Our current food crisis — Seeing the bigger picture

It has been a very scary time these past few weeks as more and more dismal news presents itself regarding the pet food recall, the poisons detected, the implications for both the regulation of foods by the FDA for both human and animal consumption.

I came to better understand food ingredients when I woke up many years ago in distress and was subsequently found to have a level of antinuclear antibodies in my blood that was out of the stratosphere. I was allergic to almost everything and ingesting something with one of the dreaded ingredients could result in anaphylaxis. My biggest allergies were to those two substances most used in all of our processed foods, corn and soy.

I have come to understand much more about food, about our agriculture, about chemicals and pesticides, and so much more. And, it just scares me more and more. It is the reason that I emphasize the use of organics, for both ourselves and our animals. It is why I only use filtered water for myself and my animals.

Having lost two dogs to cancer, I decided to go with the best, something where I knew every ingredient to be organic and which was not processed at all. I have no fears any longer about quality and will never need to be concerned about contamination.

That is because I am using the organic pre-mix from CANINE LIFE which is actually milled in small batches in a kosher, human food facility. For those folks not familiar with the difference in kosher foods, let’s just say that achieving kosher certification is dependent on a level of Rabbinic supervision that is extraordinary. While having a kosher certification for a pre-mix is clearly not a necessity, it does make me that much more confident in the process with respect to what I am getting.

This organic pre-mix contains the most exemplary ingredients (Organic milled whole brown rice, Organic chick peas, Organic whole oats, calcium, carob, Acadian sea kelp, green tea, turmeric, oregano, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, ginger, and garlic). I add to it: organic egg, organic safflower oil, organic broccoli, organic red delicious apple, organic wild blueberries, organic thigh meat chicken, and 100%pure organic cranberry juice. It is combined and placed in muffin tins and minimally baked for 25 minutes.

When you are using quality ingredients, the new adage clearly becomes … less is more. There is no need for digestive enzymes, additional vitamins, or other boosters because all of those are provided in the pure ingredients that I am using. Because of the need for efa’s, I give a recommended 3000mg of wild salmon oil daily, but not baked into the food where it loses its value. I add it to the food after.


Sadly, much of what I keep harping on at our foundation site is ignored. I only carry items in our store with proteins that are organic or free range, chemical and antibiotic-free. Only those items that I allow in my animal companions’ mouths are featured. Period.

I only allow for items that have organic rather than non-organic vegetables. Unfortunately, people see little difference between the two, for themselves or for their dogs, so my orders are very few. But, if you read the following, maybe you will reconsider what you put into your mouth … or even that of your beloved animal companion.


Although higher costs are the initial objection to going organic, people are essentially unaware of the critical differences between organic & non-organic products. In a March 2006 article on produce losing vitamins and minerals over the past 50 years, agriculture and nutrition tradeoffs are detailed. “The fruits and vegetables that our parents ate when they were growing up were more nutritious than the ones we’ll serve our children tonight. As we have substituted chemical fertilizers, pesticides and monoculture farming for the natural cycling of nutrients and on-farm biodiversity, we have lessened the nutritional value of our produce.”

Non-organic fruits and vegetables are repeatedly sprayed and subjected to much pesticide. In fact, there are pesticides and chemical compounds commonly utilized to prolong shelf-life. When you eat non-organic sweet potatoes, you ingest the pesticide botran along with fungicides imazilil, benomyl, and thiabenzadole. These substances are cancer causing and sources of immune system damage. They cannot be removed by peeling and are used to allow longer shelf life, not fresher or safer food.

The shelf life for sweet potatoes, because of the application of these harmful chemicals, is a huge 36 months. That means, the potatoes you could be buying are not only questionable with respect to toxicity, they are also lower in nutrients due to the amount of time they may be waiting for distribution. Organic sweet potatoes, which do not utilize such pesticides or fungicides, have a shelf life of only 9 months. Organic fruits and vegetables have been shown to be higher in nutrients, and many studies have clearly proven the case for organics. Organic produce tastes better and reduces pesticide exposure. Organic produce contains 30% higher levels of antioxidants and organic farming can cut mycotoxin risk by over 50%. [Further discussion of mycotoxins can be found here.]

Non-organic chemical farming methods, which can speed up growth rates, cause structural changes to the plant─the plant then containing more water. That means the plant will contain less nutrients. In other words when you buy organic produce you get more potato for your potato. Organic plants also contain10-15% more phenolics, defense compounds believed to be helpful in preventing diseases such as cancer.

