Guest post by Kathleen Barnes
As I prepare to put in my garden this year, I feel a little like some whacko-zombie apocalypse fanatic. I am on a fervent mission to find non-GMO seeds and plants.
It’s not as easy as you might think since Monsanto, the father of Frankenfoods and RoundUp (what a pair!) has not only managed to protect itself against lawsuits from consumers whose health is damaged by its GMO products, it has also managed to buy up most of the seed companies and insert genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into their products.
The day is not far off when it will be impossible to buy seeds that have not been modified.
Until very recently, Monsanto had targeted corn, canola, soy and cotton, but now its gobbled up the market for the seeds you and I plant in our backyard gardens. Monsanto now owns 90 to 95 of all seed companies in the U.S. While Monsanto says it has no intention of making all seeds GMO, I can only say: If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you.
Let’s back up a few weeks to March 29 when President Obama signed into law, which has been dubbed the Monsanto Protection Act. The bill allows Monsanto to promote and plant genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) seeds and precludes the courts for litigating any cases contending the products are unsafe.
This unprecedented legal protection also gives Monsanto a green light to continue producing and expanding its market for GMO crops and seeds.
The danger now is that according to US laws, Monsanto always wins, even if its experimental crops are proven to be hazardous to human health and even if they cause a runaway crop plague. Now, the American government has given away the judicial power to prohibit the planting and harvesting GMO crops in almost any case.
Zombie apocalypse, indeed!
GMO foods have been scientifically linked to obesity, diabetes, immune system alterations and impaired ability to digest protein. malfunction. The Bt-toxin introduced by Monsanto in the 1990s to kill insects has now been found in the blood of 67 percent of all women, 93 percent of all pregnant women and 80 percent of umbilical cord blood in their babies.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. At least we, as consumers, have the right to know what we’re eating. Well-financed corporate interests helped defeat the GMO labeling amendment in California. Washington state has a labeling initiative pending. More than 60 countries now requires GMO labeling, but not the U.S. This is everyone’s fight, so I encourage you to get involved.
Back home, I’m seeking out heirloom seeds and plants for my garden. I found a good list at Garden of Eatin’ that not only give us a very short list of seed companies that have signed a non-GMO statement for their products and a much longer list of those that are either owned by Monsanto or have at least some GMO seeds.
Today’s revolution is with our pocketbooks. Don’t buy products from companies that have bought into the Monsanto lie.
This is a complex issue that I’ll be visiting and re-visiting frequently in the future. Stay tuned. Your health and mine and the health of the planet for the next seven generations depends on it.
All content is written by Kathleen Barnes and may be used freely if unedited and attributed.
So just how much high fructose corn syrup are you consuming, anyway? If you regularly dine out or eat processed foods, the chances are high you’re taking in more than you might have ever imagined.
Back in the 1980s, when HFCS was a fairly new food ingredient, it was being touted as “better use of an abundant homegrown crop” in a trade publication ad for Cargill
headlined “How the newest ingredient in soda pop helps sweeten the pot for corn growers.” As the ad explained it, a $90 million expansion of the company’s facilities would, when completed, give it “a total capacity of 1.3 billion gallons of fructose a year … enough to fill a trainload that would stretch 154 miles.” Which is an awful lot of fructose – the very component that the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) has more recently tried to downplay in advertising claiming that HFCS is not really all that high in fructose after all.
But all that extra capacity has apparently been put to use, judging from the way HFCS has morphed way beyond “soda pop” into every conceivable food product that can be made. An example of just how much HFCS is being produced these days comes directly from the CRA itself, which noted in the most recent “Corn Annual” report that total shipments for HFCS for 2011 came to more than 19 billion pounds of the stuff.
Back when that ad ran, in 1982, USDA numbers for “deliveries” of HFCS only amounted to 26.6 pounds per person each year. But that number has been insidiously rising year after year as this test-tube sweetener has found its way into every kind of food, hitting the 60-pound-per-person mark in 1997 (interestingly, sugar intake has actually declined over the last century according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures).
So exactly how much HFCS do these various foods contain? Unless you’re privy to “proprietary” information, as it’s called in the industry, you really have no way of knowing. That’s also true of the actual fructose amount in whatever HFCS “blend” a manufacturer may be using. These unknown fructose concentrations are the subject of a current petition filed with the Food and Drug Administration by Citizens for Health, asking that the agency take action against food and beverage manufacturers using HFCS with fructose amount above 55 percent, the highest amount the FDA allows. (Read more about the issue here, and sign and support the Citizens for Health petition here).
Finding HFCS in everything from prunes to pickles
What we do know for sure is that HFCS turns up in some very unexpected places, such as the products below.
