Vital Times

In this time of turmoil, it is sometimes good to write about something positive….. and simple. I have found that subject on the shelf of Kroger’s grocery store in a carton of eggs. Inside the carton with the eggs was a little piece of paper that looks like a miniature newspaper called, “Vital Times”. The headline says, “Friends to Farmers, Help to Hens”.

The article that followed describes Vital Farms. It is a collection of farmers having chickens that produce eggs for market, but with a difference. Rather than stacks of cages and chickens as bioreactors that never see a natural environment, these farmers “give every girl a health, happy outdoor lifestyle and deliver perfectly pasture-raised eggs”.

Vital Times has a farmer support team that meets regularly with their farmers. They check on the ‘girls’ and make sure high standards are being met. They connect with farmers to gather advice and information to help others keep flocks and farms healthy and thriving. In short, they care about animal welfare.

The Mission of Vital Farms is stated as, “Our Mission is to bring ethically produced food to the table by coordinating a collection of family farms to operate with a well-defined set of agriculture practices that accentuates the humane treatment of farm animals as the central tenent.”

Look for the black box with all the writing on it at the store. You will love the eggs, but there is more. They, too, bring butter to the market. Look for it as well. You will not regret it. Feel good about what you eat.

Minks and the Virus

Denmark was the world’s largest supplier of farmed mink. Most was sold to China. It is estimated last year the business generated about $760 million with China being the largest buyer for fur pelts. Now Denmark’s mink industry has been eradicated completely. All mink, up to 17 million of them, have been killed.

Why? Researchers discovered the animals harbored mutations of the novel coronavirus that was now spreading to the human population. Health officials worried about such mutations which could change the gene structure in the virus in ways that could make it less susceptible to vaccines now under development or even cause the virus to become more lethal.

At least 12 Danes are known to be infected with a mutated coronavirus connected to the mink. Health authorities worried that if the problem was not addressed, the mink would build a reservoir of a mutated form that could be passed on to humans; one impervious to a vaccine. This potentially could set off a new wave of infections in Denmark or even the world. The worse-case scenario is that a new pandemic would begin again, starting with Denmark.

Nearby Netherlands has seen coronavirus outbreaks on more than 40 mink farms. The government has caused the culling of 1.5 million animals in that country. The government is bringing forward a ban on mink farming.

The beat goes on. It appears the world has not seen the end of coronavirus infections and death. It may get very worse before better, if ever. The Chinese have unleashed a devil they cannot control. In a larger sense, this is an example of genetic manipulation gone very wrong; or maybe intentionally so.

Toxic Agriculture

From the Organic Consumers Association:

Industrial agriculture, with its toxic chemicals, monocultures, drugs and deforestation, is destroying the natural resources needed to sustain life on earth.”

Nothing more need be said……

From China and More with Love

Smithfield Farms, the largest pork producing farm in the USA, was sold to China with the unanimous support of its stockholders! The hogs will still be raised here, but slaughtered and packaged for sale there fefore being sent back here. This includes labels of…

Premium Hams

The same with many chickens. They can now be shipped there, but when they come back all that needs to be labeled is that they WERE RAISED IN THE USA. Not that they were processed in China!!!

Our great FDA at work again. The chickens will be all processed and most sold to fast food restaurants for sandwiches, along with schools and supermarkets. The China slaughter and processing are not nearly equal to the requirements here for cleanliness.

We recently learned that Starkist Tuna is now owned by Korea, and is in big conflict with the U.S. concerning quality, safety, and records, which Korea refuses to produce. Read several articles on Google about this, and even one that was defending the eating of tilapia said to avoid the fish that came from China? Also, I had just returned home from buying Albertson’s 4-day special of 4 bags of frozen tilapia for the price of one? Sure enough, on the top of the bags it read, “farm raised”, and on the bottom in small print it said, “China”.

In general, farm raised fish should not be eaten because of the high concentration of antibiotics they are fed to prevent diseases due to being tightly confined with other fish. Buy wild caught fish from North America, Hawaii or New Zealand. Read all the way to the end.

