Monday, 31 January 2011

A Positive Vision from Prince Charles: Our World is in Harmony

Book Review: Harmony, A New Way of Looking at our World, by HRH The Prince of Wales, Tony Juniper and Ian Skelly (2010) London: Blue Door and imprint of HarpersCollins Publishers.

“Thou, Nature, art my goddess; to thy law My Services are bound.” William Shakespeare

Like my blog, Prince Charles’ new book starts off a bit rough. I even had tears in my eyes after turning the first page. But once I got past the reminders about climate change, piles of rubbish, industrial farming and other such well versed present day calamities, I settled into the reading.

As many would know, Prince Charles has been interested in architecture a long time. I share this interest and in 2010 a friend gave me his book, A Vision of Britain, A Personal View of Architecture (1989). He brings more thoughts and history about architecture to this new book to develop his theme of harmony with Nature. Besides historical architecture, Prince Charles also draws upon religion, philosophy, art and music to make his points. I felt in good company again because I did a similar thing for my 2010 Retreat. Prince Charles seems to have gone on a retreat of his own because he says:

“Revelation is not deemed possible from an empirical point of view. It comes about when a person practises great humility and achieves a mastery over the ego so that ‘the knower and the known’ effectively become one” (p 13).

I agree with Prince Charles that we are following “an approach to life that places the greatest value on a mechanistic way of thinking and a linear kind of logic” (p 20) which is evident in many of my blog articles. In addition, it was good to read that he shares my view and that of many that ‘organic farming’ is “an unfortunate term because it has the ring of an alternative approach, or even a new one, when it is actually how farming was always conducted before industrial techniques came to dominate agriculture” (p 57).

Prince Charles mentions Norman Borlaug, who won a Nobel Prize for peace because of his involvement in the ‘Green Revolution’ and especially for spreading intensive agricultural practices to undeveloped countries such as India. This caught my eye because I had remembered F William Engdahl mentioning Borlaug in Seeds of Destruction where he pointed out that Borlaug was involved with the Rockefellers. Prince Charles is tactful throughout the book though in that he does not seek to name individuals or companies to place blame.

A true gem for me was when Prince Charles referred to “the business model of the madhouse” being in operation today. I used this theme in my poem Cloning Craze and article Positive Vision No. 3 from my 2010 Retreat.

Prince Charles seems to have latched onto a good explanation to back up his hunch of why we are moving in the wrong direction. I was glad he shared it because I too had a similar hunch. With the help of Dr Joseph Milne of the University of Kent, he discovered that since the 13th century, God began to be defined as separate and disconnected from Nature as opposed to the previous view of being one with Nature and connected to and in all things. This was a shift in consciousness and is a good explanation for the development of our destructive attitudes towards Nature.

His studies with Dr Milne also led to a discussion of law, which got my attention because of my legal background. Prince Charles talks about when there was no separation between creation and God, an ‘Eternal Law’ was practiced because it exists in the mind of God which is in each one of us. Recognition of a universal law, ‘ever-living law’ or the law of nature, and justice and the common good in union with the natural world was the basis of civilization for centuries. But the same shift in the 13th century that made God into a separate being also caused the fragmentation of the education system into distinct and divided disciplines. From this time, the law developed into an ‘artificial’ practice that was to be used foremost to curb man’s ‘savage inclinations’. It was no longer grounded in any universal natural order.

Another explanation given by Prince Charles for our current problems and the trend towards sameness was that we have been driven by a combination of competitiveness, a monocultural ideology and a top-down globalization. He advises that “[c]ompetition takes us so far, but collaboration is also needed across sectors of industry to solve the complex challenge at hand. All this is about culture and how we do things” (p 286).

“With our thoughts we make the world.” Buddha

As Prince Charles reminds us, the Buddha said that thoughts are important. This is interrelated with his discussion of age old historic references to reality being like a dream and how consciousness gives rise to matter. To this end, I went to Belgium for the conference on Positive Visions for Biodiversity in November 2010 and a retreat in December 2010, and since then, have been creating my own positive visions and affirmations on my blog. All in all, Prince Charles gives much food for thought for many positive visions, but the overall one is that our world is in harmony. Based on these ideas and in keeping with the title of his book, I think the positive affirmation for reading this book and reflecting, thinking or meditating on what he says in it (with the help of his co-authors) is: mmm.......... harmony.

In conclusion, Prince Charles calls upon each and every one of us to redress the balance of Nature, both within us and without, by developing and putting into practice a philosophy of life based on the organic grammar of harmony. It is a royal invitation to each of us to join him in a sustainability revolution. How can anyone (in their right mind) refuse such an offer? RSVP

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Organic Farming Gets Thumbs Up

Following written Answers in the UK House of Lords: Agriculture: Organic Food (24 Jan 2011)

Lord Krebs (Crossbench) asked Her Majesty’s Government (as is the custom in the English House of Lords) for their assessment of the recently launched £1.8 million campaign to promote organic food in the European Union.

Lord Henley (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Conservative) replied with an explanation of who paid for the campaign stating that it was a joint enterprise between the organic industry (which most likely includes large corporations that produce organic food for profit) and the European Union (EU), which I gather means that we all contributed to it since the European Union gets its money from our governments who in turn get much of their money from us.

Lord Henley then discussed the raison d’être for the campaign which he explained was to “help to address barriers and misconceptions around the market for organic products”. He also stated that the UK shares the EU vision that more organic food will be sold by UK organic operators to increase our choice.

In keeping with my 2010 Retreat, my positive vision is that this campaign relates to whole foods as opposed to processed foods.  I am also envisioning that the organic system develops to include truly UK locally produced and locally distributed whole foods.

Lord Krebs next asked about the statement on the European Commission’s website that organic farming is Good for nature, Good for you.

To this, Lord Henley replied that it is supposed to convey to European citizens that organic farming is a system of farming that promotes biodiversity which can improve their lives by enhancing their enjoyment of rural areas. This, of course, is assuming that we have access to rural areas. In addition, he pointed out that just because a food product is organic does not mean that it is good for us, such as confectionary. He also mentioned that this campaign was being developed in 2006-07, which I thought was interesting considering the Food Standards Agency’s attempt to denigrate organic foods once again in 2009.  But there you have it, a positive vision from the EU; organic farming is good for nature and good for you!

Lastly, Lord Krebs asked another question about the campaign motto, but instead of referring to farming, he referred to food. He wanted to know if there is scientific evidence that organic food is better for nature and better for consumers.

Lord Henley was tactful in his reply stating that “[w]hether organic production delivers environmental benefits is a complex issue.” He gave some evidence to show that organic systems have been shown to be the most effective in improving biodiversity together with one slightly contradictory report. He then focused on the food for consumers aspect and pointed to the recent studies funded by the Food Standards Agency which I have written about on this blog and know to be entirely inadequate. But then he continues on the note of consumer preference acknowledging that many consumers prefer: (1) not to have chemical residues on their food, (2) to have strict animal welfare rules as in organic production, and (3) not to eat hydrogenated fats and synthetic flavours (referring to processed foods).  This is a positive vision too: a vision that consumers will have the right to chose wholesome foods produced in a humane manner.

All in all, I take this to be thumbs up for organic farming and food. If only our government and the EU could make them the cheaper option without the involvement of transnational corporations instead of the present more expensive one, we’d be well on our way to a better future! Rather than paying for campaigns, we should be paying for a system to make organic farming and foods cheaper because that is the best way to promote them. This is my final positive vision here, that organic farming and foods are cheaper than the so-called conventional farming and processed foods.  What about a positive affirmation for this? Let me see, mmm..........wholesome food’s are affordable!

