Food Safety, Monsanto & Washington

Two twelve packs of soda. A giant loaf of Wonder Bread. A jumbo pack assortment of Frito Lays chips. And a gallon of milk. I watched in silence as the man in front of me at the local supermarket unloaded his shopping cart full of FDA-approved corn syrup and calories guaranteed to be free of both biological pathogens and nutrition. Then his three young daughters, all under ten years old and all very clearly displaying the side effects of the diet on display, ran up with more snacks.

It’s none of my business what people eat. But why don’t the political leaders who are so concerned about “food safety” do anything about the threat to public health created by “food” that is guaranteed to make anyone sick who eats enough of it? The Food and Drug administration concerns itself instead with walnut processors making health claims and birds flying over spinach fields. Maybe it has something to do with who is running the agency.

Two years ago, the Obama Administration appointed an insider from Monsanto to serve as Assistant to the Commissioner of the FDA. Another name for this job is “Food Safety Czar”. Michael Taylor is a perfect illustration of the “revolving door” between government and industry that leads us to a country where corporate malfeasance is protected while small businesses get regulated into extinction. In a previous stint at the FDA, Taylor helped provide the legal groundwork for Monsanto’s success by establishing the policy that genetically modified foods are “identical” to natural ones. Moving back to the corporate side, he later spearheaded the campaign against requiring milk to be labelled when it was produced using Monsanto’s growth hormone rGBH. How exactly does this experience qualify anyone to run our nation’s food safety agency?

Monsanto has a clear track record of pursuing its own profit without concern for human health, and Taylor has been integral to the process by which they have gained government approval for their products. Last week, a blogger in Atlanta started a petition campaign to remove Taylor from his position,and by today, it had already generated almost 100,000 signatures. It might not accomplish anything, but at least it is putting Washington on notice that people are paying attention. If you want to sign onto the petition, you can find it at this website.

With people like Michael Taylor at the helm of the FDA, the agency will continue to allow big corporations to sell “food” that makes Americans sick and drugs that “cure” them while making them sick in different ways. I’m not sure what Monsanto’s goal might be in having one of their cronies running food safety policy, but I’m pretty sure they have ulterior motives.

I apologize if I’ve done one too many columns in a row on the food safety issue and I promise this will be the last for a while.

Thanks,

Pablito

In Your Boxes

Having taken a week off from harvesting Spinach last week, we are doubling down on it this week. Of all the leafy greens we grow, it turns out that spinach is actually the most cold hardy — more so than its cousins chard and beet greens as well as greens like Kale and Collards. Not only does the cold we’ve been having this winter not damage the spinach, it makes it incredibly sweet and tender.

We grow spinach primarily for baby leaves that we cut loose, wash, and bag. Grown this way, spinach is ready to harvest in 30-60 days, so we can plant it in between two other crops. There is a bag of spinach in your boxes today from a field that was planted in mid-November. While the spinach is washed at the farm, it should always be washed again before eating.

When the conditions are favorable, cut spinach will regrow its leaves. The second growth leaves are not as pretty and round as the baby ones, but they are still useable are quick-cooked or wilted spinach. We call this stage “teenage spinach”.

If we don’t pick the spinach at the teenage stage, it keeps growing. It it doesn’t get ruined by wind, rain or bugs, it will sometimes grow to a size where it can be cut at the root and bunched. We currently have two or three fields that have grown to this size, and they are mostly beautiful. We started harvesting bunched spinach from these fields today and are sending a bunch in the Medium and Large boxes.

We wash the bunched spinach, but it is difficult for us to get all the dirt out. To do this, you need to separate the plants into separate leaves and soak them several times in a water bath.

Bunched spinach is most often used for cooking, as the leaves are fairly large and have a stronger grassy flavor. However, the flavor of ours is so sweet right now that it can certainly be chopped and tossed in salad, especially a warm salad (wilted).

We have some great news this week: the majority of our winter citrus appears to have escaped damage from the multiple freezes we had in December and January. Navel oranges, Minneola Tangelos, Meyer Lemons, as well as the specialty varieties are all important components of our CSA boxes this year, and we were quite worried that we might have lost them. Medium and Large boxes get Blood Oranges this week in addition to Navels.

Everyone tells us how great our Carrots are. Well, we are actually just a little short this winter, and we are trying not to harvest them before they are big enough, lest we run through them too quickly. Small boxes didn’t get them last week, so they get some this week. Everyone else will have to wait a week for their next bunch. We apologize for any disappointment this causes and are working to avoid this problem in the future.

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