We have never in history been exposed to the level of sugars we are ingesting today. The consequences of this is huge but it isn’t just sugars its all processed foods. From 1982 to 2012 in America we have seen a 100% rise in process food consumption. Yes ladies and gents we have DOUBLED our …
I stumbled upon some alluring images the other day of colored seed bombs. I was interested in purchasing a few but they were sold out. Luckily there were no more left, because it only enforced my determination to learn more about them. I did a little research trying to find a local carrier, when it suddenly came to me why don’t I just make them myself!”
I remembered I had a bag of Wildflower seeds stacked away that I had bought not to long ago to attract hummingbirds. When I saw the ingredients called for clay, composte, water, and wildflower seeds I was really excited because I was already equipped and ready to go. There were a few different recipes to choose from, some with coloured recycled paper, but I opted for the more ancient traditional one made with clay. Since they lacked colour, I decided to just add a bit of rose petals, lavender, and calendula, elderberry seeds, and sumac in the mix to give it a subtle natural colour boost.
The plan is to Seed Bomb Valhalla this weekend! They say its best to bomb just before rainfall. Looking forward to see the mysterious flowers, that will one day miraculously bloom at Valhalla.
Ps: you might want to give people heads up that the seed bombs are not edible (hence clay & compost ) as you can see by the picture they could easily be mistaken for dessert 😉
What are Seed Bombs?
A seed bomb is a seed that has been wrapped in soil materials, usually a mixture of clay and compost, and then dried. Essentially, the seed is ‘pre-planted’ and can be sown by depositing the seed ball anywhere suitable for the species, keeping the seed safely until the proper germination window arises. Seed balls are an easy and sustainable way to cultivate plants in a way that provides a larger window of time when the sowing can occur. They also are a convenient dispersal mechanism for guerrilla gardeners and people with achy backs.
Seed bombs may have been used by the Ancient Egyptians to seed the receding banks of The Nile after annual floods. They have been used in Asia and elsewhere, especially in arid regions, because of their ability to keep the seeds safe until conditions are favorable for germination, and the ease at which they can be distributed.
In the Carolinas in the 1700’s, West African slaves, predominantly women, were brought in to cultivate rice using a seed ball technique that was used in Africa. Rice seeds were coated in clay, dried, and pressed into the mud flats with the heel of the foot. This served two purposes, protecting the seed from the birds, and also preventing it from floating off when the fields were flooded.
More recently, Japanese agricultural renegade, Masanobu Fukuoka, began exploring the use of seed balls (nendo dango in Japanese) to help improve food production in post WWII Japan. His research and outreach efforts has brought the seed ball back into the public eye. Today, seed balls are fun for green-minded kids and adults, and are also an important tool of the guerrilla gardening movement.
Air Dry Clay
Wild flower Seeds ( preferably organic non gmo if possible)
*Optional: Dried Lavender, Elderberry seeds, Roses, Calendula, sumac for color.
For the dried clay mix 5 parts clay with 1 part compost and 1 part flower seeds, put some careful drops of water into the mixture (make sure not to make it into a goopy mess), Knead with hands into a ball, flatten it out and cut to desired size. Now just make into a small ball and let it dry in the sun. If you want to add color, roll the balls it to a tray of herbs.
Today I was thinking about how I come across a lot of people who see the spiritual or (at the least) the nutritional value in gardening, but for some reason think it’s not financially rewarding and use that as an excuse to opt out of even trying. When I tell people that I see immense value in growing a food garden each year some of them say things like “I don’t have time for playing in the mud, gardening doesn’t pay the bills!” But is that really true?
According to the government the average Canadian household spent $8109.00 on groceries in 2014 ( a very conservative amount in my estimation). And how much of that food do you think is processed, contains GMOs, or is chemical laden leading to a shorter and less full life, with big medical expenses down the road. Spend $20-40 on basic supplies and with only a weekend or two spent preparing the soil in the garden or (growing containers for your balcony, windows etc) each year, and a quick watering before work each morning Will result in a significant amount of veggies (hundreds of dollars worth of fresh organic produce). Truthfully, anyone can do this to some extent, and in doing so feel good knowing they are doing their best to feed their family real- healthy- nutritious food.
In my previous post I talked about “investing in the earth” vs investing in a bank, and spoke about the value to one’s spirit, body and to the future generations. I want to now address the potential material rewards of investing one’s money and time into the earth, vs investing that money and time into a bank.
While sorting and packaging the heirloom kale seeds I had saved from last year’s garden it occurred to me that not only is investing in the earth more nutritionally, spiritually, and emotionally rewarding than investing in a bank, it can be more fiscally rewarding as well. The fact is when you invest in a garden you end up with an abundance of not only crops with more than enough to share with friends/neighbours but also the abundance of seeds that can be saved from each harvest. I began to contemplate what the latent money value of these seeds were (if they were all to be grown and harvested from a garden), and then proceeded to compare my original investment in the package of organic kale seeds (less than $5 ) which I “deposited” into the earth to what kind of return I would have gotten had I invested that five dollars into a bank. Here’s what I came up with:
Investment of less than five dollars on kale seeds (about 20 heirloom “red russian” seeds) result/return after one year : ten healthy adult kale plants which I harvested semi-daily from June until November ( We ate about ten dollars worth of kale at local store prices a week from the garden, so after 6 months they produced about 240 dollars worth of organic kale). So from less than a five dollar investment (along with time spent every few days on watering and tlc) I got $235.00 return from investing in the earth (a 4800% increase)! Now how much return would I have gotten if I invested 5 dollars in a bank after one year? Well let’s say the savings account has an interest rate of 3% (which is being generous for most banks) after one year from my original 5 dollar investment I would have a whopping 15 cents return!
After that first year of investing in the earth by “depositing” the kale seeds and letting the plants go to flower (on top of my steady harvesting) I was able to save well over a hundred seeds from each plant at the end of the year (which will amount to over one thousand viable seeds achieving maturity/full harvest). Since with gardening (“investing in the earth”) there is always abundance and more than enough to go around, I will share many seeds with friends, family and neighbours. I then decided I wanted to project this investment comparison further in compounding it over multiple years. I will give about ten seeds to each person/family and all I will ask in return is that they save seeds from their kale plants and share them with others. I wondered how much actual money value in kale could be grown, harvested and enjoyed after seven years of this “pay it forward model” of gardening kale, saving seeds and sharing the next year. In the interest of making a fair calculation I wanted to be very modest with my estimates for projected harvest yields and seeds able to be saved each year (considering not all plants will grow in great soil under ideal conditions). So I estimated that for others each ten kale plants would yield a minimum of 10 pounds of kale annually (amounting to 30 dollars worth of organic kale at $3.00 a pound). And instead of assuming they will be able to save 1000 seeds like I did, I estimate they will save well over one hundred (amounting to one hundred viable seeds that grow into harvestable mature plants.
So let’s recap; with my 1000 seeds (from my first harvest) being given to 100 families/gardeners, after the second year a total of $3000.00 worth of organic kale would have been grown, harvested and enjoyed by those people (“collective beneficiaries” of my investment in the earth). That means, from my original money spent (less than 5 dollars) invested in a pack of seeds, some water and tlc, and sharing the resulting seeds after only two years a return of $2995.00 would be collectively accessed and enjoyed. While that same five dollars invested in a bank would have earned me you guessed it! A colossal 30 cents! :)
With an original investment of five dollars After seven years continuing this ‘pay it forward model’ investing in the earth compared to investing in a bank you would have this:
Bank total (money value accessible by one): $6.17
Earth total (latent collective money value) : $30,000,000.00
When we choose to give back to the living planet that sustains us and share the resulting abundance, the rewards increase exponentially and continue to give back year after year.
