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Archive | Eco-Living & Health

Book Review: Tales from the Industrial Pork Complex

Pig Tales Book Review

Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for Sustainable Meat by Barry Estabrook

Book Review:  Pig Tales: An Omnivore’s Quest for
Sustainable Meat

by Barry Estabrook, review by Chris Walters

“One Iowa pig accosted her owner in a pasture, and through grunts and nudges, led him to a barn where she had just given birth. The farmer assumed she was showing off her brood, but when he turned to leave after congratulating her on her nice piglets, she blocked his way, then walked over to her automatic watering spigot. She activated it, but no water came out. Even though he had never touched the spigot in her presence, the sow knew he would be able to fix it.”

Barry Estabrook’s previous book told the story of tomatoes, a source of nutrition with no observable capacity for learning. Despite the horrors of the labor abuses documented in that work (Tomatoland), and despite the arguably more egregious labor abuses documented here in the chapters on slaughterhouse workers, it is the pigs themselves that raise the stakes in Pig Tales. Described by a researcher as roughly equivalent to a bright three-year-old toddler, pigs generate anecdotes like the one above all the time. Their high level of sentience, illustrated by their feats of memory and intuition, throw into bold relief the ill treatment they’ve received at the hands of people. Putting to one side the matter of killing and eating them, for centuries we heaped opprobrium on pigs merely because they like to roll in dirt, a habit that makes sense, it’s more or less in their natural context. Nevertheless understandable that we made their name synonymous with slothful, disgusting behavior. When we really added gross injury to insult was the last few years, when we devised novel and innovative ways of torturing them. Continue Reading →

Take the Pain Out of Farming

Take the Pain Out of Farming

Eric Elderbrock and crew working on his farm near Madison, Wisconsin.

by Jack Wax

The animals that should be treated with the greatest care on most farms aren’t getting the attention they need. It’s not the health of livestock that is being overlooked: It’s the humans out in their fields or gardens all day or taking care of their animals. Farmers start out young and strong but as they age, they are more likely than other groups to suffer from joint problems, painful backs and bad knees and hips.

Everyone already knows that farming is one of the most dangerous ways to make a living. Safety around large animals and heavy equipment is a life and death matter. But few farmers consider the long-term health effects of day-to-day lifting, kneeling, stooping, twisting, shoveling and weeding — the activities that define the workload of most organic market farmers. The result? Approximately one-third of farmers and ranchers are limited by arthritis, according to the USDA AgrAbility Project. Surveys of farmers in the United States and other countries show that as farmers age, they not only suffer musculoskeletal problems but that their aching, damaged joints make them more prone to serious accidents.

The flip side is that the physical demands of farming can be a good thing. Young farmers can grow into old, healthy farmers. Back pain can be avoided; arthritis can be prevented or delayed, and daily aches and pains can be tolerated without developing into major joint or muscle disorders. But it won’t happen by chance. Experts agree that to stay healthy, farmers, such as 26-year-old Eric Elderbrock and his peers, need to be aware of the potential damage they are inflicting on themselves and learn how to take care of themselves. Continue Reading →

Glyphosate Under the Gun — World Health Organization Weighs In

Thyroid Cancer Incidence Rate

by ANDRÉ LEU

The Lancet Oncology, the world’s premier scientific journal for cancer studies, recently published a paper by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that has classified glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) as a “probable carcinogenic,” outlining several scientific studies showing that it causes a range of cancers including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, renal cancers, skin cancers and pancreatic cancer.

Seventeen independent experts, with no conflicts of interest, from 11 countries met in March at the IARC headquarters in France to assess the carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon and glyphosate. All of these chemicals were given classifications for their ability to cause cancer based on published peerreviewed scientific studies. Continue Reading →

Pickling on the Farm — Adding Value to Vegetables with Lacto-Fermentation

Kimchi production at Whistling Duck Farm.

Kimchi production at Whistling Duck Farm.

by Kirsten K. Shockey

“There’s a propane leak.”

