Do not penalize organic farms for living near GMO farms

Do not penalize organic farms for living near GMO farms

USDA is once again trying to blame organic and non-GE farmers for being victims of GE contamination. Tell USDA that “co-existence” isn’t protection; it is forced GE contamination.

Right now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has opened a comment period on the so called “co-existence” of organic, conventional and genetically engineered crops, but the problem is that misses the point.   It calls for “farmer education” to prevent GE contamination rather than the need for USDA to establish-mandatory GE contamination prevention measures.  As usual, the agency’s proposal reads like it was written by the biotech industry. Despite acknowledging the very real threat to organic and non-GE farmers of contamination by genetically engineered crops, USDA’s recommendations would make a bad situation even worse.

Tell USDA that its “co-existence” proposal isn’t protection; it is forced GE contamination.

USDA’s so-called “co-existence” plan fails to offer any protection for organic farmers and would institutionalize transgenic contamination in crops across the U.S. If implemented, the proposal would require the victims of contamination to buy insurance or pay into a fund to compensate themselves for unwanted contamination, lost markets and other damages. This is simply unacceptable.

It is high time that USDA address the root causes of contamination by stopping gene flow and putting the burden for preventing contamination squarely on Monsanto and the other biotech companies. An immediate moratorium on the planting of any new GE crops must be established until tried and true mandatory contamination prevention measures are in place to protect organic and non-GE farmers.

Tell USDA this ill-conceived solution of penalizing the victim is fundamentally unjust and fails to address the root cause of the problem – transgenic contamination.

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Virgil on February 12, 2014
Mexico honey production

Mexico honey production

I didn’t know that Mexico was one of the top exporters of honey in the world. Much of their honey goes to European Union countries that, unlike the United States, ban or heavily regulate anything with GMO content. At least the EU knows that GMOs are a problem, I think the US also knows, but just doesn’t care. Politicians and USDA are both paid off by the big agribusiness firms.

I have often said that GMOs pose many threats, some we know about already and some that we have no clue about. All will eventually catch up to us in a very bad way. Mexico is just now learning that allowing farmers to grow GMO crops, soybeans in this case, may hurt Mexican beekeepers, often smallholders who can not afford to lose sales, in a big way. Germany has recently rejected a shipment of Mexican honey that contains GMO soybean pollen.

This particular honey came from a region where GMO soybeans is grown, but at a much lower rate than in some larger honey producing areas. The beekeepers had no idea that their bees were visiting GMO soybean fields to gather pollen. And, unless they live right next to a GMO field, would have no way of knowing. I didn’t know it, but, according to Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute scientists, bees from a single colony can travel as much as 200 square kilometers to collect pollen. Makes you wonder about US honey, where it isn’t even tested for GMOs. Either is any Mexican honey imported to the US and I would expect the rejected honey to end up in the US.

This is scary stuff. According to the Organic Consumers Association, “The US National Organic Program rules prohibit GMOs inmexican honey organics but don’t require methods to prohibit GMO contamination or establish thresholds for adventitious GM presence.” And,

“Companies don’t want to test because there is no pressure for them to do so.”They don’t want to take on an expense when it isn’t mandated by consumer or regulatory pressure,” he says. As a result, no one knows the extent of GMO contamination of organics.”

That means, in reality, that much ‘organic’ honey and other products are not actually organic.

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Virgil on February 7, 2014

DowDow Chemical, the company that brought us Napalm and Agent Orange, is now in the food business and is pushing for approval of genetically engineered (GE) versions of corn and soybeans that are designed to survive repeated dousing with 2,4-D, half of the highly toxic chemical mixture Agent Orange.

USDA is on-board with Dow and needs to be told to actually look out for US consumers rather than be the enablers for the continuing decline of food quality. The following is from the Center for Food Safety, just one of many groups pushing USDA to do the right thing. Many GMO crops are “sold” to us as reducing the need for toxic pesticides, yet they are often directly responsible for the opposite. And the scientific evidence is there to support these claims that GMOs cause more pesticide use, not less. Every day, a new study adds to the growing concerns that USDA ignores.