Let’s invest in a future where food, health, and happiness are abundant and common place. We can make the choice to truly care for our body and in the process give back to the earth that gives so much to us. Each of us can do this by planting and maintaining an organic food garden of our own. Thank you to those who care enough about the earth to do this without any hope for financial reward, but for those of you who need to measure the reward in dollar signs, the numbers don’t lie, choosing a bank over the earth is clearly a poor investment choice.
He is an artisan, locksmith and above all a beekeeper, although he does not carry out the last profession like others. His more than 4300 Facebook followers and 700 Instagram followers are looking for something that nobody else can offer: marvellous photos where cannabis plants receive an agreeable visit. Although most of us would be scared to find bees on our crop, that is the main goal of this 39-year-old Frenchman who describes himself as an advocate of medical cannabis and of legalisation.
He is called Nicolas, although he is known as Nicolas Trainerbees, a nickname that is not a mere coincidence. He has been using it for more than 20 years because he has always liked to spend time with all kinds of animals, especially insects, and above all, bees. He observes them, and according to him (although without revealing his tactics), he trains them so that they behave as he wishes.
“I have trained bees to do several things, such as collect sugar from fruits, instead of using flowers”. In addition to beers, he has also worked with tarantulas, lizards and ants because, as he explains, he has “been passionate about nature since childhood”. This has led him to learn about the world of animal biology, entomology, cannabis growing, improving all kinds of plants and everything related to the world of beehives.
For a while now he has been working with bees that produce “cannahoney”, the name he decided to give to his peculiar cannabis honey. However, he modestly says that he has not created honey, “but rather a training technique whereby the bees collect the resin and use it in the beehive”. Afterwards, the final substance is the sole work of the little insects.
How did a beekeeper decide that his bees should obtain nectar from cannabis? Firstly, due to personal experience. Nicolas has been hyperactive since the age of 7, and that along with an educational system that labelled him as “unsuitable”, soon led him to leave school. At a young age he discovered that the plant helped him to channel the problem and, therefore, “I began consuming before the age of 10”, he states.
Years later, many people that know about his abilities raising and training bees began to ask him why he would not start applying them to the world of cannabis, and get the insects to create a kind of honey with the cannabis plants. He had realised that, by uniting the properties of both things, and if the animals managed to use the resin correctly, he would obtain a great result: “For some time I had known about the health benefits of bee products such as honey, propolis, pollen, wax and royal jelly and also about the benefits of cannabis”, and so he decided to take notice of the requests.
Also, “everything that passes through the body of a bee is improved”, he says, given that their enzymes make the nectar turn into the desired honey. The resin obtained from willows, poplars and other trees is turned into propolis, which is an antiseptic, antibiotic, antifungal, antibacterial and also has healing properties. “So if the bee took the resin from cannabis it would also be very beneficial”. “The aim arose for me to get the bees to obtain this resin “, he comments.
From that moment onwards (back in 2006) he spent time observing them, examining the hives and the behaviour of their members and thinking that there had to be a way of attracting a good group of insects to the resin. “That was the starting point for my investigation”, he explains. When he began his inquiries he found that up until then nobody had brought together both worlds, and the most sceptical people even told him that cannabis was not a typical plant for obtaining honey, therefore it would be impossible to get the bees to go by themselves to collect its particular pollen. Nicolas has shown the most simple-minded people that they were wrong.
Following several tests and lots of observation he managed to get results from his training in 2013, “with the enormous surprise that the bees used the resin as propolis” and also to create honey with the same effects as cannabis. Its terpenes have “a delicious and pleasant taste” that are reminiscent of the fresh plant, although its taste changes slightly from one crop to another.
“Cannahoney” normally has “quite a floral” aroma and a colour that slightly changes depending on the varieties, although it usually ranges from light green to white or yellow. The substance “is not smoked, it is ingested and it is good for health”, explains the creator.
Nicolas uses varieties of cannabis that he has created. He says that, “the bees accept any strain”, therefore he also uses already existing types. In fact, the last batch of honey was created using Californian Orange.
Before he obtained his first results, some people dared to say that cannabis was harmful for bees. He was totally convinced that was not the case, but he had to wait two years until the project was well consolidated and he was able to demonstrate that the plants had no negative impact on the insects. “The bees that produce the cannahoney are not affected by cannabinoids because they do not have an endocannabinoid system”, he explains.
He now has 30 beehives, and he uses many of them for his cannabis honey project. However, he faces difficulties living in a country that puts up a lot of barriers in relation to all cannabis matters, therefore he is forced to grow his plants in open air spaces, far from his home. In this situation he takes a lot of risks, especially trying to transport his plants close to the hives during the necessary time so that the bees can take advantage of their new “pollen”.
His situation does not prevent him interacting with his followers over social networks, where he normally publishes lots of research studies that back the medical properties of cannabis that he himself experiments with. The photographs that he publishes speak for themselves; in them it is possible to see not only the plants accompanied by the bees, but also, for example, crepes created by him and served with his honey. Nicolas dedicates almost all of his time to this profession; therefore he has no website or blogs: “I work alone with my wife and I do not have time or money to do much else”.
Such attractive photos ensure that many users ask him endlessly when they will be able to get hold of the substance, although he admits that he still requires a more detailed analysis in order to determine all of its properties. Despite this, he states that three people with anxiety tried a few spoonfuls “and felt a lot better”.
His progress is now an example to follow for many other beekeepers. Now, his main aim is to leave France in order to treat his illness legally and also to work with more freedom and get professionals in the sector to analyse his work. His next destination, if everything goes as he hopes, will be Spain.
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There’s no denying that standing in the garden and picking your first summer tomato gives you a good feeling. Even in an urban environment a small pot of basil on the windowsill can brighten your day. But is there a scientific reason that getting our hands dirty makes us feel good?
In 2007, Christopher Lowry, associate professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology and Center for Neuroscience at Universtiy of Colorado Boulder, and a team of researchers published an article in Neuroscience that had people wondering if dirt was the new Prozac. The study examined a specific soil bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccae, and its potential role in the regulation of emotional behavior. In other words: did the bacteria have antidepressant qualities?
“Soil, especially soil with abundant organic matter, contains saprophytic bacteria, meaning that they live off of dead and decaying organic matter, such as leaves,” says Lowry. “Humans coevolved with these bacteria over millennia and they have been shown to affect the immune system in a way that suppresses inflammation. This means that these bacteria may be helpful in preventing or treating diseases with excess inflammation.”
So what exactly are diseases with “inflammation?”
“This includes conditions like asthma, but also, perhaps, stress-related psychiatric disorders characterized by elevated inflammation, such as major depressive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder,” says Lowry.
It’s not so surprising that we may benefit from microorganisms in the soil, given that we need them to live.
The regulation of the immune system is indeed connected to the biodiversity of the natural environment. We benefit from being outdoors and exposed to things like soil and animals, because of the fact that we’re exposed to microorganisms.
“A human is not an individual. We are ecosystems. At least 90% of the cells in a human body are microbes, most of them living in the gut,” says Graham Rook, professor at the Centre for Clinical Microbiology at the University College London. ” These organisms constitute the ‘microbiota,’ and the microbiota should be regarded as an organ, just like your liver or your brain.”
While the organisms that make up that microbiota are inherited – like we inherit genes – there is a proportion of the organisms that come from elsewhere, and that’s where things get interesting.
“An unknown proportion of the organisms that constitute the microbiota come from the environment,” says Rock. “It now seems that the most likely explanation for the health benefits of exposure to farms, dogs in the home, and green space is that the natural environment (including the animals in it) is a resource that provides organisms as we need them.”
