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This is what an Israeli voting booth looks like.

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We vote for a political party, not a candidate, the ranks of which are chosen within the parties. Every party has an alphabet letter or letters (some symbolic or spelling out words or names, others seemingly random). These letters are printed on little slips of paper. You are given an envelope, you choose a piece of paper, insert it, seal the envelope, and drop it into a slot in a box. Easy.

Today I was presented with no less than 35 choices. It’s simple in a way, but a bit daunting to be presented with such a choice. Doesn’t it look like a board game? Or Scrabble? I’m told this was always the system. Avoids all the “hanging chad” and computerized voting machine problems. The only real way your vote can be voided is if you place more than one paper in the envelope. No pesky representatives from local, state, and national districts, no judges to choose, just one party, one paper. My choice: Meretz.

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The 120 seats in the Knesset (parliament) are then allocated according to the percentage breakdown of the votes. Then comes the dirty dirty wheeling and dealing between parties in order to form a ruling coalition, eg “bribing” religious parties with minister of transportation (no buses on the sabbath) and education, etc etc.

Luckily – we got a day off work! Something other countries should implement. Certainly affects the turnout. And what a lovely day we got – sunny, 25 degrees! If only we got a vacation in the middle of every week. Brunch is so much sweeter on holiday. I especially love to eat bacon unapologetically in Israel.

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Vinexpo entrance

As I’m trying to focus more on wine, I feel obligated to devote a post to my Vinexpo experience.  As I’m tired, working, it’s August, hot as hell, and I’m typing away outside today as there’s no room inside at the cafe I stopped at because I could walk no longer – this is difficult.  But I’m going for it because sooner is better than later (and it’s been – my god – over a month since the event).  Without further ado, I give you…

VINEXPO 2011

Overview: Founded in 1981 by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bordeaux, the Vinexpo has emerged over the years as the great meeting place for global operators of wines and spirits. The expo takes place every other year in Bordeaux at the fairgrounds. It takes place during one week in June every odd year and welcomes some 50,000 visitors, and hosts 2400 exhibitors from 47 countries. The main exhibitors are French and Italian.   In 2011, one out of three non-French exhibitor was from Asia, and recorded 48,122 visitors from 148 countries, up 3.22% compared to 2009.

ISRAELI WINERIES

The GHW and GMW booth at Vinexpo with Head Winemaker Victor Schoenfeld and Director of Sales and Marketing Arnon Harel.

I was honored with an invitation to come and work at the expo by the Golan Heights Winery.  They have been exhibiting at Vinexpo for at least 20 years, as far as I know, the only winery – at least this year – from Israel.  This year, we also brought wines from our daughter winery, The Galil Mountain Winery.  I speak French fairly fluently (I lived in Paris as a child, grew up in a loosely tri-lingual household, and continued my studies through high school and university – where I focused heavily on French literature), but needless to say, my wine vocabulary was lacking.  I spent the two months before attempting to brush up – listening to French news radio on the internet, and I found some Skype-pals, for lack of a better term, through a free service that pairs up people wanting to improve their foreign language speaking skills through an exchange with native speakers, online.  A fantastic idea.  I also created lists of wine vocabulary, watched wine-making videos on YouTube, and I did some research on wine websites and wine regions in France, simply to read about these topics in French.  It all helped.  I was a bit overzealous in my preparation and overly nervous about my ability to perform, but I think I did well.  The first day I felt I was a bit shaky – but after a glass or two of wine and hours on end of speaking just French, it came very easily.  I was there to pour wine, explain about our wines in detail, and introduce whoever was interested to what Israeli wines really are.  A great fun very professional exhibition.  I met wonderful people, and I learned a lot, too.

FEATURED WINES

The Golan Heights Winery Big Wigs (and the 7 wines we served)

Golan: Yarden Gamla Brut 2005; Yarden Gewurtztraminer 2010; Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organ Vineyard 2009; Yarden Syrah 2006; Yarden Merlot 2007; Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2007; and Yarden Heights Wine 2009.  We also brought a hodge-podge selection of 2-3 bottles of various other wines to share with journalists, specialists, and international distributors, if the moment arose – from the Golan range, through Gamla, and a few special single vineyards and top limited-edition wines like the Rom and Katzrin.

