Scooped the New York Times
Well, that is probably an overstatement. But, in my last post on April 26, I discussed the problems Monsanto is having, and the increasingly negative research around the herbicide, Round-Up. Well, on May 3, the New York Times ran a lengthy article by By WILLIAM NEUMAN and ANDREW POLLACK covering the same research and topic. Granted, the article went into more depth, and had some wonderful graphics to explain the resistance situation. Yet, I covered it first here, so I maybe I’d better check their story again for plagiarism.
President’s Cancer Panel Suggests Organic Foods!
But, seriously, the paper did release some important news regarding the state of chemicals in our environment, including our food, and their impact on cancers.
As the New York Times column described this President-appointed panel, it is the “Mount Everest of the medical mainstream.” Columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote on May 5 about the report the panel will release today is “an extraordinary document,”…one that “calls on America to rethink the way we confront cancer, including much more rigorous regulation of chemicals.” This report could have the same impact that the Supreme Court’s decision to legally define CO2 as a “pollutant” had on environmental issues and many industrial practices.
Why? Because the panel is not a known environmental organization, not some left leaning alternative medical group, but one of the most trusted medical evaluators. It was formed and first staffed in 1971 by President Nixon. The current two-member panel, Dr. LaSalle D. Lefall, Jr., a professor of surgery at Howard University, and Margaret Kripke, a professor at University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, was appointed by former President Bush. They met with nearly 50 medical experts over several years before creating the report.
Their concern, though it sounds measured, will still leave the average person with questions. Since I have not been able to read the full text yet, I will save more comments for a later post. My main point here is that one of the key solutions to avoid problems is to eat organic food. The column stated that one of the panel’s recommendations read…
“Give preference to food grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers and growth hormones.”
Again, I am not a purist when it comes to the organic vs. conventional argument. I grew up surrounded by orchards (see below), and spraying was a regular event. We did close up the house and wait for a while until the spray had dried. But, still, realistically, I was exposed to higher levels of pesticides that anyone gets today… and I am still relatively healthy. So, while I grow my food and my farm’s produce organically, I was not sure that the chemicals absorbed eating a supermarket diet was a crucial problem. Now I am not as complacent. While I turned to organic growing methods for many reasons, this report seems to add more weight to the consumer side of this equation. It needs to be carefully communicated to, and considered by, the eating public. Yes, everyone.
But, more important is there seems to be at least a partial answer…the expansion and support of a local, urban and regional, food shed where producers (farmers and micro-farmers) sell directly to the end-user…you. Your food is fresher, you know who grew it and where it came from, and it probably tastes better. Meanwhile long-term issues, including energy use and transportation challenges facing the current world food network, are also addressed.
It takes more hands, so it might even create long-term jobs though it tends to be a physical, demanding career. Satisfying, but one that rides with the seasons, can be stymied by weather, and depends on a consumer willing to spend more time and money to get higher quality food. This report may push consumers in this direction.
Saving the Apple
As I mentioned, I grew up in Washington’s Yakima Valley, and apples were just part of my life. They were common in the acres of orchards surrounding my hometown. during my teenage years, I irrigated those trees, I kept them from freezing in early spring, and picked tons of fruit each fall. I fondly remember varieties such as the Winsap, McIntosh and Gravenstein.
A short article in the New York Times covered efforts to save heirloom varieties from extinction. The non-profit group, Renewing America’s Food Traditions (RAFT), has declared 2010 the “Year of the Apple.” RAFT is concerned that we are losing most of the old varieties to a select group of commercial choices. They are offering a 32-page booklet, The Forgotten Fruits Manual & Manifesto, written by Gary Paul Nabhan. Nabhan is best know for his 2002 work, Coming Home to Eat, and editing the more recent, Savoring and Saving the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods.
Just a couple of quick facts he presents in the booklet:
• He estimates we have lost 86% of what was once upwards of 16,000 named varieties.
• 11 varieties now have 90% of market…
•…and 46% of those are Delicious…almost half! Despite their name, they were really created to look good (“bright red and shiny”), have a consistent size, and ship and store well. Flavor is a minor consideration. I know because this is the variety I picked most often, while I looked for other varieties to eat…even then.
If you want to learn more, check the RAFT web site at www.raftalliance.org. Check “resources” and look for “The Forgotten Fruits Manual & Manifesto.” It is a free and downloadable PDF.
Finally, I hope to start soon two new series: An expansion of topics first covered in “Can Nurseries be Sustainable?”, and Green Industry Marketing, with strategies and topics to help nurseries, greenhouse, garden centers and landscape contractors identify, locate and reach potential customers, all the while continually communicating with their existing customers. Both aspects are important for the survival of green businesses.
Tags:apple varieties, apples, chemicals and cancer, farmers markets, health benefits of organic foods, heirloom varieties, heirloon apple varieties, home food production, local food movement, organic gardening, saving old apple varieties, sustainable practices, Urban agriculture