Friday, February 25, 2011

Round Up Associated With New Pathogen!

Monsanto's Roundup associated with frightening new organism. 
Dr. Don M. Huber, a plant pathologist experienced in protecting against biological warfare recently warned the USDA of a brand new, self-replicating, micro-fungal virus-sized organism that is implicated in spontaneous abortions in livestock, sudden death syndrome in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soy, and in Monsanto’s RR corn. It is found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready soybean meal and corn, distillers meal, fermentation feed products, pig stomach contents, and pig and cattle placentas.

Dr. Huber, is the coordinator of the Emergent Diseases and Pathogens committee of the American Phytopathological Society. In a recent letter he warned Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that this new pathogen threatens the US food and feed supply and could possibly lead to a collapse of the US corn and soy export markets. In the letter, the professor called on the federal government to immediately stop deregulation of roundup ready crops, particularly roundup ready alfalfa. He said, deregulation of GE alfalfa “could be a calamity,” in his letter (see his full letter below).

As we told you in a previous post ( ), on January 27, Vilsack gave approval to all genetically modified alfalfa. Following orders from President Obama, he also removed buffer zone requirements. This is seen as a deliberate move to contaminate natural crops and destroy the organic meat and dairy industry which relies on GM-free alfalfa. Such genetic contamination will give the biotech industry complete control over the nation’s fourth largest crop. It will also ease the transition to using GE-alfalfa as a biofuel.

Below is the full text of the letter: 

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

A team of senior plant and animal scientists have recently brought to my attention the discovery of an electron microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings. Based on a review of the data, it is widespread, very serious, and is in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn—suggesting a link with the RR gene or more likely the presence of Roundup. This organism appears NEW to science!

This is highly sensitive information that could result in a collapse of US soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies. On the other hand, this new organism may already be responsible for significant harm (see below). My colleagues and I are therefore moving our investigation forward with speed and discretion, and seek assistance from the USDA and other entities to identify the pathogen’s source, prevalence, implications, and remedies.

We are informing the USDA of our findings at this early stage, specifically due to your pending decision regarding approval of RR alfalfa. Naturally, if either the RR gene or Roundup itself is a promoter or co-factor of this pathogen, then such approval could be a calamity. Based on the current evidence, the only reasonable action at this time would be to delay deregulation at least until sufficient data has exonerated the RR system, if it does.

For the past 40 years, I have been a scientist in the professional and military agencies that evaluate and prepare for natural and manmade biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks. Based on this experience, I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status. In layman’s terms, it should be treated as an emergency.

A diverse set of researchers working on this problem have contributed various pieces of the puzzle, which together presents the following disturbing scenario:

Unique Physical Properties

This previously unknown organism is only visible under an electron microscope (36,000X), with an approximate size range equal to a medium size virus. It is able to reproduce and appears to be a micro-fungal-like organism. If so, it would be the first such micro-fungus ever identified. There is strong evidence that this infectious agent promotes diseases of both plants and mammals, which is very rare.

Pathogen Location and Concentration

It is found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready soybean meal and corn, distillers meal, fermentation feed products, pig stomach contents, and pig and cattle placentas.

Linked with Outbreaks of Plant Disease

The organism is prolific in plants infected with two pervasive diseases that are driving down yields and farmer income—sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soy, and Goss’ wilt in corn. The pathogen is also found in the fungal causative agent of SDS (Fusarium solani fsp glycines).

Implicated in Animal Reproductive Failure

Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of this organism in a wide variety of livestock that have experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility. Preliminary results from ongoing research have also been able to reproduce abortions in a clinical setting.

The pathogen may explain the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions over the past few years in US cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations. These include recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.

For example, 450 of 1,000 pregnant heifers fed wheatlege experienced spontaneous abortions. Over the same period, another 1,000 heifers from the same herd that were raised on hay had no abortions. High concentrations of the pathogen were confirmed on the wheatlege, which likely had been under weed management using glyphosate.


In summary, because of the high titer of this new animal pathogen in Roundup Ready crops, and its association with plant and animal diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions, we request USDA’s participation in a multi-agency investigation, and an immediate moratorium on the deregulation of RR crops until the causal/predisposing relationship with glyphosate and/or RR plants can be ruled out as a threat to crop and animal production and human health.

It is urgent to examine whether the side-effects of glyphosate use may have facilitated the growth of this pathogen, or allowed it to cause greater harm to weakened plant and animal hosts. It is well-documented that glyphosate promotes soil pathogens and is already implicated with the increase of more than 40 plant diseases; it dismantles plant defenses by chelating vital nutrients; and it reduces the bioavailability of nutrients in feed, which in turn can cause animal disorders. To properly evaluate these factors, we request access to the relevant USDA data.

I have studied plant pathogens for more than 50 years. We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders. This pathogen may be instrumental to understanding and solving this problem. It deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure.


COL (Ret.) Don M. Huber
Emeritus Professor, Purdue University
APS Coordinator, USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System (NPDRS)

GMO Beer

GMO Corn in Beer 

Apparently a little known secret in the brewery world is that you may be drinking GMO beer if you purchase from non-craft breweries. Many of the larger breweries are using 35% malt and 65% adjuncts in their beers. That adjunct is usually rice or corn derived. Unless using organic corn, there is an 85% chance the corn used will be genetically modified (GM).  Therefore, there is a good chance that your general brewery beer may be made from GM corn. Small craft breweries usually use malt for most of their beer and of the 4 craft breweries I called in my area only one used any corn-derived products and that was in one lone lager beer. Unfortunately, they were using market corn, which means it has an 85% chance of being GM corn.

