killing wildlife doesn’t make your food safer

In an ill-considered response to a 2006 e. coli outbreak, for years now food sellers have been pressuring food growers to turn the areas surrounding farms into a blasted, sterile wasteland, devoid of any wildlife.

A recently published paper shows that this practice is not beneficial, and has measurably decreased food safety.

Blasted wasteland surrounding a farm

“There is this misguided idea that agricultural fields should be a sanitized, sterilized environment, like a hospital, but nature doesn’t work that way.” — Daniel Karp, postdoctoral research fellow UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management.

Well, now, about those hospitals, Dr. Karp…

Slate shilling for GMOs

William Saletan, author of Bearing Right, has a lengthy column up on Slate explaining how purposely withholding information from common folks like me in order to fatten the coffers of giant agribusinesses is really, really totally morally OK, because Golden Rice. It makes some good points and provides lots of information, but ultimately reads like a catalog of formal logic errors papered over with pseudo-moralistic posturing.

The people who push GMO labels and GMO-free shopping aren’t informing you or protecting you. They’re using you. They tell food manufacturers, grocery stores, and restaurants to segregate GMOs, and ultimately not to sell them, because people like you won’t buy them. They tell politicians and regulators to label and restrict GMOs because people like you don’t trust the technology. They use your anxiety to justify GMO labels, and then they use GMO labels to justify your anxiety. Keeping you scared is the key to their political and business strategy.

Oh, my support for product labeling, including GMO labeling, is me using people. Because I’m the one with a profit motive? Seriously? People are supposed to believe that generic salarymen somehow magically make money by wanting labeling, and that food mega-producers are living in such abject poverty that they simply can’t afford to print meaningful labels? Really?

Wait, didn’t big corporate food producers also oppose the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, and the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act? Despite the history of food and drug regulation in the USA, we are to believe that they oppose labeling because of their inherent saintliness, and it has nothing to do with their profits? We’re supposed to take seriously claims that 21st century science is too backward and primitive to define a labeling regime that would be of any use?

GMO shills commonly ignore all the regular everyday people who just want informative labeling, and characterize their opposition as being solely composed of loony Californian anti-vaccine anti-GMO crystal worshippers. Saletan goes on from there to paint the completely amoral American food industry (despite many examples of what typical behavior is when regulation is lax) as merely timid, brownbeaten victims whose great flaw is unwillingness to force GMOs into every market.

On one side is an army of quacks and pseudo-environmentalists waging a leftist war on science. On the other side are corporate cowards who would rather stick to profitable weed-killing than invest in products that might offend a suspicious public.

After reading the entire article, I was left with the impression that Saletan is saying labels are bad, it’s just too hard to give poor people carrots, never mind that white rice is a cultural shibboleth, Chewbacca is a wookiee, and therefore you don’t need to know anything, and if we label food products so that people can make an informed choice the terrorists win. It’s exactly like global politics… or CRELM toothpaste!

Still half dead

Bhil says I should stay away from “probiotic seafood” in the future.

I lost so much fluid yesterday, so quickly, that I started drinking warm sugar water with chamomile just to keep hydrated enough to stay out of the hospital. I was working alone, which was in some ways convenient, since I didn’t have to worry about offending cow-orkers with my fever, sweats, vomiting and diarrhea, but also a little scary, since there was nobody to pick me up if I completely collapsed.

Managed to stomach a little oatmeal at breakfast, and I’ve been sipping at chocolate milk all day, but I probably shouldn’t have attempted that cheeseburger at lunchtime. I’m regretting it. Not ready for anything flavorful yet.

Flying back out tonight. I plan to recline my seat despite the kerfuffle.

Creeping Charlie is Edible

I have truly ridiculous quantities of lesser celandine (pilewort, Ranunculus ficaria) and ground ivy (creeping charlie, Glechoma hederacea) in the yard… but it turns out both of these are edible! You have to cook pilewort, though, or it’s mildly toxic and tastes bitter.

The only sure-fire way to get rid of pilewort (also called fig buttercup) is to grub up the tuberous roots and completely destroy them, so I was pleased to learn you can boil, roast or hot-pickle the tubers. And apparently right now is the time to harvest them, after the flowers have died and the leaves are yellowing off.

Lesser Celandine Stroganoff
Lesser Celandine and Ground Ivy Stew
Lesser Celandine and Lamb Heart Stew
Ground Ivy Horseradish Mayo (I wonder if you can substitute garlic mustard root for the horseradish? We have plenty of that.)

This area has lots of wild garlic (crow garlic, Allium vineale) too. It’s delicious chopped and mixed with ground bison to make a cheeseburger, and the chopped leaves are like strongly flavored chives.