Saturday, April 6, 2013

FAbulous chickweed potato salad!

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: Jerry the horse shoer called and postponed again. It’s been one thing after another. The weather. Somebody’s health. His health. He asked if it messed up my schedule to keep moving our appointment. Mess up my schedule? No way. A good horseshoer is worth his weight in gold. He can make or break a horse. Jerry saved one valuable horse we had here and the latest unhealthy one, a white pony, galloped up to the fence when I went out to feed this morning. So I guess I can say he saved one valuable one and one other. I can wait a long time for Jerry to get here, believe me. In the meantime, we had a wonderful group of college students visit the farm to tour and talk about sustainability, food sovereignty, food security, that kind of thing. The meal was perfect, and all from Missouri. Kobe beef, gnocchis, spinach salad, pasta salad with pasta from Excelsior Springs, all prepared by a chef from Broadway Brewery, potato chips from the Backers, our neighbors, and a lettuce salad harvested at the last minute by Walker from our greenhouse. Oh, yes, and I made a berry cobbler. I’ll give you the cobbler recipe during berry season. In the meantime, here’s how to make a wonderful chickweed salad, as prepared by fiddler Sarah. Cut into chunks, potato salad size, and boil until just softened, 1 pound potatoes. Arrange them in a layer on the bottom of a baking dish. Then, pick and break up 8 oz fresh chickweed. Finally, pour over the whole thing ½ cup of vinagrette, recipe follows. To serve, spoon up the potatoes at the bottom, the chickweed at the top, the vinagrette throughout. This is the best spring salad ever! Vinagrette: • ½ cup honey OR 1 cup sugar • 1 tablespoon ground mustard • 1 teaspoon salt • 1/2 teaspoon pepper • 1/2 cup hot water • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar • 2 garlic cloves, halved • 1/4 cup really good olive oil In a 1-qt jar with a tight lid, combine the first five indredients. Add the next three and shake until the sugar is dissolved. Then add the oil and shake well. Store it in the refrigerator. You can use this on any green salad, but it’s amazing on chickweed and potatoes. Yield: 2 cups.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Jon Stewart v. Monsanto

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: The sustainable agriculture breakfast group was all a-twitter this morning because Jon Stewart had actually mentioned the Monsanto Protection Act rider that passed with the continuing resolution to keep the government in business, as he put it, until September. Stewart didn’t get the rider just right, confusing the issue and saying it had to do with GMO food rather than GMO crops, but for a city boy he did all right. He had a nice clip of Jon Tester trying to get Congress to pay attention and compared Congress to a farty old grandpa. You can google “The Daily Show” and play the clip. The breakfast group seemed to think it would be on-line for about a week. Truthfully, there has been a lot in the news about the riders. Not only was there the rider that gives corporations the right to plant any kind of biotech crops that they want, no matter if they’re poisonous to the environment or people, never mind the issues of cross-pollination or other dangers, but there’s one that prevents anyone from making regulations on gun purchases. One has to wonder what else is in there for the President to sign. That's all for today.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Missouri Senators Schafer and Munzlinger--BFFs?

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: In 2012, we had an early spring. So early that I was in the throes of the worst part of the legislative session, with my fellow citizens battling the bad policies that Missouri lawmakers can dream up. The session always begins with five or six really bad bills that need shooting down. With so much money coming from Monsanto, a Missouri corporation, it’s hardly surprising that a good many representatives and senators are in Monsanto’s genetically-altered, chemically-enhanced, robo-tractor pockets. That means, of course, that they’re working against family farmers. So this year, the spring is a little later and I was determined to enjoy the daffodils and the redbuds, but today we were back at the capitol. Family farmers from all over Missouri were in the Senate talking to Missouri senators about HJR 11 and 7 and SJR 22, Monsanto Protection Acts that will also work in favor of the giant meat packers like Tyson and Smithfield who have put farmers out of business. It was wonderful that so many of the senators are seeing the light and planning to vote against these bills that will defile our state constitution. Several of the senators, both Democrats and Republicans, can see that HJR 11 and 7 and SJR 22 take local control away from counties and townships. They see that if these bills pass, it will change our state constitution forever. A funny thing, though, and surprising how many of the senators we talked to made a link between Brian Munzlinger, a longtime supporter of Farm Bureau initiatives and Kurt Schafer, the Senator from Columbia who is a lawyer representing Smithfield, a giant pork producer that sells to Wal-Mart. Munzlinger and Shafer don’t really have much in common except their ties to big transnational corporations, one’s sharp as a tack and the other’s dumber than a hammer, but I guess they’ve been BFFs during this session because the other senators linked them together, like, “you need to go talk to Munzlinger and Schafer.” Maybe it’s because they both want to run for statewide office, I don’t know, maybe they’re cooking up some kind of teamwork initiative. With politics like this going on, who could be bored? That’s all for today. April 4, 2013.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Clear Path for More GMOs

