Thursday, September 30

The Science Of Misinformation? POM

Pomegranate, blueberry, etc. juice seller POM is under scrutiny for their ads, which claim that drinking the juice will supposedly "prevent or treat heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction."

But what is the science behind these amazing nutritional claims? Some say, not so thorough:

"We looked at the POM studies, and some don't meet the criteria of a high school science fair," said Bruce Silverglade, director of legal affairs at the center. "One study has no control group and another study involved 10 people."

hmm... The article goes on to discuss lawsuits against VitaminWater and SoBe as well for their health claims. Buyer beware! It is about a balanced diet, not clearly not about a balanced bottle of juice...

Read the article here.


Wednesday, September 29

A little insight on GM foods

So we wanted to discuss genetically modified foods the other day in class, but didn't really know a lot of the background on the safety, or studies that had been done to provide insight on safety issues. I came across this article about the new "franken salmon," and the lack of studies done on them by the company AquaBounty Tech. It explains a bit about the raised allergenic properties in the proteins of modified foods, and the way these fish are manufactured.


The Botany of Desire Arrives on Netflix Instant

Michael Pollan's novel, The Botany of Desire, adapted to a film last year, was recently added to Netflix Instant. He turns upside-down the notion that humans have manipulated plants (specifically apples, tulips, marijuana, and potatoes) to their advantage. In fact, these plants have been using us for thousands of years to develop and proliferate.

It's pretty fascinating, even if Michael Pollan can be a little grating at times.

Botany of Desire on Netflix Instant


Sunday, September 26

Eat the Beetles (With Special Bug Recipes!)

I found this article that has a picture and the nutrition facts of Water Bugs. The writer, Jennifer S. Holland, seems to have a positive attitude in eating bugs, though she doesn't seem like she enjoyed her first bug meal. She points out that bugs are a good source of nutrients despite how cheap it is. She also adds a few links to other sites that you can look up if you ever want to buy bugs to eat or obtain great recipes to cook bugs.

—Yuki Kawabata

field entomophagy

A short sequence from Man vs. Wild showing not only how large beetle larvae can get, but how you might eat one as a protein-rich snack - apparently pound for pound more nutritious than beef (note: not a video for the weak stomached!)


Tuesday, September 21

Evolution of the Hot Pepper

In an interesting article in the New York Times this week the biology of the hot pepper is explored. Some facts to glean:

(1) humans love the pain of the pepper, and are the only mammals to do so:

"as Paul Bloom, a Yale psychologist, puts it, “Philosophers have often looked for the defining feature of humans — language, rationality, culture and so on. I’d stick with this: Man is the only animal that likes Tabasco sauce.”

(2) the "hot" compound - capsaicin - seems to be actually be an evolved defense against fungus

(3) apparently as far back as 6,000 years ago people were domesticated these fruits in the Americas!

The article also points out:

"The fact that capsaicin causes pain to mammals seems to be accidental. There’s no evolutionary percentage in preventing animals from eating the peppers, which fall off the plant when ripe. Birds, which also eat fruits, don’t have the same biochemical pain pathway, so they don’t suffer at all from capsaicin. But in mammals it stimulates the very same pain receptors that respond to actual heat."

All this interesting in the context of our conversation this week about spices from plants as a form of evolved plant defenses that humans just happen to find tasty while an insect very well may not... Alas, organisms are not such much things as realtions, all living in very different ecological niches of personal experience!


Friday, September 17

Sugar Beet Beatdown

An interesting article this morning on NPR about "Round-Up Ready" GM beets.

September 16, 2010

From the post:

"A federal judge says sugar beet farmers can't plant genetically engineered varieties next year, and those farmers, who produce half of America's sugar, now are in a bind. Many of them say they cannot go back to the way they used to work because they don't own those tools anymore and there aren't enough conventional seeds to go around."

George Kimbrell, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety is trying to protect organic famers and their right to choose the crop of their choice. As crops flower they cross-pollinate, and an organic farmer's crop may become contaminated by a neighboring farmers GMO'd crops.

Read the (short but interesting) post here- Sugar Beet Beatdown on NPR.

Christina Sherman

Wednesday, September 15

They are getting sneaky.

Companies are now using a new name for high-fructose corn syrup to make their products sound more natural:

-Rachel Goldberg

Volunteer at City Farm Chicago!

Hey guys! over the summer i volunteered at this great farm right here in chicago! Its pretty small but they have TONS of veggies in their garden. They always need help so if yall want to volunteer and help pick tomatoes, weed flower beds, and even prep jalapeno peppers for the famous Frontera Grill... CITY FARM is located at 1204 N. Clybourn. Open hours are Wednesdays & Fridays 1-5 and Saturdays 10-2. They even have a little farm stand where you can purchase delicious veggies/ herbs right from the garden. Also, here is their website.


Monday, September 13

Locavorism & Sustainability - Fact or Fiction?

The Chicago Tribune recently ran a interesting article on the battles over locavorism currently heating up.

It is an economic and cultural complex web of considerations, with some claiming the movement is,

"aimed at small, hobbyist and organic producers whose customers generally consist of affluent patrons at urban farmers markets.

In a hotly debated New York Times op-ed column last month, historian Stephen Budiansky attacked "locavore math," questioning the movement's assumptions about the energy used to grow and transport produce.

And economist Hiroko Shimizu and University of Toronto geographer Pierre Desrochers are finishing a 2011 book, tentatively called "In Praise of the 10,000 Mile Diet," that argues locavorism is a misleading marketing fad that, among other problems, ignores the threat it poses to the current affordability of food and to the economic health of developing countries."

To the elitist claim, some locavores counter to the growing accessibility of famrer's market food to lower income people through the Link Card program here in Chicago, which artists and activists from Experimental Station have helped spearhead.

Also, soon one key bit of very local data will be coming out from the research of Pamela Martin at the University of Chicago:

"Her team is still calculating the farms' energy use — including man hours, fertilizers, water and pesticides — but Martin said preliminary data suggest the organic urban farms in her study were at least as productive as conventional farms. Rural sustainable farms (those using organic or similar practices) yielded about half to 85 percent of the produce as conventional farms in the first year of data, she said, "but they might also use half the energy. We just don't know yet."

Alas, much of the question of sustainability is in the hard numbers....