I’ve spend considerable time documenting the utter pseudoscience, misinformation, and downright idiocy about “chemicals” in food regularly inflicted on the public by the misguided “food activist” named Vani Hari, who is better known by the moniker she chose for herself “The Food Babe.” Indeed, in decade-plus that I’ve been running this blog and the few years before that during which I honed my skeptical skills on Usenet and other discussion forums, rarely have I come across someone so full of the arrogance of ignorance, someone who is the living embodiment of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Perhaps the most spectacularly dumb thing I’ve seen her say is that there “is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever.”

No, actually, there’s something even dumber that Hari’s said, namely her repeating of a particularly silly adage that that if you can’t pronounce a chemical’s name (actually, if a third grader can’t pronounce it), you shouldn’t be eating it, which has led to all sorts of ridicule in which one wonders whether you can have more chemicals in your food if you have a chemistry degree because, you know, you can pronounce them.

Oh, and don’t even get me started on Hari’s now infamous article about the air in commercial airplanes, which was so epic in its ignorance that she actually tried to make it disappear down the memory hole. If you’re going to accuse airlines of diluting the oxygen in their airplanes with 50% nitrogen and don’t know that the atmosphere is close to 80% nitrogen naturally, you’ve really embarrassed yourself royally.

When last I left The Food Babe, she was very, very unhappy over an article by Courtney Rubin in the New York Times entitled Taking On the Food Industry, One Blog Post at a Time, so much so that, uncharacteristically, she actually struck back with a nasty and self-pitying article. I suppose the reason was obvious. She had, to my knowledge, never been the subject of such a critical article by a media outlet as large and important as the NYT. More importantly, I suspect that Hari was concerned because her first book had just been released, and articles as critical as Rubin’s in the NYT could be bad for sales. After all, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about The Food Babe, it’s that she’s all about monetizing her activities, the better to fund her “activism.”

So why am I bringing The Food Babe up again?

The other day, I noticed an influx of traffic coming to this blog from, of all places, Gawker.com, which to me seemed to be a rather unlikely site to be directing traffic my way. It turns out that the traffic was coming from an article by Yvette d’Entremont entitled The “Food Babe” Blogger Is Full of Shit. No doubt. I couldn’t have put it better myself, and indeed, the article is an irreverent and somewhat profane takedown of the phenomenon that is The Food Babe. I don’t need to quote large swaths of it, because I’ve covered much the same ground myself over several blog posts, but I must admit that its attitude is something Orac can admire because, well, it’s quite insolent. What you need to know are a couple of things:

I am an analytical chemist with a background in forensics and toxicology. Before working full-time as a science writer and public speaker, I worked as a chemistry professor, a toxicology chemist, and in research analyzing pesticides for safety. I now run my own blog, Science Babe, dedicated to debunking pseudoscience that tends to proliferate in the blogosphere. Reading Hari’s site, it’s rare to come across a single scientific fact. Between her egregious abuse of the word “toxin” anytime there’s a chemical she can’t pronounce and asserting that everyone who disagrees with her is a paid shill, it’s hard to pinpoint her biggest sin.

Some other statements from The Food Babe were also noted, ones that I hadn’t heard before, such as some nonsense about kale that I will get to shortly.

In the interests of full disclosure, I will admit here that I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye with d’Entremont. In particular, I wasn’t too pleased when she posted pictures of herself on Facebook smiling with heroes to the antivaccine movement, Robert “Dr. Bob” Sears and “Dr. Jay” Gordon, with the latter of whom she is shown planting a big kiss on the cheek. That’s all I’m going to say about that right now. Past disagreements aside, in this particular case, Yvette d’Entremont/Science Babe is on very solid ground. And, of course, she’s a chemist; chemists like Joe Schwarcz, for instance, are particularly irritated by The Food Babe because Vani Hari is relentless in spreading misinformation, pseudoscience, and fear mongering about chemicals to a wide audience and, of course, because her misinformation is of a particularly painfully stupid variety that causes real pain to real chemists when they read it, much as quacks’ misuse of epigenetics causes me pain or their misuse of “quantum” causes physicists pain. Nor is it an ad hominem attack to say this, because her statements are what’s being criticized here because they are so demonstrably wrong.

In any case, I can’t help but wonder whether Hari is becoming more sensitive to criticism, if she has a particularly intense dislike of d’Entremont, or if she’s decided to adopt a different philosophy over criticism, a more—shall we say?—Scientology-like philosophy of always hitting critics back hard. The other thing I can’t help but notice is that Hari’s M.O. has become quite predictable: Start out with an ad hominem attack, specifically variants of the pharma shill gambit such as the Monsanto shill or the chemical industry shill gambits, and then petulantly double down on her previous pseudoscience. Her response to Science Babe, Response to Gawker “The Food Babe Blogger is Full of…”—Hari is not known for her originality or creativity in titles or much of anything else other than being a publicity hound—certainly follows that broad template.

After self-righteously taking on the role of the wounded warrior against evil chemicals, whining that “the author says I’m full of $hit, but I’m full of heart, love and hope for a better future, and I know you are too,” she launches straight into the ad hominems, because, you know, Science Babe worked for an evil chemical company:

She is undoubtedly pro-chemical and pro-GMO and has proven this fact over and over again but her background might be the most convincing. Her name is Yvette d’Entremont and when she started the “Science Babe” facebook page and business, she worked for Amvac Chemical, as reported in the Seattle Times, “Amvac Chemical in Los Angeles has found a profitable — and controversial — niche by buying manufacturing rights to older pesticides, many of them at risk of being banned or restricted because of safety concerns”. Yes, you read that right, a company that sells dangerous and unsafe chemicals for profit.

Even if all of this is true, so what? It doesn’t mean d’Entremont is incorrect in her criticisms. Let’s put it this way. Hari makes quite the living stoking fears about “chemicals” in food. I don’t dismiss her because of that. I dismiss her because she can’t get her facts straight, she clearly lacks even a rudimentary understanding of some very basic chemistry, and she in essence quackmails companies by unleashing her “Food Babe Army” against them if they don’t remove from their product the latest chemical whose name she can’t pronounce that’s attracted her attention. It’s not for nothing that I and other bloggers have dubbed Hari the “Jenny McCarthy of food.” It’s an apt comparison.

Of course, as I said before, this is The Food Babe’s M.O. As Science Babe pointed out, she did it to Dr. Joe Schwarcz, as well as to my good bud Dr. Steve Novella, and even, to a lesser extent, me. She so utterly lacks self-awareness that she seems completely oblivious to this when she whines about being criticized. She gives as good as she gets and takes it one step further, insinuating that the reason she is being criticized is because all her critics are somehow in the thrall of the food and/or chemical industries. Unfortunately, to my reading, d’Entremont rather too airily dismisses Hari’s claims that she’s being attacked because she’s a woman. As I noted before, Hari has been subject to some pretty nasty misogyny, a fact of life, unfortunately, for all too many women who express controversial opinions online, whether they are cranks like Hari or pro-science advocates like d’Entrement. Hari, however, cynically uses those vile comments to try to represent them as being typical of her critics, in essence trying to tar us with the misogyny of the few knuckle draggers who post rape threats on her Facebook page. Whether she honestly conflates them with legitimate critics in her mind or is cynically using their unforgivable nastiness as a weapon, I leave the reader to decide.

In any case, the next part of Hari’s response is an anonymous attack from someone claiming to have knowledge of d’Entrement’s professional career. It’s as low and ugly as one might expect, so much so that I’m going to quote it in its entirety, in case Hari sends her nasty response down the memory hole too:

Dear Ms Vani, I am a research professional of some standing and for that reason I have chosen to use an assumed name. I have been following the progress of Yvette Guinevere d’Entremont (aka ScienceBabe) with some interest as she is a former colleague. I would like to impart some interesting information to you, which may use this for whatever purpose you see fit. What I am about to tell you is easily verifiable. Good science is based on producing original work and publishing in a peer reviewed context, self published armchair science as scibabe.com is peddling gives science a bad name. Taking swipes at the work and opinions of others is not science, unless you have original data that draws other work into question. What makes you and her different is that you don’t claim to be a scientist. If you have solid reasoning, you don’t need to be vitriolic in your posts as science babe is, with much of her abuse directed towards you. Some colleagues and I do not feel this is appropriate, we don’t like bullying, and so here are several easily verifiable facts about science babe that you may wish to point out to her next time you appear in her twitter/blog crosshairs: 1) Yvette Guinevere d’Entremont has no peer reviewed scientific publications. 2) Her master’s thesis from Anglia Ruskin University was not deemed of sufficient quality for publication. 3) Her claim that she was a college professor is laughable, she was an assistant instructor (one level above a TA) at Emmanuel College in Boston for less than 1 year. 4) She is currently being terminated from her position at Amvac for her activities on Scibabe. A description from a senior colleague on seeing Scibabe.com perhaps sums her up best “she’s a not a scientist, she’s a professional button pressor for a scientific company. I could have a talented undergraduate doing her job in less than 2 days”. For obvious reasons I’m not going to put a name to that quote. There’s nothing I’ve revealed here that can’t be easily verified. If I can be of any further assistance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via the email I have listed on this page. Kind regards.”

One wonders what Hari would say if one of her critics published similar accusations from an anonymous source who claimed to have worked with her back in her corporate days. Somehow, I doubt she’d fail to point out that the source is anonymous and that there is no way to verify what the source is saying.

Of course, if d’Entremont truly was terminated for her activities as Science Babe, it’s just another indication as to why people expressing a strong point of view might want to maintain a pseudonym. In fact, I started out completely pseudonymous when I started this blog for the very same reason and soon learned that cranks like The Food Babe are relentless in trying to “out” critics, mainly because they can’t deal with their arguments from a scientific standpoint and have to use ad hominem attacks, just the same way that Hari has done with scientists in the past and the same way she’s doing now with d’Entremont. Fortunately, I’ve always been in university environments where academic freedom is valued. People working for private companies can expect no such understanding. Even so, it took me years before I shed the Orac ‘nym elsewhere and before I got to the point where I no longer cared that my real identity is one of the worst-kept secrets of the skeptical blogosphere and it’s almost trivial to find out who I am, although I do still maintain the ‘nym because I like it and partially out of sheer cussedness.

Rather like my namesake. Or should I say, ‘nym sake?

Then, of course, as she always does, Hari has to take it one step further, trolling Science Babe’s Facebook page relentlessly until she found some seemingly damning comments about how Gawker commissioned d’Entremont’s article. Except that they’re not, really. There are comments about how Gawker approached d’Entrement for a “comprehensive takedown.” OK, so what? Slate.com approached me to do an article about Prince Charles’ love of pseudoscience a couple of months ago, and I did it. Hari also posts a notice from Gawker about advertising and a marketing campaign for a brand. I suspect you know what’s coming next. Hari insinuates:

Gawker paid Ms. d’Entremont for this piece – but who paid Gawker?

Gee, Ms. Hari. Can you make it explicit? You don’t mean pesticide or food companies, do you? Of course you do. Why not just come out and say it, rather than insinuating it? Maybe it’s to avoid obvious libel.

Hari concludes with a list of “refutations” to criticisms of her scientific ignorance in bullet-point form. They’re nothing you haven’t heard before, although two stand out for sheer silliness. First, Hari responds to the aforementioned excerpt from her book The Food Babe Way in which she asserts, “There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever,” a comment I used as the title of a post.

It turns out that Hari thinks she was taken out of context:

My statement that “There is no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest ever” was taken from my book on page 40 from the section regarding ractopamine and growth hormones. My critics took it out of context (after The Atlantic decided to highlight the quote as a side bar). My point was in the context of hormone mimicking chemicals and growth stimulants. Extremely low levels of compounds that mimic hormones work in the body like hormones. That is why I don’t believe there is any acceptable level of these chemicals to ingest, ever. Certainly reducing all synthetic, artificial chemicals is best, but it is difficult to avoid each and every one of them in all amounts.

Except that’s not what Hari said. She didn’t say there is “no acceptable level of endocrine disruptors or hormone-mimicking chemicals, ever.” That would still be very wrong from the standpoint of chemistry and biology, of course, but perhaps not as spectacularly wrong as her actual quote in all its ignorant glory. No, Hari said, “There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest ever.” I’m sorry, there’s just no “context” that can make that mean anything else other than what she was so roundly and justifiably mocked for. Maybe she needs a better editor and will correct that howler in the paperback edition.

