How Our Beliefs Shape Reality & Why We’re No Longer Living In Caves

Today I’m welcoming back friend and neurolinguist, James Cervelloni. You may have seen his TedX talk from the Flour City. He’s had a busy year speaking and writing, so I was happy he could stop by to share his thoughts on how our beliefs shape our behavior… All in the name of survival according to Jim.

B R A I N S can do weird things in the name of efficiency and survival. One of them is to develop unconscious behavior patterns. We go through our days on autopilot so that we don’t have to relearn or rethink our normal routines. Beliefs drive our thoughts, feelings and behaviors because they form the basis of our subjective reality–what we think is true. So, once someone is comfortable with the structure of their reality, they tend to want to stay with it and resist changing–even in the light of new information.

People like to believe that they have a mind of their own. But think about it – most people have belief-realities based on misinformation they accepted as true without ever exploring the facts!

Some thought and behavior patterns create ‘problems’ in our lives. What’s weird is that even when that happens, people can resist changing their beliefs!

When someone’s behavior is creating unhappiness in their life, I help them to explore the beliefs that drive the behavior. To motivate them to explore new ideas, I always leverage their values. I find out what’s most important to them–what they’re trying to accomplish that drives a particular thought or behavior pattern. I do this to get to their motivation strategy because what they’re currently doing isn’t working.

Then, to demonstrate that accepting new information is what creates change, I ask them to consider real life examples of something that they used to believe was absolutely true–but no longer do. I have them notice the difference in the way they think, feel and behave around the example now. I ask them what changed. It always comes down to new information.

So, why do people resist change even in the light of new ideas and facts? When new facts or ideas bump up against someone’s opposing beliefs, it’s automatically rejected because it doesn’t fit their current model of reality. That makes them uncomfortable. And unless they’re open to exploring new ideas as a solution to a problem, why should they change? To some, change can seem difficult–even scary because they think they might lose something important to them. Often, that something is their sense of who they are. So, the new info must be presented in a way that the mind will accept before beliefs can change. Otherwise it bounces off their current beliefs like bullets off of superman.

Look for example, at the soybean movement. For years soybeans and soy products have been promoted of as a healthy food. But as more look at the science behind what they do to the soy beans to produce it and to process it, oh my god! I wouldn’t go near them. And I used to use them and promote them.

But if I suggest to a vegetarian that they explore the science and methodology of soybean production, they get angry! They feel compelled to defend their reality and sense of self because changing their reality seems to be too hard! Even a highly respected model like modern medicine admits that every five years almost half of what they believed to have been true is no longer true.

Most people recognize that life today is more convenient and more comfortable than it was for the Neanderthals. That’s because new information has been added to our neurology and acted upon in the name of survival, efficiency or comfort.

Change happens when new information is added and acted upon. Without that, we’d still be living in caves.

It’s all about new information.

I hate using clichés, but there was a time when everyone thought it was impossible for human beings to fly. The Wright brothers were mocked mercilessly. But today we fly above the earth like the gods, and barely even notice.

Beliefs, our reality statements of the world and of ourselves, seek to prove themselves right – they don’t look for evidence to prove that they’re wrong. Looking for new evidence that contradicts experience takes an extraordinary mind.

Did I say that right? In other words, being able to step outside of one’s subjective reality and to look for new evidence that may contradict what we believe is true, takes an extraordinary mind. And in almost every case that I’m aware of, new ideas are resisted by others at first.

This Is The Best Cinnamon Bun With Foaming Agent I’ve Ever Had

The last time I sunk my teeth into a hot Pillsbury cinnamon roll fresh out of the oven I didn’t think, “this is full of gluten, oh no” or “this is sugar overload.” Nope. I ignored all of those thoughts, grabbed my coffee cup while chatting with my cousins and went back for a second roll. They were so good, I mean good. Usually I resist the urge for such things because I don’t feel so hot after eating processed foods (who really does?), but I reassured myself that my regular power-food mainstays surely over-rode this little indulgence.

Turns out, not so much. Even I occasionally forget that some things are too good to be true.

I can deal with the gluten and the sugar pretty well, but when I recently realized that azodicarbonamide, a plastic foaming agent used to produce yoga mats and flip-flops was in my gooey cinnamon rolls, I instantly wished there was a way for me to un-eat them.

Plastic friends- plastic in our food or what should be food. Again, I ask the question- would you accept your car back from the mechanic if they said, “oh, I ran out of gas, so I used oil in the gas tank?” NO! “Oh, I only fixed your left break, don’t worry about it, you’ll be fine with one.” NO! You would never, ever find either of those circumstances acceptable, B U T we allow our supposed food to be processed in giant industrial factories with plastics? For those of you up on your “what’s in my food trend” this is sounding a bit like flame retardant showing up in Gatorade. You know, the stuff they don’t put in children’s clothing anymore because it can cause airways to close up and the C word! But I digress.

I guess you have to ask yourself, “do I want to eat real food or something with so much crap in it, that it’s not really food, my body can’t digest it and it’s going to make me sick?” Doesn’t really sound that tough of a question to me. The next time your “irritable bowel syndrome” acts up, maybe you’ll understand why it’s so irritated!

If you get Ken Cook to deliver info to you from the Environmental Working Group, this is already old news to you, but in case you don’t, here’s an excerpt from his email to me today:

When the Food Babe, Vani Hari, challenged Subway to remove azodicarbonamide – a chemical used to make yoga mats – from its bread, EWG suspected this was only the tip of the iceberg and decided to find out what other foods contain ADA. Our analysis found it in nearly 500 foods.

Now we’re taking the fight to major brands, including Pillsbury, Sara Lee, Shoprite, Safeway, Smucker’s, Fleischman’s, Jimmy Dean, Kroger, Little Debbie, Tyson and Wonder. We need you to add your voice to tell these food brands to stop using the same chemical found in yoga mats and flip-flops.

This chemical, nicknamed ADA, is used in the plastics industry as a “foaming agent” and in the food industry as a dough conditioner for the convenience of industrial bakers.

In the plastics industry, it is mixed into polymer plastic gel to generate tiny gas bubbles, something like champagne for plastics. The results are materials that are strong, light, spongy and malleable. In many commercial baked goods, ADA is used as a “dough conditioner” that renders large batches of dough easier to handle and makes the finished products puffier and tough enough to withstand shipping and storage.

Enough said. If you don’t know, now you know.

“All I Want To Be Is Happy When I Grow Up”

“All I want to be is happy when I grow up.” Boom… Imagine if that was your goal, or your child’s goal for life.

My only resolution this year is to live life more simply… And, on the road to that place comes a rejuvenating reminder from thirteen year old, Logan LaPlante. His TEDx talk has gone viral, but if you haven’t seen it yet, take a break from whatever it is you’re doing and watch. You’ll want to share it with someone immediately and it will no doubt inspire you too to take a more simple approach to your days.

Here’s to life less complicated.

Fact Checking The Facts

Facts are pieces of information that are considered true beyond reasonable doubt. When I sit down to research a topic I’m excited about, naturally I’m already biased; I search with preconceived notions of what I hope to find. As humans, when we want something to be true, we search for information in such a way that we can come to validate that what we believe to be true is indeed based on facts.

