Food as Sacrament

“To live, we must daily break the body
and spill the blood of Creation.
When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently,
it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration.”

— Wendell Berry
Via Working with Oneness

Solar Decathlon Home-Building Competition and Energy XPO at the Orange County Great Park

The Solar Decathlon and XPO will be held the weekends of October 3-6 and October 10-13 from 11 am to 7 pm. Entrance is free; parking is $5. The location is the Orange County Great Park. Car, bus, train, and shuttle options are available for getting to the Solar Decathlon.

For more information about Solar Decathlon 2013, see the U.S. Department of Energy site or the City of Irvine site.

Irvine Past and Present—Northwood Park Community Center Reopening

Northwood, one of Irvine’s oldest neighborhoods, may be the area in Irvine that has the most diverse housing: The newer homes of Northwood II are located near Woodbury. The Northpoint homes, located in upper Irvine, tend to have a higher price tag than much of the rest of Northwood. The condos that are across from the Northwood Town Center shopping center (Irvine Boulevard and Yale Avenue) as well as the condos located near the Heritage Park library contain some of the least expensive homes in Irvine. And then there are the homes that come to mind when I think of Northwood. These are the single-family homes that were built in the 1970s and 1980s and many of which have no HOA fees.

As I mentioned in last week’s post (, the Northwood Community Center has been getting an update. The new features will be highlighted on September 7 at the reopening ceremonies.

“The new [community center] building will serve our multi-generational community and features a multipurpose, exercise and craft room, courtyard, patio and a Tai Chi court. The Center, within Northwood Community Park is adjacent to a playground, tennis courts, soccer and softball fields and the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial. Join the festivities and learn what Irvine Community Services has to offer.”City of Irvine

If you attend the reopening event, which is from 10am to 11:30am on September 7, some of what you can expect is the following:

At 10am the mayor and city council members will participate in the ribbon cutting ceremony and talk about some of the updates to the community center building. One of the updates includes the many green features (such as solar panels, recycling of building materials, water-efficient design, and carpets that were designed to be environmental friendly) that made the LEED* certification of this building possible. After the city council opening talks, tours will be available that highlight some of the programs that will be offered at the new facility. For example, crafts and Early Childhood programs will be highlighted in craft room. And a talk by one of the tennis pros and information on some of the classes, such as Tae Kwon Do and Polynesian dance, will be highlighted in the multipurpose room.

Here is one more tidbit that, as a local history buff, I find interesting. In addition to being designed as a building with LEED certification that can serve Irvine’s multigenerational community, the building was planned to emphasis Irvine’s agricultural past. The site of the Northwood Community Center was once the location of one of the packing houses that were part of Orange County’s agricultural history, and the new Northwood Community Center was built to resemble the old packing house.

So there you have it. If you attend the event, you can get a quick overview of Irvine and the Northwood community—past and present—all in an hour and a half.

*Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)—a certification by the U.S. Green Building Council for compliance with environmentally-responsible green building practices

A Look at Permaculture

Here is a look at what Permaculture can be:

Additional information: HomeGrown

Giving Thanks

star3This, remember, is a love story. This life, this time, it’s a gift. And it’s my prayer that when you are surrounded by mystery and uncertainty, your eyes look up to the bright morning star. It is my prayer that you love your neighborhoods—those not even born yet, by caring for this planet. And if you do, it will be very, very good.
—Matthew Sleeth, MD, Blessed Earth

Wishing everyone a Thanksgiving full of gratitude and wonder.

David versus Monsanto: A Documentary on GMO

David versus Monsanto: A Documentary on GMO.

Free viewing until November 10. This documentary is the story of how our current food system works against the family farmer.

Why You Should Care About GMO Foods

This, remember, is a love story. This life, this time, it’s a gift. And it’s my prayer that when you are surrounded by mystery and uncertainty, your eyes look up to the bright morning star. It is my prayer that you love your neighborhoods—those not even born yet, by caring for this planet. And if you do, it will be very, very good.—Matthew Sleeth, MD, Blessed Earth

Big Pharm Country from Robbie Stauder on Vimeo.

The definition of GMO* foods is that a gene from one species is inserted into another, often unrelated, species. For example, soybeans that have been genetically modified to resist Roundup herbicide are inserted with genes from bacteria, the cauliflower virus, and petunias. This is something that does not occur in nature and is not the same as cross breeding.

After an unfavorable consumer reaction to the introduction of genetically modified foods in our grocery stores, food that contains GM ingredients has been stealthily placed on our grocery shelves for approximately twenty years now. Some of the most common GM foods are corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, and cottonseed oil as well as Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa, some yellow squash and zucchini. Derivatives of these GMOs are found in most packaged foods (Fructose is often derived from GM corn; lecithin is often derived from GM soy; even citric acid and vitamin C are often derived from GM corn). The USDA states that approximately 80% of packaged food contains GMOs.

Since these GM foods have been around for about twenty years, you might think that there is nothing to worry about. However, unlike the strict tests that are required for drugs, the FDA does not require any safety or health tests on GM foods. In fact, no long-term studies have been conducted to determine the safety of these foods.

