GMO’S: The Science and The Myths: A Reminder

 

The book Ecospasm, by Robert Radin, my podcast guest this week, takes science from today’s knowledge base and plays it forward. He uses the science of GMO seeds, systemic pesticide use and explores possible consequences for our future food supply through fiction. If you missed the podcast on 3/6 you missed a rich discussion concerning unintended consequences.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a series of blogs to understand the details of our big agriculture system and its use of GMO seed and the use of systemic pesticides. It seemed confusing to me. John and Ocean Robbins conducted a GMO summit in 2014. I thought the speakers, the research available astounding. The more I learn about soil and soil health, watch reports about health concerns, these articles still seem relevant. (You can access these articles right here on my blog page. The category list has GMO and you will find several articles, speakers, scientists, farmers etc. with valuable contributions.)

 

Ecospasm, a sci-fi environmental thriller, plays it forward, a science-based idea of what could happen based on the choices we make for product development.  Maybe as the author suggests, we should try to play it forward. What are the consequences for future generations? Sustainability means we are using enough regenerative practices in farming to ensure our future generations have enough and can do the same and so on.

GMO’S: The Science and The Myths: Part 7

Today I would like to share reports and information coming from farmers. These are real-time farmers working the land and livestock, producing crops and meat the rest of buy and eat. What have they observed with the advent of genetically modified seed crops? Bt corn was the first to be introduced in our food supply of which a huge portion went to livestock feed.

In the GMO summit, I heard Howard Vlieger share his research and observations when GMO’s were first introduced to farmers around 1994. Howard serves on the board of directors for the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) and The Food Freedom Foundation.

Farmers began to notice when Bt corn in the feed was introduced to livestock, the livestock shunned the GMO feed over the non- GMO feed. Also, he states that in a non-scientific manner where livestock and wild animals were given the choice between the two feeds, they consistently walked away from GMO feed.

Howard along with Judy Carmen and colleagues conducted the first scientific study involving feeding GMO grain to some hogs and non-GMO grain to other hogs for their entire lifespan. Here’s what they found in GMO feed hogs:

  1. Their uteri were larger
  2. They weighed 25% more than non- GMO fed hogs
  3. Had severe stomach inflammation: in fact in young males, it was 4x as high.
  4. This study confirmed that GMO feed is related to digestive and inflammation problems

In the soil we see other problems with the use of GMO crops and pesticide spraying:

  1. They extract minerals, chelate them which decreases the amount left for plants uptake.
  2. Last year Iowa experienced a severe drought. Droughts decrease soil microbial activity and decrease soil aggregates which basically loosens the soil structure.
  3. The GMO fields, in the same area experiencing two days of heavy rains, suffered terrible erosion. The non-GMO farmed fields did not. They held up well with two days of intense rains.

Are the crops we grow healthier with the use of roundup ready seed and systemic pesticides sprayed on these crops? Mr. Vlieger states that contrary to what these chemical companies would have farmers believe, they are not. They are more susceptible to funguses and therefore the use of fungicides on crops has increased. These products have created a generation of superweeds and now Monsanto, Dow, for example, are looking for other more potent pesticides. They are seeking approval for application to the farms with superweeds. and they want it ASAP.

Also, the FDA keeps raising the allowable limit of glyphosate to meet Monsanto’s demand.

Finally, glyphosate was patented as an antibiotic in 2010. Remember in a previous post I mentioned that glyphosate is not given by itself but with adjuvants to help drive it into the cell? Ampicillin is one of the adjuvants. Today it has been estimated that 880 million pounds of this antibiotic have been put on the ground. Wildlife, livestock, our pets, and humans are ingesting small amounts of the pesticide, with the adjuvants such as an antibiotic, now found to be present in our food and water supply. The photo to the right shows an aerial view of an extensive Iowa farming area.

Dr. Seneff in her interview during the summit series mentioned that butchers are finding the livers of cows so badly deformed they are not offering beef livers in our supermarkets. And their intestines are so thin they cannot use them to stuff sausages. Check out sausage ingredients. I did. I am seeing on the ingredients label: “in a natural lamb casing” Did you know that that very casing comes from NON- GMO fed sheep in New Zealand?

Howard Vlieger is from Iowa and is a part of the Council for Healthy Food Systems.

Farmers have first-hand knowledge of these problems. I hope you will join me in supporting our local farmers’ efforts to create biologically and organically healthy farms and livestock. Check out your state’s farmers organizations and find out what they are doing to grow safe food. Remember farmers markets are great for our communities but some farmers who come to these markets do use roundup ready seed and spray pesticides. I ask questions if I do not see any organic signs by a vendors booth. I hope you will too.