Progresso Bread Crumbs (Plain): The package says the these bread crumbs will “inspire your passion for the art of cooking…” with “authentic Italian taste,” but you’d be hard pressed to find an “authentic” Italian dish that called for high fructose corn syrup.
Sunsweet Prunes: Referred to on the label as “the American Super Fruit,” there is no doubt that prunes are a healthy as well as a sweet-tasting natural product – and one you would least suspect would harbor an unnatural sweetener like HFCS.
French’s Flavor Infuser 10 Minute Marinade: High fructose corn syrup takes the honor of being the very first ingredient in this concoction, even before water and tomato paste.
Kraft Catalina Anything Dressing: With the claim that it’s “fat free” appearing on four places on the packaging, this product is apparently intended to be used on more than salad, as the name implies. It also has HFCS is listed as its second ingredient, right after tomato paste.
Kraft Miracle Whip: Kraft calls this popular dressing a “secret blend,” but if you read the label you’ll find that it includes HFCS.
Vlasic Bread & Butter Pickles: HFCS is the second ingredient, right after cucumbers – demonstrating how easy it is to make a sandwich with HFCS in every single ingredient and not even realize it!
Mott’s Original Applesauce: Here’s yet another supposedly good-for-you-food bearing a major brand name that’s been adulterated with this cheap and unnatural sweetener. Fortunately, organic unsweetened applesauce is easy to find and just about the same price.
Krusteaz Cranberry Orange Supreme Muffin Mix: How “supreme” could the muffins made from this mix be with HFCS in them?
Heinz 57 Sauce: While the label asserts it will “add zest to steak, chicken & pork,” a glance at the fine print says it will also add HFCS, which is the second ingredient in this sauce after tomato paste.
Campbell’s Healthy Request Vegetable Soup: Also masquerading as a “healthy” product while containing high fructose corn syrup is this new version of an old standard recipe, whose label claims that’s it’s “M’m! M’m! good…for your heart.” But a study, done at that University of California at Davis, found that adults who consumed HFCS for two weeks as 25 percent of their daily calorie requirement had increased blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, indicators of increased risk for heart disease. And in 2011, researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University concluded that high fructose consumption by teens can put them at risk for heart disease and diabetes.
The upshot is that despite industry claims that high fructose corn syrup is fine “in moderation,” the fact that so many diverse types of popular food products have been spiked with it makes consuming “moderate” amounts highly unlikely – unless you’re in the habit of carefully scrutinizing the ingredients of every processed food you buy (or of purchasing organic products). Not to mention that there may well be even higher levels of fructose in many of those items than you’ve been led to believe.
You might even say there’s a whole trainload of it just waiting for you in the supermarket.
Adapted from Beyond Nuclear, fellow coalition member of the Fukushima Fallout Awareness Network
Citizens for Health, along with the other coalition members of Fukushima Fallout Awareness Network (FFAN), filed a petition with the FDA to drastically reduce the amount of radioactive cesium permitted in food, from a ridiculous 1200 Bq/kg to 5 Bq/kg (see why here, read why here). The Bq (Becquerel) is a measure of radioactivity. The FDA is now accepting comments on our petition and every person’s voice counts, so leave a comment in support here!
Our petition asks for a binding limit of 5 Bq/kg of cesium 134 & 137 combined in food, nutritional supplements, and pharmaceuticals. This is necessary because of continuing exposure to radiation in the wake of the ongoing catastrophe at Fukushima, where reactors are still releasing radioactivity, along with atomic bomb testing and routine releases from nuclear power plants. We also ask that testing be widespread and, when technologically feasible, measurements below 5 Bq/kg be taken. Through this effort we would like a database of contamination levels to be established and maintained, with information relevant to researchers, so that movement of the cesium radionuclide in our environment can be tracked since it tends to biomagnify once released.
The current US FDA recommendation – which is not a binding law – for cesium 134 & 137 radioactivity in food is twelve times higher than the limit in Japan. Curious and deserving concern, the Japanese standards before Fukushima were significantly more stringent. Before Fukushima, nuclear waste material above 100 Bq/kg was required to be monitored and disposed of in specialized containers. The new (after Fukushima) limit for debris in the “wide area incineration” program is 240 to 480 Bq/kg. Today, Japan limits the cesium 134 & 137 radioactive contamination in food to 100 Bq/kg and the US FDA recommends that cesium 134 & 137 radioactive contamination in food be kept below 1,200 Bq/kg.
In post-Chernobyl Belaurs studies, reutersbandazhevsky-1, it appears that just 11 Bq/kg of internal cesium contamination can make children suscepitble to heart problems. At 50 Bq/kg, children can start to have permanent tissue damage.
