Good news folks! At least somebody is making money in this dismal bear-eat-bear economy, and guess what, it’s an agricultural company! Well…sort of.
I’m going to have to apologize for my inappropriate levity come Yom Kippur, but Monsanto “The Man” Company doubled their net income on seeds this last quarter. It hurts, I know, but it hurts us less than in hurts the soil in Argentina.
Analysts credit the rise in profits to an increase in corn production in South America. According to the article linked above, for every million new acres of corn (converted from soy production), Monsanto’s share goes up one dollar. According to some clever commentators on The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch, we ought to build an equation that estimates how many farmers Monsanto needs to sue at 50K per patented grain of pollen for the same increase.
The conference was something incredible. I feel so blessed to be a part of this growing community and movement, and I thank those of you who joined us at Asilomar and contributed in a myriad ways to the 3rd annual Food conference. I truly look forward to witness how we all take the next steps forward, through personal choices, communal activity, public policy outreach, the development of new educational opportunities, and ….
At the conference, I was given the honor of sharing my vision for the New Jewish Food Movement, and I thought I would also share it here. So, I have shared those words below. I hope you might get some inspiration from my vision, but more importantly, I hope you will be inspired to think of how your vision fits into Hazon’s work, and even share your vision here on JCarrot.
Happy New Year
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Today Obama announced Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa, as his pick for secretary of agriculture (yep, that’s really him up there. Republican’s aren’t the only ones who know how to field dress large mammals).
Mr. Vilsack has been described as everything from middle-of-the road to evangelical biotechnology-lover. In November, he described himself as out of the running, saying that the Obama administration hadn’t contacted him about the job. Today at a press conference, President-Elect Obama said he didn’t know where Vilsack got the idea that he wasn’t being considered. Regardless of where he got it, the announcement took the spotlight off of Mr. Vilsack and quieted the then-clamorous opposition to his nomination.
Read below the jump for more on Vilsack’s positions.
There comes a time in every food-conscious person’s life when he/she/ze realizes that there’s a little bit of stomach lining in every block of cheese. Who’s stomach lining, you might ask? Well, calf, kid or lamb, with the species of the stomach generally corresponding to the species of the milk.
Why stomach lining is perhaps your next question? In order to make cheese, you need to coagulate or “set” it, that is, separate the curds (solid proteins and fats) from the whey (liquid). Soft cheese is often acid-set with lemon juice or vinegar, which produces a loose, brittle curd, but hard cheeses need something a little more complex.
Enter rennet – every mammal has rennet in its stomach lining to help digest its mother’s milk. The rennet from a young, milk-fed animal’s stomach contains an enzyme called chymosin, which breaks down proteins in milk at a single point in their structure, and makes the resulting particles extremely attractive to one another– the result is the uniform texture of a hard or semi-hard cheese like cheddar or gouda or brie.
Rennet isn’t the only animal product in cheese either. Lipase, an enzyme that hastens the breakdown of fats and enhances flavor, is extracted from animal tongues. Seem kind of like a fundamental violation of that whole don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk injunction? Interestingly, it’s not.
Thanks to Keith Stewart for this guest post. Keith is a writer and farmer in the Hudson Valley. He owns and manages Keith’s Farm, a certified organic farm and CSA. He’s the author of It’s a Long Road to a Tomato: Tales of an Organic Farmer Who Quit the Big City for the (Not So) Simple Life. You can find him at the Union Square Green Market in New York City, where he sells his produce (both legible and edible) on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
These days heirlooms are all the rage. Especially, heirloom tomatoes. At our Union Square Greenmarket stand in Manhattan, this past summer, Brandywines, Cherokee Purples and Striped Germans sold for 50% more than the regular hybrid tomatoes that we also grow. Customers seemed eager to buy our heirlooms, which certainly do taste good (and, incidentally, are more finicky to grow and difficult to transport), but I often wondered if they knew just what it was they were forking out that extra cash for. Here’s a breakdown of the three types of seeds farmers use and what the differences are between them.
This year of the food crisis, we’ve heard a lot about world hunger in the newspaper and the blogosphere. As countries and as individuals with generally more and better access to more and better food, most of us probably feel imperative to help spread the wealth. The U.S.A., where I come from, is the largest food donor in the world, but this year, on World Food Day at the United Nations, the U.S.A. issued the world’s biggest mea culpa to the international community.
Former-President Clinton did the talking, telling the UN that he “blew it” on food. Not only did he blow it, the IMF blew it, the World Bank blew it, and the UN blew it. In the end though, that’s a lot of air, and not a lot of policy.
The word Monsanto tends to send shivers down my spine. Kind of like the scene in The Lion King, when the hyenas taunt each other by invoking the name of the dreadful king Mufasa:
Hyena 1: Mufasa!
Hyena 2: Ooooohooo, say it again!
Hyena 1: Monsanto!
Leah: Ooohooo, say it again!
The primary source of my fear comes from the series of lawsuits that agricultural corporation, Monsanto, has launched and won against small farmers for “stealing” the company’s patented Roundup Ready seeds, which had accidentally drifted from Monsanto-planted farms onto unsuspecting neighboring fields. (See The Center for Food Safety’s report for more). The lawsuits were just so screwed up and unethical, and the thought that they won many of them felt downright Orwellian – hence the uncontrollable shivers.
