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June 2011 Newsletter

Spring into Summer!

It's gorgeous here in the upper Napa Valley. The grass is popping, the fruit trees are already weighted with young fruitlets, and I want to be outside. But I also have an exciting story to tell, and a new hero to introduce. So strap in for a whirlwind. . .


Robyn O'Brien: "How can a child have an allergy to food?"

If you're a visual learner, click right over to Robyn O'Brien's TEDxAustin talk on children and food allergies. This self-confessed type-A Mom watched in horror as her youngest (four kids in 5 years! I said she's an over-achiever. . .) turned the color of his breakfast blue yogurt and was rushed to the ER.

You recognize this as a constant refrain of mine: One person at a time, we can change our lives through our food, I just know it. I want to encourage you to share these ideas (and this newsletter) with your friends. (There's a handy "forward" button at the end of this newsletter.)

Like most of us Robyn once felt "if it's on grocery store shelves it must be safe." Well, we debunked that myth last month in Label Reading 101, right? After a simple, seemingly normal breakfast with her children, her world changed forever. Robyn gives a warm, detailed, compelling talk about her journey on behalf of her youngest child. She asks some of the good questions a mom should ask BEFORE something life threatening happens to her child. Or, for that matter, a spouse, a parents, or ourselves. Again, I urge you: forward this email (button at the bottom) or at least accost any of your friends and family who seem not to be thriving and ask them if their food might be the cause.

Robyn found some staggering statistics and began to look further. She found that one out of 17 children has a food allergy. This pandemic began in 1997, coincidentally about the time GMOs were allowed into the US food chain. In less than five years, there's been a 265% increase of Emergency Room visits for children with allergies. Something is definitely going on with our food. This well educated, business-savvy Texas mom got mad, and set out to make some changes.

Her 18 minute talk (watch it here) ends with my own favorite refrain: it takes just one -- one person at a time to make a difference. She decided to take her knowledge and personal experience out into the ill-fed world and start talking about this growing scandal: "When each and every one of us does one thing, we have the ability to affect remarkable change," says Robyn. Maybe we don't eat our children . . .but how much less scary is it that we feed them poison?

Most developed countries test something intended for the marketplace, especially if it's for children. If it's shown to be unsafe, it's not allowed. Here in the US we take a different approach -- we test something cursorily, and if the rats don't immediately die in convulsion, off it goes to the megamart shelves and into animal feed. After all, what's good for the stockholders. . .


Here's a quick allergy story about one the strongest, most graceful men on the planet: tennis champion Novak Ðokovic. When he started playing professional tennis, he would be very, very good for about one set, and then his breathing would start to trouble him, especially when it was hot or humid. Still, he'd win, often enough that he climbed in the rankings to be among the top five players. He won the 2008 Australian Open, a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics, and is the youngest player in the Open Era to defeat the top three players in succession (in 2007).

Some time in the Fall of 2010, Novak's trainer changed his diet and exercise regimen, and as part of the new diet, eliminated gluten. The effect was amazing: he led his native Serbia to its first ever victory in the Davis Cup, and proceeded to win 43 matches in a row, including another Aussie Open, third longest streak in tennis.


Frankenfoods in your pantry?

My research this month has been deep into the netherworld of Genetic Modification, resulting in another article that's much too long and chunky for the newsletter. You can find it here. I call it Food Fight in recognition of the fact that there's a war raging at your friendly neighborhood supermarket between your health and Agribiz's obscene corporate profits.

Here's the crux of my argument: since the USDA has ruled foods containing (or polluted by, your choice) Genetically Modified Organism products (GMOs) are "indistinguishable" from their natural relatives, seven crops -- soy, cottonseed oil, corn and all its cognates, canola oil, sugar -- cannot be trusted. Note that these seven ingredients comprise the majority of packaged foods.

Be suspicious of package labeling. Discern between Organic and Natural. If the package says "100% organic" this means the contents of the package are entirely organic and supposed to be GMO free. Organic labeling standards require that product "cannot intentionally contain GMOs." If the label says 'organic' on the front panel then at least 95% are supposed to be GMO-free . . . but 5% sounds like a lot to me. Labels that say 'made with organic ingredients' supposedly mean that at least 70% are GMO-free. To my mind, that's next to meaningless. If there is nothing on the front of the package, but the ingredient panel says organic, it applies only to that ingredient.

My article is chock full of horrifying facts about the effects of GMO-tainted foods on people and food animals -- read the complete article here.


UPCOMING EVENTS and CLASSES with BRENDA

Summer's nearly here, and I'm scheduling myself gently to allow me time in husband Michael's vineyard. I'm starting to think about packing for my late-July departure for another trip to Japan -- my first trip since the earthquake, tsunami, and multi-melt-through. This ought to be a fascinating trip.


COMMUNITY EVENTS and CLASSES AROUND THE AREA

The third annual Raw Health Expo is coming to Sebastopol in July. Mark your calendars now for the event July 23 and 24, 2011 and check out their website. Produced by John Kohler (discountjuicers.com) this event is growing by leaps and bounds every year since its beginning. Join raw food luminaries, local farmers and raw food enthusiasts for a fun, educational and mouth watering weekend. Check their website for early bird discount offers.


ON THE WEB

Join us on Facebook, where we can share photos, recipes, tips, reviews and questions!


POTLUCK NEWS

Please visit our website for the latest Potluck information.


MOVIES THAT MATTER:

I recently found a free link to the full feature film "The World According to Monsanto." Since we're on the subject of GMOs it's great to be reminded of who the biggest player in this drama is and what they are all about.

And for a light hearted look at the issue, the Health Ranger Mike Adams, raps it up: Just say NO to GMO!


MARKET NEWS

As I've been around and about lately shopping at my local co-ops and natural markets I've started seeing a new labeling on bulk bins and product information cards. "Transitional Organic" -- seems this is the new moniker taken hold and here's the 'official' (whatever that means) definition:

"Transitional Organic -- refers to foods that are currently grown under organic standards but have not yet fulfilled the three consecutive years of organic growing required for organic certification."

So if you are not finding organic, look for 'transitional organic' in your next search for products in the market or go ahead and ask the vendors at your farmers market. If they 'truly are organic' or 'transitional organic' they'll tell you for sure.


RECIPE:

I'm spending time outside these days, watching the grapevines come alive here in the Napa Valley right alongside our veggie garden. During the long summer days when I'm out there soaking up the sun and nature I enjoy this refreshing Electro Lemon Aide. Full of electrolytes and flavor it's quick and easy to have in the fridge all summer long.


As always, I am glad for my readers. I know you care just as much as I do about good food and healthy lives. I wish you could join me out in the orchard for a glass of sun tea. . . Happy Fathers Day to all the Dads out there. Remember to EAT YOUR VEGGIES.
Brenda

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