Additionally, in a 2011 report, IPPNW 2011 Report, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), Germany, has determined that the European Union cesium limit of 370 Bq/kg for babies and 600 for adults is woefully unprotective. Such high limits for cesium could be responsible, in combination with other man-made radioactivity such as strontium-90, plutonium-239, and iodine-131 (cesium-137 is a sentinel indicator for the presence of these other isotopes and often does not exist without them), for roughly 150,000 additional cancer deaths in Germany alone if people consume only products contaminated to the maximum permissible limit. This number does not account for incidence of cancer nor any other wide-ranging diseases or genetic disorders radiation could cause.
The highest limit in Europe is half of the 1200 Bq/kg of cesium that the FDA recommends as its action limit. We should note, however, that the US recommendation comports very closely with the 1250 Bq/kg limit for most foodstuffs proposed by EURATOM (European Atomic Energy Community), the body of the EU that promotes nuclear power.
The IPPNW report recommends a 4 Bq/kg limit of cesium-137 and a 4 Bq/kg limit of cesium-134 for children, limits very similar to the 5 Bq/kg we are asking the FDA to implement for everyone. CFH believes it is impractical for the US to have one standard for adults and one for children – it would be difficult to regulate & add to the cost of implementation, so the standard should suit the most vulnerable. The IPPNW report recognizes this fact.
FFAN coalition members, including CFH, will be spearheading public participation initiatives in support of this FDA petition, adding more supporting material through petition addendums, and help educate the public, the FDA, and Congress on the issues. Stay tuned for upcoming updates and Action Alerts!
Sign (add your support through a comment) the Citizen Petition to the FDA here.
Make your voice resonate by signing this petition, Say Bye Bye to Becquerels! as well, which FFAN has created for the general public.
Reading a food package sounds like it should be pretty easy, doesn’t it? You simply pick it up and learn about the product that’s inside. But there’s a war going on in food labeling, a conflict between the words and images that call attention to the package and its actual contents, which manufacturers typically would rather you didn’t scrutinize. So they try their best to ‘sucker’ you in with containers that shout out, in Three Stooges fashion, “Hey, look over here!”
Of course when you shop for “real” food in the produce section or the farmers’ market, there is typically no packaging to read — the food sells itself, so to speak. But when you look at what’s inside most “food-like substances,” as author Michael Pollan calls them, you can see why such diversionary packaging is needed.
So what are some of the ways manufacturers entice us into buying products using misleading claims and pictures? Here are a few examples:
4C Totally Light Green Tea Mix
The hook: antioxidants and ‘green tea’ itself. Green tea has become a favorite of health-food enthusiasts due to some amazing ingredients called catechins and, in particular, EGCG, that appear to be some of the best things a body can consume to ward off numerous diseases and other ailments.
The truth: “antioxidants” is a broad term. The package says each serving contains 70mg of “antioxidants,” but it doesn’t specify what kind are in this drink, and whether they come from the EGCG that make green tea so desirable or merely from the vitamin C that has been added in the form of ascorbic acid. And since this product also contains an artificial sweetener, it can hardly be described as a health drink.
The take-away: The best information I’ve yet seen on this subject came from Men’s Health magazine, which had 14 green tea drinks analyzed for total catechin content and found that Honest Tea green tea with honey came in on top with 215 mg of catechins and 71 mg of the powerful antioxidant EGCG. To see the entire list (on which 4C is not included), click here.
Yoplait Greek Frozen Yogurt
The hook: Greek yogurt with “2X the protein of regular frozen yogurt.”
The truth: If you read my blog last week, you’re already aware that Greek yogurt is a very controversial item and frozen Greek yogurt even more so. It’s possible that frozen yogurt can contain live cultures (the reason we eat yogurt in the first place), but since frozen yogurt can possibly have acidifiers added in the manufacturing process and even undergo heat treatments, it doesn’t necessarily contain live and active cultures by the time you consume it.
While the big selling point on this product is that it has twice as much protein as conventional frozen yogurt, a closer look at the fine print reveals the statement that the “protein has been increased from 3.5g to 7g” per serving, but most likely not from “real” Greek yogurt, but from “milk protein concentrate,” or MPC. As noted last week, this is an undefined, unregulated ingredient that can come from animals other than cows and is the subject of a current legal action against Yoplait and its parent company General Mills for another one of its so-called “Greek” yogurt products.
The take-away: If you are eating yogurt for its health benefits, you’d best stick with a plain, organic variety and dress it up with your own fruit and flavorings.
True Lemon “Lemon for Your Water”
The hook: “100% natural,” “made from lemons.” Water additives are currently all the rage, and this one claims to provide an all-natural way to “flavor the day your way.”