And, I extend this commitment to organic even with respect to the toys that I now advocate, as our dogs are always chewing or sucking on something. From the time they are pups, they, like babies, love to put things in their mouths. Sometimes it’s a dog toy—other times, it’s not! With our beloved companions munching away, we wondered, what exactly are they putting in their mouths? Is it safe and non-toxic? Even a non-toxic toy left us wondering, Do I want my dog chewing on toys that have PVC (polyvinyl chloride, a toxic chemical) in the plastic? Do I want him ingesting processed materials or those made using pesticides and growth hormones? Surely if we wanted the best for our dog, we wouldn’t want him putting these materials in his body.

According to 1995 data, for example, United States farmers applied nearly one-third of a pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides for every pound of cotton harvested. When all nineteen cotton-growing states are tallied, the crop accounts for 25% of all the pesticides used in the U.S. Some of these chemicals are among the most toxic classified by the U.S. EPA. In addition, cotton is often bleached white before it is dyed, and the carcinogen dioxin is produced during the process. Chemical dyes frequently include toxic heavy metals such as chrome, copper and zinc, and sometimes contain known or suspected carcinogens. Even natural dyes, because of their poor colorfastness, are often accompanied by heavy metals to fix the dyes.

But, don’t take my word for it. Read the following two articles from the esteemed Dr. Michael W. Fox about organic agriculture and also the current pet food recall being a sign of a genetic engineered food disaster.


Organic Agriculture: The First Medicine of Holistic Healing
By Michael W Fox D.Sc., Ph.D., Vet. Med., MRCVS

We human beings are surely at the time in our biological evolution when we must reflect upon the direction our lives and civilization have been taking and where we are going. We are at a crossroads, and we must choose which road to take, using common sense and compassion as guide and compass. The road to healing begins when we all feel deep concern for the suffering that surrounds and suffuses us all with the darkness of a dying planet. We have made the Earth so sick, and ourselves in the process, because we have lost touch with the sacred dimensions of reality, Nature, of wholeness, balance, harmony, health and spiritual well-being.

We are so spiritually disconnected that we find reason to put our own genes into pigs so that we can use their hearts and other organs to replace our own diseased hearts and other organs harmed by our excessive consumption of animals and pollution of the environment and our vital food chain.

We are so cognitively disconnected from reality that we spray poisonous chemicals on the crops we feed to our children and rationalize such stupidity as the best and most efficient way to feed a hungry world and even to protect wildlife and biodiversity.

We are so emotionally disconnected from other animals that for economic reasons we justify incarcerating livestock in the cruel, intensive confinement systems of factory farming, and accept the suffering of other animals in vivisection laboratories in the name of medical progress. To question this pathology of anthropocentrism is not to put animals or Nature before people, but rather to demand a full ethical and economic accounting of those activities, values and policies that are harmful to the life community.

We think we are wise to take selenium, zinc, beta carotenoids, lysine, omega 3 fatty acid, vitamin E and C and other essential vitamins and trace mineral supplements. Because they are deficient in most of the foods we eat that do not come from certified organic farming systems, the produce from which have no such serious deficiencies.

But this taking of nutritional supplements/nutraceuticals, is not real healing. It is yet another quick “fix” that the American Medical Association tried to monopolize and obliterate in 1995, for the pharmaceutical industry. Organic farming is the ultimate antidote and first medicine since, unlike conventional chemical-based agriculture, it does not deplete soils and crops, and farmed animals and us, of these essential elements. But the herbal and mineral medicines of indigenous peoples and wisdom of midwives and shamans, like that of organic farmers, are threatened by expropriation, and will soon be subject to corporate exploitation and abuse.

A few years ago I was scheduled to give a major address on animal rights, agriculture and human well being at the University of Rochester, in Minnesota, home of the famed Mayo Hospital. Interestingly no bookstore in the city had any of my books for sale, that had been requested by the graduate student organizers prior to my lecture. They were embarrassed and angry, and told me that it was the doing of the “Mayo people.” State livestock and agribusiness interests were also involved. This alliance is now beginning to break apart as study after study shows the health benefits and economic savings of humane and sustainable organic agriculture, and doctors—as well as veterinarians—are advocating the adoption of organically raised, whole (unrefined, unadulterated, and un-processed), foods.

Like the good holistic healer, the organic farmer treats the soil with the same reverential respect and nurturing compassionate understanding as the good veterinarian treats animals. But as the power of pesticides has replaced the wisdom of the farmer, so over-the-counter drugs, computers and gene-jockeys have replaced the eyes of a good stockman and the services of the livestock veterinarian. All these substitutions are costly inputs that have a multiplier effect that undermines the economic sustainability of farming enterprises that are being sacrificed as the off-farm sector of agribusiness reaps more profits from their products and services.

