Crate Herb Garden 

 

DIY Crate Herb Garden

I wanted some container herbs near the house  so I can walk over and pluck easily.  I came up with this crate idea. The crate was salvaged for me by a coworker from a restaurant.  It was so easy, I ended up not needing to hammer or to nail! A 2×4 plank leftover from a project was simply placed in the middle of the crate as the middle piece.

My son and I painted it all teal and added Valspar Antique Glaze and it was done!  Since it’s outside a poly coat would be ideal, but I figure it will last a few years.  Avoiding extra chemicals is always a good thing!

The terra cotta pitcher for the basil plant was an amazing find at a flea market for just a few dollars!


The crate is very cute mixed in with our landscaping:

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Garden Update 2016:

The herbs I’ve had the most success with this year are cilantro and basil (watch for bolting and pluck off flowers if they sprout). We had an unusually wet spring so I ended up with a black mold on my basil plants. I plucked off all affected leaves and they are now thriving with no signs of molding.

Oregano, chives, dill and parsley are also herbs that are easy to grow and maintain. We have potted planters on our porch with lemon balm, sweet mint (for tea), citronella, and lavender to keep mosquitos at bay.

I companion planted sage near the pole beans.  Basil and rosemary is planted throughout our garden to keep pests away. This year I planted these herbs very close to my plants and it seems to be deterring better.  Marigolds were also woven into the landscape at a higher rate this year and placed around the entire border.

A butterfly garden is also adjacent to attract Monarchs specifically (an endangered species) and pollinators like the honey bee. You must attract pollinators to your garden, so flowers are important. We have butterfly weed, sunflowers, bee balm,  zinnias and more planted nearby in our butterfly haven.

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I did have to crack out some organic insect soap and peppermint essential oil on a few plants. We have ant issues with our strawberries and I’m starting to lose hope any will ripen without being attacked.

I’ve tried charcoal powder around the border of the container, the garden soap, and adding onions directly to the planter with no luck. There is also netting around them to keep the birds and bunnies out. I should try some different essential oils next, I need to research more about using essential oils in the garden, so far I’ve only tried peppermint.

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This may not be our year for strawberries…but I’m excited for the pumpkin container garden. I need to remove a few plants, every seed I planted sprouted so it’s overrun.

 

 

 

 

I’m growing them up a trellis I made out of some scrap wood, quarter round, and twine I found in our garage. My little helper. She loves to get muddy and help mommy in the garden!

 

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Happy Organic Planting everyone! Feel free to share your tips and tricks below. I’ll be working some of my organic compost in soon- it’s finally ready after about 3 months!

Save the Bees!

We are at a critical crossroads in regards to the planet’s bee health and population declines.  After reading this article you will know more about Colony Collapse Disorder and what you can do to help.

What is Colony Collapse Disorder?

Per Wikepedia: “Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen.”

Basically, the Queen is intact, but the active worker bees are not returning to maintain the hive. CCD is different than complete hive abandonment  (Queen included). However, the end results are the same- the colony ceases to survive to function correctly.

The website Beeinformed.org tracks scientific reports each year on bee population. This chart highlights the recent issues:

Figure 1: Summary of the total colony losses overwinter (October 1 – April 1) and over the year (April 1 – April 1) of managed honey bee colonies in the United States. The acceptable range is the average percentage of acceptable colony losses declared by the survey participants in each of the nine years of the survey. Winter and Annual losses are calculated based on different respondent pools.

Figure 1: Summary of the total colony losses overwinter (October 1 – April 1) and over the year (April 1 – April 1) of managed honey bee colonies in the United States. The acceptable range is the average percentage of acceptable colony losses declared by the survey participants in each of the nine years of the survey. Winter and Annual losses are calculated based on different respondent pools.


Theories – May Cause a Colony to Collapse?

Natural Causes:

  • Varroe Mites, Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV), funguses
  • General weather pattern changes and extremes in weather that would stop bees from foraging as normal
  • “Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV): This virus, first discovered by Israeli scientists in 2002, causes trembling, paralysis and death in bees.
  • The mites deprive bees of nutrition, as well as open the door for other pathogens to enter. Varroa mites, as well as other nasty mites, pathogens and fungi, can invade a hive and give the bees a run for their money. ” [8]
  • Food stresses caused by drought or heavy rain

Unnatural causes:

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  • Neonicotinoid pesticides: These pesticides — including clothianidin — are neurotoxins used to protect crops against pests. But, these chemicals may also be harming helpful pollinators. The EPA has noted clothianidin as highly toxic to honeybees, and many beekeepers in Germany are blaming it for the massive die-off rates that struck their colonies in May 2008. [8]
  • Bee Stress- traveling stressors, overworking bees
  • Antibiotic use
  • Supplementing with high fructose corn syrup or unnatural food sources
  • Any other chemicals used in our environment- pesticides, herbicides, insecticides
  • General air pollution

At this point, mainstream sources cannot attribute the CCD to any one factor, however, a correlation between chemicals and man-made causes may prove to be a driving factor. What manmade impacts have we created? We must look at those causes for CCD. Pinpointing the cause(s) means we can work on a solution.

