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Quote of the Day: Bernd Heinrich

October 28th, 2012

As for the “news,” most of what I hear I can do nothing about. This year I want all of my energies and all of my sympathies focused on where they can matter.

Bernd Heinrich from A Year In The Maine Woods

I was thinking about this quote the other day as I found myself annoyed the political conversations that was go nowhere and sensationalized “news” stories that contain no facts and are filled with “unconfirmed” “alleged” information. Due to my distaste for politics and drama, I find myself voting where I feel I can actually make a difference.

I vote every day with my dollars and with where I spend my time. I focus my efforts on building and growing my community and on becoming a better person. Every time I go to the farmers market and avoid the grocery store I’m casting my vote for the change I want to see in my country.

Every time I choose not to buy something and do without, I’m living a little closer to my convictions. Every time I buy what I need from a small local business or an individual who makes it themselves, I’m doing my part to bring the big world a little closer to home. Every time I turn off the TV and read a book or visit with my neighbor I know I’m limiting the advertising I am exposed to, learning something new and investing my time in relationships.

In our society where liking something on facebook is now seen as action, it’s refreshing to meet others who are also investing their dollars and time in something that makes the world a better place. I challenge you to spend at least equal time investing in your community as you do talking and reading about politics and news.

What is one thing you do that you feel makes a difference?

How Do You Choose?

October 30th, 2010

I must admit I get really annoyed this time of year by political ads in the mailbox, signs on every corner, and commercials on TV (so glad I don’t have cable any more so I don’t have to hear them). Every day I open a mailbox full of fliers, and most of them are negative. I wish there were something like CatalogChoice.org for political mailings.

I wonder if these ads actually do anything, are people swayed by them? I know I’m more put off than anything, especially if the flier is negative. One local senator has been sending a flier almost every week for the past 6 months telling us how great he is and how much good he’s doing. In the small print on the back of each flier is says “This mailing was prepared, published, and mailed at taxpayer expense”. You can believe he’s not getting my vote for wasting all my tax money telling me how great he is.

The older I get and the more I read about campaign funding and revolving door politics, the less political party affiliation affects my voting choices. I agree with different ideologies from many parties and find myself not really falling into any one. I focus on areas that are important to me, mostly agriculture and food. When I try to figure out who I’m going to vote for, I spend some time online looking up who’s funding each politician and their previous jobs and spouses jobs. I find a lot of great information on OpenSecrets.com as well as a few other places. Generally I vote for whoever gets the least amount of corporate funding. If all candidates get lots of corporate funding, I usually vote for those that aren’t getting money from companies like Cargill, Monsanto, Syngenta, GE and big pharma companies.

How do you choose who you’re going to vote for? Do ads and fliers sway you to one candidate or another?

Let Your Voice be Heard

December 30th, 2009

I think it’s important to be informed about what’s going on in government. I find myself writing notes to Congressman on issues I feel strongly about. I try to stay on top of food and agricultural legislation. It is hard to find the time to keep up on such things, but since I have the freedom to do so I think it’s important to make the time.

I read on Civil Eats a week or two ago about Monsanto’s GE (genetically engineered) alfalfa. I don’t know about you but the dominance of GE crops is of great concern to me. I’m especially worried since there’s not required labeling for them so we can choose products to eat that don’t contain GE ingredients. I don’t want to consume GE products because of the lack of testing, but they are not labeled, I have to shun pretty much all processed food.

Since I know a lot of you are also concerned about the prevalence of GE crops, especially in the food system I thought I’d share this article from Civil Eats:


Beginning in 2006, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) took legal action against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) illegal approval of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa. The federal courts agreed and banned GE alfalfa until the USDA fully analyzed the impacts of the plant on the environment, farmers, and the public in an environmental impacts statement (EIS).

USDA released its draft EIS on December 14, 2009. A 60-day comment period is now open until February 16, 2010. CFS has begun analyzing the EIS and it is clear that the USDA has not taken the concerns of non-GE alfalfa farmers, or organic dairy farmers seriously, for example, having dismissed the fact that contamination will threaten export markets and domestic organic markets. You can review the EIS here and supplemental documents here.