“What?” I said looking up from the 80-quart bowl that had swallowed me up to my elbows. My mother’s husband stood in the doorway of our fermentation kitchen. His eyes were scanning the room. I pulled my hands out of shredded cabbage and salt. “We don’t have propane,” I said.

He continued glancing around the room. “Well then it must be natural gas. The smell is strong. It’s a sizeable leak.” His tone conveyed the gravity of our situation. “Our whole house smells like natural gas.” He and my mother live in a home built above our fermentation kitchen and accompanying aging rooms, the “kraut caves.”

“We really don’t have any propane on the property,” I explained.

He shook his head. “There’s a leak,” he said again. Continue Reading →

Natural Gene Selection for Orange Corn

cornPurdue researchers have identified a set of genes that can be used to naturally boost the provitamin A content of corn kernels, a finding that could help combat vitamin A deficiency in developing countries and macular degeneration in the elderly. Professor of agronomy Torbert Rocheford and fellow researchers found gene variations that can be selected to change nutritionally poor white corn into biofortified orange corn with high levels of provitamin A carotenoids — substances that the human body can convert into vitamin A. Vitamin A plays key roles in eye health and the immune system, as well as in the synthesis of certain hormones. “This study gives us the genetic blueprint to quickly and cost-effectively convert white or yellow corn to orange corn that is rich in carotenoids — and we can do so using natural plant breeding methods, not transgenics,” said Rocheford.

This article appears in the January 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Interview: Poisoning Paradise for Profit — International Organic Authority, Author & Farmer André Leu Shatters the Myths of Safe Pesticides

André Leu Interview

André Leu

André Leu interviewed by: Chris Walters


Over the years a queasy complacency has replaced the alarm once triggered by the subject of pesticides. While millions of people strive to avoid using them or eating food containing residues, many millions more accept their continued use in the belief that agricultural chemicals are understood, regulated and used with discretion. André Leu’s new book, The Myths of Safe Pesticides, demolishes these notions with a steady stream of hard facts derived from solid science. He puts a hand grenade into the layer cake of wishful thinking, and there isn’t much left after it goes off. As he explains, Leu was moved to write the book by repeated exposure to a series of mistaken ideas about pesticides, massaged into the public mind by public relations professionals working for industrial ag concerns. He hears these dangerous misapprehensions parroted far and wide as he travels the world in his capacity as president of IFOAM, the international organic umbrella group. Hailing from Queensland, Australia, Leu raises tropical fruit in a bucolic spot where the tropical rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. His activism on behalf of sustainable farming brought him increasing prominence over several decades, leading to his current post. He is a longtime friend of Acres U.S.A.

ACRES U.S.A. Every so often an apologist for mainstream agriculture takes the line that Rachel Carson and her supporters overstated the problem, since their apocalyptic fears of pesticide effects were not borne out in the decades following publication of Silent Spring. DDT was banned, better chemistry came on the market, integrated pest management techniques evolved, and so on. The world didn’t end. What do the facts really tell us?

ANDRÉ LEU. The reality is that after generations of increasing life expectancy, we’re at the point now in the developed world where we are looking at the first generation that will have a shorter life expectancy than ourselves, so we can see that something clearly isn’t right. If you look at the U.S. President’s Cancer Panel report, it clearly says that 80 percent of cancers are caused by what we call outside environmental influences, of which chemicals are one of the most considerable causes. That is also backed up by the International Agency for Research on Cancer which says breast cancer, for instance, is at an epidemic level when we measure the number of women getting it and the number of women dying. In the developed world we have much better medical intervention, so we’re getting higher survival rates. In the rest of the world, where they don’t have our level of medical care, there’s incredible mortality. The United Nations’ World Health Organization maintains an environmental program looking at endocrine disrupters, particularly diseases of the sexual tissues. Those cancers are on the rise — birth defects, lower reproductive rates. Across the board we can see negative health outcomes as a result of chemicals. This is borne out by good, peer-reviewed science. It’s not dogma, it’s published, peer-reviewed science, meta-studies by the WHO and findings of the President’s Cancer Panel in the United States. We’re talking about some of the world’s best experts getting together, reviewing all the data and presenting their findings. They cannot be discredited and ignored. Continue Reading →