Center for Food Safety has launched a new national campaign focusing the food movement’s growing power on stopping the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) approval of the next generation of genetically engineered (GE), pesticide-promoting crops: corn and soybeans engineered to be repeatedly doused in 2,4-D, a powerful herbicide that formed one half of Agent Orange. The campaign features a petition to the USDA and President Obama to reject Dow Chemical’s new GE crops, a campaign website and an animated video examining Dow Chemical’s sordid history.

Why Dow Chemical? Dow Chemical has a long and troubling history of selling dangerous chemicals and poisons, and now they are targeting our food supply. We are launching this campaign to give people the chance to fight back, to speak with one voice and stop Dow Chemical’s “Agent Orange” crops.

2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid), produced by Dow Chemical, was a component of Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant used in Vietnam. 2,4-D and other herbicides of its class have been independently associated with deadly immune system cancers, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disruption, and reproductive problems. 

Dow Chemical’s crops are the worst possible application of biotechnology. They offer zero consumer benefit while doubling down on the most devastating aspects of industrial agriculture. Instead of feeding the world, Dow Chemical’s new genetically engineered crops will poison it. Unless we stop them.

Check out our new animated video and campaign website, and join the campaign!

Go and tell the USDA to say NO to Agent Orange corn and soybeans. And remember, if you want to make sure you do not buy GMOs, be very careful with any product with US or Canadian grown, non-organic, corn or soybeans. That includes corn syrup that is in tons of processed foods. Conventional meat that is fed corn or soybeans is also suspect.

Last year was the first year, in my opinion, where consumers really started having an impact on the food industry. We have a very long way to go, but America is finally starting to wake up to the dangers of our conventional agriculture system, from both a health and environmental perspective. We are killing ourselves with the modern food production system and USDA is pushing it down our throats, no pun intended.

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Virgil on January 19, 2014

CheeriosThe United States is one of the only developed countries in the world to either not ban foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or at least require labeling of said foods. Very sad commentary on the US and the power that agribusiness and their allies in the USDA and FDA have on Congress at the federal and state level. Even Al Franken (D-MN) (the liberal’s liberal senator) voted against GMO labeling.

Luckily, consumer concerns over GMOs are finally getting the attention of some huge companies, like General Mills. Since our politicians and government agencies are owned by Monsanto and other food industry giants who don’t care about the health and environmental risks GMOs present, it is encouraging to see that the little people who eat the horrible food coming out of the US food production system are starting to be heard.

Some anti-GMO groups are poo pooing this move by General Mills, saying that it doesn’t mean anything and that General Mills is still evil. Maybe. But, I see this as a victory for anti-GMO advocates and consumers who only want the right to know what is in their food. Basically, virtually all commercial boxed cereals, unless organic or labeled as non-GMO, have GMOs in them. Especially if they include sugar, as, even if the grain base is not available in a GMO crop (like oats in Cheerios), the sweetener is almost always corn syrup. And almost all corn grown in the US is GMO.

This is a start folks, hopefully more to follow by General Mills and other huge food processing firms. 70% of processed foods have GMOs. It is one reason I eat very few processed foods.

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from our friends at Food Democracy Now!

Don't betray America on GMO labeling

Don’t betray America on GMO labeling

Last week, Maine’s Republican Governor, Paul LePage, signed a GMO labeling bill passed last spring, making Maine the 2nd state to pass and sign a GMO labeling bill into law. LePage’s signature on the bill was preceded by Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, who signed the nation’s first GMO labeling bill into law in December 2013.

Now that Democrat and Republican governors have signed the nation’s first 2 GMO labeling bills into lawMonsanto and Big Food corporations are freaking out! Noting that bipartisan agreement reaches more than 90% among both Democrats and Republican voters, elected officials are beginning to take notice. So now, biotech and Big Food lobbyists are scrambling in DC to stop GMO labeling before we can win!

Stop Monsanto and the GMA’s secret plant to kill GMO labeling! Every voice counts!

While both Connecticut and Maine’s bills require 4 other states to pass bills before they go into effect, now that the movement to label GMOs has spread to more than 25 others states, Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) have introduced a secret plan to try to sneak in a piece of legislation that would eliminate federal mandatory GMO labeling, usurp states’ rights to pass similar bills and replace mandatory labeling with a “voluntary” labeling standard.

With votes on GMO labeling bills coming up soon in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York, biotech and Big Food lobbyists are trying to kill these efforts behind the scenes in DC.