P.S. I have learned that it is helpful to know who you are talking to and in this case talking about.  So I would like to share a little information that I discovered about Lord Krebs, born John Richard Krebs on 11 April 1945 in Sheffield and who in 2007 became a non-party political life peer.  First of all, he was chairman of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) from 2000 to 2005.  As I noted in my book review on Food Wars, the FSA launched an attack on organic food shortly after its inception in 2000.  Indeed, the BBC news quoted him as saying that consumers are  "not getting value for money, in my opinion and in the opinion of the Food Standards Agency, if they think they're buying food with extra nutritional quality or extra safety. We don't have the evidence to support those claims."  One only has to look at my book reviews for such evidence, the main one being The One-Straw Revolution (1978) written by a scientist turned farmer.  As is the case with many scientists, it would appear that Lord Krebs may tend towards failing to look at the whole picture as discussed by the President of the Royal Society, Britain's Academy of Science, Sir Paul Nurse in a recent BBC documentary.

His father was a biochemist who described the uptake and release of energy in cells (the Krebs cycle) and so one would imagine that Lord Krebs would naturally lean towards a scientific approach to matters.  His own speciality is ornithology, the study of birds, which explains why Lord Henley mentioned the biodiversity of birds on farms in the one study that did not entirely support organic farming as a way of increasing biodiversity.

You can watch Lord Krebs in a video of a lecture he gave on 29 September 2010 at Jesus College, University of Oxford on "Risk, Uncertainty and Regulation" by clicking here.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Food Sovereignty Prevails

What is food sovereignty? An inclusive definition was provided in the 2007 Declaration of Nyéléni which was developed from a gathering of more than 500 delegates from organizations of peasants, women, indigenous communities, fisher folk, shepherds, etc. from all over the world in Sélingué, a village in rural Mali. This definition encompasses six principles:

1. Focuses on food for people as opposed to treating food as a commodity in an international market.

2. Values the food providers rather than threatening their livelihoods.

3. Localises food systems and removes power from transnational corporate trade.

4. Preserves the commons and independence by rejecting the privatization of natural resources.

5. Supports the development of local skills and knowledge and avoids technologies that undermine, threaten or contaminate.

6. Pursues an agroecological approach to food production that works with nature to “heal the planet so that the planet may heal us” and shuns industrial farming, fishing and food production.

Why is this important? As described in the UK Food Group Briefing, January 2010, there is no international control over transnational corporations (TNCs) to keep in check monopolistic concentration of power in our food supply. In addition, corporations are privatising life with patents on seeds and animals. They are controlling food production further with onerous contracts and manipulation of the law. Finally, corporations are undemocratic institutions that are eroding our democracy by taking over government functions. For example, the UK government is working in partnership with TNCs to tackle health problems with the Responsibility Deal. But meanwhile, the protection of our health is a government function and not one that business can fulfil.

I would like to declare that the Food Wars are over and that food sovereignty is secure. This is a positive vision that fits in well with my 2010 Retreat positive visions. When I was at the GM Gathering Momentum meeting on Saturday, 22nd January 2011, this is what I focused on when the many participants divided up into groups to work on action plans to campaign against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food supply. I think a good affirmation for meditating or thinking about this positive vision is mmm........peace prevails.

Who does this affect? No matter where you live in the world, GMOs are intricately tied in with the destruction of your very own food sovereignty. GMOs are produced and controlled by transnational corporations (TNCs) and threaten to contaminate all our food. There is no escaping it. The more TNCs take control, the more you will be dictated to on what to eat and the more your food will be bereft of natural nutritional value.

How does loss of sovereignty because of GMOs affect you? GMOs are part of an agricultural system that is energy, resource and finance intensive, which is undesirable because of global warming, loss of biodiversity and unstable financial markets. GMOs are technological commodities with unknown long-term consequences that have been scientifically proven to have some negative health affects, toxic qualities to the environment, and contamination through cross pollination.

Rather than bemoaning that resistance is futile, a Borg claim, why not ask what we can do about it? This is the question that leads to each and every one of us taking an active part in making life on earth better, safer, healthier, happier and fairer. What’s more, it can be done in a peaceful manner that leads to a better life for you and others right away. The first mode of action that my group came up with was to stop shopping in supermarkets. Graham Harvey discusses this in his book, We want Real Food and he sets out many ways to do it. As he says, it’s not necessary to go cold turkey, but once you take the first step, you will find you are on a road to better health and perhaps even a better lifestyle.

Some supermarkets are worse than others in this food sovereignty dilemma. I would suggest starting with TNCs such as Tesco and Asda (part of US Walmart) and the UK Sainsbury’s because of Lord Sainsbury’s involvement in the development of GMOs. Supermarkets dictate to farmers and thereby undermine food sovereignty. While I was at the GM Gathering Momentum meeting, a farmer told me about an example of supermarket bullying where a farmer was left with £35,000 worth of unusable packaging because the supermarket changed its requirements. In Corproate Power In Global Agrifood Governance, the authors discuss many problems with retail power, private standards and sustainability.

Another highly positive action to ensure food sovereignty, not only for yourself but for the world is to grow some of your own food. This could be as small a contribution as some parsley in a window box. Those of you with gardens could plant food items along with flowers and grass. For the more ambitious, even a small allotment plot can be used to grow fruit and vegetables. I’m a long-term city girl, but this year I’ll be growing potatoes, strawberries, all sorts of herbs, garlic, onions, beets, lettuce, possibly tomatoes, sunflowers (for the bees), chives, horseradish, and maybe some other vegetables, and I only have a small plot of about 20 feet by 30 feet. I don’t use any machines, chemicals or even much time. But it’s a good way to spend time outdoors in the warm weather and I’ve made some good friends there too.

Finally, this is not something to put off. Do it today. Walk over to the local fruit and veg shop and buy an apple, anything to get you started. If you’re strapped for time, try a box scheme. It’s time to take more responsibility for your food supply. As the UK Responsibility Deal shows, if we don’t take responsibility, the TNCs will. They will also inevitably create further iniquities.

mmm.......... peace prevails

Photo credit: Inspiring alternatives at COP-15

Monday, 24 January 2011

Germany says no to EU Father Christmas idea

Back in November 2010, I wrote an article about the European Union (EU) expanding a scheme that was initiated to stabilise market prices for certain food products but which has also been used to distribute food to the most deprived persons in the EU as discussed in the House of Lords. Lord Teverson had brought in the reference to Father Christmas because the excess of so-called intervention stocks was first distributed around Christmastime and as this new proposal was being made just before Christmas, I asked if the EU was really Father Christmas for the most deprived EU citizens.

Well, just before Christmas while I was on my Retreat, Germany filed an action against the Commission for the European Communities which clearly answers my question in the negative! Germany seeks the annulment of Commission Regulation (EC) No 983/2008 of 3 October 2008, which contains the plan for the 2009 budget year in respect of distribution of food to the most deprived persons in the Community. Germany has submitted that this regulation has no basis in Community law because the plan created thereby to deal with intervention stocks is now being used purely as a social policy instrument (principal of conferred powers). This argument is very similar to the reasoning I put forward in my November 2010 article on this issue.

Thanks to Thomas Paga for bringing this case to my attention.

Friday, 21 January 2011

GE Alfalfa Action

The Center for Food Safety sent me an email to ask that I write to President Obama and US Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack to request a moratorium on genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa.  A standard letter is provided to sign as well as a space to personalise the message, which I did and now copy it below in case it might help others.

It is important to take action to let politicians know your opinion.  If you are against GE crops, please join me in this letter writing action by clicking here, where there is plenty of information to bring you up to speed on this particular issue and the letter to send.