If we are blind to the fact that we are intrinsically linked we are going to ruin our environment even quicker.

Global warming can occur in normal patterns in nature, but humans ramp up it’s effects with our pollution.  The same concept can apply to CCD. Reports of CCD run back as far as 1869. However, there has been an increase in CCD   [9]

The use of pesticides in farming has increased by 404 million pounds from 1996 to 2011!  [10] The use of these crops that are genetically engineered to be “ready” to be sprayed with chemicals has caused super weeds to form, resistant to these chemicals.  Note: GMO “chemical ready” seeds were introduced circa 1996.

Which means? More chemicals (of different varieties due to the need to find a way to kill the super weeds) are being sprayed. If it seems confusing let me simplify it:  GMO Crops= More chemicals being used“Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent,” Benbrook said” [10]

By February 2007, large commercial migratory beekeepers in several states had reported heavy losses associated with CCD. Their reports of losses varied widely, ranging from 30% to 90% of their bee colonies… [9]

Even the USDA found, “Bees in CCD colonies had higher pathogen loads and were co-infected with more pathogens than control populations, suggesting either greater pathogen exposure or reduced defenses in CCD bees.”[54]

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The Research

This Science Direct article abstract briefs on the causes of bee colony collapse. ‘The authors, independent scientists from around the world, compiled information on how two key factors in bee decline—disease and pesticides—are interconnected.’  [4]

     “Immune suppression of the natural defences by neonicotinoid and phenyl-pyrazole (fipronil)      insecticides opens the way to parasite infections and viral diseases, fostering their spread among individuals and among bee colonies at higher rates than under conditions of no exposure to such insecticides.”  [3]

Whether chemicals are the cause (direct or indirect); if they are involved– the blame can be placed on the people and companies that use them.

For example, drinking soda may not directly kill me; however, the indirect effect of excess sugar consumption, weight gain, and the chemical cocktail could lead me to develop diabetes, kidney, or heart disease. Those health issues could kill me one day indirectly. for this reason, I rarely drink soda!

To help the environment- we don’t spray chemicals on our plants or lawn.

img_9974The chemicals affect the bee health (more susceptible to disease or insect attacks) and cultural practices (aka not leaving the hive), opening them up to greater harm from ‘natural’ diseases that would occur or ‘natural’ insect infestations.  Normally populations could recover from these natural causes, but these man-made chemicals are far from normal in nature.

The biodiversity of our planet’s food sources and upwards of 1/3 of all our fruits and vegetables are pollinated by bees!

There is a huge list of species that need bees to pollinate them, including avocados, peaches, apples, cashews, cucumbers, broccoli, lemons and coffee. [8]

DO NOT mess with my coffee-  mommy needs it to survive and the bees need OUR HELP to survive.


Awareness is the First Step to Change

DID YOU KNOW: Pollinators are necessary for the reproduction of nearly 85 percent of the world’s flowering plants, including about three-quarters of crop species. Bees especially are important for the pollination of most of our crop plants. [2]

  • Directly, honey bees pollinate the flowers of 1/3 of all fruits and vegetables. [1]
  • Indirectly, honey bees pollinate 70% of the food crops, through seed production, etc.  [1]
  • In just the last ten years, over 40% of the bee colonies in the US have suffered Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). [8]
  • Catastrophic loss of honeybees could have significant impact, therefore; it is estimated that seven out of the 60 major agricultural crops in North American economy would be lost. [9]

Bees are critical for the continuing biodiversity of species on our planet, we MUST save them!

Image courtesy of: Bring Back the Bees via www.greatsunflower.org

A recent analysis by the Xerces Society for example, found that nearly 30% of North America’s bumble bee species may now be at risk of extinction! [2]


The Fighters

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John and Oxana- John is President of Operation Honey Bee

 

My husband grew up with with John Baxter, the founder of Operation Honey Bee. They spent their summers playing outside and doing what boys do best- getting dirty and playing. John’s  passion for saving the honey bee is evident in his beliefs about the honey bee decline; mainly the causes and what we need to do to change the tide of  population decline and hive abandonment.

Per this How Colony Collapse Disorder Works article by Jessika Toothman: “Bees by the billions are heading out for a busy day of gathering nectar and spreading pollen, but mysteriously aren’t returning to the hive. Between September 2007 and March 2008, U.S. losses were estimated at about 36 percent of managed hives.” [6]

According to our friend John, bee colony abandonment is causally linked to GMO’s and chemicals in his observations and research:

“The bee may take pollen from a plant that has been contaminated [by chemicals] and quickly realizes it has been contaminated, it goes off alone and does not return to the hive.

Organic bee farming is what it takes for the bees to thrive.” – John Baxter President and Founder of Operation Honey Bee

John’s main method for sustainable and organic bee keeping includes:

  1. Distilled Water
  2. Organic and non-GMO feed
  3. Boxes that do not use wood that is preserved or painted on the box that doesn’t leach into the wood (since the bees reproduce in this box)
  4. Do not take too much of the bee honey supply and substitute with processed sugar

This method increases the health of the bee in general. The average bee life is 45 days, if you shave off even a few days, it can throw off the entire population and have adverse affects.