Galil: Sauvignon Blanc 2010; Viognier 2010; Avivim 2009; Pinot Noir 2009; Meron 2007/2008; Yiron 2007.  There were also some random bottles opened on occasion, if memory serves, perhaps some of the younger reds.

MY EXPERIENCE

As the only French speaker, I found myself at the stand so much that I didn’t see much of the rest of the expo.  Frankly, that was OK by me.  Victor, the head winemaker, worked extremely hard, too, as well as some of the others, and when you get into a rhythm, adrenaline kicks in, and it’s extremely fun work.  A real team effort.  We had “Wine ID Cards,” as we call them, with all the stats on the company, the numbers, and the geography, complete with map, as we used as a starting point to explain about the location of the vineyards and the specific terroir.   What I found surprising was the people were incredibly open-minded.  I think that a number of them simply came out of curiosity, the novelty of an Israeli winery, but the fact that we’ve been winning very important awards, especially as of late went a long way, too.  People loved our wines.  The most “negative” comment I got was that it was very different than what they make in France.  Perhaps they were being polite.  However, the rave reviews some people offered up, who came back for seconds, who finished their glasses instead of using the spittoons, were not uncommon, and it was energizing.  I was so happy to be there.  Honestly, I was so proud to be there.  And to be spouting off facts, figures, agricultural specifics, aging techniques, standing right next to the winemakers – hopefully getting it all right (I certainly prepped enough) – was something else.   I feel I proved something to myself.  I’ve come very far in just two+ years in the trade.  I’m actually able to teach things, and in some ways also to inspire.  I love these wines, and I love the people I get to work with even more.

And enough drippy drippy sap I’m spouting.  Of the OTHER world wines I got to taste:

  • Lebanese wines: SO different from Israeli wines, and such a small distance away, it’s surprising (almost all of the wines are made in the Beqaa Valley).  I found them sharper somehow.  Very different layering.  A lot of the wine wasn’t amazing, I have to admit, as younger wines always are.  However, among the young wines, there was a lot of creativity – fresh and bright.  The vines in Lebanon are older than ours, at least some of them.  Because Lebanon is not a dominantly Muslim country, there have always been Christians there – I met a lot of people who had vines that were decades and decades old.  A big positive factor in the quality of the grapes.  Of course, there are also a lot of new ventures.  I met French winemakers who were hired by Lebanese and Syrian businessmen who wanted to build up wineries as an investment in recent years.  The wines I tasted that I remembered most were from Chateau Ksara and Château Kefraya.
  • Japanese wine: no, I’m not talking sake.  I’m talking real true blue wine from grapes of the authentic Vitis vinifera.  They don’t yet have a website, the wine is in such limited production, and for the life on me I cannot remember the name.  Crazy.  I will find out, though, as I know some people who know some people and I will update soon.  Perhaps I’ll write a post on it.  What I remember is this:  it was distinctive as hell.  I don’t know whether I loved it or hated it.  Not kidding.  There were two wines, one younger, one more aged – premiere, both white, very fresh and sharp.  What was distinctive first was the smell.  It was like stinky bleu cheese and fresh green melon.  Weird.  I mean so weird, I felt like my facial expression might have insulted the women representing the winery.  They served sushi with it.  The taste was so contrary to the smell, that was the next oddity.  Very floral and green.  They were saying that the specific grape varietal was native to Japan and had been evident in records for over 1,000 years.  How this fruit came to Japan that long ago is a mystery.  On the wings of a bird?  On a rare random trade ship?  Because it is the real deal species.  Not a different fruit.  I will find the name, promise.
  • Chablis: I tasted the whole lineup of wines from the Durup family’s winery.  It’s good solid decent Chablis.  I liked the Chablis 1er cru Vau de Vey very much, although I must say that their Petit Chablis was just as lovely and drinkable.  For people who want a fun summery wine, and aren’t wanting to break the bank, it’s a great choice.
  • Sicilian wines: I tasted a big-commercial-winery’s wine from Sicily two years ago and was blown away.  Since then I’ve kept my eyes open for Sicilian wines in Israel.  This wine was so rich and deeply fragrant, reminiscent of cassis (black current), that I was kind of in heaven.  Cassis reminds me of France and England and childhood and fruits from other-parts-of-the-world, not the standard everyday variety. Needless to say, there aren’t many Sicilian wines available in Israel.  I got a chance to taste many many Sicilian wines at the expo.  In short, there are volcanic regions on the island, and surprisingly enough, non-volcanic regions, too.  The wines are dramatically different.  The dominant local varietals are Nero D’Avola (red) and Inzolia (white).  I was pleasantly surprised by the whites, as I hadn’t tasted them before.  Because of the sort of “transparency” of flavor inherent in white wines (for even the beginner, it’s easier to detect differences between white varietals than red ones, at least in my opinion, and they are easier on the nose, if that makes any sense) – I felt I was tasting something so new yet so ancient.  I don’t have my notes in front of me, unfortunately, but maybe I’ll do a separate post on it, too.
  • Burgundy: Tasted some, people were pretentious, the wines weren’t at the correct temperatures, by a long shot , and I didn’t have a good time.  I moved on quickly.  So I can say I drank a glass of grand cru.  OK.  My notes are elsewhere, and that’s OK by me.
  • Bordeaux: Besides the two stands I stopped at, we drank Bordeaux wines all week at dinner.  There is a reason that these are the kings of world wines.  Even the youngest wines are so distinctive of this region.  The layers and complexity are fascinating and at the end of the day, delicious.  At one of the stands, a young man took me through a very interesting tasting.  I got to taste, albeit two simple wines, ones that were made a few meters from each other, from the same vintage, made in the same method, by the same winemaker.  And the differences were dramatic.  An exceptional lesson on terroir, for sure!

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I haven’t written about food in a long while – a shame.  It’s been nuts.  However this week I decided to take care of myself – I’m not working as much!  The Golan Heights Winery’s “Wine Country Bar” at the Port of Tel Aviv this week has been an absolute blast to work at all week (please come!), and I took most of the week off from the wine bar – hence, only between 6-9 hours of work per day.  With a day off, too!  Taking care of oneself feels awesome.  I made appointments.  I cleaned the house.  I bought shampoo and lotion I’d been missing for a while.  I’m catching up on sleep.  It’s brilliant.  Long live living well!

And in that spirit (in the 10 minutes I have before I go to work) – how about focusing on good, organic veg.  Or home grown veg.  I just came across this article (a challenge really) in the Huffington Post: growing just one food-producing plant this year.  Just one.  Indoor, outdoor, potted, or not, how about it? How hard can it be to grow one tomato plant?  One cucumber plant?  Even some herbs?  Some lettuce?

I have a rooftop garden, with plants on it.  Half the year I basically “kill” them.  Black thumb.  Neglect.  Cluelessness.  All factor in.  But I have the perfect space.  Last year I wanted to start a box-garden or invest in a vertical gardening apparatus of some sort.  If I can buy a cone or a pyramid trellis, I could maximize my surface area.  So how about it?  Any advice from city-dwellers and growing food?  Think I can do it?  (Think I can actually motivate myself on a regular basis to take care of such a thing…gulp…)

Other related link I like to share with you:

Care2.com – a media website devoted to “making a difference.”  I’ve often enjoyed articles and how-to’s on gardening, the environment, pets, health, etc.  Great people.  You can send free ecards from there – and they donate money to save trees (I think) with every card you email.