My personalised message was as follows:

I would ask for you to please stop and honestly reflect on this matter for a moment. I believe that you will then realise that growing genetically modified plants is contaminating the environment, just the same as dioxins. But at the very least, you will realise that growing GE alfalfa is a risk not worth taking. Besides contaminating the environment, there is evidence to suggest that these unnatural products cannot be recycled properly. Also, there is scientific proof that genetically modified foods and feed are toxic. Finally, there is a chance that the already taxed bees will be adversely affected.

In addition, think about what the point of the whole exercise is. The main point of GE alfalfa is to feed cows an unnatural diet that harms their health which in turn harms the humans who eat the foods they produce. GE alfalfa is part of the program where cows are crowded together indoors without fresh air, sunlight or exercise.  Also, GE alfalfa is produced using chemicals to reduce the number of weeds, many of which would contribute to a balanced diet for the cows!

And then consider the fact that GE alfalfa is a means for corporations to make more money, not to ensure the production of healthy food. It’s your health too because everything in this world is interconnected. As with all over sized transnational corporations, Monsanto, the producer of Roundup ready alfalfa, is a dinosaur. You can read more along these lines on my blog at:

The only option that will protect organic and conventional alfalfa growers and dairies is for the USDA to deny any approval of GE alfalfa. The USDA needs to adopt a moratorium on the planting of GE alfalfa in order to start the process of reclaiming life back from corporate powers that are causing the destruction of the food chain. It may seem like “sticking your neck out” but it isn’t really that hard to do, that is, to choose the way forward that promotes human and animal well-being and protects the environment that we all share.

It's no small task, but I hope that you find the gumption to fulfil the government's role of protecting farmers, consumers, animals, biodiversity and the environment from corporate aggression by placing a moratorium on GE alfalfa.

Thank you for your help.

Photo of cows credit: Proposed Nocton Dairies in Nocton Heath, Lincolnshire, UK

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Labelling on Fast Food Proves Useless

Some preliminary findings were recently published which back my gut reaction in August 2010 to the new legislation on labelling requirements for fast food in the US.  Research was done in King County, Washington at Taco Time outlets over a period of 13 months. And surprise, surprise, they couldn’t even find a slight change in purchasing behaviour.

The idea that such a measure could be part of a comprehensive effort to stem obesity pulls at my heartstrings. I largely agree with Hannah Sutter author of Big Fat Lies, that the government is making people fat (in the UK and US). As far as this gesture is concerned, the US government wants to keep making people fat because this information merely endorses the myth sustained by it that cutting back on fats in the diet will help with weight loss. The fact is that a healthy diet requires high quality fats such as grass fed beef with fat, whole milk, cheese, and yes, butter.

I recently went to a meeting where Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride was speaking about these things and wrote a report which sets out some of the scientific facts on fats required in a healthy diet. We often hear that consumers are supposed to switch to healthier options, but what the governments in the US and UK call healthy is actually causing the problem, e.g., low fat milk, margarine, too much carbohydrates, and generally, industrial farming and food processing.

Also, it doesn't matter what they put on the menu labels at Taco Time because it’s fast food which is basically bad for health.

See: Mandatory menu labeling didn't change behavior at 1 fast food chain for further details on this story.

Photo credit: more popular nutrition-related weight-loss myths

Monday, 17 January 2011

Book Review - Seeds of Destruction

If nothing else, Seeds of Destruction, The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation (2007) by F. William Engdahl will leave you with seeds of doubt. Not doubt of any hidden agenda, which as far as I’m concerned is not so hidden, but of civilization in general! Engdahl repeated a quote by Henry Kissinger a few times, and it shows his main concern – “Control oil and you control the nations; control food and you control the people...” I would recommend this interesting book. Some facts are not referenced and incomplete, but by and large the book seems to have been well researched and documented.

Throughout the book Engdahl thoroughly implicates the Rockefeller family and the Rockefeller Foundation, starting with the “Green Revolution” which was all about creating markets for petro-chemical fertilizers and petroleum products in seeking the ultimate control over life on earth. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were the promise of a new agro-industrial revolution, which Rockefeller Foundation President, Gordon Conway, dubbed the Gene Revolution. He claimed that GMO crops were needed to feed the extra 2 billion mouths by 2020 (p 241) similar to claims being made today about 2050!

Engdahl puts things in an easy to follow sequence and after reading it, everything seems sort of obvious. For the sceptics, maybe things weren’t planned and just happened that way, but Engdahl gives a good case to support the claim that the development of global agribusiness was calculated by government and a wealthy elite, not just as a money making scheme, but also as a form of eugenics.

Family farmers were first to go as they were inefficient. Next, Third World countries had to give up self-sufficiency and food sufficiency by importing from the efficient US. US food aid was part of this strategy. And then he explains the once secret US National Security Study Memorandum 2000 or NSSM 2000 for short. He sums it up by saying, “if these inferior races get in the way of our securing ample, cheap raw materials, then we must find ways to get rid of them (p 59). This does seem to be what has been happening in the world. Some of the details he gives are not for the faint of heart.

Engdahl explains that eugenics was popular in the twentieth century and not just in Nazi Germany. He gives details of schemes that were carried out. He also points out that wealth was considered divine proof of superiority and justified the accumulation of vast fortunes (sound familiar?). He also says that natural resources were to be conserved for use by global corporations and this was the conservation policy. This also sounds familiar to me.

“[M]ergers creating near total market control were ‘not necessarily against the public interest’” despite previous anti-trust laws (p 104). Add to the monopolisation of agribusinesses the fact that agriculture was treated as a commodity just like oil, to be traded and controlled, and one will begin to understand Engdahl’s view of the Rockefellers.

Another interesting connection raised by Engdahl is the involvement of Harvard University with the Rockefellers in developing agribusiness throughout the world. This included the development of pharmaceutical firms as antibiotics were flourishing on factory farms. By 2005, Engdahl tells us, the use of antibiotics in agribusiness had increased to 40 million pounds (p 142)!

Disturbingly, Engdahl claims that by 2004, 25% of agricultural land in the world was planted with GMO crops, but he gives no reference for this statistic. He then delves into the global socio-political development of this technology. I found the chapter about Iraq very informative.

Engdahl refers to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as a policeman, a global free trade enforcer with a major aim of using a battering ram to get at the trillion dollar annual world agribusiness trade (p 217). I’ve never heard of the WTO referred to as such before and thought it was rather fitting. And in case there was any doubt, he sets out the doctrine of the WTO: “free trade – on terms defined by giant private agribusiness conglomerates – was to reign supreme above sovereign nation states and above the concern for human or animal health and safety” (p 224).

The final chapters are where the seeds of doubt really start to sprout. Engdahl discusses the terminator and traitor seeds. And then he mentions the GM corn with anti-sperm antibodies that was developed and grown in field trials in the US in 2002 along with other drug compounds in GM crops. To top it all off, he describes how GMO plants are being researched as weapons of mass destruction such as an opium-like substance. What with the likelihood of contamination from windblown pollen, one doubt I have is that these GMO corn varieties have not contaminated other corn.

And as if plants aren’t bad enough, in the final chapters, Engdahl shows how GM chickens and pigs are on the agribusiness shopping list. He ends on an enlightened note that scientific progress has been one of the essential tools in the take-over of our food supply by powerful and arrogant elites. Even if after reading the book you still don’t believe it, I’m sure you will wonder if it’s not all possible.  For my part, I see signs of it happening every day.

Book Review – The Ecology of Commerce

This book by Paul Hawken is interesting and full of food for thought. However, I largely disagreed with his vision. It’s as if he has a lot of right ideas and information, but because of flawed logic, he often reaches an unsatisfactory conclusion. It’s a schizophrenic presentation and he even discusses this concept himself. Despite this, and although the book was written nearly two decades ago, I decided to write this review because there are many people who believe that the market economy can fix our current problems by incorporating prices and all costs for natural resources and services. I hope my comments shed some light on why I strongly disagree with this.