When industry and corporate America adopt the principles of bioethical responsibility, as exemplified by farmers who follow the ethics and scientific principles of humane, sustainable organic agriculture, and consumers and legislators support them exclusively and “eat with conscience,” we will experience such healing that we will soon need no dietary supplements, like zinc and calcium, or vitamins C and E. We will have fewer cancers, heart attacks, osteoporosis, arthritis, allergies, food poisonings, babies with birth defects and children with neurological, cognitive and emotional disorders. And fewer obese cats and dogs that develop cancer, arthritis, chronic skin, liver, kidney, endocrine, immune system and a host of other diseases, many of which can be alleviated and prevented with better nutrition and purer foods.

We won’t need to make animals suffer in laboratories to find cures for these diseases of Western civilization: Or need pigs as organ donors. Nor will we need to legitimize the creation of transgenic animals that carry and suffer our genetic disorders to serve as profitable models for developing new drugs to treat the myriad diseases we have brought upon ourselves from cancer and chemo-sensitivity to immuno-suppression and auto-immune diseases. The replacement of animal-based foods with plant-based foods could result in an 80-90 percent reduction in cancer, according to Colin Campbell, Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University. A vegetarian diet is the best way for people to beat the obesity, diabetes, stroke and heart attack epidemic that is sweeping across the consumptive West to other counties that adopt the Western diet and methods of industrial agriculture. Grass fed, organic, and free range animal produce, from beef and chicken to eggs and cheese, are more nutritious, and ethically more acceptable than the produce from animals incarcerated in cruel, and environmentally harmful factory feedlots and confinement sheds. That some large corporations have co-opted the organic label for animal produce that comes from animals kept in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) is a significant concern. A cardinal principle of organic animal agriculture is animals’ behavioral freedom and related ecological role in farming sustainably. This means that for dairy products to qualify as organic, simply feeding the cows organic feed and restricting the use of various drugs are insufficient criteria. The cows must have access to pasture and play an integral role most of the year in the ecology and economy of bioregionally appropriate farming systems. These criteria clearly make the ‘organic’ claims of mega, 2,000-10,000 dairy cowherds, patently false. CAFOs are anathema to organic farming.

Several studies have shown that organic farming practices are good for wildlife, and help in the recovery of regional biodiversity.

When some problem arises, as in our own health or in the health of our animals or the productivity of our crops and livestock, our perceptions are so limited and our motivation so often self-serving that we seek simple solutions — stronger antibiotics and other drugs and vaccines, or genetically engineered, disease resistant seeds and stock — rather than correcting the underlying systemic causes. The expediency of simple solutions, often touted as miracles of scientific progress, serve the short-term, profit-oriented interests of the industrial system. The core systemic dysfunctions and causal agents are not addressed, only the symptoms being treated. Bad medicine and bad farming practices go hand in hand. Like holistic medicine, organic farming is systemically integrated within the physical parameters of general systems theory and quantum mechanics as they relate to dynamic living ecosystems, with the overlays of ethics, esthetics, and metaphysics.

The pathogenic status quo maintained by the food and drug mafia is for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many. That is why my books in Rochester MN were seen as a threat to the establishment which, because of its complexity of interdependent vested interests, is slow to change and to ever reach a consensus that could lead to reforms. But this status-quo is crumbling, however, as people change their diets, rather than taking drugs to lower their cholesterol levels, farmers turn to biological or natural methods of pest control, and human and non-human doctors adopt a more holistic approach to disease treatment and prevention for their patients..

Collectively, we fear to embrace uncertainty and seek control, instead of understanding complexity. We have no conception or resonant heart for concord and harmony with the life community. We slaughter dolphins, wolves, trees, and still even each other.

Our choice is either to extinguish this way of life or to extinguish all life that has no utility, no commercial value.

The less we cause animals to suffer, the less we will suffer. The less we harm Nature – the “environment” – the less we will harm ourselves, because, we and all life are connected ecologically, physically, psychologically and spiritually.