Bees are very smart in keeping their colony healthy. If a bee becomes contaminated, the bee itself will not go back to the hive. Air born contamination on a micro level, will only leave questions to where the bees have gone and why they are not in their box.”

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We commend John for his work in representing our precious bees with Operation Honey Bee! He truly cares about their immune systems and overall health. He likens it to taking care of our own bodies- avoiding processed foods and eating pure foods free of GMO’s and toxins.

He currently takes care of 3 hives using these organic practices. He even donated a hive to another who lost one due to theft. He saw their story on Fox Carolina and contacted the owners of the stolen hive.

Since Genbumom is for ACTION and what we can do to help- below is a list of ideas.

You can also urge your State Senators to vote IN FAVOR of GMO (genetically modified organisms) labeling laws and to reduce the amount of chemicals being sprayed on our food sources, which harms our local wildlife. Why are other developed nations banning GMO crops ?  Germany, France, Mexico, and Australia ban GMO’s to name a few… I urge you to research the reasons why GMO’s are so bad for our earth and our human and wildlife health.


What Can I Do to Help?

I do not have plans any time soon for becoming a beekeeper, perhaps one day, but it’s not conducive to our lifestyle right now. So what can our family do to help?

Buy Local – Support your local honey cultivators and farmers. One stressor on bees may be travel, by supporting local farms and fruit/veggie producers you help reduce the stress to the bees.

“The total number of managed honey bee colonies has decreased from 5 million in the 1940s to only 2.5 million today. At the same time, the call for hives to provide pollination services has continued to increase. This means honey bee colonies are being transported over longer distances than ever before.” [5]

Do NOT Spray  with Pesticides/Insecticides.  Encourage your neighbors to do the same. If we want to play out back or have company over, we will mow the clovers that the bees love so we can play freely. The clovers grow back within the week and the bees return. In the meantime, our bees are happy because we plant bee friendly flowers and plants.

You don’t want your children or pets around these chemicals, neither do we want the bees (and butterflies) exposed!

Plant Pollinator Attracting Plants: To find your local, native pollinator plants click here. This is an easy-to-follow list from the University of MD for all zones in the US. It details what wildlife they attract and if easy to grow or not. (Key to a gardening novice like myself!)

“Want an easy, relaxing way to help save bee populations? The Great Sunflower Project studies population trends by gathering data about geographic areas where bees are struggling.

Interested bee enthusiasts can register at the project’s Web site and receive free sunflower seeds that arrive in the mail.” [7]

This is a good beginner article from www.gardening.com on attracting bees.  You want two aspects covered when planting for pollinators.

  1. Nectar
  2. Pollen

Even herbs like basil, rosemary, and lavender will attract bees. Most herbs grow well in containers if you have limited space in your yard.

Companion Plant in your garden to help reduce unwanted bugs, like Aphids, instead of spraying chemicals. Aphids dislike mint, garlic, onions, and chives. Plant these items around the garden veggies that aphids like best, like tomatoes or lettuces.

Make a Donation!  You can buy an Operation Honey Bee T-shirt or donate to Operation Honey Bee– This is a 501c3 nonprofit site dedicated to saving the bees! Donate here!

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Consumer Dollars-Buy Products from Companies that Support the Bees.  I noticed this information on my Cascadian Farms cereal box one day and I will continue to buy from them not only because their cereal is delicious but because they support bee health and organic practices.

Cascadian Farms Bee Support

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Involve Your Children Explain to them why we plant flowers and how crops are pollinated. Teach them why chemicals are bad for our earth. Get their daycare or school involved in spring seed planting activities.

Any other ideas to help the bees-Feel free to share in the comments section. Also share this link to your social media!


Sources:

  1. www.operationhoneybee.com

2.  http://www.cascadianfarm.com/programs/save-the-bees/what-you-can-do

3.

Are Bee Diseases linked to pesticides? – A brief review.  January 9, 2016. www.Science Direct.com.

4. Code, Aimee Pesticide Program Director.  Research Update: Are Bee Diseases Linked to Pesticides? February 16, 2016. www.xerces.org http://www.xerces.org/blog/research-update-are-bee-diseases-linked-to-pesticides/

5. USDA Website:  www.ars.usda.gov

6. Toothman, Jesskika. How Colony Collapse Disorder Works. www.howstuffworks.com Accessed

7. www.greatsunflower.org

8. By: Christina Sarich, Natural Society. August 15, 2013. List of Food We Will Lose if we Don’t Save the Bees.  www.honelove.org

9. Wikepedia. Colony Collapse Disorder. Accessed March 2016. www.wikepedia.org

10. Gilliam, Carey. Genetically Modified Crops have Lead to Increased Pesticide use, Study finds.   www.huffingtonpost.com

Vegan Walnut Tacos

imageIn honor of tomorrow being Meatless Monday, I tried my hand at making Walnut Tacos this evening and I’m already hooked. This is about to become a staple in our home!

