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19 June 2007 @ 11:00 pm
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05 June 2007 @ 04:13 am
High fructose corn syrup has gotten a lot of media coverage lately, and is the subject of current debate.  It's not hard to see why; so many are touting it as a nefarious additive, ever present in processed foods.  I did some research in an effort to be more aware, and this is what I turned up.

HFCS is in a disturbingly large amount of our everyday foods.  When I started making an effort to buy less products containing it I was overwhelmed to find out how many did, including many that aren't even noticeably sweet.  Not only is it predictably in most sodas (Jarritos and Jones being rare exceptions) but it's also found in most canned soups, breads, cereals, yogurts, bottled teas and candies.  Much to my surprise, HFCS is also an ingredient in many health-oriented foods.  It is especially common among children's foods.

From a financial viewpoint, this makes sense: HFCS is cheap to make.  Because of the huge subsidies coordinated by the farm bill, corn is one of the cheapest vegetables to produce, especially when genetically engineered to grow at accelerated rates.  As if this weren't enough, the Sugar Association has successfully increased the price of sucrose (the sugar derived from sugar cane and sugar beets you probably know as "table sugar") by establishing a quota system that limits the import of cheaper, foreign sugars and through a loan program that supports the growth of domestic sugar.  (Nestle, 322)  Between these two powerful organizations, domestic sugar costs three times as much as it would if imported and corn-based sweeteners cost pennies.  HFCS also tastes sweeter, and producers therefore need less of it to sweeten an item.  In short, it's price secures it's use by manufacturers seeking to keep production costs low. 

So that explains it's omnipresence in our foods, but why is it so evil?  Last year's Trend Report claimed that 38% of consumers are actively seeking out products that do not contain HFCS.  Personally, I think that statistic seems a little high, but it conveys my point.  HFCS actually refers to several different corn-originating sugars which are produced through a chemical process.  HFCS starts out as cornstarch, which is treated with enzymes to break the gel-like substance into it's smaller, component molecules.  The result of this is a mixture of glucose and smaller starches, which needs further treatment to become HFCS.  The glucose and starch mix is then treated with more enzymes to convert a portion of the glucose into fructose.  This can lead to 42-HFCS or 55-HFCS, with 42% fructose and 55% fructose respectively.  At least one GMO enzyme must be present for this to all happen.  A lot of people would draw the line at HFCS's production because of the intense treatment it must undergo to become sweet. 

A lot of evidence suggests that people don't metabolize HFCS in the same way as sucrose, and have linked it to the increase in obesity. 

This is where my research gets murky... I don't feel like I understand enough about metabolism to make an informed decision about it's health benefits or downfalls.  And while the evidence is mounting in favor of sucrose, further research needs to be done.  This seems like a relatively new subject of study.  Marion Nestle, author of What To Eat, has a surprisingly unantagonistic view of HFCS.  She views it as one of many sugars contributing to obesity, no more harmful than sucrose or fruit concentrate, but simply provided in unhealthy amounts. 
05 June 2007 @ 03:03 am
This started out as a personal "green living" manifesto, but it quickly spiraled off into a very non-specific set of goals.  I think that the core of me believes that the more information someone has the more likely or willing they would be to recognize their impact on the earth.  So in my mind this is still all related.  This what I have so far, but I would love to have input. 

Eventually I would like to create overarching goals and philosophies and following them up with ways to apply them to real life (I'm basing this off of the IDEA act).  I want to create a stable mix of theory, personal philosophy and practical application. 

Become a local and global citizen
    Through informed decisions, knowledge, community action
    Keeping up with the current news, having a better basic knowledge of history
       Staying updated with the latest environmental policy/social validity/etc, mostly through the NYT, as they report heavily on this.  The Seattle P.I. also has a great section on the environment, which makes the topic more local and approachable. 
    Keeping myself in good shape mentally and physically
       By eating less junk, especially few sugars and processed foods.  A good diet, in my opinion, is composed primarily of vegetables, fruits, and protein sources like cheese, eggs, beans, etc.  Meat is optional, although I already eat so little.  And for the sake of the environment (and possibly my body), through buying organic food when affordable. 
    Interaction with legislation on some level
       In a perfect world the government would subsidize organic farmers, and especially small-time farmers.  It  would also try to make locally grown foods the basis of school lunches.  I'd also like to see food-stamps (or their modern, credit card-like incarnation) made easier to use at farmer's markets. 
Become an informed, conscious consumer
    I think changing the demand of the consumer market can have an incredible effect on production
       I realize that the producer-consumer relationship is a complex one, but I also believe that fundamentally producers follow consumer demand.  If people, in large quantities, want to purchase organic food, organic  food will be made more accessible.  I want to help steer the market away from GM, overprocessed and inaccessible foods. 
Approach things analytically and recognize my own bias
    I know I tend to look at things through a liberal, middle class, positivist lens
    Don't follow things blindly when they fit into my preexisting ideas
       Which means researching ideas that I would normally agree with, and acknowledging that even though something sounds good...it may not necessarily be (e.g. the use of selected pesticides with organic crops)
Make a hierarchy of goals
    Because I can't accomplish everything
    (i.e. it would be ideal if Americans generally bought less shit, but since this isn't likely to happen I think we should aim to promote less harmful shit) (by "less harmful" I mean  organic, sustainable, more environmentally friendly, and/or healthier)
    I am having trouble deciding whether organic or local come as top priorities.  I'm finding that this tiered way of thinking presents more options and makes this all more accessible.  I've also added DIY (to an extent!) and fair-trade to my definition of "green" even though I can't justify them entirely in the context of environmentalism.

