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May 2007

 


GREETINGS

We did do some tabling at Dr. Gregor’s talk, as well as being able to have a table at the Urban Ecology Center’s Earth Day celebration, which went very well. Since the focus of the Earth Day event was obviously the environment, we emphasized the ecological impacts of meat-eating – which are indeed severe. There has been some good official reporting lately, from mainstream groups like the UN, about the problems of livestock-raising, including food animals’ strong negative effect on global warming – so we had plenty of ammunition. And the crowd was a somewhat different set of people than we’ve met before, so we were able to make first contact with established vegetarians and some people interested in trying vegetarianism, as well as give some eye-opening info to people who are not (yet). All in all, it was a very good event. And welcome to those of you who are receiving this issue of our newsletter because you signed up our “further contact” sheet. Hope to see you at a potluck!

Another issue which our group needs to consider is where to hold our Pre-Thanksgiving Feast this year. The last couple of years we have been at Unity Lutheran Church, which has a great kitchen and lets us use their dishes. But attendance has been a bit lower there than in the past, and the cost is not negligible ($300), plus there was a serious problem last year with the electrical equipment that we need for our Nescos. So we are investigating alternatives. One possibility is a County Park building in Wauwatosa, which has a nice ambience, holds up to 180, and has good electricity. We’ll discuss it further at coming potlucks.

M.A.R.V. ACTIVITIES

Sunday, May 6, 5 PM, regular potluck at the Friends’ Meeting House, 3224 N. Gordon Pl. in Riverwest (from Humboldt Blvd., go east on Auer a few short blocks to the parking lot). Topic will be book reviews (to be announced).
 

Subsequent regular potlucks will be on June 3, July 1, August 5, September 2, October 7, November 4, and December 2.

Other veg-friendly potlucks

The May macrobiotic potluck will be at Pat O’Neill’s house, 2431 N. Bartlett St., on Sunday, May 20 at 5 PM. Phone (414) 964-9759.

The Urban Ecology Center’s vegetarian potluck will be on Thursday, May 17, at 6:30 PM. Bring plate and fork as well as your meatless dish. Phone (414) 964-8505.

Call the Cloughertys at (414) 355-7383 to find out about a raw foods potluck.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

If you switch to vegetarianism, you can shrink your carbon footprint [plus other even worse greenhouse gases] by up to 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide a year, according to research by the University of Chicago. Trading a standard car for a hybrid cuts only about one ton – and isn’t as tasty… Given the amount of energy consumed raising, shipping and selling livestock, a 16-oz. T-bone is like a Hummer on a plate.”

-- Recent Time Inc. internet article.

NEWS

There were various issues concerning worrisome animal foods this month. An Iowa hog farm had a manure lagoon leak into a creek, with a resulting fish kill. Indonesia, as a center of human bird flu cases and also a less-affluent nation, has decided to resume sending samples of bird flu virus to the World Health Organization on condition that they not be shared with commercial vaccine producers. The FDA seems ready to approve the sale of milk and meat – not labeled as such – from cloned animals, to the outrage of animal rights people and the worry of consumers: chalk up another reason to be leery of eating non-organic animal foods. And China can no longer grow enough soybeans, due to feeding its soy to growing herds of pigs, poultry, and cattle, and is importing them from Brazil.

Meanwhile, research is increasingly linking rBGH-produced milk to increased cancer rates and more consumers want to avoid it, so dairies are increasingly labeling their milk as free of the drug – and Monsanto, which makes it, has filed a formal complaint against doing so. On a different note, beef producer Creekstone Farms, that wanted to test all its beef for mad cow disease instead of just a few cows as the USDA requires, has won a lawsuit to be allowed to do so after the USDA said it couldn’t…

Various issues surfaced this month regarding fish. An appeals court confirmed that the Bush administration has neglected efforts to protect endangered salmon and steelhead fish in the Pacific Northwest, while a University of Halifax study found that lack of protection for large sharks allows smaller fish which they prey on to overpopulate and then decimate the scallop beds which are these smaller fishes’ food. And the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) reported on a lab analysis which found high levels of toxic chemicals in a popular brand of omega-3 fish oil. So there are many reasons not to eat fish.

We thought only cats and dogs were in trouble due to contaminated food recently. But it turns out that the suspect ingredient was Chinese wheat gluten – which was also fed to livestock, and used as grain fertilizer in some countries, causing concern about products including imported breads, pastas, pizza dough, baby formulas, protein shakes, and energy bars. And this begs the question, Why is Chinese gluten an ingredient in products here?

Humane issues are only one of the reasons that people avoid meat, but the food industry is trying to respond. Burger King announced that it will only buy eggs and pork from suppliers who do not confine animals to cages and crates, while farmers who still raise veal are starting to get rid of crates and raise calves on pasture instead. Even some foie gras producers are seeking gentler ways of force-feeding birds. Why am I still not convinced to eat these products?

Water issues continue to make news. In South America there were major international meetings to discuss keeping water a publicly shared and controlled resource. In the U.S., the NY Times reported on plans to curb farm-to-watershed pollution in an effort to preserve and restore the waters and sea life of Chesapeake Bay, while in drought-stricken Western states various are underway to distribute water more fairly. And April’s Outpost Exchange focused on water issues, including the scarcity of fresh clean water in the world relative to demand, concerns about preserving the Great Lakes, individual conservation tips, concerns about water being safe to drink, and the problems of privatizing water and of drinking bottled water.