Judith

Borage

                                

One of my favorite summer plants is Borage. Large leaves with beautiful bluish purple flowers are getting ready to blossom. Known as the “bee” plant, it obviously attracts many bees and is a good companion plant too for strawberries, tomatoes and squashes. making it a good contributor to our gardens. I have a couple of plants in between my tomatoes and a few near my strawberries. When the flowers are gone to seed, collect some seed and then cut plant down and leave in bed. The leaves will be good for the soil.

Borage: Borago officinalis

Parts Used: leaves, flowers, seeds

Where Found: originated in Syria; naturalized over Europe, US

Borage, also known as the “Starflower, named for its beautiful light blue –  purple star shaped flower, is a plant that is edible. It is a hardy annual plant that can reseed itself, too.

According to some of the old herbals, this plant was noted to soothe a troubled heart and help with exhaustion. So many herbals refer to this plant “as a comfort to the heart, increasing joy of the mind, and relieving sorrow. “

Leaves: are a good source of organic potassium, calcium and minerals. The juice from the leaves is mucilaginous, which means it offers a soothing, cooling quality to the stomach. This is one of the herbs that seem to be helpful in adrenal exhaustion. Stress, long days, and decrease in sleep can take a toll on our adrenal glands. As the flowers come into bloom the tender leaves can be picked and added to salad. The leaves have a mild cucumber like flavor.

Recipe: Pour 1 pint of boiling water over 6 teaspoons of fresh cut leaves. Let sit, strain and then add to wine, juice, lemonade even by itself over ice makes a refreshing drink.

Flowers: these beautiful blue flowers are edible, attract bees and can be used as a garnish to salads or side dishes. Many wild edible enthusiasts candy the flowers:

Recipe: Candied Flowers:

Thin the white of an egg with 1 tbs water, and the juice of one lemon. Dip the blossoms into this mixture and then roll in granulated sugar. Dry on wax paper until they no longer stick together, then put in a covered dish, store in refrigerator or freezer if not using right away. This makes for a lovely party treat or topping for cupcakes or cakes.

Seeds: Borage seed oil can be recommended for a variety of skin and inflammatory issues. The seeds when pressed contain a large amount of GLA (gamma linolenic acid) which has health benefits. The form of GLA found in Borage oil seems to help turn off the inflammatory mechanism implicated in so many chronic diseases. It may reduce the symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis and contribute to healthier skin in the elderly. Borage Seed oil has its cautions though and should not be taken with seizure disorder, blood thinners or pregnancy. It may be a good idea to check with your health professional about stopping prior to surgery.

Borage, the plant for courage, has many uses and contributes to a sustainable garden. Enjoy.

Judith

Wildflowers! Mullein: Verbascum thapsus

 

As I drive through the countryside I see so many wildflowers ready to bloom or blooming. The white faces of wild daisies dot the many roadways as do the purple vetch and the yellow black- eyed Susan. It’s Mullein however that caught my eye the other day as I wondered what plant to feature this month. While there are many wildflowers to choose from, Mullein, standing tall and erect, just showing its yellow flowers on its tall stalk, grabbed my attention.

Parts Used: Leaves, flowers, root

The photo above shows mullein in its first year. Broad velvety grey leaves form a rosette that can easily catch ones eye when on a hike or by a gardens edge.  The photo to the right shows the second year growth. This biennial shoots up a tall stalk sometimes reaching six to eight feet that then begins to display small yellow flowers near the top.  Soft grey leaves can be 12-15″ long.

Where found: Europe, West and Central Asia and North Africa; likes dry soils and often seen in disturbed areas. Mullein migrated to US along with early settlers. For example, I have seen Mullein grow abundantly throughout California’s mountainous areas, the mountains near Flagstaff AZ and here on the East coast.

Leaf System: the leaf arrangement of the Mullein is botanically interesting. Hairs that cover the leaves so thickly and give it this  velvety feeling act as a protective coat to the plant.  Since they tend to be found in dry soils, this thickness of the leaf helps the plant from giving off too much moisture. They also act as a deterrent to creeping insects  and grazing animals as they can set up an intense irritation in the animals mucous membranes so these critters will leave the Mullein alone.

The flowers close at night and in sun.

While Mullein tea is often recommended for coughs and colds it must be strained before consuming. These tiny hairs can cause irritation to the mouth.