Just last year Rook published an article that explored those connections, concluding that the regulation of the immune system is indeed connected to the biodiversity of the natural environment. We benefit from being outdoors and exposed to things like soil and animals, because of the fact that we’re exposed to microorganisms.
The psychological benefit of nature has been well documented. When it comes to being happy or not, many studies show that psychiatric problems are more common in urban than in rural communities. That makes Lowry’s and Rook’s research interesting, as it gives us a better understanding of exactly why being outside, in a garden or on a farm, makes us feel good.
“People usually assume that the health benefits of exposure to green space are due to exercise. In fact two large studies now demonstrate that although exercise is definitely good for you, it does not explain the beneficial effect of green space,” says Rook. “Contact with microbial biodiversity is looking like the most probable explanation for the green space effect.”
So if microorganisms are good for you, how much exposure do you need to have in order to reap the benefits? How many days in the garden do you need to commit to?
That’s what’s still unclear.
“We don’t yet know how much exposure to environmental bacteria (for example, through activities that involve contact with the soil) is enough to confer health benefits,” says Lowry. “It is clear, however, that exposure through breathing or consuming specific types of environmental organisms has the capacity to reduce inflammation and confer health benefits.”
Which means that you now have another reason to go outside and get your hands dirty.
Even though this article may have been published a year or two ago, it still speaks to the importance of our need to focus our anti-climate change practices on regenerative agriculture. That is why we will continue to republish this so it can become common knowledge. We understand there may be sympathizers for GMO and monoculture farming – the other side of the story must also be heard. – Valhalla
Even as the United States government continues to push for the use of more chemically-intensive and corporate-dominated farming methods such as GMOs and monoculture-based crops, the United Nations is once against sounding the alarm about the urgent need to return to (and develop) a more sustainable, natural and organic system.
That was the key point of a new publication from the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled “Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It’s Too Late” which included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world.
The cover of the report looks like that of a blockbuster documentary or Hollywood movie, and the dramatic nature of the title cannot be understated: The time is now to switch back to our natural farming roots.
The findings on the report seem to echo those of a December 2010 UN Report in many ways, one that essentially said organic and small-scale farming is the answer for “feeding the world,” not GMOs and monocultures.
According to the new UN report, major changes are needed in our food, agriculture and trade systems, with a shift toward local small-scale farmers and food systems recommended.
Diversity of farms, reducing the use of fertilizer and other changes are desperately needed according to the report, which was highlighted in this article from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
The Institute noted that these pending deals are “primarily designed to strengthen the hold of multinational corporate and financial firms on the global economy…” rather than the reflect the urgent need for a shift in agriculture described in the new report.
Even global security may be at stake according to the report, as food prices (and food price speculating) continue to rise.
“This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production toward mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers,” the report concludes.
You can read more about the report from the Institute by visiting their website here.
Some are doing the local organic farming right.
Bad news for those who eat food: prices will continue to climb in 2016.
This year’s Food Price Report from the University of Guelph’s Food Institute predicts an overall jump in cost between two and four per cent over the next 12 months.
Although the grocery store will get more expensive, before eating the cost of food inflation, check out these tips on how to still shop healthy as food prices climb. For example, substituting expensive nuts with cheaper seeds will provide a similar crunchy flavour for a fraction of the cost.
Consider searching for alternatives for some of the foods set to jump most dramatically in cost:
Meat, fruit and nuts top this year’s list, followed closely by vegetables. Compare this to last year when vegetables increased in price by more than 10 per cent:
The food institute had originally forecast a 0.3 to 2.4 per cent overall price increase for 2015. This range was modified to 0.7 to 3.0 per cent in February amid plummeting oil prices and a slumping Canadian dollar. After the revision, vegetables, fruits and nuts were expected to cost more than originally anticipated.
Even after the adjustment, each of these categories ended up rising significantly more than expected. Overall, food in December cost an average of 4.1 per cent more than it did in January of last year.
This pace of inflation for food is above Canada’s overall inflation, and has been since about 2009, according to the consumer price index.
The index – which tracks inflation by comparing the current cost of goods to past prices, using 100 as a baseline number for 2002 costs – shows food prices rising at roughly the same pace as all items up until mid-2008. Since then, food seems to have steadily increased at a faster rate than other goods in Canada.
The Food Institute also surveyed 504 Canadians about our changing habits in terms of beef consumption:
Air Date: January 13, 2016
Air Date: January 13, 2016
Air Date: January 13, 2016
“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” That’s what the French lawyer Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who happened to have a deep love of gastronomy, wrote in 1825. A century later, a diet-hawking American nutritionist named Victor Lindlahr rendered it as: “You are what you eat.” I propose revising it further: Tell me what you eat and I will tell you how you impact the planet.
Most of us are aware that our food choices have environmental consequences. (Who hasn’t heard about the methane back draft from cows?) But when it comes to the specifics of why our decisions matter, we’re at a loss, bombarded with confusing choices in the grocery-store aisles about what to buy if we care about planetary health. Are organic fruits and vegetables really worth the higher prices, and are they better for the environment? If I’m a meat eater, should I opt for free-range, grass-fed beef? Is it OK to buy a pineapple flown in from Costa Rica, or should I eat only locally grown apples?
The science of food’s ecological footprint can be overwhelming, yet it’s important to understand it. For starters, in wealthy societies food consumption is estimated to account for 20 to 30 percent of the total footprint of a household. Feeding ourselves dominates our landscapes, using about half the ice-free land on earth. It sends us into the oceans, where we have fished nearly 90 percent of species to the brink or beyond. It affects all the planet’s natural systems, producing more than 30 percent of global greenhouse gases. Farming uses about 70 percent of our water and pollutes rivers with fertilizer and waste that in turn create vast coastal dead zones. The food on your plate touches everything.
“If you look at the heavy-hitter list of global-scale changes that are human induced, how we feed ourselves is invariably near the top,” says Peter Tyedmers, a professor at Dalhousie University’s School for Resource and Environmental Studies (SRES) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, who has been studying the world’s food systems for 15 years. “But the great thing about food is that we have choices, and we have the opportunity to effect change three times a day.”
So what does a sustainable diet actually look like? I’ve thought a lot about my food choices and became a vegan a few years ago, but I still don’t know all the answers. So I set out to find them.
I didn’t go hunting for a crazed notion of perfection. I was simply looking for an attainable way to eat-whether you’re a vegan, a vegetarian, or an omnivore. Here’s what I discovered.
Paleo Is Stupid
One of my first stops is with Tyedmers. On a surprisingly warm evening for September in Halifax, he and dozens of SRES students are gathered on the back deck of a modest clapboard house to celebrate the start of the term. The only strange thing is what I see on many plates: hamburgers.
Admittedly, chicken and veggie burgers are also available. But the fact that an environmental-studies cookout features beef-perhaps the most vilified of all foods in terms of planetary impact-reminds me of the deep tension that exists between the urgency of what we know and the inertia of how we live. We love our meat. And any conversation about food and sustainability has to start with it.
Before I arrived, Tyedmers pointed me to a few landmark studies, the results of which are hard to ignore. Eighty percent of the world’s agricultural lands are allocated to animals, either for pasture or to produce food for them. More than 20 percent of all water consumed is used to grow grain to feed livestock. A 2013 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization study estimated that livestock accounted for 15 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions, about the same as the entire global transport sector. Other analyses, which argue that the UN estimate doesn’t adequately account for things like the CO2 produced by the respiration of tens of billions of farm animals, estimate that livestock might be responsible for up to 51 percent of global emissions. “Meat is heat,” environmentalists like to say.
