Growing meat in a lab to solve the global food crisis?!

Thanks to a scientist in South Carolina, we may soon have something more disturbing to worry about than the recent deregulation of genetically modified alfalfa and the genetically modified fruits and veggies that are increasingly common in the average American’s diet.

drumroll please

Meat that has been created in a laboratory!

Vladimir Mironov — a scientist working for the past 10 years on bioengineering “cultured” meat — thinks meat made in a lab could solve the future world food crisis that’s resulting from diminished land to grow meat the “old-fashioned way.”

Or. Hmmm. I have an idea that could help solve the food crisis. Let’s just stop eating so much meat! Or we could start eating bugs, which are apparently “good to eat and better for the environment.” Um, yeah. Let’s just stick to eating less meat.

Nicolas Genovese — a visiting scholar in cancer cell biology working under a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals three-year grant to run Dr. Mironov’s meat-growing lab — said, “There’s a yuck factor when people find out meat is grown in a lab. They don’t like to associate technology with food. But there are a lot of products that we eat today that are considered natural that are produced in a similar manner.” Genovese references yogurt as well as wine and beer production.

I’m not sure how one can compare yogurt, which is bacterial fermentation of milk — not to mention something I can make in my own kitchen — with bioengineered meat currently created in a lab.

On one hand, we have milk and cultured yeast, which can easily be made into yogurt in your crock pot in your own home — something I’ve done on several occasions. On the other hand, we have meat that comes from a once living, breathing animal. Yet instead of getting it from an animal, we’re talking about creating it in a “carnery.” If Mironov gets his way, he envisions “football field-sized buildings filled with large bioreactors, or bioreactors the size of a coffee machine in grocery stores, to manufacture what he calls ‘charlem’ — ‘Charleston engineered meat.'”

How are these AT ALL the same?

There’s so much that concerns me about all of this, but especially Mironov’s statement, “Genetically modified food is already normal practice and nobody dies.”

Nobody dies. Is that all that matters — that nobody dies? And who’s to say GM food isn’t killing us slowly? How long have we been guinea pigs eating GM foods? Are there any long-term health studies? Considering it has only been available in the United States since the 1990s, I would venture to guess no, though please correct me if I’m wrong.

Linda Johnson — a naturopathic doctor in New Mexico — speaks to the possible issues of consuming GMO food. She points out:

90% of all corn planted in the U.S. is genetically modified. This corn seed is specially made by Monsanto and engineered to ward off root worm by producing its own pesticide, which you then consume.

So you say you don’t eat corn? If you eat animals that eat corn and they managed to force this food on them, you are eating GM food. Specific animal studies showed that when rats were fed this corn, they developed many reactions that included anemia, increased blood sugar levels, kidney inflammation, blood pressure issues, increased white blood cells and more.

It’s very likely these health problems are affecting humans as well. Since the FDA doesn’t think GM food need to be examined for humans to eat safely, it’s been on the market for a long time.

Johnson adds, “European countries feel there is something wrong with this manipulation of food and they don’t allow it in their countries.
… It is not known what the long-term ramifications of eating food daily that has been genetically modified. What are the damaging effects of a newborn ingesting nothing but formula made with GM ingredients? No one knows.”

So why do we allow it here in the United States?

What are your thoughts about lab meat? Would you eat it? Would you feed it to your kids? Do you think it’s the answer to the global food crisis? Are there positives to this I’m missing? Enlighten me, please.

Related articles:

Photo credit: Yo My Got

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Common ingredient in sunscreen the “asbestos of the future?”

I recently read about a new Swiss study claiming that the ingredient titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanoparticles — widely used as a white pigment in sunscreen, toothpaste and cosmetics — provokes similar inflammatory effects on the lungs as asbestos. Yes, that asbestos. The stuff that can cause serious illnesses, “including malignant lung cancer, mesothelioma (a formerly rare cancer strongly associated with exposure to amphibole asbestos), and asbestosis (a type of pneumoconiosis).”

According to Jürg Tschopp, the lead researcher and professor of biochemistry at Lausanne University, “With titanium dioxide you accumulate, like asbestos, particles in the lung. You get chronic inflammation and this can last ten or 15 years and the next step is cancer.” Tschopp is concerned that nanoparticles could be the “asbestos of the future.” However, he also admitted in his findings that he would not immediately stop using sunscreen and toothpaste, but believes more caution and regulation are needed.

This begs the question: do you take the risk of avoiding sunscreen and exposing your skin to cancer-causing ultraviolet rays or do you use the sunscreen and risk the exposure to chemicals that may give you cancer anyway?