The flowers give a lot of pollen and you will find many bees and other insects enjoying mullein flower nectar. These flowers are often gathered in a small jar and then filled with olive oil. Let sit for a few weeks and then strain. Mullein flower oil is often used for swimmer’s ear or ear irritations. 

Please not: do not place any liquid into the ear if one suspects a ruptured ear drum.

Mullein’s tall stalks, velvety grey green leaves, bright yellow flowers are hard to miss on our roadsides. This plant has a rich history of medicinal use. For more information check out At the Garden’s Gate found below.

Enjoy, Judith

Foraging for Wild Edibles: Soil and Red Clover

 

 

Wild edibles are blossoming. Some are easy to identify right now because of their flowery display. Bees are humming too, gathering sweet nectar.

Red Clovers (Trifolium pratense): sweet purplish pink flowers fill fields and meadows, hang out at the edges of our gardens. Who hasn’t picked a flower and enjoyed the sweet taste? They are not naive to the US and probably came with the early settlers. Today, red clover can be found all over the world. Trifolium pratense is the species most often referred to for edible and medicinal use.

What’s so special about them? Clover and related species are nitrogen fixers which basically means they contribute to soil fertility. How? These plants contain nitrogen fixing bacteria that can pull unusable nitrogen from our air and convert it into usable nitrogen compounds that can be used by the plant. In the video, above, you can see  different species of clover used to help organic farmers rebuild soil with nitrogen fixing plants, not synthetic fertilizers.

nitrogen-fixing bacteria, microorganisms capable of transforming atmospheric nitrogen into fixed nitrogen, inorganic compounds usable by plants. More than 90 percent of all nitrogen fixation is effected by them.”

Clovers, legumes, for example, are in this category. Because of this nitrogen fixing ability, we use them as cover crops.

The NRCS states: Cover crops have the potential to provide multiple benefits in a cropping system. They prevent erosion, improve soil’s physical and biological properties, supply nutrients, suppress weeds, improve the availability of soil water, and break pest cycles along with various other benefits. The species of cover crop selected along with its management determine the benefits and returns.”

Your State’s Agricultural Extension Service can help you decide on the right cover crop for your purpose and area.

Today, red clover is blossoming in our meadows and by our roadsides. 

Name: Red Clover: Trifolium pratense

Where Found: Field and roadsides, by trails

Uses:  Salads, flour, tea; I usually toss several into salads by breaking apart the flower into pieces. I find wild salads are more palatable when using foraged foods by cutting leaves and flowers smaller pieces.

Red clover tea is light and palatable and easily mixes with other herbs such as the mints. Red clover flowers can be added to grain dishes. Pick them now while vibrant, always save some for the bees. They can be placed on a tray and dried for future use. These flowers can be added to a summertime solar herb tea too. Today, research into red clovers components is ongoing. For example, iIsoflavones may be helpful for the symptoms of menopause but that research is mixed.

This Mother Earth News article on red clover has a great recipe. While I haven’t made a bread with red clover flour, I have made solar teas and toss these pretty flowers into salads. I  intend to gather flower-heads and seeds, dry and hopefully collect enough to make a flour. We’ve been enjoying acorn flour bread and chestnut flour in our pancakes. All gluten free. Red clover flour would be gluten free as well.

Red clover is an easy flower to get to know when learning about edible plants. This time of year they can be easily found. Remember do not use those by a roadside. There are tars, lead and other pollutants by roadsides.

Do you have a favorite red clover recipe? I’d like to hear from you.

Enjoy. Judith

Interview with Katerina vanDeusen: Earth Steward and Scientist

 

 

My interview for this week’s post  takes us into a different direction. Earth Day is around the corner with many planned celebrations, conferences and dates. I decided to reintroduce to my readers scientist and ecologist, Katerina ‘Kat’ vanDeusen. She and I have been presenters at a women’s’ gathering:“Strawberry Moon Festival.” that used to take place in June. My elder who organized this event is no longer able to do so. However, I found myself looking over bios for the last event and came upon Kat’s bio.

Intrigued, I called Kat and she agreed to be interviewed for my blog..

Kat comes from a matrilineal heritage of healers, one of whom, her Grandmother from Puerto Rico, taught her how to respect, gather and use wild   plants. And yes, to sense the presences in nature that can guide us, heal us and provide for us.