Home brewers may be using GMO's in their brewing. Some of them use genetically modified (GM) corn in the form of dextrose in the processes of making beer. Although not used so much by home brewers to brew their beer, it can be used towards the end of making the beer. To get the fizz that is in their beer, carbonation is often created by feeding a sweetener to the somewhat "flat" beer while it is in an oxygen free environment. This causes the yeast to create CO2 and is one method to carbonate beer. Many home beer makers use malt or dextrose as a sweetener to create carbonation. Dextrose gives little flavor to a beer and is sometimes chosen for this fact. Unfortunately it is usually made from GM corn. I have used malt, dextrose, cane sugar and honey to carbonate beers. However, when I recently tried to get organic dextrose for this process, I was told there was no longer any organic dextrose on the market. I can use organic cane sugar or malt in its place. I can also use other sweeteners. What I use depends on the flavor I wish to impart at the end. I suggest not using dextrose as a method of carbonating your beers since you can't get GMO free dextrose currently.

GMO Barley in Beer Soon

Additionally there are other GMO beer problems brewing on the horizon. Above, I mentioned the use of malt in beer.  The type of malt that is used most is malted barley. Beer making has traditionally used three main ingredients: water,  sweetener and herbs (More recently only hops has been used as an herb and largely malted barley as a sweetener.). Although we now use other grains and many people have went back to including other herbs in their beer making process, barley is still the number one grain used to brew beer. In Germany there are trials underway to make a GM barley seed. They are trying to create a barley plant that can defend itself from the pathogenic fungi Rhizoctonia solani and Rhizoctoniea oryzae. Unless we tell our beer makers we refuse to drink GM beers, they appear to be in our future. Even if you make your own beer, the GM barley malt may replace all other malt available.

We need to make our voices heard. If you make beer, don't purchase the GM dextrose at your local brew shop. Tell them you want organic and ask them about alternatives if you use dextrose or other corn products in your beer brewing. Tell your brew shop you also want organic malts available and let them know you are concerned about the GM barley being currently tested in Germany.

Friday, February 18, 2011

GMO Salmon: A bill to stop their release!

The FDA knows that GMO salmon are less nutritious, more likely to cause cancer or trigger allergies, and have a higher rate of deformities than normal fish. Yet it appears the FDA may allow the biotech industy to introduce GMO salmon into ocean factory farms.  Rep. Young's bill, H.R.521, would prevent the FDA from approving dangerous GMO fish. Go to the following link where you can write your representative and ask them to support HR 521 and keep GMO fish out of our waterways.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Herb & Nutritional Supplements: What is That Capsule Made From?

Herbal and nutritional supplements are often consumed as capsules. Do you ever wonder what that capsule is made from? Here is the skinny on those used most often. At the end I tell you how I take powdered herbs and give you a link to a pdf the gives other choices of forms you can take herbs in.

Gelatin capsule: This is the capsule you see most often on the market. Derived from hydrolysis of collagen extracted from animal  connective tissue. It is mostly from bones and skin of cattle, and pigs. Usually capsules are made from beef gelatin. There are three main stages to making gelatin. They are pretreatment with an acid (usually acetic acid) or an alkali, extraction of the gelatin and purification and drying. They are of course not appropriate for vegetarians or for people concerned about eating byproducts of animals that have eaten genetically modified food or people concerned about Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease (human form of Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis (BSE) Mad Cow disease).

OceanCaps, Caplique: These capsules are being made from what they are calling fish gelatin (skin, bones and fins) . The capsugel website lists OceanCaps as being made from farmed fish. I called Douglas Labs and they said their Caplique is also made from farmed fish. Tilapia is the fish usually used. I am sure you realize that farmed fish flesh is not healthy for you. It usually contains a higher level of toxins than wild fish and they do not contain the healthy essential fatty acids found in the wild, cold water fish. I can't find research on the level of toxins in the fish gelatin but I am a bit concerned about it and I don't like supporting the farmed fish industry. That being said, there is  that concern about the BSE possibility in the standard gelatin. This concern might make a person choose a fish gelatin capsule over the standard bovine/porcine gelatin capsule. The processing to produce fish gelatin is similar to mammalian gelatin although there are often some differences to get similar gel properties. Sometimes additional enzymes are used or different salts to get a better gelatin.

This type of capsule is being used to encapsulate many of the fish oils now. I suggest you take your fish oil in liquid form, not capsule form. It should also be refrigerated. For more details on farmed fish and healthy types of fish oils go to this recent blog:

Vcaps, and other vegetarian caps are made from hypromellose.  (AKA hydroxy propyl methyl cellulose or HPMC) Hypromellose is made from wood pulp. Pulp can be manufactured using mechanical, semi-chemical or fully chemical methods.  I asked Capsugel which method was used to make their Vcaps.  After repetatively being told for three weeks they would get back to me soon, I gave up on them ever really telling me. From what I can see most wood pulp is usually manufactured in China. Knowing that makes me more concerned. Although hypromellose is considered non-toxic, in reality it has not been studied for ingestion.   These are starch-free, gluten-free and preservative-free, and meet the strict dietary needs of vegetarians. They are also Kosher and Halal certified.

