Let's Take a Walk

Walking is great for opening one’s mind to think and to dream. Walking is great with a friend and leads to wonderful conversation. Walking is a great way to explore. Walking takes you places. Let’s go Walking.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Biotechnologically-Improved(-altered) Foods (a.k.a GMO) - Label Them

I want to see foods containing GMO ingredients labeled.  To take personal responsibility for the food I eat, I need to know what is in it.  I do not like that the foods companies, aided by the federal government, can hide the fact that GMO ingredients are in the foods I buy.  It seems un-American and anti-democratic to suppress information about the foods Americans eats.

The ultimate goal is to have foods with GMO ingredients labeled as such and provide choices of GMO or GMO-free foods.  Although some state governments are starting to act on making GMO labeling mandatory, it may be a long time before the federal government will do so.

One action among many I am doing about GMO food is to write to food manufacturers, retailers and restaurants about my desire to have verified GMO-free foods.  When writing to companies I like to pick particular products since this makes the inquiry more focused.  I have done this recently for two products: Quaker Old Fashion Oatmeal and Cheerios. I just submitted my request through their websites.  I got some interesting responses almost immediately.  These companies have obviously thought about GMO foods a lot.

Quaker Oats, which happens to be a division of PepsiCo, stated in their reply email:

None of the oats, wheat or barley used in our products -- across all brands -- are grown from genetically modified seeds. In fact, genetically modified seeds for this/these crops are not currently commercially available in the U.S.”  …
“When it comes to safety, the FDA has determined that foods developed through this process [GMO] are no different than foods developed by traditional plant breeding.”

I do not trust the FDA determination on GMOs since they were under great political pressure to approve GMO crops despite reservations.

General Mills, which makes Cheerios, refers to GMOs with the term ”biotechnologically-improved crops.”  That is great marketing spin.  I suppose it tries to convey the impression GMO crops are better than conventional crops so don’t worry.  I would use the term biotechnologically-altered crops” because I think it is more accurate.  General Mills also stated that 

“ … the FDA does not require special labeling for it [GMO]. However, if food has been significantly altered in composition or nutrient content, or if biotechnology introduces allergens into food, special labeling is required. None of our products requires special labeling. Accordingly, we do not test them for the presence of this material.”

Hey, we see no problem with GMO food ingredients so we don’t to check for it.  Further

“Because of the growing use of biotechnology by farmers and the way that grain gets commingled in storage and shipment, it′s certainly possible that some of our products may contain ingredients that have been improved through biotechnology.”

We don’t know what’s GMO and what isn’t so how can we label it?  Finally, they stated if you want GMO-free just buy organic food.   Oh, by the way, we sell that too.

General Mills also believes in providing consumers with a variety of food options. Toward that end, we do offer organic products that, by definition, do not use ingredients that have been improved through biotechnology.”

Food manufacturers are aware that many people have concerns about GMO foods.  However, they generally would rather not label their food products as GMO or GMO-free.  But foods companies will also do what they think is in their best interest.  If enough people demand to know if their products are GMO-free, the food companies will eventually provide that information.

I encourage you to write to food manufacturers, restaurants and supermarkets to let them know that you want GMO-free food.  It’s easy through their websites.  Just find their contact page.  Simply state “I like your brand X, but I also want to be informed about what is in my food.  I want to make sure my foods are healthy.  One thing I want is to avoid foods with GMO ingredients.  I would like to see a variety of your brand X that is verified GMO-free and labeled as such.”  There is no need to go into a polemic about GMO food.  The food companies probably know more about the pros and cons of GMO food then we do.  We just need to say I want GMO-free food and GMO labeling.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Stray Dog

This story has a happy ending.

During the month of July there was a stray male German Shepherd roaming my neighborhood.  He seemed to be a friendly dog although a bit skittish.  He was almost one year old.  I would see him sometimes in the morning when I went for my run with my dog.  The German Shepherd liked my dog.  Eventually this helped me make friends with the German Shepherd.  He would definitely make a good companion for someone.

Many of my neighbors had seen the dog around too.  I learned that a few neighbors even put out food for him (not a good idea because the food can attracts rats and other varmints).  But as far as I knew, nobody tried to take him in or called the city animal shelter to have him picked-up.

I was doing yard work on a Saturday morning in late July.  The dog came wondering down the street.  I called to him and to my surprise he came to me.  He let me pet him.  He even jumped on me in a playful way.  He was really friendly.  The question now is, what to do with him?

What I did was to use my cell phone to call my wife and asked her to bring out a leash.  Once I got the leash on the dog, we called the city shelter to pick him up.  The animal control officer arrived about 30 minutes later and took the dog away.  Before the animal control officer left, he had already checked the dog for a chip (there was none) and took his photo.  The photo was immediately placed on PetHarbor.com.

There were many reasons I had the dog picked-up.  I couldn't keep him.  I already had a big dog who was a former shelter dog.  Socializing the dogs would have taken a lot of effort. There is the additional cost of providing for a second big dog.  The German Shepherd was severely under weight.  He needed food and water.  Distemper was going around in a few animal populations in the area.  He was un-neutered so he could breed more strays.  There were the general public health issues with having stray dogs roaming the streets including rabies. He needed to be off the streets.

The animal shelter holds dogs for four days to see if an owner will claim them.  After four days, the dogs becomes city property and he can be adopted.  Unfortunately, a dog can be put down if they are not considered adoptable and the shelter needs room for more dogs.

The shelter has a program for sponsoring pets for adoption.  Basically, the sponsor pays the adoption fee allowing the pet to be adopted for free.  A neighbor and I sponsored the dog.  Sponsoring the dog gives it’s the best chance for adoption since the shelter can immediately get the dog neutered and make sure his shots are up to date.  The dog is ready to leave the shelter as soon as someone wants to adopt him.  Sponsoring also means the dog will not be killed by the shelter.

The good news is that 10 days after being picked up, the dog was adopted.  I don’t know who adopted him but I hope is has a good family now.

There a few things I need to say. 

My neighborhood uses an email list and the Nextdoor.com message board for neighborhood communications.  I used these services to get the word out about what was happening with the dog.  Many neighbors had seen the dog and had taken a liking to it.  I thought it was appropriate to keep my neighbors informed.  I also hoped it might help get the dog adopted.

One neighbor commented that I given the dog a “death sentence” when I had animal services pick him up.  The dog was already underweight and had nearly been hit by a car.  Keeping the dog on the street was not exactly a way to give him a long life.  At least at the shelter, he had a chance to be adopted.

The problem is not with too many dogs at the shelter forcing the shelter to put down dogs.  The problem is with irresponsible people who don’t get their pets sterilized and let them run around, escape or abandon them so the can breed.

I learned much about shelters including the fact that my city shelter has an adoption sponsorship program.  Sponsoring a pet can greatly enhances its adoptability. 

Finally, I visited the dog shelter where the dog was taken.  I saw many wonderful dogs and cats there.  They would make good companions for most people.  If you are looking for a pet or know someone who is, the best place to start are your local animal shelters.  The PetHarbor.com and Petfinder.com websites are also good places to find adoptable pets and shelters in your area.