Recently, a Food Inspector on TV said he had lived overseas and he had seen the filthy conditions their foods are raised and processed in. It is enough to make you thrown up. Many of their fish on Fish Farms are fed raw sewage daily. He said he has seen so much filth throughout their foor growing and processing that he would “never” eat any of it. They raise this filth, put some food coloring an some flavoring on it, then they ship it to hte USA & Canada for YOU to consume and fee to your families. They have no Food & Safety Inspectors. They ship it to you to buy and poison your families and friends.

Imported food we eat and the junk we buy:

Green Giant frozen vegetables are from China and so are most of Europe’s Best.

Arctic Gardens are OK, so is Birdseye.

Never buy the grocery store garlic unless it is clearly marked from the USA or Canada, the other stuff is grown in people poop (even worse than chicken poop). China is the largest producer of garlic in the world; USA is next.

Buy only local honey, much honey is shipped in huge containers from China and re-packaged here.

Cold-FX is grown and packed in China and is full of fecal bacteria. Doesn’t work anyway; bit scam. If the country of origin is not clearly marked, beware!

If produce, ask an employee:

Watch out for packages which state “prepared for”, “packed by” or “imported by”. We don’t understand the lack of mandatory labeling, especially on produce. The country of origin should be clearly shown on the item in the store (and no cheating about were produced and where processed and where packaged.).

Go to the local farmers’ markets in season and keep a wary eye open the rest of the year.

Please read this very carefully, and read to the vary bottom. It’s important for all of us. How is it possible to ship food from China cheaper than having it produced in the US or Canada?

For example, the “Our Family” brand of mandarin oranges says right on the can, “From China”. So, for a few more cents, buy the “Liberty” brand. Gold Brand or Dole is from California. Beware, Costco sells canned peaches and pears in a plastic jar that come from China.

All “High Liner” and most other frozen fish products come from China or Indonesia. The package may say “Pacific Salmon” on the front, but look for the small print. Most of these products come from fish farms in the orient where there re no regulations on what is fed to these fish.

Recently, the Montreal Gazette had an article by the Canadian government on how Chinese feed the fish: they suspend chicken wire crates over the fish ponds, and the fish feed on chicken poop. If you search the Internet about what the Chinese feed their fish, you’ll be alarmed; e.g. growth hormones and expired antibiotics from humans?

Never buy any type of fish or shellfish that comes from these countries …
Another example is canned mushrooms. No-Name brand came from Indonesia.

Also, check those little fruit cups. They used to be made in Canada in the Niagara region until about 2 years ago. They are now packaged in China. Most sold in Aldi stores.

While the Chinese export inferior and even toxic products, dangerous toys, and goods to be sold in North American markets, the media wrings it hands! Yet, at least 70% of North Americans believe that the trading privileges afforded to the Chinese should be suspended. Well, duh!!!!

Why do you need the government to suspend trading privileges? Simply to it yourself; Canada and the United States. Simply look on the bottom of every product you buy, and if it says “Made in China” or “PRC” (and that now includes Hong Cong), simply choose another product or none at all. You will be amazed at how dependent your are on Chinese products, and you will be equally amazed at what you can do without.

Think about this:

If 200 million North Americans refuse to buy just $20 each of Chinese goods, that’s a billion dollar trade imbalance resolved in our favor …. fast! The downside? Some Canadian/American businesses will feel a temporary pinch from having foreign stockpiles of inventory.

Just one month of trading losses will hit the Chinese for 8% of their North American exports. Then they will at least have to ask themselves if the benefits of their arrogance and lawlessness are worth it.

Start reading labels more closely and buy something else even if it costs a few cents more. And just think, if you eat in restaurants a lot, you have no idea what your are eating. Those culinary orgies will kill you eventually.

[More reasons to BUY AMERICAN!….. and do not trust a damned thing the Chinese send our way!]

The Monsanto Dam

The dam has been breached; FINALLY! Monsanto’s Roundup poison has been judged by two juries to be cancer causing. Four years ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer designated glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Roundup, as “probably carcinogenic to humans”. This is their highest designation for cancer causing based upon laboratory animal studies.

Two juries now have awarded judgments in favor of two people who pointed to glyphosate (Roundup) as the cause of their cancers. In the first case, DeWayne Johnson was awarded $289 million which was later reduced to $80 million upon appeal by Monsanto. The second case brought by Edwin Hardeman has now been brought to conclusion as well. The jury decided Roundup was a “substantial factor” in causing the lymphoma of the 70-year old who had used this toxic chemical on his property for many years. The award to Mr. Hardeman is also $80 million. There are thousands of law suits in waiting.