The type of meat you eat matters, too. A 2011 life-cycle analysis by the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, ranked the climate impact of various meats. Lamb was the worst offender: for every one kilogram (or 2.2 pounds) consumed, the EWG estimates that 86.6 pounds of greenhouse gases are produced. Beef was next, at 59.5 pounds of greenhouse gases. Then pork, at about 26.5 pounds. Chicken, at 15.4 pounds, is the most climate-efficient farmed meat.
Meat is equally disproportionate in its thirst for water. Beans and lentils require five gallons of water per gram of protein produced, chicken nine gallons, and beef 29.6.
Reductions in meat consumption can deliver outsize benefits to anyone trying to eat more sustainably. “The question isn’t beef or no beef,” says Tyedmers, who eats it about five times a year. “It’s the right quantities of it. There are grasslands on the planet that can support beef, but we need to focus on portions and frequency.”
The average American currently packs away a staggering 185 pounds of meat a year, the equivalent of more than eight ounces a day. Yet the USDA’s 2010 dietary guidelines recommend just 3.7 ounces of meat per day-about a palm-size burger-which comes out to around 84 pounds per year. Eating the recommended amount would mean a 55 percent cut in meat consumption.
Here’s a sense of what the planet might reap in return. A 2015 study conducted by the journal Frontiers in Nutrition concluded that a diet that is vegetarian five days a week and includes meat just two days a week would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and water and land use by about 45 percent.
Does eating grass-fed, free-range meat let you off the hook? Not really, because meat takes a toll no matter how it’s raised. Studies actually show that a factory-farm animal emits fewer greenhouse gases than a free-range one, because it lives a shorter life. But Greg Fogel, a senior policy specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, points out that factory farms in the U.S. produce 13 times as much sewage as the entire human population and that environmental impact is about more than greenhouse gases. “The meat you do eat should be grass-fed meat from managed grazing operations,” he says. “Rotational grazing systems recycle manure as fertilizer, improve wildlife habitat, and enhance plant root systems, increasing soil quality, water infiltration and flood control, and carbon sequestration.”
Right about now you might be thinking, Mmmmm, bacon. You might also be thinking, If I don’t eat much meat, how will I get enough protein? Not to worry. “We don’t need nearly as much animal protein in our diets as we currently enjoy,” Tyedmers says.
He’s right. The average American should consume about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day, which works out to 70 grams of protein a day for a man. Recommendations for athletes range from 98 grams of protein a day for a weekend warrior to as much as 176 grams for competitive endurance athletes.
These aren’t difficult targets to hit. In the U.S., even vegetarians get about 27 percent more protein than the recommended daily allowance. Omnivores really pack it in, eating 60 percent more protein than a body needs. The extra protein is simply excreted, which Tyedmers derisively refers to as “pissing sustainability away.” The planetary implications of the protein-obsessed paleo diet, in particular, produces an ire rarely seen in professors of the environment-or Canadians.
“That’s an insane way to eat,” Tyedmers scoffs. “They should be clubbed.”
Get Smart About Seafood
Tyedmers and I move on to the topic of seafood. He stands and starts rummaging through a box of old fishing gear he has accumulated over the years while studying fisheries. “When it comes to nitrogen and phosphorous, greenhouse gases, and other global-scale phenomena, absolutely most seafood is much better than most terrestrial animal production,” he says.
Any assessment of seafood sustainability has to involve a careful look at stock management and how much bycatch is involved in the fishing method. Sorting through all the data is hugely complicated. I wrote about sustainable seafood for this magazine in June 2015, and I recommended using the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app when considering what’s on offer at the fish counter or when dining out. The app uses a clear rating system to rank sustainability and does the hard work for you.
But Seafood Watch’s ratings don’t yet include climate impact, which adds up. Seafood caught by bottom trawling or from pots and traps, for example, burns a lot of diesel as the boats work back and forth over a fishing ground. (Bottom trawlers also tear up the seabed.) So if you’re a fan of trawled Norwegian lobster, sold as scampi, you’re tucking into a hard-shelled climate bomb that exceeds most beef in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions.
As it happens, the seafood with the smallest carbon footprint is frequently the seafood that’s best to eat if you’re looking to reduce pressure on wild fisheries. Mussels, the only animal protein I still eat, have more of a carbon “toeprint,” at one pound of greenhouse gases per pound of mussels. Clams and oysters are similar, and sardines are a climate-friendly superfood. Mackerel, herring, and anchovies are also relatively easy on the climate-if they aren’t caught by a trawler. If you can’t stand the smaller, oilier fishes, U.S.-caught Alaskan pollock, which comes from a reasonably managed fishery, has a modest climate impact, making it the real chicken of the sea.
Aquaculture, or fish farming, is equally method dependent. Aquaculture systems that don’t filter and recirculate the water, like net pens in the ocean, are on average comparable to poultry and pork in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions. Land-based recirculating aquaculture, with its climate-controlled facilities and electricity demands, can be more than twice as greenhouse-gas intensive as aquaculture that doesn’t recirculate. So catfish and tilapia farmed in ponds or net pens are more climate-friendly than the same fish from recirculating farms. How about consumer-favorite farmed salmon? According to EWG’s calculations, farmed salmon is comparable to pork’s somewhat hefty footprint.
Weighing all the nuances can make seafood selection a head-scratching process of trade-offs, even for an environmental-studies professor. “For every pound of Nova Scotia lobster I buy there was a pound of bait used, and that was mostly herring. And that herring was better food for me and would have fed more people,” Tyedmers tells me, noting that some lobster fisheries in the U.S. use three times as much bait. “Then you throw in the diesel fuel. Does that mean I don’t eat lobster? No, but I do it with consciousness and intent, and on a special occasion.”
Good advice. Or stick to mussels.
Vegans Aren’t Perfect, Either
Clearly, eating less meat has big environmental payoffs. But what about not eating it at all? I’d never crunched the numbers to find out how much more climate-friendly a plant-based diet really is. The results are telling.
For example, in the Frontiers in Nutrition study, researchers compared the greenhouse-gas, water, and land footprints of a balanced 2,000-calorie vegetarian diet, including eggs and dairy, with those of a balanced 2,000-calorie omnivore diet that included one serving of meat per day: a 5.3-ounce steak. The vegetarian diet reduced greenhouse-gas emissions by 63 percent and required 61 percent less land and 67 percent less water.
Another study, in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also compared an omnivorous diet to a vegetarian one. It considered a broad array of environmental impacts beyond climate change and land use-including cancer rates, effect on the ozone layer, and waterway pollution-to produce a more complete model. It concluded that the vegetarian diet had just 64 percent of the environmental impact of the omnivore diet.
How much of a bump can you get from giving up eggs and dairy and going vegan? Big enough to take seriously. The 2015 Frontiers in Nutrition study, for example, estimated that a vegan menu has a climate footprint 31 percent smaller than the vegetarian menu and 74 percent smaller than the omnivore menu, and a land footprint 7 percent smaller than the vegetarian and 64 percent less than the omnivore. It also reduces water demand by 9 percent over the vegetarian and 70 percent over the omnivore.
Vegetarians and vegans shouldn’t feel too righteous or complacent, however. When we stop eating meat, we turn to other forms of protein like nuts, legumes, and grains, and these have an environmental footprint worth considering, too.
Take the increasingly popular and thirsty almond. It notoriously takes a gallon of water to produce a single almond, and we’re eating seven times as many now as we did in 1972. Drought-plagued California produces 99 percent of American almonds, so bingeing on almonds and almond milk can be a water-intensive approach to fueling your body. (Good alternatives include coconut and hemp milk.) Nuts in general are an especially water-intensive way to get protein, requiring more than six times the water needed to produce equivalent protein from black beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
Still, perspective is important. Almonds require less than half the water per calorie of beef, and livestock feed and grazing in California sucks up more than twice the water used by almond and pistachio growers. Other healthy nonanimal calories, from cereals, legumes, roots, fruits, and vegetables, require about one-fifth the water used to produce the same number of animal calories.
