A photo on the front page of the actual St Petersburg Times riveted me this morning. It showed three Japanese people in Ishinomaki, one with a child on her back, squatting over a makeshift cooking fire, preparing food. The caption indicated they were in front of their " damaged house."
Camping! There we are with our stove teetering on a well-worn picnic bench set in a meadow, a rushing stream at one side, tall pines in the near distance, chipmunks frolicking over downed logs...but camping is what one does to experience the joys of non-civilization. Camping is a recreational choice, whereas across the region impacted by earthquakes and the tsunami, survivors are coping, in a return to the hunter-gatherer camping-style of yore. The resilient, inventive, and healthy will get by.
What are they eating? Foodie peers into their pans and sees fish, traces of greenery, and in a steamer basket, rice. Was this provender scrounged from their ruined home? Dug out of a defunct freezer? Caught from the receding sea?
Maybe it's time to take a deeper look at solar cooking, even though people with ample modernity/electricity/gas never give it a thought. ( I know, it may be snowing in the Japanese zone right now.) There's a Japanese Solar Cooking Association, affiliated with Solar Cookers World Network. The possibilities of using what is at hand, including the sun, are myriad and fascinating. Take a look here. India leads the list as a country whose most resource-poor people could benefit from solar cookery.
Meanwhile, this via the bbc: "The Japanese government is ready to release rice stockpiles wherever needed, the country's farm minister is quoted as saying by the Kyodo news agency."
( Tks to Solar Cookers International for photo.)
The "new" NYTimes food commentator, Mark Bittman, asks "Why Aren't G. M. O. Foods Labeled?" The short answer is obvious. Because of profits to be made, come what may. ( Lobbyists, too, are involved.) These products are labeled in Europe, but not in the US and Canada, although some U.S. companies and natural food chains have been labeling their products as Non GMO since at least 2005.
In the forefront of opposition to GE alfalfa, which the government recently approved for planting in the US, is one of my favorite yogurt producers, Straus Family Creamery. Albert Straus described his company's opposition to GE foods in a recent Food Democracy Now! post. He wrote:
The decision to deregulate GM alfalfa hurts both organic and conventional farmers who choose not to use genetically modified organism technologies. Alfalfa’s anchor at the base of the dairy supply chain puts the entire organic food chain in peril: Contaminated alfalfa leads to contaminated milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, as well as any other products containing dairy ingredients.
Straus Creamery is the first and only Non-GMO Verified dairy brand in the US.
For the consumer, it's a minefield. The Institute for Responsible Technology has taken on the GE topic on bigtime, and worked to create a free iPhone App named ShopNoGMO as a guide to shoppers.
The app came out just about one year ago, which leads me to this point: it's really up to us as consumers to aks questions of growers, producers, stores, to become as informed as possible even if we have little knowledge of the science involved. Commercial farmers and supermarkets always have said, "it's what the consumer wants," while actually laboring to create in the mind of the hapless American consumer that she/he wants perfectly-shaped, obscenely sweet apples, for example. Or only two varieties of sweet potato, both incorrectly labeled yams.
( A neighbor in New Mexico bought a house with a backyard group of a pear, apple and peach tree. The family never picks or eats the fruit, saying, when I asked about it, "We buy everything at the supermarket.")
Back in September 2010, a piece in the WaPo about labeling GMO salmon ( or not) underscored the notion that business wants to keep consumers "barefoot and pregnant," as that hideous old saw goes.
"The biotechnology industry is opposed to mandatory labeling, saying it will only bewilder a public that is not well informed about genetic engineering.
"Extra labeling only confuses the consumer," said David Edwards, director of animal biotechnology at the Biotechnology Industry Organization. "It differentiates products that are not different."
Opposition to incursions on our food chains from Monsanto and others have been vigorously opposed by groups, companies, institutions and individuals, across the country. But not in large enough numbers.
We Americans have been distracted, of course, in recent months, losing jobs, homes, medical coverage, two wars, and so on. We have not yet massed in protest to any number of worthy issues, including the proposed $107 billion in tax-payer $$ slated to slide into the slippery pockets of the corrupt Karzai government in Afghanistan.
But I digress. Resources on this tough food topic exist. Here are a few:
----Many states have organic organizations. The country's largest and oldest is MOFGA in Maine.
----Consumers, get with the program! The Organic Consumers Association, established in 1998 in Minnesota, is loaded with materials.
----Veritable Vegetable, based in California, says it is the nation's oldest distributor of organic produce. Many links re sustainable agriculture on its website.
----Multiple links from ecobusinesslinks.
As I launch my own green revolution here in the high desert--growing veggies in large pots and bins, in order to conserve water--I read with great delight about the Science Barge moored at Pier 84 in New York City's Hudson River. It's growing veggies with recirculated water and no pesticides and is intended as a model, along with green rooftop growing, for sustainable urban agriculture.
"Powered by a combination of solar energy from photovoltaic panels, five wind turbines and a generator that runs on biodiesel and waste vegetable oil (commonly known as "french fry grease"), the Science Barge generates zero carbon dioxide emissions.
( Barge pic from http://nysunworks.org/science_barge/about_the_barge.html)