Month: August 2016

Whole30 diet: more pseudoscience and quackery

amish paste
Amish Paste

Recently, someone sent me a link to the Whole30 program, yet another diet program to make you feel better in so many wildly unlikely ways. The program was hatched by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, who have no scientific training but claim to be Certified Sports Nutritionists.  Let us be clear here: nutritionist is not a controlled title with a curriculum behind it. Anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist,” and many do. It’s whatever they want it to be. One of them is a physical therapist.

Now this program amounts to eating fewer things of various types for a month or so, and claims to be effective in here, type1 and type2 diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, sinus infections, hives, endometriosis, migraines, depression, bipolar disorder…and on and on. Because obviously all of these have a simple root cause: and their special diet relieves them all. You believe all of this, don’t you?

So what is one way for guys to lose weight? For 30 days, you eat an extremely restrictive diet: no grains, no gluten, no alcohol, no sugar, no artificial sweeteners, no legumes, no dairy, no carrageenan, no MSG. The idea is that you will feel a lot better after starving yourself on this diet, and can then slowly add all these missing ingredients back in after the month is over.  If this sounds rather like the Paleo diet, it is, except for more crazy claims for all of its effects, although they make no claims for weight loss. They claim you will feel better after this month of this ridiculous diet, but it is really rather like hitting yourself over the head, because it feels so good when you stop.

The problem is that the Paleo diet has been debunked already as a naturalistic fallacy, both in Scientific American and by David Gorski in ScienceBased Medicine. The idea that we even know what primitive humans ate is in itself ridiculous, because their diet varied a lot based on where they lived. Yes, they ate grains and yes they ate gluten in some areas, but the main problem is that plants and humans have evolved a great deal since then. You cannot get the same plants they ate, and corn hadn’t even been bred yet from the Mexican teosinte plants. And humans evolved to tolerate lactose as adults in the last 7000 years as well.

The authors make all sorts of wild claims, such as reduction in inflammation, a sure marker of quackery. Somehow, some pseudoscience practitioners have latched onto the idea that foods cause inflammation and you will be better without them. This is complete nonsense. As Harriet Hall notes in Science Based Medicine, “inflammation is part of the body’s response to infection and tissue damage, and it is crucial to the healing process.”

The Hartwigs have essentially combined the Paleo diet with something approaching the completely discredited cleanse diets, where eating some foods “cleans out” your system. This is just as much nonsense in this diet as it is when purveyors of juice mixtures make the same claim.

And the idea of avoiding MSG is utter nonsense, because it occurs naturally in many vegetables, including broccoli, tomatoes and peas, as well as in cheeses and soy sauce. And it is a key component in cellular metabolism: the body synthesizes it all the time.

In essence, the Hartwigs have come up with a sort of fasting diet but no evidence whatever that it provides any benefits, nor any science to back up their ideas. There are no double blind experiments that have been carried out to show its benefits, nor any scientific publications. All they have is a few gushing testimonials showing that some people will buy into anything. This testimonial is typical, and comes from someone who also claims to have chronic Lyme Disease (which does not exist). She also blandly supports the discredited Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 nonsense published each year by the Environmental Working Group.

This is not to say that some of the recipes in their books aren’t good: they look delicious. But don’t count on curing every malady know to medicine using this simple minded diet scam.

Tomato sauce in an Instant Pot

Tomato sauce in an Instant Pot

A lot of recipes for the Instant Pot pressure cooker are just faster ways of doing the same thing, and add only a little advantage. We have found that you can not only make tomato sauce well in the Instant Pot, it’s a lot more efficient both in time and dishes used!

Previously, we made tomato sauce by cutting up the tomatoes into halves or quarters and then chopping them in a food processor. Then we cooked the sauce until all the pieces of tomato had softened before running it through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds. Then we cooked the resulting sauce with added spices until thickened.

