Monsanto Official who Touted rBGH Milk Coming to GVSU

Kevin Holloway–president of Monsanto’s Animal Agriculture division–is coming to Grand Valley State University (GVSU) later this month. During his tenure at Monsanto, Holloway has overseen the production and marketing of the controversial rBGH milk hormone. rBGH is just one of many genetically engineered products produced by Monsanto.

On October 21, Grand Valley State University’s (GVSU) Seidman College of Business will host Kevin Holloway, the president of Monsanto’s Animal Agriculture division. Monsanto is a controversial company that has pioneered GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in both plant and animal products, including seeds (Monsanto produced 90% of the genetically engineered seeds sold in the US). During his tenure at Monsanto, Kevin Holloway’s division overseen the production and marketing of rBGH a genetically engineered growth hormone that is given to many dairy cows. rBGH has been at the center of a controversy over its safety and the use of genetically modified hormones in food products.

MediaMouse.org is working on an extended primer on Holloway and Monsanto, but for now, we encourage people to watch the short film (~16 minutes) titled “Your Milk on Drugs: Just Say No.” The film–produced by anti-GMO author and research Jeffery M. Smith–presents a good overview of Monsanto’s efforts to gain approval for rBGH and its efforts aimed at silencing critics and intimidating farmers who label their milk as rBGH-free.

Watch the film in two parts below:

Animal Rights Activist Speaks at Calvin

Last night at Calvin College, renowned animal rights activist Gene Baur spoke on the abuse of animals by industrial agriculture and the need for people to change their relationship to animals.

Last night, Calvin College’s Students for Compassionate Living hosted renowned animal rights activist Gene Baur. Baur, who is a co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary, delivered a lecture on the treatment of animals by industrial agriculture and the need for a change in how people think about animals.

Much of Baur’s talk focused on changing the relationship between people and animals and moving from seeing animals as food to individuals. Baur used a PowerPoint presentation with pictures of animals in slaughter houses and contrasted those to the rescued animals that live at the two Farm Sanctuary farms. Baur said that once animals are moved from abusive situations, they slowly regain trust and are able to show affection. He made compelling arguments against the abuse of animals and convincingly made the case that industrial agriculture is inherently exploitive.

During his talk, Baur explained some of the many ways in which animals in the United States are abused for food. He said that farm animals are excluded from the federal Animal Welfare Act and that agricultural practices considered “common” are excluded from most state animal cruelty laws. Consequently, “common” practices such as debeaking chickens and confining animals to small cages are rarely considered “cruelty” by law.

On dairy farms, Baur told the audience that animals are forced to give birth each year only to have their calves taken away from them. The female calves are raised to replace the milking cows–which have a “useful” life span of just three to four years–while the male cows are sold for veal.

On poultry farms, meat and egg chickens are both abused. Egg laying chickens are packed into “battery cages” inside warehouses–some containing as many as 100,000 birds–where they are confined to cramped cages where they can barely move. After the hens have outlived their usefulness to the factory farm owners, the so-called “spent hens” are put in grinders and turned into pellets that are fed to other chickens. The meat birds are bred to grow twice as big and twice as fast as normal due to selective breeding and have many problems due to this rapid rate of growth, including skeletal deficiencies. Male chickens born at poultry operations are routinely thrown away because they are not profitable.

Baur also argued that animal agriculture is just plain inefficient. He said that plant based diets use less resources and can support more people. He said that while people occasionally consider the health costs of eating meat–Baur said that the way people in the United States eat is in part responsible for rising healthcare costs–the environmental consequences of animal agriculture often go unconsidered. Baur said that livestock is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions and that it has an important role in land degradation, climate change, air pollution, water shortages, and water pollution. Similarly, as is the case with animal cruelty laws, animal agriculture is exempt from many environmental regulations.

Baur concluded by saying that people can work to improve the treatment of animals by making either a personal choice or getting involved in policy and legislative efforts. He urged the audience to make the personal decision to become vegan, stating that it would make a considerable impact on the treatment of animals. On the policy level, Baur encouraged people to get to know their representatives so that they can more effectively lobby them for legislation that protects animals.

