MELINDA CARR HEMMELGARN, M,S., R.D.

Freelance writer, inspirational speaker, award-winning columnist & radio host.
Please contact me to set up an event: foodsleuth@gmail.com

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F.A.R.M. Project Slideshow

I'm thrilled to announce that the F.A.R.M. Project's first photo-slide show has been posted to the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy's website. http://foodandcommunityfellows.org/blog/2012/at-last-linking-health-care-and-a-sustainable-food-system-slideshow

This will be our shared portal with past Food and Society Policy Fellows, and present Food and Community Fellows, who want to use the power of stories and images to create agriculture, food and health policies that protect our environment and support public health.

Dick and Diana Dyer's story explains why the couple had to wait until they were 60 years old to finally realize their dream of farming. Please read, share and comment on their story. We want to hear from you.

Note: F.A.R.M. stands for Food, Art, Revolution, Media - A Focus on Photography to Revitalize Agriculture and Strengthen Democracy.
Dan Hemmelgarn takes the photographs; I ask questions and take careful notes.

Watch for more photo-essays coming soon....

Think critically and eat well,
Melinda

One Dozen Resources for Thinking Critically About Genetically Engineered Food and Farming

Just saw a beautiful and moving film, "Bitter Seeds,"  about GMO cotton farmers in India through the lens of a young woman whose father committed suicide because of GMO-related debt. With all the buzz about GMO labeling, I thought Food Sleuth blog readers would enjoy having a list of resources to help find "food truth" on the topic.

Center for Food Safety: www.centerforfoodsafety.org

“Do Seed Companies Control GM Crop Research,” Editorial, Scientific American,  August 13, 2009:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-seed-companies-control-gm-crop-research  

Food Sleuth Radio:  Listen live, Thursdays at 5:00 p.m. Central. www.kopn.org 

"The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science – Part 1: The Development of a Flawed Enterprise," Lotter, D.,  Int. J. Soc. Ag. & Food 16(1): 31-49, 2009.  www.ijsaf.org/contents/16-1/lotter1/index.html
Part 2: Academic Capitalism and the Loss of Scientific Integrity:"  www.ijsaf.org/contents/16-1/lotter2/index.html

“Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. – the first sixteen years,” Benbrook, C., Environmental Sciences Europe,  Sept. 2012. www.enveurope.com/content/24/1/24/abstract
 
 
 “Intentional Disinformation about Seralini et. al.,” Clark, E.A., U. of Guelph, Canada, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network: Collaborative Campaigning for Food Sovereignty and Environmental Justice. www.cban.ca/Resources/Topics/Human-Health-Risks/Intentional-Disinformation-about-Seralini-et-al.-2012
 
 “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically-modified maize,” Seralini et. al., Food and Chemical Toxicology, Sept. 2012.  www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691512005637
 
“Reasons for Labeling Genetically Engineered Foods,” Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Consumers Union, March 2012. www.consumersunion.org/pdf/AMA-GE-resolutions-3-19-12.pdf
 
 “The Truth About GMOs:  Interview with Don Huber,” Hemmelgarn, M., Natural Awakenings Magazine. www.naturalawakeningsmag.com/Natural-Awakenings/July-2012/The-Truth-about-GMOs/


 

Be in the Know about GMOs


Natural Awakenings Magazine invited me to interview Don Huber, plant pathologist and professor Emeritus at Purdue University. His topic: GMOs. Read his interview here:
http://www.naturalawakeningsmag.com/Natural-Awakenings/July-2012/The-Truth-about-GMOs/ 

Then read labels carefully, and join those of us who believe we have a right to know what we eat and feed our families. Learn more here: www.justlabelit.org