It’s no secret to my patients or colleagues that I’m excited that gut immunology is finally the subject of well-funded, plentiful research. I’ve been researching the topic since the late 90s- the published literature has about tripled since then. Because I have observed healing by understanding the nuances of how gut immunology is a defining principle of whole health, I’m excited about what’s ahead.

To be sure my sensibilities aren’t blindsided by my excitement, I set out to disprove my findings. I look for holes, I ask what’s missing, I want to know if it’s too good to be true. Because, as I pointed out in an earlier post featuring Dr. Ben Goldacre’s TED talk on the ethics of publishing bad data with the good, for any ethical, long-term progress to take place where research is well-disseminated into clinical culture, journals have to consider publishing or documenting bad research as well.

It’s not easy to find great research on probiotics, prebiotics, gut microbiology and related so when I do, you bet I look at it with a skeptical eye. I want it to be true, I hope it will be true- after all, I’m looking to help people heal… But because I am, I’m always looking for the hole.

And, when recently looking for holes, I found the blog Retraction Watch sitting in one of them. Retraction Watch is a WordPress hosted blog and the topic of some debate. The blog exists to feature journal retractions where errors and plagiarism have taken place. I was not too happy to find two retractions from journals featuring papers on gut immunology that I had high hopes for, but I am happy that mainstreamers are putting themselves out there to preserve a little bit of the ethics that should always exist in the world of research. I find myself visiting the blog led by Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky once a week now to watch for any research that’s come across my desk. So far I haven’t found much, so that’s a good sign. I am however always surprised to see how much plagiarism that is taking place in journal papers!

Have you discovered any research that was later retracted? Have any tips for preserving the ethics of the research system?

Recycled Propaganda Joins Us Today

Recycled Propaganda Big Brand

G A R D E N E A T S is getting ready to publish an article on non-GMO corn growing. I was on Instagram and landed on an image that encompassed the entire article- one by artist, Izaac Zevalking of Recycled Propaganda. Instantly I started flipping through Izaac’s other photos and was drawn to how he brings socially relevant topics to your mind through mixed media art. Initially I thought of simply asking to feature his photo for our article, but then decided I’d really like to know a little bit about the thought behind his art. He’s a really down-to-earth, think before you act kind of guy. And, was awesome enough to share a conversation with me so I could introduce him to you today.

Let us know what you think! And, if you want to see Izaac’s art in person, read til the end…

Christine: Did you go to college? Why or why not. What did you study? Do you think college is important these days?

Izaac: Y E S ! I did my Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Technology and my Master’s Degree in 2D & 3D Visualisation.

I view higher education in incredibly high regard, an essential part of becoming a well-balanced contributing member of society. From my experience, university instilled and refined a valuable sense of skepticism and curiosity. It also developed my sense of perspective, weighing up and adjusting opinions based on several sources of information, instead of ill-informed one-dimensional gullibility that is so common today. This constant critique and questioning definitely transferred from my academics to myself and my surroundings and is definitely the foundation of Recycled Propaganda.

To me a great tragedy and paradox of USA and increasingly the UK, is that these seemingly developed countries are making further education more inaccessible by making it more expensive and elitist, moving away from the meritocracy that I think it should be.

Christine: Ah, yes, agreed. I was really drawn in with some of your more provocative designs; especially the one you featured on vaccinations and GMO crops. I was even more impressed with the well-researched commentary and quotes that accompany them. Do these reflect your personal philosophies/ethics?

Most of my designs do have an element of personal belief, but more so a personal sense of what issues need highlighting in society. I really try hard to make my designs ambiguous, the reason I love design and art is that it is open to interpretation. There is no right or wrong answer. To me this reflects life; there is no right or wrong just perspective. When people ask me what does this piece of art mean, I always reply, “to me it means…”.

I really enjoy designing for real-time and relevant issues, especially being a face for a group or movement, to me this transforms the designs from idealistic visual porn to pertinent and relevant social commentary. I love using quotes as they give validity as well as dimensionality and perspective to the designs, however, sometimes I feel like they ground the design too much and reduce the ambiguity and hence the critical thought of the work.

Recycled Propaganda Vaccine Art

“Official data shows that large scale vaccination has failed to obtain any significant improvement of the diseases against which they were supposed to provide protection.”

- Dr. Sabin, developer of Polio vaccine

Recycled Propaganda GMO Corn

The genetic modification of food is intrinsically dangerous. It involves making irreversible changes in a random manner to a complex level of life about which is little known. It is inevitable that this hit-and-miss approach will lead to disasters. It must disrupt the natural intelligence of the plant or animal to which it is applied, and lead to health damaging side effects.

- Dr. Geoffry Clements, leader of the Natural Law Party, UK

Recycled Propaganda Antibiotics Meat

“One reason for the alarming increase in antibiotic-resistant infections is that antibiotics are routinely given on a massive scale to farmed animals who do not need them. Figures for the EU are hard to obtain, but an incredible 80 % of antibiotics sold in the US are used in animals. They are given because they act as growth-promoters and they are given to prevent the spread of infection on overcrowded factory farms. Both these uses are unnecessary: animals should not be forced to grow unnaturally quickly and they should not be kept in such close confinement.”

- Richard Mountford, Animal Aid

Christine: I often get dirty looks when I comment that although we have the potential to thrive collectively, we’re still allowing our communities to devolve by not working more cooperatively. How do you see this/can we all get along?

Izaac: I often say that the solution to most of the world’s problems is empathy. If we all were more understanding of how people came to be the way they are and appreciate why they do the things they do I really believe we could all live more cooperatively.

Christine: Obamacare. Bullshit or cool. Why?

Izaac: Undecided. I think good for sick people but bad for me?
However, the overwhelming feeling it leaves me with is disappointed. For me it typifies the common societal focus upon treating the symptom and not the cause. Why in such a ‘developed’ country are so many of us sick? Fast food? GMOs? Pollution? Chloride? Sedentarism? Technology? Over-worked? Lack of education?

Christine: “Anarchy Is Contagious”? How so?

Izzac: This design has several meanings to me, on a basic level it represents how popular anit-establishment perspectives would be if they were better known. However, to me anarchy is a word frequently used and yet if we explore what anarchy actually means (‘a state of disorder due to absence or nonrecognition of authority’) to me, it is not an intelligent or desirable system. I think people use this word to represent a pro-thought perspective, hence, to me here I am using the work anarchy to represent an idea. Which definitely is contagious!

Christine: What are your thoughts on the abundant fear to think freely in America?

Izaac: I don’t think there is a fear to think freely in America. I think there is an inability. Free-thinking and free-speech is often said to be an inalienable right that sets America aside from the rest of the world. However, I don’t think American society nurtures or encourages ‘free-thought’. Worst still, you could argue it actively discourages it. If anyone’s afraid of free-thought and analysis, it’s those in the upper-echelons, the ones who control and ‘own’ this country, for if everyone was well informed and thought independently, those people may no longer be in a position of power.

