Tuesday, October 30, 2012

In Which Countries are GMOs?

New Zealand: No GM foods are grown thereSwitzerland: No GM crops, animals and plants until 2013
Germany: No GM cornMadeira: This small Portuguese island has a ban on GM crops
Ireland: GM crops were banned for cultivation in 2009, and foods containing GM foods can be voluntarily labeled as suchJapan: No GM seeds are planted in the country (but wild contamination from imported GM canola have been found growing near ports)
France: Asked the European Commission to suspend Monsanto's authorization to plant GM MON 810 corn, but the EU stepped in and blocked the banAustria, Hungary, Greece, Bulgaria and Luxembourg: All have bans on both cultivation and sale of GMOs

If you live in the United States and want to avoid GM crops, it isn't easy because they are already in commercial production – and GM crops are not labeled. According to the Non-GMO Project, GM crops already in production in the U.S. include:
Alfalfa (first planting 2011)Canola (approx. 90% of U.S. crop)Corn (approx. 88% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Cotton (approx. 90% of U.S. crop in 2011)Papaya (most of Hawaiian crop; approximately 988 acres)Soy (approx. 94% of U.S. crop in 2011)
Sugar Beets (approx. 95% of U.S. crop in 2010)Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash(approx. 25,000 acres)Animal products (milk, meat, eggs, honey, etc.) because of contamination in feed

What's all the fuss about?? GM crops:
  • Are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GE crops
  • Can be toxic, allergenic and less nutritious than their natural counterparts
  • Are not adequately regulated to ensure safety
  • Do not increase yield potential
  • Do not reduce pesticide use but increase it
  • Create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant "superweeds," compromised soil quality, and increased disease susceptibility in crops
  • Have mixed economic effects
  • Harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity
  • Do not offer effective solutions to climate change
  • Are as energy-hungry as any other chemically-farmed crops
  • Cannot solve the problem of world hunger but distract from its real causes – poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, lack of access to land to grow it on
According to their report, there are three potential sources of adverse health effects from genetically engineered foods:
  1. The genetically modified gene product – for example, the Bt toxin in GM insecticidal crops may be toxic or allergenic
  2. The GM transformation process may produce mutagenic effects, gene regulatory effects, or effects at other levels of biological structure and function that result in new toxins or allergens and/or disturbed nutritional value
  3. Changes in farming practices linked to the use of a genetically modified organism may result in toxic residues – for example, higher levels of crop contamination with the herbicide Roundup are an inevitable result of using GM Roundup Ready® crops.
Dozens of studies have now provided scientific evidence that GE foods cause severe health problems, including multiple organ damage and cancerous tumors.

For Proposition 37, requiring Genetically Modified Foods to be labeled, to pass, we need EVERY vote we can to win in California, November 6.
The election is just over ONE week away.
Right to Know GMO Prop 37

Monday, October 22, 2012

“Big 6” Pesticide Corporations Top the List of Food Labeling Opponents

World’s six largest pesticide manufacturers and genetically engineered seed corporations donate more than $20 million to oppose Prop 37 labeling measure
Sacramento, CA — According to filings released by the California Secretary of State this week, the world’s six largest pesticide corporations, or “Big 6”, are now the six largest funders of opposition to Proposition 37. Collectively they have contributed more than $20 million to oppose the measure that would label genetically engineered food, including an intensive advertising campaign over the past two weeks.
“Pesticide corporations like Monsanto continue to enjoy unfettered and unlabeled access to the market, while consumers are left largely in the dark,” said Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network. “Despite the best efforts of the Big 6 to confuse and distort the issue, Californians have a right to know what’s in their food and how it’s grown.”
Monsanto and five other corporations — BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont and Syngenta, collectively known as the “Big 6” — dominate the world’s seed and pesticide markets and actively oppose the measure. In filings released this week, each of the Big 6 made contributions of at least $2 million, with Monsanto’s contribution alone totaling more than $7 million. To date, the opposition to Proposition 37 has raised more than $35 million, spending about $19 million with Sacramento public relations consultants, aggressive television advertising, and paid mailings.
A comprehensive study released last week provides insights into the Big 6 interest in defeating Proposition 37, highlighting the fact that genetically engineered crops drive up the use of pesticides and open markets for these corporations’ products. The study, conducted by Dr. Charles Benbrook and based on federal government data, shows that genetically engineered crops have increased pesticide use by over 400 million pounds in the United States over the past fifteen years. Increased pesticide use has led to greater and greater weed resistance. In turn, this has let to more applications of pesticides — as well as use of more hazardous pesticides — in agricultural fields, putting rural communities and farmworkers at the greatest risk of harm due to pesticide exposure.  
The control of both seeds, and the ever-increasing use of pesticides, has benefited giant corporations at the expense of consumers. "The Big 6 chemical and seed companies are working diligently to monopolize the food system at the expense of consumers, farmers and smaller seed companies," said Philip H. Howard, an associate professor at Michigan State University and an expert on industry consolidation. Monsanto alone controls 23% of the world’s seed market, and Bayer controls 20% of the global pesticide market.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

How Did My Profession’s Conference Get Hijacked by Big Food?

