American Elephants

Paying More to Save Your Family’s Health and Nutrition? by The Elephant's Child

I’m sure your grocery store features Organic food. It costs about 30% more than the identical items in the regular displays. A program alleged to serve the well-being of the public has received a scathing report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General.

Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist who was the founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology, and a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He notes, writing at American Greatness, that Milton Friedman used to say that “only in government, when a program or project fails dismally, the instinctive response is to make it bigger.”

The USDA”s Inspector General details fraud, mismanagement and negligence throughout the global organic agriculture/food supply chain, Congress wants to throw more money at the problem.

Obviously, if things are not working, it’s because they need better funding?

When the organic designation was established in 2000. then-Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman emphasized its fundamental meaninglessness.”Let me be clear about one thing, the organic label is a marketing tool. It is not a statement about food safety. Nor is ‘organic’ a value judgment about nutrition or quality.” The Faso-Grisham legislation is yet another special interest bonanza designed to further subsidize domestic organic farmers and enrich the bottom line of already hugely-profitable organic businesses.

The entire industry is built on the hazy idea of some consumers that “chemicals” are poisonous and bad, therefore food that had never been contaminated with chemicals (like nitrogen fertilizer) or sprays to ward off insects somehow made that food dangerous. So organic growers use natural fertilizer like manure to supply the needed nitrogen, although that carries a risk of e-coli.

Your grocery store is a warehouse full of competing brands and products, and the competition is intense, so they use whatever selling points they can find. A good many of which are absolutely meaningless, and you are being fooled by them. Free-Range Chicken, All Natural Ingredients, Verified, non GMO, Gluten Free, No MSG,  O Trans Fat, No Artificial Flavoring and so on, and so on. The Organic label is essentially meaningless, but allows the organic farmers to charge you about 30% more. It is not a value judgment about nutrition or quality. Imported agricultural products, whether organic of conventional are sometimes fumigated at the port of entry to keep alien pests out. USDA inspectors found pesticides that are prohibited under organic protocols were being sprayed on organic shipments.

The USDA reported in 2012 that 43 percent of the 571 samples of “organic” produce tested were in violation of the government’s organic regulations. Some of the samples were mislabeled conventional products, and others had not been protected from prohibited pesticides. Dr. Miller adds:

Organic agriculture is an unscientific, heavily subsidized fraud-riddled marketing gimmick that misleads and rips off consumers. That is important because free markets don’t function efficiently when consumers are misinformed.

If you’re worried about pesticides, wash your produce carefully before you put it in the refrigerator. Genetic engineering is safe, and state-of the-art  agricultural chemicals ensure the integrity of their own sector.


Food Fetishes, Control Freaks, Food Faddists and Charlatans by The Elephant's Child
June 17, 2015, 6:53 am
Filed under: Junk Science, News, Politics, Regulation | Tags: , ,

The FDA is expected to issue a rule that will effectively ban the use of manmade trans-fat containing hydrogenated oils in all foods. There’s some controversy about the difference between the manmade variety — the trans-fats that occur naturally in beef and dairy products — and the trans fats in partially hydrogenated oils. The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 2 grams per day.

In any case, the FDA claims the ban could save around 7,000 lives per year. The agency has required food manufacturers to list the trans fat content of packaged foods since 2006. That’s helped reduce the amount of trans fats in the average American’s diet from far above to well below the American Heart Association recommendations.

So if Americans are already eating less trans fats than health experts recommend, why the push to ban them?

The ban comes as a result of a lawsuit by centenarian Dr. Fred Kummerow, a professor emeritus at the U.of Illinois who has been researching trans-fats for more than 50 years. His lawsuit forced the FDA to act. The agency will revoke its GRAS status, without that anyone wanting to sell foods containing partially hydrogenated oils would have to petition the FDA to demonstrate their safety. This follows the pattern of the ban on raw milk. And then there was the government’s complete reversal of the limits on dietary cholesterol. The recommendations to cut out the salt are on the ropes, because humans seem geared for more salt that authorities think is good for them. And the FDA seems to have caffeine needlessly in their crosshairs. Coffee just got a clean bill of health from health authorities.

