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April 2003

GREETINGS

Well, our efforts to do something for the Great American Meat-Out ended up being a tabling at the Riverwest Co-op, where many of the people we talked to told us that they were vegetarian already. We herewith extend a welcome to those of you receiving this as a free sample because you signed up for further contact with us – hope to see you at one of the up-coming potlucks.

The talk by Dr. Gregor on March 29 is coming up as I write this, though it will probably have happened by the time you get it. I’ll report in the next issue.

We probably want to do something a bit splashier for next year’s Meat-Out, and therefore invite people to start helping brainstorm now. One of the possibilities, of course, is to try to get back into the Outpost, about which I have more to say in the Dialog section below.

In any case, we have solidified plans to continue holding our potlucks at the Friends’ Meeting House for another six months. I myself hope to get there a few minutes early in April and May so I can walk through the little nature trail they have there and look for early Spring flowers before the potlucks start.

It might also be noted here that the topics for the next couple of months will be presentations about particular forms of vegetarianism: the "natural hygiene" version in April and macrobiotics in May. Of course, we never demand that anyone’s potluck offering adhere to the theme, but on the other hand anyone who does wish to bring a dish that follows the month’s theme is especially welcome to do so.

M.A.R.V. ACTIVITIES

Saturday, March 29, 7 PM, talk by vegetarian Dr. Michael Gregor at the Friends’ Meeting House, 3224 N. Gordon, on "Deadly Game: Mad Deer Disease in the U.S."

Sunday, April 6, 5:30 PM, regular potluck at the Friends’ Meeting House, 3224 N. Gordon Pl. (from Humboldt Blvd. in Riverwest, go east on Auer a few short blocks to the parking lot.)

Presentation on natural hygiene by Cindy Lukowitz of the National Health Society (formerly American Natural Hygiene Society).

Subsequent potlucks will be held at the same time and place on May 4, June 1, July 6, Aug. 3, and Sept. 7.

Macrobiotic potluck(s)

There may or may not be an April macrobiotic potluck – call Pat O’Neill for info at 964-9759. In May, MARV’s potluck will have a macrobiotic theme, and macro people are especially invited to join us.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

"There’s no question that largely vegetarian diets are as healthy as you can get. The evidence is so strong and overwhelming and produced over such a long period of time that it’s no longer debatable."

-- Marion Nestle, Chair of the Nutrition Department at New York University and Senior Editor of the Surgeon General's Report on Nutrition and Health

NEWS

As usual, there are various ways that meat is not good for you while plant foods are, as well as items that vary from outrageous to bizarre.

As far as bad meat goes, last year’s scandal regarding ConAgra’s selling of e. coli-tainted meat products is still going. The most recent round is a demand by Democrats in Congress that the Agriculture Department investigate whether ConAgra knew of the contamination weeks before reporting it (while it kept selling the bad products). Another bit of old news is a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association stating again that people with high blood levels of homocysteine are at substantially higher risk for heart failure. Homocysteine is a natural breakdown product of protein digestion; its levels can be control-led by getting adequate B vitamins including folacin (from green leafy vegetables, fruits, and whole grains) and B-12 (from supplements if you’re vegan).

A different problem with animal foods involves oysters: the native oysters of Chesapeake Bay are now so depleted that there is a plan to put sterilized Asian oysters into the bay in order to prop up the area’s seafood industry. Environmentalists are highly distressed, yet no one seems willing to suggest not fishing for – or eating – oysters.

Meanwhile, the NY Times science section reported on a paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine which found that people with even mild degrees of kidney impairment should be advised not to eat animal protein. It has long been known that high protein intake can stress the kidneys; what’s new here is that a significant negative impact was found with even mild degrees of kidney impairment, and that meat in particular was noted for its bad effects. Maybe it’s just as well that McDonald’s was reported to be not doing quite so well any more.

We reported last month on a measure slipped into the omnibus federal budget bill which allows meat packers to call meat organic even if the animals’ feed was not – a significant and worrying exception to the new organic standards. It now seems that this was tucked in by one Georgia congressman as a ploy to help one company in his district, and has been met with outrage from all quarters. The trouble is, it will now take an act of Congress to repeal this measure – see the Dialog section below if you’re interested in helping.

Other recent reports regarding organic food include the discovery that children who are fed primarily organic food do have much lower levels of pesticide residues in their bodies; and a report from the University of California, Davis, that organically grown produce contains more antioxidants and ascorbic acid (vitamin C precursor) than chemically grown crops.

One sad item to note is the recent death of Mister Rogers, whose lengthy and favorable NY Times obituary did mention his long-time vegetarianism.

If you happen to have a severe allergy to peanuts, you would surely find it a great relief to learn that a drug is being developed to inhibit the allergic reaction, though it might seem a bit odd to the rest of us. Odder is the report that Germany’s intelligence service has released a book of recipes ferreted out by its secret agents around the world (titled "Topf Secret," since topf is the German word for pot. The service is apparently trying to improve its image. Then there is the political snit which prompted members of the U.S. Congress, annoyed by France's refusal to support a war against Iraq, to decree that House of Representatives cafeterias must now sell "freedom fries" and "freedom toast" instead of French fries and French toast…. The most bizarre item for this month, however, is the report about the First Viennese Vegetable Orchestra, which, yes, sculpts vegetables into musical instruments and plays them in concerts, where the quality of the music has much to do with the freshness of the veggies.