(Guest post by Andy Bellatti)

Coca-Cola promoting the RDNational ConfectionersThe HFCS folks
Booth displays at Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Expo. (photos by Andy Bellatti)
I recently attended the annual gathering of the largest trade group of nutrition professionals, which I alsocovered last year. Look out for complete report from me in the coming months. Meantime, I am pleased to share the experience of one registered dietitian, Andy Bellatti.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) hosted its 2012 Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo(FNCE) earlier this month. Sadly, the event once again (see last year’s report) demonstrated how this registered dietitians’ accrediting organization drags its own credential through the mud by prioritizing Big Food’s corporate interests over sound nutrition and public health.
Nutrition Conference or Junk Food Expo?
Academy “partners,” which enjoy top sponsorship status at the expo, included the National Dairy Council, Coca-Cola, and the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition (yes, the chocolate company). Event “premier sponsors” included General Mills, PepsiCo, and Mars. As a dietitian, I am embarrassed that the nation’s largest nutrition trade organization maintains partnerships with companies that contribute to our nation’s diet-related health problems.
The expo floor did have a few bright spots, such the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Meatless Mondays, and independent companies promoting relatively whole-food products (and advocating for California’s GMO-labeling initiative), such as Lundberg Farms, Nature’s Path, Manitoba Harvest, and Mary’s Gone Crackers. However, these booths were small and more difficult to locate, while the largest and flashiest booths belonged to the likes of PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Hershey’s, Monsanto, and the Corn Refiners Association. (Notably, many of these companies are funding the No campaign on GMO labeling.) Even the candy lobby had a booth for the first time this year (not surprisingly, their message was one of “moderation,” that meaningless term). Many of these booths shamelessly pandered to me and my colleagues. Coca-Cola for instance, claimed to “promote the registered dietitian.” How exactly they do this is unclear; “co-opt” would be a more accurate term.
Educational Sessions or Big Food Propaganda?
In addition to dominating the expo hall, Big Food also often asserted unilateral control over the messaging at many of the educational sessions. One session on food allergies (“Beyond Belly Aches: Identifying and Differentiating Food Allergies and Intolerances”) was mostly National Dairy Council propaganda. Lactose-free dairy products were presented as the best (and sometimes, only) choice for individuals with lactose intolerance in order to “prevent nutrient deficiencies” and confer alleged benefits of dairy, such as weight loss and reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes (these claims were not referenced).
These oft-repeated talking points by the dairy industry are a slap in the face to nutrition science; all the nutrients in dairy are available in plant-based foods, and the research linking dairy intakes to weight loss and decreased risks of diabetes and heart disease is tenuous at best, and is often sponsored by the dairy industry. (The weight loss claim has even been deemed by the federal government as deceptive.) Many dietitians specializing in food allergies who attended the session expressed their disbelief on Twitter. Others I spoke to walked out, insulted by what they considered to be unhelpful and inaccurate information.
A session on children and beverages titled “Kids Are Drinking What?” – also presented by the National Dairy Council – was essentially an hour-long advertisement for milk. The dairy reps acknowledged how they target African-American and Hispanic communities with a “drink more milk” message, which I found particularly disturbing as both ethnic groups have high rates of lactose intolerance. The dairy council also kept repeating a new slogan – “one more cup” – which, again, is supposed to “reduce nutrient deficiencies.” Notably one of the most glaring deficiencies among U.S. children – low fiber intake – was not brought up at all; and no wonder, since dairy products contain no fiber.
Even more disturbing was all the hand-wringing over children’s high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, as if the dairy council really cares about kids’ health. This alleged concern disappeared when I asked about the added sugar in chocolate milk. The panelists’ – all of whom were employed by the National Dairy Council — answer was that chocolate milk is a “nutrient-dense” beverage. Never mind how, with three teaspoons of sugar per cup, one serving of chocolate milk supplies the maximum daily amount of added sugar for children ages four to eight, as recommended by the American Heart Association.