Happy days!  For now.  Unrelated: I got my passport back from the embassy today, and I just have to share this – it looks like a passport from the land of Disney.  Seriously, it’s the most patriotic bologna I’ve ever seen.  I opened it to find a painting of Francis Scott Key on a ship looking over at a flag in the distance with a handwritten few last lines of the Star Spangled Banner.  Throughout the pages, you have quotations on the top from famous Americans, as well as the preamble to the constitution, the Gettysburg Address, the Bill of Rights…all spread over vistas of American landscapes.  And the Statue of Liberty.  And the last page (OMG) has an image of the earth, as seen from the moon, with Apollo in orbit – of course the USA (and Canada and Mexico) is the country we see below.  Hmmm.  I’ll post photos later.

For now, happy days!

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Golan Heights Winery's Gamay Nouveau Festival

Worries about finances, men, career, short story writing, reading long classic novels, applications, and the near-to-not-so-near future have not made for an easy couple of weeks.  It’s been a sort of sleepless treading of water.  My schedule has been impossible, and it doesn’t look like it will abate.  I’m not complaining.  I’ve made my bed.  I’m simply hoping that expressing some of this will alleviate some of the pressure, like poking some tiny holes in a balloon to make it leak instead of explode.  Notice how many “some“s I used in the previous sentence.  Oh well.  This isn’t the great American novel.

There are some things to look forward to.  Namely, big time wine events.   If you can make them, do so.

The Sommelier 2010 Wine Expo: November 8 & 9, 12-9pm

Sommelier 2010

This is the largest and most important annual wine show in Israel, and it will be held at Heychal Ha’Tarbut (the cultural center where HaBima Theatre is, at the top of Rothschild).  Some of you may wonder if it’s larger than the IsraWinExpo that happens every two years at the Exhibition Grounds, but it’s not, and I’ll tell you why.   This event is geared towards professionals.  The wineries know that they are dealing with wine store owners, chefs, beverage managers, high-end waiters, and yes, sommeliers, and the wine variety and selection show it.  I won’t divulge what the Golan Heights Winery is presenting yet (secrets, secrets), but I can tell you the lineup is impressive.

The event is open to the general public after 7:30 pm, and I believe it will cost 100 shekels.  It’s not such a steep price when you consider you can drink as much as you want (well, it’s a “tasting” quantity – but with dozens of wineries to visit, it adds up) while learning about the best of the best of the Israeli wine industry.  For those of you with even a remote connection to food and wine on a professional or semi-professional level (food bloggers and cafe waiters listen up) – you can try to register on the Sommelier website, and I’m almost certain you’ll be approved.  Important: you’ve got to write in Hebrew, your name, profession, the works, or the form won’t submit.  Get some help if it’s a problem.  The confirmation will most likely go into spam, and it will be in Hebrew, so also be on the lookout. Print it out and bring it with you if you can.  Today is probably the last day to register, so act now.  It’s free for you!

Israeli “Beaujolais Nouveau” Festival – 19 November, 12-4 pm, “HaTachana” in Neve Tzedek

2009 Gamay - designs by young artist contest winners

I know, I know, I should not use the word Beaujolais.  But I did get your attention, I hope.   The Beaujolais Day in France was a marketing ploy created after WWII, and it was seen as way to clear out the vin ordinaire (ordinary, simple table wine) at the very beginning of the season and make a good profit.  So, on the 3rd Thursday of November, the very first wines of the year (yup, the 2010’s – off the vine as little as 6 weeks ago) open up to the market (this is a legality – French wine rules are strict).  AND wineries compete in a race to get their wines to Paris from Burgundy first.  Lots of media hype over the years has made this race an international phenomenon.

The Golan Heights Winery has followed suit, and on the 3rd Thursday of November, they are releasing their 2010 Gamay Nouveau.  Yes the same varietal as the genuine article.  The method of production is also the same, using a fermentation method called carbonic maceration and preventing an malolactic fermentation from happening.  Basically, the wine is fermented inside the grapes, before pressing, preventing any harsh flavors, no tannins, etc.  It’s a fresh light magenta-pinky-purple wine, and you’ve got to drink it within the first year.  It’s great moderately chilled.