Second, in her Gawker piece, d’Entrement notes that Hari has said:

The enzymes released from kale go in to your liver and trigger cancer fighting chemicals that literally dissolve unhealthy cells throughout your body.

Which is really, really ignorant of not just chemistry, but of basic biochemistry and physiology. Enzymes in kale are proteins and therefore digested to their constituent amino acids. They do not send enzymes to the liver, triggering the liver to release cancer fighting chemicals. (One wonders if she acknowledges that these beneficial substances are actually chemicals as a direct retort to the many times critics have noted her fear of chemicals.) Nor am I aware of chemicals that “literally dissolve unhealthy cells throughout your body.”

So what’s Hari’s response:

There is evidence that eating cruciferous and green leafy vegetables – like Kale – can reduce your cancer risk by protecting cells from DNA damage, inactivating carcinogens and inducing cell death.

Which rather misses the point. The studies cited in that link are all cell culture and animal culture, and Hari also leaves out the part about how studies in humans over whether such vegetables can prevent cancer have shown mixed results.

You know, that one example reminds me, more than anything else, of our old friend Dr. Oz and how he sells supplements. Everything is the greatest “fat-buster” ever that “melts fat,” the way Hari gushingly describes kale as unleashing chemicals that “literally dissolve unhealthy cells throughout your body.” That’s because, Hari, like Oz, is far more about the marketing than the science. She markets her ignorance and has made quite a healthy living from it.

All of this makes me wonder why Hari is lashing out at her critics now. I can understand why she went after the NYT. At attack published in the NYT is a big deal; ignoring it is perilous. Unfortunately, her response only dug herself into a deeper hole. But Gawker? Why does she care what Gawker says about her, regardless of who wrote the article?

I think this explains it:

It’s important to note: Gawker has gotten millions of page views supporting our work here, here, here and here and all of the sudden now they are soliciting negative pieces to get even more traffic.

Maybe. But I think Hari is disturbed that a major online media outlet that runs several high traffic sites might be turning against her and likely won’t be printing (or so we hope) any more highly credulous treatments of Hari’s ignorance, as cited. That, I suspect, is why she responded.

ADDENDUM: Yvette just posted this after the link to this on my Facebook page:

I believe the email presented as being from a “colleague” is from someone I used to date. As for being a “colleague?” We worked together at summer camp and years later he worked in kinesiology and we never worked together as scientists.

I was not fired from Amvac, they had two bad years financially and I was given six weeks of notice that I would be losing my job because there was no room for me in the following year’s budget. My boss and I discussed me coming back to consult as needed and I’ve stopped in to visit multiple times. It was confirmed that my blog had nothing to do with it.

This was libel.

Comments

  1. #1 a-non
    April 9, 2015

    Everyone’s doing a pretty good job of debunking the Food Babe’s rather useless drivel.

    I guess my biggest peeve is that once again, pseudoscience supporters resort to the age-old tactic of “outing” anyone whose opinion they don’t agree with. Either they want to discredit the individual or scare them into silence. In some cases, they’ll just out and out lie, because when you can’t defend your position, call the other person names instead.

  2. #2 janerella
    April 10, 2015

    Having made it through my in-law’s annual Good Friday piscistoccu ( which all the grandchildren refer to as “stinky fish day”) I must say when we live on an island,( Australia) they came from an island (Sicily) where delicious fresh fish abound it still astounds me that they revel in the treat that is salted preserved imported Scandinavian cod.
    http://www.allthingssicilianandmore.com/tag/baccala/

  3. #3 shay
    April 10, 2015

    Janerella – maybe it’s Proustian.

  4. #4 Lurker
    April 10, 2015

    Re. Eric @ 8: ‘The Food Babe should put her money where her mouth is, so to speak, and practice Breatharianism. Let’s see how long she lasts without water, vitamins, protein, or carbohydrates.’

    Water, vitamins, protein, and carbohydrates are chemicals.

    I have a modest proposal: the only way to mimimise one’s exposure to chemicals of all sorts, is in vacuum.

    Move over Breathairianism, it’s time for Vacuumianism!

    The ultimate expression of Vaccumianism is to abide in the vacuum of space. But most of us can’t afford the trip, and the nice folks on the iSS wouldn’t accommodate the request (‘Put you through the airlock?! You’re mad! Someone help me tie this one up until the next supply ship comes.’).

    What we _can_ do is learn to chant _Ooooommmmm!_ whist we’re using the ‘vacuum’ in our flats. Yes, my children, harmonise with your hoover, and you shall be rewarded with infinite grace!

    In case Food Babe is tempted to consider that sexist, she can apply to her local Council for a job operating one of these, which I understand have very powerful vacuums:

    http://www.johnstonsweepers.com/product-range/selected-product.php?qsSelectedProdId=3

    Let’s hear it for Vacuumianism!

  5. #5 Beth
    April 10, 2015

    Marion Nestle has made some good observations about how food companies make processed foods that are super-palatable, from cheap ingredients – the kind of food where you’re likely to end up eating the whole box. They make foods super-palatable by making use of likings people have that are hard to resist. It’s one reason so many people are fat.
    Ideology is a way to get a group of people to resist such inducements.
    That’s the point of the anti-processed foods ideology, avoiding processed foods with 20 ingredients with strange chemical names, etc. etc.
    Ideologies are like religions – they serve to motivate people.
    The anti-processed food ideology can at least be good for people. The food companies do have a role in making people fat and unhealthy.
    Anti-vaccination is a much better target. No redeeming qualities in that.

  6. #6 Beth
    April 10, 2015

    Dr. Kessler, former head of FDA, has written about the hyper-palatable foods engineered by food companies and how they make it difficult to not eat too much of them.

  7. #7 Beth
    April 10, 2015

    Fixed broken link …
    Dr. Kessler, former head of FDA, has written about the hyper-palatable foods engineered by food companies and how they make it difficult to not eat too much of them.

  8. #8 Lancelot Link
    April 10, 2015

    Altho’ I never tasted – or even saw- lutefisk ( fortunately), my mother was fond of pickled/ prepared fish in jars which looked horrifying to me. There were herring and Gefilte fish.
    You just reminded me – there’s a jar of pickled herring in the refrigerator. I’m eating some now, and MAN is it delicious!

  9. #9 Andreas Johansson
    April 10, 2015

    With all this talk of lutefisk (or lutfisk as we call it in Sweden), I’m obligated to mention fermented herring, the food the Geneva convention inexplicably does not ban. It’s generally advised to serve outdoors, such is the smell.

    It’s unhealthy to eat much of it because of dioxin levels, but that’s AFAIK a problem of the industrial age.

  10. #10 herr doktor bimler
    April 10, 2015

    I am under a contractual obligation to link to “Steve Don’t Eat It”, and in particular, to his description of Corn Smut.
    http://www.thesneeze.com/mt-archives/000344.php

  11. #11 herr doktor bimler
    April 10, 2015

    Steve’s encounter with Natto is another edifying revelation of what sufficiently desperate people will make into part of their national cuisine.
    http://www.thesneeze.com/mt-archives/000169.php

  12. #12 stewartt1982
    Back in the UK
    April 10, 2015

    @208

    I really love the food in Japan but still can’t abide the natto. Don’t mind the smell or the flavour … but that texture, oh that texture. The little packet of mustard (karashi) that Steve mentions does help. That s**t goes well on everything.

  13. #13 Gray Falcon
    April 10, 2015

    There seem to a remarkable number of dishes involving fermenting fish. Besides lutefisk, a staple of Midwestern comedy, there’s surströmming, possibly the smelliest food in the world, ancient Roman garum, and modern Asian fish sauce.

    This raises the rather horrifying question: Who was the first person desperate enough to try eating it?

  14. #14 Renate
    April 10, 2015

    I want my herring raw, with some onions. Can’t wait till it’s the season again. Yes, you can buy them all the year, but I prefer them in summer.

  15. #15 JP
    April 10, 2015

    This raises the rather horrifying question: Who was the first person desperate enough to try eating it?

    I’ve wondered this about a lot of foods, actually. Lobster, for instance. I don’t know who the first person to look at a lobster and think “I bet I could eat that” was, but I would like to shake his (or her) hand. I suspect we share some psychological quirks.

  16. #16 Elliott
    April 10, 2015

    My grandparents ate only traditional Eastern European foods–typically high in fat, high in salt. Pickled herring was a staple at breakfast–maybe that canceled out the other stuff?

    Both grandmothers made it into their 90’s, but my grandfathers did not, due to cancer. I can definitely tell you that herring does not cancel out heavy smoking.

  17. #17 JGC
    April 10, 2015

    I’ve always thought our diet is proof that human beings arose by descent from ancesstral, less intelligent forms rather than being created in essentially the same form and with the same intelligence we display today. I just can’t imagine someone seeing a small white lump drop out of a chicken’s butt for the first time and thinking “Yum! I bet that will taste good!”

  18. #18 Renate
    April 10, 2015

    I don’t smoke, I just eat herring. Smoking annoys the hell out of me. I have a good sense of smell and with smoke, it’s to good. I even sometime smell the smoke of my neighbour in my bedroom, just because my window is always open..

  19. #19 Helianthus
    April 10, 2015

    Related to the original thread topic, a post in This Week in Tomorrow:
    Vani Hari and the definition of sexism

  20. #20 herr doktor bimler
    April 10, 2015

    Lobster, for instance. I don’t know who the first person to look at a lobster and think “I bet I could eat that” was, but I would like to shake his (or her) hand.

    Perhaps it was someone with ectrodactyly, applying the adage that “you are what you eat” but in reverse order. Shaking hands would be an interesting experience.

  21. #21 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    April 10, 2015

    Other foods that it took a brave – or desperately hungry – person to be the first to try:
    – Cheese
    – yogurt
    – oysters
    – crawdads

  22. #22 JP
    April 10, 2015

    I understand that many East Asian cultures find the idea of cheese repulsive, much as some of us might be skeeved out by century eggs.

    I read somewhere about a theory that cheese came about in the Middle East, when nomads were using sheep and goat stomachs as containers for milk. One wouldn’t want the stuff to go to waste in warm weather, I suppose.

  23. #23 KayMarie
    April 10, 2015

    I did know a person from China that really couldn’t take cheese on anything unless it was cheese flavored powder on things like Doritos. I’m fairly certain the first English words she made sure she could say clearly were no cheese and it was said to ever waitress every meal.

    Although I’ve known people of European heritage that commented endlessly on either my consumption of rotted milk or dead baby chicken goo. Fortunately I never had them at the same table while consuming a cheese omelet.

  24. #24 JP
    April 10, 2015

    I think cheese is certainly an acquired taste, though one that’s acquired quite early among those of us of the cheese-eating disposition. If you’re only used to cheddar or other cow cheeses, the first taste of sheep or goat cheese can give you a glimpse, I think, of what the taste sensation really is like: kind of sour and vomit-like, to be honest, though I love the stuff in general. As I am of half-Scandinavian descent, I figure that a snack must really contain butterfat, fish, or starch – preferably some combination – to be worthwhile.

    Although I’ve known people of European heritage that commented endlessly on either my consumption of rotted milk or dead baby chicken goo. Fortunately I never had them at the same table while consuming a cheese omelet.

    Ah yes, the militant vegans. I always found them rather tiresome, even when I was pretty much vegan myself.

  25. #25 JP
    April 10, 2015

    ^ Being mostly vegan went completely against my own dietary proclivities, it happened.

  26. #26 KayMarie
    April 10, 2015

    Funny enough both were otherwise reasonably normal omnivores who ate all other animal parts just fine.

  27. #27 Denice Walter
    April 10, 2015

    Interestingly enough, T.Colin Campbell, who tirelessly promotes the healthy, vegetable-based cuisine of the Mysterioso East, has cast aspersion upon cheese ( casein, actually ) as being an important factor in the development of cancer.
    This is very similar to what some militant vegans hold.

    I can’t say that I’ve ever seen SB data about this. Perhaps we should ask cancer researchers in the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, France, England- they should know.