Plant-based protein choices also carry different environmental costs. Wheat accounts for one-fifth the greenhouse-gas emissions of water-thirsty rice per gram of protein. Legumes are even better, at one-quarter the emissions of wheat. Being thoughtful about protein alternatives yields even more environmental payoff. Lentils and chickpeas, for example, are better than soybeans at fixing nitrogen in the soil and help you avoid soy’s GMO issues. And quinoa is packed with protein and grows well in a variety of soils.
Another fast-growing category of plant-based protein is meat substitutes -or meat methadone, as I think of them-often made of pea and soy proteins. I have tried most of them and tend to think that you can cook better food by delving into cuisines like Indian and Thai, which offer delicious recipes based on vegetables. But for anyone who simply can’t get beyond a craving for something meat-like, substitutes that contain no animal products produce about one-third the greenhouse gases of poultry.
While it’s clear that eating a more vegetarian or vegan diet takes pressure off the planet’s resources, former New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman doesn’t want conscientious eaters to feel it’s all or nothing. Bittman has long encouraged people to shift toward a more plant-based diet and is now partnered with a vegan-meal home-delivery service called the Purple Carrot.
“I’m not a vegan,” he says. “I don’t think people need to be vegan. I don’t think that many people will become vegan. We could eat 90 percent less meat and be fine.”
You Should Go Organic
I live with a wife who’s a carnivore and two kids who are vegetarian, but the biggest debate in my household is over whether to buy organic or conventional fruits and produce. Based on vague notions that organic is better for the environment and aversions to the idea of herbicide- and pesticide-coated food, I am willing to pay the higher price for organic. My wife, Ilana, isn’t.
To find out if my organic preferences are worth it, I head to southern Pennsylvania, to the rolling 333-acre farmlands of the Rodale Institute, home to the longest-running side-by-side, organic-versus-conventional-farming trial in the U.S., to meet with Kristine Nichols, a soil microbiologist and Rodale’s chief scientist.
Organic farming, Nichols tells me, is really about the health of the soil and the ecosystems producing our food. Nichols wants to show me the difference between soil from conventional agriculture, which uses chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and soil from what Rodale calls regenerative organic agriculture, which uses natural pest management, extensive cover crops, and natural fertilizer like manure.
Nichols is wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and her brown hair is pulled back in a loose ponytail. She ushers me into a nondescript cinderblock shed, where the air is pungent with the smell of dirt. Nichols rummages through a pile of clear three-foot-long tubes containing core samples from Rodale’s farming-systems trial, and she arranges two of them-one organic, the other conventional-next to one another. The tops of the tubes, where the soil comes from the surface, are dark and chocolatey in color. This is the topsoil, Nichols explains, the prime growing layer known to scientists and farmers as the A horizon. She points out that the A horizon in the organic soil extends significantly deeper than in the conventional-soil sample, adding that there is more earthworm and other biologic activity throughout most of the organic-soil tube.
It takes the planet about 1,000 years to build an inch of topsoil. Rodale’s organic methods are changing that equation. “The soil’s got more microbial activity, and we’re getting organic matter deeper down into it,” Nichols says. “We’re building our A horizon. We grew three inches in 35 years.”
This is an important achievement, given that an estimated 90 percent of U.S. cropland loses soil at a rate 13 times what’s sustainable. “Feed the soil, not the plant,” organic farmers like to say. Apparently, it works.
Nichols then takes me out to the farming-systems trial to see late-summer conventional corn next to late-summer organic corn. For the conventional side of the trial, Rodale uses the most up-to-date techniques, which include GMO varieties and the same carefully calculated quantities of fertilizer and herbicide that commercial farmers use. Still, the conventional corn is not looking so good. The leaves are yellowish, and the plant has reddish blotches, signs of phosphorous and nitrogen deficiency. Heavy spring rains washed a lot of the fertilizer away, followed by a hot and dry August.
The organic corn just a few plots away looks greener and more vibrant. Instead of synthetic fertilizer, cover crops have been used to feed the soil with carbon and nutrients and act as a weed-deterring mulch layer. The richer soil, and the more active relationship between the corn plant and the A-horizon microbial world, helped the corn weather the dry summer better. And Rodale’s data shows that its organic corn yields 31 percent more in drought conditions than its conventionally grown corn, which is important in a climate-changing world.
Rodale’s organic growing methods deliver other environmental benefits. They use 45 percent less energy and produce 40 percent fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than the conventional growing systems. Other studies confirm the good news. One concluded that an omnivore diet of organic meat and vegetables has an environmental footprint 41 percent smaller than that of a conventional omnivore diet, and an organic vegetarian or vegan diet gets roughly the same benefit. When you consider that the estimated environmental and health-care costs of pesticide use in the U.S. every year is in the billions, I start to feel pretty good about my side of the organic-versus-conventional marital debate.
Finding an abundance of organic options usually means shopping at a higher-end grocery store or a farmers’ market, or buying a CSA share from a farm that uses regenerative organic practices. Whole Foods is trying to make sustainably farmed products easier to identify by rolling out Responsibly Grown ratings of Good, Better, and Best for fruits, flowers, and vegetables. Products that meet the Certified Organic standard of the USDA are automatically granted a Good rating but have to meet additional criteria to move up the scale.
“Responsibly Grown is designed to give our shoppers more information about the products they’re buying,” says Liz Burkhart, a spokeswoman at Whole Foods. “This includes areas like water conservation, energy use, and farmworker welfare.”
As for the higher prices of organic, I deal with the premium by buying smaller quantities and cooking moderate portions, which is beneficial to my wallet and to my family’s calorie count.
While what you eat is important, how it gets to your plate matters, too. One morning before dawn, I head into an industrial zone of Capitol Heights, Maryland, where I find Zeke Zechiel overseeing the morning deliveries for Washington’s Green Grocer. Zechiel used to be a nightclub owner, but 21 years ago he and his wife, a chef, decided they wanted to offer their community a better way to buy quality produce. Washington’s Green Grocer delivers subscribers a weekly box of organic (or conventional) fruits and vegetables. I find it a convenient way to buy organic.
Zechiel is 51, wearing cargo shorts, a T-shirt, and Keen sandals. He tries to buy as much as he can from farms within a few hundred miles of him. I see lots of boxes from the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative in Pennsylvania. But I also see Mexican avocados, California brussels sprouts and cauliflower, and organic bananas imported from Central and South America.
“To sustain the company, there are certain things people want to have,” he says. “If we don’t have them, they won’t use us.”
Zechiel worries about the food miles required to give his subscribers the fruits and vegetables they expect. To address that concern, he launched a local-only box, which is now bought by about 20 percent of his 3,500 customers and is his fastest-growing offering. But he ruefully admits that he can’t make it both organic and local year-round, which he calls the holy grail, because it’s hard to get a wide selection of organic fruits from the wet, pest-prone mid-Atlantic region.
“If you want to eat local and organic year-round, you have to stock up and make jams and freeze or can stuff, which is an enormous effort,” he says. “It’s really hard to find someone so committed.”
Even his dedicated local-box customers often add on imported bananas. “People just gotta have their Saturday smoothies,” he says.
Food miles and the greenhouse-gas emissions they cause aren’t easy to understand. So much depends on the efficiency of the transport network. Anything flown in-say, fresh salmon from Alaska or cheese from Europe-arrives with a sizable climate footprint. But bananas or oranges packed tightly onto a container ship or a large truck do not. How do you compare a fully loaded semi driven cross-country from California with a local grower’s pickup truck that may have rolled only 100 miles to a farmers’ market with a few boxes in the bed?
