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1st time—-I feel about the sequester cuts, at National Arboretum

8 Jul

Be aware, potential USNA visitors.

I contacted a colleague at US National Arboretum about a potential visit and was told that “we have changed our hours due to the sequester cuts from Congress.  The USNA is NOT OPEN Tuesday through Thursday.  We are open Friday to Monday only”.

Here’s the official statement.


Pediatricians back organics

31 Oct

“Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages “. Pediatrics 2012;130:e1406–e1415

The US market for organic foods has grown from $3.5 billion in 1996 to $28.6 billion in 2010, according to the Organic Trade Association. Organic
products are now sold in specialty stores and conventional supermarkets. Organic products contain numerous marketing claims and terms, only some of which are standardized and regulated. In terms of health advantages, organic diets have been convincingly demonstrated to expose consumers to fewer pesticides associated with human disease. Organic farming has been demonstrated to have less environmental impact than conventional approaches. However, current evidence does not support any meaningful nutritional benefits or deficits from eating organic compared with conventionally grown
foods, and there are no well-powered human studies that directly demonstrate health benefits or disease protection as a result of consuming an organic diet. Studies also have not demonstrated any detrimental or disease-promoting effects from an organic diet.

Although organic foods regularly command a significant price premium, well-designed farming studies demonstrate that costs can be competitive and yields comparable to those of conventional farming techniques. Pediatricians should incorporate this evidence when discussing the health and environmental impact of organic foods and organic farming while continuing to encourage all patients and their families to attain optimal nutrition and dietary variety consistent with the US Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate recommendations. This clinical report reviews the health and environmental issues related to organic food production and consumption. It defines the term “organic,” reviews organic food-labeling standards, describes organic and conventional farming practices, and explores the cost and environmental implications of organic production techniques. It examines the evidence available on nutritional quality and production contaminants in conventionally produced and organic foods. Finally, this report provides guidance for pediatricians to assist them in advising their patients regarding organic and conventionally produced food choices. Pediatrics 2012;130:e1406–e1415

A mother-forker’s view on organic research

1 Oct

Why Organic Food May Not Be Healthier For You on NPR raised a lot of questions among listeners and here’s my 2 cents.

From NPR.

I became mother-forker since I put first spoonful of solid food in my son’s mouth (hey, you have to admit that ‘mother-forker’ will attract a lot more eyeballs than ‘mother-spooner’). I started to buy food, as organic as I could. Actually, before that—-when I first found out I was pregnant. The only reason that I didn’t ‘convert’ 100% to organic food was only because of the availability, thanks to the small college towns I’ve been living in.

I don’t give a whole lot cr** (credential or others) about research on whether organic food is healthier for you.

No. 1—-research done on human being  could barely be considered as ‘scientific (at least not enough) research’, compared to plant research. I have a PhD in plant sciences. When we conducted different treatments on plants, we normally require at least 5 replication of each data point. If we want to see effect of organic treatments (e.g. conventional and organic I, II, and III), we’ll have at least 4*5=20 plants. In plant research, we have the luxury of using identical clonal plants, from tissue culture. At the end of the treatments, we have the luxury of ‘harvesting’ (killing) the plants, dry them, and ground them before putting them through various machines to look ‘inside’ of a plant, anywhere we want.

Was any of the human research conducted on 20 identical twins? Think about the difference between you and your brother/sister—-could you really draw something as conclusive from that? Was any of the experimental object ‘harvested’ to measure the outcome (forgiving me saying this)? Yeah, I guess blood was drawn (or something more invasive) during human research, but probably not to the extent as in plant research where we could harvest every organ and the whole thing to get the full picture.

No. 2—-as a scientist, we should always be aware of our own limitation—–not being able to find organic food is healthier is different from finding that organic food is not healthier. The same is true about pesticides/drugs/etc.—- not being able to find pesticides/drugs/etc . is dangerous to human and environment is different from finding that pesticides/drugs/etc. is NOT dangerous. How many times has EPA cancelled certain pesticides  or has FDA revoked its approval of certain drugs ?

Do I really need to continue? Or right, we haven’t even touched the environmental issues yet.

Protein dishes—-food in Hanzhou

29 Jun

We are spending more days in Hanzhou, Zhejiang Province than Beijing and Shanghai combined for this USDA FAS SCEP trip. Tomorrow we’ll visit West Lake—-strictly no sightseeing, but ‘investigation’ of aquatic plants there.

In case you feel ‘hungry’ from yesterday’s veggie dishes, I got some ‘protein dishes’ (aka, meat, fish, etc.) today. Enjoy!

Who said only the French devour goose liver? This delicacy was presented many times by local hosts. Today, a ‘vegetarian’ like me tripped over a dish with little diamond-shaped tofu like food. I thought it was stinky tofu, but turns out it was re-shaped goose liver. Well, I’m just ‘transitional’ vegetarian.

Since we’re not in Beijing, I hesitate to call this ‘Beijing roast duck’. Being vegetarian, I could only tell you that the white ‘green onion’ and the green cucumber tasted very good with the sauce.

I was not expecting flounder here in Hangzhou, but look at this piece o

After one of us (NOT me!) tasted the top of the dish, he said ‘this is corned beef’. I had corned beef in the US, so not having the taste as this beef here. The dried bamboo shoots were one of my favorites, crunchy and chewy.