Softgel type caps: These usually consist of  a gelatin or starch or carageenan. Carrageenan is the hydrocolloid obtained by extraction with water or aqueous alkali, from some members of the class Rhodophyceae(red seaweeds), and a plasticiser.  The plasticiser may be glycerin and or sorbitol.

Here is the problem I have always had with these sofgel types. The product inside is heated to some degree by the process of the outside shell being sealed around the ingredients and depending on the amount of heat and the product, this may damage the ingredients in the softgel.

Liquid capsules:  The capsule may be gelatin or hydroxypropyl methylcellulose. Methylcellulose is plant fiber and often from wood pulp like the Vcaps listed above. They require no binders, fillers, plasticisers used in  softgels tablets and some other capsules. They dissolve better than softgels.

How I take powdered herbs: I  simply put the dose of powder on a spoon and swallow followed by drinking water. Be careful not to inhale powders while swallowing. This bypasses the need for packaging of the herb. Powdered herb is less expensive than encapsulated herbs which is nice if you are trying to save money. You can do this with many nutritional products too if you can find the powders for sale. I realize not everyone can take powders. People with trouble swallowing would be bothered. Children will not like the taste and may not be able to do it. Elders may also have trouble. If you can take powders easily, the spoon and water methods works great. However, if you have some reason that capsules work better for you, choose products from companies that use capsules you feel OK ingesting. Many companies have new capsules in the wings waiting to be birthed. Perhaps something better will appear soon.

How I take oils: I only use liquid nutritional oils packaged in bottles. Not only do I bypass the packaging problem of capsules, but I can smell the oil to see if it is rancid this way. Many of the oils are rancid unless they used refrigeration, or chemicals to keep them from oxidizing in the bottle. The encapsulation process itself can heat up the oil and cause it to go rancid quicker. See this blog for details on fish oils.

Here is information that explains the advantages and disadvantages of various forms of herbal products.
Some additional capsule info:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Many herbs to be illegal in the European Union

I am watching carefully what is happening in the European Union with their Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD).  I am watching this knowing that officials in our government have tried to similarly make herbs and vitamin/mineral supplements illegal in our country except by prescription. They have attempted this more than once in our countries past. Indeed that last time was the early 90's when I was one of the many people who fought the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act that started as a way for Big Pharma to control herbs and nutrients in the general market by making them prescription only &/or putting other limits on them.  Even if you don't know much about the act, you know the public won the right to continue purchasing herbs and nutrients without prescriptions and still enjoys this right today. We only have this right today as many of us were outraged and did something about it. However, they are still lurking and still planning some way to convince the public that for their own protection herbs and nutrients should be regulated and only prescribed by licensed practitioners. If the EU government is able to pull this off I am sure there will be a similar attempt here in the near future.

After April 2011, many herbal products and food supplements containing herbs will become illegal to sell in the European Union. This is because of changes in law at a European level. On April 30th, 2011 the THMPD comes fully into force. After this time, only herbal medicines that have been registered will be available EU-wide. For a wide range of herbal products, especially those from non-European traditions such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, the requirements of the registration are either impossible to meet or are prohibitively expensive. In many cases, both constraints apply so the result is that virtually no herbal medicines from these traditions have been registered. These products will effectively be banned after April 2011. The ban will also effect medicinal herbs in food supplements, which are used by many thousands of people across Europe to help maintain their health.

The Alliance for Natural Health is getting ready to take the EU to court if the EU does not listen to their citizens and make changes in the directive. They aim to challenge the EU Directive (THMPD) based on the fact that it is disproportionate, non-transparent and discriminatory. To get additional details from the Alliance for Natural Health click here:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dangers of Grapefruit Seed Extract

There is still widespread usage of grapefruit seed extract (GSE) within the health food industry, including its use by well meaning practitioners. This continues even though research would lead one to believe grapefruit seed extract is neither natural nor safe. It is being used without people realizing it may actually be dangerous due to additional chemicals other than grape fruit seed constituents being in many of the products for sale. Research leads one to believe that it is these chemicals and not the grapefruit seed itself that is active against microbes.

Note the following information:

In 1999 a study authored by (Sakamoto, Sato, Maitani, and Yamada) analyzed commercially available GSE and compared it to an ethanol extract of grapefruit seeds they made. The researchers report that two chemicals were found in GSE that were not in the ethanol extract. They were methyl-p-hydroxybenzoate and triclosan. These are two commonly used preservative compounds. Another study in 1999 followed this one.  (Von Woedtke T, Schluter B, Pflegel P, et al) They analyzed the antimicrobial efficacy of six commercially available GSEs and one extract they made from the seed and juiceless pulp of grapefruit (Citrus paradisi). The researchers found that five of the commercial extracts had significant antimicrobial activities, all of which contained the preservative benzethonium chloride. Three of these same extracts were also found to contain the preservatives triclosan and methyl parabene. The researchers found that only one of the commercial GSEs tested had no preserving agent, but that this extract as well as the extract they made had no antimicrobial activity. The researchers concluded that the antimicrobial activity being attributed to GSE was due to the synthetic preservative agents contained in them and not the grapefruit seed.