This plan is so devious that it radically speeds up the approval process for new GMO crops, limits the FDA and USDA’s ability to extend premarket safety reviews, declares GMO foods “safe” and redefines genetically engineered foods as “bioengineered” in order to sanitize this deeply flawed technology to the American public. Make no mistake about it, this is an outrageous powergrab to deny Americans their basic right to GMO labeling and protect flawed GMO products – and we can’t allow them to get away with it.

Tell Congress and FDA: Don’t betray the American public on GMO labeling. Demand mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods and don’t let Congress destroy our only hope of protecting our families, our farms and our food from untested and unlabeled GMO food! Every voice counts.

This proposal is much more dangerous to our basic rights to know what’s in our food than the Monsanto Protection Act and will enshrine the false idea that GMOs are proven safe in federal legislation.

Will Congress and the FDA Succeed in Killing GMO Labeling? Only if we let them!

If allowed to pass, the current proposal “would create a uniform, national program” to outlaw any state labeling bill and render federal legislation on GMO labeling meaningless.

According to an outline of the proposal, published in Politico earlier this week, this proposed bill only requires a federal GMO “label on any products” from GMO plants “if those ingredients present a health or safety risk.” Something the U.S. government has refused to admit for more than 20 years! Think they’re going to start telling the truth about GMOs now?

At the same time, the proposal calls for the creation of a “national standard for voluntary labels” and would allow the FDA to define “natural” as containing genetically engineered ingredients (GMOs).  Monsanto’s and the GMA’s new secret plan would also create a federal voluntary label to say “GMO-Free”, something no individuals are asking for, but some companies want to be able to use it to deceive the American public.

Right now is the critical window where we need to stand together to stop Monsanto and these corrupt corporations from trying to betray our basic democratic rights once again.

Tell Congress it’s time for mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods! We can’t allow Monsanto and Big Food companies to continue to hide GMO ingredients from the American public. Take action now!

Remember, democracy is like a muscle, either you use it or you lose it!

Thanks for participating in food democracy,

Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! team


1. “Food industry to fire preemptive GMO strike”, Politico, January 4, 2013

2. “Monsanto and GMA’s Secret Plan to Preempt State’s Rights and Kill GMO Labeling”

3. “Industry’s Secret Plan to Get the Feds to Kill GMO Labeling in Every State”, November 7, 2013

4. “Will a Federal Compromise on GMO Labeling Trump State Law, Forever?”, Huffington Post, February 6, 2013


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Virgil on January 10, 2014
Sausage with milk added

Sausage with milk added

This is my mother’s recipe and one that was always super popular in our house growing up or as adults when visiting. Sometimes my dad made the sausage. This is the ultimate “white gravy on biscuits” gravy, but we just as often had it over toast. You can buy my mother’s recipe book, by the way (hint, hint) for $17.00 at this link.

For this batch, I used homemade sausage from our neighbor who raises hogs and, I have to say, it is probably the best sausage I’ve ever had. Just the right amount of heat.

Creamed Sausage – Sawmill Gravy


  • 10 oz. ground country sausage
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter only if your sausage is very lean)
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • salt, pepper to taste

Crumble sausage in heavy skillet on medium-high heat. Stir until the pink is gone and the sausage is nicely browned. Add

You can't even see the the toast or biscuits, that's how it is supposed to be!

You can’t even see the the toast or biscuits, that’s how it is supposed to be!

butter if needed (it probably won’t be) and stir in to add some fat to lean sausage.

Sprinkle in the flour slowly and stir until slightly cooked. Lower heat to medium and add the milk. Stir constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan, until it begins to thicken. It will be ready in around 10 minutes. Add any desired spices to taste and stir until well mixed.

Serve over toast or biscuits and enjoy!

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Virgil on January 3, 2014
My current pared down blogroll

My current pared down blogroll

This actually could have been written as long as ten years ago, unfortunately. I have been on the Internet since it started at universities and created web sites after it went “public” in 1996 or thereabouts. I loved the initial Internet. Nothing commercial, everything free, and people sharing ideas and their expertise for the love of doing so and meeting other like-minded folks. Back in 1997 or so, I predicted the commercial contamination of the Internet. I was soooooooo right. Now, everyone has to try and make a buck, that is the motivation. That is a terrible motivation, in my opinion, but I am not a commercially crass lover of all things money-making. Alas. although plenty of great stuff is on the Internet, greed has won the day.