This is the first time the USDA has prepared an EIS for any GE crop and therefore will have broad implications for all transgenic crops, and its failure to address the environmental and related economic impacts of GE alfalfa will have far-reaching consequences. CFS is spearheading a campaign to make sure all affected parties know and are involved in the public process and have the opportunity to comment.

This is a call to action to all who have concerns about the environmental and economic consequences of uncontrolled nation-wide growth of GE alfalfa, to all who believe in the public’s right to choose to eat non-GE food and the farmer’s right to sow the crop of his or her choice, and to those who care about the impacts of pesticides and invasive weeds on biodiversity and endangered species.

Farmers, dairy producers, scientists, public interest organizations, and all concerned citizenry must make sure their voices are heard in this important process. At this stage, the most critical thing anyone can do is provide public comments indicating their concerns with GE Roundup Ready Alfalfa.

In particular, the EIS dismisses the significance that GE alfalfa will broadly contaminate non-GE alfalfa. Opinions, studies (published or unpublished), anecdotal stories, and testing data about how contamination will occur and /or demonstrating that contamination has in fact occurred are critical.

The EIS also dismisses the significant adverse economic effects that GE contamination will have on non-GE conventional alfalfa seed or hay growers (e.g., export markets), or dairy production that rely on non-GE and organic alfalfa hay for forage. Studies (published or unpublished), anecdotal stories, and economic analysis showing harm through contamination is essential, especially markets that are GE sensitive or reject GE outright.

Submit your comments to USDA APHIS No Later Than February 16, 2009.

December 24th, 2009 By Zelig Golden

Since this is one of the first times we’ve had a chance to actually voice our concerns directly about the GE crops I’d like to encourage everyone to get involved. Let the powers that be know that there are a lot of concerned citizens that don’t want GE crops contaminating our farmland, organic crops, and our food system. GE alfalfa would further contaminate our food system even more, think about all the animals that are fed hay. Head on over to regulations.gov to let your voice be heard!

If you’d like to stay on top of food and agricultural issues the Center for Food Safety is a great place to go. Here’s their article about GE Alfalfa.

Issue #2 in Ohio

November 1st, 2009

There are a few big issues on the ballot here in Ohio this week. I always take time to research in order to make an informed decision on election day. I’m interested in safe, healthy, local food. Therefore, Issue #2 is of particular concern. If you don’t have an animal care issue on your ballot, you probably will soon.
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I started seeing signs for Issue #2 about six weeks ago. At first glance it seemed like a great thing: “Safe, Local Food. Excellent Animal Care.” YAY! But then I noticed signs supporting Issue #2 in front of factory farms. HUH?
vote_yes_yard_sign
Everywhere you look you see signs that say “YES for ISSUE #2”. This past week we received 3 mailings for “YES for ISSUE #2”. The TV says to vote “YES for ISSUE #2”. But what about the other side?
Vote_yes_on_issue_2_fliers
Issues with great signage, TV commercials and mailings obviously have lots of money behind them. Lots of money points to corporate funding and special interests being involved, and that generally means it’s bad for the little guys I like to support (particularly when it comes to agriculture). In fact, “Big-Ag” is the last thing I think of when it comes to “Safe, Local Food. Excellent Animal Care.”

It is a red flag for me if an issue is heavily funded to one side. I came across this informative article: Analysis of contributions and donations for Issue #2

It was an eye-opening read. It definitely backed my suspicions that there is a lot of agri-business money behind “Yes for Issue #2”. Here are a few excerpts from the article:

The 12 largest contributors (all agribusiness interests) contributed at least $100,000 and gave a total of $1.4 million which is 35% of the total funds contributed. Three out-of-state interest groups contributed a total of $413,000 or 10% of all contributions to the PAC (United Egg Producers-Georgia), National Pork Producers Council (Iowa), Pioneer Hi-Bred (Iowa based seed and agrochemical firm).

Hog trade associations and operations contributed $624,106 (15%), egg trade associations and operations contributed $477,298 (12%), poultry associations and operations contributed $271,695 (7%), beef, dairy, and other livestock interests contributed $257,944 (6)%.