Kat is a senior project scientist and completed graduate work for a masters in bio-engineering at Cook College, Rutgers University where she also studied molecular plant biology. She is the primary coordinator for an innovative program within her company, EWMA. EWMA primarily tackles sites in New Jersey and New York State. An environmental engineer, she uses her expertise for “phytoremediation”, using plants and trees to decompose the components of toxic pollution from contaminated water and land sites. This is a unique and effective program.

Many of our undeveloped land in these states have soils and waterways contaminated with:

PCB’s
Petroleum products
Dry cleaner fluids (particularly toxic)
Metals
Landfill waste

These sites are termed Brownfield sites. Our traditional way of dealing with contaminated sites is to extract the soil for example, remove it. Then the question becomes where do we dump this toxic soil? Other techniques for water breaks down the contaminants and then sprays them into the air. Is that further contributing to air pollution?

Kat is unique in this field. As a trained scientist she uses the skills and tools from her education. However, her grandmother taught her something about working with the plant kingdom in more traditional, esoteric ways. Kat has a knack for scouting out an area, observing plant species present which often leads to a hidden toxic dump site. How does she do this? The plants tell her, she replies.

How does she work?

  1. She evaluates the landscape or Brownfield.
  2. Evaluates plant and tree species present; these two steps are complex as our topography undulates, has curves and slopes.
  3. If she has to replant the area, she uses plants/trees in multiple steps to prevent further contamination into water or lowlands.
  4. Specific plants/trees can eat up contaminants, metabolize them, which results in in the expiration of water vapor into the air that is no longer toxic.
  5. First successors like cedar trees, pokeweed do this efficiently.
  6. Does it work? Ground water is repeatedly tested and these scientists note an 80% reduction in contaminants in the soil and water.
  7. Cattails (Typha latifolia), Phragmites are great at protecting habitats. Have you observed these plants around waterways near our highways?  While some may consider Phragmites to be invasive I find it interesting that these plants are part of nature’s clean up crew. Dandelions are soil stabilizers. Did you know sunflowers are planted extensively around Chernobyl? They absorb the radiation from the soil. Fukushima sunflower project is under way.


Kat concluded our interview by stating nature has effectively engineered a way to create balance and the renewed hope of cleaning up our mess.

Lastly, she gives thanks to the plant kingdom for their guidance and when done often feels she receives their blessing.

She states: “The true measure of a scientist is to allow themselves to be open to all possibilities not the empirical.” This philosophy allows the scientist within and her scientific curiosity to blend with her matrilineal ability to perceive plants differently: which plants give a clue to a problem, which plants can literally eat up toxins and bring healthy renewal to our land. Her projects are unique. Her approach is innovative. Her results are measurable and positive.

Earth Day is upon us; a national awareness time for our country to celebrate the abundance and bounty the earth provides for us. And, to highlight the problems before us and stimulate us to take action. I would like to see us honor the earth everyday, wouldn’t you? Katerina vanDeusen’s phytoremediation efforts remind us of the complexity of nature. We still have much to learn don’t we? Earth Day for me is a reminder to stop, observe, and give thanks.

Enjoy. Judith

 

 

 

 

The North: Conscious Gardening

 

 

This blog continues to focus on soil and our relationship to the earth beneath our feet. I would like to share a quote from Michael J. Roads, from his book, Conscious Gardening, with you. A conscious relationship with the soil reaches us on a deeper level. Soil components react with our brain chemicals and create a feeling of peace. I hope that as your gardening begins you reflect a moment or two on the amazing world that exists in dirt. Soil, dirt, is the seat of all our fertility on the planet. Each of us can make a difference with the choices we make. Organic fertilizers, organic mulches, organic insect sprays fill the pages of our cyber worlds and are only a click way.

“Care for the soil with conscious attention. Be aware and conscious of the soil as a living medium. The soil is alive, and it is your responsibility as a conscious gardener to support and value that life. It is estimated that the weight of life in the soil far outweighs the weight of all humans, animals and creatures that live on the soil. That is a sobering thought. It is up to us, as conscious Beings, to support this natural balance, in however small a measure, by the care and intelligence of our actions in the garden.”

(P.80.) Conscious Gardening by Michael J.  Roads.

Can we walk more softly upon this earth, this soil, this dirt beneath our feet? I hope so. Remember we are caretakers here honoring our commitment to co-create with nature and all her aspects. Stewardship is a responsibility and a privilege.

Take a moment and walk barefoot if you can today. Touching the earth this way keeps us grounded and connected. Like the tiny Hummingbird, we can be conscious gardeners simply by  “doing the best we can.”

Happy Planting. Judith