  28. #28 Krebiozen
    April 10, 2015

    I’m sure I have mentioned here before my encounter with fermented milk in Morocco. Briefly, I ended up staying with some nomadic camel herders in the outskirts of the Sahara for a few days. I thanked them for their hospitality by taking a trip into the nearest town and buying the ingredients for an enormous camel stew with couscous, which we ate from a communal platter (I never set eyes on the women who prepared this repast, though my female companion did). I was a vegetarian at the time, so I avoided the meat, but did end up accidentally eating a chunk that I was too polite to spit out; it tasted very like lamb.

    After the meal I was handed a large bowl of liquid, which I assumed I was supposed to rinse my hands in – my hosts’ hands didn’t need it, as they were astonishingly adept at rolling meat, vegetables and couscous into a ball and flipping it into their mouths with their thumbs, but I wasn’t quite so graceful, and had gravy and couscous up to my elbows. It was quickly made clear to me that I was supposed to drink it, not wash in it, so I took a large mouthful. I am quite proud of how well I disguised my horror at discovering it was milk that had gone sour, literally like a bottle of milk that has gone off in the fridge, with chewy lumps in it. I’m not even fond of yogurt, so this was quite a shock to me but I smiled and swallowed anyway.

    Later in this trip, back in civilization, we had more or less run out of money, and spent the last of it in a supermarket on bread, cheese and a carton of milk. To our surprise we discovered that this too was sour; we gave it to the guys running the hotel. I believe fermented milk products are popular in many places because they last longer than fresh milk and because most non-Europeans are lactose intolerant, and presumably in fermented milk most of the lactose has turned to lactic acid.

  29. #29 Narad
    April 10, 2015

    Being mostly vegan went completely against my own dietary proclivities, it happened.

    I was vegan for a good part of one college year. However, being in a dorm and having a screwed-up sleep schedule,* I felt no ethical compunction about the plentiful meat-bearing pizza leftovers that would turn up late at night.

    A vegan couple I came to know years later differed on their evaluation of this approach, as I recall. But anyway, the beginning of the end was purest sabotage.

    Two of my female friends (aside from the ensuing rift) planted a can of bona fide** generic corned beef hash in the garbage. It was a false trash operation. I got over it by rationalizing that from the perspective that meat scraps probably weren’t significant drivers of The Industry Of Slaughter.

    I was lacto-ovo on and off for a long time afterward, although I don’t think I ever eschewed White Castle and a normal Thanksgiving menu. It was actually the latter that was the reason for my only knowledge of Pollan; I had naively fallen into the habit of buying kosher birds on the basis of some “less factory farmed” concept-blob that had congealed in my head.

    Then, one year, the House Organ of Mr. Bow-Tie Kimball endorsed the “Aaron’s Best” brand. In my case, this led to discovering Rubashkin/Agriprocessors and kicking shechita to the curb, Temple Grandin’s scuffling around notwithstanding.***

    Hence, a few visits with Pollan. I was able to resolve the dilemma on my own, though. I’ll pay a premium for the weak Certified Humane certification, have paid a lot for Animal Welfare Approved at Thanksgiving and have a decent feel for Heritage Foods USA (not that I can afford them), conditionally trust the guys at the local farmers’ market (I’m less sanguine about cornucopia-dot-org), and don’t worry much about beef.

    * The dining hall was more priggish.
    ** Seriously – Repo Man label and everything.
    *** I haven’t seen anyone directly pose the question to her whether she’d personally prefer a bolt stunner.

  30. #30 JP
    April 11, 2015

    One of the main exceptions to my mostly-veganism in college was dumpster diving, since it was never a “purity” thing in my case. One year there was a power outage or a flood or something and Top Foods basically threw out its entire freezer section – I was in bacon and frozen pizza for weeks. (Still frozen by the time I got to it.) There was also the roadkill deer I helped butcher and eat. (It was actually still alive when we found it, but not long for the world. There was a guy with a gun, we were in a car with a big trunk.)

    My actual lapses always involved seafood, which led to my becoming basically a pescatarian in the time between college and grad school. I figure shellfish aren’t even really sentient, and fish – well, I never really had much justification when it came to fish except that I wanted to eat it. “Fish are the vegetables of the sea.”

    It was in grad school, even before I went abroad, that I sort of let the whole thing slide. When you have Russian friends who feel compelled to comfort a first-year grad student, much in the way one would a wounded animal, and they don’t really get the concept of vegetarianism – “the soup only has a little bit of meat in it” – and you feel like it would genuinely hurt their feelings to refuse their hospitality, it kind of becomes a case of “ah, f*ck it.”

    The debate over kosher/halal slaughter in Europe was in the news a lot the last time I was in Poland. I can’t help but feel a little uneasy about an outright ban, considering Europe’s past, and uh, present. Poland actually doesn’t have much of an immigrant population – there are some Vietnamese immigrants in Warsaw, but that’s almost it – but I recall a few years ago in Berlin seeing <a href="http://npd-g saying “Ausländer raus.”

  31. #31 cg
    April 11, 2015

    I love how she says that having a degree does not make you right, and she is right on that, but it also means that you studied it and maybe even researched it, which means you would have more knowledge on that subject than the average googling person

  32. #32 JP
    April 11, 2015

    Oops, borked link. Try here, and also maybe here.

  33. #33 Martin
    Wakefield
    April 11, 2015

    Chemical are all ways getting pulled from food. That have bean past as safe by chemist or any governing body. As for shit throwing you are as bad. As for the peddistel your on its a matter of time be for you nock your self off.

  34. #34 Chris
    April 11, 2015

    Martin, here is a paper you might find useful: A comprehensive overview of chemical-free consumer products.

  35. #35 shay
    April 11, 2015

    Martin is a Poe. No one spells that badly unless it’s on purpose.

  36. #36 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    April 11, 2015

    Martin – Out of curiosity, what part of Wakefield are you in?

  37. #37 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    April 11, 2015

    Krebiozen – I regret to say I have no personal anecdotes that begin with “I ended up staying with some nomadic camel herders in the outskirts of the Sahara for a few days.”

  38. #39 Brian R Loudermilch
    United States
    April 11, 2015

    “No acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever.”
    Really? What an Idiot. I take a pill every morning made of a chemical called Ascorbic Acid, also known as vitamin C. I use another chemical called Sodium Chloride (Salt) to flavor my food. The Sodium Chloride contains another chemical called Iodine. People that cut back on using Salt ended up having Thyroid problems because they weren’t getting enough of that nasty chemical called Iodine. Like I said before. What an Idiot.

  39. #40 Joseph Hertzlinger
    Planet Earth (for now)
    April 12, 2015

    A Food Babe quote: “Lemon water is very alkaline and can stimulate the liver. “

  40. #41 Politicalguineapig
    April 12, 2015

    Cool, Wakefield’s got his own personal pearl fish. I feel sorry for the other sea cucumbers.

  41. #42 Beth
    April 12, 2015

    Lemon water is very alkaline and can stimulate the liver

    The “alkalinity” of lemon juice that she’s referring to is in the context of the “alkaline ash” diet. Whether a food is considered “acid” or “alkaline” in this diet depends on how much acid must be excreted in the urine to maintain blood pH. It isn’t related to whether the food itself is acidic or alkaline – after all, all food becomes acidic when mixed with stomach acid.
    The “alkaline ash diet” can be healthy. As for the specific health claims,

    there’s some early evidence that a diet low in acid-producing foods like animal protein (such as meat and cheese) and bread and high in fruits and veggies could help prevent kidney stones, keep bones and muscles strong, improve heart health and brain function, reduce low back pain, and lower risk for colon cancer and type 2 diabetes. But researchers aren’t sure yet.

  42. #43 TBruce
    April 12, 2015

    This so-called alkaline ash diet may be touted as healthy, but this would only be coincidental. After all, who can dispute the benefit of eating more vegetables and fruit, and less meat and processed food? Where it goes off the rails is the acid-base blether, which is nonsense. At any rate, the diet appears to be a vegan and gluten free diet diet, which is extremely limited for no known benefit for the average person and is also nutritionally deficient.
    It also prohibits coffee. That means war.

    Over my dead nutritionally body.

  43. #44 Beth
    April 12, 2015

    This so-called alkaline ash diet may be touted as healthy, but this would only be coincidental.

    Eating more veggies and fruit and less meat has many benefits besides possible benefits of a higher pH in the metabolic products, that’s true.
    I think the main argument against protein as an “acid ash” food, is that higher protein intake causes more calcium to be excreted into the urine (this has to do with the “acid ash” produced by the proteins). If one isn’t getting enough dietary calcium to make up for it, this calcium comes from the bones, which could cause osteoporosis.
    I don’t see support for your statement that the concept of eating fewer “alkaline ash” foods is nonsense.
    I looked at a couple websites about the alkaline-ash diet, and it wasn’t described as either vegan or gluten-free or even coffee-free. Those things are absolutes anyway, unlike the concept of eating more “alkaline ash” foods and less “acid ash” foods.
    People can be quite healthy with a gluten-free vegan diet.

  44. #45 doug
    April 12, 2015

    Citrate is metabolized to yield bicarbonate, which is a base. Sodium citrate is used in the WHO rehydration salts formula for this purpose, to counteract acidosis that can result from severe diarrhea.
    Citric acid consumption isn’t the same. There is the small problem that it is a triprotic acid, and those three protons have to go somewhere.
    Both citrate and citric acid will increase alimentary aluminum absorption, which I would have thought would cause the likes of Hari hysterics.

    I wonder how popular sodium bicarbonate would be as an “alkalizing” agent and general purpose cure-all if it were known by its other name – sodium acid carbonate.

  45. #46 doug
    April 12, 2015

    “… can stimulate the liver”
    Just in case your liver has nothing to do and is getting bored and sluggish.

  46. #47 Beth
    April 12, 2015

    I think the main argument against protein as an “acid ash” food, is that higher protein intake causes more calcium to be excreted into the urine

    I take that back – that’s just the argument that I’ve heard. I don’t know what pros and cons there might be to a diet that results in a lot of acidity in the blood, that needs to be removed by the kidneys.

  47. #48 herr doktor bimler
    April 12, 2015

    The key question is whether lutefisk is alkalizing.

  48. #49 Denice Walter
    April 12, 2015

    I imagine that the lye would tip the scales in that direction.

  49. #50 doug
    April 12, 2015

    Some nonsense at Salon:

    As a result, there has been a dramatic increase in a whole range of illnesses that manifest in different parts of your bodies, depending on your own genetic profile. All are caused by the same underlying impact of inflammation from sugar, and the resulting nerve damage and compression.

    (emphasis mine)

    Some contemptuous slagging in the comments seems in order.

  50. #51 squirrelelite
    April 12, 2015

    A sad day to discuss all this. This morning I met with my 2 nephews for breakfast. Afterwards, we drove nearby to the grave of their mother, whose birthday was today.
    She died of a very aggressive renal cell carcinoma almost five years ago.
    She tried chemotherapy but didn’t tolerate it very well and gave it up. To be honest, it may not have made a difference anyway because they were mainly hoping to shrink the size of the cancer enough to allow an operation to remove it. And a few months later it had metastasized to the lungs and not long after that she died. The only thing that might really have made a difference would be an earlier detection.
    But I do know that after giving up on the chemo, she ran the gamut of weird “cures” from Essiac tea to a vegan diet to the acid-base diet stuff. She also had a boyfriend who brought her bottles of homeopathic nodules to break open and take.
    None of them were the magic cure either.
    I never mention any of this to them because I don’t think either of them are inclined to such BS and there’s no point in adding any chemical to those wounds.
    But I shall certainly do so in the future if appropriate.

  51. #52 herr doktor bimler
    April 12, 2015

    Some nonsense at Salon:

    I can see why a couple of cranks would try to cash in on legitimate dietary concerns by churning out a sensationalised book on the topic, mixing in large quantities of bullsh1t to distinguish it from previous more scholarly books. I am not seeing why Salon wants to pimp their book by republishing large excerpts as free advertisements, though.

  52. #53 Notchka
    April 12, 2015

    Re: Salon (Sugar Crush)

    Raquel Baldelomar is the founder of a health care marketing and advertising agency.

    Richard Jacoby is a podiatrist.

    Alrighty then!