The lecture was also recorded by G-Rad.org and can be listened to online.

Farmers Markets Open in West Michigan

Now that the summer growing season is in full swing, there are a number of farmers markets open in West Michigan.

Now that the summer growing season is in full swing, there are a number of farmers markets open in West Michigan. Farmers markets offer an excellent way to buy healthy food locally.

Farmers Markets in West Michigan

Monday

Grand Haven

(downtown)

9 AM – 1 PM

Ionia

8 AM – 1 PM

Tuesday

Grand Rapids

(Fulton St.)

8 AM – 4 PM

Greenville

7:30 AM – 1 PM

Kalamazoo

9 AM – 6 PM

Muskegon

8 AM – 4 PM

Wednesday

Coopersville

8 AM – 1 PM

Grand Haven

(pier-side)

8 AM – Noon

Grand Rapids

(Fulton St.)

8 AM – 4 PM

Hastings

7 AM – 3 PM

Holland

8 AM – 5 PM

Ionia

8 AM -1 PM

Muskegon Hts

7 AM – 4 :30 PM

Thursday

Allegan

8 AM – 1:30 PM

Grand Rapids

(SE Community)

1 PM – 6 PM

Kalamazoo

9 AM – 6 PM

Muskegon

8 AM – 4 PM

Friday

Ada

10:30 AM – 5 PM

Grand Rapids

(Fulton St.)

8 AM – 4 PM

Greenville

7:30 AM – 1 PM

Middleville

7 AM – Noon PM

Muskegon Hts

7 AM – 4 :30 PM

Zeeland

10 AM -6 PM

Saturday

Fremont

7:30 AM – 1 PM

Grand Haven

(pier-side)

8 AM – Noon

Grand Rapids

(Fulton St.)

8 AM – 4 PM

Hastings

7 AM – 3 PM

Holland

8 AM – 5 PM

Ionia

8 AM -1 PM

Kalamazoo

9 AM – 6 PM

Muskegon

8 AM – 4 PM

Muskegon Hts

7 AM – 4 :30 PM

Rockford

8 AM – 1 PM

Locations and Hours

Ada Farmers Market

Ada Historical Museum

(on Hedley across from Post Office)

Fri. 10:30 a.m. — 5:00 p.m.

May-Oct.

Allegan Farmers Market

City of Allegan parking lot

200 block of Hubbard Street

Thursday, 9:00 a.m. — 6:00 p.m.

May-Oct.

Coopersville Farmers Market

DDA Pavilion, north of Main Street

Wednesday, 8:00 a.m. — 1:00 a.m.

May — October

Fremont Farmers Market

On Weaver Ave., just N. of Main St.

Saturday, 7:30 a.m. — 12:30 p.m.

August – mid-October

Grand Haven Downtown Farmers Market

Washinton & First, Downtown Grand Haven

Monday, 9:00 a.m. — 1:00 p.m.

July – September

Grand Haven Farmers Market

Along Chinook Pier on Harbor Dr. under the blue canopy

Wednesday & Saturday 8:00 a.m. — 2:00 p.m.

June – October

Grand Rapids Fulton St. Farmers Market

1147 Fulton Street N.E.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday

8:00 a.m. — 4:00 p.m.,

May 1st to Christmas

Grand Rapids SE Community Farmers Market

Sheldon Complex parkinglot (Sheldon & Franklin)

Thursday, 1 p.m. — 6:00 p.m.,

May – October

Greenville Farmers Market

Veterans Park

Tuesday & Friday, 7:30 a.m. — 1:00 p.m.

July – October

Hastings Farmers Market

Tyden Park, North Bradley Street (M43)

Wednesday & Saturday 7:00 a.m. — 3:00 p.m.

May – October

Holland Farmers Market

Holland Civic Center

Wednesday & Saturday, 8:00 a.m. — 5:00 p.m.

June — October

Hudsonville Farmers Market

Downtown Plaza

Wednesday, 8:00 a.m. — 2:00 p.m.

May – September

Ionia Farmers Market

Corner of Adams and State Streets

Monday, Wed., & Saturday 8:00 a.m. — 1:00 p.m.

