Tag Archives: Mother Jones

The Sting: Californians give water to billion dollar companies

Remember the movie The Sting?

Coolest hustle ever. Made the shysters look like heroes. As a kid I thought it was the best con ever. It holds nothing on the con the billion dollar businesses like Coca Cola have pulled off. They are making billions every year, taking water from one of the dry-est states in the US, and selling it to people with plenty of water, causing severe environmental impact while doing it.  Now that’s a con. Californians are the one getting stung, but know it, and continue to give our money over to the corporations who have more of it than we will ever see.

I know it happens. I see it. I just can’t get my mind around it.

Mother Jones helps in that regard:

Bottled-water drinkers, we have a problem: There’s a good chance that your water comes from California, a state experiencing the third-driest year on record.

The details of where and how bottling companies get their water are often quite murky, but generally speaking, bottled water falls into two categories. The first is “spring water,” or groundwater that’s collected, according to the EPA, “at the point where water flows naturally to the earth’s surface or from a borehole that taps into the underground source.” About 55 percent of bottled water in the United States is spring water, including Crystal Geyser and Arrowhead.

The other 45 percent comes from the municipal water supply, meaning that companies, including Aquafina and Dasani, simply treat tap water—the same stuff that comes out of your faucet at home—and bottle it up. (Weird, right?)

But regardless of whether companies bottle from springs or the tap, lots of them are using water in exactly the areas that need it most right now.

I still recall the first time I went to the movies with a pastor friend of mine and they charged us for water. He looked at them increduously and then looked at me and then back at them.

“You want to charge me for water? That’s free right over there in that faucet? … Is this cause I’m black!” he asked.

The idea that we’d pay money for free water was absurd not too long ago. But somehow they convinced us that its absurd to drink the free stuff. Free must equal bad, or unsafe. Perhaps that made sense when the names of bottled waters were exclusively Evian or Perrier because the rich tend to think paying more equals better. But Dasani? Dasani is tap water put in a chemical-laden plastic bottle made of fossil fuels and shipped with fossil fuels to places that routinely have better tasting water than the tap they poured in the first place.


Dasani is Coca Cola by the way. Tap water. By a giant soda maker.

Now that’s absurd. Yet we play along paying billions every year … what’s worse is we KNOW it and STILL do it.

To organicanize your kitchen, I have become more convinced than ever that these are the absolutely vital first steps. I will go so far as to say it is nearly unconscionable NOT to take these steps.

1) Use tap water in the house. Never bring another bottled water in the house again. If you think it tastes bad, then buy a purifying in your home. A simply water pitcher made by Brita will save 300 plastic water bottles.

2) Spend $20 on a good, non-plastic water bottle and start taking it with you, just in case you get thirsty. We use to have water fountains everywhere. Cities got rid of them, like pay phones, because we didn’t use them. So have a spare. If you are one of those who likes water in your car at all times, fill a couple of bottles, put them in a carrier and bingo.

3) If you are like me and like sparkling water invest the $100 for a soda stream so you can make your own. Cut a lemon, blast your tap water in the little machine splash it with the lemon and you have great sparkling water.

That’s it. Remove the environmental blight of water bottles. Remove the cancer causing plastic bottles from your kitchen. Remove the con that tells us we are less than if we don’t buy water that until twenty years ago would have been absurd to buy.

My future grandkids and every other native Californian like me thank you.

I Went to the Nutritionists’ Annual Confab. It Was Catered by McDonald’s. | Mother Jones

The sponsors of the School Nutrition Association’s 2013 annual conference included PepsiCo, Domino’s Pizza, and Sara Lee. SNA made headlines recently when it asked Congress to lift the rule that students must take fruits and vegetables on the lunch line, and to ease the rules around sodium and whole grains.

Marion Nestle, a New York University nutritionist, wrote about nutritionists and corporate sponsorships in her 2007 book, Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health. “I worry a lot about food industry co-optation of my profession,” she wrote to me in an email. “Food companies are smart. They know that if they can make friends and help inform dietitians and nutritionists that the people they are supporting or helping will be reluctant to suggest eating less of their products.”