The line “could save 7,000 lives per year” sounds exactly like the EPA. They regularly claim that X,000 number of children will not die from asthma because of the new regulation they are issuing. Physicians do not know the cause of asthma, which is probably why the EPA picked it.

The federal food police seem to be a hobbyhorse of mine. I have previously written five other posts about the federal government’s efforts to tell us what to eat, which surprised me. Getting rid of the committee and their guidelines seems to be high on my list. If you enter “dietary guidelines” in the search box just over Bob Hope’s head in the sidebar, you will find them all, if you are interested.

Food is a problem. There is too much information, much of it completely wrong. There is no benefit whatsoever to Organic food, unless it salves your soul to believe that you are not consuming nasty chemical fertilizers, which is nonsense. With “organic” you get cow manure.

Genetically modified organisms have been occurring naturally in crops for centuries. Some Asian countries that depend heavily on rice need Golden Rice, a GMO variety that has added a gene for beta carotene which will save thousands of children from blindness and death. The nitwits who are terrified (needlessly) about GMO foods and want their foods labeled to prove they were not genetically modified are simply ignorant about what genes are. Yet their protests make third world countries fearful and they won’t permit the GMO foods that would save the children.

Then there’s the “Food Babe” who catapulted to her ten minutes of fame by accusing Subway of using a “harmful” chemical in yoga mats to make its bread fluffy. She gets attention by fear mongering about “harmful chemicals” with little understanding of the science involved, nor of the simple idea that the dose makes the poison. And, of course there are all the little ads on many websites that proclaim that “just this one food…”

“Organic” Is the Latin Word for “There’s One Born Every Minute” by The Elephant's Child

I couldn’t resist this one. I just got my weekly Trader Joe’s flyer in the mail talking about their offering of everything organic and some trendy new pressed juice. Grocery stores have a lot to answer for. They are catering to the Gwyneth Paltrows of the world who fall for every ludicrous foodie fantasy. I get ticked off when their ignorant protests against genetically modified organisms (GMOs) prevent poor Asian children from getting the golden rice that would prevent death and blindness for so many.

Headline and video borrowed from Maggie’s Farm, who borrowed it from someone else. Welcome to the internet.

The Vast Superstition of the Belief in Organic Food. by The Elephant's Child

We seem to have entered an age when belief in eating just the right food reigns supreme.  There are, of course, organizations behind this. One of the most often quoted is the leader of the “food police”,  the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  They fancy themselves as a “watchdog” group, but their activities are more often savaging restaurants, disparaging adults’ food choices and issuing high profile, but highly questionable, reports condemning soft drinks, fat substitutes, irradiated meat, biotech food crops and anything that tastes good.

That the group is able to survive in today’s world is a testimony to today’s obsession with just the right food, the pure food, or organic food that will somehow make life more wholesome, and last longer.   CSPI turns up often on slow news days.

Our friend Dennis Avery, Director of the Center for Global Food Issues (CGFI), part of the Hudson Institute, writes often about food issues, but his interest is more in seeing that the world has enough food.  He points out, once again, in a new article,  that organic food is just a superstition:

The Green Movement has been called “the new religion.” It surely isn’t that.  Religion is a belief in a higher power than humanity.  The Green movement believes nothing is more powerful than a press release from the Sierra Club or a lawsuit filed by Greenpeace.

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine recently reviewed 162 scientific papers published over 50 years — and found that “there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically grown foods over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.”  This is no surprise.

The first researcher to announce the health futility of organic foods was Lady Eve Balfour, one of the sainted organic pioneers.  She turned her English estate into an experimental farm, to “prove” organic food was better.  She finally admitted in 1977 that 30 years of testing had produced no evidence of nutritional or health differences for organic.