I would also argue that there is a lack of motivation to think freely. Affluence and apathy go hand in hand. I think most people would prefer to live in their confortable and secure lives than disturb their blissful mind to critically analyze themselves and their surroundings, which would surely only breed discomfort and frustration. I think critical thought is like a fire, too little and it will disappear completely, too much and it could consume you.

Recycled Propaganda Buddha Beats

“Could Buddha achieve enlightenment in today’s sensory society?”

- Izaac Zevalking

Christine: Do you maintain a practice of meditation?

Izaac: Meditation is something I really want to explore more. I recently started doing bikram yoga again which has a great meditative component. Also, in the bath I get pretty lost in myself ..

Christine: How do you stay healthy everyday?

Izaac: Veganism, juicing, weights, cardio, yoga, herbal tea, sex, laughing, posture, hydration, sauna, bee pollen…

You can get up close to Izaac’s work next week on November 23rd at The Blackbird Gallery. If you can’t make it, move your mind at Instagram.

I Z A A C comes from an extremely artistic background with his mother, Carol Jephcott, and sister, Miriam Zevalking, both having successful professional art careers lasting decades. Izaac grew up in a small rural Warwickshire town in the UK, where his creativity and free thinking were encouraged at a young age. Naturally he flourished in art within an academic setting, and at the age of 14 he was in already in a National Exhibition in Birmingham. In the following few years he became dissatisfied with the traditional nature of art at his school, where controversy and experimentation were not common place.

At this point in his career Izaac, decided to study Sports Technology at the world renowned Loughborough University, opposed to the more traditional subjects and art schools. Here he learned a wide variety of subjects from mechanical engineering to sports science. He excelled graduating top of his class of 100 and receiving a scholarship to study at a Master’s level. Izaac chose 2D and 3D visualization as his Master’s degree and thought it would help him get back in touch with his more liberal and expressive self. Within this course he experimented with countless techniques including metal fabrication, 3D printing, laser cutting and 3D CAD. Once again he shined and graduated top of his class.

After his University education he was offered a position doing Multimedia Design for a sports coaching company. Here he fine-tuned his graphic, web and animation skills but he soon grew tired of the unchallenging and uncreative nature of his work and surroundings and decided to leave the job after over a year of service. Seeking adventure, opportunity and excitement, Izaac got a job doing the graphic design for the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, so packed up his life and moved on to his next challenge. At this job he really mastered simplicity within graphics and developed his independent and critical thinking. However, what he didn’t expect was the huge cultural disparity, he was always obsessed with human and social behavior and issues, but moving to a new country really opened his eyes to how shielded and uniformed he felt many Americans were and felt passionate about trying to change that.

After months of planning and thought, Izaac decided he needed to push his career in a direction that would better the world and inform the public about pertinent issues. He decided to achieve this the only way he knew how, via the use of the visual. He immediately quit his full-time job and started ‘Recycled Propaganda’. His thought was to counteract mass- media propaganda by creating visuals that were either contradictory or ambiguous, with an aim to promote thought and conversation and ultimately inspire personal and societal change. This is achieved through multiple platforms, including digital design, digital prints, stickers, tshirts, canvas art, murals and installations.
Currently you will find Izaac hosting and a painting at the weekly art show at Artisan Nightclub, displaying his work at the Final Friday show at the Palms every month, selling artwork at a booth at First Friday and Vegas Streats every month, doing one off events (i.e. Treasures in motion in September and Foodie fest in October) and one off exhibitions (i.e. RAW art in October and charity benefit at BlackBird gallery in November). Most recently Izaac has rented a warehouse where he will be setting up a gallery space, be doing larger art works and hosting monthly events with other local artists.

Images and quotes provided by Izaac.

Interviewing Colleague & Author, Phillippe Sionneau For Acupuncture Today Magazine

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing one of Chinese Medicine’s internationally known authors and practitioners, Phillippe Sionneau. We enjoyed a philosophical, yet practical discussion about his reverence of upholding the classics during modern times. Here’s a little excerpt.

…The likes of anthropologists, medical practitioners and modern day philosophers are talking about community interdependence and so is the burgeoning global community of the Chinese Medical profession. As we’ve seen in the past five years or so, alternative medicine has shifted to the forefront of mainstream medicine, making it a strong cohesive force in the international integrative health and wellness arenas.

All around us we’re seeing urban, community based clinics popping up, the inclusion of Chinese medicine and acupuncture in large universities and hospitals and acupuncture stretching to far-reaching locations where medical treatment was once scarce. The common theme-infusing community interdependence through integrative medicine. While much of what we’re experiencing in the medical community here and abroad is a huge push toward a more evidence-based approach to practice, some devout practitioners of the classical style suggest the proof of the medicine’s power can be found in its subtle and lasting immaterial traditions.

One thing everyone in the greater Chinese medical community can agree on with praise is that the availability of Chinese medicine is more abundant globally than ever before. With the rise of new social media and mass networking across the web, what was once an abstract concept that only some had heard of is now being experienced first-hand as an affordable, sustainable, viable and life-prolonging medicine.

As practitioners, we continually strive to learn from and wield the complexities of the medicine we hold near and dear. Recently I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the experiences of a well-known European practitioner, Phillippe Sionneau, OMD. His interpretations of Chinese medicine holds valuable insight into the importance of upholding, teaching and preserving the classic principles while engaging an integrative approach to reach wide geographic regions.

He is the author of 24 popular books used in Chinese medical schools globally as well as countless articles and interviews. A long time practitioner & advocate of classical Chinese medicine, Phillippe’s research focuses on psycho-emotional disorders, fundamental theories according to the ancient classics and food therapy principles. He has also devised a glossary of Chinese medical terminology used throughout academia and private practice alike.

Discovering Healing Through The Foundations of The Classics

Christine Dionese: As an integrative health care specialist, I find myself speaking simultaneously in Western and Eastern terms offering anecdotal information my patients can identify with. As we continue to evolve and become more interdependent globally and integrated medically, what advice or thoughts can you offer new practitioners of Chinese medicine to assure their confidence that the classics will reveal the true nature of healing to patients?

Phillippe Sionneau: I think that we need to separate two distinct concepts: our relationship with our patient and the medical world on the one hand, and our understanding and application of Chinese medicine on the other.

Our modern world is governed by Western culture and science. They have become our framework. Therefore, we need to study Western medicine in order to communicate with the mainstream medical community. We must be able to interpret the language of Western medicine so that we can exchange ideas with other health professionals. In addition, our patients think within this Western medical framework. For example, they can easily understand the concept of “inflammation of the lungs”, but it is less easy for them to understand “wind heat attacking the lung.” When patients ask me for an explanation, I tend to use their language, their cultural framework, and not that of Chinese medicine, which is completely foreign to their concept of the world. If my goal is to make myself understood by my patients, I am not going to give them a lecture on Chinese medicine or Taoism! We must be practical and efficient: speak their English, not Chinese!

