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Archive | Eco-Living & Health

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 →

Book Review: Exploring the Truth Behind Food Labels

Organic Book Review

Organic: A Journalist’s Quest to Discover the Truth Behind Food Labeling by Peter Laufer, Ph.D.

Organic: A Journalist’s Quest to Discover the Truth Behind Food Labeling, by Peter Laufer, Ph.D.

Review by Chris Walters

One day Peter Laufer’s wife, Shelia, brought home a bag of organic walnuts from Trader Joe’s. The nuts were rancid. Well, these things happen occasionally. Before returning them, Laufer took a look at the label. “Product of Kazakhstan,” it read. Kazakhstan? Really? A seasoned world traveler, veteran journalist and nobody’s fool, Laufer knew more than most people about the pervasive corruption of the remote central Asian nation, ruled by a capricious dictator ever since the Soviet Union crumbled. He decided to investigate.

Around the same time, the Laufers purchased a can of New Directions organic black beans at their local independent, Eugene, Oregon’s Market of Choice. The labels designate them as coming from Bolivia. Laufer’s antenna vibrated wildly. He knew Bolivia’s picaresque charms intimately from reporting on the cocaine wars. If not quite a dystopian hellhole like Kazakhstan, it was nonetheless a place riven by poverty, criminality and exploitation. Those beans were highly suspect. After inquiries to Trader Joe’s and New Directions yielded replies that amounted to “We’d rather not tell you anything,” Laufer heard the journalist’s call of the wild. Recalling the recent conviction of Harold Chase, an Oregon farmer who faked organic certificates and almost got away with hundreds of thousands in illicit profits, Laufer realized he had a global mystery to unlock. And it went straight to the heart of a business that generates tens of billions every year on the promise of selling millions of people food worth eating. Continue Reading →

Avoiding Sunlight May Backfire

Avoiding Sunlight May BackfireExposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight is often cited as a cause of skin melanomas; however, research from Sweden suggests that low vitamin D levels caused by avoiding sunlight may be just as dangerous. The research, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, found that women who avoid sun exposure are at an increased risk of skin melanomas, with a two-fold increased mortality rate compared to those with the highest sun exposures. The finding is the result of a longitudinal cohort study involving 29,518 Swedish women over 20 years.

This article appears in the July 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Mitigating Nitrogen Pollution with Eco-Farming

Fighting Nitrogen PollutionChemical compounds containing reactive nitrogen are major drivers of air and water pollution worldwide, and hence of diseases like asthma or cancer. If no action is taken, nitrogen pollution could rise by 20 percent by 2050 in a middle-of-the-road scenario, according to a study published by scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Ambitious mitigation efforts, however, could decrease the pollution by 50 percent. The analysis is the very first to quantify this. “Nitrogen is an irreplaceable nutrient and a true life-saver as it helps agriculture to feed a growing world population — but it is unfortunately also a dangerous pollutant,” says Benjamin Bodirsky, lead-author of the study. In the different forms it can take through chemical reactions, it massively contributes to respirable dust, leads to the formation of aggressive ground-level ozone and destabilizes water ecosystems.

This article appears in the July 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.