  53. #54 nutritionprof
    April 12, 2015

    Paula Poundstone had a few words for Michael Pollan

  54. #55 Krebiozen
    April 12, 2015

    Beth,

    I think the main argument against protein as an “acid ash” food, is that higher protein intake causes more calcium to be excreted into the urine (this has to do with the “acid ash” produced by the proteins). If one isn’t getting enough dietary calcium to make up for it, this calcium comes from the bones, which could cause osteoporosis.

    We have known that isn’t true for quite some time, though that doesn’t stop a million websites from making that claim. In fact a high protein diet leads to much greater calcium absorption and any excess calcium absorbed is excreted in the urine. A low protein diet may even lead to bone problems because of reduced calcium absorption, the opposite of this claim.

    There is a lot written about alkaline ash diets, but after a great deal of reading I came to the conclusion that the vast majority of it is nonsense. Any excess acidity from food is rapidly excreted in the urine or through respiration as carbon dioxide, and we generally have a large reserve capacity to excrete acids. If you look at the acidity provided by a piece of meat or some cheese and compare it to the acidity generated by vigorous exercise it is clear that both are easily excreted, unless renal function is impaired.

    From notes I made a few years ago on this subject (I don’t have the references but the numbers are easily confirmed):

    A normal person produces about 1 kilogram (15,000 mEq) of carbon dioxide, which is exhaled, and 40-80 mEq of organic acids from anaerobic metabolism, which is excretd in the urine, every day. If we exercise vigorously we will produce considerably more than this (exercise can produce as much as 40 mEq of acids every minute), but luckily our lungs have a huge ability to exhale carbon dioxide (obviously we hyperventilate when we exercise), and our kidneys are capable of excreting 700 mEq of acids every day.

    In other words our bodies have the capacity to excrete far more acidity than we could ever generate or ingest unless we are constantly running a marathon or we deliberately overdose on something acid-generating like ammonium chloride.

    Let’s compare this to the amount of acidity generated by a very acid-forming foods, like cheese. A hard cheese will generate about 20 mEq of acids for every 100 grams (about 4 ounces) ingested. Soda drinks like colas contain about 2.5 mEq of acids in each liter. The organic acids generated by exercise are functionally identical to those generated by the consumption of acid-producing foods.

    To overwhelm your body’s capacity to excrete acids, you would have to drink hundreds of liters of cola every day, or eat several pounds of cheese or meat every day.

  55. #56 Calli Arcale
    http://fractalwonder.wordpress.com
    April 12, 2015

    “To overwhelm your body’s capacity to excrete acids, you would have to drink hundreds of liters of cola every day, or eat several pounds of cheese or meat every day.”

    At which point of course the excess acid might be the least of your worries. 😉

  56. #57 justthestats
    April 12, 2015

    eat several pounds of cheese or meat every day.

    That doesn’t sound so infeasible to me.

  57. #58 EcoLogic Lee
    United States
    April 12, 2015

    This article was the first time I had actually ever heard of the “Food Babe” – Much of what I see on her site actually resonates with me – Cook more of what you eat yourself from fresh and whole ingredients – limit your intake of artificial food additives, and demand to see the ingredients in the food you eat.

    Actually that is pretty close to how I try to eat – SLOW (Seasonal, Local, Organic, Whole)

    Does this make me anti-science? I don’t really think so.

    But I will tell you what I am skeptical of – Large corporations, and any science that supports the positions needed by major corporations to support their next quarter earnings per share.

    Are the additives in our food safe? Frankly, I don’t know, but the arguments made by the science babe and others who support her sound a heck of a lot like the arguments made by Robert Kehoe supporting the use of lead in gasoline

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2014/04/21/patterson-and-kehoe-and-the-great-lead-debate/

    “The heart of the Kehoe Paradigm was to first piously state that if it could be conclusively shown that tetraethyl lead was a public health danger, then of course the lead industry would stop, as the only rational and morally acceptable response. But then he would go on to argue that it wasn’t conclusive at all, yet — so the default response should be to allow industry to continue to profit until the consequences to public health were undeniable. And this neglect of responsibility was all neatly wrapped up in the claim that it was the “scientific” way of thinking — that somehow, science only deals with absolute truths and that you can’t draw scientific conclusions until every detail is knitted up with complete certainty.”

    That is exactly the argument being used today to support GMOs

    Industry has always been able to find scientists to support the position that protects profits. In the 50s and 60s we saw doctors and scientists testify about how healthy it was to smoke tobacco. Today, climate deniers like Willie Soon http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Willie_Soon make millions from the fossil fuel industry.

    Let me pose a question – let’s say tomorrow that Archer Daniels Midland got a report that one of the additives used in their food was a truly harmful carcinogen. But, removing the additive immediately would take $0.02 off their EPS next quarter. What do you think they would do? My opinion – they would bury the report.

    And *that’s* why I have trouble accepting the safety of food additives. There is the real dilemma. I can’t possible evaluate every additive in our food, and I don’t trust the companies that make them to honestly report the truth

  58. #59 Narad
    April 13, 2015

    I don’t know what pros and cons there might be to a diet that results in a lot of acidity in the blood

    I think the fact that the concept itself is nonsensical largely obviates worrying about “pros and cons.”

  59. #60 shay
    April 13, 2015

    Lee — the problem with the SLOW diet is that I live in central Illinois. Were I to follow it, I’d be eating the same foods that were eaten here about 150 years ago, chiefly corn and pork (and the occasional squirrel or rabbit)..

    No thanks.

  60. #61 Helianthus
    April 13, 2015

    @ EcoLogic Lee

    That is exactly the argument being used today to support GMOs

    Not exactly. There have been studies on the impact on health of some GMOs, coming back negative, and not just by the big 6 BigAg. The website “Biology Fortified, Inc” could provide a few.

    Anyway, bit of an impasse, here.

    Scientists like me try to be charitable to published results and assume that the authors did try to do a good job. So, unless some discrepancy is shown, we provisionally accept the findings.
    You have the opposite approach: you want to have evidence that the people doing studies have been honest.
    That’s going to be an Herculean task to convince you.

    You will also have to define “safe”. Are you talking in absolute value, or relative to the usual amount of safety of food grown in your backyard garden, or something in-between?
    In absolute value, about nothing is safe. It’s just a question of dose before it harms you.
    On the other hand, even ordinary food could be treacherously dangerous. A number of veggies are fond of producing alkaloids and other harmful substances. Rhubarb is full of oxalic acid, great for making kidney stones, and soy has a fair amount of estrogen-like compounds.
    I agree nonetheless that’s not a reason to let corps but anything in food. Actually, I am more concerned about high salt or sugar content than the additives, but maybe I should broaden my horizons a bit.
    I would just be cautious in taking any claim from someone like the Food Babe at face value, as she has proven to be prone to exaggeration. She has also proven not to let science – as in, stuff actually found in real life – going in the way of a good story.

    “Let me pose a question”

    “they would bury the report.”

    Not if it’s done by universities or other public-funded labs AND these have an obligation to publish their results.

    But I would completely agree scientific research and publication quality could be improved.

  61. #62 TBruce
    April 13, 2015

    In the 50s and 60s we saw doctors and scientists testify about how healthy it was to smoke tobacco.

    No, we didn’t.

  62. #63 Chris
    April 13, 2015

    EcoLogic Lee, have you bothered to read the comments starting at #152? Do tell us what is “Seasonal, Local, Organic, Whole” in Minnesota or Alberta between November and March? I hope you avoid almonds (unless you live in California), tofu, bananas, cheese, quinoa, and other things that are processed and grown in very warm climates.

    “Industry has always been able to find scientists to support the position that protects profits. In the 50s and 60s we saw doctors and scientists testify about how healthy it was to smoke tobacco.”

    Yet another person who can’t tell the difference between tobacco ads and reality.

    Also,

  63. #64 Dangerous Bacon
    April 13, 2015

    “But I will tell you what I am skeptical of – Large corporations, and any science that supports the positions needed by major corporations to support their next quarter earnings per share… I can’t possible evaluate every additive in our food, and I don’t trust the companies that make them to honestly report the truth.”

    But you’re willing to take the word of a ludicrously uninformed person who makes a lot of money peddling her unsubstantiated viewpoints.

    Speaking of uninformed – GMO safety has been confirmed by a large volume of independent (non-industry funded) studies, so the “corporations say so” argument is fatally flawed.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2013/10/14/2000-reasons-why-gmos-are-safe-to-eat-and-environmentally-sustainable/

  64. #65 Lawrence
    April 13, 2015

    The whole tobacco argument gets old – very, very fast. Did it take way too long for the government to appropriately crack down on cigarette manufacturers? Yes – it did, but to say that people (including the vast majority of scientists and doctors) weren’t warning people about the dangers of smoking from almost the beginning (big anti-tobacco sentiments in Victorian England, for instance) is to show much about history they don’t actually know.

  65. #66 Calli Arcale
    http://fractalwonder.wordpress.com
    April 13, 2015

    EcoLogic Lee:

    Are the additives in our food safe? Frankly, I don’t know, but the arguments made by the science babe and others who support her sound a heck of a lot like the arguments made by Robert Kehoe supporting the use of lead in gasoline

    One very big difference is which one has science to back it up. The Food Babe isn’t making her claims based on science, unlike the people opposing leaded gasoline. She’s basing them, quite intentionally and frankly, on ignorance. “I don’t know what this is, therefore it is bad.” Seriously, how can you compare that to the laborious and extensive data that was used to demonstrate the problems with leaded gasoline? I mean seriously, that was a gigantic data set, looking at everything from ice cores to seawater to cancer rates. This? Vani Hari gives nothing but her own personal incredulity. Nor does she care to. Research is apparently for other people.

    Chris:

    EcoLogic Lee, have you bothered to read the comments starting at #152? Do tell us what is “Seasonal, Local, Organic, Whole” in Minnesota or Alberta between November and March?

    Yes, it is a problem. I’m in Minnesota, and we do actually have some decently priced seasonal, local, and whole produce. However, it’s almost entirely Bushel Boy tomatoes. Don’t get me wrong — they’re fantastic tomatoes. I buy them year-round because they’re so good, and their vine-on tomatoes stay ripe a bit longer on my counter. They’re grown in Owatonna, MN, in greenhouses where they are pollinated by captive bumblebees. (Bumblebees are more docile than honeybees and maintain much smaller hives, so they’re more suitable for indoor use.) There are smaller greenhouses and hydroponics operations which sell fresh herbs and such, and I know for a while Bushel Boy had experimented with (but ultimately abandoned) hydroponic lettuce that was sold with the roots still attached — this keeps it fresher longer. They don’t seem to still be selling those, so it must not have done well enough. Occasionally you see a few other hydroponic products at market, but not many. And fresh fruit in Minnesota? Well, right now there’s absolutely none in season. Farmers are getting their crops planted right now. Trees are beginning to wake up. Maple syruping time is over; soon you’ll be able to harvest spruce tips, if that’s something you like. You can harvest fern fiddleheads soon. But those two are not common food items. Fruits won’t be available until the berries start to come out in June. Strawberries first, then raspberries and blackberries and blueberries. That will go most of the summer. Summer squash and tomatoes and cucumbers and such will come at the end of summer, as will the corn and broccoli and carrots and onions and potatoes and the wheat and the beans and so forth. The wild rice harvest comes around this time too. Grapes will come at the very end of the season — to grow wine grapes here is a particular challenge, racing their ripening against the coming frost. And then, about the same time, the apples and pears will be ripe and ready to pick.

    There is no local citrus. No local peaches. No local sweet cherries, though tart cherries can be grown here. There is a variety of apricot you can grow here, but the fruit is small and very tart and not really viable commercially; they’re mostly used as ornamental trees. No local mango or pineapple or papaya or coconut or other tropical fruits. There are some nuts that grow here, but not the ones you usually find in bagged assortments. No almonds, no walnuts, no Brazil nuts, no cashews. Peanuts can work, but are not economically viable; it is not the ideal climate for them. Black walnuts grow extensively here, but are not popular for eating. Gingkos grow exceptionally well here, but I am not aware of a major local industry in them. I can say this: you want any gingko plantation to be somewhere other than your neighborhood, because the nuts smell like vomit. (That isn’t just just a derogatory remark, either; that is exactly what they smell like. And cooking them releases the smell even more, but afterwards you’re at least left with something delicious, as they taste like a cross between pistachio and cashew.) Oak trees grow abundantly, and Native Americans ate acorns regularly, but these do not seem to be a popular commercial crop. Maybe we could bring it back into vogue?