Which brings me to my point. Back when blogs started up, everyone had a blogroll. A blogroll, to those who don’t know, and from looking at other people’s blogs, no one remembers what they are, were a means of sharing other great blogs with your readers. No one paid you and I never even required reciprocity, as in “I put you on my blogroll and you put me on yours.” Or, even worse, “Your blog may suck, but if you pay me, I’ll put you on my blogroll.”

Currently, I am one of the few blogs that still has a completely open blogroll. If I like your blog, I add you. I let you know to give you the opportunity to reciprocate if you like mine. But, if you don’t reciprocate, I don’t remove your blog from my blogroll. I have noticed that most blogs don’t even have blogrolls, but, hey, they have tons of ads no one clicks on. A few have blogrolls that are very small, a few friends maybe and thinly veiled ads to affiliated blogs.

I think one person on my blogroll has me on hers, and we are friends. Most sites on my blogroll have no blogrolls at all, but they all have plenty of ads. Obviously, this is a pet peeve of mine and I am paring my blogroll down big time. I find it a real shame that most bloggers today are so afraid of traffic going to another place (other than their copius ads, of course) that they have abandoned the blogroll, if they ever knew what one was in the first place. Many today have no idea of the original vision of what the Internet was and should be, but are only about trying to make money. It is yet another sign of the times and the me-me generations that care for nothing other than themselves.

Bottom line is you should never start a blog to make money. Your blog will suck. You don’t hire people to write crappy entries for you. It should be about passion for your subject, not about money.

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Virgil on December 27, 2013
Permaculture course

Permaculture course

I discovered this course on Christmas Day, so, since it is free, I figured I would treat myself to a Christmas present to me from me. The course is offered by the Regenerative Leadership Institute Community Foundation and covers a wide range of topics. It looks to be a very informative course.

It is a 72 hour certificate course on Permaculture design and some of the topics covered include:

  • Natural building construction
  • Pattern observation and site analysis
  • Renewable energy and appropriate technology
  • Reading the land and natural cycles
  • Rainwater harvesting and conservation
  • Soil regeneration and land restoration
  • Passive and active solar design
  • Food forests, trees, and garden design
  • Greywater considerations and system design
  • Business and financial permaculture
  • Waste recycling and treatment

The curriculum is wide ranging and covers communities as a whole, not just individual homes or farms, although, from what I can tell, you can take the information and apply it in your own personal circumstances, whatever the context may be. The world needs to be thinking about these kinds of topics before the chemical and GMO pushing companies and governments make it impossible. For community activists, this promises to be very helpful in developing plans and arguments for natural rather than artificial, living. I am looking forward to it.

The main instructor is Larry Korn, a student of Masanobu Fukuoka, who helped translate and edit the English language version of The One-Straw Revolution. He is also an educator, consultant, editor and author in the fields of permaculture, natural farming, sustainable landscaping and local food production.

Click here to take the course. Let me know what you think.

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Good Stock, Life on a Low Simmer, by Sanford D'Amato. A memoir, with recipes

Good Stock, Life on a Low Simmer, by Sanford D’Amato. A memoir, with recipes

I was lucky enough to get a copy of Sanford D’Amato’s Good Stock: Life on a Slow Simmer. It is, in short, a memoir with recipes. Not something I’d seen before, but it really works well with this book and I predict more of this kind of book in the future. Each chapter ends with a selection of sensational recipes that relate to that particular chapter. What a great combination.

Strictly from an aesthetic point of view, this is a beautiful book, hardcover and incredible food photography in color by Kevin Miyazaki. No dust cover and it lies flat nicely so you can follow a recipe you are making from it.

Sandford D’Amato grew up and worked in what he calls the era before Food Network. He is not a celebrity chef. Except he actually is, among other chefs, the highest form of praise. Once I got into the book, I couldn’t put it down. This is not a tell-all Anthony Bourdain type memoir (and I love Anthony Bourdain). It the words of a very humble man who happens to have started out in an Italian family who owned a grocery store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, not exactly a town we think of when we think culinary mecca. He is close to my age and I really related to his descriptions of how life used to be.