Turning to plant food news, I noticed an item about serious international efforts to save endangered crop seeds for the future. And the Organic Consumers Association’s newsletter listed the produce most and least likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues: the top ten to avoid are peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce, and potatoes; the ten least likely to be a problem are onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, mango, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, and papaya.

And of course, in many ways, plant foods are good for you. Organic Gardening magazine reported that a Rush University Medical Center study found that people who eat at least 3 servings per day of produce maintain brain function longer than those who don’t, with dark green leafy vegetables being the most protective. Conveniently, Delicious Living featured spinach as its produce of the month, full of vitamins and minerals (including calcium which is available if it’s cooked). And a Prevention magazine article responded to a lactose-intolerant reader by recommending leafy green vegetables and blackstrap molasses (as well as sardines, alas) as non-dairy calcium sources. This is especially significant for dieters, since there is increasing proof that eating calcium helps lose weight.

A review of several large, sound studies has found that eating dark chocolate does help control blood pressure – but tea and milk chocolate do not. Yet a new report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that cherries have even more antioxidents than chocolate or almonds, and may help prevent inflammatory disease such as arthritis as well as fighting heart disease and cancer (but buy organic ones – see above). At the same time, German researchers report that there still are beneficial antioxidents in tea – if it’s drunk black, without milk (lemon and honey are okay).

Delicious Living also ran an article about nutritional tactics for fighting allergies. These include eating berries, onions, garlic, apples, broccoli, tea, red wine, turmeric, all peppers, and of course green leafy vegetables, as well as walnuts, flax seeds, and other omega-3 fatty acid-containing foods, and possibly locally-produced honey.

Speaking of omega-3s, Prevention dared to explain that hemp seed is a superfood, full of excellent protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron, and vitamin E as well as mercury-free essential fatty acids (as opposed to mercury-contaminated fish, usually recommended as a source thereof). And PCRM’s magazine, Good Medicine, reported on a Pennsylvania State University study which found that plant sources of omega-3s help build strong bones.

Good Medicine also reported on food-related cancer prevention. Compounds in broccoli have been found to help destroy breast cancer cells, and fiber (available only from plant foods) also is protective, while diets high in protein but low in vitamin C increase cancer risk. And PCRM reports on correlations that have been found between breast, prostate,and colorectal cancers and elevated levels of insulin-like growth factor one (IGF-1, which is especially present in milk from cows given rBGH). But eating dark green leafy and red-orange vegetables helps decrease IGF-1.

Finally, Prevention offered dietary tips for several conditions. For weight loss, eating oatmeal, vegetable juice before meals, small amounts of nuts, green tea, and calcium foods were suggested (as well as portion control). B vitamins from whole grains and vitamin E (nuts, seeds, and oils) help preserve eyesight. And while simple carbohydrates can worsen one’s mood, complex ones in produce and whole grains, as well as protein foods, can help.

CONNECTIONS

A new book being published is called Six Arguments for a Greener Diet. It is written by Michael F. Jacobson and fellow members of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and is billed as a “meticulously researched examination of scientific studies” that prove eating more plants and less fatty animal foods to be healthier than the opposite – as well as leading to less food poisoning, water pollution, air pollution, global warming, and animal suffering. It is available from CSPI, but could also be ordered at any bookstore. Oddly, Jacobson does not describe himself as a vegetarian – yet he states unequivocally that the single most important dietary advice he can give is to go in a healthy vegetarian direction.

Fruits, vegetables, and other vegetarian foods play a key role in fighting disease and promoting health, but medical students do not always get the nutrition facts they will need to help their patients adopt better eating habits,” according to PCRM. To redress this situation, PCRM’s Dr. Brent Jaster has written Nutrition Guide for Clinicians, and I have already ordered a copy (availably priced at $17.95 plus shipping). The table of contents was printed in the recent Good Medicine, and it covers nutrition throughout the healthy life cycle as well as every possible kind of medical condition – and given PCRM’s vegan position, will automatically be vegetarian-friendly. PCRM is planning to make it available to every second-year medical student in the U.S. But anyone else can buy a copy too.

DIALOG

Several issues regarding food policy are currently needing public attention.

The FDA wants to stop requiring that irradiated foods be labelled as such. Irradiation is used to kill the microbes that cause food poisoning. But there is evidence that it degrades foods’ nutritional content, and consumers are justifiably leery of it. Yet instead of mandating the clean-up of livestock practices that are the root cause of food poisoning, the FDA wants to just irradiate food and not tell us. A website you can go to if you want to take action is: www.organicconsumers.org/rd/irradlabel.cfm

The USDA is proposing to require that each individual farmer raising certified organic produce be separately certified. But this is so expensive that it would drive cooperatives of Fair Trade small farmers, such as the producers of most of the world’s organic coffee, out of business, while favoring the big guys. You can let USDA know your opinion of this at: www.organicconsumers.org/rd/usda-coop.cfm

Similarly, the FDA wants to require pasteurization of “raw” almonds, which requires equipment costing $500,000 or more, and again would drive small farmers out of the market. Go towww.organicconsumers.org/ articles/article_4859.cfm

Finally, the largest producers of organic dairy foods are conspiring with USDA to keep standards on pasturing animals vague and unenforceable – which flies in the face of what organic means. OCA has a Safeguard Organic Standards webpage:

www.organicconsumers.org/sos.cfm