Huma Khamis of the consumer association of western Switzerland calls the sunscreen dilemma “a big problem,” but states “the immediate risks of not using cream [sunscreen] and sunbathing are greater than those of exposure to products containing titanium dioxide nanoparticles.”

Yet this isn’t the first time an ingredient in sunscreen has been called into question. I wrote about the chemical oxybenzone nearly three years ago. Oxybenzone — one of the commonly used ingredients in most sunscreens — has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage. It is also a “penetration enhancer, a chemical that helps other chemicals penetrate the skin.”

The primary sunscreen I’ve been using on my kids for the past several years — California Baby — does not contain oxybenzone and even tested quite well on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database. However when I rechecked the ingredients I noticed titanium dioxide was listed; although it did not specify whether the TiO2 was the suspect nanoparticles or not. At first I freaked out thinking I’ve been putting something potentially cancer-causing on my kids, but after asking a few Twitter friends (@YourOrganicLife and @ErinEly) their opinion, I decided to contact the company directly. I received an automated response indicating that “California Baby utilizes coated micronized titanium dioxide (TiO2 for short) as the active ingredient for our sunscreens.” I believe that means it is not nanoparticles, but I’ve asked for clarification from California Baby just to be sure (and will update here when I hear back from them).

I do my best to make informed choices regarding my kids’ health and safety. However, I’m not a chemist or a physicist and I can’t test every chemical out there. I have to rely upon others (the government?) to test for X, Y, and Z’s chemical safety, but it seems all too often that chemicals are assumed to be safe until proven otherwise. I don’t like to think of my kids (or anyone’s children for that matter) being used as guinea pigs and I don’t think it’s too much to ask that products and chemicals are tested before they are available for mass consumption. Do you?

Where does this leave me? I’ll stick to trying to limit our exposure to the sun during peak hours for starters. I already tend to do that, but this is a good reminder to continue. I may avoid sunscreen containing titanium dioxide all together and only purchase sunscreen in which zinc oxide is the active ingredient. (Badger makes a good one that I’ve used on my kids in the past.) Of course, we’ll continue to wear our hats and sunglasses — the kids’ eye doctor just reminded me about how important that is — as much as possible outdoors. Another thing I plan to do is buy some sun-protective swimwear for when summer rolls around again. The less exposed skin, the better.

Lastly, I will hope that testing will continue on the various chemicals in sunscreen, cosmetics and everything else we rely on both for ourselves and our children on a regular basis. I will sign petitions. I will blog. I will raise awareness.

Safe Sun Tips

  • Minimize sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the greatest amount of ultraviolet light exists.
  • Wear Hats. Each inch of hat brim can lower your lifetime risk of skin cancer by 10%. A hat brim of four inches or greater is recommended.
  • Wear UV-blocking clothing.
  • Wear protective eyewear. Sunglasses with UV-blocking filters are very important.

Related links:

Photo credit: Flickr Noodle93

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

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Last Minute Green Holiday Gifts

I have to admit I’m freaking out a little bit that there are only 10 days until Christmas! I felt like I had so much time and suddenly Christmas is right around the corner! I think I’m pretty set on gifts for the kids, but still need to mail a few packages and figure out what I’m getting for my husband.

For those of you who are still wracking your brains, check out the suggestions below. You’re sure to find a green idea or two to help you on your merry way. :)

Last Minute Green Gifts

Now for some Eco-friendly Gift Wrap Ideas

Do you have tips for other last minute green gifts or eco-friendly wrapping ideas? Please share them in the comments. :)

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Green and Clean MomGreen Your Décor and Condo Blues.

Photo via Perspicacious.org: Paper bag gift wrap

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Nothing says Merry Christmas quite like Lead Poisoning

When you think of the holiday season, what comes to mind?

Family? Friends? Christmas trees? Decorations? Presents? Candles? Food? Mistletoe?
How about lead, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other toxins?

In Danika Carter’s post All I want for Christmas is Lead-free Decorations, she points out that most artificial Christmas trees are made from PVC (vinyl) and the many problems associated with PVC.

• It off gasses
• contains phthalates
• breaks down in heat and sun
• contains lead which becomes lead dust and spreads throughout your home
• Doesn’t biodegrade and is difficult to recycle

This is one of the reasons we are opting for a real tree this year (which we are finally going to get tomorrow – can’t wait!). :)

Danika also points out that reports have shown that “the cords on most holiday lights contain lead at higher levels that what is allowable for toys.” A Michigan-based group called The Ecology Center tested 68 light sets and found four out of five of those sets contained detectable levels of lead.

