Unwitting Public Consuming More GMO Foods While Evidence of Harm Continues to Mount

That is a famous quote from the eastern European country of Georgia (formerly of the Soviet Union) relating to the long life of the people in that region. They have traditionally consumed large amounts of fermented foods, including yogurt, but this is not very realistic in many areas of the world today, including the United States. Many people are lactose intolerant, but you can still eat fermented foods!

Today the benefits of fermented foods are really catching on, but did you know that the fermentation process was originally used to improve the keeping and storing of foods? It’s thought that camel, buffalo, goat, sheep and cow milk were initially fermented naturally into yogurt. The hot temperatures (110 F) of the North African deserts were ideal for lactic acid-producing bacteria to ferment the milk carried by camels in goat bags. Almost every region in the world has developed fermented foods in their quest to acquire new tastes and improve shelf life. Farmers, rather than scientists, used their ingenuity and imagination. They were thinking in terms of how to best provide for their families, not realizing that thousands of years later, scientists would be examining the potential health benefits of fermented foods.

Elie Metchnikoff, a famous Russian Nobel prize-winning Bacteriologist looked into the possible health benefits of fermented foods in the early 1900’s. He noticed that Bulgarians had an average life span of 87 years-that was much longer than the 50 year life expectancy in the US at that time and almost 10 years longer than even today’s average life expectancy of 78 years! One of the most significant differences in their lifestyle was the consumption of fermented milks! Since Metchnikoff’s original study, researchers have found that many populations use fermented foods. Georgians, from what was formally known as the Soviet Union, live over 100 years and are playing polo and working in the farm fields! They attribute their long lives to fermented or “sour” milk, which is where the quote from the title of this blog came from! I’m not sure I would want to be working in the farm fields at 100, but I’d love to still be riding my horses at that age!

I know that my family has greatly benefited from fermented foods. My husband and I are in our 50’s, feeling and looking better than we did in our 30’s! CJ’s intestinal issues are healed, his mind is clear and his body is healthy. In fact, all our children are healthy. I KNOW that we would not be where we are health wise today without the benefits of raw organic fermented probiotic foods.

There are so many benefits of eating fermented foods and researchers just keep adding more things to the list. Here are some of the benefits of fermented foods:

Sometimes we are so overwhelmed with modern technology that we forget the benefits of simplicity. Today there are so many genetically modified refined and processed foods polluting our bodies. They were designed to make our lives easier, but that does NOT mean healthier! Our ancestors were onto something by fermenting their foods to keep them edible for longer periods of time. Our bodies cannot handle the chemicals it takes to keep foods stable/fresh on our shelves for years. I’d much rather have the “good” bacteria from my fermented foods in my gut, rather than subject my body to the harmful toxins in processed foods. It’s a “no brainer!” So if you haven’t tried Real Food Real Life’s raw, organic fermented probiotics yet, please do-you’re going to notice a healthier, happier you, not to mention looking physically better! Educate yourself on what cultured/fermented foods are available (such as miso, kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir, to name a few) and how you can add them into your daily diet. A fun family adventure would be to do a quick Internet search on what fermented foods YOUR ancestors ate! Mine made and ate fermented meats and cheese like salmon and parmesan.

Back in 2007, before terms like subprime mortgages and credit default swaps entered our vernacular, the world’s policymakers found themselves facing a far more basic, if equally complex global crisis-one involving food.

At the time, news of ration line riots flooded headlines, while pundits entertained apocalyptic visions of an underfed future. Many nations erected monolithic trade barriers to protect domestic supplies, while surging oil prices and speculative investors only drove food indices even higher.

By the end of 2008, of course, the global financial crisis had effectively dampened demand, and lower oil prices allowed food commodity markets to stabilize. The world’s attention then turned to the financial sector and stimulus plans, and the once ominous specter of an international food shortage suddenly receded into the background.

Now, however, the specter of another food crisis has reared its ugly head, once again.

In recent months, a plummeting US dollar has increased the cost of foodstuff imports for many nations, while severe climate and natural disasters in Russia and Pakistan have jolted global supply chains. Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Indonesia, Brazil and the Philippines have already warned of impending food shortages in the next year. In the matter of a few months, grain prices jumped so precipitously that, in late September, the Intergovernmental Group on Grain, sponsored by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), called an emergency meeting.

When the session concluded, russian store  the FAO announced that the chances of slipping into another international food crisis remained slim, but warned that import-dependent countries would likely see a substantial increase in commodity prices. A month later, World Bank president Robert Zoellick echoed and expanded upon this sentiment, saying that food price volatility would likely last for another five years.