Still, according to one analysis I found, buying local can reduce the impact of vegetable production by 10 to 30 percent. Other researchers have calculated that produce moving through the national transportation network that supplies large grocery stores travels an average of about 1,518 miles and emits five to seventeen times the greenhouse gases of regional and local food distribution. In contrast, locally sourced foods travel an average of just 45 miles.
So it makes sense to buy local whenever possible, another reason to spend time at the nearest farmers’ market. If you’re really dedicated to sustainable eating, that means eating seasonally as well. No more grapes and strawberries from Chile in February. I can only hope Zechiel will start selling local canned peaches to get me through winter.
You’re Throwing Away Too Much Food
No matter where you come down on meat, organic, and shopping locally, there are two powerful sustainability strategies you can put to work right now. The first is to eat less. If the average omnivore, who eats around 3,500 calories a day, instead ate a diet closer to his basic nutritional requirement of 2,500 calories, he would likely reduce his environmental footprint by about 30 percent. An active person who works out daily needs closer to 2,800 calories, yielding a roughly 20 percent cut.
The second strategy: waste less. In the U.S., 40 percent of food-worth an estimated $165 billion-is thrown out every year. It’s an environmental and social-policy tragedy. According to the USDA, which in September announced an initiative to try and cut American food waste in half, the average family of four trashes two million calories a year, worth nearly $1,500. As a result, 25 percent of America’s water is used to produce food that is never eaten, and an estimated 28 percent of the planet’s agricultural land is used to grow food that ends up in the garbage. Food is the single largest solid-waste component of America’s landfills-an estimated 80 billion pounds-and emissions from it are equivalent to the greenhouse-gas output of 33 million cars.
Wasting resource-intensive meat and seafood is particularly hard on the planet, yet consumers throw away an estimated 40 percent of the fresh and frozen fish they buy, 31 percent of the turkey, 25 percent of the pork, 16 percent of the beef, and 12 percent of the chicken. Peter Tyedmers says that consumer demand for fresh seafood leads to a lot of waste at the fish counter. There, if it isn’t sold by a certain date, it gets tossed.
“I have thrown out halibut steaks. They get lost in the fridge,” he says ruefully. “If you buy that halibut steak frozen, it just stays in the freezer.”
Restaurants and grocery stores are doing more to donate excess stock to food banks, and national food-service operators such as Aramark are discovering that innovations-like removing trays from cafeterias, which make it too easy to load up-can lead to dramatic reductions in waste. But how we personally shop and handle food at home is by far the biggest source of food waste, accounting for an estimated 47 percent. Restaurants are the next biggest, at 37 percent.
To combat this, I shop more often, buying for a day or two at a time instead of a week, so that less food gets lost in a packed refrigerator. I often ignore expiration dates, and I derive distinct pleasure from cooking up hashes, soups, and curries using all the leftovers I find on the edge of going bad. I have become the food-waste equivalent of the person who goes around turning everyone’s lights off. It can be annoying, but it works.
The Future Tastes Good
I know all this conjures an image of an enviro-scolding hippie living on lentils. But fear not: eating more sustainably can be delicious.
For reassurance, I check in with Dan Barber, a dynamo chef and a seriously deep food thinker. First at his restaurant Blue Hill in New York City, and then at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, which he opened near Tarrytown, New York, in 2004, Barber has been on a quest to create a more sustainable menu and prove that it can be extraordinary. That led him to a profound appreciation for the natural productivity possible at his family’s 138-acre New England farm, called Blue Hill, using regenerative organic methods. Today the farm rotates and produces a variety of crops and vegetables and uses livestock like cows, chickens, and pigs to spread and work nutrients into the soil.
Barber sees eating and food production as a negotiation with the landscape. What can it reasonably provide? How does a chef make the best use of everything it offers? How can the foods we eat sustain and build its fertility? When he looked at his menus and his cooking through that lens, he realized that he needed to reinvent the architecture of the American plate. Instead of a massive chunk of animal protein at the center flanked by a few vegetables, Barber envisioned the reverse. Vegetables and legumes or grains would be the headliners at the center, and animal protein would be the judicious accompaniment. Imagine a carrot steak, Barber proposed, with a side of braised second cuts of beef. He calls this the “third plate,” which became the title of his excellent book about his journey. Diners and restaurant reviewers have been ecstatic.
“It’s not to say you can’t enjoy a steak, but we really need to think hard about meat,” Barber says. “You can take very small amounts of meat and get great satisfactory umami”-or savory flavor.
It’s a hopeful vision, and the rest of the world is trying to catch up. Near the end of my visit in Halifax, Tyedmers and I eat lunch at Lion and Bright, an organic restaurant in the North End. I have an eggplant, tomato, and green onion curry wrap; Tyedmers orders the chili con carne. “I’m a sucker for good chili,” he sighs. I ask Tyedmers why, given how much he knows about the environmental impacts of meat, he continues to eat it.
“If every male on the planet ate the way I do, we would have less of a problem, but we would still have a problem,” he says. He pauses, then says that it doesn’t make sense to focus all your sustainability efforts on just one facet of life, like eating. What matters is the overall footprint of the choices you make. He tells me that when he got married, he was apprehensive about having children, because population is such an engine of environmental crisis. His wife wanted the experience of raising children. In the end, they settled on one child.
It’s a good point. Ilana and I have two children, and whatever choices I make with regard to the sustainability of my diet or lifestyle will likely pale next to that second child’s life of consumption. Tyedmers made a hard choice when it came to reproduction but still eats meat. I made a hard choice to stop eating meat but had two children. I can never regret having a beautiful second child in my life, but I have to confess that Tyedmers’s choices are probably of greater benefit to the planet than mine. I also consider the irony that I flew to Halifax to report a story on sustainability, the equivalent of eating roughly 40 pounds of steak.
Sustainability, it seems, is a little like religion: we’re all striving for an ideal, but it’s difficult, if not impossible, to achieve perfection. We sin a little here. We sin a little there. The omnivore who hunts for an elk each fall for his meat-or maybe even eats roadkill -and raises his own chickens for eggs, grows his own organic vegetables and fruit, and cans food for the winter is eating pretty damn sustainably. So is the backyard-gardening vegan. But that’s a degree of virtue many of us will never achieve.
Still, a few simple adjustments help a lot. Stop worrying so much about not getting enough protein, and remember that plant-based protein is a lot easier on the planet than animal protein. Buy organic food whenever you can. Source your food as locally as possible, and eat seasonally to avoid racking up major food miles. Eat less and waste less. Be open-minded and creative about new cuisines. Relax. Have fun. Sustainable eating isn’t synonymous with masochism.
“We think of everything related to the environment as something we are doing wrong or have to give up,” Dan Barber says. “But people can do something about it in a way that is pleasurable. We can actualize change through hedonism.”
Who can’t rally behind that?
Correspondent Tim Zimmermann wrote about sustainable seafood in June 2015.
We tend to think that there are only 3 main options for what we can do with our bodies once we die. We can either have it buried in a coffin, cremated, or donated to science. There is another option that is available now which completely shatters the traditions of our society and replaces them with a much more practical (and even spiritual) alternative. – Steven Bancarz
Bios Urn is a funerary urn made from biodegradable materials (such as coconut shell and cellulose) that will turn you into a tree after you die. Inside the urn there is a pine seed, which can be replaced by any other seed or plant, and will grow to remember your loved one. Instead of being buried in just another coffin in the ground, we can become part of a forest and give back to our environment.
