. The mixture was dubbed pink slime by employees because of its appearance. Tyson’s CEO said the controversy is hurting beef sales but he thought it to be a short-term event. History suggests he is right.

Since 2009 the three major world cancer organizations have been reporting a strong connection between high corn fed red meat consumption and both cancer and heart disease without any significant affect on meat sales. For decades environmental groups have been reporting the connection between corn production used primarily for feeding farm animals and the destruction of our soil and water resources including the Chesapeake Bay without any adverse effect on meat sales.

In a few weeks grain farmers will again start the yearly cycle of destruction by tilling vast acres and applying 3 times more fertilizer to corn than it can utilize to produce corn the raw material for sugar and meat. The consumed volume of sugar is primarily responsible for our obesity and diabetes epidemics and the consumed volume of red meat both beef and pork is the primary cause of heart disease and cancer. The tillage and the excess fertilizer are primarily responsible for massive erosion and the nutrient and sediment contamination of our rivers and estuaries including the Chesapeake Bay. This cycle of destruction receives modest attention and certainly has not affected meat sales. What is it about Pink Slime that has raised such a public outcry and will it cause changes in the way we produce food? History indicates that it will be a two-week event as the Industry expects.



December 27, 2011

Since early 2009 when the National Cancer Institute published their dietary study     of 500,000 older Americans (our reference #16) we have had many research studies showing the strong connection between red meat consumption and early death caused by cancer and heart disease, including the American Cancer Research Institute’s study of the Worlds Cancer research and long term epidemiological studies published by Harvard University. Last night on 60 minutes we were introduced to direct physical evidence of this strong connection. The 2000 plus monks who have lived isolated in the monasteries on Mount Athos in Southern Grease for nearly 2000 years have never had cancer nor heart disease. They grow their own food, tend their own vineyards, consume plenty of their own wine, and eat a lot of fish from the Aegean Sea. They have two 10-minute meals per day and do a lot of physical work. They eat no red or white meat.

But corn fed meat consumers in addition to exposing themselves to cancer and heart disease also bear the major responsibility for loss of our topsoil, water quality and species loss in all the rivers and estuaries East of the Rockies, caused mostly by short cuts in soil management, overuse of fertilizer to grow corn feed and the glut of manure from CAFO’s. Maybe realization of the real cost of meat will cause consumers to think twice before ordering their next fast food bacon burger, hot dog, sausage, or Philly cheese steak. We can only hope the consumer will wake up to this reality because government agencies responsible for protecting our natural resources and our health have abdicated their responsibility under pressure from the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Fertilizer Institute, The Corn Growers Association and some Academic Institutions who still support our failed Industrial Agricultural Production System.


November 9, 2011

The Harvard School of Public Health Debate held Oct. 20, 2011 on the health impact of the US food system plus environmental Impact notes in bold added by the writer.


Walter Willett the Chair of the Nutrition Department at The Harvard School of Public Health. –  Judging by its impact on human health the American grain based food supply is a disaster with 75% of supermarket food unhealthy. We have too much refined grain, too much sugar and too much red meat in the American diet.

Barry Popkins Professor at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. – We did it to ourselves. In the 50’s we ate healthy food and the American people were healthy. We believed that animal protein was healthy. The science changed but the grain based food system and the lobbies that support it remained. Today 75% of the food supply has too much sugar, too much fat, too much salt and is unhealthy. Also in the 50’s, the Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico. Pamlico Sound, and all Eastern Estuaries began to suffer from hypoxia and sedimentation due to excess fertilizer applications particularly to nitrogen uptake inefficient corn and mismanagement of tilled farming systems. By the 70’s the underwater grass (SAV’s), which provided habitat and food for Bay species, disappeared. Today all species have declined substantially and the system is facing ecological collapse. Record Oxygen dead zones and record sediment intrusion occurred in both the Gulf and Chesapeake Bay in 2011. These Eastern Estuaries are thermometers for the ecological health of nearly 50% of the US. Land area. 

David Ludwig Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. – The mother of an 8 year old girl patient who weighs 200 pounds caused by diet not genetics tells me the child is influenced by icons on the food at the supermarket due to clever marketing by children’s TV programs. We evolved from a diverse system of many foods to a food system using four grain based raw materials: corn, soy beans, wheat, rice and the animals which eat these raw materials. We eat a lot of high calorie food, which has little nutrient value. Example: nuts are high in calories but are of value because they are also high in protein and other nutrients.

Gary Williams Agricultural Economist at Texas A&M and a defender of the status quo. – He was dead wrong in his theory that low income causes poor food habits. Many studies including China studies by Barry Popkin and Cornell University’s China Study show that increased consumption of grain based meat and sugar causing poor health increases with affluence. His assertion that unhealthy food tastes better than healthy food is again not true. We eat a lot at a Northern Italian restaurant in Easton MD. owned by a world-class chef formerly of Harry’s Bar in Venice and Paris. This food makes the steak and potatoes based food at Ruth Chris Steak House seem like the junk food served by MacDonald’s. He made two valid points (1) can we produce sufficient healthy plant food in the climate and soil of the US corn belt which requires research into the ultimate capacity of greenhouse production now in its infancy in the US but showing great promise? And (2) will China step in and produce bad food if we do not? Judging by the number of Countries involved in the ongoing world cancer study including China and the recent move by Denmark to tax pizza and other unhealthy Western foods, I believe a world agreement on restricting unhealthy food production is possible.