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: Today, one of the leading food policy nonprofits issued a lengthy statement by Frederick Ravid, with this naive centerpiece: "First of all, you need to realize the Continuing Resolution is only a six month law. No part of this law lives beyond September 2013, no matter what it provides . . . Section 735 "Monsanto Rider" is reported by NY Daily News to have been written in concert with Mosanto by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), perhaps Monsanto’s biggest Senate contribution beneficiary. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) allowed the language to stand without consultation with the Agriculture Subcommittee, or any others, for that matter. This infamous action has been widely criticized in the strongest terms, even within the Senate. Here’s the thing: It’s springtime. The CR gives cover to Monsanto and other planters to put any kind of wacky poisonous plant in the ground right now, grow it and harvest it in the fall. They only need six months. Then, with lots of seeds in their bins, they only need to go to USDA and whine, “but we have all this seed, and we need to plant it now. You need to approve our insanely dangerous plants or some family farmers with seed in their bins will suffer…” This is how GMO alfalfa was approved despite 200,000 objections from citizens. A USDA panel voted to approve GMO alfalfa, with a patented gene to resist Monsanto’s Roundup.That was back in February 2011. I blogged about it then and here’s what I said: “USDA chief Tom Vilsack had expressed doubts about the approval. Vilsack, an Iowa agriculturalist in his pre-Beltway life, has seen enough failure in the biotech sector to question another crop engineered to resist Roundup, the most powerful weed killer on earth. After a tank of Roundup is sprayed on a field, the alfalfa pops up green and sprightly, ready to grow without competition. But the gene has moved to weeds, so there are now ragweeds, water hemp and many other weeds that can’t be killed by this herbicide. Vilsack, who wrote that cross-pollination poses "a significant concern for farmers who produce for non-GE markets at home and abroad," was ignored. So were the comments of 200,000 consumers that wrote against approval during the comment period. Many of these were organic consumers who realize that organic production will be under threat from the new alfalfa. A few minutes after I posted my blog about the hearing, I got an e-mail with a snippet of conversation between Kathleen Merrigan, who made the decision, and Mark McCaslin of Forage Genetics. And here’s the kicker: The approval was granted not because the doubts had been settled but because an ag industry company had a bunch of the seed in a warehouse and were afraid they were going to lose money without the approval. Land O’ Lakes, now part of Purina, had raised GMO alfalfa and harvested seed for 3 years. A federal judge had ordered them to put it in a warehouse rather than use it, since it was an illegal crop. The damning Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and the anti-GMO comments of more than 200,000 consumers--stood in the way. But Land O’ Lakes was determined. In the words of Mark McCaslin of Forage Genetics: So based on USDA's estimate of a two-year turnaround on an EIS, rather than pay our seed growers to take out those Roundup-ready acres, we left those in. We honored those contracts. And we harvested that seed that we had paid the growers for. So that seed that was produced in 2007, 2008, 2009, according to Judge Breyer's ruling, is in storage. It has been in storage since that time. So the owners of that seed are the 350,000 farmer members of Land O' Lakes. So this -- is the Land O' Lakes cooperative made the decision to pursue Roundup ready alfalfa. We produce the seed. We own the seed, and it's stored in our warehouses. When I read that the investment of a seed company clinched the approval, I felt sad and betrayed. Washington’s in the hands of corporate agbusiness for sure. You would expect a furious outcry from every pet owner, organic consumer, and livestock raiser. The Roundup-Ready genes have never been tested on eaters, including horses, rabbits, hamsters, parakeets—anything that eats those greenish-brown pellets. But, no. Consumers are almost silent. A true measure of our national disconnect from the food system.” That’s all for today. It’s April 1, 2013.

NYT Book Review prints another false stereotype that supports an ideological assumption.

By Marc Jampole
Lately it appears that the New York Times Book Review is trading in stereotypes that support the basic ideological assumptions of American life. Or maybe, I’m just starting to notice it.