The Instant Pot method is much simpler. Just cut the tomatoes in half or quarters and toss them into the instant Pot. Since the tomatoes collapse as they are pressure cooked, you can fill the pot right to the max if you have that many tomatoes. We didn’t have that many yet so our pot was really only loosely 2/3 full. We weighed about 4.2 lbs of tomatoes in this first run.

cookedThen pressure cook them for about 20 minutes.  We first tried 10 minutes and they weren’t quite soft enough, so we added 15 more. Probably 20 would have been plenty. Since the tomatoes in the pot are mostly in their own water and not near the steam release spout, you can safely use Quick Release. But letting the pot cool naturally won’t hurt anything.

food mill 1Then, place a food mill over another pot (sorry you still have to get two pots dirty) and scoop out the tomatoes.  They should mush up quickly in the food mill and go through to the pot below. The skins and seeds remain behind.

Add the following to the sauce in the pot. The amounts depend on your taste and the batch size.

  • 1 Tb salt
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 2-3 Tb chopped parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 Tb chopped basil
  • 1 Tb oregano
  • lemon juice (1 Tb per jar)

Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 30-40 minutes.


Sterilize mason jars and new lids in a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain them on a paper towel, add 1 Tb of lemon juice or 1/4 tsp citric acid, and then immediate fill with hot sauce. Wipe off the rims to make sure the lids will seal. Put on the lids and screw them down.

Put the jars back in the boiling water and sterilize for 30 minutes. Remove the jars and let them cool, Make sure each lid “pops” and is concave.


Now, while we didn’t have quite a full pot of tomatoes this time, we will soon. In fact, we usually can about 10 lbs at a time, and in this system, we would make one batch, run it through the food mill and then do another batch and run it through the food mill, and cook and can both batches of sauce at once. That’s way easier than the “old” way!



The very best potato salad recipe!

The very best potato salad recipe!

Yesterday we made up this fantastic potato salad recipe, which contains cheddar cheese and bacon and a number of other yummy ingredients. Carrie Chestnutt Mess is a Wisconsin dairy farmer who blogs as Dairy Carrie, and this is her recipe. We did little except make it and  photograph it, but judging by the responses of yesterday’s guests, it is a real winner, we can’t wait to find an excuse to make it again.

This recipe calls for 5 lb of potatoes, and makes a really substantial amount of potato salad, but it is easy to cut it in half for smaller groups. Incidentally, using Costco’s Kirkland bacon, there are about 16 slices in a pound, so you need only eight slices for a half recipe.

  • 5 lb unpeeled red potatoes, washed
  • 1 large red/purple onion, roughly diced.
  • 1 lb thick cut bacon, fried and crumbled
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Smoked Chipotle Tabasco sauce
  • 2 Tb steak seasoning blend
  • 2 tsp Worchester sauce
  • Coarse ground salt and pepper
  • Chives, diced for garnish
  1. Put the potatoes in a pan and cover with water. If some of them are very large, cut them in half. Add salt. Cook over medium heat until just tender. Drain the potatoes, run cold water over them and drain them, allowing them to cool. (Do not leave them in the water as they will turn gluey.)
  2. When the potatoes are cool, cut them into large cubes and place them in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the diced onion, chopped bacon and the shredded cheese.
  4. In another bowl, mix the sour cream and mayonnaise and add the seasonings. We didn’t have any “steak seasoning” in our cupboard but we looked at several recipes and made some up with ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp onion powder, 1 tsp sweet paprika, ½ tsp red pepper, coarse salt and some ground pepper.

sauce on potatoes

5. Add half the seasoned sauce to the bowl of potatoes and mix it all together with your hands or with a strong wooden spoon. If the potatoes don’t seem moist enough, add more of the sauce. We found it was easier to get the mixture uniform by dumping it into another bowl so the bottom of the potato mixture is on top. Then you can see how much more sauce you’ll need.

6. Put the potato salad in a serving bowl and surround it with lettuce.

7. Top with the chopped chives.

Chill and serve. They’ll love it!