May – October

Kalamazoo Banks Street Farmers Market

1200 Banks Street

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, 7:00 a.m. — 6:00 p.m.

June – September

Middleville Farmers Market

Behind City Building off Main St.

Friday 8:00 a.m. — Noon

April -September

Muskegon Farmers Market

700 Yuba Street

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, 8:00 a.m. — 4:00 p.m.

May – December

Muskegon Heights Farmers Market

Behind City Hall, 2724 Peck

Wed., Friday, & Saturday, 7:00 a.m. — 4:30 p.m.

April – December

Rockford Farmers Market

South Squire Street parking lot

Saturday, 8:00 a.m. — 1:00 p.m.

Mid June — Mid October

Zeeland Farmers Market

Downtown on Cherry St. – one block south of Main St., across from South Parking lot

Friday, 10:00 a.m. — 6:00 p.m.,

late May – early October

Local Woman Living on $30 Food Budget for Fundraiser

A local woman named Maria is spending only $30 for food over the next month (April 10 – May 10) as a fundraiser for Blanford Nature and Mixed Greens. Maria, who is chronicling her experiment online, is donating the remainder of the money that she isn’t spending on food each month–usually around $220–to the two charities. As part of the experiment, she has set the following rules:

“1. I can spend up to $30 in the next 30 days for food.

2. I can barter for locally grown food. In this case, “local” means anything within a 100 mile radius of my workplace in downtown Grand Rapids.

3. I can forage for food such as wild onions, wild garlic, and dandelion greens. Stay tuned for more on this.

4. “Gift food” is forbidden. This means no coffee and donuts from the office, no friends buying me dinner, and none of mom’s cookies (sorry Mom!) for the month.

5. DRY Spices are excepted from all of this. According to my estimates, I spend far less than $.01 per day on basic spices like salt, pepper, and oregano so I won’t count them. Wet spices like sauces and condiments DO count in my $ figures – even ketchup packets.”

When it comes to local edible and wild plants, there are several plants that grow in the wild in Michigan that can be obtained for next to nothing. In this video, Maria shows how to clean and prepare dandelions:

The experiment also raises larger issues about access to healthy food and the money required to eat healthy in the United States.

Guide to Going Vegan in Grand Rapids Released

grand rapids vegan guide cover

Contributors to ExtraVeganza!–a blog on the Grand Rapids online community G-Rad.org–have produced the Non-Definitive Guide to Going Out Vegan in Grand Rapids. The guide offers a number of resources for people considering a vegan diet. Vegan diets have been increasing in popularity in recent years, with people choosing not to consume animal products for a range of reasons including health, the environment, and animal rights. In addition to listing a number restaurants and stores where folks can get vegan food, the guide contains seven reasons to go vegan and tips for those making the transition. The guide is available both in online and print format.

Aside from the this guide, folks considering going vegan should also checkout the Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council’s annual guide to purchasing locally produced food.

New West Michigan Local Food Guide Available

The 2007-2008 edition of the “West Michigan FRESH: Guide to Local Food” has been released. The guide, produced annually by the Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council includes a variety of resources designed to assist people in eating more locally grown food. The guide features a seasonality calendar outlining when fruits and vegetables are available and an extensive listing of farmers’ markets, community supported agriculture ventures, and farms in the area. Additionally, the guide contains information about eating locally in the winter.

The guide is available online at www.foodshed.net

For those unsure about why they should buy local food, the guide features “10 Reasons to Buy Local:”