Recently, we learned that Costco, the large big-box retailer, has banned Roundup from its shelves. We also learned that Viet Nam has now banned the importation of glyphosate-based weed killers. This is the country we dosed with Agent Orange decades ago which became a never ending nightmare for the Vietnamese as well as for our veterans who served there. We have learned glyphosate residues have shown up in beers, cereals, snack bars, and some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. France banned a version of Roundup in January due to health concerns. Several other countries have done likewise. Even the city of Miami has banned the use of herbicides containing glyphosate. Headlines say these chemicals are “killing Biscayne Bay”.

Roundup has been the most widely used glyphosate based herbicide (poison) in the United States for nearly 20 years. It is everywhere.

Why is that important to us? We are surrounded every year with fields of corn and soy beans. Most corn and soy beans here have been genetically engineered to withstand doses of Roundup and survive while the weeds in the fields are supposed to die. Roundup is sprayed on the fields around us by the hundreds or maybe even the thousands of gallons. We live in a sea of Roundup. More is used each year since “super weeds” have developed that refuse to die. More and different toxic pesticides are added each year.

And have you been to your local hardware store lately? You will see rows of Roundup on many shelves ready for you to buy and use around your homes. You will see it ready for use around schools and parks and other public property where we find both adults and more importantly, our children.

It is time for government officials, industrial farmers, and homeowners to seriously question the use of glyphosate (Roundup); a toxic chemical found to be potentially cancer causing to themselves and their families. In the meanwhile while use continues, all of us including our children could be faced with cancers that did not have to be.

Growing and pesticide season will be coming soon.

Oceans in Trouble

Current world human population is 7,600,000,000 and increasing. Of this, more than 1 billion people worldwide depend on seafood as a main source of protein, and about 100 million people rely directly on fishing for their income according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The problem: 93% of ocean fisheries are either fully fished or over fished! It is estimated current catch is 250% of the level that is maximally sustainable. In other words, we are killing off the very resource so many depend upon. One large reason for this is subsidies from governments to industrial size operators for fuel, fishing gear, and vessel construction. The problem is not with the little guy but with those who run out miles of net and/or suck up everything from the ocean via large trawlers. This cannot continue. The piper will be paid.

Over fishing is not only a threat to fish stocks but also to the health of the oceans themselves. Healthy fish stocks are vital to health marine ecosystems and to the food security and livelihoods of billions of people. Healthy fish stocks contribute to the balance needed for the oceans to remain viable as a human resource.

Simply, there are too many boats chasing too few fish. One way to correct this is by curtailing capacity-enhancing subsidies to reduce pressure on fish stocks. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is encouraging members to adopt a binding agreement that will limit or eliminate harmful subsidies that cause over fishing.

My thought is this will not happen on any enforceable level, but the cost of inaction is high. What can happen is for the United States of America to aggressively enforce sustainable fishing limits in its territorial waters and eliminate any and all taxpayer subsidies to the fishing industry. We can do that. We can manage and allow scientifically calculated harvest of the marine resources in our waters.

There will be some who will vociferously oppose any limits for catch or exposure time. They will say it never has been so and that they are being robbed of their livelihood. But the problem as with about all environmental problems is too many people and too few resources. Hard decisions by government — the only means of control — are required.

Genetically Engineered Salmon

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is not known for good decisions, but they got this one right. A couple of weeks ago they denied the FDA’s latest attempt to hide thousands of pages of key government documents related to the agency’s approval of genetically engineered (GE) salmon for human consumption.

That’s right. You read it correctly. Genetically engineered salmon are now destined for a place on your grocers counter and you will never know it. The FDA did not want the public to know details of the approval process gone through by the agency charged with the responsibility of keeping our food supply safe. Trust us, they said. The FDA did not want you to know why they approved an engineered salmon that contains DNA from the Atlantic salmon, the deep water ocean eelpout, and the Pacific Chinook salmon. This would be the first time any genetically engineered animal has been approved for commercial sale and ultimate human consumption.