So, when I am trying to communicate with the medical community and patients, I use the logic, terminology and concepts that are understood by my Western patients, and this is where it stops! Then, on my own, I develop my analysis, my diagnosis, and put a treatment strategy into place within a Chinese framework. When we are practicing medicine we must think in terms of “Chinese medicine”. In our Western minds, despite ourselves, we tend to think that the future brings progress or improvement. We think that what we discover later will be much better than what we know today. This is true for modern science, but it is often false for Chinese medicine. The real treasures of Chinese medicine are already there; they wait for us within the key texts that are sometimes referred to as the “Classics.” All of the practitioners who have amazed me within Chinese medicine, in China or in the West, are almost always those who use a very “classic” approach. So the only thing that I would like to say to young practitioners is you have a very powerful healing modality in your hands. To implement this powerful modality you need two things: 1. Have confidence in your art, 2. Continue to return to a more classic approach to Chinese medicine.” It is after you obtain your diploma and acupuncture license that the real study begins. To summarize, we must use a very Western approach when communicating with doctors or patients, and we must use a completely “Chinese” approach when we treat. Chinese medicine is an incredibly powerful tool. But in order for it to be effective, it needs to be applied the same way as it was thought of 2,000 years ago, and thus brought back to it’s origins… Read more.

Listen To Life Beyond Cancer With Dr. Keith Block

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Do You Still Work In An Office? Unconventional Relativity

TED Coming True Reaching Beyond Now

I really really love my career. It takes up SO MUCH of my time, but because I want it to. My career, my work, is my passion, one of my core loves. Helping other people design the lives they have always wanted to live or didn’t realize they could is the best part of what I do. I know how to do “this” because I figured out how to do it myself and am constantly endeavoring to create more resourceful ways of living.

I’ve always lived an unconventional lifestyle and my work life is no different. I’m good with this- it keeps it fresh, real, fun and always feeling like what I was born to do. In the past two months, I’ve taken an ear to several of my patients, colleagues and friends expressing their want and search for tangible meaning in their careers. I admire their drive to transform and evolve their current career situation to reach one that possesses greater personal value. The biggest fear I hear is that they’re scared to leave the current job because their “wish” job or “dream” job is unconventional.

Here’s what I know- unconventional is relative. For one friend, she was nervous to become a yoga instructor. To me, that’s one of the most practical, rewarding and ethical jobs a person could take. Another patient went on for 30 minutes to tell me about how sick her desk job is making her, but she wasn’t willing to take a thousand-dollar a year pay-cut to work twenty less hours a week and have more freedom to travel… It’s all relative.

What is however common, is the inspiration we all need to consider the unconventional possible. I participate in all sorts of activities to gain inspiration- when my scales are tipped on the busier end, I plug into TED Talks. I’m a bit obsessed with them actually, but in a good way! These two I’m popping in below are great- the first talk might convince you that your office is the worst place to get work done (maybe it will inspire you to get a work from home day or ditch your office job for that yoga studio {wink}). The second talk discusses how disagreements and debates in the workplace actually help teach us to become more critical thinkers.

Let us know what you think or what you’ve recently participated in to bring more drive to your career and work life.

… My friend CB just attended the 99U conference in NYC put on by Behance. That’s where I’m going to get some BIG inspiration next year.

Are You Being Duped Or Just Not Thinking For Yourself?

Pesticides toxic fruit

How often do you overhear a conversation in public you’d love to jump in? For me, it always seems to be in the grocery store. Just the other day I overheard a young kid explaining the benefits of probiotics to his girlfriend- it was awesome to hear his vast knowledge on the topic. As I was waiting in line, I overheard a conversation I couldn’t possibly resist becoming a part of. A young man, who had just self-disclosed to the person ahead of him in line,told the customer that pesticides were probably not as bad as people think they are and there’s very little data to prove they’re harmful. It was so completely false, that I immediately began talking as soon as he stopped,”excuse me- you think pesticides aren’t harmful to you or you just don’t care if they are? Who exactly told you they were good for you? Who told you they weren’t bad for you? Have you researched countless hours to know that they aren’t harmful? You’re a physician and you operate under the un-informed guise that what you’re purporting is true? I’d call you a liar right now, but it sounds like you actually have no idea what you’re talking about.”

It’s really not like me to talk to people like this. In the past it was like me to talk to everyone that I overheard saying something ludicrous. But, let’s face it, we get a little older and we just “don’t go there” every time. The fact that this man strung together that he was 1. a physician, that 2. pesticides weren’t that bad for health and 3. that there’s very little data that exists to prove they’re harmful sent me over the edge. I looked at the consumer and said, “hey, didn’t mean to drop a bomb on your conversation, but I’m also a professional health care provider and I have an ethical, professional standard to uphold- to protect, advocate, liberate, heal and help deliver the truth to people at-large.” The 30-something year old customer smiled at me, thanked me and said to the physician- “dude, don’t be douchey, go learn what the hell you’re telling people if you’re going to call yourself a doctor.” It was a pretty intense five minutes in the grocery store line!

There is nothing worse than a person who is in a position to be a thought leader to cheat people out of a fair chance at understanding the way something really is.

Check out the photos below- this is the way it really is…

P H O T O  O N E- this person is covered from head to toe in protective gear. Notice how his nose and throat are covered and he’s wearing protective goggles? Do you know why? He’s spraying a chemical intended to kill live insects and their larvae. What makes you think that what he’s spraying won’t kill you and your eggs or your ability to fertilize eggs?

Pesticides Spraying

P H O T O  T W O- this is a diagram of the anatomical sites where pesticides have been shown to most readily enter the human body. In medical speak, we call it tissue affinity or tissue permeability. Notice the lit up area of the genitals? Did you know that Dole and Chiquita Banana employ banana farmers who have gone sterile due to their everyday, occupational use of pesticides?

Pesticide Danger Anatomy

P H O T O  T H R E E- know what an endocrine disruptor is? It’s the primary and partial cause of 99.9 % of the health concerns that I treat people for in private practice. Endocrine disruptors aka environmental toxins that we absorb because we possess tissue permeability, are one of the leading causes of today’s modern diseases, including cancer, auto-immune diseases thyroid disease, infertility… All pesticides are known endocrine disruptors. If you think there’s a dispute about whether they cause cancer or not, then lay the debate to rest now- they DO cause cancer. Remember, fetus, babies and small children are sponges- they absorb everything and their cells rapidly divide- would you want pesticides that have been absorbed through permeable tissues to cause your child’s cells to divide atypically? I doubt it. The Environmental Working Group lists pesticides as known carcinogens and helps you learn how to avoid them.

Stop Endocrine Disruptors

Are you still not convinced you’re being duped? Think it’s no big deal that compounds delivered to eradicate a life form have no affect on your personal viability? Think that guy above spraying would be wearing all that gear if pesticides weren’t harmful? If after reading this you think it’s okay to eat foods with pesticides, well, then you’ve essentially handed over your freedom to choose for yourself. You’ve said, “hey, instead of growing me life-giving, nutrient dense food, I’d like food that will cause me diseases, which will lead to me incurring tons of medical bills as I get older, which can rob my children of having a fair chance at thriving free from chemicals…”

Think I’m being extreme? Good, I am. I hope you’re inspired to go organic and tell other people how they can too!

