Friday, July 27, 2007

Ryna IV

Thursday, July 26, 2007


That bowl of Kellogg’s Cornflakes on the breakfast table, or the portion of pasta or corn tortillas, cheese or meat on the table is going to rise in price over the coming months as sure as the sun rises in the East. Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the new world food price shock, conveniently timed to accompany our current world oil price shock.

Curiously it’s ominously similar in many respects to the early 1970’s when prices for oil and food both exploded by several hundred percent in a matter of months. That mid-1970’s price explosion led President Nixon to ask his old pal, Arthur Burns, then Chairman of the Fed, to find a way to alter the CPI inflation data to take attention away from the rising prices. The result then was the now-commonplace publication of the absurd "core inflation" CPI numbers--sans oil and food. Stephen Roche was the young Fed economist who was assigned the statistical manipulation job by Burns.

The late satirist, Mark Twain once quipped, "Buy land: They’ve stopped making it…" Today we can say almost the same about corn or all grains worldwide. The world is in the early months of the greatest sustained rise in grain prices, for all major grains including maize, wheat, rice that we have seen in three decades. Those three crops constitute almost 90% of all grains cultivated in the world.

Washington’s calculated, absurd plan

What’s driving this extraordinary change? Here things get pretty interesting. The Bush Administration is making a major public relations push to convince the world it has turned into a "better steward of the environment." The problem is that many have fallen for the hype.
The center of his program, announced in his January State of the Union Address is called ’20 in 10’, cutting US gasoline use 20% by 2010. The official reason is to "reduce dependency on imported oil," as well as cutting unwanted "greenhouse gas" emissions. That isn’t the case, but it makes good PR. Repeat it often enough and maybe most people will believe it. Maybe they won’t realize their taxpayer subsidies to grow ethanol corn instead of feed corn are also driving the price of their daily bread through the roof.

The heart of the plan is a huge, taxpayer subsidized expansion of the use of bio-ethanol for transport fuel. The President’s plan requires production of 35 billion gallons (about 133 billion liters) of ethanol a year by 2017. Congress already mandated with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 that corn ethanol for fuel must rise from 4 billion gallons in 2006 to 7.5 billion in 2012. To make certain it will happen, farmers and big agribusiness giants like ADM or David Rockefeller get generous taxpayer subsidies to grow corn for fuel instead of food. Currently ethanol producers get a subsidy in the US of 51 cents per gallon ethanol paid to the blender, usually an oil company that blends it with gasoline for sale.

As a result of the beautiful US Government subsidies to produce bio-ethanol fuels, and the new legislative mandate, the US refinery industry is investing big time in building new special ethanol distilleries, similar to oil refineries, except they produce ethanol fuel. The number currently under construction exceeds the total number of oil refineries built in the US over the past 25 years. When finished in the next 2-3 years the demand for corn and other grain to make ethanol for car fuel will double from present levels.

Not just USA bio-ethanol. In March Bush met with Brazil’s President to sign a bilateral "Ethanol Pact" to cooperate in R&D of "next generation" bio-fuel technologies like cellulosic ethanol from wood, and joint cooperation in "stimulating" expansion of bio-fuels use in developing countries, especially in Central America, and creating a "bio-fuels OPEC-like" cartel market with rules that allows formation of a Western Hemisphere ethanol market.

In short, the use of farmland worldwide for bio-ethanol and other bio-fuels—burning the food product rather than using it for human or animal food—is being treated in Washington, Brazil and other major centers, including the EU, as a major new growth industry.

Phony green arguments

Bio-fuel—gasoline or fuel produced from refining food products—is being hyped as a solution to the controversial Global Warming problem. Leaving aside the faked science and the political interests behind the sudden hype about dangers of global warming, bio-fuels offer no net positive benefits over oil even under best conditions. Its advocates claim that present first generation bio-fuels "save up to 60% of carbon emission." As well, amid rising oil prices at $75 per barrel for Brent marker grades, governments such as Brazil’s are frantic to substitute homegrown bio-fuels for imported gasoline. In Brazil today 70% of all cars have "flexi-fuel" engines able to switch from conventional gasoline to 100% bio-fuel or any mix. Bio-fuel production has become one of Brazil’s major export industries as well.