When planted, the tree seed is nourished by and absorbs the nutrients from the ashes of your body which are contained inside. The urn itself is made from coconut shell and contains compacted peat and cellulose. The ashes are mixed with this, and the seed placed inside. You even have the choice to pick the type of plant you would like to become, depending on what kind of planting space you prefer. Once your remains have been placed into the urn, it can be planted and then the seed germinates and begins to grow.
How A Biodegradable Urn From Bios Works
1. The urn comes assembled and ready to be taken to the place chosen for the regeneration.
2. Remove the seal and the outer packaging of the urn.
3. Put the ashes in the urn’s lower part. Close it with the top part and put the soil with the seed in it.
4. Bury the urn in fertile soil with its top level with the soil surface and water it.
5. In a few days the seed will germinate and your tree will begin to grow.
6. The tree will continue to grow year after year.
I think its pretty cool that we have the option of replacing cemeteries (which usually feel lifeless and cold) with forests that are teeming with life. The cool thing is, they have bios urns available for your pets as well.
Unlike most of the top candidates, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has a long history of speaking out against big corporations, factory farming, and the Biotech giants. As early as 1994 he was fighting against companies such as Monsanto using chemicals that impact human and animal health. He was also one of the few senators that introduced the Farm Bill that would require labeling of any genetically engineered ingredients in food.
Unlike another candidate running on the democratic platform Hilary Clinton who fully supports GMOs, Sanders believes that the biotech companies are “transforming our agricultural system in a bad way.” He says that he stands for the right of the people to know what is in our food (through mandatory GMO labeling that he helped pass in Vermont, an effort that the GMO giants are trying to block through the DARK Act) and supports family-owned and organic agriculture.
During a private dinner event on December 27 th, Sanders spoke about how to make sure our food is healthy and our farming is ethical, as well as other big issues that his campaign stands for.
“The debate should be – how do we make sure that the food our kids are eating is healthy food. And having the courage to take on these huge food and biotech companies who are transforming our agricultural system in a bad way,”
– Sen. Bernie Sanders
He also goes off on the fossil fuel industry, saying it’s past due time we start to shift toward renewable and alternative energy.
Perhaps the most exciting part of his speech happens a few minutes in as he describes the food scene in his home state, where organic farming and farmer’s markets are becoming commonplace.
“We have hundreds of farmers markets (in Vermont), you’ll find people buying food, beef and poultry directly from farmers, and there’s a growing farm to school pipeline,”
“It’s something we’ve worked very hard on and I think all over this country people are concerned about the quality of food their kids are eating.”
Sanders goes on to talk about how his own additions to the Farm Bill would help make this vision a reality for people across the country, and also calls out Monsanto on a key food and GMO-related topic that is being completely ignored by the mainstream media once again.
He also gets a few shots in against the factory farm industry. “We need legislation and efforts designed not to protect factory farming, corporate farming but to protect family-based agriculture,” he says.
You can watch the full speech by clicking here.
Despite the political controversy surrounding medical marijuana use in the country, research has begun to emerge showing that a component of this plant known as cannabidiol (CBD), and which does not have the controversial psychoactive properties associated with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), may have a wide range of therapeutic applications, including treating conditions that are refractory to conventional drug-based approaches.
One such condition is Parkinson’s disease, to which there is, at present, no effective conventional treatment. In fact, the primary treatment involves dopamine increasing drugs that also increase a neurotoxic metabolite known as with 6-hydroxy-dopamine, and which therefore can actually accelerate the progression of the disease. This is why natural alternatives that are safe, effective, and backed up by scientific evidence, are so needed today. Thankfully, preclinical research on cannabidiol has already revealed some promising results, including two studies in animal models of Parkinson’s disease (PD) assessing its neuroprotective properties:
“In the first one, Lastres-Becker et al. (2005) showed that the administration of CBD counteracted neurodegeneration caused by the injection of 6-hydroxy-dopamine in the medial prosencephalic bundle, an effect that could be related to the modulation of glial cells and to antioxidant effects (Lastres- Becker et al., 2005). In the next year, Garcia-Arencibia et al. (2007) tested many cannabinoid compounds following the lesion of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra with 6-hydroxy-dopamine and found that the acute administration of CBD seemed to have a neuroprotective action; nonetheless, the administration of CBD one week after the lesion had no significant effects (Garcia-Arencibia et al., 2007). This study also pointed to a possible antioxidant effect with the upregulation of mRNA of the enzyme Cu-Zn-superoxide dismutase following the administration of CBD.” 
In addition to these animal studies, the following three human clinical trials have been conducted to evaluate cannabidiol’s neuroprotective effects.
- A 2006 study published in Biological Psychology titled, “Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex N-Acetylaspartate/Total Creatine (NAA/tCr) Loss in Male Recreational Cannabis Users,” investigated the N-acetylaspartate to creatine ratios (NAA/Cr) in the brain of regular cannabis users through magnetic resonance spectroscopy (H1-MRS) to assess the neurotoxic and neuroprotective effects of cannabinoids present in the drug and found a strong positive correlation between CBD and NAA/Cr in the globus pallidus and putamen. According to the study, “the globus pallidum is the region with the highest amount of CB1-receptors in the brain and the target of neurostimulation in patients with Parkinson’s disease, who developed a strong tremor. Our MRSI results support a positive effect of CBD on the putamen/globus pallidum region in cannabis use. Therefore, it may be promising to test a possible influence of the nonpsychotropic CBD in the onset of Parkinson’s disease.”
- A 2009 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology titled, “Cannabidiol for the treatment of psychosis in Parkinson’s disease,” assessed the therapeutic use and neuroprotective effect of CBD in PD patients. The open label study was conducted with six patients with PD-related psychosis. They were administered CBD at doses ranging from 150 mg in the first week to 400 mg in the fourth and last week of treatment (doses were adjusted to optimize the clinical response). The study reported significant improvements in psychosis as well as in the total scores of a scale that measures general symptoms of PD (Unified Parkinson’s disease rating scale – UPDRS)
- A 2014 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology titled, “Effects of cannabidiol in the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s disease: an exploratory double-blind trial,” evaluated the effects of cannabidiol in Parkinson’s disease patients, dividing 21 patients into 3 groups of 7 receiving either placebo, cannabidiol (CBD) 75 mg/day or CBD 300 mg/day. Increases in well-being and quality of life were observed in the 300 mg/day groups versus the placebo groups. The researchers hypothesized that these improvements may have been due to cannabidiol’s “anxiolytic,” “antidepressant,” “anti-psychotic,” and “sedative” properties.
These results, taken together with the results from the animal models of PD, indicate that CBD may provide a drug alternative in PD patients. Additionally, a new study published in Toxicology In Vitro titled,”The neuroprotection of cannabidiol against MPP+-induced toxicity in PC12 cells involves trkA receptors, upregulation of axonal and synaptic proteins, neuritogenesis, and might be relevant to Parkinson’s disease,” makes the case for using cannabidiol in PD even more compelling by helping to illuminate some of the molecular mechanisms beneath its benefits.
The study found that cannabidiol protects against the neurotoxin known as MPP(+), which is widely believed to be responsible for the damage to the dopamine-producing cells in the substania nigra of Parkison’s patients, by preventing neuronal cell death and inducingneuritogenesis (a neuro-regenerative process for repairing damaged neurons). This mechanism was found to be independent of the neural growth factor (NGF) pathway, even though it involves NGF receptors. Cannabidiol was also found to increase the expression of axonal and synaptic proteins. The study concluded that CBD’s neuroprotective properties might be of benefit to Parkinson’s disease patients.
For additional research on how cannabis can contribute to mitigating neurodegenerative diseases read our article, “Marijuana Compound Found Superior To Drugs For Alzheimer’s,” and peruse the cannabis research database on GreenMedInfo.com. Also, for an extensive set of data on natural interventions for Parkinson’s disease, view our database on the topic: Parkinson’s disease research. Finally, peruse an extensive list of foods, spices, and natural substances that have neuritogenic properties here.
