August 20, 2014 · Filed Under Seed Saving, Seeds · Comment 

Luke of Seedwise just sent me a press release for his new marketplace for organic seeds.  I don’t know a lot about it other than this, but the idea sounds great.

An online platform for selling and buying organic seeds, directly from USA farmers
May 12, 2014, the organic and non-GMO seed marketplace, has created an online platform for organic seed farmers to connect directly with retail consumers. Home gardeners and farmers alike can now purchase seeds with the added knowledge of exactly where and by whom, their seeds have been grown.

SeedWise is breaking down one of the last barriers of transparency in the organic movement by integrating the farmer at the root level of commercial exchange. Unlike even the most well-respected organic seed companies, SeedWise allows buyers to choose not just seed variety, but also provides the choice of seeds grown in specific climates, by particular farms.

With 10 farmers currently offering seeds, the home gardener can be highly selective, choosing the same garlic seed grown in the Willamette Valley, or a mere 100 miles away in the Columbia River Gorge.

By understanding what climate the seed originates from, consumers can more accurately predict the success of the seeds in their home climate. Most importantly, by increasing the accountability of the seed industry, we can all see exactly who is growing our seeds and the practices they use. SeedWise is strictly a non-gmo, organic seed marketplace, customers can be assured that every dollar spent is a vote for their values.

The idea for SeedWise grew out of conversations with farmers who struggle to earn a living growing and selling organic seeds to larger companies and seed catalogs. Relying on the wholesale market has crippled many small seed farmers, and SeedWise was created with the intention to give these farmers more direct connection with the retail customer.

The majority of organic seed farmers get into the trade because they want to live their values by growing, breeding, and saving high quality seeds.   SeedWise is happy to provide the technical framework that allows farmers to make a living, doing what they love.

Alert: Fraudulent AVAAZ Campaign

July 24, 2014 · Filed Under General, Political · 1 Comment 

For a while now AVAAZ has been running a campaign about a ‘Global Seed Exchange’.  Emails promoting the exchange have claimed to have the support of over 20 organizations, including some located in Europe, and Vandana Shiva.  It’s all very vague.

Vandana Shiva has issued a statement denying any involvement.

There are now discussions involving a large number of European organizations, and it’s very unlikely any are involved.  We are all well connected by now.

At best AVAAZ has always been a very dubious organization, but donating to this campaign is throwing your money away.  Please help spread the word.

Sugar, Salt, Saturated Fat and the War Against Small Farmers

June 23, 2014 · Filed Under Food and Drink, Food Sovereignty · 3 Comments 

It’s in the news again.  The three evil foods; salt, sugar and saturated fat.  As if these were really foods in the first place.   We all know we are supposed to be distracted from caring about the quality of our foods, if it’s natural and if it comes from a trustworthy place, by focusing on the ingredient label for a look at it’s component parts.  The reason of course is that food companies don’t want to fundamentally change the way they produce food, to make it more natural or healthy.  Processing food a different way is however no problem, and generating consumer demand based on the ingredient list means they can just keep making small changes to their formulas, and make more processed foods to meet these demands.

A few months ago the EFSA declared aspartame safe, the chemical name for the NutraSweet sweetener.  A few minutes searching on Google will show all manner of scientific studies (like a recent one in Italy that proved it can cause cancer) or that it’s approval in the US was seriously procedurally flawed and was never proven safe, or places like New Mexico and Hawaii that have also proposed bans.  There are numerous people on the Internet complaining of serious medical problems linked to it’s consumption.  The EFSA however could find no evidence that it was unhealthy.

Aspartame is also a product of genetic engineering.  It’s not itself genetically engineered, but it’s produced with genetically engineered micro-organisms.

And the reason why sugar, salt and saturated fat are all unhealthy?  Yes, anyone??  Any credible scientific studies or even a reasonable explanation?  I personally have not seen any.

Now however, our attention is on salt, sugar and saturated fat.  One of the recent people to declare these ingredients bad was Oliver de Schutter in a recent report to the UN.  Worse than tobacco he says!  Until recently, de Schutter was one of the loudest proponents for small farmers, but if he wanted to pick three ingredients to more directly attack small farmers could he have done better?

Saturated Fat:  This is in almost all unprocessed animal products.  It’s more or less a naturally occurring byproduct of the meat and dairy industry.  It’s only by processing the dairy or meat in ways not normally done by small farmers that this is removed.  ‘Tropical oils’, like coconut and palm kernel oils are the only other major source of saturated fats, and these are a pretty small part of most people’s diets.

Not only is there not a lot of proof saturated fat is linked to health issues, but you will really only find it in unprocessed meat and dairy products, like would be produced by a small farmer.

Salt:  This or sugar are used in almost all traditional processing of food.  All pickled or fermented products (like sauerkraut), most cured meats and almost all cheese, require salt in their processing.  Other foods, like breads or potatoes, depend on salt for flavor.