Benzethonium chloride is commonly used as a preservative in cosmetic products. However, it is a potentially harmful compound, and is not approved for internal use in the United States. The MSDA sheet says it may cause cancer based on animal test data. The National Toxicology Program Technical Report Series of 1995 showed Benzethonium chloride to be a possible endocrine disruptor, and that it many cause cancer. Other studies in the past show it to cause other various problems. In Switzerland benzethonium chloride is classified as a disinfectant categorized as a class 2 poison because of its teratogenicity and caustic effects. The amount found in some GSE products is as much as 8% according to research by Takeoka GR, Dao LT, Wong RY, Lundin RE, Mahoney NE. 2001. This is much more than many cosmetic products.

Triclosan is structurally related to a number of bis-phenyl polychlorinated and bis-phenyl chlorophenol compounds that you have heard a lot about recently in the news and I am sure you realize they are not healthy.

Triclosan is listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a pesticide. It is widely used in the cosmetic industry, especially in antibiotic soaps, and may be a factor for the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Researchers are finding it in wastewater, in the tissues of fish, and even in human breast milk (Adolfsson-Erici M, Pettersson M, Parkkonen J, Sturve J. 2002.)  Even though it is approved for topical use, it is not approved for internal use in the United States.

I have old information from an industry insider that showed their grapefruit seed extract to be extracted as follows:  "It is synthesized from the polyphenolic compounds in grapefruit seed and pulp by numerous chemical reactions (including distillation, catalytic conversion and ammoniation). The active component of (our product) is a quaternary ammonium chloride (a diphenol hydroxybenzene reacted with ammonium chloride) similar to benzethonium chloride when analyzed in accordance with USP XXII/NF XVII."

As far as I am concerned, GSE is neither natural or safe to use. It is interesting that the seed and pulp extracts made by researchers had no antimicrobial activity. I myself have never bought or used GSE due to the negative research that exists. I find most people do not know about the research and use this product thinking it is natural and safe. Please send this blog to people you know who need to be educated.

Oregon Direct Farm Marketing Bill

No clear regulatory structure exists for the preserves and dried grains/legumes we buy at the farmer’s market.  Thus, regulations are subject to the interpretation of inspectors, who can decide that a particular dried food is not safe to sell, for example, or require licenses for certain foods.  Oregon House Bill 2336, The Direct Farm Marketing Bill, clarifies rules for the sale of these things in a safe and cost-effective manner, keeping the best interests of both the farmer and consumer in mind. 

Please consider writing your Oregon House Representative this weekend if you support this bill.  Send a statement in support of HB 2336, and a nice word or two about farmers’ markets and buying directly from a farmer to underscore the bill’s purpose. Any additional positive stories are nice too.

The bill will go to the House floor any day now, so time is critical.

You can find your representatives phone and email here at:

To learn more you can read the bill at

To learn more, please read Anthony Boutard's report on the bill below:

HB 2336: The Direct Farm Marketing Bill

The “Direct Farm Marketing Bill” has passed out of committee February 7th and is going to the floor of the Oregon House of Representatives for critical vote. We need people to call their representatives and urge a ‘yes’ vote on HB 2336. The phone number and email for your representative can be found at: Here is why this bill is important.

Over the last two decades, agriculture in Oregon has seen a marked increase in venues for selling agricultural products directly to the consumer. Farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture (CSA), and buying clubs have increased without a clear place in the regulatory structure. Historically, roadside stands selling produce, eggs and honey have been treated as exempt from licensing, but these new venues stretch that definition. HB 2336 provides necessary statutory guidance on this issue with a balanced and sensible regulatory approach to direct marketing. The provisions of the bill are the result of a year’s worth of meetings between the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Oregon Farmers’ Market Association, farmers and legislators. This working group was chaired by Representative Matt Wingard.

The bill identifies foods that, from a food safety perspective, are regarded as either non-hazardous, or minimally hazardous, and that can be safely produced by the farmer and sold directly to the consumer without licenses or inspection. With the help of ODA staff, these definitions are tightly drawn. Foods that pose a greater hazard, such as sprouts, low-acid canned vegetables and fruits, and baked goods, are not included and must be processed in a licensed facility. The bill includes labeling requirements so the food can be traced to its source. It must be stressed that farmers’ market rulesstill prevail, regardless of licensing requirements. These organizations will still determine who can participate in the market, and what they can sell.

With its provisions regarding preserves and pickles, this bill provides room for innovation at a small-scale. New ideas invariably start at this level whether it is in someone’s kitchen or garage. Allowing farmers to try out new products at a small, manageable scale is an important step in fostering innovation. HB 2336 also includes a provision that allows the ODA to expand the list of foods that can be prepared at the farm, consistent with food safety. With the $20,000 annual limit on sales of these foods, the bill set up a clear threshold where the farmer must shift into a licensed facility. Finally, the ODA can withdraw the exemption in cases where the public health is deemed in jeopardy.

The bill is currently going to the House floor. The lobbyists for the NW Food Processors and the Farm Bureau will likely try to stop this bill on the House floor. It is critical that citizens express their confidence in the farmers’ markets by calling or emailing their representative. The floor vote will be in a matter of days, so the contact needs to be made quickly. All that is needed is a statement in support of HB 2336, and a nice word or two about farmers’ markets and buying directly from a farmer to underscore the bill’s purpose. If you can relay a positive story or experience, even better. Legislators like to hear they are doing something positive, especially this session when they being called upon to cut services.