Pesticides In Your Water Source

 

Pesticides tips-avoid-pesticide-consumption

Interviewing Anthony Giovanniello For OM Newspaper Of Pacific College

Acupuncture Ambassadors Christine Dionese Reaching Beyond Now Interview

As integrative medicine has pushed into the mainstream, so has the talent and vision of the many scholars, professors, advocates, artists, healers and writers I’ve had an opportunity to work with for almost a decade now. In my private practice I help educate patients by telling stories about what these pioneers are bringing the global community in terms of health care freedom. Two gentlemen’s work I admire are the creator and healer, Anthony Giovanniello of Acupuncture Ambassadors and Philippe Sionneau, successfully published academic author, professor and healer. It’s with great pleasure I’m able to bring Reaching Beyond Now my interviews with each of these men.

A special thanks to The OM Newspaper of Pacific College for featuring this interview and colleague, Dr. Stacy Gomes, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Pacific College for her introduction on the burgeoning front of global health.

The Great Spread: Acupuncture Ambassadors

Today we’re joined by Anthony Giovanniello L.Ac. Television producer, now turned Chinese medical service provider & global service advocate, Anthony resides in NYC and travels to serve countless countries across the world. The mission of Acupuncture Ambassadors is to travel, teach and treat with acupuncture internationally in areas of the world where healthcare is minimal or non-existent. Anthony’s dynamic private practice specializing in Japanese style acupuncture is located in the heart of New York City.

CD: Anthony, what is the current goal or mission of Acupuncture Ambassadors?

AMG: The defining goal of Acupuncture Ambassadors is the integration of the medicine
of acupuncture into global healthcare. Our mission is to organize sustainable acupuncture
treatment clinics and training programs worldwide to care for refugees, victims of violence, war,
international conflict and the poor.

At Acupuncture Ambassadors we feel that in a war-torn world where there are countless victims:
refugees, sufferers of torture and human trafficking and the desperately poor, so many of them
have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In developing countries with limited or non-
existent healthcare these individuals have little or no hope for relief. Their illness affects their
ability to learn, work, enjoy life and contribute to their family, community, country and our
world.

As you may know for many centuries acupuncture has been used as an effective, economical
and versatile treatment protocol for so many health issues including PTSD and its devastating
symptoms such as digestive issues, chronic pain, respiratory, cardiac and nervous disorders
and depression. Our Acupuncture Ambassadors are dedicated to sharing their knowledge with
those in need by treating patients, setting up sustainable clinics and ultimately schools to train
personnel charged with their care. We serve communities independently and partner with
existing humanitarian projects that are interested in adopting an integrated approach to global
healthcare.

We believe that global change begins with personal transformation and our goal is to support
global healing by mainstreaming humanitarian acupuncture while contributing to the health and
productivity of individuals worldwide, one point at a time…

To continue reading the full-length interview and see the introduction by Dr. Stacy Gomes, download the new (free) Grad Mags app at the Apple store. Search “Grad Mags” and continue to the 2013 Spring edition. The interview is, Pacific College: Serving Others Through Global Health. You can also download the pdf here.

My interview with Philippe Sionneau, Discovering Healing Through The Foundations of The Classics will appear in the April edition of, Acupuncture Today Magazine.

Spring Is Ahead At Garden Eats, We’re Talking The Stuff Of Life Here

Garden Eats Business Cards

Garden Eats Spring

I know, I know, some of you see the word, “Spring” and think of a time far, far away as you watch the snowflakes fall outside your wintery windows. But, it really is coming- the daisies, April showers, bunnies hopping in the grass- you know, the season of flowers and pastels will be here sooner than you think! Here in San Diego we get to enjoy the long growing season and warmer weather a little earlier than most of the US, so we’re gearing up early for what’s ahead.

If you’re new here at Reaching Beyond Now, hello! Welcome! Garden Eats is my organic kitchen gardening blog and business. We teach people how to live well in the modern world by growing and eating organic, sustainable food. It’s a little less sciencey than what you get here and a lot more bubbly (yes, sarcasm prevails here at RBN- how else could we talk about all that sensitive hot-button stuff).

If you haven’t visited Garden Eats yet, please do! I’m co-writing two books right now- one with friend and genius UK based health chef, Magnus Mumby and the other with product developer and craft cocktail mixologist, Jeremy LeBlanc. I’ll be repping my best in all things food science, slow food philosophy and Chinese medicinal food therapy in these collections, but sharing the process and of course, recipes all along the way.

Kath, Garden Eats co-founder is prepping everyone now to get their seed catalogs ordered too! Last year so many folks wrote to us asking where to get seeds so she wanted to let everyone know much earlier this year! If you’re living in SoCal or another warm-weathered locale, stay tuned over there, she’ll be featuring an awesome article about soil culture- the thing that makes or breaks the health of your garden.

Another reason to visit Garden Eats? How about two- we just gave the site a new look to navigate recipes, lifestyle features and growing tips much easier along with our newly featured section on culinary drinks and spirits. The second reason- we’re still not done doing our giveaways for the new year!

The S T U F F. And, what’s to come in the new year here at Reaching Beyond Now? A lot more of the stuff that most people don’t like to write about- the stuff that’s difficult to talk about, the stuff that’s controversial, the stuff that is however, enlightening, empowering and oh so the stuff of life.

Guest Post: Dr. Janina Scarlet Ph.D On Becoming Compassionate

MCA Dalai Lama

Love & Compassion

Compassion It Bracelets

Please welcome my dear friend, neuroscientist, writer and compassion researcher, Dr. Janina Scarlet Ph.D. Janina is here to welcome in the new year at Reaching Beyond Now with a post on how to live well in the modern world by developing a daily practice of compassion.

The holidays might be over but it is always the season to be compassionate. On a sad Friday morning in December we were all shocked to discover the terrible tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. I’m sure that many of us felt a deep feeling of sadness and the desire to alleviate the pain and suffering that the children and the families affected by the tragedy are experiencing now. This genuine empathy and desire to reduce one’s suffering, regardless of whether he or she is a friend, acquaintance, stranger or an enemy, is called compassion. Compassion is an unadulterated empathy without any kind of attachment, judgment or expectation of something in return. Buddhist monks meditate daily to send compassionate thoughts to the world. Whether you believe in the power of meditation or sending energy and positive thoughts, or prayer to someone, I would like to invite you all to join me in loving kindness meditation:

Sit in a way that allows you to be comfortable and relaxed and when you’re ready close your eyes. If it is comfortable for you, place your hands on your heart, if it is not, place them down on your sides.

Scan through your body and let go of whatever tension you can. Loosen through the shoulders, soften the hands and relax the belly. Take a few deep breaths.

Now allow yourself to remember to open up to your basic goodness. You might remember the times you have been kind or generous. You might recall your natural desire to make others happy and to reduce their suffering.

Think of the children and families affected by the tragedy. Reflect on this person’s goodness by sensing how he or she also wants to be happy and doesn’t want to suffer. As you silently whisper each phrase of loving kindness, imagine how it might be for this person to experience your words –

May you be filled with loving kindness
May you feel my love now
May you accept yourself just as you are
May you be happy
May your heart and mind awaken
May you be free from suffering

Now think of someone who is dear to you. This could be a partner, a child, a parent, a friend or even a pet. Reflect on this being’s basic goodness, sensing what it is in particular that you love about him or her. You might remember that they want to be happy and don’t want to suffer. In your heart, feel your appreciation for this dear one and begin offering your love.