However, the concerns are many. They include health risk, damage to nature that might not be reversible, food security, farmers in peril, and lack of transparency and independent scientific study.

For more information on each of these concerns, see these posts:

*GMO stands for genetically modified organism (GMO or GM food, also genetically modified or GE foods).

GMO Crops and Nature:Which Will Win?

Nature provides us what we need to live. We may come up with all sorts of manmade materials, but we can’t make something out of nothing. Without the inputs from nature, none of our manmade materials can be made. With the development of GMO seeds, biotech companies are patenting and attempting to own nature. We can push nature, but only so far. Nature will only put up with this to a point. Then watch out.

  • Biotech companies are patenting nature. Seed patenting “treat[s] the diversity of farmer’s breeding and nature’s evolution as illegal.” (Vandana Shiva) Is it just that nature is patented and owned by a few?
  • Biotech companies claim that GM crops would not crossbred with non-GM crops and pests would not become resistant to GMOs. However, nature has its own way in mind. Signs of superweeds and super bugs have appeared. “There’s ‘mounting evidence’ that Monsanto Co. (MON) corn that’s genetically modified to control insects is losing its effectiveness in the Midwest, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.”—Bloomberg News, “‘Mounting Evidence’ of Bug-Resistant Corn Seen by EPA”
  • A University of Notre Dame and Loyola University study showed proteins from GMO crops in Indiana waterways. And U.S. Geological Survey studies revealed that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide, was evident in up to 60 to 100 percent of all air and rain samples tested during two growing seasons in Mississippi and Iowa. This means that Roundup lingers in the environment, which creates potential health risks to humans and the environment.

Related post: Health Risks of GMO Foods

Health Risks of GMO Foods

Despite biotech companies claims that genetically modified foods (GMOs) are safe, evidence shows that there is room for concern:

  • Studies by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) found that animals that were feed GM foods developed immune, infertility, and gastrointestinal problems. They also experienced accelerated aging and organ damage. AAEM is suggesting that doctors prescribe non-GMO diets for their patients.
  • GMO plants that are developed to be pest resistant are engineered so that the pesticide is in all parts of the plant and cannot be washed off; therefore, you can’t avoid eating the pesticide when you eat the fruit or vegetable. “In 2011, Canadian researchers reported that 93% of pregnant women’s blood and 80% of their fetal cord blood samples contained a toxin found in a GE corn that produces its own pesticide (Bt corn).The EPA classifies these GM crops as pesticides.
  • GMO crops contain an antibiotic marker. This increased use of antibiotics can play a role in the loss of antibiotic effectiveness.
  • Studies found that, in the process of genetically modifying an organism, new and unintended proteins have been created. Proteins are the substances that can act as an allergen. The result is that possible new allergens are introduced to our food supply.

    Dr. Don Huber, an internationally recognized plant pathologist and professor emeritus at Purdue University, has discovered an organism, brand new to science, related to GM corn and soy appears to be responsible for plant death, as well as infertility and spontaneous abortion in animals given GM feed. The organism is especially troubling as there’s strong evidence this infectious agent promotes disease in BOTH plants and mammals, which is extremely rare.

Related post: GMOs and Food Security

GMOs and Food Security

Currently, five companies control over seventy-five percent of the world’s commercial seed supply. And these companies have been patenting their GM seeds and making the non-GM seeds less and less available. Domestic and international farmers can no longer save their seeds for replanting without paying a yearly royalty to the biotech seed companies. As one Iowa farmer said, “You know, I held out for years on buying them GE seeds, but now I can’t get conventional seeds anymore. They just don’t carry ‘em.” Is it moral and just that a few companies can patent nature and claim ownership? And how secure can our food supply be when just a few corporations own the rights to the crop seeds?

In spite of all these reasons for concern, you might think that GM crops are needed to feed the world. However, the jury is out on how effective GM crops are at increasing crop yields:

In spite of this (health) risk, the biotechnology industry claims that GM foods can feed the world through production of higher crop yields. However, a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists reviewed 12 academic studies and indicates otherwise: ‘The several thousand field trials over the last 20 years for genes aimed at increasing operational or intrinsic yield (of crops) indicate a significant undertaking. Yet none of these field trials have resulted in increased yield in commercialized major food/feed crops, with the exception of Bt corn.’ However, it was further stated that this increase is largely due to traditional breeding improvements.American Academy of Environmental Medicine

In addition, “we produce 4600 calories per person per day, so there is enough food to feed twice the present population.” These are the words of Hans Herren, Ph.D., president of the Millennium Institute. He also states:

We already produce more food than needed; despite this we have 950 million people hungry. In India food is rotting in warehouses, yet India has the highest childhood malnutrition rate in the world.

The problem is the type of food that is grown (commodities instead of local food staple crops), distribution, corruption, and waste.

A third of the world’s entire food supply could be saved by reducing waste – or enough to feed 3 billion people; and this would still leave enough surplus for countries to provide their populations with 130 per cent of their nutritional requirements. …We can all be part of the solution.–Feeding the 5000

Related post: Food System Based on GMOs puts Farmers in Peril