Paul Hawken starts out with the question, “... can we create profitable, expandable companies that do not destroy, directly or indirectly, the world around them?” He then delves into seeking an answer. I was unconvinced he found one.

He calls for corporations, as the dominant institution on the planet, to address the social and environmental problems that affect humankind. He then qualifies this by saying that although corporate managers are intelligent, they have not been able to model a sustainable world, and so, looking to corporations can only supply part of an overall solution. And yet later on, he says that “any substantial change in the ways in which we degrade our environment will have to emerge from business leadership” (p 148). One flaw in all of this stems from his claim that the ultimate purpose of business is not, or should not be, simply to make money (p 1) because business law requires it to be so. On this basis, he idealistically thinks that business is a system that can increase the general well-being of humankind through service, creative invention and ethical philosophy, which frankly, is rubbish unless and until the legal framework of business is changed.

However, Hawken does recognise many of the shortcomings of global corporations, which as he says, glide easily across borders, cultures, and governments in search of markets, sales, assets and profits while dishonouring life on earth. He points to a lack of science to inform society of industrialisms’ effects. But science is just an excuse as can be witnessed by the fact that we have not changed direction since 1993 when this book was published and much science had been flaunted before and has been since then.

He calls for a sustainable method of commerce that allows humans to fulfil their desires to flourish and prosper. He does not explain what flourish and prosper means, but I doubt indigenous peoples would have the same view. He also says that doing the right thing might put corporations out of business. This is my Positive Vision No. 3. In addition, he asks “[h]ow many people does a company have to harm before we question if it ought to exist?” (p 122). But rather than following either of these threads through, he continues with the premise that business and the market can work ecologically.

He talks about governments needing to create wealth and that is why they partner with business. But as he discusses, this leads to the erosion of democracy.

One of Hawken’s main themes is that a restorative economy is possible which can integrate with or replicate cyclical systems in its means of production and distribution where making money and restoring the environment would be the same process. However, commerce requires efficiency and speed, whereas cyclical systems require time and patience, making these two incompatible. Also, providing goods and services frequently has little to do with restoration, even in an ideal market. He does say that corporations are the opposite of nature (p 103) but then he says that efficiency should represent the bridge to a restorative economy (p. 179) which shows that he does not truly grasp the fact that efficiency is a commercial concept that has nothing to do with nature.

Hawken talks about factoring in true costs, which the market has been incapable of recognizing. This is a popular concept today. But what is the true cost of a loaf of bread, especially when the government takes our money and pays it to transnational corporations (TNCs) as subsidies to cut corners on the nutritional value of the bread? He says that complex and onerous regulations will be replaced by motivating standards. I cannot see anything that could be motivational other than profit in a system designed to make money. And I cannot understand why he thinks corporations should not be regulated, especially after letting us know that corporations kill 28,000 people and seriously injured 130,000 every year by selling dangerous and defective products. And this doesn’t even include those killed and injured by toxic waste, poor quality foods and medical supplies. Also, the idea that mankind can create anything natural for a price, such as clean water, is very short sighted considering the fact that something as simple as a loaf of bread has been ruined by the market.

Hawken claims that we like our comfortable lifestyles and that business is reinforced by our own desires, which in itself, is debatable. But, “[e]xtravagance of desire is the fundamental cause which has led the world into its present predicament” (Fukuoka, 1978). However, one only has to look around the world to see how much of these so-called desires are created and reinforced by corporate propaganda, and for many, they do not provide a comfortable lifestyle, just a consumerist one, which Hawken even acknowledges (p 132). He proposes that it is possible to create eco-commercial systems without a transformation of humankind. But he misses the point that economic forces need to exploit and destroy because that is the nature of competition upon which commerce relies and thrives. He says that business contains our blessing because it is the only institution that has the power to make change. This is nonsense because power implies force and inequality. In contrast, cooperation implies peace and the only way to live in harmony with nature. There are exceptions with smaller businesses, but transnational corporations operate through power and do not have the blessing of many, although this is probably more obvious today than then.

Hawken later acknowledges that business thrives on the idea of competition and blames the negative results on the need for growth which is fuelled by investment. He then touches upon the negative aspects of financial capital in today’s market. He points out that money decides what is valuable, which he claims is a market choice. But more to the point, it is a manmade choice and this is one of the main reasons why I do not support including natural resources and services in the market, because men will still be discriminating between one thing in nature against another instead of respecting all of nature and working with it instead of against it. I discussed this phenomenon in my article about the superiority complex.

Hawken says that business is the problem and calls for business to solve it. But, because much of the business that is the problem is comprised of corporations which are separate legal persons, I say that this is rather like asking robots to act humanely. He seems to be asking for just this on page 167, and expects commerce to have a receptive ear and an open heart (p 216) even after talking about corporations being a form of technology (pp 119 -120). In addition, he continually tries to support business with claims that it is efficient and has positive attributes. However, he then says “[t]he seeds of corporate dysfunction reside in the nature of business, not in the size of the enterprise” (p 60) which makes his theory that business can fix anything lose all validity.

The decline in biodiversity and the evolutionary process he calls the birth of death. He put it very well when he says that “[w]e can’t turn our backs on the web of life that sustains us, and live in a biological vacuum engineered by technology” (p 30). But he then contradicts himself again by saying that markets are the perfect mechanism for worldwide trade because they are separate from philosophy or religion or political belief (p 76)! Yet later on he seems to think that corporations should be ethical (p 136). The web of life includes the spiritual and social sides of human beings because we are not partly in the web of life, but wholly in it. In fact, being separate is probably the biggest downfall of the market! He says that it is difficult to argue with markets (p 77), but I disagree. He talks about wealth and riches being attainable in the market. But what is a treasure chest full of gold compared to clean air, clean water and freedom? When markets are free they are not our friend guided by Adam Smith’s invisible hand (as if this is some sort of God). Rather, we are enslaved by the illusion of prosperity and health which in reality brings chains of binding consumerism and ill-health both for us and the planet. A recent BBC documentary confirmed that many people have trouble empathising which is another symptom of what I call egoitis, that is, having a big ego, but meanwhile, they think they are fine! I know Hawken's thinking is skewed when he mentions Monsanto in a positive light (p 81).

Interestingly,  Hawken realises at least on one level that free-trade is a delusion because he refers to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) as a “managed” trade agreement and gives examples of harm caused because of it. History repeats itself. One only has to look at Greenland today to see what the creation of jobs, wealth, markets and export means, which is the rallying call of free-trade. Hawken recognised this as he said that literally thousands of native cultures around the world have been destroyed by economic development. Further though, he says that although we are attracted and repelled by large organizations, we need them because the world’s population cannot be served by corner stores. I disagree and he does not give any reason why not. But he gives insight as to why the problem of TNCs persists when he says that “in the West [we] are proud of our largest companies, almost as if they were sports teams that can beat the competition” (p 102). This really sums up the prevailing mental attitude in corporate business well. And I think it sums up why he was unable to write a straightforward book.

For instance, the chapter on the creation of waste, especially chemical waste, is deeply disturbing and one reason why I wonder how he can imagine that business can do an about face from total destruction. From billions of pounds of pesticides and chemical fertilisers to nuclear weapons research waste to the burning or burying of household garbage (more of which is created every day by business and pushed on us through propaganda), and the fact that toxins are stored in our fatty tissues and adversely affect our hormones/endocrine system, the picture looked bleak even then.