Sugar:  If anything, modest consumption of sugar may be important for health.  For example, it’s known as an appetite suppressant.  For traditionally and naturally processed foods like jams or jellies, not using enough sugar can result in a runnier product with a shorter shelf life.

To declare these ingredients bad is to attack small farmers, plain and simple.  If you don’t eat salt, sugar and saturated fat, that means eating mass produced industrial foods.

Use your common sense.  Is aspartame healthier for you than sugar?!  We need to simply reject this sort of argument for our food, and punish any politicians who support it.  If overwhelming evidence that the safety of aspartame is uncertain is not enough, then empty claims over sugar, salt and saturated fat are not enough either.

One example of this manipulation at my local supermarket is with potato chips.  We are all supposed to think potato chips are bad, because they are salty and well just junk.  Right?  Actually, they are just fried potatoes.  Certainly you can buy better or worse brands, and better or worse potatoes can be used, but the principle is not a bad one.  During times when salt is supposed to be bad, my supermarket changes the formula on the house brand and increases the salt to make them almost inedible.  In this way, people who eat them in a normal way are supposed to find them too salty and look for something ‘healthier’ to eat.

In hindsight, I remember this going on in the US when I was growing up, and one of the reasons most Americans think of potato chips as a ‘bad’ food.

It’s time to return potato chips to something made by people we trust, that don’t manipulate the salt levels.

No more attacks on small farmers.  No more rules for school lunches that force kids to eat processed and mass produced foods.  No more reasons that kids (or anyone else) should be encouraged to eat dangerous chemicals like aspartame.

Back After a Pause and Updates

June 23, 2014 · Filed Under General, Political · Comment 

I haven’t been writing much lately, and I have lots of things to catch up on.  In the coming days and weeks I’ll start working on my backlog.

I’m sorry there have been some availability issues over the last few days.  I’ve switched to a service called Cloud Flare, and a configuration error meant the blog was unreachable for 48 hours or so.  One of the consequences of this change is the URL now has www in front.  Not my preference really, but a requirement of the current setup.  They say they are working on a technical solution so the www isn’t necessary, and when this happens, I will probably remove it again.

This change to an address with www caused the RSS feed to reset, so most of you probably got an announcement for new posts, even though they were just the old ones.

The reason for Cloud Flare is twofold.  First, now the blog is ‘in the cloud’, and is faster.  Not really exciting actually, but faster is better than slower!  The second reason are some security enhancements.  I’ve written before about hacking on this blog, and it’s really a serious problem.  Twice the blog has effectively be infected with malware, and went down for a period of time.  The source of this hacking is no secret.  Cloud Flare provided this nice graphic that illustrates the point well, for a representative 24 hours on my blog:

Screenshot from 2014-06-23 14:33:19

In case you thought all hacking on the Internet originated in Mongolia, there you go!  It’s really the US.

In this case, I’m pretty sure you can think Edward Snowden and NSA.

This hacking comes together with spam, either written in American English, from 10 years ago — mostly about tired things like Viagra, or it’s written in other languages and if you put them through Google translate, they translate like they were written in American English.  The spam follows all of the US rules for decency; like no 4-letter words but otherwise explicit language.  There’s absolutely no sensitivity to foreign cultures incorporated into the spam, and likewise no racial slurs or attacks on the cultures of others.  It’s incredibly obvious it all comes from the same source.

This also seems to go along with accusations that the US government forces software developers to put back doors into their products.  WordPress as well as PHP and Apache all seem to have a lot of obvious back doors that are not difficult to exploit.

For those of you aware of Internet issues, it’s also related to the US refusing to give up control of IANA, the authority that issues Internet address, which means the US has access to enough IP addresses in obscure places and embedded into the address space of others, that using filters to control the hacking is all but impossible.

Some of you may encounter problems leaving a comment or reaching the blog, because I do some IP filtering.  If Cloud Flare reduces the problem enough, I will take off my own filters and hopefully make the blog more accessible to more people.  In any case, please let me know if you have problems like this, so I can try to fix it.

Anyway, Cloud Flare has a system that monitors all of it’s customers websites simultaneously for hacking activity, and when it detects this, it filters those IP addresses for everyone else.  This is really the only defence against this kind of hacking, so let’s hope we see an improvement.  Already I’m a little doubtful.  I see a reduction in hacking, but it’s still pretty heavy.  A reduction is still better than nothing!

Plant Breeding For Permaculture

March 13, 2014 · Filed Under Food Sovereignty, Seed Saving, Seeds · Comment 

There are getting to be more and more discussion forums around.  I think this is a good thing.  Nicolas sent me an email recently to tell me about this one, where he is a moderator.  If you’re interested in permaculture, this is the place to go to find out more about your plants and their genetics.

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