    Bottom line: the SLOW diet in Minnnesota would have to sacrifice freshness, of necessity. Lots of potatoes and onions and other root crops, as these store very well even in their fresh state. Many cultivars of apple have a good long shelf life. Winter squash will last a while into the winter, hence their name, as long as you don’t pierce the shell until you’re ready. But anything else, you will need to process in order to lay up enough from the harvest to last you until the next harvest. Pickling, drying, smoking, milling, baking, freezing . . . honestly, the greatest invention in food preservation of the 20th Century was probably the home freezer. But all that is a time machine to let you avoid the “seasonal” part of “SLOW”. Strictly speaking, so is a greenhouse; you are creating your own season in that case. In Minnesota in the dead of winter, a seasonal diet is going to be heavily meat oriented.

  66. #67 Chris
    April 13, 2015

    By the way, Calli, while greenhouses are possible they are not easy. Trust me, I tried to keep lemon trees alive over winter only to have them defoliated by spider mites and fungus gnats. It was horrible the year that aphids managed to get into the greenhouse. Since the greenhouse is literally attached to the house I cannot get ladybird beetles, they cause a hazard when they get indoors and they actually bite! (yes, I have been bitten by a ladybug!) Also no bumblebees!

    There is a movement in indoor warehouse farming, and if you listen to the Urban Agriculture you will learn that to keep pests down without chemical pesticides they work very much like biological clean rooms. These are a bit different than the large greenhouses that can handle having bumblebees, ladybird beetles and parasitic wasps flying around.

    In short, EcoLogic Lee is exposing his/hers ignorance in horticulture, food safety, plant genetics, food history and lots of other things.

    By the way, I did get basil to stay alive all winter. But this is because now nothing is brought into the greenhouse except sterile plant soil, seeds and cleaned pots. There is an occasional fungus gnat, but I take care of those by using yellow craft sticks covered with sticky stuff. Presently I have started several pepper, tomato, cucumber, pumpkin and basil plants.

  67. #68 shay
    April 13, 2015

    The thought of captive bumblebees is enchanting, in an Arthur Rackham sort of way.

    This topic drift is actually rather timely, as we have been putting in the garden this weekend. We have a two garden plots and grow a lot of our summer produce, but nothing will be ready to eat for at least five weeks.

    We currently have one lone asparagus spear defying the elements — it snowed here last April 17th, so I’m tempted to cut and eat it before the frost gods get it.

  68. #69 Calli Arcale
    http://fractalwonder.wordpress.com
    April 13, 2015

    Oh, absolutely, Chris! I’m impressed you got basil to last — I’m very good at killing houseplants, so I’m not even going to try that one. 😉 I have occasionally nursed a rosemary through the winter.

    Bushel Boy’s operations are run with scientific precision. They can’t afford to just nuke all the bugs, since of course tomatoes require a pollinator. But they have an amazing operation. Tours are prohibited; like you say, it’s run like a biological containment facility. Which, in a way, it pretty much is. They occasionally let the media in, though, and a while back there was a great TV piece on them. They have them on like a conveyor system that very slowly moves the plants through the entire life cycle. Or maybe that was only the seedlings? I’m not sure. Anyway, it was very sophisticated. Their production rate really is amazing, and probably the part that amazes me the most is how efficient it is. Their tomatoes really don’t cost any more than the ones trucked in from California, and the quantity is plenty.

    But it’s tomatoes. I think tomatoes are easier than a lot of other plants.

  69. #70 TBruce
    April 13, 2015

    In Alberta, the SLOW diet would consist of pemmican for 4 or 5 months. Unfortunately, there’s a shortage of bison.

  70. #71 Chris
    April 13, 2015

    Well the three basil plants are looking a bit scruffy. I think the soil is petering out. One reason they seem to do okay is that they are so fragrant that bugs really don’t like them much. But I still need to keep the fungus gnats down, and yellow sticky sticks poked into the soil around the plant seem to work.

    Fortunately I live in a mild maritime climate which, even though we sometimes get snow, is mild enough to grow rosemary, sage, thyme, bay laurel and oregano outside in winter. Just not citrus, basil, lots of common veg. We have a bit of short season for tomatoes, so I start those inside in March.

  71. #72 justthestats
    April 13, 2015

    @EcoLogic Lee:

    But I will tell you what I am skeptical of – Large corporations, and any science that supports the positions needed by major corporations to support their next quarter earnings per share.

    Since hydroelectric power plants depend on the law of universal gravitation and Maxwell’s equations, doesn’t that mean you shouldn’t believe in those laws of physics?

    Let me pose a question – let’s say tomorrow that Archer Daniels Midland got a report that one of the additives used in their food was a truly harmful carcinogen. But, removing the additive immediately would take $0.02 off their EPS next quarter. What do you think they would do? My opinion – they would bury the report.

    You really think that ADM would say “Hey, let’s pull an asbestos. Look how well that turned out for those guys.”?

    I’m also curious why the additive didn’t show up as carcinogenic in the long-term toxicology studies before the additive was approved to be used for food. Is it something specific to human physiology?

    And *that’s* why I have trouble accepting the safety of food additives. There is the real dilemma. I can’t possible evaluate every additive in our food, and I don’t trust the companies that make them to honestly report the truth

    It sounds to me that you’re under the impression that food companies do most toxicology research. That’s not even close to true. There is a whole lot of independent university-based toxicology research, and government agencies have their own as well. Toxicologists get very excited about even the smallest differences they find between the control group and the exposure group. You can find all the toxicology research publications you could ever desire at your local university library.

    The truth is, it’s pretty pointless to divide the world into black-and-white categories of “toxic” and “nontoxic”, because while you could place helium gas in the nontoxic category, even plain unadulterated water is toxic in large enough doses. I’m not talking about drowning — you can drink enough water to poison yourself. Table salt is deadly in much smaller amounts than water.

    Obviously then, the question becomes at what level does consumption become harmful, since essentially everything becomes harmful at some amount. Food additives in first world countries are only allowed to be used in amounts that won’t result in anything near the lowest level of long-term consumption known to cause harm, even if everything you ate every day had the highest level allowed.

    Additives don’t get approved on a whim. There has to be a lot of toxicology evidence provided to get accepted. Just because they don’t staple thousands of pages per ingredient to the packaging of everything you eat doesn’t mean the research hasn’t been done.

  72. #73 Tim
    April 13, 2015

    Since hydroelectric power plants depend on the law of universal gravitation and Maxwell’s equations

    justthestats #274, let us not be so esoteric. Maxwell condensed Michael Faraday’s observations and working devices into the mathematical precepts after the fact. I could be entirely mistaken, but I thought Maxwell was Faraday’s sometime lab assistant who went above and beyond to ‘note it all down’.

    It was by his research on the magnetic field around a conductor carrying a direct current that Faraday established the basis for the concept of the electromagnetic field in physics… He similarly discovered the principle of electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism, and the laws of electrolysis. His inventions of electromagnetic rotary devices formed the foundation of electric motor technology, and it was largely due to his efforts that electricity became practical for use in technology.

    Faraday was an excellent experimentalist who conveyed his ideas in clear and simple language; his mathematical abilities, however, did not extend as far as trigonometry or any but the simplest algebra. James Clerk Maxwell took the work of Faraday and others, and summarized it in a set of equations that is accepted as the basis of all modern theories of electromagnetic phenomena. On Faraday’s uses of the lines of force, Maxwell wrote that they show Faraday “to have been in reality a mathematician of a very high order – one from whom the mathematicians of the future may derive valuable and fertile methods.”

    … These experiments and inventions formed the foundation of modern electromagnetic technology…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Faraday

  73. #74 mark stolzoff
    LA
    April 14, 2015

    Your complaint about sceince babe at the anti vax movie premier is indicative of your lack of undestanding about journalism. You’re showing how the Dunning-Kruger effect can hit everyone and you’re not doing yourself any favors by repeatedly bringing it up.

  74. #75 Chris
    April 14, 2015

    Mr. Stolzoff, could you please clarify your statement? Explain why you are confusing blogging with journalism. Plus tell us where this movie premier complaint was the main focus of the above opinion piece. And where it was repeated.

  75. #76 JGC
    April 14, 2015

    Tim, was your post at #275 intended to communicate “Yes, because they represent the science large hydroelectric electric power corporations rely upon to support next quater’s profits per share, I’m skeptical of the validity of the law of universal gravitational attraction and Maxwell’s equations” or to communicate “No, just because they represent the science large hydroelectric electric power corporations rely upon to support next quater’s profits per share I’d be foolish to be unreasonably skeptical of the validity of the law of universal gravitational attraction and Maxwell’s equations”?

    The post itself wasn’t clear–it read almost as if you were running off on a tangent to avoid answering justhestat’s question.

  76. #77 herr doktor bimler
    April 14, 2015

    I could be entirely mistaken, but I thought Maxwell was Faraday’s sometime lab assistant

    You would indeed be entirely mistaken.

  77. #78 Chris
    April 14, 2015

    Faraday was Humphry Davy’s assistant. Maxwell only interacted with Faraday late in Faraday’s life.

    A good book about the characters of the Royal Institution is The Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes.

  78. #79 Denice Walter
    April 14, 2015

    @ Chris:

    Oh, Richard Holmes!
    He wrote a terrific book…. actually TWO books.. about Coleridge. I only read the first as I- unfortunately- knew what would transpire in his latter days.

  79. #80 herr doktor bimler
    April 14, 2015

    I- unfortunately- knew what would transpire in his latter days.

    NO SPOILERS!

  80. #81 Dangerous Bacon
    April 14, 2015

    ” I tried to keep lemon trees alive over winter only to have them defoliated by spider mites and fungus gnats.”

    (nitpick) While spider mites are a loathsome plant pest indoors, I have never known fungus gnats to be anything more than annoying little beasts that run and leap over the surface of moist soil (specifically, they do not consume living plant matter).

  81. #82 palindrom
    April 14, 2015

    Maxwell is largely remembered for his work on electromagnetism, but he also made important contributions to thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. I was telling my stat mech class about his one day, saying “Think of how much we owe to Maxwell!

    The Maxwell … equations!

    The Maxwell … relations!

    Maxwell’s … Demon!

    The Maxwell … distribution!

    Whereupon some kid piped up:

    “Maxwell … House!”.

  82. #83 palindrom
    April 14, 2015

    Maxwell also realized that the rings of Saturn had to be composed of independent particles, rather than being a rigid structure. Radial velocity spectroscopy soon showed that the rotation of the rings decreases with distance from the planet, just as he had predicted.

  83. #84 EnonZ
    April 14, 2015

    I’d like defend Pollan’s “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

    These (and the longer list he published in a recent book) are meant to be heuristics, rules of thumb, to help the confused cook and eater cut through the clutter of contradictory advice and fads.

    Most cultures have at least one food that’s unpalatable to anybody who didn’t grow up eating it. And yes, there are fine foods that my great great grandmother didn’t know about. But that doesn’t mean “avoid things your great great grandmother wouldn’t have recognized as food” isn’t useful as a quick rule of thumb.

    Humans have always “processed” food, to release nutrients, to remove toxins, and to preserve nutrients. I include applying heat from fire, a process which evidently is older than Homo sapiens. But our supermarkets are mostly filled with what Pollan calls “edible foodlike substances” – products of industrial ‘food science’ that are designed and processed to maximize corporate efficiencies and to be superstimuli to our cravings for salt, sugar, and fat. (@Beth, on the subject of super-palatable foods, you might be interested in Michael Moss’ Pulitzer winning ‘Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us’.)

    It should be obvious to the most casual of observers that something is very wrong with SAD (the Standard American Diet). With the exception of a few Pacific island nations, the U.S is the fattest nation on earth and has an epidemic of type 2 diabetes (some wag has dubbed the combination ‘diabesity’.)

    “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” should be read in the context of the essay Pollan started with those words. I think it stands up pretty well after eight years; I find it thoughtful, not vapid.

    http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/unhappy-meals/

  84. #85 JP
    April 14, 2015

    @palindrom:

    Maxwell’s… Silver Hammer?

  85. #86 palindrom
    April 14, 2015

    @JP — Yes, that too!

    Not to mention Maxwell Smart.