“There is growing concern among countries about continuing volatility and uncertainty in food markets,” Zoellick told the Guardian in late October. “These concerns have been compounded by recent increases in grain prices. World food price volatility remains significant and in some countries, the volatility is adding to already higher local food prices.”

For all this uncertainty, today’s commodity market tumult has yet to metastasize into a full-blown international crisis. Food price indices, while high, are still well below the per-bushel levels of 2007 and 2008. And, aside from a brief outburst in Mozambique, the political seas of consumer discontent have been relatively placid.

Nevertheless, some economies have already begun to feel the pinch. And perhaps none more acutely than Egypt’s wheat market.

In July, a monumentally severe heat wave struck much of Russia, inciting widespread fires and droughts, and devastating the country’s wheat crop. In the wake of the disaster, Russia implemented an export ban on wheat in the hopes of securing a healthy domestic supply through the end of the year.

The news came as something of an alarm to Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer and scheduled recipient of 540,000 tons of Russian wheat, due for delivery by the end of this year. With this order suddenly cancelled, Egypt found itself scrambling to diversify its import portfolio to make up for its Moscow-sized trade gap.

Eventually, the US, France and a host of foreign suppliers stepped up to fill the void, and, in mid-September, Egyptian trade minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid confirmed that the country had secured enough supplies of wheat to avoid any immediate shortages.

That should come as a major relief to the average Egyptian consumer, who, according to the country’s General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC), consumes about 180 kg of flour per year. This import diversion will also ease the concerns of Egypt’s politicians, who were no doubt skittish after the recent death of a 25-year-old in a bread queue revived memories of 2008, when similar violence broke out among protesters and police in the city of Mahalla.

Ultimately, though, this game of mercantile musical chairs is nothing more than a stopgap measure that masks a more insidious, if less obvious malady-Egypt’s wheat subsidy program.

Each year, the Egyptian government devotes some $3 billion to food subsidies-a third of which goes to buoying the country’s bread supply. Under this system, the state procures wheat from foreign suppliers at a fixed price. In a country where roughly 16 million inhabitants are classified as poor, guaranteeing a constant food supply certainly makes political sense.

There’s an economic logic to the country’s subsidies as well. By devoting so much capital to the wheat market, Egyptian authorities are essentially attempting to protect the domestic market from the often violently sinusoidal tremors that can rattle international grain prices.

In September, when the GASC announced that it had secured sufficient imports to feed the Egyptian population, deputy chairman Noamani Nasr Noamani pointed out that the government had also secured enough money to increase the budget for its wheat subsidies. This increased budget, Noamani claimed, means “the Egyptian consumer and the Egyptian citizen will not feel the pain of the increase of prices globally.”

The problem for Egypt though, is that today’s market conditions couldn’t be less favorable to such a massive-and often misdirected-subsidy program.

In October, Minister of Agriculture Amin Abaza promised that the government would not allow local procurement prices for the new harvest season to fall below LE300 Egyptian pounds per ardab (measuring unit for crops). Abaza’s proclaimed threshold is roughly 20 percent higher than last season’s, but Egyptian wheat farmers say it’s still not high enough.

With the cost of fertilizers having risen over the course of the past few years, Egypt’s agrarians had been hoping for a guaranteed price of at least LE350 per ardab. Today’s wheat farmer, according to estimates from Cairo-based investment firm CI Capital, has to spend roughly LE2,000 to cultivate a single feddan (1.038 acres). Without a higher guaranteed price, farmers will likely devote their arable land to more profitable crops, thus exacerbating an already grim outlook.

There are, of course, several exogenous factors over which Egypt has little or no control. Commodity traders may continue to drive up international food prices through speculative investments; the inexorable forces of urbanization and large-scale, agro-industrialization can only be harnessed through global, cooperative efforts; and, of course, there’s no telling when the next drought or heat wave might decimate international harvests.

The one thing Egypt can control is its domestic production chain. Yet thus far, governmental subsidies have only resulted in an underperforming market and distorted prices.

This is not to say that the country must abandon its subsidy program altogether. Some 60 million people benefit from subsidized foods, and, with a parliamentary election on the horizon, calling for an end to subsidies would be tantamount to political suicide. Rather, Egypt must look to reform the program, with an eye toward creating very real incentives for farmers to plant wheat. Setting a simple price threshold, in today’s protean economic climate, clearly won’t be enough.

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