Walnuts are roughly $9 for a 16 oz. bag and this recipe calls for 8 oz. so you will have half of a bag of walnuts leftover for snacking. A pound of organic grass-fed meat is easily $7 and gone in one use. Cheaper to make than meat tacos and vegan- I’m in!

 

 


Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. Walnuts, crushed into fine pieces
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro (or parsley)
  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 3 TBSP Garlic Infused Olive Oil
  • Lemon or lime- half
  • Taco Seasoning: 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp garlic salt, 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, dash sea salt. (Or buy a packet of reduced-sodium taco seasoning- no judgement here- it’s easier!)

Crush walnuts into small pieces with a masher. Remove 1/4 cup and pulse into a powder. Add back to bowl with larger pieces and stir in 3 TBSP garlic- olive oil and juice from half of lemon. Set aside.

Saute veggies in 2 TBSP olive oil and a pinch of sea salt until tender. Add walnut mixture, remove from heat and quickly stir in taco seasoning until fully incorporated.

Serve immediately on gluten free or whole wheat tortillas with vegan cheese, fresh cilantro, and a dollop of (not vegan)- plain Greek yogurt.

Get creative! Saute in kale, black beans, or stir in milled ground flax seed for more Omega-3’s.


Walnuts and Sustainable Local Agriculture

We talk often about the importance of buying local and supporting the U.S. economy; walnuts are a great way to support agriculture in America. Better yet-reducing our reliance on meat as a protein source. Did you know…

More than 99% of the walnuts in U.S. are grown in the fertile soils of California’s Central Valley. Internationally, California walnuts supply three-quarters of the world’s walnut trade. [1]

Meat production comes with a huge environmental cost. The resources to raise, slaughter, package, and transport meat places strain on our environment, especially greenhouse gas emissions.   “A staggering 51 percent or more of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture, according to a report published by the Worldwatch Institute.”   [2] 

56% of the water used in America is used on livestock. [3] This is a huge amount!  Cattle agriculture in California uses up more water than any other activity. [4]

The amount of water used to produce 1 lb of beef protein is roughly 5,214 gallons per 1 lb. [5] It only takes 4.9 gallons of water to produce 1 walnut. [6]

One walnut taco (1/4 cup taco mix) is about 30 crushed walnuts that equates to about 147 gallons of water per serving. One meat taco (1/4 cup meat) equates to about 869 gallons of water per serving (5,214 divided by 6 *servings).

Meat: 869 gallons of water used vs. Walnuts: 147 gallons of water used to make one serving. This is a HUGE difference!


Why walnuts?

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Walnuts are dense in the Omega-3 fatty acid alpha linolenic-acid (ALA). One serving provides 25% Copper, 10% Magnesium and Phosphorous, and 4% DV of Iron. They also contain antioxidants, fiber, and protein.

California-grown walnuts are not genetically modified (big plus!). Did you know that walnuts are naturally gluten-free? [1]

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts such as walnuts, and fiber can help reduce your risk of developing high cholesterol or cardiovascular diseases.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated whether walnuts (providing ALA) and fatty fish (providing EPA and DHA) have similar effects on specific blood markers associated with Coronary Heart Disease. The study found that a diet including walnuts was more powerful in reducing total and LDL (bad) cholesterol when compared to fatty fish. [1]

As far as sustainability goes please choose plant based proteins whenever you can. They are healthier for your body and better for the environment! Simple. 

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Sources:

  1. Walnuts Nutritional Information- About Walnuts from www.walnuts.org . Accessed January 22, 2016.
  2. Why Going Vegan is the Ultimate New Year’s Resolution. www.peta.org. Accessed January 22, 2016.
  3. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. www.cowspiracy.com
  4. Fox, Justin. April 13, 2015. Cows Suck up more Water than Almonds. www.bloombergview.com
  5. Vegetarianism and the Environment: Why Going Meatless is Important.  michaelbluejay.com Accessed January 21, 2016.
  6. Park, Alex and Lurie, Julie. February 24, 2014. It Takes How Much Water to Produce an Almond? www.motherjones.com

 

 

Label reading 101: Organic and Non GMO options


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The Basics on How to Read a Label

  • Look for USDA Organic.  Certified USDA Organic should not contain GMO’s or GE’s (genetically engineered) ingredients. To be labeled this way it must meet a 3rd party standard to carry this label. USDA organic is at least 95% organic
  • Contains organic ingredients or made with Organic – It’s at least 70% organic. The ingredient list will indicate which ingredients are organic.
  • Instead of a 4-digit number beginning with a “4,” organic produce has a 5-digit number that begins with a “9.”
  • Non-GMO certified and labeled. No GMO or GE ingredients. This link can help you research entire brands and certain products that participate in being labeled.
    • It may not be organic, but it could be Non-GMO, which is a great alternate option to organic that may be cheaper.  For example, a store brand Raisin Bran cereal I purchased said Non-GMO on the label, even though it was not organic.