What is the big deal about this fish? It is different. The GE version is intended to grow faster than conventionally farmed or wild-caught salmon. The reason: new DNA has been engineered in. The new DNA is a growth hormone gene that is turned on all the time. The GE salmon is claimed to get to commercial size in half the time. Further, it is claimed by the FDA to not be significantly different from wild-caught or farm raised salmon. The truth: it may look the same from the outside, but it is different genetically.
One big concern is if the GE fish were to escape into the wild. It could threaten wild salmon populations by out-competing them for scarce resources and habitat, by mating with endangered salmon species, and by introducing new diseases. The FDA has been heavily criticized for failing to fully evaluate these potential impacts. The developers claim these concerns are meaningless because the GE fish are to be sterile females all raised in confinement tanks. Even that raises additional questions. How are the GE fish becoming 100% female?

In short, the FDA wants to hide. The pubic has a right to know in detail how the agency came to its approval decision for genetically engineered salmon, especially because the FDA’s approach will likely serve as a precedent for the assessment of future GE food animals. The FDA is funded by tax dollars which means the records they create can and should be available to the public and to citizens seeking to know all. The only exceptions should be withholding information critical to national security.

Under the court ruling, the FDA is required to fully complete the record with all relevant documents regarding its approval of genetically engineered salmon. In this case, the public right to know is being protected. It is vital all government agencies get the message hiding is not acceptable. Are you listening EPA and USDA?

Poison Time

When driving through the countryside this week on my way to Marion, I came across a sight I hate to see. It was an agriculture tank spray rig with 16 foot booms extended over rows of soy beans. The multiple nozzles on those booms were spewing glyphosate (Roundup) toxic poison. The odor of that herbicide filled the air. You have seen these rigs on the road as they move from field to field. You know, they are the ones that sit way off the ground so high you wonder if you could drive your car under the middle of them to get on your way as they poke down the road.
What you may not realize is they are the purveyors of death. The poisons they spread are supposed to only kill any “weeds” between the rows of soy beans or corn. What is the problem with that you may say. The problem is that this chemical called a herbicide or pesticide causes cancer in humans. This was the determination of the World Health Organization International Agency on Cancer Research. They call it a “probable human cancinogen”. This is the highest designation they can give using only laboratory animals for testing. Pretty tough to use humans. Of course, Monsanto and other companies who now manufacture glyphosate deny this. Some countries have banned its use.
The truth is glyphosate does kill plants. It also kills soil organisms necessary to keep our agriculture lands healthy. It kills life in streams and rivers when it is washed into them by rains and runoff. Think about it. In our neck of the woods, there is virtually no field that does not have tile under the soil to take away soaking rain water along with any fertilizers and pesticides that have been applied to the land. Where does this go? We have a dead zone over 150 miles in radius at the mouth of the Mississippi river as it empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
And what else? Roundup or glyphosate is used on genetically engineered corn and soy beans. The corn and soy have been genetically modified so they can withstand massive doses of pesticide and live while all vegetation around is supposed to die. Two problems: this has been going on so long now the weeds that were supposed to die are becoming immune to glyphosate. Answer: add more toxic chemicals like 2,4,D; a component of Agent Orange. Or add dicamba, another nasty pesticide that has a habit of not staying where it is applied. The other problem: the chemicals follow the crop to your dinner table. It is almost certain now that if you were tested for glyphosate, you would test positive for it in your body. That stuff is everywhere. Take a look at your local box store shelves as you enter.
But there is trouble for the manufacturers of glyphosate. Multiple law suits have already been filed by people who believe their cancers have been caused by this pesticide. Answer for you: DON’T use it. Stay away from it.