  1. Locally-grown, freshly-picked food tastes better. Studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate in the United States is 1,5000 miles, and may take a week or more to get to its destination, losing vitality and flavor as time passes.
  2. Local produce tends to have more nutritional value. The longer the time from harvesting produce to eating it, the greater the trend for sugars to turn into starches, plant cells to shrink, and nutrients to be diminished.
  3. Buying local spurs economic growth. Economists use the term “local multiplier” to indicate that if you spend a dollar locally, it circulates locally, positively impacting 3-7 different local businesses before it leaves the area. Obviously that same dollar spent at a national or multi-national chain has very little positive impact on the local economy.
  4. Local food preserves diversity. In the modern industrial agricultural system, varieties are chosen primarily for qualities that create long shelf life in a store. Local farms selling directly to you tend to grow and raise many more varieties of vegetables, fruits, and animals – with the result that they are able to extend the growing season, satisfy many different customers, and bring back flavors and a heritage threatened with being lost forever.
  5. You know the farmer and can find out easily how the food was raised. Local growers provide what you want your families to eat. You can find out about their farming practices, for example, if you are looking for natural/organic growing methods or humane treatment of animals.
  6. Local food supports local farm families. Local farmers (who typically get only about ten cents of every dollar spend on food) selling irectly to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food – which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, producing food for our future.
  7. Local food builds community. Knowing the farms and the land they’re on gives you insight into the seasons, the weather, and the miracle of raising food. Often, local buying gives you access to a farm where you and your children and grand children can share the experience of learning about nature.
  8. Local food preserves open space. The many benefits of open space provided by farms will last as long s farmers can afford to stay on the lan. When you buy local food, you are doing something proactive to preserve the agricultural landscape.
  9. Local food keeps your taxes in check. Farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas suburban development costs more than it generates in taxes, according to several Michigan and national studies.
  10. Local food tends to be free of genetically engineered seed. Surveys show time and time again that many American consumers do not trust genetically modified foods. Family farmers generally agree, and when direct-marketing, have an incentive to avoid seed.

Farmers Markets in Full Effect

With today marking the Summer Solstice, farmers markets in Grand Rapids are thriving with an increasing amount of West Michigan grown, and in some cases, organic, produce available. The following markets are currently open:

The Fulton Street Farmer’s Market formed in 1922 and is the oldest farmer’s market in Grand Rapids. It is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday and offers a wide range of fruits and vegetables, flowers, arts and crafts, and baked goods. Project Fresh is accepted through the WIC program and the market is accessible via The Rapid’s #14 bus route.

The GVSU Farmer’s Market is open every Wednesday until August 22 from 10:00 to 2:00 in Parking Lot F on Grand Valley State University’s Allendale campus. It offers a variety of local produce, salsa, and bread.

The Southeast Area Farmer’s Market is open on Thursdays from 12:00 to 6:00 at the southwest corner of Franklin and Fuller. In July individuals can use their Foodstamp/Bridge Card to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. The market runs until October 11.

The Westside Farmer’s Market takes place on Thursdays from 12:00 to 6:00 and Saturdays from 8:00 to 12:00 in the rear parking lot of St. James Catholic Church at 733 Bridge St NW. The market runs until October 27.

In addition to the farmers markets, the Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council offers information about other ways to eat locally grown produce, including a list of community gardens in West Michigan.

Professor Donicio Valdez talks about Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and Food Politics

On Thursday, GVSU hosted professor Donicio Valdez of MSU as part of the unversity’s Cesar Chavez Week. Valdez discussed Cesar Chavez, his organizing work with the United Farm Workers, and the politics of food.

On Thursday, March 29 the Multicultural Affairs office at GVSU hosted Donicio Valdez, Professor of History and Chicano studies at Michigan State University. The lecture was held as a part of Cesar Chavez Week. Professor Valdez spoke about some of the realities of food production as an introduction, particularly in California where the United Farm Workers (UFW) were born. He showed the audience some old pictures that looked at how people got to the fields; via buses, walking, and old vehicles. Grapes employed more people than any other sector. Professor Valdez then showed a picture of a worker with a bandana over his face and addresses the issue that people were never really informed about the consequences of pesticide exposure.

Cesar Chavez himself moved to California during the Depression. In 1950 he became an organizer in the CSO, organizing Mexican/Americans. Later he became involved in labor organizing. Cesar was one of 4 of the original founders of the UFW. Early on the Filipino community went on strike and convinced Chavez and the UFW to join in, which they did. The two unions merged shortly afterwards. As a union, the UFW was very family centered, with children often at meetings and part of organizing campaigns. The strike spread in California and involved many women in the organizing work as well. Women did a great deal of the education work in addition to working in the fields and taking care of children. Iconography was important to the group, using the Aztec eagle and other Mexican symbols. Many Chicanos in the country were brought in to participate in the movement, which also influenced some of the symbolism. By 1969, the strike had spread to the entire table grape industry.