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    • No added hormones or antibiotics. No additional hormones or antibiotics were given to the animal during it’s lifetime. Must be proven the animals were never administered these items.  However, this does not necessarily certify the product as organic (or humane).
      •  For example, the animal may still have been raised and confined inhumanly. The animal may have been raised eating genetically modified food meal, subjecting it’s body and organs to bio accumulating chemicals.
  • Grass-fed. The livestock has been fed via grazing, hence ‘grass-fed’ or allowed reasonable access to the outdoors to graze on natural plants, (rather than GMO corn feed).  However, this does not mean the animal has been treated humanly, free of antibiotics, or added growth hormones. Granted, grazing animals are generally healthier and less disease-prone , thus may require less treatments with antibiotics.
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Three cows in Val di Scalve, Alps mountains, Italy. Image courtesy of dreamstime.com

  • Natural.  ‘…this only means that the meat may not have any artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, or other artificial ingredients.’ [1]  This label does not protect the consumer from GMO’s.  You may wish to avoid products that are simply labeled ‘natural.’

This article is only information to get you started.  There are many excellent resources for how to read food labels on the internet.

  1. Start small- replace the most consumed foods in your household with USDA organic. For example: strawberries, apples, bread, cereals, crackers, eggs, meat, yogurt and milk.
  2. Replace one processed snack food with a real food. Do you always eat a packaged protein granola bar for a snack? Replace with unsalted almonds and an organic apple.
  3. Replace one meat meal a week with a meatless meal. Options such as eggplant parmesan, portabella mushroom ravioli, and black bean enchiladas are vegetarian favorites of my husband and kids.

I love this concept from Silk brand soy milk. Meatless Monday’s. Check out this link on MeatlessMonday.com with recipes and information about lowering our carbon footprint by eating meatless a few days a week. For example, a meat/cheese free day by a family of four once per week is the equivalent of taking a car off the road for 5 weeks! [2]

Sideline-Meat-Infographic

There are many resources available for educating yourself on label deciphering.  Keep learning a little more each week to become an ‘expert’ label reader. It does not happen overnight and yes, your grocery trip may take you a little longer at first, but it’s worth it.

When we read labels, we make better decisions also about salt, sugar, trans fat and caloric content, to name a few items.  Reading labels helps us contribute to a healthier society and teaching our children to appreciate and care for what goes into their bodies.


Sources:

  1. How to for Dummies website. “How to read organic food labels.” Accessed September 23, 2015.  http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-read-organic-food-labels.html

2. Article ‘Sideline Meat this Football Season with Silk and Meatless Monday.’ October 5, 2015. www.meatlessmonday.com

7 Steps to Take Action: GMO Labeling Initiatives

The NonGMO Project is one of the most- trusted GMO labeling systems currently in affect in the US. The companies that are Non-GMO certified have to pay out of pocket to be tested and labeled as such. Let’s support these companies by buying foods that are NonGMO.  Also support organizations that seek to make our products transparent in what they contain. (The Non-GMO Project is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization).

The US currently does not require mandatory labeling laws nationwide (some states do currently however have labeling laws). The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act  that  passed this year in the House (2015) is set to be reviewed next by the Senate.

If passed, it would preempt the individual states’ legislation for mandatory GMO labeling. The Safe and Accurate Food Safety Act would conveniently destroy GMO labeling efforts in individual states that already passed laws for labeling. It would become difficult  for the FDA to control labeling. This takes away our right to know what is in our food. This does not sound very safe or accurate.

We must act NOW.


Did you know October is Non-GMO month? Take some action this month!

  1. Sign an online petition today!   Links below to NonGMO Project, Just Label It, GMO Free USA, and The Environmental Working Group.

2. Write an Industry Action letter to your State Representative. You will often get a letter back in the mail.  What a great way to get your kids involved and show their voice is heard. Here is a template from the NonGMO project. You can download, print, and mail it.  Post a picture of the letter your kids write on social media.

3. Post on your Social Media.  Post videos. Post links to documentaries.  Post Questions. Post Answers. Host a Non-GMO Education Week on your Social Media where each day you post on GMO’s.  What they are? How to Avoid them. Pictures of products you love that are NonGMO certified. Links to petitions. Dispel common GMO Labeling myths. Explain why the proposed ‘Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act’ is called the ‘Dark Act’ instead by so many people.

Have links to webpages ready to back up what you say on Social Media. People will not always agree. Show tact and grace when you respond to others.

4.  Download Shopping Guides. The ‘NonGMO Project Shopping Guide’ to your smartphone to use while you shop. Tell your friends about this guide. Go to the App Store to download.

The Institute for Responsible Technology hosts an online shopping guide.

The NonGMO Project website: shopping guide.

5. Dispel Myths about GMO’s.  Dispel myths that they are safe: point to current childhood cancer, asthma, allergy, and developmental disorder rates skyrocketing in the past 10-15 years. Where is the link? Could it be consumption of GMO’s? Could it be in our environment from insecticides and herbicides increasingly used year by year?

Dispel Myths that labeling our food will make costs go up. This graphic explains why cost would not go up just to change labels. The manufacturers already go through scheduled label changes so it would cost no more money than a regular update to their change their labeling. Also their formulations would not be forced to be changed only the labels.