May you be filled with loving kindness
May you feel my love now
May you accept yourself just as you are
May you be happy
May your heart and mind awaken
May you be free from suffering

Now, widen your circle of caring and awareness by bringing to mind a “neutral” person. This is someone you might see regularly but don’t know well and don’t have strong negative or positive feelings about. Reflect on this person’s goodness by sensing how he or she also wants to be happy and does not want to suffer.

May you too be filled with loving kindness
May you feel my love now
May you accept yourself just as you are
May you be happy
May your heart and mind awaken
May you be free from suffering

Bring to mind someone with whom you have a difficult relationship- perhaps someone who evokes anger, fear or hurt. First take some moments to bring a kind attention to whatever arises in you as you reflect on this person. Hold your own feelings with loving kindness. Then, turning your attention to this person, try to see some aspect of his or her basic goodness. If it is difficult to perceive kindness or honesty, simply reflect on how this person wants to be happy and does not want to suffer. Holding him or her in a gentle attention, begin offering the phrases of loving kindness.

May you too be filled with loving kindness
May you feel my love now
May you accept yourself just as you are
May you be happy
May your heart and mind awaken
May you be free from suffering

Now allow yourself to remember and open up to you basic goodness. You might remember the times you have been kind or generous. You might recall your natural desire to be happy and not to suffer.

If acknowledging your own goodness is difficult, then look at yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you. What does that person love about you?

Now with a silent whisper begin offering yourself loving kindness. As you repeat each phrase to yourself, sense the meaning of the words and let them arise from the sincerity of your heart.

May I too be filled with loving kindness
May I accept myself just as I am.
May I be happy.
May my heart and mind awaken;
May I be free from suffering

Take a few moments to note how you are feeling at this precise moment. When you are ready, come back to the room and open your eyes. Take a deep breath and thank yourself for allowing yourself to be compassionate. Reflect on how that made you feel.

C O M P A S S I O N is something we can practice daily and spread throughout the world. Compassion can alleviate conflicts, reduce stress and has been found to have tremendous benefits on mental and physical health. By reducing stress that arises from conflicts, we can manually lower our blood pressure, reduce physical and emotional pain and potentially lower the risk of heart disease. You might have noticed that when you are acting in a loving and compassionate way toward someone, such as hugging a crying child or offering to help someone in need, you feel better about yourself. That is because our bodies actually release a “love hormone” called oxytocin, which makes us feel love toward the recipient, as well as general happiness.

His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, often reminds us that “if you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Compassion movements are starting to spread worldwide, with the creation of social media forums such as Facebook and Twitter, making it easier to set off global movements. One grassroots movement toward spreading compassion started recently here in San Diego is already receiving worldwide attention. This movement is called Compassion It. It is a global movement aimed to inspire worldwide acts of compassion. People of different ages, from children to seniors are joining the movement to spread compassionate acts toward others.

One way that Compassion It promotes its movement is by offering reversible bracelets. The bracelets serve as reminders to be compassionate toward others and self, and once the act of compassion has been completed, the bracelet is flipped to its alternate color.

The bracelets have become popular among medical students to serve as conscientious reminders to be compassionate to their patients. The movement has spread to local high school students as well who are learning about the value of compassion toward others. Compassion movement is spreading across the world. Let us know how you practice compassion on a daily basis and what movements you’ve become a part of! 

I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year ahead.

Warmly,

Janina Scarlet, Ph.D

Clean Up Your Act- Your Kids Will Thank You

Hundreds of studies come across my desk each month. Some good, some bad, some theories in progress. While I pay attention to each one with a careful critical eye, I can’t help but to scrutinize the ones involving the global nature of environmental chemical exposure and children.

At my house, Ellen Sandbeck’s bible, Organic Housekeeping sits on my counter (and is well-read). Under the sink resides eco-friendly cleaners. In our refrigerator exists living, organic whole foods. In my yard? More of the same. We don’t invite chemicals into our home.

I T I S S O E A S Y to lead a sustainable lifestyle. I don’t even have to tell you how to do it. You already know how. It’s whether you’ll choose to or not. The Environmental Working Group formed to help you achieve a chemical free lifestyle to stave off all of the diseases we cry over and say, “I wish I had lived my life differently so I didn’t get x, y or z.” The search possibilities are infinite. Bookmark and visit them often.

Decided to have kids? Read the abstract below and let me know what changes you end up making in your home. Your kids will thank you later. You just might save some money too.

Children’s Cognitive Health: The Influence of Environmental Chemical Exposures
David C. Bellinger, PhD, MSc

Abstract

Over the past forty years, concern has grown that some of the 80,000 chemicals used commercially could be exerting adverse effects on children’s health. Many of these chemicals were synthesized for the first time within recent decades, suggesting that the body’s detoxification mechanisms, the results of thousands of years of evolution, might not be effective in limiting their impact. The potential for exposure is substantial, as the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) estimates that 2.5 billion pounds of chemicals are emitted yearly by large industrial facilities. At the same time, it is remarkable how limited are the data on the toxicities associated with most of these chemicals. The US EPA maintains the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), which serves as the repository of the consensus scientific opinions on chemical toxicity. Yet IRIS lists only 550 chemicals (www.epa.gov/iriswebp/iris/stand-al.htm), indicating significant lacunae in the knowledge needed to estimate and manage the risks associated with current exposures.

For many chemicals, most of the available data pertains to occupational exposures. The amount of data available regarding the potential effects of chemicals on children’s brain development is much more limited. It was not until the 1990s that the US EPA published guidelines for registrants with regard to testing in animal models of the developmental neurotoxicity of certain chemicals, primarily organophosphate pesticides, for application in human risk assessments (US EPA OPPTS Health Effects Test Guideline 870.6300; http://www.epa.gov/EPA-TOX/1998/May/Day-14/t12303.htm). At present, for many of the chemical exposures of current…

To view the original full-text article, please continue here.

Thanks to Modern Healthcare Professional and James Joyce’s chemical cabinet.

Publish Negative Research Because Even The Positive Isn’t Always So Bright

You might be better off without your drug therapy. But how would you know? Would you decide based on how you feel? Happy today, getting off that anti-depressant. Blood pressure wasn’t too high, forget the pills, let’s hit the roller coaster. It’s unlikely that most of us would scrap our meds without our doctor’s approval right? The question proactive practitioners have been asking is, should our patients have ever been on that drug in the first place?

Here’s what you don’t know that you might find disconcerting: almost all journals only publish positive findings and are not interested in publishing negative data.

The problem? You now know this, but a hefty slew of health care providers either don’t, or won’t end up digging deep enough through the stacks of unpublished data to discover if there exists bias regarding drug therapies (that they may be prescribing in clinical practice).

So, what does this tell us?

Dr. Ben Goldacre explains in his thoughtful & hopefully inspiring T E D talk. Watch & learn. Then come back to let us know what you think.

Want To Know What’s In Your Food? Vote YES on 37

In four days you will decide if you allow your right to know to vanish or whether you’ll vote YES on 37 to secure your freedom to choose as a consumer.