That most human diseases have a spiritual aspect has been long recognized by traditional healers. Conventional medicine does not address the spiritual, emotional, attitudinal, socio-ecological and economic dimensions of our dis-ease, or the many diseases of industrial civilization. It cannot be, so long as it is ideologically, economically and politically part of the industrial system that it serves and services. It is a medicine that cannot prevent disease or heal, even the rich who can afford its ever more costly interventions, so long as it can justify its Professors of Progress and Experimental Surgery, removing the hearts of baboons and replacing them with the hearts of genetically-humanized pigs to see how long they might live before the monkey’s immune systems predictably rejected these hearts. And when gene-juggling biotechnologists play god, putting insect toxin and herbicide resistant, antibiotic marker, and human antibody genes into new varieties of common food crops and then claim that these unique patented creations are ‘substantially equivalent’ to conventional crops, rather than biological aberrations.

What great step forward might such experiments on fellow creatures make for humanity? Is it not yet another backward step into the self-destructive morass of our once noble species turning into a global parasite, if not a plague on life more pernicious than AIDS? Such animal abuse and cruelty is endorsed by the Catholic Church,’ if it is justifiable in terms of definite benefit to humanity’. This human-centered world view is embraced by the ruling bio-technocracy of the industrialized Western and Northern hemispheres to sanctify the commodization of animals and the wholesale, commercialized rape of what is left of the natural world.

The Eastern and Southern hemispheres are ensnared by the same pre-Copernican anthropocentrism of industrial progress and economic growth that is to be attained regardless of the suffering of others, of the holocaust of the animal kingdom, the death of Nature, and the demise of indigenous peoples and their once sustainable methods of farming and way of life.

We cannot put our faith and hopes in scientific discoveries that eventually prove how important the micro-organisms in the soil are for our crops to be healthy and our food nutritious: Or in new breakthroughs in agricultural and medical biotechnology. At best, it will be too little, too late. More instrumental knowledge and technological advances will be to little avail if we do not shift the operational paradigm from anthropocentrism to a more reverential Earth or Creation-centered worldview. This is a systemic transformation that begins with increasing public and political support for humane, sustainable and organic farming practices, and with holistic and preventive health care maintenance.

We have yet to see that most of our diseases are not simply physical in nature, but also have a metaphorical aspect that has to do with our state of being and relationships with each other and with the Earth. The deterioration of our immune systems, for example, mirror social and emotional stress and also the deterioration of the environment, of community values, and of the economy. That more holistically-oriented physicians are at last beginning to recognize these connections is a clear sign that a paradigm shift or change in our worldview is taking place and that the status-quo of conventional medicine, agriculture, the economy, and other social institutions is no longer acceptable. As more medical and veterinary scientists are becoming real healers, so more farmers are becoming real land-stewards. Their paradigm is based upon the following bioethical principles: compassion, humility, ahimsa (avoiding causing harm), reverential respect for all life; social justice; eco-justice, and the precautionary principle. These are the cornerstones of a healthy community and of a sustainable economy.

Advances in the science and bioethics of alternative human and veterinary medicine and agriculture that are based on this new paradigm hold much promise and should be supported by the corporate sector as well as by academia, the public and their governments worldwide.

The death of Nature will mean the death of humanity, since our humanity is derivative of the natural world, and has no primacy either in origin or in significance. There is nothing miraculously different separating the existence of ants and earthworms from mice and men. All are different manifestations of being, of the life force. None is more significant, in itself, than any other in contributing to the diversity and dynamic harmony of the life process and community. It is from this perspective of a reverential respect for all life and for its community, that through communion, the time of healing and hallowing will begin. This is a spiritual and ethical imperative, and a survival necessity for the human species in these times and at this stage in our evolution toward a wiser and more responsible, empathic and compassionate life form.


LARGEST PET FOOD RECALL EVER – A Genetic Engineered Food Disaster?
By Michael W Fox D.Sc., Ph.D., Vet. Med., MRCVS, April 5, 2007

I have received several letters from dog and cat owners thanking me for ‘saving their animal’s lives’ because they were feeding them the kind of home-made diet that I have been advocating as a veterinarian for some years. These letters came after the largest pet food recall in the pet food industry’s history.

On March 23, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets announced that rat poison in contaminated wheat gluten imported from China was responsible for the suffering and deaths of an as yet uncounted numbers of cats and dogs across North America. The poison is a chemical compound called aminopterin.

Veterinary toxicologists with the ASPCA and American College of Internal Veterinary Medicine shared my concern that there may be some other food contaminant (s) in addition to the aminopterin that was sickening and killing many pets. Experts were not convinced that the finding of rat poison contamination was the end of the story.