Granted, their products would be more transparent in what they contain.   What we buy (supply and demand) is what drives costs. If more people bought organically and Non GMO you are still buying. You may buy less. However, if you buy less, you waste less.  It won’t singlehandedly ruin the economy by labeling GMO containing foods. We would be placing our dollars towards a greater good and into the hands of organic farmers (less chemicals used in agriculture= less harmful environmental impact). Our agricultural economy could be driven by local, organic farming practices instead of big business.

Did you know that when the US exports food to the countries that require mandatory GMO labelingthat it is labeled for them?

Wait… exact same product, exact same manufacturer and  it’s GMO labeled for other countries but not for US consumption? 

‘Moreover, for U.S. food manufacturers that do export GMO food to any of the 64 countries around the world that require labeling, disclosing the presence of genetically engineered ingredients in their products is just another part of doing business.’ [1]

Dispel Myths that GMO crops are necessary to produce higher yields. This article from the Union of Concerned Scientists lists statistics about GMO crop performance. (It’s a lengthy read). It outlines evidence that disproves any myth that GMO food is grown in more abundance than traditional farming practices.

‘This EWG analysis debunks the myth that we need GMOs to feed the world, noting that GMO crops in the US are no more productive than non-GMO crops in western Europe.’ [1]

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Photo courtesy of EWG.org: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2011.

6. Wear It!  How easy would it be to have a T-shirt printed: ‘I support GMO labeling.’ Wear it to the grocery store. Start a conversation with a stranger about what GMO’s are. Hand out flyers about GMO’s. Buy a t-shirt from one of the campaigns listed in section 1 above.

7. Tell ONE person, just ONE person today about GMO’s and what you are doing to protect your families health.

The good news? We have a voice.

 Buy USDA organic. Look for the Non GMO Verified label. Buy food from stores that support labeling initiatives.

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Sources:

  1. Just Label It website. “GMO Crops and Saving the World.” Accessed September 18, 2015. http://www.justlabelit.org/about-ge-foods-center/gmo-crops-the-developing-world/
  2. How to for Dummies website. “How to read organic food labels.” Accessed September 23, 2015.  http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-read-organic-food-labels.html

What is a GMO?

What is a GMO?

A GMO is defined as ‘genetically modified organism: an organism or microorganism whose genetic material has been altered by means of genetic engineering.’  [1]

Where is the harm in producing foods that are bigger and ‘better’ versions that could feed more people at a cheaper price?  That was the original intent for introducing genetically engineered or modified products into our agricultural practices and thus into our marketplace.


Which foods contains GMO’s?

This article is about seeds and what seeds produce: crops for human and animal consumption and products. Listed here are statistics from a Huffington Post article Top 7 Genetically Modified Crops. [2]

  • 93% of soybeans are genetically modified.
  • 88% of American corn is genetically modified.
  • 54% of sugar beets (where our sugar comes from) is genetically modified
  • 90 % of the US Canola crop

The majority of processed foods contains one or more of the above mentioned ingredients. Up to 80% of our processed foods contain GMO’s.

Modifications, mutations, and cross breeding occur naturally in the wild. It’s hybridization. This can also be modified in a lab to produce, say, a bigger and better tomato. This seems innocent enough.

What genetic traits are the seeds being modified with, for what reasons, and why are we continuing to put heavily chemically treated crops in food?  Our livestock is then feed these crop products and we consume this in the form of meat, eggs, or dairy. As well as produce.

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When did we start consuming GMO’s?

GMO or GE (genetic engineering) technology has been developed since the early 1980’s but the food really hit our shelves in the 1990’s. ‘This technique, called “transgenic technology,” has been practiced only in recent decades’….[4]  We didn’t have the kind of long-term human health data necessary to deem this newer technology as ‘safe’ and now we are knee deep in health epidemics in our country and it particularly affects our children.

“1997 – Mandatory Labels
The European Union rules in favor of mandatory labeling on all GMO food products, including animal feed.

1999 – GMO Food Crops Dominate
Over 100 million acres worldwide are planted with genetically engineered seeds. The marketplace begins embracing GMO technology at an alarming rate.

2003 – GMO-Resistant Pests
In 2003, a Bt-toxin-resistant caterpillar-cum-moth, Helicoverpa zea, is found feasting on GMO Bt cotton crops in the southern United States. In less than a decade, the bugs have adapted to the genetically engineered toxin produced by the modified plants.

2011 – Bt Toxin in Humans
Research in eastern Quebec finds Bt toxins in the blood of pregnant women and shows evidence that the toxin is passed to fetuses.”  [5]

The best timeline I could find is linked here from gmoinside.org and it’s where the dates above are quoted from.  It’s easy to understand the history of  GMO/GE technology being introduced into our agricultural practices from this site. Take notes of date of GMO introduction: they directly correlate to some statistics on disease in our country I discuss later in this article.


How does a GMO work?