Andy Bellatti, a dietitian and member of AND, recalls his shock the first time he attended the organization’s national conference, in 2008. “I could get continuing education credits for literally sitting in a room and listening to Frito-Lay tell me that Sun Chips are a good way to meet my fiber needs,” he says. “I thought, ‘No wonder Americans are overweight and diabetic. The gatekeepers for our information about food are getting their information from junk-food companies.'”

via I Went to the Nutritionists’ Annual Confab. It Was Catered by McDonald’s. | Mother Jones.

Monsanto GM Soy Is Scarier Than You Think | Mother Jones

It must be tofu that drives so much discussion about soy. I can’t really figure it out, though I can’t avoid the topic either.

The facts are we grow more soy than other country than Brazil. Even though we don’t eat much directly, we consume it constantly in oils and a vast array of processed food products and various creations on labels we can’t pronounce.

The bride and I avoid it. We’ve never really thought much about it. We avoid process foods. We don’t eat tofu. We use soy sauce sparingly as a treat. Easy enough.

But apparently we’re a minority. The massive production of soy is big business — a monstrous Monsanto business that in many ways typifies all that’s wrong with our highly politicized, highly corrupt industrialized food economy in America.

So let’s sift the wheat and chaff a bit shall we? Let’s start with one of the best sources for environmental coverage, Mother Jones:

According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 90 percent of the soybeans churned out on US farms each year are genetically engineered to withstand herbicides, nearly all of them involving one called Roundup. Organic production, by contrast, is marginal—it accounts for less than 1 percent of total American acreage devoted to soy. (The remaining 9 percent or so of soybeans are conventionally grown, but not genetically modified.)

Americans don’t eat much of these lime-green legumes directly, but that doesn’t mean we’re not exposed to them. After harvest, the great bulk of soybeans are crushed and divided into two parts: meal, which mainly goes into feed for animals that become our meat, and fat, most of which ends up being used as cooking oil or in food products. According to the US Soy Board, soy accounts for 61 percent of American’s vegetable oil consumption.

Given soy’s centrality to our food and agriculture systems, the findings of a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Food Chemistry are worth pondering. The authors found that Monsanto’s ubiquitous Roundup Ready soybeans, engineered to withstand its own blockbuster herbicide, contain more herbicide residues than their non-GMO counterparts. The team also found that the GM beans are nutritionally inferior.

via Monsanto GM Soy Is Scarier Than You Think | Mother Jones.

If you like science, read the rest of the article. The bottom line is this: Monsanto makes Roundup, a pesticide that is used like Italians use olive oil. To combat it’s pesticide power, the company created genetically modified soy beans that now, as noted above, dominate the market. The combination creates a cycle of increasing health risks.

It really is that simple.

But so many want to make it so much more complicated than that.

Check out this cluster —- of a story:

Soy may lower cholesterol, prevent breast cancer, and reduce many, many other medical risks. Genetically modified soy may cause allergies or pose other risks. Or eating soy—genetically modified or not—may have no effect at all. After decades of research, thousands of studies, and countless millions of soybeans sacrificed on the Altar of Knowledge, the Bon Appétit Prize for Indeterminate Science goes to Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine for determining, in 2014: Soy consumption has possible health benefits and possible risks and more research is needed.

via Is Soy Good for You? Bad for You? What Does Science Say? – Bon Appétit.

More research is needed? If you click to the story you’ll see its miles and miles of research. What’s the cause of confusion: billions of dollars in profits and a still undetermined impact of glyphosate that is ubiquitous in relation to Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soy seeds.

Charles Benbrook, a Washington State University researcher who documented the rise in glyphosate use that has accompanied Roundup Ready crops, told me that “human dietary exposure to glyphosate is now probably the highest ever for any pesticide used in the US.” When you consider the additional doses we get through water and air, the chemical stands “in a class by itself” in terms of human exposure. “I sure hope EPA is right in its evaluation of the toxicity of glyphosate,” he said. 

Care to chance it?

I don’t and that keeps it very simple: lower soy exposure as much as  possible for three very good reasons:

1) It could kill you

2) It is the primary industrialized crop along with corn that is ruining our diverse farming economy

3) We are already exposed to unknown health risks enough without adding it from a so-called “healthy” food

The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics | Mother Jones

“Pick a disease, literally pick a disease,” says Frederick vom Saal, a biology professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia who studies BPA.

via The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics | Mother Jones.