Think critically and eat well,
Melinda

Accounting for Health Care in Atlanta

Just back from the Association of Health Care Journalists meeting in Atlanta, GA (thanks to support from the MO Foundation for Health). Terrific meeting as always featuring some of our nation's best investigative health writers, creative news producers and health care providers. (Stay tuned to Food Sleuth Radio for upcoming related interviews, now on Public Radio Exchange: http://www.prx.org/series/32432-food-sleuth-radio ).
Meeting highlights included Former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady, Rosalyn, who called for equal access to mental and physical health care, and expanding Medicare for all. The couple, married 66 years, work globally to eradicate chronic diseases simply by building latrines and helping rural communities access clean water. Oh the simple public health measures we take for granted.
Atlanta is home to the American Cancer Society headquarters, a HUGE building, which ironically sits just steps away from Coca Cola World. Adding to the irony: Otis Brawley, M.D. Chief Medical Officer at ACS, delivered a keynote speech in which he identified "obesity, bad diet, and tobacco" as the leading threats to our nation's health. 
And while Brawley reports that $111 million was spent last year on ovarian cancer research, and $600 million on breast cancer research, Advertising Age statistics show that Coca Cola spent $752 million on advertising their brands, including: Coke, Powerade, and Sprite. Go figure.
Brawley identified drug price scandals, medical fraud, and rising health care costs as dominating our nation's economic collapse. In case you think U.S. health care is the best, consider this: according to Brawley, we spend $8,000 per person per year on health care yet we rank 50th in global life expectancy. Switzerland ranks 4th in life expectancy and spends only $4,000 per person. 
Think critically, see the irony, and eat well!
Melinda

Just Label It: A Consumer's Right to Know about GMOs


GMOs are genetically engineered crops and foods. Most of the corn, soy, cotton, canola and sugar (from sugar beets)  in our diets has been genetically engineered to withstand spraying with herbicides. Some GMO crops (corn and cotton) contain a pesticide in every plant cell. 
 But the consumer has no way of knowing if and which foods contain GMO ingredients because unlike other countries, including those in Europe, and Japan, the U.S. does not require labeling. 

Why might we want to know what we're eating and feeding our precious children? Because GMOs have never been tested for long term safety on human populations or the environment. And we have reason for concern.
For one, the herbicides sprayed on GMO crops have unintended harmful consequences to our soil and wildlife. 
Two, GMO crops have the potential to introduce new proteins into our environment that may cause allergic reactions.
 
If you would like to see genetically engineered foods labeled as such, please note that the next two weeks are critical for taking action. The first step in helping the general public wake up to the GMO trespass on our farmland and in our food is a simple food label.

March 27th is  the "due date" when the FDA must respond publicly to the petition calling for GMO-food labeling. Please sign the petition to the FDA if you care about the integrity and safety of our food supply.
Genetically engineered seeds and crops threaten the integrity of organic farms and food because of the likelihood of accidental pollen contamination. Organic food, by law, cannot be genetically engineered.
It's easy to learn more, and send a comment electronically from the  http://justlabelit.org/ website. 

Add your name if you care. The integrity of our food system is at stake. 

Think critically and eat well,
Melinda
    




Pizza's a Vegetable?

Yes, according to Congress, pizza counts as a vegetable serving in our nation's school lunch program -- thanks to the sauce.

Frankly, that's a stretch. I don't recall ever seeing a vegetable-laden pizza at any school my children attended. But I will remain hopeful that with Congress' encouragement, school food service directors and school administrators might get the idea that pizza could look more like a vegetable serving beyond the sauce, and maybe even muster up some PTA support to plant a school vegetable garden, with herbs and veggies to dress up the bland and boring commodity fare.

To help improve child nutrition (and improve test scores, physical and mental development), I'd also add a salad bar at every school to accompany the pizza slice. But the greens wouldn't come in bags shipped half-way cross country. Rather, they'd come from on-site greenhouses.

Does all this sound expensive and time consuming? Not in the long run when you consider the national cost of obesity ($147 billion/yr.). In my experience, prevention is always cheaper than treatment.

If Congress wants to call pizza a vegetable, let's see them ante up the funds to beef up school lunch to make real food an option for all kids. Let's show children we love them by investing in their healthy future by feeding their nutritional needs.

After all, if we don't model what we teach, we're teaching something else.
Think critically and eat well!