Big Food’s presence was sometimes more covert. One session on food additives was sponsored by theInternational Food Information Council, the same food industry front group that last year assured us that pesticides are safe. Striking a similar chord, this panel explained how additives are safe because, after all, strawberries and coffee contain “chemicals” responsible for their taste and aroma. So, the logic train went, if we eat strawberries and coffee without a care, why do we fear controversial preservatives such as BHT and BHA? (The Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends avoiding BHA.)
Panelist Dr. Roger Clemens enthusiastically defended chemical additives while mocking survey results that showed how a significant portion of the public mistrusts the Food and Drug Administration. When I asked him why other countries have banned additives that the FDA has not, I was told it is simply a result of “a different group of scientists” arriving at “a different conclusion.” How convenient. What concerned me even more was how most of the audience appeared to find Dr. Clemens’ defense of additives humorous. Sadly, it appeared that Dr. Clemens did not have to work very hard to convince many dietitians that chemical additives were safe.
Does Sound Nutrition and Common Sense Require a Debate?
Some semblance of balance was attempted at two sessions. At one, titled “Why Can’t We All Just Work Together? Public Health vs. Industry,” panelist Margo Wootan, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, explained how industry and public health have two very different goals. Food industry consultant Beth Johnson, meanwhile, claimed the food industry is committed to improving Americans’ health by continually reformulating products to include more whole grains and lower sugar and sodium. But this approach is really not going to cut it given the seriousness of diet-related health problems this nation faces. To my surprise and disappointment, during the Q&A, one RD sided with the food industry saying that consumers should be blamed for not making healthy choices.
At another point-counterpoint session, this one on processed foods, Susan Crockett from kids’ cereal giant General Mills passionately defended processed foods. Her opponent, Jessica Kolko, an RD from Whole Foods, explained how Americans’ reliance on highly processed foods is responsible for a litany of public health ills. Ms. Kolko argued that the solution is for people to increase their intake of “real food.” While this session finally delivered the “eat real food” message that I espouse (shouldn’t all RDs?), why was a critique of the food industry framed as a “controversial” topic that can only be discussed in a debate format?
Taking Back the RD Credential
On the bright side, there is an emerging subgroup of RDs who are increasingly unhappy with Big Food’s ubiquity in the Academy, and who voice their disappointment. The Hunger and Environmental Nutritiondietetic practice group, of which I am a member, concerns itself with issues of corporate control, food justice, environmental regulations, and other “big picture” ideas. This summer, they released their guidelinesfor responsible corporate sponsorship. They encompass environmental sustainability, humane labor practices, and support of sound public health policy. The Academy leadership would greatly benefit from reading and applying these criteria more broadly.
At its annual “Film Feastival,” HEN hosted a screening of Split Estate, a captivating and sobering documentary about the tragic consequences of fracking in New Mexico and Colorado. In between harrowing stories of children, adults, and ecosystems sickened by pollutants, oil and gas industry representatives reassured viewers that fracking was a completely safe practice. As the documentary went on, their lies were exposed, and I thought of the striking similarity to Big Food’s spin and untruths; the very companies that my professional organization partners with. Bleak subject matter aside, I was happy to spend a few hours utilizing my brain, thinking critically, and listening to a panel of concerned individuals – a doctor, an RD, an activist, and a farmer – all advocating against powerful lobbies that prioritize profits over health. Sound familiar?
Now more than ever, members of the Academy who recognize the insidious nature of partnering with Big Food must speak up and let the leadership know how and why these partnerships are detrimental to the profession. We cannot allow ourselves to be steamrolled by the inane notion put forth by many in power that partnering with the likes of PepsiCo and McDonald’s benefits our profession and the health of Americans. It is simply untrue. I am growing increasingly tired of having to defend the credential I worked so hard for, which in many circles is seen as promoting Diet Coke and Baked Cheetos. We will never be taken seriously as nutrition experts when our messaging and credential is co-opted by junk food companies who think we are just an easy sell.
I urge my colleagues to think critically, ask tough questions, and relentlessly defend the ideas of healthful, real food. Yes, you will have detractors. Yes, at times you may feel you face a well-oiled – and well-budgeted – PR machine that is ready to discredit and stomp you. However, this is not the time to claim defeat. Many people are now recognizing the power of food to promote – or destroy — health. It is up to us, as registered dietitians, to take back our credential.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