  86. #87 herr doktor bimler
    April 14, 2015

    Maxwell also realized that the rings of Saturn had to be composed of independent particles

    Unpossible. Gustav Meyrink showed that the rings of Saturn were crocheted by the ghosts of pastors’ wives as an outlet for their frustrated energies.
    http://www.payer.de/religionskritik/meyrink04.htm

  87. #88 EnonZ
    April 14, 2015

    @MikeB

    You quote Pollan in “in Defense of Food”:

    “Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.”

    I don’t know about the context of this quote in the book, but it originates in his essay “Unhappy Meals” (most of Pollan’s books are elaborations of essays of his, generally published in the New York Times) and is followed by this sentence in the essay:

    “None of these characteristics are necessarily harmful in and of themselves, but all of them are reliable markers for foods that have been highly processed.”

    It would appear that you have done exactly what the Food Babe did, cherry pick a quote and take it out of context. In the case of the Food Babe, she took it as a formal rule to be followed blindly. In your case, you ignored the disclaimer and the purpose of these rules of thumb and labeled them “egregious ignorance”. You and the Food Babe are two sides of the same coin.

    There is a recent study (published in Nature no less) that indicates that synthetic emulsifiers may be implicated in our epidemic of obesity by messing with our intestinal flora. I marked that as interesting and from a reliable source, but preliminary.

    The problem is that we’re all suffering from information and cognitive overload. If I followed every link and read every interesting science article on nutrition, much less on science in general, I wouldn’t have time for anything else. Pollan’s rules are sensible and reduce the cognitive load of shopping. I don’t treat them as gospel and I make exceptions. But I didn’t change my shopping habits because of the news that synthetic emulsifiers may be harmful; my diet already contains few such emulsifiers because I’ve been following Pollan’s simple rules.

  88. #89 JP
    April 15, 2015

    EnonZ, you’re a bit late to the discussion about Michael Pollan, but maybe you somehow missed the comments about his anti-GMO nonsense, up to an including waving around studies by Stephanie freaking Seneff.

    I assure you that I’ve read plenty of Pollan, and while you may find him “thoughtful,” I am plenty prepared to stand by my evaluation of most of his work as vapid. Maybe you haven’t read a lot of writers who are actually thoughtful.

    In fact, I bought his little book Eater’s Manifesto, or whatever it’s called, some years back as a Hanukkah present for a friend who’s a fan of his. (There’s no accounting for taste, I suppose.) All it was was an $11 elaboration of his little adage, containing a lot of vapidity in short paragraphs on mostly empty pages. He certainly makes a lot of money at what he does, I suppose.

  89. #90 Chris
    April 15, 2015

    DB: “I have never known fungus gnats to be anything more than annoying little beasts that run and leap over the surface of moist soil (specifically, they do not consume living plant matter).”

    Unfortunately they eat root matter, especially if they are not controlled. This can and will kill potted plants, just like damping off will kill seedlings… which is what one does not want when starting seeds! Fungus gnats may be one cause of damping off… along with the ever present fungi!

    Trust me in a small greenhouse that is directly connected to the house they are a menace. Just like a couple of aphids are not a problem, neither are fungus gnats. But if they reproduce without any kind of control… then they are a problem.

    You can tell there is a problem when you need to replace a sticky yellow stick when it is covered in fungus gnats.

    It is all about balance. Outside in the garden there are insects that help keep the plant munching population down. In an enclosed space if the plant muncher comes in and there is nothing to munch on it… then it becomes a problem.

  90. #91 EnonZ
    April 15, 2015

    @JP

    Yes, yes. The whole GMO thing. I don’t understand condemning an entire technology. OTOH, the issue of GMOs has gotten all mixed up with questions of the power of BigAg (not to mention the M word) and the loss of genetic diversity in our domesticated species because spread of industrial monocultures.

    In any case, I was replying specifically to quotes from Pollan’s 2007 essay, “Unhappy Meals” which were described as “vapid” and “egregious ignorance”. If he’s come down hard on the “frankenfood” side, then I think he’s wrong. But I still think that “Unhappy Meals” is one of the most useful and thoughtful things he’s written. That’s why it’s what gets quoted.

    That and his early book, “The Botany of Desire”. He vividly expresses the idea that, from wheat’s point of view, we exist to cut down forests and extend their domain. We co-evolve.

  91. #92 JP
    April 15, 2015

    Yes, yes. The whole GMO thing.

    Sorry, but when a professor of journalism at Berkeley thinks it’s a great idea to publicize studies by Stephanie Seneff, I weep for the future of the profession. If he had even bothered, say, looking at the study itself or the author information, he might have realized something was fishy. Journalist my a**.

    OTOH, the issue of GMOs has gotten all mixed up with questions of the power of BigAg (not to mention the M word) and the loss of genetic diversity in our domesticated species because spread of industrial monocultures.

    How do you figure? I don’t see anything about any of the GMO crops currently on the market that leads to any of the industrial ag practices you’re concerned about. For the record, I think huge swathes of monocultures, etc., are a bad idea myself, but I think this has more to do with government subsidies and structural issues – especially considering the fact that this was all going on long before GMO crops were ever approved for sale.

    Even the RoundupReady crops, which seem intuitively to me like kind of a bad idea, since they encourage increased pesticide use, actually have some ecological benefits. They reduce tilling, which helps preserve topsoil and also lowers a farm’s carbon footprint. And, to be honest, if farmers want to buy them, it’s probably for good reason – increased yields, say, which not only helps farmers but helps the environment. If we wanted to feed the world with organic food, considering the fact that an organic farm’s yield is typically 20% less than “conventional” agriculture, we’d need to devote a lot more land to farming, probably destroying most of what little habitat for, y’know, other species there is left.

    By “the M word” I assume you mean Monsanto? I don’t really get why people have such a bug up their a** about Monsanto. I was arguing about the company a day or two ago in connection with Hillary Clinton and her “Monsanto ties” which don’t even exist, actually.

    I don’t see how Monsanto is any more or less evil than any other biggish corporation, really. They’re not even that big; their profits are barely more than Whole Foods. It’s true that they jealously guard their patents, because they know that if the concept of patenting seed budges even a little bit, the whole monetary basis for the biotech industry is gone. Maybe some people don’t want a biotech industry, but then they should argue that point instead of making vague claims about eeeeeevil Monsanto. I personally think private industry has a place in technological innovation – the pharma companies, for example, are financial juggernauts and do skeevy things all the time, which needs to be kept in check, but they’ve also come up with a lot of beneficial and life-saving treatments.

    All I can figure is that people use Monsanto as a kind of icon to invest all their fears about genetic engineering in general into. I mean, it’s not even the only big biotech company, but oddly enough, I don’t see people out in the street “marching against Syngenta.”

  92. #93 JP
    April 15, 2015

    That and his early book, “The Botany of Desire”. He vividly expresses the idea that, from wheat’s point of view, we exist to cut down forests and extend their domain. We co-evolve.

    Meh. I haven’t read that book, but he does the same thing in The Omnivore’s Dilemma with corn. It’s sort of a mildly entertaining anthropomorphization, I guess, but neither wheat nor corn have nervous systems or anything, so I don’t think they really have a “point of view.”

  93. #94 EnonZ
    April 15, 2015

    @JP

    I should have made it clearer that mixing up GMO technology per se with other issues is something I see a lot of, not my own position. GMO seems to bring out primal fears in a lot of people about messing with the natural order of things. It’s disappointing if Pollan has gotten caught up in this, but it’s a common affliction. I usually just shrug and point out that we wouldn’t even have papayas to eat anymore if it weren’t for genetic engineering.

    Well, of course wheat doesn’t have a literal point of view; it’s a vivid metaphor to emphasize that wheat isn’t a just a passive recipient of our manipulations, but actively affects our evolution in turn. We co-evolve. It’s an “as if” intentionality that’s very common and useful in writing about biology (as Dennett has written about and defended repeatedly).

  94. #95 JP
    April 15, 2015

    @EnonZ:

    Maybe you missed this link about Pollan being completely mendacious about his own positions on GMOs.

    Like I said, I didn’t read Botany of Desire – maybe it’s a halfway decent book, Pollan seemed to write better stuff earlier in his career – but in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he literally gives corn this sort of sinister personality. I get it that he doesn’t like the American industrial agricultural system, but the whole presentation relies on emotional button-pushing and fear-mongering instead of on actual evidence or facts or even cogent arguments.

    Incidentally, here’s some of his gibberish from Food Rules:

    3

    Avoid food products containing ingredients that no
    ordinary human would keep in the pantry.

    Ethoxylated diglycerides? Cellulose? Xanthan gum? Calcium propionate? Ammonium sulfate? If you wouldn’t cook with them yourself, why let others use these ingredien
    ts to cook for you? The food scientists’ chemistry set is designed to extend shelf life, make old food look fresher and more appetizing than it really is, and get you to eat more. Whether or not any of these additives pose a proven hazard to your health, many of them haven’t been eaten by humans for very long, so they are best avoided.

    First of all, I have cooked with xantham gum before – I’ve used it in gluten free pizza crusts that I’ve made for friends, because IRL I am a freaking saint. (That was sort of a joke.)

    Second of all, I fail to see how the above is any less brain dead than Food Babe. He’s got another “rule” in there that goes, “If a third grader can’t pronounce it, don’t it eat.” More glib BS.

    And to be honest, I really just find him to be an unutterably pretentious SOB. I found the third section of Omnivore to be just gratingly self-congratulatory and clueless in a very typical white-male-of-a-privileged-background kind of way. Especially the part where he claim that the meal he made using a boar he’d shot and so on and yadda yadda was a meal that he’d “paid the full karmic price for.” I don’t think Michael Pollan has paid the full karmic price for anything in his life.

    Sorry for the rant, but I’m a bit grouchy today after paying a bunch of money to the Govt, and I’m also on edge waiting to hear back about some grant money I applied for, which I’m supposed to learn about today.

  95. #96 JP
    April 15, 2015

    Gah, a proper closing tag on that link would’ve helped. It still works, though.

  96. #97 KayMarie
    April 15, 2015

    JP, good luck on the grant. we should be hearing any moment about a bunch of abstracts we submitted for a meeting with a bunch more to get submitted by Friday for the the other meeting.

  97. #98 JP
    April 15, 2015

    Thanks. In any case, I have several fall-back options if I don’t get the money, though it’ll mean another summer not abroad. (Which might be good for dissertation writing, actually.) I’ll either be able to teach intensive first year Russian, which is good money and fun – it’s a good thing I’ve got a whole pile of fantastic teaching evaluations, I suppose. The language coordinator will generally jump on an opportunity to have me teach.

    Or my advisor asked if I’d like to work as an RA over the summer, which would also be good money and would look good on a CV. (I’d be fact checking his book, basically – it helps that I know all the relevant languages.)

  98. #99 justthestats
    April 15, 2015

    I’m a bit grouchy today after paying a bunch of money to the Govt, and I’m also on edge waiting to hear back about some grant money I applied for

    Irony alert!

  99. #100 JP
    April 15, 2015

    True ’nuff. Nobody I know likes paying taxes, though.

  100. #101 JP
    April 15, 2015

    ^ Bah. Only “likes” was supposed to be in italics.

  101. #102 Beth
    April 15, 2015

    David Kessler writes extensively in “The End of Overeating” about the careful design that goes into foods manufactured by food companies. The aim is to make “craveable” foods that people will get addicted to, and food companies are very sophisticated and skilled at doing that.
    The manufacturing does include a lot of chemicals.
    David Kessler has a thoroughly reality- and science-based understanding of the situation.
    Once you find out what he has to say, the various complaints that Michael Pollan and the Food Babe have against processed food, don’t look so silly.

  102. #103 TBruce
    April 16, 2015

    @JP#297:

    Am I reading that correctly, that Pollan is freaking out about cellulose? So much for “Eat less, mostly plants”.

    That’s ignorance on a level with the Fool Babe’s “OMG Nitrogen in airplane air!!!” fiasco.

  103. #104 JP
    April 17, 2015

    Am I reading that correctly, that Pollan is freaking out about cellulose? So much for “Eat less, mostly plants”.

    That’s ignorance on a level with the Fool Babe’s “OMG Nitrogen in airplane air!!!” fiasco.

    Indeed.

    @Beth:

    Yeah, food companies definitely make junk food as appealing and tasty as possible, and it is a problem. They especially like to market to children, which I think is an even bigger problem. There are real things to criticize the food industry for.