While most people don’t stick electrical cords in their mouths, they do touch them with their hands (and then touch food or their faces?) and all of the twisting and turning the cords while wrapping them around the tree or — in my house, the banister — can lead to lead dust in the air.

Lead is a potent poison that can affect individuals at any age. Children with developing bodies are especially vulnerable because their rapidly developing nervous systems are particularly sensitive to the effects of lead. Exposure to lead can have a wide range of effects on a child’s development and behavior. Even when exposed to small amounts of lead levels, children may appear inattentive, hyperactive and irritable. Children with greater lead levels may also have problems with learning and reading, delayed growth and hearing loss. At high levels, lead can cause permanent brain damage and even death.

To avoid possible lead contamination, it is advised that people either wear gloves when handling holiday lights or wash their hands afterward. I’m not sure what you can do about the possible lead dust in the air other than avoid strands of lights that contain lead in the first place. Or just don’t decorate at all. Yeah, bah humbug and all of that. :P

Actually, Alicia from The Soft Landing had some tips for safer holiday lights. “As we discussed in a recent article, locating PVC-free and lead-free light strings proved impossible, so your best bet is to focused on tracking down RoHS compliant products. We found Environmental Lights to be an invaluable source of well-researched options and SAFbaby also confirmed that Ikea offers safer light strands as well.”

Also, word to the wise… Definitely don’t let your 6-month-old sit on the floor surrounded by lights (which she grabs with her hot little hands) so you can take some cute pictures. Uh, yeah, I totally did that when Ava was a baby. Crappy parent award right here! Holla! Ugh.

There is more information available from HealthyStuff.org about the Lead and Holiday Lights studies.

Are you concerned about lead exposure from your tree and/or lights? What changes might you try to make to avoid it?

I’m rethinking my decision to wrap our banister in lights and garland this year. Sure it looks pretty, but when my kids touch it nearly every time they come down the stairs, that ain’t cool, people. That ain’t cool. Maybe I’ll have them wear gloves in the house? Or not. :P Next year I think we will only have lights on the tree in the house. Any other lighted decorations will be outside only. At least that will minimize our exposure a bit. I’m also trying to have my kids wash their hands whenever they handle any lights and cords this year (which is so much better than throwing them into a pile of lights, don’t you think?). ;) Live and learn and then learn some more.

While we’re on the subject of the holidays and learning, don’t forget that you can give your Facebook friends The Gift of Green this holiday season by checking out the One Million Acts of Green Facebook Application. The app allows you to pledge to complete an act of green and posts a cute e-card to your Facebook friend’s wall, perhaps inspiring them to complete an Act of Green too! No worries about lead with One Million Acts of Green. Just good clean, green fun. :)

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation. See what the other ambassadors have to say about One Million Acts of Green: Green and Clean MomGreen Your Décor and Condo Blues.

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I believe the children are our future…

Whitney Houston said it best. :)
“I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.”

I try to do what I can to set a good example for my kids — whether it means making healthy meals, picking up trash on our hikes, or taking care of my mental health. I believe that despite what they may learn from their friends or in school (although we are home schooling this year — more on that soon, I promise), my husband and I are still their primary teachers.

Although my kids are still young, I think it’s important for them to learn that we need to take care of the earth and that like anything or anyone else, the earth deserves our respect.

As I was digging deeper into the One Million Acts of Green web site the other day, I discovered they have a page dedicated to Education Resources for Teaching about Climate Change.

“When it comes to educating children about the environment, the entire world is a classroom.”

That’s a philosophy I’ve become rather fond of in regard to home schooling too, but like I said, I’ll write more about that another time soon. ;)

They go on to say: “The One Million Acts of Green Program works closely with the National Wildlife Federation, The Climate Project, and its website partner GreenNexxus to provide high-quality, age-appropriate resources for K-12, and beyond.”

There are links to all kind of resources that can be used to teach kids about the environment and climate change. While some of it may be geared moreso to a classroom setting, there’s a lot of information that could be used by parents as well.

This link to the National Wildlife Federation has a bunch of answers to kids’ questions about global warming, including a Parent’s Guide to Talking To Kids About Global Warming.

Another link is to Cool The Earth which is a program similar to One Million Acts of Green, but for kids.

Cool The Earth is a free, ready-to-run program that educates K-8 students and their families about climate change and inspires them to take simple actions to reduce their carbon emissions. The program is successful because it’s fun and empowering for the kids, and their enthusiasm is contagious!