Remember the obnoxious rich guy in It’s a Wonderful Life? 

“Plastics! I’m telling you… plastics!” he yelled into the phone, before his signature “heehaw!”

Well, it’s plastics alright. And apparently they are of the devil.

As I’ve started to organicanize my kitchen — paying as close attention to the tools I use to prepare, cook and store my food as I do the food itself — it has become increasingly evident that the 800-lb. carcinogen in the room is plastics.

As Dr. Jen Landa wrote just last week, the studies the FDA touts that downplay the health risks of BPA are most often done in rats while actual studies on humans are ignored.

“A large study reviewing the effects of BPA on human health was published in December, 2013. The authors concluded that there is ‘increasing support that environmental BPA exposure can be harmful to humans’,” she wrote.

The more I look into it the worse it gets. And the more I become aware of it, the more I see it everywhere.

  • The containers I store my food
  • The containers that store the cleaners
  • The utensils I use to prepare my food
  • The vessels I use to drink
  • The packages that wraps my food

And on and on and on… An NPR article documented still another problem:

“Many plastic products are now marketed as BPA-free, and manufacturers have begun substituting other chemicals whose effects aren’t as well known,” the article stated.


Frankly — to be clear — it freaks the living shit out of me. The more I try to rid myself of it, the more I see it everywhere.

Thankfully, I am not completely nutty nor am I alone. The above sourced, compellingly thorough, Mother Jones article documented one father with similar angst who each morning felt a twinge of guilt when he handed a so-called BPA-free sippy cup to his young daughter Juliette:

The center shipped Juliette’s plastic cup, along with 17 others purchased from Target, Walmart, and Babies R Us, to CertiChem, a lab in Austin, Texas. More than a quarter—including Juliette’s—came back positive for estrogenic activity. These results mirrored the lab’s findings in its broader National Institutes of Health-funded research on BPA-free plastics. CertiChem and its founder, George Bittner, who is also a professor of neurobiology at the University of Texas-Austin, had recently coauthored a paper in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It reported that “almost all” commercially available plastics that were tested leached synthetic estrogens—even when they weren’t exposed to conditions known to unlock potentially harmful chemicals, such as the heat of a microwave, the steam of a dishwasher, or the sun’s ultraviolet rays. According to Bittner’s research, some BPA-free products actually released synthetic estrogens that were more potent than BPA. …

So much for BPA-free, where much of the information is blitzed in a PR campaign that Mother Jones compares to the same tobacco strategies employed for years.

“It can be difficult for consumers to tell what is really safe,” the vice president of Eastman’s specialty plastics division, Lucian Boldea, said in one web video, before an image of a pregnant woman flickered across the screen. With Tritan, he added, “consumers can feel confident that the material used in their products is free of estrogenic activity.”

In March 2011, the Environmental Health Perspectives paper by Jordan and researchers from CertiChem and PlastiPure appeared online. They’d tested 455 store-bought food containers and storage products, including several made from Tritan. The results? Seventy-two percent leached synthetic estrogens. And every type of plastic commonly used in food packaging (polypropylene and polystyrene, for example) tested positive in some cases, which suggested there was no surefire way to avoid exposure.

Are you starting to see the picture here?

It’s actually very clear once you take just a moment to wipe away the steam on the window obscuring your view because we’ve seen this page played out so many times.

Remember cigarettes? They were once ubiquitous. Everyone smoked in ads, TV shows, movies, cocktail hours, bars, etc. And for years and years health advocates argued that this thing was killing people. “Study” after study contended the risks were negligible.

I recall plainly moving from the West Coast to tobacco country in the south. A news editor of a daily paper told me he only smoked eight, carefully counted, cigarettes each day because of a study that said eight or less had no adverse health effect. This was in the year 2001, not 1971 and this was a very, very smart guy. Such was the nature of the propaganda.

It was also no coincidence that in 2001 a pack of smokes cost about $2.50 in Virginia and $6.00 in New York. Which stated had virtually every politician receiving campaign financing from tobacco companies? Any guess?

Eventually the trial lawyers attacked. Billions in lawsuits settled made a lot of lawyers wealthy from money paid by very, very wealthy tobacco companies, who paid for political lobbies to pad campaign election accounts. Everyone got paid, including the state governments who sued the companies for a piece of the action adding tobacco lawsuit money to its budgets. Everyone got paid… for a very long time except for the millions of people who died.