I find it interesting that none of largest donors are listed on the “Yes for Issue #2” website as a groups that endorse this issue.
vote_yes_on_issue_2_flier_closeup
Large agri-business would never back an issue that would cost them more money and make their work more difficult unless there was a hidden agenda.

So… who opposes Issue #2? A few organizations I regard highly are on the “Vote No” side.
groups_against_issue_2_in_Ohio
These include: the Organic Consumers Association, The Weston A Price Foundation, Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association, Food & Water Watch, the Center for Food Safety, Cornucopia Institute, the Ohio Farmer’s Union, Local Matters, and many more.
vote_no_on_issue_2
Furthermore, I’m uncomfortable that Issue #2 amends the state constitution to create a board of people that aren’t elected and have no term limits. This board would have significant power and would be able to override the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture, any act by the state legislature, or any initiative or referendum brought before the citizens of Ohio. This means we lose our power as voters to a board of 13 people we did not elect. There are two government agencies in Ohio that are supposed to be providing us with “Safe, Local Food. Excellent Animal Care.” Why do we need a third? This just opens more doors to special interest groups.
turkey
I then ran across this article in the Madison Press with which I agree. We do need changes in the area of animal care not just here in Ohio but all over the country, but Issue #2 is like putting a bandaid on a severed limb. Passing Issue #2 would also make it more difficult to implement better legislation in the future. I’ve always believed that if you’re going to do something you better do it right the first time. Fixing it later will take more work and cost more money!

I think we can do much better than Issue #2. With the number of factory farms in Ohio we need to do better. I’m sure you can guess which way I’ll be voting on Issue #2.

I hope you spend some time digging and trying to figure out if the issues on your ballot are all they are cracked up to be. Try checking the funding, that’s usually where I find my answers.

How do you decide how you’re going to vote for the issues/bills in your state?

FDA’s new “Focus on the Positive” Campaign

April 3rd, 2009

Yesterday morning I read this article on Civil Eats. I just had to share because I was completely blown away when I read about the FDA’s new “Focus on the Positive” campaign.

Newly appointed Food and Drug Administration chief Joshua Sharfstein announced this afternoon that in the wake of this week’s pistachio scandal, the agency would launch a new Safest Food Awareness Bureau in early 2010. “We live in such a ‘bad news’ world,” said Sharfstein, “this new approach will focus on the positive news.” Instead of announcing when food is contaminated, the new agency will be tasked with issuing a daily announcement of non-contaminated American foods, slowly phasing out the current policy of announcing food recalls directly to the public.

“This new program addresses the issue of an upswing in the number of food safety challenges, a shift that we do not see swinging back down in the next few decades,” Sharfstein stated at today’s press conference. This may be good news for consumers – instead of focusing on the increasing number of things we cannot eat, we can celebrate the few things we can. Sharfstein announced that the FDA will begin a 9-month shift towards the new approach this month, with a campaign entitled “Focus on the Positive.” Under the new guidelines, announcements about food contamination will be “focused on proactive statements, for example: ‘Try eating almonds and lettuce today, but stay away from spinach’”, said Sharfstein. The new agency plans on announcing its interim commissioner at the end of May 2009.

victory-garden-poster

UPDATE: Evidently this was an April Fools joke, so I apologize for putting it on my blog. I in no way wanted to participate in April Fools (even 3 days later). I know it’s just a joke on one day, but I don’t believe it belongs in a professional environment. It’s one thing to joke with your friends & family, it’s entirely something different to deceive the people who rely on you for a source of credible information. In my opinion, websites that strive to be a source of reliable & credible information should not participate in April Fools. I have always used Civil Eats as a source of information for what’s going on in the world of food, I now will read the articles they publish with an even bigger grain of salt. If they feel comfortable deceiving their readers on April Fools they probably feel comfortable bending the truth at other times to make their point. Perhaps my opinion is too strong on this matter, but I do believe that when you think something is OK in one instance no matter how trivial, it often spills into other areas of your life. In an era where it seems like many things coming from the government agencies (particularly the FDA) sound like April Fools jokes, it’s not particularly entertaining to joke about things like food contamination that actually cause deaths. I hope none of the families of people who died from the peanut contamination read this article as I’m sure it would have been particularly disturbing for them.

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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