Melinda
Gluten Disorder or Diet Du Jour?
Chances are, you know someone who can't eat gluten. And you've likely wondered about the explosion of gluten-free products lining grocer's shelves. Are we witnessing the latest fad diet or is gluten intolerance real?
Rest assured, gluten intolerance is REAL. Its prevalence is on the rise, and even the experts can't explain why.
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and spelt. And, it’s everywhere in the American diet, from sandwiches and pizza, to cookies and beer; malt is the offending ingredient in the latter. 
Decades ago, gluten-related disorders were an oddity. In fact, dietitians might have counseled one patient with confirmed “celiac disease” in their entire career, and struggled to find affordable, let alone palatable, gluten-free bread and grain alternatives necessary to manage the disease.
Today, we believe that about one percent of the population has celiac disease, but only five percent of those are diagnosed, largely because of inadequately trained physicians and lack of access to quality health care.
Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder set off by ingesting gluten.  Peter Green, M.D.,  the Director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University in New York says three factors are necessary to develop the disease: genetic susceptibility, dietary gluten, and an environmental trigger.
About 30 to 40 percent of us carry a genetic predisposition to the disease, and all of us are regularly exposed to gluten. Environmental triggers are still a mystery, but might include the timing of exposure to gluten during infancy, or an infection that alters the integrity of  the gut.

The agricultural connection
Alessio  Fasano, M.D., Director of the Mucosal Biology Research  Center at the University of Maryland School of Medicine connects celiac disease to agricultural “advancements.”  Thousands of years ago, nomadic man didn’t eat domesticated grains rich in gluten.
Green, too, says “there’s good evidence that ancient grains didn’t have any of the toxicity that current wheat does for people with celiac disease. ... wheat has been bred to be more glutenous because that’s what gives bread the quality that we all like -- the taste and the consistency.”

According to Green, our digestive enzymes don’t fully break down  gluten, so we’re left with large molecules, that in susceptible individuals,  can pass through the gut, causing an immune response, inflammation, and damage to the absorptive surface of the small intestine. 

Symptoms, care and treatment
Celiac symptoms range from diarrhea, gas, bloating and cramps, to more vague, system-wide reactions to inflammation and nutrient malabsorption including: fatigue, anemia, muscle cramps, skin rash, osteoporosis, joint pain, peripheral neuropathy, and even constipation. 

While there is no “cure,” the good news is, avoiding gluten controls symptoms and  heals the damaged gut. Keep in mind that if you have celiac disease, even small amounts of gluten can cause harm, regardless of the degree of your symptoms.

If you’re curious to know if you might have celiac disease, talk to your doctor and ask for a blood test that identifies antibodies produced in response to the gluten in your diet. It’s important to take the proper blood tests before making any dietary restrictions.  

Use the holiday season as an opportunity to talk with family members about medical history. Individuals with celiac disease in their family, Down’s syndrome, Type I Diabetes and other auto-immune diseases are at greater risk for having celiac disease.

Learn More:
* Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic, Peter Green, M.D., and Rory Jones (Harper Collins, 2010)
* Celiac Disease Center, Columbia University: www.celiacdiseasecenter.columbia.edu/
* Real Life with Celiac Disease: Troubleshooting and Thriving Gluten Free, Melinda Dennis, M.S., R.D., and Daniel Leffler, M.D,  (AGA Press, 2010)
* Gluten Free Diet, A Comprehensive Resource Guide, Shelly Case, R.D. www.glutenfreediet.ca/

* Food Sleuth Radio: Four-part series on celiac disease, and the gluten-free diet: www.kopn.org 
(airs 9/15/11 – 10/6/11; Click on “Food Sleuth” for archives)

Gluten-free Foods to Enjoy in Your Diet:
Amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, corn, flax, legumes (dried beans and peas), millet, nuts, oats (only if labeled “gluten-free”), potatoes, quinoa, seeds, sorghum, soy, tapioca, teff, wild rice.
Foods that Can Hurt:
Wheat, including durum, graham, spelt, kamut, semolina, wheat bran, cracked wheat, wheat germ, couscous and wheat starch, barley, rye, triticale, oats (due to contamination with wheat), malt, brewer’s yeast.
Beware of  processed foods. Read ingredient labels carefully and call manufacturers.
Chips, candy, French fries, gravy, matzo, grain and rice mixes, sauces, soy sauce, and soups may all contain wheat.

The full article on celiac disease and gluten intolerance was first published in the Nov. 2011 issue of ACRES Magazine:  http://www.acresusa.com/magazines/magazine.htm