    But I don’t see how your sentence “The manufacturing does include a lot of chemicals” is logically connected to anything. Of course, everything is made of chemicals to begin with, but you probably already know that, so I’m going to assume you mean “added synthetic chemicals.” Look, fresh fruits and veggies are fantastic, but it’s hard to live on them. I also buy things like corn tortillas, spaghetti sauce (because lazy), goddess dressing, etc. Most of those sorts of things are going to have some added chemicals for fairly practical reasons like shelf stability, preservation, etc. It doesn’t make them all “non-food” or whatever, and it beats botulism, that’s for sure.

  104. #105 Tim
    April 18, 2015

    “Faraday was Humphry Davy’s assistant”

    when Davy damaged his eyesight in an accident with nitrogen trichloride, he decided to employ Faraday as an assistant.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Faraday#Adult_life

    ^^ I suppose ‘nitrogen trichloride’ was codicil for gay porn??}

    O.K. Chris #280. Thx for the clarification.

    JGC #278,
    Well, yes and no.

  105. #106 Narad
    April 18, 2015

    goddess dressing, etc.

    I’m going with TMI.

  106. #107 Interrobang
    April 18, 2015

    JP: I’ll cop to liking paying taxes, but I have access to single-payer healthcare.

    I’m critical of the locovore movement generally too, because if I had to live on what is grown within the amount of distance they usually talk about, I’d starve — we here in southwestern Ontario have this nasty habit of paving over our good farmland. My mother — born in 1945 — never ate fresh pineapple until she was an adult, and winter vegetables for her consisted of carrots, potatoes, cabbage, rutabagas, and a few scungy apples. I like rice and lemons and Israeli Sharon persimmons and loquats and all kinds of weird things many of my ancestors probably wouldn’t eat.

    The worst food tolerance problems I’m having right now is dealing with an Orthodox rabbi of Polish extraction who is so paranoid of insects in vegetables that his family peels their tomatoes and peppers (it took about everything I had not to say, “If you peel a pepper, is there anything left?!), and who won’t eat strawberries, because he seems to sincerely believe that there could be insects hiding under the seeds, contrary to, you know, how they actually form and all that (I grow strawberries on what used to be my front lawn on an urban residential street, even).

    My parents are avid food and flower gardeners, and I grew up around farms, and his kind of outright vegetable phobia just makes me think “There hasn’t been a gardener or a farmer in your lineage for ten generations, has there?”

  107. #108 LouV
    April 18, 2015

    Once you find out what he has to say, the various complaints that Michael Pollan and the Food Babe have against processed food, don’t look so silly.
    Sorry, but if Pollan and FB’s advice aren’t science-based, I don’t think they are doing anything productive ; worse, they harm genuine food safety advocates.
    Maybe Kessler is one of these advocates ; I don’t know him but I know the ideas he defend about food manufacturing and think it is indeed interesting to discuss them.
    Just because clowns like FB are harshly criticized, it doesn’t mean that we think nothing can be improved in the food industry. We don’t point out the fact that FB is criticizing the food industry ; we point out she is doing it the completely wrong way, and encouraging people to think this is the way you should advocate food safety.

  108. #109 Bpeth
    The p is silent
    April 18, 2015

    I don’t see how your sentence “The manufacturing does include a lot of chemicals” is logically connected to anything. Of course, everything is made of chemicals to begin with, but you probably already know that, so I’m going to assume you mean “added synthetic chemicals.” Look, fresh fruits and veggies are fantastic, but it’s hard to live on them. I also buy things like corn tortillas, spaghetti sauce (because lazy), goddess dressing, etc. Most of those sorts of things are going to have some added chemicals for fairly practical reasons like shelf stability, preservation, etc. It doesn’t make them all “non-food” or whatever

    You and others are criticizing attitudes such as anti-processed food, anti-added chemicals, eating only local foods, eating only “organic” food on a logical level.
    BUT, the function of those attitudes is on a practical level. In practice, they induce people to avoid these products of the food industry that are designed to be hyperpalatable and get people to eat too much. That is generally good for their health. It helps prevent weight gain. It also improves the quality of their diet, both by preventing them from eating too much of the sugar, fat and salt that are added to processed food. They also eat more fiber and other things the food companies take out of processed food.
    So there’s a kind of practical logic in being against processed food.
    Food advertising trains people to have a positive attitude about their processed food products.
    What attitudes against processed foods, added chemicals, etc. do is to replace that inculcated positive attitude with a personal negative attitude.
    David Kessler talks in “The End of Overeating” about how to get out of the “conditioned hypereating” that food companies create. Among the methods he mentions are creating a negative attitude towards the addictive food; and rules that exclude eating it. It does mean that one regards that kind of food as “non-food”. Being anti-processed food, or not eating foods with more than 5 ingredients on the label, etc., is a way of regarding that kind of food as “non-food”.
    Adopting an ideology is a way that people avoid doing something they would otherwise do.
    “The End of Overeating” is well worth reading, even if one doesn’t have a weight problem. It was a revelation to me, because I hadn’t realized how extensively the food companies have designed processed foods for hyperpalatability. This is a result of competition. It’s not just a matter of adding sugar, fat and salt; there are many other techniques that David Kessler explains.

  109. #110 Bpeth
    April 18, 2015

    fresh fruits and veggies are fantastic, but it’s hard to live on them

    I pretty much do live on fruits and vegetables, if you include starchy roots, quinoa and amaranth as vegetables. It’s quite doable, and healthy too.

  110. #111 KayMarie
    April 18, 2015

    I would hope (and I’m often disappointed) that we wouldn’t need to induce fear and loathing and create illogical belief systems to get people to eat whole nutrient dense foods.

    Is it really true that setting up a set of arbitrary rules that do not make scientific sense and inducing a raft of food-phobias is the only way to get Joe Average to eat something other than a box of processed calories from the middle of the grocery store?

    I mean I know most scientists I know who do any sort of research into nutrition and phytochemcials gravitate to a whole food, lots of veggies, nutrient dense data because it logically follows from the data they generated.

    I don’t see why we can’t work on educating people about facts and data rather than trying to figure out which fear-based psuedoreligion will coerce them into eating their veggies.

    We also need to address the food deserts and other barriers to eating nutritiously. Because when push comes to shove you will eat the calories you need out of whatever is available even it isn’t good for you. But still I’d rather teach someone in an area with a new grocery store how to eat based on reality than have them running in fear from the box of processed calories.

  111. #112 KayMarie
    April 18, 2015

    The first data in the second paragraph should be food *headdesk*.

  112. #113 Bpeth
    April 18, 2015

    if Pollan and FB’s advice aren’t science-based, I don’t think they are doing anything productive ; worse, they harm genuine food safety advocates.

    How do you know if what they’re doing is productive?
    The effects of Michael Pollan and the Food Babe are a huge question about our society.
    I’m not a fan of either of them myself. I pay attention to the more science-based criticism of the food industry, such as Marion Nestle and David Kessler.
    But that doesn’t imply that they are bad for society in general.
    Marion Nestle has given talks in which she discusses Michael Pollan and his “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” maxim, not as an enemy of public health, but as a good idea.
    David Kessler says that rules and structure about food are part of not being victimized by food advertising – but that the particular rules that work for an individual are a personal matter. He mentions attitudes against processed food, being a locavore, etc. as a way that people create these rules, in “The End of Overeating”.

  113. #114 JP
    April 18, 2015

    I pretty much do live on fruits and vegetables, if you include starchy roots, quinoa and amaranth as vegetables.

    Uh, starchy roots, maybe, but not the second two, because they’re not. Incidentally, you might be interested to know that the massive recent USian demand for quinoa is pretty much an ecological disaster and also screws over actual Bolivians. I’ll stick to masa, thanks, even though it’s “processed” enough to make it actually nutritious.

  114. #115 JP
    April 18, 2015

    is the only way to get Joe Average to eat something other than a box of processed calories from the middle of the grocery store?

    I’m pretty sure Michael Pollan avoids associating with Joe Average as much as possible. Particularly precious was the point in one of his books where he said people should just spend more money on food. How very cute coming from a multi-millionaire.

    Being anti-processed food, or not eating foods with more than 5 ingredients on the label, etc., is a way of regarding that kind of food as “non-food”.

    I have a jar of spaghetti sauce in my fridge which has more than 5 ingredients. Most of them are things like “dehydrated garlic” and so on. But it’s a food. You can tell yourself it isn’t, but you’re not basing that on reality.

  115. #116 JP
    April 18, 2015

    @Interrobang:

    JP: I’ll cop to liking paying taxes, but I have access to single-payer healthcare.

    I guess I could rephrase that: I don’t know any grad student who actually likes paying taxes.

    The worst food tolerance problems I’m having right now is dealing with an Orthodox rabbi of Polish extraction who is so paranoid of insects in vegetables that his family peels their tomatoes and peppers (it took about everything I had not to say, “If you peel a pepper, is there anything left?!), and who won’t eat strawberries, because he seems to sincerely believe that there could be insects hiding under the seeds, contrary to, you know, how they actually form and all that (I grow strawberries on what used to be my front lawn on an urban residential street, even).

    Do they speak Yiddish? Do they have a son who’s looking to get married? AFAF.

    Nah, actually, they’re too frum for the person I’m thinking of, who’s looking for somebody with US citizenship who speaks Yiddish and isn’t super-observant. So basically a unicorn.

  116. #117 Denice Walter
    April 18, 2015

    I live in an extremely over-priced locale- altho’ everyone is not exactly rich, quite a few are. And yes, there is a great deal of catering ( figuratively as well as literally) to that preciousness of which JP speaks.

    Thus, shopping for food is a socio-economic adventure inciting both sensations of relative deprivation and feelings of empathy and despair for those who are worse off than I am.

    Markets are arrayed based on affordability- ranging from the low-priced generic brand shop to the highest echelon of purity of essence and freedom from necessity and want.

    So I shop at Middle Plus Market but usually don’t buy most fresh vegetables and fruits there because of their prices instead frequenting the ethnic markets for that ( most likely, Russian or Chinese).

    Occasionally I DO visit the hallowed halls of emporia devoted to perfection, cleanliness and near-g0dliness- the havens of organic crunchiness and diffuse orthorectic considerations, all carefully listed on products. It once took me several minutes to decide which ice tea in a bottle was actually tea- not kombucha, maca etc etc In addition, we have a Japanese supermarket ( which is entertaining) and a HUGE health food supermarket ( the latter’s contents listed sound like a snarky writing project that sceptics would dream up but they are achingly- and laughably- real).

    I do enjoy some rarified offerings at these places, a few examples:
    really excellent green tea, tiny fig/ berry bars with whole wheat crust, expensive youghurt, California walnut oil and salads that cost more than meals at average places.

    One of my gentlemen sometimes shops at a high end fishmonger where Norwegian salmon and odd Pacific catches are displayed as though they were jewels. I am thrilled to be rewarded with 10 oz or so,

  117. #118 Narad
    April 18, 2015

    it took about everything I had not to say, “If you peel a pepper, is there anything left?!

    Sure, if you have a decent peeler. The Hungarian apple peppers I’ve gotten were very thick skinned, but not peeling bell peppers is pretty rustic. How this is a kashrus issue eludes me, though – the question is obvious infestations. If Hashem went to the trouble of hiding the insects so well, one should probably take the hint and skip them entirely.

    The strawberries deal is a longer story. This routine started in England, spread to Satmar, and then showed up in Israel, with predictable undertones (Palestinian strawberries during Shmita contaminated Israeli ones, or something).

    The latter isn’t really applicable here and now, so it’s really just a niche frummer-than-thou thing at this point.

  118. #119 Bpeth
    April 18, 2015

    I don’t see why we can’t work on educating people about facts and data rather than trying to figure out which fear-based psuedoreligion will coerce them into eating their veggies.

