Nell Newman

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Nell On Earth: An interview with Nell Newman, creator of Newman’s Own Organics

An enlightening interview on Grist.com about the business of organics, but what’s up with her answer to “are you vegetarian?”:

I was a vegetarian for three years as a kid. Now I am a “flexitarian.” My friends say it’s a PC name for hypocrite. I eat a little bit of everything. Ninety percent of what I eat is organic, and any meat I buy is organic, but when I go out to dinner, I don’t always investigate the ingredients. I don’t say no when I go to a friend’s for dinner and they’ve prepared a non-organic meal.

Isn’t she answering two totally separate questions there?

That aside, Nell’s got some interesting things to say about big business/mainstream organics:

Oh, it’s good that someone’s mainstreaming this industry. Adopting big-business practices is one thing, and adopting agribusiness practices that would dilute the meaning of organic is another. On the whole, I think we’re doing a pretty good job of preserving the integrity of organic foods.

As for business practices, you have to be realistic. Even running a small organics company, I’ve got constraints. I would love to not have to ship anything and use nasty packaging, but you know what, that’s not a reality. You want to do everything regionally, and just support local small farmers regionally, and then you find out there are no good pretzel manufacturers anywhere on the West Coast, so you have to make your pretzels on the East Coast and ship them. So you do as best you can, but most of the time, it’s difficult to have those high ideals and stick to them, in terms of how you produce stuff. People would love us to put our pretzels in wax paper, but would they really like it when they bought a stale pretzel? It’s a very difficult balance.

GM Blog

I got a note the other night from Prabu Ram from New Delhi, India. Prabu runs Infoserve, a blog that’s followed news related to genetically modified foods since March. The coverage is balanced and lets you draw your own conclusions and is worth keeping an eye on.

Want organic? Start with oils.

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A new article in The Environmental Magazine titled “Choose wisely for heart-healthy fats” encourages consumers to buy organic oils, arguing that if any part of your diet must be organic, it’s the oils you use to cook with:

[I]f you can afford to buy only one organic food item, it should be culinary oils. They base their assertions on several things, but at the top of the list is the fact that heavy metals (which can show up in sewage sludge used to treat some nonorganic farms) and industrial chemicals such as pesticides tend to stick to fats.

The article also has a good section on which oils to choose for different types of cooking to avoid “damaging” the oils, which can increase the amount of cancer-causing agents in your food.

Seeds of Change Spicy Peanut Noodles

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Even though Seeds of Change is now owned by M&M/Mars, I couldn’t resist a recent sale that made one of their frozen meals a mere 99 cents. Their “Spicy Peanut Noodles” dish was really flavorful and tasty and, as is their policy, 100% of the ingredients are organic.

One thing to note: with 4 1/2 grams of saturated fat and 650mg of sodium, this ain’t health food. It’s also far from vegan, containing heavy cream (gee, where could that sat fat have come from?) and honey. But for lacto vegetarians who don’t mind the occasional “heavy” meal, this Seeds of Change frozen meal fits the bill.

Is the modern organic movement missing the point?

In the current issue of the NetFuture e-mail newsletter, there is an interesting article titled Cheap Food at Any Cost, which discusses the organic industry and how bigger in organics is likely not better:

The extra heating of [Horizon’s organic] milk is necessary in order to prevent deterioration of the product as it’s being shipped all over the country. Of course, the heating also reduces the nutritional value of the milk. This milk, in other words, is more processed than some conventional, local, non-organic milk.

Also outlined are the three original goals of organic farming proponents in the 1960s and how those goals are reached by large corporations jumping on the organic bandwagon in 2003:

Recalling the “organic dream” of the 1960s and 1970s, Pollan reminded us
that the vision had three key elements: 1) green, diverse, pesticide-free
farms, 2) an overhauled distribution system with an emphasis on the local
and small, 3) and food kept closer to its natural state, with less
processing. Big Organic accommodates itself only to the first of these
three principles. As a result, the entire system threatens to be
dominated by the high-calorie strawberry, factory-farmed meat, and (sooner
or later, if organic advocate Joan Gussow’s surmise is correct) the
organic Twinkie.

Well worth reading.