Asbestos? Same thing, though there the lawsuits and death tolls so significant companies actually went belly up from the pressure of the lawsuits.

And so it goes from one product or chemical to the next with money circulating among the wealthy while everyone else gets sick and dies. Saturation always delays the eventual push back. The more we need a product, or believe we need it, the less likely we are to listen to the health risk it causes, just like the news editor I knew.

Look around your house? What do you need more than plastic?

BPA may well be the next asbestos or tobacco. As the professor said, “Pick a disease, literally pick a disease.” 

No thanks.


It won’t be cheap to replace all these things. Finding safer products that still work won’t be easy. I welcome your ideas in the comments below. Environmentally safe storage containers aren’t cheap, especially ones that are truly safe. Taking more time to heat food rather than hyper-heating a BPA-leaching product in the microwave is a hard habit to break.

In days to come I’ll rid and replace one by one until the kitchen is truly BPA free, or at least close to it. Before I replace my spatulas I’ll research the most cost-effective solution and post it here. So too my rubber scrapers and plastic storage containers and travel mugs and water bottles and … you get my point. This isn’t going to be easy… or cheap… or convenient.

But the health of me and my family is worth it. Yours is too. I hope this helps.

Could This Baker Solve the Gluten Mystery? | Mother Jones

“What has been the staff of life is now perceived as the spirit of disease,” he says. “Symbolically, you can look at bread as a representation of our society through history,” he says. “If you look at gluten as what holds bread together, and you look at bread as what holds our society together, what is ‘gluten-free bread,’ then? Is it not a symbol of our times?” McDowell calls the rush away from bread as it’s commonly made now a “wake-up call” and “opportunity” for bakers to reestablish bread as a healthy, delicious staple. And he sounds genuinely undaunted by the project of doing just that.

via Could This Baker Solve the Gluten Mystery? | Mother Jones.

This story best sets the stage for a new periodic series I begin today, called The Wheat and the Chaff.

We live in a world where “Frankenwheat” has replaced a simple grain that once represented the one thing even the poor could count on to feed them. The Israelites survived on “manna” bread from heaven. American’s are dying because of the stuff the Gods of Our Food and Health (i.e., big business, their lobbies, and the politicians who eat campaign dollars out of the hands) feed us lab-created and modified, super-sized creations. We may not fully understand the full scope of the American Industrialized diet, but we know this: It’s killing us.

The fact that a “bread lab” — as the excellent story in Mother Jones points out — exists tells us all we need to know about how our futuristic food dream has lost its way. We left behind all that the God of creation, who transformed the fish and the loaves to sustain thousands, meant for us to create something far different.

The Wheat and the Chaff won’t be just about food, but about misinformation, with a heavy focus on food and health, two topics of importance to us at EffinArtists.com. Thanks to the overwhelming tendency of Internet media and social networks to sing to the choir of their respective sides, much of what we read and write is about all the things we want to believe is true. The internet has become a noisy space filled with words — opinions run amok, mine included, I confess — that convince rather than educate far more often than not.

So we will take a look at compelling topics to sort out the best we can, the Wheat from the Chaff, the truth from the lies, the healthy stuff that makes us grow from the weedy stuff that tangles and deceives. If you have topics of interest you’d like us to look into, please reply below. We have a few in mind:

1) In a world where wheat bread is no longer true “wheat,” just what can those of us who love to make dough into food use that’s healthy and whole.

2) All the craze of fat burning remedies, including Dr. Oz’s latest wonder pill, Garcina Cambogia, will get a thorough, unbiased review.

3) Buying seeds that are still seeds, not lab creations.

4) and one personal pet peeve, what exactly are those “laws” that make us get new prescriptions for our eyes every two years when our glasses work just fine (ok… perhaps I’m losing my unbiased approach here because I’m looking through broken glasses with one lens and it’s irritating I can’t get a replacement without the added expense… sigh).

Anyway, you get my point. Misinformation rules the day. At least here a couple of time a week, we’ll separate the wheat and the chaff, allow others to post replies to bolster or disprove our work, give free forum to informed voices and try to take a few topics and end up with a few things we can “know” for sure.

Join us. Topics? Reply below. You are invited to join us and chime in.