Once again, the contact information is at:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Garden Blog Series: Growing Onions

This is the first of the Garden Blogs. I will be posting blogs on various plants I am working with at my farm throughout the year to help you grow your own food and herbs. I will include photos of events as they are happening. On the right are onions from the 2010 harvest. 

 In my area I like to have my onion seeds and leeks started before the end of February. Don’t worry if you don’t get the seeds started in time, simply purchase onion plant starts (plants) or sets (bulbs). Sometimes you can find leeks as starts too.

Make sure you plant the correct type of onions if you want to get full sized bulbs. If you are going for scallions or green onions it does not matter. In our area we need to plant long day varieties. Long day varieties are planted above the 36-degree latitude and require over 14.5 hours of daylight to bulb. Short day varieties are planted south of 36 degrees and require 12 to 13 hours of light to initiate bulbing.   Day neutral varieties can be planted anywhere in the United States. They need to be started in a warm environment. The optimum temperature is about 75 degrees. I start them in a greenhouse but you can start them in your house. If starting them in your house, once they are sprouted and growing they should be transported to a cold frame outside where they will get plenty of sunlight but still be protected from the cold. If you have a sun porch where they are protected from frost that would work also. Any area where they get plenty of sunlight and are protected from frost will be fine.

I start my seeds in a good-sized, dark colored pot and I fill it with healthy soil halfway up the side. The dark color helps provide heat from the sun and leaving space at the top will protect the plants later when I take them out of the greenhouse to let it toughen up before planting. We get some cold winds here sometimes in the spring and it is helpful to have that protective windbreak from the top of the pot. I have done it with and without the protection of the pot and those with the protection do better.

Here is the process. I sow the seed in the greenhouse. I spread all seed thickly in my pot half filled with soil. I plant the seeds ¼-1/2 inch in the soil. I do this by spreading them thickly on top of the soil and then I scatter ¼-1/2 of soil on top of them.  I then tamp it down gently and water it. They should germinate in 3-14 days depending on the temperature. They germinate best at temperatures of 70-80 degrees. However, they will germinate if it is at least above 50 degrees. It will just be slower.

They germinate and grow in the greenhouse until it is warm enough to plant them out. They are moved outside where they can be hardened in a cloche or if the weather is not bad, I set them in a sunny, wind protected area for a minimum of a few days. Then I transplant them in the garden. If you are growing your new onions in a cold frame or unheated sun porch or other cool, protected area you will not need to harden them off. Don’t cut your tops off like you might buy them from a retailer. This is not necessary and will slow them down. The retailer does this to help with the root damage that has happened to the ones you purchase. Yours grown from seed will not have root damage when carefully transplanted from their pot to the garden bed. 

Do not grow your starts in your house if possible. They will not get adequate sunlight and will have too much heat. This causes them to grow spindly and be weak. The new windows being used in houses now are built to decrease the ultra violet light necessary for plants so they may get so little light that they are very sickly. Even the old windows that let in UV light are usually not enough to grow a healthy plant. Additionally, the artificial light in your house at night confuses the plant, as it is not a normal light cycle for them. Turning on lights in your house when it is dark will send them a message that it is a different time of year and confuse them. If you have to grow plants inside, do it in front of a south facing window that does not have the low UV glass. Also you can add ultraviolet lights above your plants but make sure to turn the light off when the sun goes down and do not have any other light on in that room. If you give them extra light at night they will think it is summer and time to make bulbs.  You will get tiny little bulbs.

If you are purchasing onion sets (little bulbs) here is what you need to pay attention to. Make sure you get the correct variety (long day, short day, day neutral) for your area. Be aware that if the bulbs are larger than ½ inch in diameter and have been stored at temperatures of 40 degrees to 50 degrees most of them will bolt on you and you will not get nice bulbs. Onion sets need to be stored above freezing (33 degrees) or above 65 degrees. If grown between these two temperatures they will bolt. It may be hard to know if the onion set you are purchasing from a retailer has stored them appropriately. If you don’t know, make sure you purchase bulbs that are less than ½ inch in diameter as the temperature will start affecting them when they are larger than ½ inch. You may be tempted to buy the biggest bulbs but that may lead to them bolting if they were stored incorrectly.

When planting onion starts or bulbs outside, make sure they have fertile, well drained soil. The best ph is about  6 – 6.8. If your soil tends to hold water and puddle, they will not be happy. Adding compost will help in that case. Plant them about 4-6 inches apart.  Basically, give them the room they need to grow. They also need to have enough water.

When it is time to harvest the onions, I will write a blog on when and how to harvest as well as curing and storage of onions. If you have questions about getting them going, let me know.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Grassroots Movement Against GMO’s Is Underway!

In December last year, the USDA approached members of the organic community and asked them to quit filing law suits against the release of GMO seeds into our environment and to coexist with GMO foods. The USDA said if they would allow Monsanto to plant the GMO alfalfa and  not oppose the planting of it in court that the USDA would set up a system were non-GMO alfalfa crop growers could get some compensation when there was pollution of their crops and there would be some geographical restriction as to where the GMO alfalfa plants could be planted.

This year on January 21st Whole Foods sent out an email to all their customers and Friends on Face Book that said they were going to compromise with the FDA. They said coexistence was the best we can get from the UDSA on the issue of GMO’s.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA) members asked OCA if they were going to allow industry leaders such as Whole Foods, Organic Valley and Stoney Field, to accept coexistence with GMO Alfalfa and other GMO foods?