Cool The Earth can be run at any elementary or middle school in the country. If you are interested in learning more, check out how to bring the program to your child’s school.

In addition to the education resources, there’s a lot of other good info available at One Million Acts of Green. If you haven’t yet checked out One Million Acts of Green, I encourage you to read my intro post and learn more about how you can start logging and sharing your Acts of Green. Check out the Facebook app too!

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation.

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt via Flickr

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Eating Locally – Good for So Many Reasons

It’s harvest season in the United States. In other words, ’tis the time of year to eat locally and preserve all of that gorgeous locally grown produce!

This weekend I snagged a second case of local organic roma tomatoes (for the amazingly low price of $15) with plans to make and can more sauce. You see, I already processed one case of the local romas and put away six quarts of sauce (so deliciously *thick a wooden spoon stood up in it). Six quarts is not nearly enough though, so I got the second case. Today I canned six more pints and two quarts. It’s still not enough, but being that a frost is expected tonight and when I got the second case, I was told that was the last of the romas, my sauce making days may be over for the season.

I’m not complaining though. I am actually quite proud of the canning I’ve been able to accomplish this year. It’s definitely my most productive canning year since I started two years ago. A shelf in my garage contain jars of apple sauce, pear sauce, nectarine preserves, dilly beans (like dill pickles, but with green beans), and now tomato sauce (and more that I haven’t moved out there yet). About 2/3 of the food I preserved came from right here in my city and the other 1/3 came from within the state.

It’s not a ton, but it makes me feel good and I like to look at it. ;) Maybe I should arrange the jars by color for more of a rainbow effect. ;)

There are a lot of reasons why it’s good to eat locally.

According to One Million Acts of Green:

A lot of the food we eat in North America has travelled a great distance to get to us. On average, various food items travel more than 2,400 kilometres (or nearly 1,500 miles). That’s a lot of energy, transport and storage. Plus, all that food is shipped in controlled environments, which depletes nutrition. Buying local produce means your food is fresher. It also helps local farmers and reduces air pollution.

Treehugger points out additional benefits of eating locally:

… farmers who sell direct to local consumers need not give priority to packing, shipping and shelf life issues and can instead “select, grow and harvest crops to ensure peak qualities of freshness, nutrition and taste.” Eating local also means eating seasonally, he adds, a practice much in tune with Mother Nature.

“Local food is often safer, too,” says the Center for a New American Dream (CNAD). “Even when it’s not organic, small farms tend to be less aggressive than large factory farms about dousing their wares with chemicals.” Small farms are also more likely to grow more variety, too, says CNAD, protecting biodiversity and preserving a wider agricultural gene pool, an important factor in long-term food security.

Another benefit of eating locally is helping the local economy. Farmers on average receive only 20 cents of each food dollar spent, … the rest going for transportation, processing, packaging, refrigeration and marketing. Farmers who sell food to local customers “receive the full retail value, a dollar for each food dollar spent.”

One of the many Acts of Green from One Million Acts of Green is to Purchase Locally Grown Produce. I’ve been appreciating the importance of this more and more over the last few years. Of course there are the benefits to eating seasonally as was mentioned on TreeHugger. There are also the benefits of preserving (either by freezing, dehydrating, or canning) locally grown food while it’s in season. It can be time intensive, but the more I do, the more rewarding it is.

I also admit I love to hear my six-year-old — upon seeing the jars of sauce on the countertop — say, “We sure are getting ready for winter!” I like that the idea of canning and freezing food for the winter is just natural to her.

As I said in my intro post to One Million Acts of Green, “I don’t claim to live a perfectly green lifestyle, but I do the best that I can in the moment. I try to lead by example and inspire others to do what they can too.” If buying a bit of your produce locally at the Farmer’s Market or local farm stand is something that feels good to you, go for it. I have to say it’s kind of cool to know just where your food is coming from and to even meet the people who are growing it. Or perhaps you have a friend or a neighbor who’s garden is producing too much for them. Most gardeners are happy to share the wealth. All you have to do is ask.

Do you buy locally? Do you preserve food for winter? If not, what’s holding you back from getting started?

If you haven’t yet checked out One Million Acts of Green, I encourage you to read my intro post and learn more about how you can start logging and sharing your Acts of Green.

* I cooked my sauce in a stockpot on the stove, but moved it into the crock pot to cook down on low (uncovered) overnight. It worked like a charm. :)

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation.

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