Recently, however, Jacobs Farm, an organic farm in Santa Cruz, launched a case of it’s own – and won! Their suit was not against Monsanto, but against a pesticide company whose chemicals drifted and contaminated a crop of organic herbs. A jury awarded the farm $1 million in damages. It’s a hopeful case – and a glint of hope from within the bleak landscape that Monsanto (ooohooo!) has created. Read the full story below.
(Hat tip to Emily Freed, a Jewish farmer who works for Jacob’s Farm, and is helping to plan Hazon’s Food Conference.)
You won’t notice it on the supermarket shelves or the tables of Jewish America this autumn, but both apples and honey are embattled, and by the same mysterious foe. I’m talking Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and if you think that name sounds like it’s describing a symptom more than a disease, you’re right. CCD, like the similarly vague Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Restless Leg Syndrome in humans, are all named for their symptoms because we don’t know their cause. All we know is that bees are disappearing, abandoning their hives and scattering to the winds, not making honey, not pollinating the flowers and trees, and those minute defectors could cost us far out of proportion with their size.
Even as we approach Tisha B’Av and the broken, darkness this time symbolizes, a bright light is shining in our food world.
Monsanto has finally admitted defeat in a 20-year struggle to gain acceptance of its genetically engineered milk hormone, rBGH (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, or rBST, recombinant bovine somatropin – trade name Posilac). Yesterday, Monsanto publicly gave up in the ‘milk wars,” when it announced that it was “pursuing a divestiture of its dairy product, POSILAC(R) bovine somatotropin, in the upcoming months.”
In 1994, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Monsanto’s controversial rBGH, but gave dairies the right to label milk produced without rBGH as rBGH-free. Since its approval in 1994, rBGH has been at the center of controversy.
“If there be magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” – scientist Loren Eisley.
I’ve always wondered why there was no special bracha (blessing) in Jewish tradition for water. Water is the source of life, I thought. As Eisley says, “Water…its substance reaches everywhere; it touches the past and prepares the future.” Water is magic. So where is its special blessing?
Thanks to Michael Green of the eco-Israeli blog, Green Prophet for this guest post and his take on the debate over genetically modified foods in Israel.
A headline in the Israeli press last week went a little like this: “Scientists, activists debate if genetically modified foods are panacea or plague.”
Sounds great, but where exactly is the ‘debate’? The article in question reads more like a press release for the GM lobby: ”Distribution of new, genetically engineered crops can help solve world hunger, but the question is where they are used,” said Hebrew University professor Ayal Kimhi. Absent from the 551-word article is the voice of GM-sceptics.
In fact, according to the trusted scientists, it is those who dare to question the merits of a risky and untested technology who are standing in the way of ‘progress’:
x-posted from All Voices.
Scene from inside a fancy restaurant circa 2015:
Man: (scanning the menu) – What are you thinking of getting dear?
Woman: Hmmm…pasta looks good, but I think I’d actually prefer a steak.
Man: Do you know where the meat comes from?
Woman: Of course! I always inquire about the source of the meat I eat. It’s from vat 13 at Acme Labs!
This scene may sound like fodder for a science fiction novel, but according to Wired, test tube meat may end up on consumers’ plates in the not-too-distant future.
Grown in bioreactors, the in vitro meat would be created to mimic the texture and flavor or real meat, from to ground chuck to filet mignon. As of now, scientists say that they have a ways to go before reaching the desired results – but they’re making progress. Wired reported: “Researchers can currently grow small amounts of meat in the lab, and have even been able to get heart cells to beat in Petri dishes. Growing muscle cells on an industrial scale is the next step.”
Local or organic? Farmer’s Market or Supermarket? And what about the GMOs? There’s a lot of talk — and a lot of confusion — these days, about our food. Around the world, people are starting to grapple with the negative impact that large scale, industrial Agribusiness has had over the past half century. As its legacy of soil erosion, polluted groundwater, and chemically-laden fruits and vegetables becomes clear, more and more people are choosing to support organic and local farmers. Emily Freed is one of those farmers. As the Assistant Field Production Manager of Jacobs Farm in Northern California, she’s responsible for over 250-acres of organic farmland. She’s also a Jewish activist who was recently named as one of the Heeb 100 in the category of Food. Despite it being her busy season (she was in the midst of moving about 6,000 lbs of herbs out of the farms each day when we caught up with her), she found the time to discuss the organic movement, the future of food, the connection between agriculture and the environment, and how it’s all related to Judaism.
The following is an excerpt from an article, “Be Fruitful and Save Seeds,” by Hazon friend, Rachel Kriger, which originally appeared in Tikkun Magazine [Sept./Oct. 2007].
Welcome to the beginning of the end of the growing season. This is the time of year where your weekly share of produce will be most abundant. Since the hard frost has not hit yet, we still have the summer crops and the beginning of the fall crops. This time of year is great for freezing, canning, pickling and seed saving.
What is seed saving? It is the process of extracting seeds from the best selection of our favorite, most resilient crops so that we can plant new seeds in the spring. This is what people did before seed catalogues and garden stores and supermarkets. When we lived off the land, we had to ensure that we would have crops every year.
Every vegetable crop has its own inner survival instincts; and as its growing season ends, each plant produces seeds to ensure its life in future generations. Agrarian humans have developed the knowledge to know how to extract the seeds, cure them and store them. They have even understood how to select for tolerance against pests or weather conditions, or simply for what tastes the bests and has good looks.