Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fair Food Fight

by: El Dragón
Mon, 01/18/2010 - 14:11

Michael Sykuta, associate professor at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources at the University of Missouri at Columbia, wrote an opinion piece for the Modesto Bee asking Why are Feds Launching Ag Antitrust Probe? and it's not a rhetorical question:

Why, one may wonder, is the Department of Justice launching an antitrust investigation against some of U.S. food system’s major players at a time when Americans are enjoying a widening array of food choices and spending less and less of their disposable income to do so?

Sykuta goes on to lay out his argument, which is basically, "Food is cheap because of consolidation. Get off Big Ag's back!" But with a nine-digit Farm Bill bailing out the ag sector in 5-year intervals, crediting consolidation with cheap food is like crediting AIG and Morgan Stanley with a successful recovery last year. If food prices are cheap in this country, it's because we tax ourselves heavilty in order to allow Tyson, Kraft, ADM and Big Beef to consolidate around cheap grains and feed.

It's a fine strategy, if the goal is cheapness.

But that's where Sykuta's wrong. America's chief goal and reason for being isn't cheap goods; it's fair competition in the marketplace. When domination of the marketplace actually impedes growth and job creation, that's when the people need to step in via their government and chop down the big tree that's shading out the rest of the apple orchard.

Yep. All eyes are on you, Monsanto.

I got thinking about this when a buddy of mine on Twitter, a student of genetic engineering in Iowa, actually said she hoped that Department of Justice would go after Monsanto. She and I don't see eye to eye on everything (or, much), but suddenly, we were in happy agreement? Why was she in favor of breaking up Monsanto? Because it would mean more jobs in her sector and more opportunity for her after graduation. If a biotech student in Iowa sees hope in antitrust investigations, you better believe the feds see a potential economic uplift in biotech as a result, too.

And I'll take a hesitant step toward embracing that idea -- with the caveat that I can change my mind about this later. Here goes.

While a boom in the biotech field doesn't make this Fair Food Fighter all warm and fuzzy inside, I will say that more biotech companies, with a wider array of competition, might mean greater accountability and, ironically, greater transparency. As is, we have one major company in the field and its influence over government "regulation" and approval of its product is unconscionably opaque. GMO traits have historically been approved on a fast track, and, with Monsanto's stranglehold on licensing, those traits get disseminated widely and freely, because Monsanto has the deck so heavily stacked in its favor.

With more, smaller "baby Monsantos," we'd have more eyes in the field, and more competitors watching each other. We might even have the opportunity for creating niche markets within the industry -- GMO traits that are deemed "organic friendly," so that a weird marriage of sustainable farming and genetic engineering might believeably take place. Monsanto's reputation for secrecy and back-room influence makes the idea of "safe GMO traits," and the public's acceptance of them, virtually impossible right now.

So go get your axe, Barack. I think it's choppin' time.

From article at Fair Food Fight
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Banana This; Recycle Old Peels~ fertilizer or silver polish

There are things you can do with that old peel.

1. Do you have a green thumb? House hold plants and outside gardens require fertilization. A great way to give your plants nutrients is with a banana peel. The banana peel is very rich in potassium and phosphorus, which give that added boost to your plants soil, especially so with roses. Here is how to use a banana peel to fertilizer your soil for your plants. Remove the peel from the banana. Place the banana peel on a cookie sheet to let it air dry. Grab a paper bag or envelope. Crumble the dried banana peel and place it in the bag. Let the banana sit at room temperature for about two days. When your caring for your plant, give it a potassium treat of crumbled banana peel. Mix well in the soil to ensure the roots are fed evenly.
2. Have you been thinking about pulling out that old silver? Well there is no time like the present. Bananas peel can also be used to polish silver. Yes, polish silver. Take the old peels and place them in a blender. You want the peels to become smooth and creamy. Once they have, grab a cloth and small amounts of the creamed banana peel and begin polishing your silver. The shine will be breath taking.


Wild yeasts exist in the air around you and to some extent on the wheat berries. There are wild yeasts on grapes (unsulphured) and apples and other fruits. It is those wild yeasts which are 'captured' to make a sourdough starter. The process takes from 3 to 5 days. I wish I had specific amounts for you, but you could start with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of flour and mix in enough warm (not hot) water to make a thin paste. DO NOT make it too soupy. That, in fact, is the trick to a good starter, according to the French bread makers, and I think they should know. And after you've fooled around with the flour and water thing, you might wish to branch out into adding those unsulphured grapes, apples, sour milk, etc as a catalyst in order to capture other strains of yeast. Each of these strains has a slightly different taste. In fact if you move to another area, you might end up with a starter that produces an entirely different flavor. For instance, San Francisco sourdough bread is well known and has a distinct taste due to the wild strains in the air there. On day one you mix the flour and water (and add any catalysts to encourage fermentation) and place in a warm spot. After 3 days, the dough should be moist, inflated, and slightly sour. More flour and water is added (mixed in) and left to sit in a warm spot. After 2 days the process is repeated. Then the next day it is done again. Note the order: 3 days, 2 days, 1 day. At this point you should be able to make a loaf of bread using part of the starter and adding back what you took out in the form of more flour and water. Rule of thumb: Use about 10% starter to size of loaf. In the case of a 2 lb loaf this is a bit over 3 oz of starter (3.2 to be exact). For a 1 lb loaf 1.5 oz would be used. A book that describes this process in great detail is The Village Baker by Joe Ortiz, copyright 1993, published by Ten Speed Press, Berkley CA. If it's not still in print, try the used books stores, that's where I got mine. Or try your local library. If they don't have it, they might be able to get it for you. ©2008 by Ernestina Parziale

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