On March 30, the FDA reported finding a widely used compound called melamine (formed by dehydration of urea and used in the manufacture of plastics, as a wood resin adhesive, and in slow-release urea fertilizer), in the suspect pet foods. The FDA claims the melamine was the cause of an as yet uncounted number of cat and dog poisonings and deaths. The FDA could not find the rat poison, aminopterin, in the samples it analyzed; however a lab in Canada, at the University of Guelph, has confirmed the presence of rat poison. There may be other substances of a hazardous nature not yet discovered in these manufactured pet foods that include other ingredients considered unfit for human consumption, and from around the world.

The Associated Press cited the Environmental Protection Agency as having identified melamine as a contaminant and byproduct of several pesticides, including cryomazine. People began to question if there is also pesticide contamination of the wheat gluten. Is there a possibility of deliberate contamination, or is it the result of gross mismanagement and lack of effective food-safety and quality controls that accounts for levels of melamine reported to be as high as 6.6% by the FDA in samples of the wheat gluten?

A brief internet search quickly reveals that the widely used insect growth regulator cryomazine is not only made from melamine, but it also breaks down into melamine after ingestion by an animal. Wheat gluten is wheat gluten, fit for human consumption, so the question remains, what was wrong with this gluten that it was only bought for use in pet food?

On April 3 Associated Press named the US importer as ChemNutra of Las Vegas, reporting that the company had recalled 873 tons of wheat gluten that had been shipped to three pet food makers and a single distributor who in turn supplies the pet food industry.

What of the uncounted number of people whose cats and dogs became sick, and even died? Several letters that I have received indicate costs of in the thousands of $ per animal; and what of long-term care costs for animals suffering from chronic kidney disease?

While Congressional hearings are now being called for by grieving pet owners, and class action suits put together, this debacle could have catastrophic consequences not only for conventional agribusiness, of which the pet food industry is a lucrative subsidiary, but also for the agricultural biotechnology industry, with its millions of acres of genetically engineered crops around the world.

I reach this conclusion, until there is evidence to the contrary, for the following reasons:

1. The wheat gluten imported from China was not for human consumption, because, I believe, it had been genetically engineered. The FDA has a wholly cavalier attitude toward feeding animals such ‘frankenfoods’ but places some restrictions when human consumption is involved (yet refuses appropriate food labeling).

2. The ‘rat poison’ aminopterin is used in molecular biology as an anti-metabolite, folate antagonist, and in genetic engineering biotechnology as a genetic marker. This could account for its presence in this imported wheat gluten.

3. The ‘plastic’, ‘wood preservative’, contaminant melamine, the parent chemical for a potent insecticide cyromazine, could well have been manufactured WITHIN the wheat plants themselves as a genetically engineered pesticide. This is much like the Bt. insecticidal poison present in most US commodity crops that go into animal feed.

4.So called ‘overexpression’ can occur when spliced genes that synthesize such chemicals become hyperactive inside the plant and result in potentially toxic plant tissues, lethal not just to meal worms and other crop pests, but to cats, dogs, birds, butterflies and other wildlife; and to their creators. (For details, see my book Killer Foods: What Scientists Do to Make Food Better is Not Always Best. Lyon’s Press, 2004).

How else can one account for samples of pet food containing as much as 6% melamine? It was surely not mixed in such amounts when the wheat gluten was being processed, but rather was already in the wheat, along with the aminopterin genetic marker. My suspicion is that the FDA was aware that the gluten came from genetically engineered wheat that was considered safe for animal consumption.

I could be wrong. But a greater wrong is surely for the pet food industry to use food ingredients and food and beverage industry by-products considered unfit for human consumption; to continue to do business without any adequate government oversight and inspection; and for government to give greater priority to agricultural biotechnology and the patenting of genetically engineered crops and animals, and not to organic, humane, ecologically sound and safe food production.

I believe that there is evidence of gross negligence, not simply on the part of the pet food industry, but by all who are responsible for food quality and safety in the global market that is clearly dysfunctional. The Pet Food Institute should start an emergency fund to compensate all veterinary expenses incurred as a result of this—and any future—mass poisonings of people’s beloved animal companions.


Congratulations to Therapy Golden Retriever Huey

What an amazing achievement! Hats off to Hillary and her handsome guy Huey. That smile on Hillary’s face says it all. I do hope Huey continues to love life despite some health problems with his senior status.

Happy Huey

Huey, an 11-year-old golden retriever retired as a therapy dog last month. Pictured here with owner Hillary Alton, Huey logged 426 visits to several Hamilton hospitals and nursing homes over five years.

Huey’s retiring because he suffers from multiple joint arthritis. He brought many uncommunicative patients out of their shells and created other health benefits by helping them relax.