Rather than taxing unhealthy food an approach being tried in New York and Denmark, which concerns some people. I believe a better approach is public education (see the HSPH My Plate recommendations) combined with nationwide regulation of fertilizer application rates, mandated cover crops, and the many public health and environmental issues associated with CAFO food animal production. These actions will make unhealthy food more expensive. Everyone on the panel agreed that price has an affect on food choices. 


Opinions of the writer are in bold                                                                                    Clik on Harvard Debate to see the full video debate

The Bazaar Truth

October 29, 2011

Harpers Bazaar Magazine published by Hearst Magazines is a leading women’s fashion magazine. Since being thin is fashionable and compatible with the clothing that they advertise they often feature articles under the heading Bazaar Diet. The article in the November 2011 issue titled “Eat your Way Thin” included many foods to avoid. Foods to eat included: “Organic free range chicken, turkey, and eggs and grass fed beef, bison and lamb. For quality protein avoid mass produced meats. Factory farmed animals are kept in close quarters and fed things they aren’t supposed to eat like corn, soy and hormones. This fattens them up quickly but also makes them sick so they are given antibiotics. When you eat the meat you ingest what they eat” Wendy Schmid the author of the article got most of it right except that the “free range label does not preclude confinement production. A better term is pasture raised for chicken as well as beef and other red meat. She apparently is not aware of recently published long term epidemiology studies by Harvard University and the World Cancer Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research which concludes that many cancers, heart disease, obesity and diabetes are caused by over-consumption of factory farmed beef, pork and processed meat. She is apparently unaware of record oxygen dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay in 2011 caused by nutrient contamination of all Rivers East of the Rockies mostly from corn production and Factory-Farm manure. It is encouraging to see a major publication begin to understand the truth about our failed Industrial Food Production System.

Possible Good News for the Chesapeake Bay?

October 4, 2011

Environmentalist including those at The University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, The Chesapeake Bay Program, and The Chesapeake Bay Foundation all expressed enthusiasm for a USDA $850,000 grant to install experimental Combustion and or Gasification systems to treat chicken manure on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in an article published in the Star Democrat on October 4. The grant is administered by The Fish and Wildlife Foundation who will decide where to install the systems in the next few months.

This is an important development for Bay restoration since chicken manure is second only to fertilizer application as a source of Eastern Shore nutrient pollution. According to USGS chicken manure is 35% of nitrogen pollution, while CBF states that it is 26% of Phosphorous pollution. This grant comes in a year when record oxygen dead zones were recorded in The Chesapeake Bay. These technologies produce not only needed green energy but also biochar a soil supplement that can improve soil tilth and reduce erosion. March of 2011 also saw record sediment intrusion into the Chesapeake Bay.

The Entitlement Dilema

August 27, 2011

We now see more and more evidence of the failure of Central Planning as proposed by Karl Marx. The failure of the Soviet Union is the outstanding National example. But the failure is now also apparent in many of the social entitlement programs started in the 1930’s. One outstanding regulatory failure is U.S. agriculture and food production.  The inherent diversity provided by small farms who produced food was destroyed by the USDA under Earl Butz in the 1960’s. Mr. Butz decided to subsidize grain farming which produces raw material for sugar, refined grains, and meat. Now 50 years later we have a food production system dominated by unhealthy food widely recognized as responsible for our epidemics of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and pathogen exposure plus a production system based on overuse of chemicals and short cuts in soil management and animal manure management responsible for the destruction of our soil, our rivers, and our estuaries including the Chesapeake Bay. Every regulation initiated by Government creates an entitlement constituency that invariably becomes all-powerful. The ultimate result of failed social entitlements is now evidenced by street violence in England, Grease, and Wisconsin. In the case of agriculture the American Farm Bureau, the Fertilizer Institute and the Corn Growers Association supported by captive educational institutions, have successfully resisted all efforts for change suggested by the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force, environmental organizations, schools of public health, and now the USDA’s “My Plate” healthy food initiative. We must learn from these entitlement disasters and establish an automatic sunset on every regulation. We must also elect leaders who are strong enough to overcome the pressure of special interest entitlement support groups in the public interest.

Support for Healthy Food

August 23, 2011

The USDA has a history of giving lip service to sustainable farming and healthy food production while giving cash subsidy and more importantly ignoring the soil management short cuts and overuse of chemicals, which are destroying our natural resources.