This will make no difference to the sales of organic food because organic food buyers are irrational.  They think buying the most expensive foods buys longer, happier lives.  No such luck.  If organic were healthier, African subsistence farmers would have been outliving American housewives and stockbrokers for the past 90 years.

Instead, Americans eating industrially fertilized and genetically modified crops have been outliving Somalis and Nigerians by about 30 years.  We not only have ample high-yield food, but our lives are also protected by vaccines, antibiotics and sterile operating rooms.

The short article is worth your time, for it explains a lot.  As Mr. Avery explains: “If the world went all-organic, half the humans would die of starvation.  Most of the remaining wildlife habitat would be plowed down to make room for more low yield crops.” That would be a particularly ugly outcome.  Food fads are not always rational.

Why is organic food fashionable ? by The Elephant's Child
September 5, 2008, 9:04 pm
Filed under: Economy, Science/Technology | Tags: , , ,

Your grocery store probably has a big section of “organic” foods, just as mine does.  You probably believe that when you buy “organic” foods you are buying foods that are healthier, fresher, and better for your family. Sorry.  Not so.

“Organic” is a marketing ploy.  The use of the term “Organic” is regulated by the Department of Agriculture, and refers to the process by which foods are grown.  It is not healthier, or Greener, or more nutritious, and it is incapable of feeding the world.  Organic farms yield less food per acre, only half as much as conventional farms, because the world has a shortage of manure.  Organic foods usually cost about a third more than foods grown in the conventional way.

This whole thing came about because naive urban people were frightened by “chemicals”, a word that signifies something out of a lab and dangerous, possibly poisonous — surely not good for our children. Unfortunately they neglected to consider that everything is made up of chemicals.  The nitrogen in a fertilizer is no different than the nitrogen in manure; nitrogen is nitrogen.

Environmental organizations believe that food should only be grown by the organic process. They are thereby dooming much of the world to famine.  The developed nations of the West  are either losing population as Italy and Russia are, or are close to zero growth. Population in the developing world is still growing, although at a slower pace than before.  World population is expected to approximately double by 2050, and then begin to decline.

In order to feed that increased population, we are going to need all the land now devoted to farming, and to avoid clearing forest land for farming.  The “Green Revolution” fathered by Norman Borlaug has increased our ability to produce more food on the same amount of land: innovations like no-till farming and biotechnology will increase it more.  The more extreme environmentalists are hoping for famine or disease to carry away more of the population of the earth. Sounds implausible, but they have told us so.  And they want all food to be organic, I suppose because of their irrational hatred for petroleum in any form.

So, save your money.  You are not buying anything with the extra dollars you spend for organic produce or cosmetics or dairy products except possibly a smug feeling of green superiority. If you want to save the world, do it in the right way.

Ten is a nice round number. by The Elephant's Child

Why are lists of ten popular? Some factoids to keep one sensible.

  1. “Global Warming” hysteria was born and has its entire existence in predictions of future temperatures by computer models; models that have been unable to predict current temperature.
  2. Al Gore and the IPCC were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize, but it was not a science prize, it was the peace prize.
  3. There are no requirements whatsoever to be an ‘environmentalist’. There are more requirements to be a leaf blower or a dishwasher.
  4. Increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere follow increases in temperature, sometimes by as much as 500 or 600 years. Cause must precede the event.
  5. ‘Organic’ is a special term that may be used only for produce that is grown with manure as a fertilizer, and poisonous pyrethrums as a pesticide. It is a marketing ploy, not a guide to health or nutrition.
  6. The rich may get richer, as when Bill Gates or Warren Buffet earn more; but the poor do not get poorer. Zero remains zero.
  7. “The poor”may always be with us, but over time, they are not the same people.
  8. Ignorance of the past leaves one open to complete deception in the present and the future.
  9. The world takes particular notice of the flaws of America because we hang them out in public for all to see and comment on.
  10. History clearly teaches us that individual liberty, the essence of America, must be constantly defended from the encroachment of the state.

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