Steer clear of extremism and ideologies
    There isn't especially wrong with extremism, per se, but I want to maintain whatever semblance of credibility I have
       I think that attitudes that are compatible with conventional/average living have a greater impact and are the farthest reaching.   I think there is a greater benefit from most people going more eco-friendly than some going entirely eco-friendly.  I am glad the latter exists!
    I think even the most well intentioned ideology can stunt your thinking if you only view things within a certain context

This was, at first, meant to be a list of things I could personally do to cut down my footprint, but I think that list should be separate.
6.1.07 edit.  The parts in green show how I related this (originally just in my head) to environmentalism
05 June 2007 @ 01:28 am
There have been a lot of changes to the way some major companies produce or buy components of their products as of late.  All of these suggest that the consumer market prefers things containing/produced in a more "natural" way, which in turn implies a greater awareness and activism concerning nutrition and food politics.  The New York Times has published numerous articles on these subjects in the past six months or so, and readership has been high.  The front page of the NYT site lists the most frequently read articles, and those relating to food have stayed disproportionately longer than other subjects.  Michael Pollan's work has had an especially good response.  Personally, he has provided my framework for understanding the farm bill and it's relation to U.S. food production and health.  I truly believe that the American public is exhibiting a change in thinking about the way they eat.  With obesity and related health concerns on the rise, we can't afford not to. 

The overall sales of sugar-laden soft drinks are beginning to decrease, and the sales of "healthy" beverage alternatives are on the rise.  The noticeable promotion of the diet counterparts of major sodas have become...well, more noticeable in response.  7up has taken the preservatives and artificial sweeteners out of it's canned sodas and Jones Soda is in the process of taking out high fructose corn syrup out of their products and replaced it with pure cane sugar.  The creation of a line of organic tea line further demonstrates consumer demand.  On an unrelated note, they also outbid Coca Cola on the right to supply Qwest field with beverages.  Imagine that, organically produced goods could be available in a football stadium.  Run with the not-so-little guy! 

I'd like to see what major soda companies do in response to the recent information about sodium benzoate as a carcinogen. 

Burger King has taken a small but significant step in improving the origins of it's meat and eggs, in terms of animal cruelty.  Hopefully this will pave the way for other massive companies to change.  Overall improvements in packaging boast a more a slightly more optimistic future about resources.  These are all huge companies, with a great deal of influence on the American health.  Farmer's Markets and organic produce sales success aside, these advances say much about consumer demand.

21 May 2007 @ 11:25 pm
After reading an article in the Heifer International magazine (this quarter's(?) issue had a decidedly environmental and local spin, which is new) I discovered that luffa (or "loofa") is not from the sea...in fact it's a fruit.  I think I mixed it up with sea sponges.  It's also a highly affordable fruit you can grow in your own home.  It can be used as a food, bath sponge or dish sponge.  It's cheap, renewable and a hell of a lot better than a plastic sponge in terms of the environmental. 

I've decided to buy a pack on Ebay soon and start growing my own.  We'll see how this goes.  And even if I can figure out how to turn it into a sponge I can still eat it...

Read up:

Loofa Info

Wiki's Loofa
03 May 2007 @ 04:28 pm
So everyone here is invited to write whatever they want (go popular sovereignty!) but I was hoping that this could be more than just a link dump.  I think people will get the most of a single entry when they're thought out, or contain a variety of information pertaining to one topic.  Kind of like an article.  For example, you might want to write something about what you, personally, could do to have a more "green" lifestyle and follow it up with links to eco-friendly living tips (or whatever). 

Just a thought!
18 April 2007 @ 08:08 pm
Test Test Test....