GHW’s Gamay Nouveau Festival (map)

Friday, November 19, 2010

12-4 pm

Building 3

HaTachana (map)

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USS Voyager's Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and her daily replicated cup 'o' joe

There are a bunch of news stories and interesting new-science factoids I’ve learned from friends recently all related to food.  Fascinating stuff.  Again, as it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, I feel more than a bit blocked – pressure to make this an awesome, stellar, better-than-ever, award-winning kinda entry.  It will be what it is.  This is interesting stuff.  Process as you will. (LOTS of cool videos below, too).

A real end to world hunger? Maybe?  Think again…

Child eating Plumpy'nut

Last week the New York Times published an article by Andrew Rice about Plumpy’nut, a new peanut-based food product that has already saved the lives of many severely malnourished children in Africa, Haiti, Asia, and who knows where else.  It’s basically a peanut butter packed with lots of other nutrients that can very quickly bring people back from the brink of death.  This is not a small feat, and I am certain of the fact that this is a great invention.  The issues as I can see it are these: the patent, the cost, the actual (long term) effectiveness.

  1. Patent: can one company brand and profit off of this kind of product and its recipe? Pumpy’nut is a trademark owned by Nutriset, a French company.  The inventor, French pediatrician Andre Briend apparently never meant to create a brand and profit off of this product.  AND there are two other companies trying to do similar work.  In my eyes, can such an important product be “owned”?  Can you patent peanut butter?
  2. Cost: it’s not cheap.  A two-month supply of Plumpy’nut for one child costs $60.  That’s a dollar a day — pretty steep in the food world, especially for such a simply product.  AND the main customer of Plumpy’nut (90%)  is UNICEF.  Sucks.  Essentially our tax dollars going to a private company.  We need to feed the world.  But it’s jacked up miracle peanut butter, folks.  It echoes the situation with AIDS medicine going to poor countries — they need it desperately, but do companies want to let go of their product at prices much closer to cost? Nope.  But people are dying…how do put a price on life?  Tricky.  But should it be?
  3. The long term: the company has marketed Plumpy’nut as a cure for hunger.  But is it?  The problem is that the vast majority of “hunger” in the world is not acute malnutrition, the kind we see on the news and celebrity TV appeals – results of famines, war, major ecological disaster.  Most people afflicted by hunger suffer chronically.  They are not on the very edge of death’s doorstep.  They suffer daily, whether a condition of their poverty, agriculture failure, lack of certain essential nutrients in the food they do have, etc.

Here is an excellent Huffington Post article written by Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Read it!

Replicator: Star Trek‘s solution to world Hunger

Ever heard of 3D printing?  I have for a while, but it was difficult for me to picture.  Well, I found some videos, and I’ll post one below for your viewing pleasure.  Basically, there are printers that make objects – and they work just like real paper printers.  It’s fascinating.

Ever heard of a food replicator?  This is a technology that is used in the invented scifi world of Star Trek.  Much like a 3D printer but working on super-futuristic advanced-science principles, this machine can create objects (including food) from any type of other matter by recombining its subatomic particles.  If it has the recipe on file, that is, whether it be for a cup of Earl Gray tea, the Klingon favorite Gagh, a ray gun, a dry martini, or a clarinet.  Scientists over at MIT (in a project called Cornucopia) have been trying to create a real life food replicator.  So far, it doesn’t work on such an advanced level (this futuristic contraption is really just as complex, if not much more complex than the Star Trek transporter).  As far as I can tell, MIT’s Digital Fabricator works by arranging an array of raw ingredients that are designed to print out 3D food to the sub millimeter level.  But no steak dinners here.  They’re working on chocolates and pastries – things that can be assembled, not whipped up out of thin air by recombining protons.  Goodness, I would kill to eat a real hot steak – faux beef that is exactly like real beef – without the killing…can you imagine that???