What’s Really Going On Financially

Don’t fool yourself, the rich, biased baggers of 37 aren’t doing you any favors here by scaring you into thinking that labeling will cost California millions. It may cost them millions in lost dividends, but not you. Labeling could keep you from developing autoimmune diseases, cancer or worse, a genetic health condition that isn’t even labeled yet. That could save you, your family and taxpayers a lot of heartache and money in the long run!

It’s great that activists are focusing on the negative health affects of GMO foods, but think about this. If 37 fails to pass, shares go down. Monsanto

But It’s A Poorly Written Proposition

What proposition is written well? None. Wondering why certain foods are exempt from labeling? The YES on 37 campaign says that the exemptions are common sense. I read the exemptions and agree. The baggers are trying to confuse you, the proposition is quite clear. Still think it’s confusing, make sense of it here.

With only a few days left, please welcome back Lauren Ampolos, ethical rights advocate and researcher to break down the prop and why voting YES on 37 guarantees your freedom of choice.

E L E C T I O N  season is in full swing with just about everybody ready for it to be over. While we all likely know our pick for president this term, some of us are still struggling with ballot measures. This is especially true in California, where the people initiate which measures show up on the ballot (after collecting millions of signatures and spending who knows how much time, money and effort!). While many important measures are being voted on this season, California’s Prop 37 is this election’s stand-out ballot item – millions are being poured into defeating it, and we have to wonder, who is opposing our right to know and why?

Let’s break down Prop 37. Basically, some regular, food-loving folks got together and recognized how frustrating it can be to purchase food when the average (and even savvy) consumer has NO IDEA if their selections contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In fact, prior to this proposition, most consumers did not even know about the presence of GMOs in their food! This group decided that they wanted to initiate a proposition that would inform the consumer about GMOs in their food supply and proposed that GMOs should be labeled.

If up until you haven’t considered what GMO foods really are, it is important to understand the concept of what they are and how they affect you, your children, the environment and health care costs. GMOs are foods grown from seeds that were genetically manipulated in a lab. These seeds have DNA that contains various viruses, bacteria, pesticides and even genes from other living creatures (GM rice is made with human DNA!).

To clarify, these seeds are something that would NEVER occur in nature, and are completely different from the kind of selective breeding that farmers (and nature!) have practiced for centuries. GM food has never been tested for long-term safety in humans, although it would serve to have healthy concern considering that these seeds were designed to kill other living creatures (eg GM corn and soy were genetically manipulated to cause bug’s stomachs to explode after consumption, thereby killing off the “pests” that feed on crops planted for the human and livestock food supply).

Recent animal research is also alarming. While it is difficult to obtain the patented seeds (yes, patented) for independent research purposes, some scientists did and results suggest that there are various health issues that arise from GM consumption. Several studies indicate cancer, infertility, autoimmune disorders, food allergies and gastrointestinal problems from eating GM foods. Interestingly enough, since GM foods were introduced into our food supply and slowly took over (eg the foods that are GMO dominate about 70-90% of the supply), humans have demonstrated an increase in all of the above-mentioned health problems. In fact, if you think about the requirements for human research, it would be 100% UNETHICAL for any research group to conduct an experiment on GM foods in humans with the data that we currently have in animal models. Yet, every time we go to the grocery store and buy our favorite products, we consent to a larger experiment, and for most people this is without a hint of awareness or consent. This is where Prop 37 comes into play.

In a nutshell, the proposition calls for the labeling of GMOs in our stores and on food packaging. This is the opportunity for you, as a consumer, to make an informed choice about what you are purchasing and feeding yourself and your loved ones. This is about your freedom to have full disclosure about the choices you are making when it involves your food.

Opponents of the proposition (eg poorly reputed biotech companies, like Monsanto, DOW, Bayer, Syngenta, and Dupont, and the major (junk) food companies like PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Kraft, Nestle, Kellog’s and General Mills, who depend on GM foods to boost their profits at the expense of your health) have spent over $40 million dollars to defeat this measure. They have spread rumors that the burden of cost would fall on consumers (eg changing labels would be too expensive… Yet, when was the last time Coca-Cola opted to not change their cans for the holidays? The answer is never. They change labels ALL the time without a cost increase for consumers), and that it would cost taxpayers to maintain oversight of the legislation. However, the facts are that no independent research has agreed the proposition will cost consumers more, and nonpartisan groups have determined the annual cost of oversight could range from a hundred thousand to one million dollars. Divided among taxpayers that amounts to about one to three cents (yes, pennies!) at most. Many would gladly pay that, and more to have the right to know what is in their food.

What is puzzling is that there is not more definitive support for Prop 37. The most recent polls show a 17 percent drop in support for the measure at 44 percent, with 13 percent still undecided. This is a stark contrast to the supposed 86 percent of Americans who are in favor of GMO labeling.

If you are in the 44 percent that are committed to GMO labeling on your food, help spread the word! Talk to friends and family about the importance of this proposition. To the 13 percent who are still undecided, please feel free to ask questions and engage in conversation here. YOU have a right to know what you are eating, even if you still decide to eat GMOs (although, it might be helpful to know that both presidential candidates, and even the Monsanto cafeteria avoid them).

A YES vote of Prop 37 is the first step to direct consumer awareness about GMOs in the food supply. A YES vote on Prop 37 will communicate to big business that they cannot leave you in the dark and experiment with your individual health, and the health of the environment without your consent. A YES vote on Prop 37 gives the power back to the consumer, with little to no cost. So, the only question that remains is which box will YOU check on your ballot?

VOTE YES ON PROP 37!

Wake Up Your Mind Wednesday: GMO Madness

GM technology permits companies to ensure that everything we eat is owned by them…

I really enjoy featuring guests at Reaching Beyond Now. Why? Turns out, you, the readers of this blog love it (thanks for writing me notes and letters telling me so)! Keeping up with current events and the election topics, Lauren Ampolos is back today to candidly share her thoughts on GMOs. Her thoughts aren’t wild ideas, opinions or beliefs, but a fired-up (and rightfully so) glimpse of how the few are attempting to make a “while you were sleeping” type decision that may elicit irreversible affects on the many.

Let’s Just Call Bullshit Now

After researching who all of you readers are (so I can best understand who I’m writing to and what you all like to see), it appears that you live all over the world, not only range in ages from about 20-80, but show a common interest in farming, science, spirituality, gardening, lifestyle design, integrative medicine and progressive health, social psychology, free-thinking, compassion, social consciousness, social ecology, improving research integrity and lastly- calling bullshit on monopolizing, propagandizing human-rights thieves. Since you all share that last commendable attribute, we’ve got a great post for you today- but first, an excerpt from best-selling author, activist and humanitarian, John Robbins:

The world has a surplus of food, but still people go hungry. They go hungry because they cannot afford to buy it. They cannot afford to buy it because the sources of wealth and the means of production have been captured and in some cases monopolized by landowners and corporations. The purpose of the biotech industry is to capture and monopolize the sources of wealth and the means of production …

GM technology permits companies to ensure that everything we eat is owned by them. They can patent the seeds and the processes which give rise to them. They can make sure that crops can’t be grown without their patented chemicals. They can prevent seeds from reproducing themselves. By buying up competing seed companies and closing them down, they can capture the food market, the biggest and most diverse market of all.