 Chagas MH, et al. J Psychopharmacol. 2014 Nov;28(11):1088-98. doi: 10.1177/0269881114550355. Epub 2014 Sep 18. Effects of cannabidiol in the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s disease: an exploratory double-blind trial.
 Hermann D, Sartorius A, Welzel H, et al. (2007) Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex N-acetylaspartate/total creatine (NAA/tCr) loss in male recreational cannabis users. Biol Psychiatry 61: 1281-1289.
 Zuardi AW, Crippa JA, Hallak JE, et al. (2009) Cannabidiol for the treatment of psychosis in Parkinson’s disease. J Psychopharmacol 23:979-983.
About The Author
Sayer Ji is founder of Greenmedinfo.com, on the Board of Governors for the National Health Federation, and Fearless Parent, Steering Committee Member of the Global GMO Free Coalition (GGFC), a reviewer at the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine.
You can attribute this change in market demand to education. You can attribute it to the mass awakening happening around the planet. But either way, you can’t argue with the numbers. Eating organic is no longer ‘fringe’ or something done solely by health-nuts and athletes, hippies, and paranoids. In fact, consumer demand for organic food is seeing double digit growth year over year, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping.
Over 20,000 stores now offer organic food products. A report has shown that in 2012, more than $28.4 million was spent on healthful organic food, and that number has grown since the report published such findings. According to Nutrition Business Journal, organic food sales will reach a startling $35 billion this year. For those of us who don’t take our health for granted, this is just the beginning of a food revolution.
We’re eating better in every category of food, too, not just organic apple and oranges. People are boycotting toxic food-producing companies faster than you can say ‘lawsuit’ as they realize we’ve been lied to. People now know that something made in vats with chemical additives or spliced and diced with GMOs is anything but ‘natural.’
We are turning away from companies like Kellogg’s and Pepsi-Co, Coca-Cola, and Kraft to companies that we can actually trust – companies that don’t sell us non-food and call it food.
Or how about putting harmful additives used to make yoga mats in bread, as Subway once did before individuals pressured them to remove azodicarbonamide from their food? We just won’t sit silent anymore. Even beer companies are feeling the pressure to not only disclose toxic ingredients, but to change their ways, and stop using them.
While fresh fruits and vegetables leading the way in organics for the past three decades, and accounting for 43% of U.S. organic food sales in 2012, dairy, bread, packaged foods, snack foods, meat, poultry, seafood, and even condiments are seeing an up-turn in organic sales.
For now, individuals are purchasing their organic foods primarily through conventional and natural food supermarkets and chains, according to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), but this is also changing as more people turn to food co-ops and even neighbors for fresh, organic food.
We’ve come a long way since the organic food movement’s beginnings. Yes, our grandparents and great-grandparents just grew… food. They didn’t even call it organic, though they often didn’t use pesticides or herbicides, and certainly not petroleum-based or chemical fertilizers.
The modern organic movement began at the same time as industrialized agriculture. It began in Europe around the 1920s, when a group of farmers and consumers sought alternatives to the industrialization of agriculture. In Britain, the organic movement had gathered pace in the 1940’s. Today, people around the world, from the US to Bhutan, are asking for, and even growing organic food.
Indeed, growing our own food is becoming an absolutely essential part of our collective future.
In the same way that petrochemical companies don’t want to see the impending evolution of solar and wind power, Big Ag doesn’t want to accept what is happening with our food consciousness. We know better now, and so we ask for better. Our wallets are truly determining the future food landscape.
Marijuana legalization has been the talk of North America for years now. It’s arguable that one of the biggest campaign promises made by Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was his goal to legalize cannabis countrywide. In the US, cannabis is legal in some form in 23 states, and with that we see a staggering number we should all consider. The number of Americans who fatally overdosed on cannabis in 2015 was: 0.
No one. Not a single person.
This of course is a huge increase from the year before which was also, zero. So it begs the questions: why is marijuana illegal? And why are other substances like alcohol and pharmaceuticals legal, yet they actively contribute to killing people in large numbers?
Hemp and cannabis became illegal back in 1937 for an all too common reason, it threatened the businesses of powerful people. You can grab the full ridiculously political story on that in an article I wrote about hemp and how they used cannabis to outlaw it back in 1937.
Legal Dangerous Substances
I’m not going to be one to say that it’s the substance’s fault all the time, because it’s not. I’m also not going to say whether things need to be legal or illegal right now. Instead I’m going to focus on the reality of what is happening.
Alcohol is legal, and very accessible in our society. It’s seen as a good time and something we can drink daily to relax after work. This year, the substance has aided in killing Americans at a rate that hasn’t been seen in roughly 35 years according to the Washington Post. Reports state that more than 30,700 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes in 2015. This number does not include those who died as a result of alcohol related deaths like drunk driving or other accidents. If it did, the number would be close to 100,000.
According to a 2006 report in American Scientist, “alcohol is more lethal than many other commonly abused substances.” The report goes on to also mention:
Drinking a mere 10 times the normal amount of alcohol within 5 or 10 minutes can prove fatal, whereas smoking or eating marijuana might require something like 1,000 times the usual dose to cause death.
But it may not be fair to say that marijuana doesn’t have downsides because clearly it does. It’s speculated that it can cause brain developmental challenges in people under the age of 25 who smoke regularly, as it affects grey matter and it can of course also lead to drugged driving which can also be dangerous. But are the dangers as bad as alcohol? And can we truly compare therapeutic values? What about when we look at pharmaceuticals?
Here are 2 graphs from the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
Looking at reported cases in the US, we see that prescription drugs prescribed by a doctor, as well as pain reliever addictions, have led to a combined 42,000 or so deaths in 2014. This is even more than alcohol! Strictly from a statistics point of view, prescription drugs, while having value in other areas, come with a great number of downsides and also happen to be the biggest business. Is there a conflict of interest in handing out these drugs when the ability to make money is attached? Do more drugs than are needed enter our society? The obvious answer is yes, when you look at how often drugs are not only wrongly prescribed, but are also the first option to fix something fickle before we even look at the potential behind lifestyle changes.
Although the public in North America in general seems to be pushing for the legalization of marijuana, it is still opposed heavily. Some groups include the pharmaceutical lobby, who would lose big in profits, as well as police unions who would lose federal budget for the war on drugs. You can begin to see our society runs less on common sense and more on political and monetary rigidity with groups all working against each other in their own interest.
But to be honest, legalization is a whole other topic, because I believe it is not quite as good as people hype it up to be. Some challenges that would come in include who controls marijuana growth, the quality of what is made available, and the manipulation of that product.
Interestingly enough, among all 2016 presidential contenders, Democratic hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the only one who outright supports the legalization of marijuana. As of now the substance is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, up there with heroin and LSD. (which is a whole other topic of discussion)
Entirely blaming a substance for the cause of people’s deaths and addictions is not an effective way of looking at the problem, nor is regulation of those substances going to be the answer in helping people. We have a large disconnect in our society in helping people with mental, emotional, and physical challenges and we are obsessed with isolating issues into black and white when most of the time they are not. I believe many of these deaths are a sign of other challenges in our society that we are opposed to looking at such as a lack of enjoyment and fulfilment in our jobs, not doing what we love, not processing our emotions, treating illness as purely physical and so forth. Until we can address many of these factors and implement solutions, we will always be creating addicts who find substances to get addicted to in order to compensate for other areas of their lives. This isn’t to say things like alcohol and prescriptions drugs are good and therefore should be so easily available to people, but more so to suggest that we all look at the full picture.