MIT's Digital Fabricator

Still, it’s interesting (and in my opinion, important) that this kind of technology is being seriously thought about.  It’s another example of contemporary science being influenced by scifi, our imagining of our better future where hunger is unimaginable.  Take a look at a clip of one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, including a demonstration of a replicator:

Here is a video on 3D printing.  Pretty cool stuff.  I like that everything is reusable.  Much like a real replicator.

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The image of a 7 year-old wearing a bra is disturbing to me. Not only is childhood being cut short in the West driven by many factors including media of all sorts, an obsession with the body, with sexualizing everything, the glamorization of violence, etc, etc – you know the deal.  Now childhood is being cut short even earlier by means of biology.

As someone who matured early, I can tell you personally that it’s not a pleasant experience.  You don’t fit.  You look different.  You are treated differently.  It takes years for people to catch up, and by then, it’s “too late.”  You’ve been different, often ostracized socially, or at least placed in a different category for so long.  You are treated as more of an adult.  You think of yourself as more of an adult.  There is a vast effect on self-esteem.  The list goes on.  For a long time people have also talked about the health risks that these resulting women are afflicted by, including earlier-onset menopause and a much greater risk for breast cancer and osteoporosis.  Recent studies also suggest that these girls become sexually active much earlier, exposing them to potential disease, pregnancy, and all of the psychological issues that are involved in such behavior.  And the earlier a girl develops, the higher the risks for all of these things, physically, mentally, emotionally, and with the future of her health and lifespan.

A tough break.  Nobody asks for it.  And throughout all time it was something over which we thought we had no control.

Until recently.

My mother forwarded me this article published in Reuters citing a definitive study that concluded that girls are entering puberty earlier at quite alarming rates.  The main cause that they focused on was childhood obesity.  Fat girls were more likely to develop earlier.  OK.  I drew a connection to why much earlier than the article did.  As I read I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for the article to mention it.  Come on now.  What are people eating that makes them obese?  The moment I was waiting for came at the end and wasn’t explored much: HORMONES in our FOOD.

In 2005 Americans 185 lbs meat per capita

Puberty results from hormone changes within the brain which signal the reproductive organs.  They in turn send more hormone signals to other parts of the body, initiating growth and change.  I’m not going to get into science.  I’m not a scientist and I’m not going to bother with citations up the wazoo.  Everyone reading this blog is capable of doing the same google searches that I do.  But here are the main things I gleaned:

  • Two-thirds of American cattle raised for slaughter today are injected with hormones to make them grow faster, and America’s dairy cows are given a genetically-engineered hormone called rBGH to increase milk production.
  • European Union’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health questioned whether hormone residues in the meat of “growth enhanced” animals and can disrupt human hormone balance, causing developmental problems, interfering with the reproductive system, and even leading to the development of breast, prostate or colon cancer.
  • Children, pregnant women and the unborn are thought to be most susceptible to these negative health effects.
  • Hormones are also present in animals’ excrement which remains in the soil for months, can seep into the groundwater supply, and also move into bodies of water where they affect fish reproduction.

Hormones and Puberty

Why are hormones used on cattle?  To make them bigger and to produce more milk.  More, more, more, cheaper, cheaper, cheaper.   Having read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, as well as Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats, years ago, I have become very concerned about the amount of hormones we’re consuming.  When you think about it, hormones of every sort are simply chemical signals.  Each hormone triggers actions that different systems in our bodies take.  We have hormones that control metabolism, growth, mood swings, immune system, reproduction, and more.   Can you imagine what we’re doing by adding (or flooding) wrong signals into our bodies?  Depression, hyperactivity, metabolic issues, goodness, everything can be affected adversely.  In the macro world, messed up signals and messages can cause airplanes to crash, cars to crash, wars to start, for goodness sake.  What systems are crashing, wars are being fought inside our bodies?