This led the OCA to write the blog article “The Organic Elite Surrender to Monsanto, What next?” However, within one hour after publishing this blog, the USDA published their decision to allow alfalfa with no restrictions at all. It has been said that the Whitehouse told the USDA that they they wanted Monsanto to be able to plant GMO alfalfa with no restrictions at all. This is contrary to rulings of federal courts, and warnings of scientists.

There are 23 million acres of alfalfa.  15% of all crop land is planted in alfalfa. Until now 93% of alfalfa growing has not been sprayed with herbicides. Now with the alfalfa fields being planted with Round Up resistant seed they will be more likely to spray these fields with herbicide. This will increase the use of herbicides in the United States on this 15% of crop land and thereby increase the pollution of our land and water. It will increase the appearance of what is called super weeds.  Alfalfa puts out a lot of pollen so it will cross-pollinate all the fields near it and move Round Up Ready alfalfa seeds into organic fields. Since all the dairy cows and goats are usually fed alfalfa, there will be a complete invasion of GMO alfalfa into all alfalfa including organic alfalfa. This means all milk producing animals will be eating GMO’s eventually. This is bad news for those of us who consume milk.

OCA believes this is a premeditated act on Monsanto’s part to pollute all Alfalfa in an effort to force the organic community to weaken and allow GMO alfalfa into organics. This would then give them a door into organics that allows all GMO seeds to be allowed by the organic community in the future. Monsanto has been trying to get the organic certifying bodies to allow GMO food since the beginning of GMO seeds. It is their expectation that when their seed pollutes all the organic fields and there is only GMO alfalfa in existence that the organic farmers will not be able resist them. However, organic farmers will continue to resist GMO food. We need to be sure to do all we can to support farmers if we don’t want to continue the march of GMO food into our food chain. It is imperative that we get GMO food labeled immediately.

In the early 90's the first GMO foods came on the market. When Monsanto executive Norman Brasnick was asked about labeling of  these new GMO foods during an interview with Kansas City Star, he said putting a label on GMO food was like putting a cross and skull bones on the packaging.  They know this would destroy the GMO market. They will fight labeling until we force it on them. So force it on them we must! It is obvious that the federal government is not out to protect our interests.

Watch Dr. Mercolas most recent interview with OCA Founder and Director Ronnie Cummins here and learn more about how the Obama, Bush junior, Clinton and Bush Senior administration has created a revolving door between the FDA, and Monsanto as well as the USDA and Monsanto and other governmental jobs and Monsanto. Ronnie Cummins gives a long list of people who work at Monsanto that have been given federal government jobs and states the nasty things they have done while in the federal government to unleash GMO food upon the public. You really want to hear this. It would be unbelievable if not for the fact that it is all verifiable and true. Monsanto donates huge amounts of money to many of our officials running for federal offices. We can complain and change who we vote for, but believe me much of the federal government ihas been bought out by biotech and we are not being listened to. Where we have the most power is in voting with our pocket book. Make sure you are not buying GMO’s. If we do not buy them, the manufacturers of packaged food will quit buying them from farmers and farmers will stop growing them.

We have to pressure the food stores to educate their customers and label GMO foods and prepared food products as containing GMO ingredients. It is simple enough for them to do. They need to let their customers know that the word “Natural” does not mean organic and products labeled “Natural” often contain GMO ingredients. (Many people think natural and organic are the same.) Next they need to place the following three words below all packaged foods that are not certified Non-GMO and are not organic but contain corn, soy, canola oil, cotton seed oil or beet sugar (may contain GMOs). It is really this simple to start change.

So what do you do if your stores refuse to label GMO food. The next step is local government. We can  pass laws at the local level in our states, counties, and towns since the federal government has been taken over by the biotech companies. Start with your retail store. If you don’t get results from your grocery stores. Get local laws passed that require grocery stores to put up signs that say may contain GMOs on the shelf below appropriate products. This will be much easier to do than you think. Polls show 93% of people want food to be labeled for GMO’s. It would be easy to pass this in many local areas. It just takes action on our part. If your local government officials are not interested and you have a local ballot system, use it. In many areas of the U.S. you  can get petition signatures from citizens and put this on your local ballot for citizens to vote on. Since most citizens want GMO food labeled, you will be able to get this implemented if you put it on the ballet.

While waiting for the stores to make changes tell everyone you know about alfalfa being contaminated and that the Whitehouse not only allowed this, but insisted on letting Monsanto plant GMO alfalfa with no restrictions! Send this blog out to everyone on your email list. If you want to see all milk contaminated with GMO’s including the organic raw milk you purchase from your local farm, just put your head in the sand and pretend this is not going on and that will be the final result in a few years. We must all refuse to eat GMO’s. We must only buy the big 5 foods if they are organic or certified Non GMO. ((soy, corn, cotton seed oil, sugar beets (sugar from sugar beets) and canola oil)) We must make sure our friends, family and neighbors are doing the same. We can do this and it is not even hard. It is a matter of reading labels and not buying anything with possible GMO’s. This includes asking at restaurants about these foods being in their dishes and telling them you do not want to eat the food there anymore if they do not quit buying GMO foods. They will tell you it is hard to purchase non-GMO food for the top 5 GMO ingredients and indeed it is, but guess what, they can do it if they make the effort. Tell them to buy local non-GMO produce.