Big changes in Nantucket restaurants for 2016

Nantucket is the isle of fine dining and of continuing change. Restaurants open, chefs change and new things pop up you might not even know about.

Oran Mor


The biggest news of 2016 was that Chef Chris Freeman sold his highly regarded Oran Mor restaurant and moved on to become chef at the Yacht Club. The new owners are Ned Claflin and his friend and business partner Jon Tacinco, who are profiled in this article in February. Claflin will be the new chef and Tacinco the sommelier. Claflin grew up on the island, working in various restaurants, and studied at the Culinary Institute (CIA) where he became friends with Tacinco. Claflin’s most recent gig was as Executive Chef at Tessa, an upper west side New York eatery of some note.

The partners gave their new Oran Mor a soft opening in mid May and you can see their fascinating new menu here. Their Facebook page notes that they will be opening at 5pm all season. This is definitely a restaurant to watch as the new partners innovate in this lovely space and their lovely new resurfaced dining tables. We can hardly wait.

The Proprietors

The Proprietors - ExterioJust as interesting to us is that Proprietors Chef Tom Berry has gone to Boston to cook, and that owner Michael LaScola is now the chef. However, Berry is still a co-owner but tells us he “plans utilize\his 30 years of training to support younger, talented chefs in the role of Culinary Director at Yvonne’s, Lolita, and the soon to open RUKA, which I will again be a partner in (it will be Japanese-Peruvian.”

The Proprietors menu hadn’t changed much in the first two seasons, but with Berry’s departure, LaScola has introduced a totally new and fascinating menu, including his famous charcuterie plate, much loved at American Seasons.  You’ll also find fried sourdough, cheddar pork cracklings, oyster stew, chicken fried trout and a host of other fascinating new dishes. It’s going to be our first stop!

New Pizza

New to the island is Oath Craft Pizza, right at the end of Straight Wharf. (They also have locations in Boston at South Station, Davis Square and  Chestnut Hill Square.) They feature creative pizzas like “Spicy Mother Clucker, ” as well as more conventional ones, made, they claim, in just 90 seconds. No long waits here! It replaces the small Nantucket Ice Cream and Juice Guys store at 44 Straight Wharf.

New Coffee Shop

And, new to us is the Handlebar Cafe, a coffee shop at 15 Washington St that bills itself as “coffee and community space.” The comments on the site give it high praise, particularly for “not being Starbucks.”

Graydon House

One of the big remaining surprises of the summer is the August opening of Graydon House, at 17 Borad St, just up the street from the Whaling Museum. This will be a 20 bedroom luxury hotel, with a restaurant headed by chef Joseph Keller.  In an article in Mahon About Town, Mary Bergman writes the Joseph Keller is the brother of French laundry chef Thomas Keller and they have worked together and separately in developing new restaurants. The Executive Chef will be Michelin star Marcus Ware and the food and beverage manager Jordana Fleischut. Here’s an earlier article about the opening.

The Nantucket Restaurant Examiner has been put to sleep, with the demise of Watch this blog for future Nantucket restaurant news and reviews.




Coq au Vin in an Instant Pot

One thing you ought to be able to do really well in an Instant Pot is a stew, and while a lot of stews are really cold weather dishes, we decided that Coq au Vin would be fine in the fairly hot weather we are still having.

You can make this chicken wine stew using either red wine or white wine, but be sure you use a wine you would actually drink, since a cheap wine might well add an off taste to the resulting stew.

This recipe, adapted from Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Cookbook, starts by flouring and browning the chicken pieces in oil and/or butter. We used olive oil. While you could do this using the Instant Pot Saute setting, you could only do a few pieces at a time, and would get another dish dirty while you cooked the other pieces, so we browned the pieces in a skillet before potting them up. The original recipe also called for 2 oz of warmed brandy to flame over the chicken before cooking, be we discovered we were out of brandy.

  • 1 4 lb chicken, cut into pieces
  • Flour for dredging
  • ½ cup butter or oil (we used olive oil)
  • 1 slice raw him, diced
  • 10 small whole onions (we used frozen ones)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 sprigs thyme
  • 1-2  springs parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 whole mushrooms
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tsp arrowroot or cornstarch in ¼ cup water.
  1. Shake the chicken pieces in flour in brown in a cast iron (or other) frying pan.
  2. Transfer the browned chicken to the Instant Pot.
  3. Add the ham, garlic, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, mushrooms, salt, and pepper.

in the pot

4. Add the wine, close the pot, make sure the steam vent is closed, and press the Poultry button.  The pot will heat and cook under pressure for 15 minutes.

5. Release the steam, remove the chicken pieces and mushrooms to a serving bowl and thicken the sauce with arrowroot or cornstarch slurry.

6. Put the sauce over the chicken and serve right away with rice.

We noted two things about using the Instant Pot on chicken: the dark meat is cooked correctly, but the white meat is overcooked. Since you can’t easily remove the white meat pieces while it is cooking, it is best to use all dark meat. If you use all white meat, you would need to reduce the cooking time to about 10 minutes.

Chicken fat on the skin does not render out very well in a pressure cooker, so it is better to remove the chicken skin before flouring and browning. Otherwise, you may end up with pieces of “flubber” in your stew.

Are USA swimmers really into Cupping?

cuppingI mean really? What lax supervision of the USOC and USA Swimming allowed swimmers to get sucked into cupping? Cupping is an alternative medicine technique where a warmed cup is applied, usually to the back, and as it cools it creates partial vacuum, sucking the skin up and perhaps nearby blood vessels, and usually creating an unattractive bruise. If you are ready to join an amazing community and change your skin, Buy ASEA here.

The swimmers may think it relieves pain or stress, but there is simply no evidence for this. There are no studies showing any benefits for cupping. If you want a solution for all the stress there is kratom powder for sale which come from a natural drug that fights many health issues.
The website claims it detoxes the body as well.  There is no such thing as detoxification. You liver takes care of it automatically! Cupping is listed on Quackwatch under unnaturalistic methods.

Brian Dunning, writing in Skeptoid wrote about cupping in 2013. Again, no evidence and no studies. And Orac (David Gorski) wrote much the same last month, calling it alternative medicine that had developed in parallel in several regions of the world. And you know what they always say

Alternative medicine is made up of things we don’t know work and things we know don’t work. If it works, we call it “medicine.”

Cupping is just more stupid pseudo science, with the added fillip that Gwyneth Paltrow used it. Because those bruises are really attractive when your whole business is looking good for the media?

The best that you can say is the cupping is usually followed by a massage, and massages sure make tired athletes feel better. Or even Gwyneth.

But why would our finest athletes wander around with big circular bruises? And the above photo came from Swimming World magazine! Because their coaches are uninformed or plain dumb! There is just no evidence it does anything besides leave ugly bruises.

Jill Stein spouts pseudoscience: not a credible presidential candidate

JillSteinDr Jill Stein is a perennial candidate: she has run for many offices, including Massachusetts governor andfor President in 2012, and has never won any election, beyond a representative to the Lexington, MA Town Meeting (this is a low bar, indeed). Nor has she any experience in government. She runs under the banner of the Green Party, which is a minor party which an attendee described in the New York Times as “kind of small and disorganized and, honestly, just weird.”

Now Jill Stein is trained as a physician and graduated from Harvard Medical School, where she presumably had to study science in both her undergraduate and graduate curriculum. However, she retired from medical practice in 2005 and seems to have been ignoring science ever since. Her anti-science statements are both alarming and somewhere between ridiculous and just plain dumb.

WiFi Signals? Really?

For example, she recently said that it is dangerous to expose kids to WiFi signals! There is, of course, not s shred of evidence for such a claim, and as Bob Park explained so eloquently some years ago, microwaves are too low energy to break any chemical bonds, so they can’t really cause any harm. This sort of statement is simply pandering to the fears of the uninformed, and a cheap way to troll for votes,  in much the same way Trump has been doing.


But it gets far worse. Her platform says she will

Ban neonicotinoids and other pesticides that threaten the survival of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

There is no evidence that neonicotinoids have any effect on the population of bees. The USDA says that the three major causes of colony collapse are then Varroa destructor mite, the Israeli acute paralysis virus, and the movement of colonies to use in pollination. Neonicotinoids, like any insecticide can kill any insects, but they were developed to be safer than any prior insecticide. For most major crops, they pose no real harm to bees. The exceptions are cotton and citrus. And, of course, there is no bee population problem, the population has been growing steadily for some years.

The Precautionary Principle

Stein says we should uphold and expand the Precautionary Principle, which says that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm, in the absence of scientific consensus, the burden of proof that it is not harmful lies with those proposing the action. The problem with the principle as stated is that the level of risk is no longer considered, and that such policies are likely to block innovation.

Support organic and regenerative agriculture

Sorry Jill, organic farming is a prescientific technique based on the naturalistic fallacy, and having yields 50%-80% of conventional agriculture. It is essentially a marketing term. Thus, purchasing organic produce is the purview only of wealthy white people. There is not enough land to expand organic’s low yield techniques and still feed our growing populace; it cannot feed the world. Further, there is substantial evidence that organic has a higher carbon footprint (because of composting of manure, as well as more tilling) and is less sustainable because of its likelihood of polluting the ground water. No-till farming using low impact herbicides is much more the technique of the future. Organic farming still uses pesticides, just different ones that they have to spray more often because they are ineffective, and organic crops are nutritionally equivalent to conventional ones.

Label GMOs, and put a moratorium on GMOs and pesticides until they are proven safe.

A compromise GMO labeling bill has been signed into law.  However, it tells us nothing useful, because “GMOs” are not an ingredient, but a breeding process. There is nothing in the food to distinguish from crops grown without biotechnology. And while proving something safe is not an actual scientific possibility, the level of risk of GM crops has been studied for over 20 years and every major scientific organization including her American Medical Association, the National Academies of Science, and the European Food Safety Association have declare that GM crops pose no more harm than conventional crops. GM crops as well as all pesticides undergo years of government mandated testing before they can be released.

She also made the crazy assertion in an E-mail quoted by Dan Arel that

“…evidence is now showing that once these foods reach our digestive tract, they can affect our very DNA. “

What utter nonsense. You eat genes every day in every single food, but somehow these magic genes affect your DNA? This was ridiculed by my colleague Laya Katiraee, comparing it to a boa constrictor eating a rat and creating a hybrid “rat-strictor.”  And Stein surely learned this in medical school.

But Stein goes farther than standing for meaningless labeling. She has been expressing the entire spectrum of anti-GMO activist misinformation for years. Here she is speaking at a March Against Monsanto event in 2013 and mouthing the same misinformation. 

Stein seems to support homeopathy

Homeopathy is a pseudo-scientific practice where medicines are diluted so many millions of times that not a single molecule of the medicine remains. It is that solution that is used to “treat patients.” The Green Party Platform supports homeopathy as well as naturopathy, herbal medicines and other quack treatments.

How does Stein stand on those? With an evasive round-de-lay of accusations against corporations:

The Green Party platform here takes an admittedly simple position on a complex issue, and should be improved.

I agree that just because something’s untested – as much of the world of alternative medicine is – doesn’t mean it’s safe. But by the same token, being “tested” and “reviewed” by agencies directly tied to big pharma and the chemical industry is problematic as well. There’s no shortage of snake oil being sold there. Ultimately, we need research and licensing establishments that are protected from corrupting conflicts of interest. And their purview should not be limited by arbitrary definitions of what is “natural.”

Would you buy a used car from someone that evades the point like that?

Pandering to the Anti-vaccine unscientific left

In Stein’s Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) she said vaccines were important but that she was suspicious of those in the US,

Still, vaccines should be treated like any medical procedure–each one needs to be tested and regulated by parties that do not have a financial interest in them. In an age when industry lobbyists and CEOs are routinely appointed to key regulatory positions through the notorious revolving door, it’s no wonder many Americans don’t trust the FDA to be an unbiased source of sound advice.

This is pseudo-scientific paranoia. She is saying that the entire FDA is corrupted by industry lobbyists, when in fact, nearly all of them are from academic backgrounds. All she is doing is trying to gain the support of the anti-vaccination crazies who refuse to accept the fact the vaccines are safe and are not harmful.

Of course, she also brings up the anti-GMO anti-science movement’s favorite “Manchurian candidate” bogeyman, Michael Taylor:

A Monsanto lobbyists and CEO like Michael Taylor, former high-ranking DEA official, should not decide what food is safe for you to eat.

Of course, Michael Taylor was never a lobbyist nor a CEO. He was a consultant to Monsanto for 18 months, who left because he disagreed with their policies, and now is an FDA commissioner. If issues come up that he worked on while in industry, he recuses himself, as he should. Here’s the whole story.

Stein’s anti-vaccine stance has also been criticized by Dave Weigel in the Washington Post and by Emily Willingham in Forbes where they note that as a doctor she should be educated enough not to criticize recommended vaccine schedules or traces of organic mercury used as a preservative.

Willingham notes that “ …I’m never, ever going to get on board with a party that claims an environmental mission but fronts someone who compromises scientific evidence and public health for the sake of pandering.”

And Amanda Marcotte, writing in Salon criticizes her pandering as well as noting that Dr Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia concludes, “I think she’s anti-vax.” And while Kim LaCapria, writing in Snopes believes that Stein is not anti-vax based on her press-releases, many, including Dr David Gorski in his Science Blogs, have concluded that she is engaged in “left wing anti vaccine dog whistles.”

This is exactly the sort of dancing around the truth that we continually accuse Donald Trump of doing, and for that reason, neither is qualified to be President. In fact, Trump has said that he really likes the Green Party, because he figures that Green Party (Stein) voters would otherwise vote for Hillary. Dan Arel confirms my views in his column in He won’t vote for Stein and neither should you.




‘Forbidden Broadway’ opens at New Canaan Town Players

tpncforbiddenThe New Canaan Town Players closed their excellent season with Gerard Allesandrini’s “Forbidden Broadway’s Greatest Hits,” a compilation of some of the best spoofs from Allesandrini’s long-running “Forbidden Broadway”  satiric review (it opened in 1982).

The show, directed by Sheri Dean, with musical direction by Ben McCormack (who also accompanies) features six talented actor-singers playing dozens of roles, including Liza Minelli, Chita Rviera, Carol Channing, a devastating song about Mandy Patinkin, Cameron MacIntosh, Barbra Streisand and Harvey Fierstein.

They also manage to spoof (mostly gently) Chicago, Annie, Wicked, endless Les Miz songs, Phantom, Mamma Mia, Spamalot, Cats (of course), Fiddler, Rent and Hairspray. The well-deserved barbs the show throws at A Chorus Line are far from gentle.

It wouldn’t be fair to give away the jokes in this satiric review, but the talented cast: Stephen DiRocco, Emily Hull, Terry LeBel, Lauren Linn, Kellen Schult and Valerie Torphy use all the talents and a huge number of gorgeous costumes created by Debbie Runestad to amuse us all evening. In fact, some of the costume changes are lightning fast, and entertaining themselves.

To see the rest of the review, watch for it on the OnstageBlog 

Fresh tomatoes: open faced sandwiches

Fresh tomatoes: open faced sandwiches

Now that tomatoes have finally started to ripen, we can make our favorite summer sandwich, the toasted open faced sandwich. You could make them any time of year, but fresh garden tomatoes or equivalent ones from a farmer’s market are best. You want the flavorful kind of tomatoes that are raised locally as opposed to those bred to ship.

In our Connecticut garden, our favorite early tomato is Fourth of July, which was bred from cherry tomatoes. It’s growth habit forms clusters of smallish tomatoes, but way bigger than actual  cherry tomatoes. We also find that our paste tomatoes begin to ripen fairly soon thereafter we are growing Amish Paste and Opalka this year.  Finally, the Burpee Cloudy Day variety is the first full-sized tomato to ripen: it’s one you can slice for sandwiches. It’s also blight resistant.

If you can slice up a combination of these types to make a few sandwiches, you are ready to make open faced sandwiches. We start by lightly toasting the bread and buttering the toast lightly. Then we lay on the slices of tomatoes, about one layer or so thick.


Then we put on strips of fairly crisp-cooked bacon, and top with slices of sharp cheddar cheese.  This order is important. For stability, the tomatoes have to go first, and put putting the bacon under the cheese, you prevent it from burning in the broiler.

The final step is, of course, to slip the open sandwiches under a broiler for a few minutes. This doesn’t take very long, so watch carefully. You want the cheese to melt, but don’t want anything to burn.


Serve immediately. It’s OK to use a knife and fork on these delicious sandwiches.

Ronnie Cummins thinks he’s Gandhi!


Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association lobbying group, has released a letter citing Gandhi. In it he described Gandhi leading a salt tax boycott by illegalliy gathering salt himself at the seaside.

Now,  he says the recently signed bill S.764- National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard  is a cop-out because most GMO ingredients will be exempt under this law. What the bill says is disclosure is required for

“…a food that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques”

You might think that is pretty broad, but Cummins has been banging on about “GMO ingredients” that include things like sugar from sugar beets, (or corn syrup from Bt corn) even though they contain no genetic material or proteins or DNA! It’s just sugar (or corn syrup), but if it was produced by glyphosate resistant beets, or Bt corn it must be evil. Sorry Ronnie, you are talking through your hat! They are nutritionally identical to the on-GMO versions.

The bill directs the Secretary of Agriculture to come up with a labeling standard within 2 years that allows foods to be labeled with text, a QR code or a phone number where consumers can get full ingredient information including which ingredients are produced by genetic engineering.

The bill also supersedes any state laws, such as Vermont’s very stringent law that has driven over 3000 products from its stores.

But in fact, Cummins and his crowd got most of what they wanted. Products containing genetically engineered ingredients will have some sort of label. The difference is that the label can be quite subtle rather than the scary sort of statements his anti-science lobby had wanted.

The fact is, this bill is a compromise between anti-GMO extremists and farmers and grocers who would be impacted by an extreme bill like Vermont’s. It is not what scientists wanted (no label because GMOs are not an ingredient) and it is not what Cummins’ crazies wanted (huge warning labels despite no evidence of harm), but good politics is a compromise, and we have to actually praise Senators Roberts and Stabenow and Congress for accepting this compromise.

But the OCA wants a boycott

Seeing his whole disinformation campaign sinking into the sea of reason, Cummins proposes to compare himself to Gandhi and launch a boycott, because he continues to claim that GMOs have “caused a terrible toll on our health” (according to charlatans like Joe Mercola). So he is trying to launch a “buycott…[to] reject brands owned by corporations that lobbied against GMO labeling.”

And this is the best part. They way you join in this “buycott” is to download an app to your smart phone that allows you to scan product barcodes in the supermarket and find out if they are produced by companies that support this bill.

Do you get this? Cummins and the OCA opposed this compromise GMO labeling bill because you had to scan a QR code. But it’s OK to use an app the OCA has had created to find out which products not to buy. It’s only OK if they do it, but not if the Secretary of Agriculture does! His app also sends “nyah..nyah” messages to the companies that supported the bill. This is surely going to have a great effect on E-mail filtering software!

Meanwhile, Cummins continues to make unsupported claims about “toxic chemicals” (GM crops use fewer pesticides, not more) and tries to make you believe you cannot trust the scientific establishment but you can trust an organic lobbying group instead. This defies common sense, and he probably knows it.