A leading story regarding good plant foods was the report by a team of Canadian researchers that they could lower people’s cholesterol levels by about one third simply by switching them to a low-fat vegetarian diet that included plenty of soy and soluble fiber. Most diet-only approaches to lowering cholesterol can manage no more than about a ten percent reduction, but this one, which was more rigorous than most diets regarding which foods were prohibited and required, did as well as standard-diets-plus-statin-drugs. Why are we not surprised?

Speaking of soy, a Prevention article on pre-venting breast cancer advocated eating a low-fat diet with soy foods, plenty of such produce as broccoli, cabbage, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, citrus, and berries, and whole grains, while limiting alcohol and ensuring that the fats one does eat are good mono-unsaturated fats such as olive and canola oils, as well as omega-3 fatty acid sources (flax, hemp seed, dark green leafies).

Dark green leafies are of course sources of folate, which was mentioned in another Prevention article as helping prevent colon and rectal cancers. Cantaloupe and papaya were named as additional folate sources, but so were artichokes, which are coming into season, and were noted in the Outpost Exchange as generally rich in vitamins A, B-complex, and C, plus iron and calcium.

It’s such a strange sensation to watch the rest of the world catch up with what one has been saying for years. In this case, the superiority of whole grains over refined ones is finally becoming mainstream, more than twenty years after I understood it and switched over. The latest round was a recent article by Jane Brody praising whole grains’ slower digestive process than refined ones, which strongly affects their ability to both fill you up faster and longer, and keep your blood sugar steadier, than refined grains. According to various studies, whole grains instead of refined ones help prevent heart disease and cancer as well as obesity and diabetes, and the Surgeon General is now recommending that everyone try to get at least three servings per day (as opposed to the U.S. average of less than one).

Other bits of good plant food news involve spices, which are becoming understood as medicinally active as well as good-tasting. Ginger is becoming recognized as helping ease arthritis pain with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as helping control nausea. Turmeric, which gives curry its yellow color, turns out to protect against skin, stomach, and colon cancers, as well as having anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Oregano turns out to be highly antioxidant and rich in cancer-fighting quercetin, and rosemary too has antioxidant, anti-tumor, and anti-inflammatory uses.

Another article I saw discussed the ability of green tea to help control blood glucose levels and thus help prevent diabetes – at least according to test tube and animal study data (stay tuned for human studies to come).

And finally, Delicious Living did an article on osteoporosis, reminding us that in addition to maintaining a high calcium intake and doing weight-bearing exercise and eating soy (and avoiding meat in particular and animal protein in general, we would add), people need vitamin D (go moderately out in the sun), vitamin K, magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese to really maintain and/or build strong bones.

DIALOG

The main reason that we had to scramble in order to do anything at all for the Great American Meat-Out is that I had assumed we would do a tabling event at the Outpost again as we have done for the past several years – and I therefore felt no urgency about discussing this with the people there early enough to make other plans when they turned us down.

I know I’m not the only person who is both an Outpost owner and a MARV member, and that many of you shared my dismay at this turn of events. In fact, I can still remember when the Outpost had a big debate over whether meat should be sold there at all. At the time I felt it should, so that people who are still transitioning away from a meat-heavy diet would have a source of healthily-raised and environmentally-well-raised animal products. I never expected the vegetarian perspective to become drowned out by the meat’s availability.

The puzzling thing is that the Outpost still talks about environmental sanity and sustainability and healthy food and diets, and still sells all the food alternatives to meat and dairy, and still publishes an Outpost Exchange which re-printed that E Magazine article on vegetarianism’s crucial part in environmentalism, as well as printing articles promoting eating plants and a plant-based diet. In exiling our vegetarian voice the co-op seems to be negating the very principles it preaches. It makes no sense, and one wonders what really happened.

I have learned that the decision not to host us was made by two people: Marie Greenfield and Lisa Malmarowski. It seems to me that letters to these people and the store’s management should open a process of revisiting a decision which feels to me to be equally bad for the Outpost and for MARV. The co-op’s main office is at 100 E. Capitol Dr., Milwaukee, WI 53212

As mentioned in the News section, the U.S. Congress woke up too late to the discovery that it had accidentally included a provision to undercut organic standards in its 3000-page omnibus federal budget bill recently. The issue is that in order to be called organic, animal pro-ducts should come from animals that have been given only organically grown feed. This aspect of the new organic standard has now been un-done, to the dismay of everyone from the Agriculture Department to environmentalists to promoters of a truly organic agriculture to businesspeople who perceive that a high organic standard is good for business. However, as the Organic Trade Association put it in their NY Times ad, "all this opposition means nothing unless we can persuade Congress to repeal [this provision]." Anyone who cares either about the purity of their food or the treatment of farm animals, and who wants to restore the organic standard, needs to write to our congresscritters and tell them to cosponsor, support, and vote in favor of the bills that have been introduced to set things right in this matter. The House bill is H.R.955, while the corresponding Senate bill is S.457. The phone book lists local numbers and addresses for congresscritters, and the Organic Trade Association website gives info on contacting them at: www.ota.com.