This week's dose of organic headlines, updates, resources, goodies, and recipes courtesy of dsnodgrass...
Behold the wonders of olive oil - and olive oil is indeed wonderful.
It may sound like a biotech medical company, but it’s not. It is a shortening and joining of the words Biologico and Mediterraneo and refers to a newly formed group of organic olive oil producers from four EU countries: Italy, Spain, Greece, and Malta. Today, the group had its inaugural meeting at IAM-B, the Institute for Mediterranean Agronomy, in Bari, Puglia’s capital. Cosimo Lacirignola, Director of the Institute said that “Olive oil has been part of human history for at least 8,000 years. In the Mediterranean there isn’t room for competition, the concept of our complimenting one another should prevail.” They are, however, hoping to boost the competitiveness of organic versus non-organic olive oil. The group
and their projects are being underwritten with funds from the European Union.
BiolMed will create a permanent transnational network made up of “Circles to Promote Quality Organic Olive Oil.” These regional branches will support organic producers, with the purpose of improving the quality of organic olive oil, and to organize regional meetings and fairs. Manuals regarding the production of high quality organic olive oil and a catalog with information about innovations will be published. Acquisition groups and farmers markets will be developed to help small local producers. (Italy has been in the throes of a food scare and recall: blue mozzarella, imported from Germany, has led the news for the past week. Because of the vivid blue mozzarella, buying locally has also had a lot of play in the news.)
BiolMed springs from the Premio Biol, or Organic Olive Oil Prize, an international competition and festival in Puglia. Puglia is the world center for organic olive oil and the festival has been taking place for the past 15 years. Two of the prizes, which had been voted upon in April, were presented today: “Masseriola,” an olive oil produced by Ascoli Satriano and winner of the Dauno Prize (Dauno is the area around Foggia) and to “De Carlo,” an extra-virgin olive oil, produced by Bitritto, winner of the National Biolpak Prize.
The local and organic food movement is spreading to an area not commonly associated with freshness, or even taste: hospital kitchens. Advocates say higher-quality produce, and smaller servings of meat, will help patients.
But the idea, which stems from a trial documented by a Johns Hopkins public health study, has its critics.
During a recent lunchtime at John Muir Medical Center in the San Francisco suburb of Concord, Calif., chefs and kitchen staff scurry around a conveyor belt as patients' food trays roll by.
The menu includes low-sodium tomato Florentine, steamed carrots, soup, iced tea and Jell-o.
The staff has the weekly menu down to a science. But that's changing. Executive chef Alison Negrin has a new vision for the hospital menu — and it doesn't involve Salisbury steak or Swedish meat balls.
A success story from the Cincinnati, Ohio area, involving composting.
The owner of Marvin's Organic Gardens in Lebanon won a contract from the world's largest retailer to compost food waste from as many as 160 of its stores in Ohio. It's a major feat for the organic farmer, who founded the 75-acre operation in 1999 with a plan to dedicate one third of his land to composting.
Duren opened his organic farm the same day he sold his franchise of 24 local Waffle Houses. It'd been a dream since he completed a degree in agriculture from the University of Georgia in the 1970s. Organic farms have four major benefits, according to Duren: food safety, cost, results and simplicity.
He'd composted yard and animal waste in his backyard in Lebanon for years. And at one time, he collected egg shells, coffee grounds and lettuce waste from his Waffle Houses. He was forced to stop that when he learned of the permitting process required for commercial composting.
"I fed my yard with composted material and things started growing like wildfire," he said. "It fixes lawns that are yellow and scant and it makes great material to build new flower beds."
Duren always wanted to expand the pile. He started by seeking certification from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to collect yard and animal waste from local companies and residents. His largest source was the Lebanon Racetrack, which discards up to 300 yards of animal waste a week. Up until last fall, his pile stretched about 10 acres and included about 1 million yards of material.
A study that appears in the current edition of PLoS One suggests that organic pesticides are not necessarily synonymous with "green" pesticides. Environmental science researchers from the University of Guelph examined the effectiveness and environmental impact of two conventional pesticides, two "risk-reduced" synthetic pesticides, and two organic pesticides on soybean crops.
To quantify the consequences of using each pesticide, the researchers relied on a database of environmental impact quotients that rank the active ingredients based on such factors as leaching rate into soil, runoff, toxicity from skin exposure, consumer risk, toxicity to birds and fish, and duration of the chemical in the soil and on plants.
In addition, they carried out two years of field tests to determine how well each pesticide worked at killing aphids, the intended target, while leaving the aphid's natural predators, such as ladybugs, unharmed.
On a per-weight basis, all six of the pesticides had similar environmental impact factors (ranging from 8.7 to 47.2) with the organic variants being in the bottom half of this ranking.
When the data was converted into the environmental impact on a field use basis (pounds needed per acre), the organic pesticides did not fare so well. The mineral oil had by far the largest environmental impact factor, a whopping 280.2 rating; the next most damaging pesticide only garnered a 12.5 environmental impact factor. The fungus did better, but still ranked fourth out of six in terms of least environmental impact.