Pigs VS Produce

The smell. That is the big one between rural residents and pig factory production facilities claiming to be farms. Those facilities are also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, CAFOs, where thousands of pigs or hogs are crowed together in high numbers, by the thousands, in buildings where they are fed out for eventual sending to slaughter to such as the Indiana Packers Corporation plant in Delphi.
Carson Gerber, Kokomo Tribune reporter, had it right in his April 23rd KT article: it is a battle between pigs and produce. Hog CAFOs are anything but farming in the traditional sense. The concentration of hogs in one location produces huge amounts of urine and feces (that’s bowel waste or “crap”) that must be stored in lagoons or tanks until pumped out and taken elsewhere for disposal. In the meanwhile, the operation stinks.
It would be one thing if the stink stayed on the site where it originated. The problem is that it does not. The stink travels miles subject only to the whims of the wind. And it is offensive. Ray Reichard is worried about his flower and vegetable operation that is near where new hog CAFOs are proposed. He worries about people being offended by the odor from hog waste wafting into his greenhouse or lingering on the produce and flowers he takes to farmers markets. He should be worried.
There is a fact that most people do not get. If you can smell something, it means that molecules or “pieces” of whatever is causing the stink are in the air and that these molecules are being drawn into your nose and lungs. Crap and urine in. Reichard worries about his produce carrying the stink to market. What he is really saying is that feces and urine molecules from hogs will have landed on the food and flowers he has produced and have stuck there. Somehow, I do not think people want to be eating this produce or having these flowers in their homes.
Have you ever driven behind a semi-truck hauling hogs? It stinks. Waste and bacterial molecules are being blown off of the truck and hogs into the air and into the air intakes of your car. If you do not want these molecules in your lungs, you need to back off and put your car air system on interior air only, not take air in from the outside.
Hog operations are not what they once were. In the old days, farmers (not animal factory operators) raised hogs, cattle, chickens and other livestock in balance with land that was cropped with a variety of corn, soybeans, and more. Crops were rotated. The waste from animals became fertilizer for fields. All in balance.
If you have not noticed, there is movement toward more local production of healthy food. Farmers markets are more and more popular. People want farms to be healthier with use of fewer chemicals and antibiotics. CAFOs are not compatible with this trend. CAFOs stink.

Rural and Urban Indiana

[letter to Dr. Michael Hicks in response to his Kokomo Tribune column of April 3rd in which he encourages more investment in urban development in Indiana. He believes rural places are at risk and that the best chance for the future is in solid connection to labor markets in “healthy, vibrant and growing regional cities”. I think he missed some things.]
Dr. Hicks:
I am writing in response to your recent column about the decline in rural, small-town Indiana and your position that more investment is needed in urban centers. I have a couple of observations to make.
First, about the decline of rural, small-towns in Indiana: I believe this has largely come about due to the adoption of what has turned out to be devastating agriculture policy following World War II. One of the leaders in this movement was Dr. Earl Butz, former Secretary of Agriculture and Dean of the School of Agriculture at Purdue. He told farmers to “get big or get out” and to produce chickens and pigs like “Fords and Chevys”. This was at the beginning of large, corporate owned agriculture in what has come to be dominated by the giant chemical/seed companies. Today, I believe for several reasons we have a train wreck waiting to happen.
Steve Daily, former mayor of Kokomo, and his family are a prime example of what has resulted. He has told me that at one time there were 13 members of his family involved in agriculture as a way to make a living. After his retirement from Ivy Tech recently, he has gone back to farming; now organic farming. He says that only one other member of his family remains in agriculture. If the Daily family is typical, and I believe it is, it is clear how this would impact small, rural communities.
I believe there is growing recognition of the damage done by ill-advised agriculture policy. We see now that genetically engineered foods will be labeled; one positive step toward recognition of the risks of biotechnology for both people and the environment and of the toxins typically involved that follow food to the dinner table. We see the growth of local farmers’ markets and the increase in demand for “organic” or chemical-free foods. We see the growth of demand for foods produced closer to home; not shipped all over the country or from other countries. I believe we will see a gradual growth of the number of people involved in agriculture and, perhaps, even a reversal in population trends in rural areas.
You suggest we need more investment in urban areas. I suggest as well we need more encouragement in growing healthy food in Indiana. What a difference this would make. Both you and I live in areas dominated by wall-to-wall corn and soy beans, most of which has been genetically modified to withstand massive doses of glyphosate (Roundup) that has now been determined to be carcinogenic. And we wonder why the cancer rate in our nation is the highest in the world.
Finally, an over-arching question: when is enough, enough? Everyone talks about “growth and development” when they really mean more population and more jobs. When is it time to stabilize population and work on increasing standard of living only. I, for one, do not want Kokomo (a regional center) to become an “Indianapolis” or anything even close. Except for the impact of immigration, most of the developed nations of the world are at near zero population growth, but that is a whole other subject for discussion.
Regards, Kent Blacklidge