Hawken claims that “[w]e need a different kind of growth” (p 52). But, “[w]hat’s wrong with a growth rate of 0%?” (Fukuoka, 1978). He then makes a very valid observation though about the fact that a cyclical process is being changed to a linear one with the use of synthetic chemicals as this also relates to today’s push to increase the use of genetically modified organisms. All these manmade components cannot merge into the biological process. As he explains, these substances only create waste that is incapable of being incorporated into nature’s recycling program and they are toxic.

I cannot understand the myth that is so prevalent still today which is referred to by Hawken on page 89 that organic farming is more expensive than conventional farming. It is definitely a myth that is being kept alive by TNCs such as Monsanto. How can it be cheaper to rely on the purchase of specialised seeds, organophosphate pesticides, artificial fertilizers, all the machinery and petrol needed? Farming such as Fukuoka practiced can produce just as much without all these added expenses (Fukuoka, 1978). The organic certification process may add to the expense, but it is also unfair.

Hawken calls for a restorative economy (p 104), but, economy refers to goods and services. Just as the line has been crossed for the patenting of life forms, he is crossing the line of manmade goods and services by calling for nature’s goods and services to be included in the market economy.

Hawken also accurately describes the work people do in corporations and as I worked in a few, I would know. Many corporate managers he says behave similar to addicts who have a militant attitude and work in a stressful, militant environment. Add to this the fact that America’s largest export after food is weaponry (p 135), and when we remember all the casualties, I clearly get a picture of some kind of war.

In his concluding remarks, Hawken says that we need “to slow down and arrest industrialism ...” (p 208). This part I agree with. But, he consistently maintains his conviction that market growth is the desired goal. And, I hardly like the idea that “every grain of sand will have to be treasured...” (p 210). The only way this can be done is by private ownership of everything, moving further away from the commons and cooperation. I do, however, like his idea of removing cheap cars and gasoline!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Policy Shift on GM Alfalfa

I received one of those ‘funnies’ emails this morning with the above and other signs from churches in America. I thought this one was particularly relevant to my blog because scientists use artificial intelligence to produce genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but natural stupidity keeps them from realising that what they are doing is nothing more than destroying life.

However, my next email also came from America and had some rather positive news on GMOs in an article called Policy Shift Concerns Biotech Companies by Philip Brasher of the Brasher reports that the Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack announced that the US Department of Agriculture is considering restrictions on where GM alfalfa can be grown. In the past, approved GM crops have been permitted unrestricted production.

The extent of current day stupidity shines through though with mention of more GM products awaiting USDA approval such as apples that don’t brown and roses with altered colours, as if artificial colouring isn’t bad enough!

It seems that Vilsack has in the past strongly supported GMOs in our food supply with the worn out claim that this technology will help feed the world when the population has grown. The population has grown since this claim was first made a decade or two ago, but GMOs have not helped the undernourished in the world yet. Now because of increased pressure and litigation from groups representing non-GM and organic farmers, Vilsack is finding that a one-sided approach is becoming more difficult to maintain.

The old argument that corporations don’t need regulation was used by Jeff Rowe, vice president for biotech affairs at Pioneer Hi-Bred.

The USDA is expected to announce its decision on the alfalfa rules some time after 24th January.

Restricting GM crops to specific areas is a positive vision ... a little step in the right direction. In keeping with my 2010 Retreat, my affirmation to use while meditating on (or thinking about) this positive vision is ‘the space for natural crops is infinite’ or ‘ is infinite’.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Real Farming – The Nation’s Primary Health Service Meeting

This meeting was the second half of the Oxford Real Farming Conference which I attended on Wednesday, 5th January 2011. The first part was called Real Science for Real Farming and was already fully booked when I registered.  It was encouraging to see the positive efforts being made to take a stand against the B'org and here is my report.

Sir Crispin Tickell, a career diplomat, chaired the meeting which started off with discussion of dairies. Iwan Jones continues a family farm with 100 cows in North Wales and seems to be making good headway with this size of organic, pasture-based system. Next Matt Dale told of how he started with 3 cows and developed up to about 60 Ayrshire cows in Oxfordshire and sells his milk directly to customers in the area. Finally, Nick Snelgar described how he is working on the concept of micro dairies, i.e., owning cows and renting land from farmers for grazing on a contractual basis. Nick is founder of Future Farms, a small scale food business in a small town of 240 people. All three speakers were convinced of the health benefits of milk from grass-fed cows and this was uplifting to hear.

The next speaker was Robert Plumb who operates a Norfolk-based Soil Fertility Service. His presentation was quite science based with various types of nutrients and ratios mentioned. Although he seemed confident that his methods have positive results for agriculture, I was reminded of my recent article on ‘supplementitis’ from my 2010 Retreat articles. In this article, I discussed the supplementation and fortification of food and the fact that whole foods with all nutrients in tact as nature provides are better than manmade ones.  However, he did claim good crop yields from his treatments and advice. He also discussed glyphosate and said that it was possible to use it within reason as well as producing good crops using the monoculture system. He gave a rather short term example as a success story. I would certainly prefer a more natural system that relies less on mathematical equations and scientific formulas to improve soil fertility, such as described by Masanobu Fukuoka in The One Straw Revolution.

We then had a break for tea, biscuits and a chat, which was over all too soon. One person I spoke to was a farmer in Sussex who claimed that he was not in opposition to the proposed Nocton Mega Dairy in Lincolnshire where up to 8,000 cows could be housed. I only hope that his was not the prevailing opinion of the other 100 or so people present because I recently wrote to my MP to stop it.

The next speaker was worth coming back to from the enjoyable tea break. Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride has written a new book called Put Your Heart In Your Mouth. She has taken the challenge to thwart some of today’s nutrition myths, and as I took notes, I would like to share some of these here.

First and foremost is the hypothesis that she says was formulated in 1953 which claimed that cholesterol was bad for health. This myth has not been allowed to die despite much scientific evidence to the contrary. In fact, cholesterol is produced by the liver and a vital substance for our health. Toxins can cause malnutrition because they inhibit the liver’s ability to produce cholesterol. This happens because toxins are stored in the fatty tissues. The challenge for farmers is to produce food from animals that does not have a lot of toxins. Certainly, the grass-fed cows and sheep are better than those fed genetically modified soya and corn. And it is my contention that animals need sunlight just as much as people do to keep healthy.

Dr Campbell-McBride described how low levels of cholesterol, not high, can actually lead to many diseases and disorders such as:

• violence, aggression and even suicide
• cancer
• heart disease and stroke
• Parkinson’s disease
• memory loss
• poor immunity
• early death

Furthermore, she said that forty to seventy percent of cells are made of membrane tissues and forty percent of membrane tissues are made of cholesterol. In addition, adrenal and sex hormones are primarily made of cholesterol. Also as an indication of its importance, cholesterol is carefully recycled by the body.

Next she discussed arteriosclerosis which is an inflammatory condition of the endothelium, the inner lining of the blood vessels. Inflammation and repair occurs when there is a balance in the system. When there is only inflammation, arteriosclerosis plaque develops into a never healing ulcer. Two types of fatty substances work in repair. Low density lipids (LDL), often called the ‘bad’ cholesterol, goes from the liver to the plaque and high density lipids (HDL), often called the ‘good’ cholesterol, moves from the plaque back to the liver where damage is repaired. She said that calling one type good and the other bad is like calling the ambulance that goes from the hospital to the scene of the accident bad and the one that brings the injured to the hospital good. They are actually both the same. So the claim that LDL is bad for health is a myth too. She explained it better, and if you are interested, please see the video of the presentation now available at ttp:// or read her book.

Importantly, she highlighted the metabolic syndrome in which consumption of processed carbohydrates leads to permanent glucose overload. Nature packages carbohydrates so that they digest slowly. But with many processed foods, huge amounts of glucose surge into the blood. The body then goes into shock and produces insulin. Too much insulin causes manic behaviour especially in children and too little results in moodiness, depression and sweatiness. The long-term result is diabetes and other illness.