 If you think your health has been unaffected by the GMOs that were unleashed on our country since 1994, think again. Watch the videos at this website:

Do you have unexplained digestive problems, or inflammation in your body. Aches and pains that you can’t figure out the cause of. The little amount of research that has been accomplished without Monsanto hiding it might lead us to believe the increase in chronic degenerative diseases is due to GMO food flooding our market.  Here is some prior information from my earlier blog about health concerns with GMOS.

Why be concerned about GMOs (genetically modified organisms)? Well let’s look at the warning sent out by the American academy of environmental medicine last year to its physicians.

They told their constituents to advise their patients to eat only non-GM (genetically modified) food.

They warned that the GMO animal feeding studies show reproductive problems, organ damage, gastrointestinal problems, immune system problems, and accelerated aging. You can see their position on GMO’s here at

Studies with animals have shown a 5-fold increase in infant mortality, smaller babies, sterile babies, and inability to have babies by third generation.

There is only one human feeding study currently published. GMO soy was used in this experiment. GMO soy is designed to not die when sprayed with round up spray. It is called round up ready soy. When the people in this study digested food made from GMO soy, the genes inserted in the soybeans they ate transferred into the DNA of the bacteria inside the human subjects. These human subjects now had round up ready gut bacteria. We don’t know if the round up ready soy DNA that transfers to our gut bacteria will they stay there forever or if it may even splice into our own DNA. We don’t know since the research has not been required to be done by the FDA.

Here are some resources and places to get more information:

The Non-GMO Shopping Guide:

Jeffrey Smith’s site, who has been the leader in educating the public about GMOS:

Non-Gmo Labeling Site – see who is selling Non-GMO food and find out about labeling:

Talk to your neighbors, people you work with, those in your church or spiritual community. Talk to everyone who will listen about GMO food!

Join Millions Against Mansanto:

Send this blog to everyone on your email list!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Food Safety From the Sustainable Farmers View

The FDA was created to protect U.S. citizens. However,  many retired FDA officials go to work as special advisors to the pharmaceutical and food industry. In fact the  FDA (Federal Drug Administration), and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) officials  frequently retire from office to take lucrative jobs at the companies they were regulating. Sometimes they even go back to the FDA or USDA again later in their career.

Many people naively think the FDA is more interested in protecting them than Big Pharma or Big Agriculture. Guess who they really end up protecting when push comes to shove. If you said big business you win a prize. FDA officials have been caught taking money from big business on numerous occasions. Who knows how many are smart enough not to get caught. The fact that there is a revolving door between pharmaceutical companies and the FDA is well known. Many people think the "FDA Food Safety Modernization Act" is going to increase food safety. I hope they are right but if history continues as in the past, I don't have high hopes for the FDA protecting us in the manner they could. Although there are some very well intentioned people working at the FDA, they are not running the show. The new bill changes make it easier for the FDA to implement control on the food market, but I am concerned about how they will be doing that. Time will indeed tell. In the mean time there are organizations who have pointed out very specific steps we need to take to really make our food safe, nutritious and enjoyable. The National Sustainable Agriculture  Coalition is one such organization that is committed to food safety.  

They have put out the following list as being necessary for a safe food system. 

Sixteen Food Safety Tenets for Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems

1. Food safety is noncompetitive and transparent. Everyone who lifts a fork has a right to safe and healthy food, just as they have a right to choose foods based on the qualities most important to them. ‘Food safety’ should not be a competitive marketing food-trait, lest the most vulnerable people end up with access to only the least safe food, or simply fewer choices. Every person has a right to expect the safest possible food, and a right to absolute transparency about its production processes, no matter what they can afford to pay for it. Completely open, public information about what makes a food ‘safe’ is not negotiable.

2. Effective food safety strategies must be global in reach and effectiveness. ‘Think globally, Act locally’ means that we are all connected, and the consequences of any strategy or intervention must be considered in the context of a global network of relationships. Threats to food safety in any given locale can originate globally. Likewise, the livelihoods of farmers all over the world can be threatened as a result of ill-considered action in any particular locale, region, or nation.

3. Assessment and reduction of risk is at the core of assuring food safety, at every level. All participants in agriculture must be effective assessors and managers of risk. This is made possible through training, education and empowerment of all farmers and farm workers to understand the risks that can enter the process at critical points existing in their operations.

4. Total elimination of risk may be an idealized goal, but is unachievable -- food safety requires constant vigilance and continual improvement. Statements about “zero tolerance” make good public relations copy but are a distraction from the real work of minimizing risk. The changing and interactive nature of microbial pathogens, farm chemicals and other residues of industrial production, coupled with changing human immune tolerances, make grandstanding over ‘zero tolerance’ and ‘eliminating risk’ unrealistic and misinformed. Eradication of pathogens is a scientifically impossible goal, the pursuit of which often sacrifices localized, mid-scale processing capacity. Effective minimization of risk is a more appropriate expectation as compared to the false hope promised by zero-tolerance strategies.

5. No raw food product is inherently risky in and of itself. Risk is an equation with many variables, including the method and manner of production, handling, processing, distribution, delivery and preparation. There is no ‘dirty dozen’ with respect to food. Just because a particular preparation of a crop might be risky (e.g. bagged salads), that does not mean that all production of that crop is risky. The life cycle of a food product, how it is treated throughout all of the stages from production to consumption, is the prime driver of the level of risk that product may carry forward to the end consumer.