5 Foods that Fight Inflammation

seaweed wrapInflammation is a common response the body has to injury, pain, illness, and stress. If your body has a temporary, acute inflammatory response, it is simply a sign of natural healing.
But inflammation can become problematic when it becomes a chronic, low-level condition. It is like an unattended fire burning away and attacking healthy body tissues. Inflammation is seen at the root of many other diseases, such as diabetes, auto-immune and heart diseases, neurological disorders, and cancer. 
Wondering what causes it? Our modern habits alone can lead to this common condition, including eating too many sugary, high-processed foods; insufficient omega-3 intake; lack of sleep; lack of movement or exercise; chronic stress; lack of down-time away from technology; and poor digestive health. 
So how can we fight it off? If you want to stay healthy and live longer, start by adding these 5 anti-inflammatory foods to your diet:
Kelp: This sea vegetable is a type of brown algae that is rich in fucoidan, a complex carbohydrate that is anti-inflammatory. Studies have shown it to have antitumor and radio-protective properties. Its high-fiber content also helps balance blood sugar and promotes weight loss. If you’ve never cooked with veggies, start with something simple, like this kelp cucumber salad.
Wild-Caught Salmon: This fish provides healthy doses of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation and are essential for brain health. Salmon and other oily fish also provide the crucial Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3 fatty acids, which are not found in plant sources. Make sure your salmon is wild and not farmed, because farmed salmon does not have the same health benefits. Try this ginger broiled wild salmon.
Shiitake Mushrooms: Common in Chinese and Japanese cooking, shiitake mushrooms provide anti-cancer benefits in addition to anti-inflammatory properties. They have been used medicinally in China for more than 6,000 years. Try them in a simple stir-fry or in this soothing shiitake gravy. 
papaya saladPapaya: This tropical fruit contains high levels of papain (a protein-digesting enzyme) and vitamins C and E which, combined, help reduce inflammation. Papaya can also help you improve your digestion. Try it in this Thai papaya salad.
Sweet potato: Don’t overlook the benefits of this common tuber. It is rich in anti-oxidants such as vitamin B6 and C, and the anti-stress mineral magnesium. Moreover, their naturally sweet flavor and high fiber content make them perfect for curbing sweet cravings. Try this baked caraway sweet potato with rosemary.
With thanks to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition: the largest nutrition school in the country & my school!

Stir-Fry for Crisp Autumn Days

Stir-Fried Chinese Broccoli and Chicken With Hoisin

from the NY Times: LOVE THESE RECIPES!

I love stir-frying with the seasons. Right now I’m phasing out summer’s tomatoes and corn, green beans and zucchini and picking up Chinese broccoli, mushrooms, cabbage and carrots at the farmers’ market. I’m still finding an array of peppers and beautiful Asian eggplants to brighten my wok. Stir-fries can be adapted to any number of ingredients that may be lingering in your refrigerator, or in your freezer, like the frozen peas that liven up a fish and mushroom stir-fry that is one of this week’s recipes.
I like to make a meal of a stir-fry, so I try to include a protein – chicken, fish, shellfish or, for vegetarian stir-fries, tofu (Non-GMO) or eggs. With meat or without it, the vegetables are the focus of these dishes. Twelve to 14 ounces of chicken breast (two of the organic free-range boneless skinless breasts that I use) is plenty to flavor and add substance to a stir-fry that will feed three people. I learned the velveting technique: you marinate the cut-up chicken breast in egg white and cornstarch seasoned with a little rice wine or sherry and salt, and blanch it before stir-frying. This is a step worth taking and results in very succulent, tender chicken. I use the same water I’ve blanched vegetables in to blanch the chicken.
As always, remember when you look at a long list of ingredients required for a stir-fry that all of the time here goes into assembling the ingredients. It takes maybe 20 minutes. The stir-frying itself takes only about 5 minutes. Prepare whatever grains or noodles you’re going to serve the stir-fry with in advance, and be ready to eat when you’re ready to cook.

Stir-Fried Chinese Broccoli and Chicken With Hoisin
The extra step to “velvet” the chicken is worth it for such tender, succulent chicken. I always look for sustainably raised chicken.
12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut across the grain in 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 tablespoon egg white, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil, rice bran oil or canola oil
1 bunch Chinese broccoli (about 1 pound), ends trimmed
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 fat garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced thin
Rice, whole grains or noodles for serving
1. In a large bowl, stir together the egg white, cornstarch, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the rice wine or sherry, salt to taste and 1 1/2 teaspoons water. When you can no longer see any cornstarch, add the chicken and stir together until coated. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
2. Bring 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large saucepan and add the Chinese broccoli. Boil 2 minutes, until it is just crisp-tender, and transfer it to a bowl of cold water. Do not drain the water from the pot. Drain the broccoli and dry on paper towels. Cut into 2-inch lengths.
3. Combine the remaining rice wine, the hoisin sauce and the soy sauce in a small bowl and set near your wok.
4. Bring the water in the pot back to a boil, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and turn the heat down so that the water is at a bare simmer. Carefully add the chicken to the water, stirring so that the pieces don’t clump. Cook until the chicken turns opaque on the surface but is not cooked through, about 1 minute. Drain in a colander.
5. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch steel skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Swirl in the remaining oil by adding it to the sides of the pan and swirling the pan, then add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes and stir-fry for no more than 10 seconds. Add the mushrooms, chicken, broccoli, hoisin sauce mixture and salt to taste.  Stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, and serve with grains or noodles.
Yield: 3 main-dish servings.
Advance preparation: You can blanch the Chinese broccoli and marinate the chicken several hours ahead, but the stir-frying should happen at the last minute.
Nutritional information per serving: 316 calories; 13 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 3 grams polyunsaturated fat; 5 grams monounsaturated fat; 73 milligrams cholesterol; 20 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams dietary fiber; 293 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 30 grams protein

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