No one in her right mind would welcome this, so the corporations must persuade us to focus on something else … We are told that … by refusing to eat GM products, we are threatening the developing world with starvation, an argument that is, shall we say, imaginative …

- John Robbins, Huffington Post contribution

GMOs… don’t know what they are? You will now. KNOW what they are and want to take Lauren’s GMO challenge? Get started now here.

Now, please welcome Lauren!

I T  N E V E R  C E A S E S  T O  A M A Z E  M E  that so many people still don’t know what genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are, considering all of the controversy AND the fact that they unfortunately dominate our current food system. Case in point: I was at the grocery store the other night and asked if they carried non-GMO tortilla chips… the grocer  (yes, the guy that works at the grocery store, selling the food) had no idea what I was talking about. I was shocked! How could a man, working in a grocery store not know that the majority of the food (estimated to be 70% in your typical, mainstream grocery store) in his store contained these lab-manufactured products, and worse, not even know what they are? I was horrified!

So, let’s answer the question at hand… What are GMOs? GMOs are organisms which are created in a lab in an attempt to (supposedly) increase desirable characteristics of crops, such as a built-in tolerance to herbicides/pesticides (allowing for more spraying), herbicides/pesticides in the DNA of the plant (to kill the natural things that eat the produce), to withstand drought, cold weather and other natural issues that could affect crop yield. Some GMOs even contain human DNA (seriously). One of the alleged benefits of GMO use is that they can help create food security (which is seemingly important during a time where the world is worried about exponential population growth and how our beautiful Earth is going to support us all). Yet, I have to wonder, is it really a good idea for us to be messing around with Mother Nature in this capacity? What do we actually know about the safety of GMOs?

The answer is: not much. To date, there are NO studies that demonstrate GMO safety for humans. That means when you eat GMO food, you are literally part of a huge and extremely unethical science experiment… Instead of scientists actually collecting data on the safety of these organisms, they are just collecting dollars. How you ask? Well, because these seeds are bio-engineered in a lab, the seeds are patentable… people literally own specific types of seeds and have sued farmers who use these seeds, regardless of whether or not the use was intentional or desired. Think about it (you learned this in elementary school!): plants have a really special way of working to survive… they can’t walk around, find a mate and breed, so they were designed to disseminate via nature (e.g. wind, other animals fur or animal droppings, et cetera). So, naturally, the seeds spread. When the owners of the seeds test other’s products and recognize their seeds are growing on another farm, they can take legal action against said farm. This discourages others from growing similar types of produce (why would you grow organic corn next to a GMO farmer who will just sue you when their crop migrates over to your farm and ruins your produce?), which decreases bio-diversity (necessary to maintain healthy crops – think about what would happen if we all inbred instead of branched out genetically!), and competition (which is necessary to maintain healthy capitalism). Basically, if you own the patent to a seed (and, really, is it ethical to patent a seed?!?), you can manipulate the market.

On top of the fact that research has yet to prove GMO safety in humans and that it is a profit-driven monster, there is also a plethora of research bottom-lining them dangerous to the environment, animals, and humans. To list just a few issues, GMOs are suspected to cause food allergies, decreased fertility, birth complications (e.g. low birth weight, potential developmental disorders – more research needs to be conducted), liver and kidney damage (think about it: GMOs were designed to kill living things… sure, you are bigger than a bug, so it will take more to kill you, but are you not a living thing? Will eating poison in small amounts not affect you?), potentially permanently alter gut flora (important for nutrient absorption, the immune system, mental health, obesity, to name a few), antibiotic resistance, super viruses, herbicide-resistant weeds, an adversely affected ecosystem (think: the insects and animals that keep the ecosystem balanced are dying from GMOs), insecticide-resistant bugs (scary!), contaminated organic food (really nothing is safe… organic food, despite the fact that a major criteria is that it is non-GMO, is estimated to be at about 3% GMO because of contaminated farms). These are just some of the issues.

Because of the controversy, and the fact that more and more people are learning about GMOs, there is a big push to label GMOs in various states. The proposed legislation varies from state to state (if it’s even being proposed; research your state to find out more – see link below). Unfortunately, one of the biggest GMO companies out there, Monsanto (which, surprise, surprise, also owns the herbicide/insecticide used in the bioengineering and thus, spraying of these crops) is responsible for 87% of the GMO market. What this means is that they have a TON of money to spend on protecting their (literal) cash crops. For example, in Vermont and Connecticut, where the majority (90% in both states!) of its residents are in support of GMO labeling, Monsanto threatened to sue the state if this measure made it onto the ballot… guess what happened? The state caved and GMO labeling is currently on hold. Not only does Monsanto have the money to legally threaten entire states, high-ranking federal government members also have close ties with Monsanto. In order to achieve labeling, there is a tough battle ahead and the people must remain united and committed to the issue.

While labeling legislation is clearly the first necessary (and huge!) step in educating people about GMOs, I fear it’s not enough. Food will still be contaminated with GMOs. Farmers are also forced to change farming strategies in order to reduce the effects of contamination. Farmers dedicated to producing organic crops, are required to plant their seeds later than normal, which ironically (considering GMOs are supposed to stop world hunger) results in a smaller yield of organic crop. Additionally, dependent on the legislation, who will be required to label? For example, will you know if a plate you order when dining out contains Agent Orange corn, or Human DNA rice? Will restaurants, coffee shops, and school cafeterias be required to label along with food manufacturers?

Only time will tell how the government decides to handle GMOs. In the meantime, there is plenty that YOU can do to improve this problematic situation.

1) Be sure to buy local and organic, especially with these.

2) Support legislation in your state. Get involved. Sign petitions.

3) Educate others. Talk to your family, friends, neighbors, strangers. Let them know what GMOs are (toxic) and help them to make better choices.

4) Ask for what you want. At the grocery store they always ask you if you’ve found everything – tell them if you’d like to see more or less of something on the shelves. When you order at a restaurant, ask where they get their food (this can be a great starting point for educating restaurant workers, like servers, as well). Contact producers of your favorite foods and supplements (they all have contact information on their containers – YOU are the consumer, you shape the product with requests and purchases).

5) Don’t give up. There will always be minor setbacks and disappointments. Think about all of the things we didn’t know 5, 10 and 50 years ago… beliefs change; standards change. Do your best to make this information a part of mainstream knowledge, and know that eventually health, balance and well-being will prevail.

Thanks Lauren!

Your Vote Counts… At Least On A State Level

On November 6, 2012 Californians will vote on prop 37. If passed, California will be required to label all GMO-containing foods. The “vote no” on 37 commercials that imply family farms will be jeopardized is appalling- all 37 does is strip Californians of their right to know what’s in their food supply chain. Over 50 countries worldwide currently require GMO labeling.

Does all this GMO talk make you want to start growing your own food? Check out the Seed Savers Exchange Here- they’re (a non-profit) dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom and open-pollinated seeds (No GMOs of course).

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