In 2000 the USDA/ SARE Program published a pamphlet titled “Exploring Sustainability in Agriculture” describing 10 profitable farms, which demonstrated the 8 elements of sustainability developed, by Cornell University’s Food and Nutrition Center. While this and other efforts did encourage many young farmers to adopt sustainable farming methods, older farmers which dominate agriculture supported by land Grant educational institutions refuse to acknowledge that their much touted industrial model has no ability to sustain itself longterm.

In 2008 three major Cancer Institutes, the Harvard School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health published studies connecting overconsumption of Industrial Food products to many cancers, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and antibiotic immunity. We have recently sent letters to 70 Senators, and Congressman asking them to stop supporting grain subsidies and more importantly the bad practices that support overproduction of unhealthy food. Please reinforce this effort by calling your representatives and ask them to support America’s health and natural resources. If you need names and phone numbers of key representatives please advise.


Big Chicken & Pollution-Pew Commission

August 2, 2011

The Pew Commission report on “Big Chicken and Pollution” was published on July 27, 2011 in the same week that near record oxygen dead zones were reported in the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. These two watersheds along with other adjacent Coastal Plain watersheds drain almost half of the U.S. land area. Chicken production dominates 15 States including 6 Gulf States and 3 C. Bay States. We have long recognized that both corn fed CAFO red meat and CAFO chicken production including over fertilization of corn used as CAFO feed is by far the Countries largest source of pollution but there were several surprises in this report. Both beef and pork consumption were reported as being down slightly over the last 20 years while chicken consumption was up substantially. With the exception of antibiotics, growth hormones, arsenic, and atrazine contamination this is good news for consumer health. It is bad news for water quality because chicken waste contains up to four times more nitrogen and phosphorous the leading elements causing pollution. While chicken CAFOs are only 15% of CAFO sites Nationwide they produce 60% of the manure pollution (see pg 13). The report is disappointing because it did not mention pyrolysis of animal waste nor pasture raised animals as  solutions not only for nutrient pollution but also for helping restore the Nations soil. Biochar, a product of pyrolysis, is an excellent soil supplement, which can help, sequester carbon, restore fertility and effectively reduce soil erosion. A recent report by the Soil and Water Conservation Society pointed to the planet’s soil as the largest sink of the world’s carbon. S.A. Khan (ref #50) pointed out that poor soil management practice is causing almost every Corn Belt State to leak soil carbon while scientists at Iowa State University and others report that half our corn belt soil has been lost. (See a new Vision for Iowa Agriculture by Francis Thicke PhD.)

Dead Zones, Obesity,Cancer, Heart Disease, ONE SOLUTION

July 28, 2011

Near record oxygen dead zones are expected before the summer concludes in both the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Dead zones are primarily caused by over use of fertilizer to grow field corn, which is used to feed animals in CAFOs, to produce sugar used for among other things sugary drinks. Almost 3 times (uptake efficiency of corn is .37) more fertilizer is applied to corn in a normal rainfall year than the crop can use, much more in a drought year. Fertilizer is also used extensively to produce refined grains. Last week it was announced that every State in the U.S. had reached an obesity rate exceeding 25% of the population. Dead Zones and obesity are directly connected since the products that use most of the Nations fertilizer in the production process are the same as those causing obesity (see video of Harvard U. report). In addition the CAFOs which produce red meat use most of the corn. Beef, pork, and lamb overconsumption plus processed meat is causing our epidemics of cancer and heart disease. It is past time to enact recommendations made in 2000 by the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force (see Texas A&M update) and reduce fertilizer application rates Nationwide. This will not only go a long way toward restoring our water resources but will help restore the Nation’s health.

Congressman Harris-Right For A Change

July 22, 2011

Congressman Harris has been a strong voice impeding the restoration of Chesapeake Bay since he joined Congress. He has consistently sided with the Agribusiness Lobby led by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Fertilizer Institute and the Corn Growers Association. So it is a shock to hear him talk about the Bay as a National Treasure and creator of jobs in recommending the NOAA study of algal blooms. I asked two experts on Bay pollution for an opinion about this research. There responses follow:

It is our perspective that there are important things in the world of toxic algal blooms and hypoxia that remain to be studied; that federal assistance for such studies is appropriate and necessary; and that NOAA is the appropriate agency to receive the funds for such studies, particularly in salt and estuarine aquatic environments. However, the need for additional studies must not be used as an excuse to preclude action on what we do know.

Studying algal blooms from space (aerial photos or high res satellite imagery), calibrated with in situ observations, is a valid approach to substantiate the spatial/temporal extent and location of poor water quality. Showing where blooms occur can help point to the terrestrial nutrient sources that fuel the blooms. However, this research shouldn’t get funded by diverting funds from much needed reductions of N and P losses from land (septic/wastewater plant upgrades, winter cover crops, buffers, fertilizer restrictions, etc.).

Both join in urging Congressman Harris to get behind current efforts to implement the TMDL program which shows great promise in reducing Bay pollution and is opposed by the Agribusiness Lobby.