Boycotts were used early on and were called “Do Not Patronize Campaigns.” The first UFW boycott was in 1965. As a way of dealing with the boycott, one of the targeted companies changed its label, which was illegal, so the UFW called for a boycott of all table grapes. Boycott committees were in communities all over the country, which led to the education of millions of people about the strike and became a major organizing tool for the UFW.

In 1968, Chavez did his first fast, the fast for non-violence. The catalyst was an act of violence, where a foreman drove into a group of strikers, with people responding by surrounding the truck and pounding on it. Chavez responded with the non-violent fast. It was a personal fast for Chavez and on day 13 of the fast he was called into court. People came to the court and since there were so many the court proceedings were delayed. A rally happened in which Bobby Kennedy attended and it was then that the UFW had asked him to run for President. Professor Valdez says that it is speculated that had the UFW not asked him to run in 1968, Kennedy might not have.

The fast caused health problems for Chavez for more than a year. After the fast he stopped smoking and became a vegetarian, even a vegan for a time. The fast really galvanized the movement and forced Chavez from a behind the scenes organizer to a movement spokesperson.

1968 was also important in terms of the studies done on food. Among the findings were that pesticides accumulate in the fatty tissue in the body. These pesticides also cause neurological problems and cancer. There was a famous case in Michigan of DDT contamination of salmon from Lake Michigan. At this time new pesticides were being introduced, including pesticides that were first developed by the Nazis as nerve gas. A farm worker-supported clinic did its first study on the impact of pesticides on farm workers. Records were not kept and businesses, politicians and academics began attacking the UFW with bogus information. The boycott continued which resulted in the table grape owners signing an agreement in 1970. One aspect of the contract was a grievance clause, one that banned DDT and other persistent pesticides, and improved working conditions. The boycott shifted to head lettuce and the UFW was undermined by the growers when they signed a contract with the Teamsters. When Jerry Brown was elected Gov. of California better laws were signed and more contracts with the union. During the Reagan years the UFW lost much ground, but this backlash also led to the next grape boycott that lasted until around 2000. In the late 1980s Chavez did another fast, but the response was different, particularly by the media, which Professor Valdez mentioned had become increasingly owned by fewer and fewer large corporations.

Pesticide exposure persists today. The World Health Organization says that 200,000 people die globally from pesticides and another 4 million die from pesticide contamination of water. While pesticide use increased, crop loss doubled, thus exposing the myth that pesticides are necessary for increased food production. The result was while chemical companies made huge profits the human and environmental consequences have been devastating. Another major change is that most of the farm workers are now undocumented, which allows workers to be taken advantage of by owners even more so than in previous decades. Most of the workers were citizens before, so organizing was easier in some ways.

Professor Valdez ended by talking briefly about how globalization has impacted agriculture and pointed out that under many of the current “trade agreements” worker and environmental protections have been criminalized, meaning that they are illegal under these trade agreements. He also mentioned that there are other models that have been successful. He discussed Cuba as an example and states that Cuba has created a just and sustainable food production policy that the United States could learn from.

Media Mouse also interviewed Professor Valdez, with the focus being on other organizing efforts and the public memory of Cesar Chavez. The interview is available on our audio page or as part of our podcast.

Local Food Event Raises Awareness About Food’s True Cost

Around 100 people gathered last night at the Wealthy Street Theatre for screenings of two movies, the Sierra Club’s The True Cost of Food and What Will We Eat?, a documentary by Christopher Bedford, president of Sweetwater Local Foods Market in Muskegon. Both films dealt with the massive environmental impacts of factory farming, the average of 1500 miles produce travels from farm to plate, and the corresponding lack of freshness and increased use of fossil fuels, and the effects of pesticide use on consumers, among other issues. After the movie, an hour long question and answer session took place. The event was an important one in that it raised awareness about what the growing, shipping, and selling of food entails and that there are alternatives to food that involves such destructive and unhealthy processes.

To find local food near you, use foodroute.org’s local food finder.