So, here’s one of the most obvious examples: little girls sprouting breasts at 7 and 8 years-old.  It’s easy to see because it’s the hardest to ignore.  Breasts are out there.  And little girls aren’t supposed to have them, poor things.  I can’t imagine what’s going on inside all of us that we can’t see.  And although I’m not eating meat right now (thankfully so, until I make up my mind about some issues, and if/until I find organic meat and humane slaughtering that I think are acceptable), I’m drinking English Breakfast tea with milk right now.  Milk.  You go on thinking, a little drop of milk won’t hurt.  I’m not drinking gallons.  But it might add up.  And as a good American child, I did drink gallons.  Every week.  I had a minimum of 3-5 glasses a day, (not counting what I added to my cereal), and with two sisters and a dad who liked milk too, we went through a gallon almost every day.  We would buy 2+ 2-gallon bottles every week.  Perhaps it’s not so shocking I went through puberty early.

As far as I can see, this is another strong strong and scary argument for forgoing non-organic meats and milk (and eggs, now that I’m thinking about it, although that’s more for antibiotics, also a related scary issue).   So scary that although I am so swamped with work, it’s not funny, I stopped everything to blog about this.  I leave you with this: think hard about what you put into your body. It becomes you.  I need to start thinking harder, too.

Links on the topic:

Scary UK National Obesity Ad Campaign (worth a look)

3 year-olds getting their period

Artificial hormones

EU scientists confirm health risks of hormones in meat

Puberty coming earlier for girls

Childhood obesity brings early puberty for girls

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You’ve probably never heard of the Pavlovsk agricultural station.  I hadn’t until this morning, but thank the high heavens I did.

Located near St Petersburg, Russia, this institution is one of the world’s leading seedbanks.  During WWII, 12 scientists starved to death rather than eat its contents, in order to protect it.  A place like that has really got to be worth it, don’t you think?  Alas, no.  Pavlovsk is in a court battle today, at risk of being destroyed in order to build a private housing complex.  Right.  An institution so important to the world, to history, to our future survival, and so undervalued (or rather completely unvalued) by its country, is really really scary.

(Sign the petition, it takes less than a minute)

Here’s the story

Nikolai Vavilov (perhaps the creator of the idea of banking seeds to protect plant diversity if food production was ever threatened) established Pavlovsk in 1926, and over 85 years the collection has become staggering in its amount and diversity of species.

  • Over 90% of the collection cannot be found anywhere else in the world
  • There are over 5,000 varieties of seeds from countries all over the world, including:
  • over 100 varieties each of raspberries and gooseberries, and
  • It houses the world’s largest collection of strawberries, blackcurrants, cherries, and apples

It is quite simply, a living, breathing priceless piece of history, and it’s a repository that ensures the foods of tomorrow.  Destroying Pavlovsk would be the single greatest act against crop diversity, ever.  The irony: modern seed-banking was invented and spearheaded by Russia.

Even if some salvage operation was attempted, according to the campaigners to protect Pavlovsk:

It is virtually impossible, however, to carry out such a transfer within three months or even in a three-year period.

The problem is that these lots harbor in vivo unique fruit and berry plants as well as perennial fodder crop samples (about 10,000 accessions) belonging to Vavilov’s global collection of plant genetic resources. This part of the collection was founded as long ago as in 1926 by Nikolai Vavilov himself and his closest associates.

Translation: most of the plants are plants – growing in the ground – because they don’t procreate easily or traditionally with seeds.  And there’s acres and acres and even more acres of them.  Priceless, I told you.

WE CAN HELP

1) Sign this petition.  It takes less than a minute.  Their goal is 500 signatures, and they’re at 386.  Let’s get that number up.

2) Tweet President Medvedev:

English: @KremlinRussia_E Mr. President, protect the future of food – save #Pavlovsk Station! http://bit.ly/d2H96s

Russian: @KremlinRussia Господин президент, защитите будущее сельского хозяйства – спасите Павловскую станцию! http://bit.ly/d2H96s

3) Post this on Facebook.  Tell you friends. Etc, etc.

More information about crop diversity.

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