6. Concentration in and of itself carries tremendous risk. Food processing and preparation is often done in concentrated facilities, sometimes several days, weeks or months prior to a “use-by date.” Food is then shipped all around the nation and the planet. The risks inherently associated with this far-reaching chain of activities have not been adequately explored, contributing to the tendency to pass responsibility back to farms and farmers. The consequences of concentration and global distribution need to be fully explored and integrated into risk assessment and enforceable food safety best practices.

7. Food safety begins at the farm, on every farm. All farms, farmers, and farm staff, from the owners to the most transient farm helpers, have a role in producing safe food. Respect for farmers and concerns of farm workers is a critical foundation of any food system, and is essential to building and maintaining customer confidence in our products.

8. We are all responsible. Along the paths from the farms to individual kitchens, food can change hands, change ownership and form many times. At every turn, risks are introduced that far exceed those resulting from most on-farm activities. Public health requires awareness and effort from each of us, even in our own kitchens. Ultimate vigilance at the farm will not demonstrably reduce risk further along the supply chain. Efforts to unnecessarily push concerns back to the farm often hurt farmers and do little to assure food safety.

9. We cannot test our way to acceptable food safety. Testing along the chain of food production and distribution yields data necessary for the understanding and abatement of systemic risks. Data are needed from many critical points along the food chain to support scientific inquiry, continuous improvement and better practices. However, over-emphasis on testing disproportionately burdens smaller producers and processors while yielding only marginal results. In an equitable food system, testing is not a “cost of doing business,” but a public health requirement, and should be funded and administered in a way that does not unduly increase the negative impact on smaller operations.

10. Effective policies and practices are rooted in science and proven systems of production. An open, ongoing and transparent scientific effort to understand risks and alternative interventions is needed. The reality of an ever-shifting landscape of microbial pathogens, in which new risks emerge regularly, requires open-minded scientific inquiry and sharing of research on best practices. Scientific concepts such as vegetative buffering, the effects of biological diversity, and the potential for diverse, beneficial microbial populations to act against pathogenic microbes, deserve equal consideration alongside traditional, reductionist, “search and destroy” approaches. In pursuing evidence-based solutions, we cannot afford to leave any stone unturned or ignore the stones turned over by any solid scientific effort.

11. Food safety includes chemical and physical hazards, in addition to food-borne pathogens. While the major focus of food safety is often the reduction of health risks associated with microbial, food-borne pathogens, solutions must also address physical hazards posed by chemicals, antibiotics, and other processing and packaging residues. Though such hazards may have slower, longer-term effects than microbes, they often pose more expansive threats and cannot be ignored in a comprehensive food safety strategy.

12. HACCP as used in food processing facilities is not appropriate on farms. Although risk is managed and reduced at critical control points, true HACCP is most valuable when applied to controlled environments such as manufacturing plants. Farms are biological systems and have few uniform ‘control points’ where HACCP can be relevant or effective. However, HACCP can provide a valuable framework for systematic thinking in the development of any on-farm food safety plan, and in risk management training programs.

13. Federal efforts to enforce minimum standards of food safety must be integrated and respectful of state and local government stakeholders. Establishment and enforcement of baseline standards, especially in areas of greatest known risk, is an important responsibility of government. Federal, state and local agencies need to work together in a consistent fashion to tailor enforcement that is appropriate and effective in light of local and regional realities, reinforcing a multi-stakeholder process of continuous improvement.

14. Government intervention alone cannot achieve absolute protection of public health. Unless we are to cede to our government unlimited resources along with abdication of our civil liberties and freedom of choice, government entities cannot guarantee safe food by themselves. Support of a democratic, small-business-friendly food system will require many other effective layers of ongoing activity and cooperation in addition to government intervention. The role of government regulation should be limited to those loci of risk that are most universally understood and far-reaching in impact.

15. Overextended regulation and intervention will harm all players in the food system. Adding disproportionate expenses to farms and food producers that already depend on slim margins will reduce opportunity and create barriers to entry for producers of all scales. Overextended regulations will undermine private and voluntary systems of training and continuous improvement, and will undermine any sense of “shared responsibility” among all food-system players, ultimately harming the public the regulations purport to protect.

16. A healthy societal attitude toward risk is essential to understanding and achieving a safe, secure, and sustainable food supply. It is in the very nature of risk that it can never be eliminated altogether and often increases in unintended places when reduced in others. The many routine risks in daily life far exceed those associated with ingestion of any food or encounter with our modern food system. This does not excuse any actor from responsibility to do the best possible job in bringing safe food to the public. However, it serves as a reminder that the cost-benefit ratio can easily turn against public well-being and must be closely observed. Sustainability is a progressive attitude affecting not only the production, processing, and marketing of food, but also its consumption and enjoyment. Such an attitude would suggest that the reality of “safe, clean food” exists largely in the increasingly educated preferences – and pocketbooks – of the beholders.

(Yes my friends, it is so important to vote with your pocketbook and get your friends and family to do the same thing. If you don't want GMO food, don't buy it. If you want safe food in general, grow it or buy from those whom you know you can trust!) 

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities. To learn more abou them go to: