Archive for July, 2009

28th Jul 2009

Monsanto is Developing Genetically Modified Wheat

“Development of GM Wheat Varieties to Resume”
ABC Rural, July 2009; http://www.abc.net.au/rural/news/content/200907/s2627484.htm

US agribusiness company Monsanto says it will renew efforts to develop genetically-modified wheat, though it may take a decade.

It follows a deal between Australian, US and Canadian wheat groups, to simultaneously introduce GM varieties when they’re viable.

Monsanto will develop wheat that can tolerate drought and use less fertiliser, but GM wheat must also tolerate consumer resistance, which the company faced when it suspended work on new varieties several years ago.

Spokesman Lee Quarles says there’s time to work on that: “We do not anticipate that a biotech product’s going to emerge from our pipeline for at least, eight to 10 years.”

Quarles says Monsanto will work with wheat producers to successfully introduce GM wheat varieties, and with importing countries to win regulatory approvals.

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Eight to ten years to voice your disapproval……..

Keep in mind that organic certification prohibits genetically modified (GM) ingredients in your and your pet’s food. BUT, even this can’t guarantee that the environment isn’t impacted negatively or that the non-genetically engineered wheat isn’t accidentally or maybe intentionally compromised (i.e., cross-pollinated) by GM crops. Rumors and facts abound.

Crops that are drought-resistant and use less fertilizer sound good, but unfortunately, as another blog entry on this site indicates, independent research for these agrictech companies’ claims isn’t (i.e., can’t be) available.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic Pet Food Standards Comments Comments Off

28th Jul 2009

Are All Human-grade Pet Foods Healthy?

The advantage of human-grade pet foods is that human-grade ingredients are usually of higher quality than their feed-grade counterparts, and that some really inferior ingredients such as waste products collected during the production of human foods (e.g., middlings=floorsweeping, peanut hulls) are not included.

But are all human-grade pet foods automatically healthy simply because they only contain human-grade ingredients?

The simple answer to this question is “No, they aren’t.” The reason for this is that that the choice of ingredients determines the healthfulness of the food, even if the ingredients are human-grade. Human-grade foods have succeeded in making us humans sick, and this is the same for pets which eat the wrong human-grade foods.

The easiest way to demonstrate this is to think about human-grade pet foods that contain refined ingredients. Examples of refined ingredients are refined flours (everything not called ‘whole’), meals (e.g., cornmeal), refined grains (e.g., white rice), salt (table salt is refined), sweeteners (‘sugar’ and ‘honey’ other than raw are refined).

When pets eat these refined foods in excess, they run into the same health problems as humans. The most prominent diseases associated with consumption of refined ingredients are obesity, diabetes, arthritis, allergies, etc. These diseases hit us humans in an epidemic-scale wave since food manufacturers started including refined ingredients in human foods.

Human-grade pet foods with refined ingredients have caused similar epidemics in dogs and cats (and other pets for which fewer statistics exist). It is estimated that 25-44% of dogs in the US are clinically obese. There is also evidence of increased disease risk and premature death in overweight cats.

The correlation between refined ingredients and these diseases comes as no surprise to anybody who reads their pet foods label and is somewhat interested in nutrition. Refined ingredients are bad for us humans and our pets, even if the ingredients were grown and processed for human consumption.

Human-grade ingredients which are allergens are a no brainer. How could allergic ingredients be healthful even if they are human-grade? But would you believe it, many human-grade pet foods contain human-grade allergenic ingredients which can make your pet really sick.

Human-grade pet foods that are over-processed with heat are not healthy either as heat destroys many of the nutrients your pet needs to maintain or restore her health.

Fresh raw foods are the most natural food your pet can consume, followed by frozen and gently dehydrated pet foods. I emphasize ‘gently’ dehydrated because low temperature is essential for the preservation of nutrient qualities and quantities during the drying process.

Some consumers may not realize that the term dehydration is not regulated and that the temperatures used to dehydrate pet foods can vary from temperatures that preserve nutrients to high temperatures which come close to temperatures used for baking! Further, some companies claim to dehydrate their pet foods, while some of the ingredients they use have previously been cooked.

Few manufacturers will tell consumers the temperature they use for dehydration, but manufacturers of certified organic products have to disclose also this information to the organic certification agency. Certified organic pet food manufacturers have to make all their records available to an unbiased third-party (an organic certification agency). These records have to remain available for inspection for 5 years and will be fully disclosed to the FDA should any doubts about a company or its products arise. This full disclosure and transparency, in combination with the organic certifier reviewing any product labels, make it highly unlikely that a dehydrated-raw pet food product would be baked rather than really processed at low temperatures.

If you have listened just a little, you can imagine that ingredients derived from factory-farmed animals cannot be healthful, even if animals are raised for human consumption. These animals are often kept in conditions which do not allow their normal natural behaviors, are fed foods which have little to do with their natural diet, and are medicated to increase their growth or to prevent diseases that may arise in overcrowded, stress-full, or filthy environments. This life-long stress and low quality of care impacts the quality of any product derived from them.

I hope that these few examples have demonstrated that not all human-grade pet foods are automatically healthy. For the choice of a truly healthy human-grade pet food it is essential to know the properties of the ingredients and how they were really processed.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic Pet Food Standards Comments Comments Off

24th Jul 2009

Studies on Genetically Engineered Foods

As you know, only organic certification guarantees that a pet food is free of genetically engineered (GE) (or ‘modified’) ingredients.

Scientific America’s latest issue just published an interesting article about independent studies on the safety and properties of GE crops.

Proponents of genetically engineered foods state that genetic modification of GE food crops 1. yields higher harvests which are required to feed more people (and livestock), 2. reduce pesticide use and tilling that erodes land, 3. will be superior to survive heat waves and droughts, and 4. are as safe as non-genetically engineered foods.

The problem is that none of these statements can be verified by an unbiased party.

If independent researchers want to work with GE seeds, for example to test for safety, growth requirements or resilience of crops, they need to sign a legally binding agreement “for proprietary reasons” that assures that no research results are published without the agritech company’s approval.

This means of course that any published research about these crops has been filtered by the companies which developed and sell these crops.

This may explain why there is so little negative data about these GE foods available to the public. Not good.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Home Remedies & News Bits Comments Comments Off

20th Jul 2009

Holistic Pet Foods – Revisited

You are trying to keep your pet healthy by providing her with the best food you can find. On your search you certainly have come across so-called ‘holistic pet foods.’ The term ‘holistic’ is derived from the Greek word ”holos,’ which means ‘all,’ ‘entire,’ or ‘total.’ It implies that the sum properties of a system (e.g., a body, the universe, the environment, etc.) can only be explained adequately if all its parts are considered in unity instead of on an individual basis. Or, as Aristotle summarized it, ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

This does sound great, but do holistic pet foods live up to this expectation? Pet foods that are truly holistic not only not do no harm, but actually support the body’s endeavor to remain fully functional, and in doing so, support the animal’s overall wellbeing and happiness.

The reality is that the term holistic is not regulated or enforced in the pet food industry. Although most ”holistic” pet food companies don’t include the most obvious toxic ingredients, many of the ‘holistic’ pet foods are a far cry from healthy (which alone makes them definitely non-holistic).

Some of the unealthy ingredients that you can find on pet food products which are marketed as holistic are:

- Refined ingredients such as flours or honey which may be tasty but are implicated in our pets’ obesity epidemic (it is estimated that between 25 and 50% of dogs in the US are obese).

- For convenience and cost reasons, egg products and meat meals are used.

- Lower-grade feed-grade ingredients are used because these ingredients are cheaper than human-grade ingredients.

- Potential allergenic ingredients are included as cheap protein sources.

- Instead of using real food ingredients, processed ingredients are made palatable and their nutrient levels are adjusted to reach the AAFCO recommended levels with isolated flavors and separated fats as well as a concoction of synthetic mineral vitamin premixes. Unfortunately, most pet owners have been conditioned that ”balanced” or ”complete” diets are better than real foods for our pets.

- For cost reasons, conventional ingredients are used instead of certified organic ones which would be safer (they verifiably contain no pesticide residues, GMOs, hormones, or antibiotics, and are fully traceable) and healthier (more nutrient-dense).

Additionally, heat processing and big batch mass production are used to increase ‘throughput’ (profit) although nutrient qualities are destroyed or impaired by heat or during extended storage times.

These are just some examples of ingredients and processes that are clearly not signs of a holistic pet food.

Holistic pet foods would consider the whole body of an individual pet. As we all know, not all pets are the same, even if littermates are raised in the same household. Even one single animal’s needs vary during its lifetime. Holistic food would consider these individual needs and requirements, which can best be addressed by intelligently home-prepared pet foods (ideally under the guidance of a veterinarian) which reflect the varying needs of the animal.

But if you don’t have the time to prepare foods for your pet, you will need some commercial convenience foods that come as close to being as holistic as possible.

The unsurpassed holistic commercial pet food choices are those that contain certified organic, human-grade ingredients, and are not heat-treated (fresh-frozen or gently dehydrated products are generally the best options). Avoidance of excessive refined grains and other potential allergens, combined with a confidence in the quality of ingredients to keep supplementation with isolated nutrients down to the absolute required minimum, would make for the best truly holistic commercial pet food available today. Of course, such a food has yet to be created . . . but please stay tuned for developments at www.onestaorganics.com!

We at Onesta Organics believe that both your pet and you should be protected by regulation and enforcement of marketing terms which are used to describe pet food products.

Currently, there are several of such terms (premium, natural, holistic, and *non-certified* organic) in use although there is no way to verify these claims by an unbiased party which could guarantee the promises made by pet food manufacturers and retailers.

Until definitions and regulations of such terms are available, our recommendation to the FDA would be to eliminate these undefined and unregulated marketing terms altogether to keep pet food marketing realistic.

Posted by Posted by Heidi Junger, PhD under Filed under Organic Pet Food Standards Comments Comments Off