Dr Campbell-McBride explained that the metabolic syndrome is the most important factor in many diseases, but secondary causes may help to tip the balance. For heart ailments, anything that injures endothelium is important such as:

• man-made chemicals
• processed foods
• microbes
• abnormal gut flora
• nutritional deficiencies
• lack of sun exposure
• other things such as radiation, electromagnetic pollution, stress, sedentary lifestyle

Preventative methods include cooking from scratch with whole foods and not polluting the body with foreign substances and chemicals. She mentioned that products used for self-hygiene often contain harmful chemicals and ingredients. On this note and about plaque of a different sort, I would like to share a homemade recipe for toothpaste that I recently discovered. The mixture I use is 1 cup of coconut oil, baking soda (2-3 tablespoons), sea salt and tea tree oil (10 drops) and the best toothpaste I’ve ever used. Even so-called natural toothpastes on the market contain glycerin which some claim forms a coating on the teeth. I have long avoided glycerin in other products because it sucks moisture out of the skin and actually leaves it drier. So I am glad to have found a great substitute to commercial toothpaste!

During the question and answer session it was clarified that olive oil should not be heated and so is not good for cooking despite chefs on TV telling us otherwise. Also, a good type of bread is sour dough fermented with yogurt or kefir which breaks down nutrients to make digestion easier.

The next speakers covered biological agriculture, the new farming, which was started by Charlotte Hollins.  She enthusiastically described how she and her brother, Ben, started England's first community-owned farm, Fordhall Community Land Initiative. The organic farm has a shop too! 

Tim Waygood then gave an impressive, albeit brief presentation about his Agrarian Renaissance at Church Farm, Ardeley where he produces low carbon food and encourages biodiversity and it is community oriented.

The last speaker was Graham Harvey, author of We Want Real Food. Unfortunately, the meeting was running late and I had to leave to catch the train back to Peterborough which was a four hour journey, but I’ve ordered his book from Amazon.

Photo credit

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Positive Visions Reminder

Because of the way this blog works, in reverse order, I thought it would be helpful for me to make a note at this point about some of my recent posts. Eight of them are actually part of a series, like a book. So if you read one and not the others, it may be hard to follow, like reading a chapter in a book without reading it in sequence. On the other hand, sometimes people do only read one or two chapters in a book because that is all that they’re interested in. But for those of you who like me prefer to read books from cover to cover, here is the table of contents of the series.

Happy Holidays!!! – description of my three week retreat in December 2010.

Retreat Report – introduction to the six Positive Visions that follow together with affirmations.

Positive Vision No. 1: Spread of the mmm Factor - Everyone is developing the ‘mmm’ factor and keeping a smile on their faces by eating wholesome foods. Everything’s good.

Positive Vision No. 2: Everyone is Avoiding Supplements - Everyone is avoiding supplements in their diet because they are getting all the needed nutrients and vitamins from whole foods. Everything’s as it should be.

Positive Vision No. 3: Transnational Corporations are Extinct - Global warming caused mass extinction of transnational corporations because they didn't heed the warning to stay out of the kitchen and couldn't stick the heat. The coast is clear.

Positive Vision No. 4: The Ego is Conquered – Everyone is tuning out of false beliefs and into the truth. Everything’s true.

Positive Vision No. 5: Living Harmless - Everyone is tapping into their inner strength and licking the habit of harming themselves and radiating harm from themselves. Everything’s fine.

Positive Vision No. 6: Superior to None - Everyone is living as an integrated part of nature. Smooth sailing ahead. really works!

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Monday, 3 January 2011

Zeroing in on the import of GMOs

I wrote to my five MEPs by email on 10th December, just before going on my Retreat in response to an email I had received from GM Freeze asking everyone to do so. The issue is that the European Commission is proposing to end the EU’s current zero-tolerance policy to unapproved genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in imported feed. GM Freeze later advised that the vote on the matter had been postponed to 14 January 2011 to discuss including imported GM food in this proposition as well.

Richard Howitt MEP (Labour) kindly replied to my email by letter dated 14th December 2010 to advise that he believes that it is important that the long-term consequences of the use and consumption of GMOs by humans and animals be better understood. He broadly supports the zero-tolerance policy until further studies into their effects are carried out.

I also received a reply from the UK Independence Party by email to thank me for the information and advising that the details which I quoted from GM Freeze will be further investigated.

In keeping with my Retreat, I am envisioning the politicians considering the matter from nature’s perspective rather than a ‘cut the corners’ market one. If you haven’t already done so, I would urge you to write to your MEPs. Here are some of my thoughts on the matter in hopes that they may help.

Firstly, I would like to emphasise that I do not support genetic modification in any shape or form. I believe that scientific manipulation of natural organisms can only lead to confusion and disorder and that’s when all the rules have been followed and only authorised GMOs are used! Allowing even a small percentage of unauthorised GM feed and/or food to be imported is creating a wedge for further infiltration of GMOs into our food supply.

GMOs are not whole foods, they are processed even before they are grown and like foods processed after they have been produced, GMOs are not comparable to natural whole foods which are the best for our health. And GM feed is similar to junk food for animals. GMOs can only add to our problems of hospitals filled with sick people, jails with more sick people of a different sort, and the rising numbers suffering with obesity, arthritis, heart diseases, depression and other such ailments because much of this chaos is caused by poor diets.

Secondly, as for the short-term benefits that are so popularly referred to in support of GMOs, this is an illusion on almost all counts. Consider the facts. First of all, there is no short-term benefit for us as consumers. We do not need GM feed for our farm animals or food and most consumers do not want them. Secondly, farmers using GM feed may find that there is a slight benefit if GM feed is cheaper, and in isolation, this may be considered a short-term financial benefit. However, because of the costs involved in developing GM products, there is no short-term benefit for the developer (such as Monsanto). The only way these companies can achieve a benefit is to mass market the GM product over a long-term. Therefore, developers are pushing their way into our lives with GMOs by taking advantage of farmers and politicians who are willing to sacrifice quality for quantity and a short term cheaper market price.

I have recently written a Retreat Report with six Positive Visions on this blog for the 2011 New Year. A prevailing theme of this series is that the ego has distorted human thinking for millennia. GMOs are just one small symptom of what I refer to as a pandemic of mental illness. If you consider how humans harm themselves and each other in so many ways, I think you will agree with me that many people are mad, mostly not all the time, but all too often. In addition, the American dream for everyone in the world to have a big new TV, 4x4 and posh suburban house is really a nightmare and that is the mentality behind propositions such as GMOs because like the American dream, they are market-based. If the human race is going to survive, we need to stop competing with each other by disconnecting from the market and developing a strong connection to our inner presence, local community and nature.

“Of course, the merchant has a role to play in society, but glorification of merchant activities tends to draw people away from a recognition of the true source of life (Fukuoka, 1978). I hope that politicians will not give into business pressures and shelve the zero tolerance to unauthorised GMOs for the sole ego driven purpose of making money, but instead hold onto the precautionary principle. After all, our spiritual self-interests are just as valid and important as market self-interests.

Both body and soul need good wholesome food. I am not a scientist, but my common sense tells me that nature knows the best way to produce our food.  Unlike other manmade products such as synthetic polyester and plastic, GMOs are designed to be incorporated into our bodies and the natural environment.  If something goes wrong, it won't be possible to just throw it out!

Again, I would urge you to write to your MEPs to ask for the zero-tolerance of unauthorised GMOs to be maintained. GM Freeze has much information on this issue which would help in writing such a letter. Remember, politicians need and want to hear from us because otherwise they only hear from business people with a market perspective. It may be a small step, but at least it is in the right direction.