About two months ago, OpEdge analyzed a book review that used the not-really-a-super-genius biographical subject of the book under critique as proof that super geniuses are also madmen, a common stereotype that supports the ideological assumption that it’s bad to be smart and that smart people have social adjustment problems and are unhappier than the average person.  The stereotype is false and the ideological assumption—big-banged into us constantly by mass media and entertainment—is not only also false, but serves as a false model for our youth.
The NYT Book Review is at it again this week, publishing a review of a new biography of Karl Marx in which the reviewer presents another false stereotype as gospel: that political radicals are dirty, flighty, loud-mouthed moochers.
Let’s allow the reviewer, Jonathan Freedland, an editorial page columnist for The Guardian of London, to hang himself with his own words:

"The Karl Marx depicted in Jonathan Sperber’s absorbing, meticulously researched biography will be unnervingly familiar to anyone who has had even the most fleeting acquaintance with radical politics. Here is a man never more passionate than when attacking his own side, saddled with perennial money problems and still reliant on his parents for cash, constantly plotting new, world-changing ventures yet having trouble with both deadlines and personal hygiene, living in rooms that some might call bohemian, others plain ‘slummy’…”
The key words come at the beginning: The Karl Marx depicted…will be unnervingly familiar to anyone who has had even the most fleeting acquaintance with radical politics. That sets the scene for Freedland’s description of the hippy of hippies who, worst of all, is living off his folks.
Of course, Freedland is right that most radical political groups have some loud ne’er-do-wells who could bathe more often. In fact, I’ve seen them at every political demonstration that I have ever attended. They have certainly been part of the Occupy protests.
But I’ve also seen smelly wide-eyed hippies at adult chess tournaments.
I’ve seen them at churches and synagogues.
I’ve seen them on every college campus I have ever visited. I used to see one or two slip out of the offices of the Young Republicans when I was in college.
I’ve seen them at public meetings, ball games and parades.
But these other places, institutions and organizations where humans of all sorts collect and interact don’t get tarred with the label of producing people who "are saddled with perennial money problems and still reliant on his parents for cash, constantly plotting new, world-changing ventures yet having trouble with both deadlines and personal hygiene…” (well maybe chess, an intellectual game to which weirdness is also unfairly attached.)
The most subtle aspect of Freedland’s cheap shot at the left is that the smelly hippy in question is Karl Marx. First of all, placing the stereotype in the context of discussing the life of the leading theoretician of communism limits the definition of “radical” to the left.
Freedland expresses a coy shock at learning that Marx fits what he calls a “recognizable pattern.” By applying the pattern narrowly to left-wing radicals, Freedland tries to make the left less palatable, just as all the images of intellectuals as socially inept make cracking a book and learning something less palatable.
Freedland wraps a neat bow on his ideological package by declaring additional shock at learning that Marx is not some revolutionary icon, but a “genuine human being,” to use his words. Yes, I’m confident that Marx is presented as more human than symbol in the book under review, Karl Marx, a Nineteenth-Century Life by Jonathan Sperber.
But in Freedland’s review, Marx comes off as an unsavory but buffoonish cartoon character.
Of course, that’s the image that the mass media wants us to have of the left.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Green Revolution Tried to Solve Poverty

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: This morning I had the privilege of talking to a Forum, sort of a Sunday morning gathering of the Unitarians in Columbia. Some of the gatherers were emeritus professors from Mizzou that remembered the Green Revolution and Norman Borlaug with great fondness. Howard said I should have started the talk with a salute to those times because there’s no doubt that they were acting from the best parts of their hearts. They thought that by sharing American seeds and know-how with farmers all over the world they’d solve the problems of hunger and poverty. Now, of course, we know that the unexpected consequence was the unplanned change of all the crops raised around the world. Rather than solve poverty, we increased rural poverty by taking away the traditions of saving seeds that would have been free to farmers and adapted to their ecosystems. Unfortunately, I didn’t start the talk with the salute but with the U.S.D.A. statistic that Americans eat 12% more pounds of food today than in 1970. As I often say to my young friends, I hope you can solve the problems that we’ve created. When I got home another friend on the phone was complaining about the Missouri legislature and their new ideas about how to ensure that “modern farming practices” are “forever guaranteed” under the constitution. “Whatever they want, I’m against it,” said my friend. He was talking about HJR 7&11 and SJR 22. “Modern farming practices” are not defined in these bills. This is a major problem because these “future” practices could be anything (from corporate controlled CAFOs, to cloned animals, to robot tractors, to complete control of the seed supply…). Well, it’s Easter, and a bunch of neighbors were taking a trail ride but I got home too late to go along. Still, in a sidebar too long to start on, we found a home for an orphaned puppy, shepherd/lab/husky mix. So the day wasn’t a total bust.