    Who said we were trying to do this?
    But you can’t understand or even meaningfully criticize these popular food philosophies without understanding their societal context – and a big part of that is the tactics of food companies in a hyper-competitive environment to get people to eat more of their products.
    People are relentlessly conditioned into eating more.
    I was working out at a gym for awhile, that sold “healthy” processed food – lots of calories, lots of sugar. There were TVs on in front of the elliptical machines – so one would see chocolate syrup pouring (an ad for brownie mix, maybe) while working out. The Kinko’s copy store has a rack of snacks and candy bars next to the checkout. Lots of people work in places where they bring in trays of donuts or pizza for everyone.
    This is the context we live in.
    Criticizing the factual errors of Food Babe, without acknowledging the truth or usefulness in what she says, won’t mean much to people who find that her advice works for them. It’s likely to be interpreted as a defense of the status quo in the food system, or dismissed as not really getting the point.

  119. #120 J
    United States
    April 21, 2015

    If you’re going to try to sound smart. You should try researching spell check. Who cares if Food Babe is extreme. At least she isn’t false advertising. The self proclaimed “science babe” is fugly. Lol you all have way too much time. Just go eat McDonald’s to soothe the fact that you’re unsuccessful, unattractive losers.

  120. #121 ChrisP
    April 21, 2015

    Who cares if Food Babe is extreme

    I would rather take correct and fugly over wrong and extreme every day of the week.

    This quote rather neatly sums up your lack of critical thinking skills.

  121. #122 herr doktor bimler
    April 21, 2015

    If you’re going to try to sound smart. You should try researching spell check

    Complete sentences also help.

  122. #123 Narad
    April 21, 2015

    Complete sentences also help.

    I myself am uncertain how to parse “At least she isn’t false advertising.”

    Only one of the two demands professional image makers to my knowledge, but perhaps I’m missing something.

  123. #124 Dangerous Bacon
    April 21, 2015

    Nonsense, we are highly successful losers.

  124. #125 KayMarie
    April 21, 2015

    Bpeth.

    I guess I still hope that if people learn the rational data-filled truthful reasons to eat their veggies and avoid processed food that may insulate them against the next pretty fear-monger who gathers a following who may have much more damaging rules that some people think work for them.

    But guru after guru who occasionally gets a couple of things right for all the wrong reasons is starting to wear on my optimism.

  125. #126 Denice Walter
    April 21, 2015

    ” At least she isn’t false advertising”….

    But isn’t the subtext of her collected works basically..

    ‘Eat like me, look like me.’

    Exactly like many other alt med folk. It doesn’t work like that.

  126. #127 ken
    April 21, 2015

    #264 TBruce
    Cigarettes were once ‘physician’ tested, approved
    http://www.healio.com/hematology-oncology/news/print/hemonc-today/{241d62a7-fe6e-4c5b-9fed-a33cc6e4bd7c}/cigarettes-were-once-physician-tested-approved
    http://www.tobacco.stanford.edu/tobacco_main/index.php

  127. #128 Narad
    April 22, 2015

    Cigarettes were once ‘physician’ tested, approved

    Apparently, recognizing scare quotes and actually reading the post are above Ken’s pay grade.

  128. #129 JP
    April 22, 2015

    Apparently, recognizing scare quotes and actually reading the post are above Ken’s pay grade.

    Yes, it’s already been established that ken has some troubles when it comes to scare quotes. Ah, f*ck it, she seems to have some troubles understanding much of anything. Like when to get lost.

  129. #130 TBruce
    April 22, 2015

    ken@329:

    Those were actors and models, not doctors. Both articles say so.

    Do you also believe that a talking gecko with an Australian accent can save you 15% or more on your car insurance?

  130. […] analyst turned “food activist” named Vani Hari. Yes, I’ve been highly critical. Science Babe has been highly critical. Many bloggers and now mainstream reporters have written some very unflattering things about her in […]

  131. […] of any chemical perceived as synthetic to the point where she actually says thinks like, “If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t eat it” and “There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, […]

  132. #133 Eddie Unwind
    May 13, 2015

    Summarily, Foghorn Leghorn ‘Orac’ is a self-styled buffoon. I had initially thought – given the content of his articles – that he was just another sarcastic, pompous blogger, but as most will realize this isn’t the case; he’s on faculty at a reputable university. Now whether you agree with him or not is not really the point – the simple fact is that this man, given his position, and with respect to him taking sniper-shots under a pseudonym at people of his profession, is participating in the lowest possible level of conduct. Hence it goes without saying that his motives are on par with his level of conduct. And so, if you hope to be getting the ‘low-down’ on things here, I’d say you most certainly are. The lowest possible.

  133. #134 TBruce
    May 13, 2015

    No, I think “tone-trolling”, being inconsequential and passive-aggressive, is about as low as it gets.

    with respect to him taking sniper-shots under a pseudonym at people of his profession

    Since when is the Fool Babe a cancer surgeon?

  134. #135 Eddie Unwind
    May 13, 2015

    Troll? Ok, have it your way. Suffice it to say, then, that as purveyor of the Kingdom of Lows I immediately recognise my own kind, and to put it in Lowspeak with regard to Foghorn Leghorn Orac’s stated credentials, they ultimately amount to nothing.

  135. #136 Eddie Unwind
    May 14, 2015

    For the sake of perspective, the comments section is the most degrading forum currently known to humanity. Authorship is of zero importance – it matters neither who or what you or I am, nor what we do. All that counts is the manner and content of observation. And so with manners appropriate to this setting, I contend that in these blogs, Foghorn Leghorn Orac, pseudonym and all, displays all the hallmarks of a dishonourable, fairly wretched, contemptible fool. And without a doubt he will meet with the consequences of having chosen to big-note himself in such ignominious fashion.

  136. #137 justthestats
    May 14, 2015

    the simple fact is that this man, given his position, and with respect to him taking sniper-shots under a pseudonym at people of his profession, is participating in the lowest possible level of conduct.

    If you believe that writing stuff on a blog is the lowest possible level of conduct, you are either grossly ignorant of human history or you have appalling judgment.

    Authorship is of zero importance – it matters neither who or what you or I am, nor what we do.

    And yet you seem to be quite fixated on the identity of the blog’s proprietor..

  137. #138 CanonicalRabbit
    PNW, USA
    May 19, 2015

    Oh, so, ever-so late, but reference lutfisk: you have not lived, my friends, until you’ve sat down to Christmas dinner and watched your grandfather (born and raised in Sweden), pouring turkey gravy over his plate full of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and lutfisk. Grandma kept the pot she soaked/boiled it in out in the wash-house because you really didn’t want to keep it in the actual house. Honestly, much like tofu, it doesn’t taste of much on its own other than very vaguely fishy.

    Re: Tofu. Texturally, I don’t like it (yes, I’ve tried dried tofu, firm tofu, soft tofu, braised, fried, whatever). Taste-wise, if I want to engage in things without any flavor, I’ll go outside and stick my tongue out. Yes, tofu will pick up flavor from other ingredients, but in that case, why even bother with it? If I want protein, I’ll throw in some beef/pork/chicken/fish/peanuts/anything-that-isn’t-tofu. And an occasional meal with no protein isn’t going to kill me.

    Re: Michael Pollan. Other students in my Master Gardener class raved about him, especially his anti-GMO stance. No one could ever give me an answer when I asked to see the data–Michael Pollan had spoken and there was no need for pesky facts to cloud the issue.

  138. #139 shay
    May 19, 2015

    One does not lightly mention lutefisk in this forum.

  139. […] Then this. […]

  140. #141 jurg bangerter
    June 7, 2015

    No, Monsanto isn’t Solving World Hunger. Not Even Close.
    Posted on May 27, 2014 by Nick in Food, Health, News, Study

    Nick Bernabe | The Anti-Media
    We’ve all seen that comment, “Monsanto has done more to end world hunger than any of you”, but that slogan is not based on sound science; rather it’s the result of a $50 million dollar ad campaign launched after a Time magazine cover story christened GMO food as “Grains of Hope” on Aug 7, 2000. Thumbnail credit: gmo-awareness.com
    After reading deeper and doing some research, it becomes clear that GMO crops are not solving the world’s hunger problems, contrary to Monsanto’s claims on it’s website that they are working to “mitigate hunger once and for all.”
    Further reading of the Op-Ed by Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant titled ‘Let’s End World Hunger’ reveals nothing but empty rhetoric and the push for CEOs and NGOs to work together with governments in the third world to gift away the problem of world hunger by making more charitable donations from rich people to governments. The Monsanto CEO doesn’t even mention his products when talking about ending world hunger, because he knows there is no real science to back up these marketing tactics.
    An in-depth paper from MIT about solving world hunger in 2014 came to this conclusion about GMO crops:
    “Other technologies available have fewer scientific unknowns, less possibility of forming cycles of farmer debt, and have led to equally significant reductions in hunger. Integrated pest management, organic farming, and other improved farming practices may increase yields just as effectively as would introducing transgenic organisms. As such, we will not promote their widespread use until more research has been done on long term health effects, GMO seeds are available outside of corporate agriculture control, the biological effects of gene insertion are better understood, and research confirms that the presence of GMOs will not harm the native species in an ecosystem.”
    The anti-science rhetoric that is hatched up in biotech marketing departments is beginning to come under scrutiny as Monsanto’s ‘Golden Rice’, which was supposed to prevent blindness in 350,000 children and prevent the premature death of 1 million more, has all but failed to deliver on all of it’s promises. As John Robbins at the Huffington Post brilliantly puts it:
    “For one thing, we’ve learned that golden rice will not grow in the kinds of soil that it must to be of value to the world’s hungry. To grow properly, it requires heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides — expensive inputs unaffordable to the very people that the variety is supposed to help. And we’ve also learned that golden rice requires large amounts of water — water that might not be available in precisely those areas where Vitamin A deficiency is a problem, and where farmers cannot afford costly irrigation projects.
    And one more thing — it turns out that golden rice doesn’t work, even in theory. Malnourished people are not able to absorb Vitamin A in this form. And even if they could, they’d have to eat an awful lot of the stuff. An 11-year-old boy would have to eat 27 bowls of golden rice a day in order to satisfy his minimum requirement for the vitamin.”
    Manipulative ad campaigns have made people who oppose GM crops out to be anti-science environmental zealots willing to starve the world for their selfish want for organic produce. But who is actually anti-science when it comes to the GMO debate? Science is about questioning the official narrative and challenging the status-quo to allow these perceived societal norms such as GM foods to be properly vetted. If the pro-GMO crowd calls the anti-GMO crowd anti-science for questioning the safety and use of these products and practices, then they don’t have the slightest clue of what science really is.
    On the heels of a UN report stating that small-scale and organic farming was needed instead of large scale commercial farming to lower world hunger rates, a new study has shown that Europe’s non-GMO farming techniques have produced higher yields than their ‘conventional’, GM, and pesticide treated American counterparts.
    – See more at: http://livefreelivenatural.com/monsanto-isnt-solving-world-hunger-even-close/#sthash.pndEI8gT.AS6wlhQ9.dpuf

  141. #142 Chris
    June 7, 2015

    ” Monsanto’s ‘Golden Rice’,”

    Monsanto is only one company, and it is not the major developer of Golden Rice. The only mention of Monsanto on this wiki page is this: “Potrykus has enabled golden rice to be distributed free to subsistence farmers.[47] Free licenses for developing countries were granted quickly due to the positive publicity that golden rice received, particularly in Time magazine in July 2000. [48] Monsanto Company was one of the first companies to grant free licences.[49]”

    If your spam from Nick Bernabe gets that bit wrong, why should we believe anything from him?

  142. #143 Dangerous Bacon
    June 7, 2015

    “We’ve all seen that comment, “Monsanto has done more to end world hunger than any of you””

    I’ve never seen that comment, and no one who supports useful applications of biotech believes that we have to depend on Monsanto to end world hunger. The ninnies who insist on equating all uses of genetic modification technology with support of Monsanto, are however doing their best to make sure that a significant tool which could help to end hunger is never used.

    The idea for golden rice did not come from Monsanto; credit goes to the nonprofit International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

    Golden rice “has failed to deliver on all of its promises” because of vehement and deceptive opposition from anti-GMOers, including destruction of test fields.

    Similarly, it’s more than a bit disingenuous for anti-GMOers to claim (falsely) that malnourished children can’t absorb beta-carotene in golden rice – when the same crowd got spitting mad because a study in China demonstrated precisely that (anti-GMOers professed to be upset because the study didn’t use proper informed consent for study subjects).

    So who’s being manipulative here?

  143. […] It went viral: As of today, the post has more than 4.6 million views and 3,319 comments. Among science and health writers, though, the reactions were pretty mixed. […]

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