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Amazing Ancient Amaranth Made Toxic by Modern Progress

As promised in my letter to Bill and Melinda Gates last year (2010), here is my article about amaranth.

Back in 1984, a report called, Amaranth: Modern Prospects for an Ancient Crop (the Report) was published by an Ad Hoc Panel of the Advisory Committee on Technology Innovation Board on Science and Technology for International Development, Office of International Affairs, National Research Council in Washington D.C.

One of the concerns of this group was that “[m]ost of the world now receives the bulk of its calories and protein from a mere 20 species – notably cereals such as wheat, rice, maize, millets and sorghum; root crops such as potato, sweet potato, and cassava; legumes such as beans, peanuts (groundnuts), and soybeans; and sugarcane, sugar beet and bananas. These plants are the main bulwark between mankind and starvation. It is a dangerously small larder from which to feed a planet.” Nearly 30 years later and not much has changed, certainly not for the better. And what about amaranth, the promising crop under review? Besides the odd show in health food stores or news of its weediness, it rarely surfaces to attention today. I wonder why it has it not been utilised better to combat world hunger.

Amaranth has been used in agriculture for around 2,000. It was even thought to be supernatural by the Aztecs. It does sound like a miracle plant because it grows vigorously in hot and dry climates requiring no special care, is unusually productive, resists drought, heat and pests, is adaptable, versatile to prepare as food and highly nutritious.

Amaranth seed has more protein than wheat and contains lysine and methionine, two essential amino acids that are not frequently found in grains. The fiber content of amaranth is three times that of wheat, and its iron content, five times more than wheat. It contains two times more calcium than milk.

“Amaranth also contains tocotrienols (a form of vitamin E) which have cholesterol-lowering activity in humans. Cooked amaranth is 90% digestible and because of this ease of digestion, it has traditionally been given to those recovering from an illness or ending a fasting period. Amaranth consists of 6-10% oil, which is found mostly within the germ. The oil is predominantly unsaturated and is high in linoleic acid, which is important in human nutrition. The amaranth seeds have a unique quality in that the nutrients are concentrated in a natural "nutrient ring" that surrounds the center, which is the starch section. For this reason the nutrients are protected during processing. The amaranth leaf is nutritious as well containing higher calcium, iron, and phosphorus levels than spinach”  ( Importantly especially for those in the tropics, amaranth is also a good source of Vitamin A.

Amaranth seeds can be cooked as a cereal, ground into flour, sprouted or popped. Amaranth leaves can be used the same spinach. The plants produce edible leaves within 5 weeks and a weekly supply for up to six months.

Amaranth plants are not only nutritious, easy to grow and use as food, they are beautiful too with bright coloured leaves, stems and flowers of gold, orange, red and purple. Masses of cream coloured, white, black, golden or pink seeds are produced.

Yet despite all its attributes, many of the 60 species are considered weeds and looked down upon. One such weedy type was in the news last year (2010) in Arkansas. Pigweed, the plant’s common name in the United States, is tolerant to Monsanto’s glyphosate. This is all the news I found on amaranth!

It didn’t take long into the Report to find a clue of why this plant is not more popular. Scientists needed to find a way to make it commercially viable. It’s hardly going to make lots of money when it’s so easy to grow that anyone could do it and not have to pay for it! The Report reads like a nightmare to me. Going from a picture of a barefooted African lady sprinkling amaranth plants in her garden with a little bowl of water and some twigs to the Rodale Research Center in Pennsylvania conducting all kinds of research to develop new and ‘improved’ strains adapted for various purposes including machines to plant, cultivate, harvest and thresh the crop. Uniformity and suitability for mechanical harvest and processing is not what I had in mind for development of this crop to help millions of undernourished people in the world improve their diet. I did not find Rodale Research Center on the Internet, but Rodale Institute which is about 50 miles away from where the Center used to be focuses on organic farming and refers to amaranth on its website as a weed.

To further my Internet research, I decided to check the Food Standards Agency website in the UK and found some rather disturbing information. From GM potatoes to food dye, the true value of amaranth has been destroyed or at best ignored.

The FSA tells us that “a potato that has been genetically modified with a gene from an amaranth plant to create a potato that has a third more protein than usual..” And Amaranth is mentioned on the list of current approved additives and their E numbers. Amaranth is E123.

I then came across another report, this one by the European Food Safety Authority Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (EFSA Report).  Reference in the EFSA Report is to Amaranth, but it is not the plant or seeds that are at stake, but a dye that is produced from the plant. The panel’s task was to re-evaluate the safety of this colouring substance. Specifically, E-123 is an azo dye and a scientific hypothesis has linked azo pigments with Basal Cell Carcinoma, hence the call for this scientific report. The panel can now sufficiently reassure us that the “sulphonated aromatic amines formed from Amaranth by azo-reduction do not give reason for concern with respect to genotoxicity.”

The Panel also noted that the main contributors for adult exposure to E-123 is from aperitif wine drinks and Americano. No mention is made to explain what is meant by Americano except that it is a drink of some sort. I lived in America for over 30 years and have no idea what it is they are referring to and Google does not shed light on it either. As far as I know, Americano coffee is simply coffee with milk and sugar, but that can’t be it.

At any rate, the next time you have an aperitif coloured with E-123 or an Americano (whatever it is), please think of all the work done by this panel of 19 distinguished scientists in producing a 41 page report, which entailed 90-days of scientific studies on rats, assessing previous studies from 1972, 1975, 1978 and 1984 and dividing the work up in two tiers: one for adults and the other for children, although no mention is made of the sources of E-123 for children. Then consider the people who typed up the report, printers, paper, computers and dissemination of the reports to others like the FSA here in the UK. So much work and expense for a little colouring of a small market commodity!

This is not an exhaustive search on my part by any means. However, I think there is enough information to show not only the mind-set of the industrial food industry with regards to amaranth, but also the results in real terms. What a missed opportunity for this plant as a whole food. I hope more people take this matter into their own hands and grow it for personal use as a whole food, especially in countries where it is dry and hot. As shown, the amaranth plant does not deserve the bad reputation given to it by modern societies by any means and it would be good to see it exonerated and even venerated once again.

Photo credit

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Positive Vision No. 6: Superior to None

Everyone is living as an integrated part of nature.

My affirmation to use while meditating on this positive vision is: Nature rules.

I believe there is another mental condition in addition to supplementitis and egoitis that is connected to the ego which is hampering the development of life on earth.  I call it the superiority complex. I wish I had the time before writing this article to read the books by Alfred Alder who coined this expression or other such works, but perhaps that's not important here.

It seems to me that there are certain types of people in the world who are driven to perfection (whatever that is), to outdo, outperform, classify, categorise, label, re-arrange, judge, confine, outmanoeuvre, construct, rank, and other such endeavours in an effort to be superior, superior to other fellow human beings and even nature. They also make certain animals, insects, etc superior to others, and make certain places on earth superior to other places, and so on.

This attitude has been around a long time. A general sentiment of superiority to much of nature was expressed in Phaedo by Plato over 2000 years ago. Although written at a time when geography, science and natural history were relatively new disciplines, the passage shows contempt for parts of nature.

“For this earth, and the stones, and the entire region which surrounds us, are spoilt and corroded, like the things in the sea which are corroded by the brine; for in the sea too there is hardly any noble or perfect growth, but clefts only, and sand, and an endless slough of mud: and even the shore is not to be compared to the fairer sights of this world. And greater far is the superiority of the other.”

The common meaning of having a superiority complex is when people go above and beyond justified superiority in their own view of themselves as shown by an unpleasant attitude. But I would like to clarify that I think any sort of superiority thinking is a sign of egoitis (see my Positive Vision No. 4 for further details). A superiority complex is pathological, but it is much more widespread and inclusive than most psychologists would be willing to admit. Yet, most people would acknowledge that to say someone has a superior attitude has negative connotations.