Small grocery stores, bakeries, butcher shops. Shopkeepers knowing their customers and catering to them. The Sanford grocery store opened by his grandfather and passed on to his father, must have been a wonderful place for a child in those nostalgic times. For those who do not remember such things, the chapters on D’Amato’s childhood, the first three, will give you a wonderful glimpse into a bygone era. And the recipes are mouth watering, from Fennel Sausage Lasagna to Sweet-Sour German Potato Salat (which is to die for) to his surly grandfather’s Braciola to Tart Cherry Lattice Pie to Charred Corn, Zucchini, and Mussel Soup. And all these recipes have a story.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is D’Amato’s journey to the Culinary Institute of America and his early life as a chef afterward, ending with him being one of the first non-French chefs to be hired by a French restaurant in New York City. At that time, New York City really was the culinary epicenter of the United States. Back then, fine dining was defined by French restaurants, owned and manned by Frenchmen. Frenchmen only, it turns out.

He was a member of the first Culinary Institute of America class after they moved to Hyde Park, New York. There he learned that he had to be aggressive to get ahead and noticed. D’Amato was a polite midwestern kid, not used to the New York atmosphere. But, he quickly figured it out and acquired an important mentor, Peter van Erp, an eccentric but brilliant chef instructor. In those days, instructors had side businesses catering or other food related endeavors. van Erp was one of the “chosen” instructors, you didn’t ask to work with him, you hoped he would ask you. And he asked D’Amato. He could see the potential in this young, green around the ears, budding chef. D’Amato helped him cook (and do anything else required) for an exclusive, private club in Pawling, New York, called the Dutchess Valley Rod and Gun Club. After graduation, he was honored to be a fellow under van Erp in the school’s main restaurant, the Escoffier Room. A couple of the recipes from this time of  the young chef’s life: Fermented Black Bean Clams with Spicy Salami and Ginger and Maple-Glazed Duck with Burnt Orange Vinaigrette, both of these have my mouth watering.

The book moves on to his early days as a chef in New York City, culminating in landing a job at a French restaurant, a rare thing in those days, and becoming accepted by the French . He tells about his crowning glory in opening his restaurant, with his wife Angie, Sanford, in the grocery store his grandfather and father owned in Milwaukee. They even lived upstairs from the restaurant for a long time. Anyone contemplating opening a restaurant must read this account of what it is really like, even for a chef with a great reputation. It is not easy and you will work your butt off. Sanford turned out to be Milwaukee’s best restaurant and brought the chef many accolades, among them James Beard award nominations and eventual win and being selected to be one of the cooks to prepare Julia Childs’ 80th birthday dinner.

The most important thing about this book is learning a philosophy of life, as exemplified by Sanford D’Amato’s life and the path he travelled to become one of America’s greatest chefs. I highly recommend this book, even if you don’t cook, but those recipes beckon to me, everything from sweets to entrees.

Book info:
Good Stock: Life on a Slow Simmer
by Sandford D’Amato
2013, Agate Midway, ISBN 978-1-57284-150-5, $35.00 list
Get it at for $26.07

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Virgil on December 14, 2013


I came across some interesting research recently that demonstrates that eating two or more servings of oily fish a week is positively correlated with reduced chances of having a stroke and cardiovascular disease, while just eating fish oil supplements does not. To me, this is just common sense, but it is nice to have scientific evidence to back-up my thoughts on supplements.

I have said for many, many years that taking supplements cannot have the same beneficial as getting the same nutrients via eating foods high in said nutrients. Supplements extract out or chemically synthesize these nutrients and you eat them in isolation. You lose the interactivity between the beneficial nutrients and all the other substances in the actual fish, vegetable, or whatever it is you are eating. These substances act in concert with each other, in my opinion, to provide the desired results. That is, as they say, how nature intended it. Nature did not intend us to eat specific things in isolation of their source.

I think everyone knows that fish oil is good for you. But the best way to get that fish oil is to eat the actual fish containing the oils. Many people don’t like the more oily fish, like mackerel and sardines, but they taste great if prepared properly. I personally love fresh sardines, something I can’t find in the US, but are abundant in France, Italy, Greece, Turkey and other Mediterranean countries. Fresh sardines are a far cry from those in the tins you see in grocery stores. Same with anchovies.

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