“Genetically-modified food crop seeds fall into two general categories: herbicide resisters and pesticide creators.” [4]

Category 1: The crops are also considered ready to be sprayed with herbicides and pesticides. Hence, the genetic alterations protect the plant from being affected by the chemicals sprayed on them, it makes them ‘ready’ to be sprayed with chemicals. The crop seed and subsequent plant withstands this because of the genetic engineering.

Category 2: DNA of the seed is genetically infused (altered) to include insecticides. This is done so the plant, as it grows, will emit toxins that avert insects. A Bt gene is incorporated into the plant.

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A picture may help illustrate…


Use of herbicides has increased since GMO technology emerged. Why? 

It was originally projected we would use less chemicals but this has not been the outcome.

Within those first 10 years of GMO’s being routinely used, ‘superweeds’ adapted that were resistant to the chemicals sprayed on the crops. How do you remedy this? You spray more glyphosate on them or a new chemical needs to be used in conjunction with the glyphosate. This means-more chemicals? I thought this patented technology was so we could use less chemicals.

Within those 10 years GMO resistant ‘superbugs’ developed that were resistant to pesticides. According to the Non GMO Project: GMO facts page:

‘GMO crops are also responsible for the emergence of “super weeds” and “super bugs:’ which can only be killed with ever more toxic poisons like 2,4-D (a major ingredient in Agent Orange).’ 

Nature obviously quickly adapts to its adversaries. ‘Superweeds first appeared in 2000 in a Delaware soybean field; they have since spread to more than 20 states.’ [4]

Image Source: justlabelit.org

JLI chart_C01

Not only do we consume the products made from these crops, but these chemicals are destroying our ecosystem and contaminating our organic farmlands. We are fighting an uphill battle trying to combat nature rather than work with it.

I do not have the answers. What I do have is a voice: to ask for labeling of my food and to support organic farming practices by purchasing those products. We have a right to know.


Why do we allow this in the US food chain and other developed countries do not?

Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs.”[3]

‘In Europe all products containing more than .9 percent GMO are labeled as such.’  [9]

In fact, many countries ban the importation of GMO’s. Many are concerned that GMO’s have shown up in their local ecosystems, essentially contaminating their land.

In America we unknowingly consume food with chemicals in and on them every day. So we are we doomed? No- we do have choices.


How do we Feed the World if we don’t use GMO technology?

Numerous studies indicate that GMO technology is not better than traditional farming practices.  Although the majority GMO crops are used towards  feeding animals we still consume those animal products. Our  homes and schools are still located near crop fields filled with chemicals. We are rapidly seeing environmental impacts and increases in human and animal diseases.

“GE crops  – primarily corn and soybeans – have not substantially contributed to global food security and are primarily used to feed animals and cars, not people.

  • Studies show that GE crops in the US are not more productive than non-GE crops in western Europe.

  • A recent case study in Africa found that crops that were crossbred for drought tolerance using traditional techniques improved yields 30 percent more than GE varieties.” [8]


Social Media and an Effort to Engage the Public

I am not a farmer, I respect farmers. I truly respect organic farmers.

I posed this question on my social media yesterday: ‘Do you know what a GMO is? Hint: It’s in our food.’ I was overwhelmed at the intelligent and poised responses of those that replied with their current knowledge, their candor to how it affects their choices, how GMOs may already have affected their families, as well as honest admittance of those whom simply did not know.

I was at the same time saddened that more did not participate.  However, it can be a lofty subject to tackle. It’s terrifying to think of making changes in your lifestyle. There are affordable ways to eat organically and your savvy of the subject will grow over time.


Why is there an Extreme Rise in Childhood Cancers, ADHD, Autism, and Food Allergies in the United States?

I am not a doctor, I am not a research scientist, and I am not a statistician.  However, numbers speak volumes. The data is out there from objective and independent sources. You just have to look.

Americans are now producing and consuming more GMO’s than any other nation. Recall, the EU passed mandatory labeling laws for GMO’s back in 1997. America is still waiting…

‘Labeling will deliver multiple benefits. It is essential for tracking emergence of novel food allergies and assessing effects of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops. It would respect the wishes of a growing number of consumers who insist they have a right to know what foods they are buying and how they were produced.’ [6]

The statistics below are from the 2012 publication  ‘A Generation in Jeopardy: How Pesticides are Undermining our Children’s Health and Intelligence’ published by Pesticide Action Network North America:

  1. Some 15 percent of all U.S. children have one or more developmental disabilities—representing a 17 percent increase in the past decade.
  2. The number of children diagnosed with ADHD increased an average of three percent every year from 1997 to 2006, and an average 5.5 percent per year from 2003 to 2007
  3. Autism rates jump 250% in one decade
    1. In California, the number of children with autism who are enrolled in statewide programs rose from 3,864 in 1987 to 11,995 in 1998, an increase of more than 210 percent in 11 years. ....Though shifts in diagnosis account for some of this dramatic rise, public health experts have determined that diagnostic changes do not fully explain the trend…
  4.  Over the past 30 years, the number of children diagnosed with all forms of invasive cancer has increased 29 percent…..A large number of recent studies link pesticide exposure to childhood leukemia, brain tumors and neuroblastoma.
  5. The number of U.S. children with asthma today is much higher than it was 30 years ago, rising from 2.1 million in 1980 to 7.1 million in 2009.
  6. According to one recent national review, of the 40 pesticides most commonly used in schools, 28 are probable or possible carcinogens, 26 have been shown to cause reproductive effects, 26 damage the nervous system, and 13 have been linked to birth defects.
  7. Changes in the timing of sexual development over the past two decades have been so widespread that the age of “normal” puberty onset has been redefined by health professionals.
  8. In 2002, Baillie-Hamilton reviewed data suggesting that the obesity epidemic coincided with the marked increase in usage of industrial chemicals, including pesticides, over the past 40 years ….In the 10 years since this review, many studies have linked exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals with increased incidence of obesity and diabetes. [7]

Childhood Food Allergies are also on the Rise

My first born is a number in the statistics below My child has a life threatening peanut allergy and we are not sure why. His body responds to peanut proteins as a foreign invader and his histamine response goes into overdrive. He has no familial genetic factors that would increase his risk of a food allergy. I am interested particularly in this subject.  I have to wonder, why does he have this?   Leading studies suggest environmental factors are the cause…

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US rates are higher than other countries…

‘Surveys were completed by parents of kids and teens in 2007 and 2008. Just over 20 percent of children born outside the U.S. had any type of allergic disease – including asthma, eczema, hay fever or food allergies – compared to between 34 and 35 percent of those born in the U.S. What’s more, the risk of allergies increased with the more time foreign-born children spent in the U.S., Silverberg and his colleagues wrote in JAMA Pediatrics.’ [10]

The number of young people who had a food or digestive allergy increased 18 percent between 1997 and 2007, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [11]

Now review the spike from 1997 to 2013:

A study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that food allergies in children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011. A 50% increase.


There is a correlation to note. When you look at the data these numbers for childhood diseases have all risen in the past 10-15 years and more rapidly in the US. What else has changed in the past 10-15 years? GMO’s in our food and more chemicals in our farmlands.

Obviously, other factors could be at play:  the chemicals in our cosmetics, the chemicals in our cookware, antibiotic over-use, better diagnoses of ADHD and autism spectrum disorders to name a few. There are other theories to the food allergy rise in our country. The ‘clean theory,’ delayed exposure to food proteins, and gut bacterium environment.

In conclusion: There may be a direct link between childhood illnesses and GMOs. When deciding to purchase food and products for your family, please do your research.  You may need to consider lifestyle changes to protect their health. It’s nearly impossible to avoid GMO’s altogether, but you can eliminate a vast majority if you buy organic. Look for USDA or Certified Organic or the NONGMOProject labels.  I’ll post soon on what to look for on your labels.   Also, if this article speaks to you, please take action!

imagenon-gmo-verified



Note: I did not want to breach intense political discourse in this article. So rather, you have some homework: Research which companies control the seed industry, what other industries the seed companies have ties to, and who is sponsoring studies that claim GMO’s are safe to consume.


Sources:

  1. Dictionary.com. “Define GMO.” Accessed September 24, 2015. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/gmo.
  2. Kelly, Margie. “Top 7 Genetically Modified Crops.”  October 20, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com. Top 7 Genetically Modified Crops
  3.  Nongmoproject.org. “GMO Facts. Frequently asked Questions.”  Accessed September 23, 2014.  www.nongmoproject.org 
  4. 4. Odonnel, Kim. “The Abc’s of GMO’s.” October 1, 2013. http://www.crosscut.com http://crosscut.com/2013/10/primer-on-GMOs-I522-odonnel/

5. Shireen. “GMO timeline: A history of Genetically Modified Foods.” September 13, 2012.  www.gmoinside.org-  http://gmoinside.org/gmo-timeline-a-history-genetically-modified-foods/

6. Foley, Libby. “Citing GMO- Herbicide Link, Renowned Children’s Health Expert Calls for GMO Labeling.” August 20, 2015. www.ewg.org 

7.  Kristin S. Schafer, MA Emily C. Marquez, PhD  “A Generation In Jeopardy.” Pesticide Action Network North America.  October 2012. http://www.panna.org/sites/default/files/KidsHealthReportOct2012.pdf

8. Cassidy, Emily- EWG Research Analyst. “Feeding the World. Without  GMO’s.   March 31, 2015 http://www.ewg.org  http://www.ewg.org/research/feeding-world-without-gmos

9. Novak, Sara. “Why is American one of the only Industrialized Nations with no GMO Labeling?” Howstuffworks.com. Accessed September 25, 2015.  http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/why-is-america-one-of-the-only-industrialized-nations-with-no-gmo-labeling.htm

10.  Reuters.  “US Born Kids have more Allergies.” Published April 30, 2013. Foxnews.com http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/04/30/us-born-kids-have-more-allergies-asthma/

11.  CDC Publication noted in article: “Children’s Allergy Rate on the Rise.” April 20, 2011  Food consumer.org