One symptom of this predicament was thoroughly investigated by Socrates as related in the Apology by Plato. Because humans have skills, knowledge and abilities they think they also know “all sorts of high matters” and have the wisdom to distinguish everything in a relational manner. Socrates spent much of his life asking questions of people to expose this lack of wisdom, but of course, nobody likes “to confess that their pretence of knowledge has been detected”.  I would not claim to be a big fan of Socrates, but at least he had the wisdom to acknowledge that he was not wise, “that God only is wise...” even though he had quite a lot of knowldege and mental ability.

Some examples may help to shed light on this problem and I could go on forever, but I’ll try to limit the list below to the most obvious symptoms of the common superiority complex as I see it. Mostly you will notice that quality is not the defining factor, but rather an attitude based on perception. Further, I do not believe that ‘superior’ is an appropriate word when comparing quality between two similar objects. For example, an intricately hand-embroidered silk hanky is not necessarily superior to a bog standard plain cotton one. The silk one may be of higher quality in that it is finer, more beautiful and expensive, but the cotton one would serve its purpose better and could be said to be superior in that fashion. Another qualification is that superiority does not refer to complexity over simplicity. For instance, a human is not superior to a single-celled amoeba, merely more complex.  After all, the Amoeba proteus has 290 billion base pairs in its genome whereas the human genome only has 2.9 billion bases.  It would seem that this amoeba could be said to be superior to a human on this basis!  What I would like to know is, how can one totally different form of life that serves its own function in the web of life be superior to another? It really is a matter of perspective.  In addition, as the term ‘superiority complex’ implies, there is usually more than one superiority thought or claim at any given moment and the following examples could easily be mixed matched and compounded, and only represent a small sample of possible contributing factors.

Place of abode:

• Natives (although not including indigenous people) are superior to aliens. (There's an old saying, “why don't you go back from where you came” which portrays this superior attitude.)

• “They live on the wrong side the tracks.” (a saying which means that they live in a bad part of town, e.g., a slum and they're not to be trusted or worth anything. ‘Tracks’ could also be ‘motorway’ or ‘freeway’ nowadays.  This is similar to redlining by banks where mortgages are unavailable for these people because of where they live.)

• A person who lives in a mansion in Beverly Hills is superior to a hillbilly in the sticks somewhere (an American TV sitcom was created for this one called the Beverly Hillbillies. Even the word ‘sticks’ as used in this context implies that it is superior to live in a developed area rather than in a rural fashion).

• Royalty must live in a palace with lots of expensive furnishings as befits their superior position.

• Living by the shore is superior to living inland (although, this may soon change with global warming).


• An Ivy League degree is superior to a State University one.

• Anyone with a college education is superior to anyone without one.

• Private owned schools are superior to public (state run) schools.

• All boys’ schools are superior to co-ed education (believe it or not, this belief is still held in some places, e.g., Eaton College, Windsor, Berkshire, England).

• Religious schools are superior to secular ones (superiority based on religion is very deep-seated.)


• Being a doctor is superior to being a nurse which is superior to being a patient.

• A banker is superior to a cashier who is superior to the customer.

• Scientists are superior to just about everyone else.

• The principal of a school is superior to the teachers who are superior to the students.

• A judge is superior to a barrister who is superior to a solicitor (at least in court) who is superior to a Legal Executive who is superior to a Legal Clerk who is superior to a Legal Secretary who may or may not be superior to the client (but all the others certainly are).


• A superstar is superior to a fan.

• A TV presenter is superior to a couch potato (someone who sits on a sofa and watches television a lot).

• A billionaire is superior to the billions of people who have no money.

• An Olympic gold medallist is superior to silver and bronze medallists.

• A fashion model is superior to plain Jane (someone who is not very attractive).

If you were to reflect on these instances of claimed superiority which are imbedded in our subconscious and come across as a normal part of the lives of many, you will see that it relates back to what Socrates was talking about as mentioned above. Each one of the types of people above may claim a superior position based on possessions, whether material or knowledge.  Of course, not all do, but those who do, do so so from a narrow perspective. When the whole of life is considered, nobody is superior to anybody or anything because we are all unique parts of the whole of the universe and interdependent. This interdependence means that there is always a give and take that makes all things equal in their own right.

Many of the above examples clearly show that the market and money are the cause for what is actually backwards thinking. And much of it has become so ingrained because of our dependence on the market and money to survive, in addition to the fact that it has been going on for millennia. “Of course, the merchant has a role to play in society, but glorification of merchant activities tends to draw people away from a recognition of the true source of life" (Fukuoka, 1978).  It is said that the market runs efficiently when the participants seek to fulfil their self-interests.  However, because these interests are based on the superiority complex, i.e., a narrow band of market defined self-interests,  most of our market based lifestyes are competitive and destructive instead of being co-operative and inclusive, and are becoming more so every day because of transnational corporations.

This superiority complex is bad enough when it comes to creating prejudices between people, but then humans spread it around and use it to rank and file the rest of nature as well. Insects that are unwanted are killed with pesticides while others are considered superior, such as bees. Certain animals are killed as pests and used in experiments without regard to pain and suffering, such as mice, while others are considered superior and kept as pets, such as hamsters. Certain bacteria are wiped out with drugs using antibiotics while others are claimed to be superior with the promotion of yogurt products. It goes on and on.

So back to the dynamic sleuthing duo as mentioned in my earlier articles on Supplementitis and Egoitis: What are Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson up to now? As we can see from the photo below, the superiority complex doesn’t afflict them because white is no longer superior to black and men are no longer superior to women.

Pan in to Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson joined by Dr Kate Pulaski. Now we really are in Star Trek, but hopefully it won’t take until the 24th Century to solve this mystery as well as the supplementitis and egoitis ones. Holmes has a pipe in his mouth, but only for show as there’s no tobacco in it!

Sherlock Holmes: I’m so glad you could join us Doctor Pulaski! All these mental afflictions do call for a second opinion.

Dr Pulaski: It’s my pleasure Mr Holmes. If I can shed further light on any of these ailments, I will be delighted.

Dr Watson: I was thinking, Dr Pulaski, that supplementitis and the superiority complex seem to be caused by egoitis. I believe that if we could find a way to cure that mental affliction, the other two would soon fade as well.

Dr Pulaski: Indeed, Dr Watson, I would concur. The ego seems to take over rational thought and cause reactions such as destroying the food supply and placing one form of life over another. But what I don’t understand is what causes it. Why do some people get it and others seem to be immune?

Sherlock Holmes: Are you thinking that there is a biological aberration or chemical reaction that sets off this way of thinking?

Dr Pulaski: Yes, Mr Holmes. It may be that we will need to consider these factors in developing a cure and a preventive measure.

Dr Watson: But Dr Pulaski, the mind has been known to conquer such illnesses through positive thinking, meditation and other such practices for centuries. Surely egoitis can be tackled in the same manner?

Dr Pulaski: Rest assured Dr Watson, my consideration of the physical causes is not a suggestion that we should develop a drug or surgery technique for the brain, but this knowledge could help with meditation and visualization efforts as well as development of appropriate positive affirmations.

Sherlock Holmes: Excellent Doctors, but let’s not forget regular exercise such as yoga and good wholesome food, speaking of which, I'm famished.  Let’s stop over at my apartment and I’ll whip up a tasty meal for us with foods from this morning's farmer's market.

The three continue on to Holmes’ London apartment, happy in their conclusions, but still aware of the immense amount of work to be done until these pandemics cease to threaten life on earth.

mmm .......... nature rules

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