The truth: While the box makes a big point about the product beginning “in the grove with fresh lemons selected for their superior taste,” the first ingredient is citric acid, which is almost always derived from corn, not lemons, made using a mold that feeds on corn syrup. The process of making citric acid from corn also produces manufactured glutamic acid (MSG) as well. The product also “contains soy,” which is hardly something you’d expect to find in a lemon grove.
The take-away: Most water flavorings contain some undesirable ingredients. If you want more than plain water, it’s not all that difficult to make your own flavored versions – eloquently known as “spa water” – as described here.
Hunt’s Tomatoes Sauce
The hook: “100% natural” (with depictions of fresh tomatoes) plus the supposed reliability of a long-established product from a big-name brand.
The truth: Tomato sauce should be one of the simplest of all products – made from ripe tomatoes – which is the impression that you might get when you see a brand like Hunt’s on the shelf. Unfortunately, that’s not often the case. This particular product, is made not from fresh tomatoes, but from “tomato puree” – meaning reconstituted industrial tomato concentrate, along with more citric acid, an ingredient called “tomato fiber,” and unspecified natural flavors. (It’s somewhat revealing that the product name appears to be simply “Hunt’s Sauce,” with the word “TOMATOES” stuck in in a tiny, practically invisible font.)
The take-away: While there are a lot of ‘not-so-great’ tomato sauce products out there, you can also find some really good, organic varieties. Watch out for “tomato puree” which is basically reconstituted tomato paste, and don’t let products with that ingredient fool you with pictures of fresh tomatoes, either.
So the answer to how to read a food package is quite simple: rather than focusing on the claims and graphics the manufacturer wants you to see, go right to the ingredient label. And if that appears to be a list of things that don’t sound like food, just put the item back on the shelf and find something made from real ingredients instead.
Just what are “happy calories”? If you have no idea, Coca-Cola is only to glad to fill you in on the principle of caloric contentment.
The world’s largest beverage company wants you to know that the excess calories you gain from guzzling its flagship product Coke are really your friends, ready to be spent on “extra happy activities” such as dog walking, laughing and dancing.
If that seems kind of bizarre, the fact is that its “I just want to be OK” commercial, which has been airing in prime time, is said to be one of the ways Coke is addressing “obesity head-on.”
By bringing a familiar “calories in, calories out” message to consumers (one Corn Refiners Association President Audrae Erickson has been fond of conveying in her appearances over the last few years), the soft-drink giant has been doing its part to spread the word that that “…all calories count, no matter where they come from, including Coca-Cola.,” but can be easily worked off through all kinds of recreational pastimes.
Of course, there are scores of consumers and health professionals who would call those calories in Coke, which come from high fructose corn syrup, distinctly ‘unhappy’ ones that may ‘count’ in ways we hadn’t counted on.
For example, health guru and integrative medicine pioneer Andrew Weil, M.D. calls HFCS “a direct driver of obesity in kids,” and something he predicts is “going to turn out to be one of the very worst culprits in (our) diet.”
And Dr. Mark Hyman, bestselling author, practicing physician and chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, notes that the consumption of high fructose corn syrup, which went from zero to over 60 pounds per person per year, has coincided with “obesity rates (that) have more than tripled and diabetes incidence (increasing) more than sevenfold” – a correlation he believes “cannot be ignored.”
In fact, if you look at “delivery” data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), it wasn’t until 1968 that HFCS first appeared as a little blip on the data chart, coming in at 0.1 pounds consumed per person annually. By 1978 we were sucking in 10.8 pounds per person per year, and it was all uphill (or downhill) from there, hitting an annual high in 2002 of 62.9 pounds of HFCS consumption per capita.
By contrast, our sugar intake has actually declined over the last 100 years, with folks in 1909 consuming over 73 pounds per person annually, rising to 101 pounds by 1969, only to drop almost 40 pounds per person by 2011 with the corresponding rise in HFCS use.
And if you’ve ever wondered how much actual HFCS might be in that soda, we’ve actually gone to the trouble of measuring out the amount of this test-tube sweetener that can be found in various ‘syrupy’ drinks (which, as we’re pointed out before, are not “sugary drinks” in spite of how many times you see them mistakenly described as such). The results are shown below.
The point is that while sugar may be sugar, it is not high fructose corn syrup (as was made clear last year by the Food and Drug Administration) – and just as a teaspoon of high fructose corn syrup is not the same thing as “a spoonful of sugar” (or a sugar cube), neither can the calories found in these two very different sweeteners be said to affect us the same way, in the opinion of many experts.
So while it may once have been fairly easy to “work (or play) off” the calories in a truly “sugary drink” and “be OK,” it may not be quite so simple with one whose caloric content comes from HFCS.
Perhaps someone ought to tell the folks who market Coke.