The green claims for bio-fuel as a friendly and better fuel than gasoline are at best dubious, if not outright fraudulent. Depending on who runs the tests, ethanol has little if any effect on exhaust-pipe emissions in current car models. It has significant emission, however, of some toxins including formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, neurotoxins which have been banned as carcinogenic in California.

Ethanol is not some benign substance as we are led to think from the industry propaganda. It is highly corrosive to pipelines as well as to seals and fuel systems of existing car or other gasoline engines. It requires special new gas pumps. All that conversion costs money.

But the killer-diller about ethanol is that it holds at least 30% less energy per gallon than normal gasoline, translating into a loss in fuel economy per gallon of at least 25% over gasoline for an Ethanol E-85% blend. No advocate of the ethanol boondoggle addresses the huge social cost which is beginning to hit the dining room tables across the US, Europe and the rest of the world. Food prices are exploding as corn, soybeans and all cereal grain prices are going through the roof because of the astronomical—Congress-driven—demand for corn to burn for bio-fuel.

This year the Massachusetts Institute of Technology issued a report concluding that using corn-based ethanol instead of gasoline will have no impact on greenhouse gas emissions, and would even expand fossil fuel use due to increased demand for fertilizer and irrigation to expand acreage of ethanol crops. And according to MIT "natural gas consumption is 66% of total corn ethanol production energy," meaning huge new strains on natural gas supply, pushing prices there higher.

The idea that the world can "grow" out of oil dependency with bio-fuels is the PR hype being used to sell what is shaping up to be the most dangerous threat to the planet’s food supply since creation of patented genetically manipulated corn and crops.

US farms become bio-fuel factories

The main reason US and world grain prices are soaring in the past two years and now pre-programmed to continue rising at a major pace, is the conversion of US farmland to become de facto bio-fuel factories. In 2006 US farmland devoted to bio-fuel crops increased by 48%. None of that land was replaced for food crop cultivation. The tax subsidies make it far too profitable to produce ethanol fuel.

Since 2001 the amount of maize used to produce bio-ethanol in the USA has risen 300%, trend increasing going forward. In fact, in 2006 US maize or corn crops for bio-fuel equaled the tonnage of corn used for export. In 2007 it is estimated it will exceed the corn for export by a hefty amount. The US is the world’s leading corn exporter, most going for animal feed to EU and other countries. The traditional USDA statistics on acreage planted to corn is no longer a useful metric of food prices as all marginal acreage is going for bio-fuel growing. The amount available for animal and human feed is actually declining.

Brazil and China are similarly switching from food to bio-fuels with large swatches of land.

A result of the bio-fuel revolution in agriculture is that world carryover or reserve stocks of grains have been plunging for six of the past seven years. Carryover reserve stocks of all grains fell at the end of 2006 to 57 days of consumption, the lowest level since 1972. Little wonder that world grain prices rose 100% over the past 12 months. This is just the start.

That decline in grain reserves, the measure of food security in event of drought or harvest failure—an increasingly common event in recent years—is pre-programmed to continue going as far ahead as the eye can see. Assuming modest world population increase annually of some 70 million people over the coming decade, especially in the Indian subcontinent and Africa, the stagnation or even decline in the tonnages of feed corn or other feed grains including rice that is harvested annually as growing amounts of bio-ethanol and other bio-fuels displaces food grain, in fact means we are just getting started on the greatest transformation of global agriculture since the introduction of the agribusiness revolution with fertilizers and mechanized farming after World War II. The difference is that this revolution is at the expense of food production. That preprograms exploding global grain prices, increased poverty and malnutrition. And the effect on gasoline import demand will be minimal.

Prof. M.A. Altieri of Berkeley University estimates that dedicating all USA corn and soybean production acreage to bio-fuels would only meet 12% of gasoline and 6% of diesel needs. He notes that though one-fifth of last year’s corn harvest went to bio-ethanol, it met a mere 3% of energy needs. But the farmland is converting at a record pace. In 2006 more than 50% of Iowa and South Dakota corn went to ethanol refineries. Farmers across the Midwest, desperate for more income after years of depressed corn prices, are abandoning traditional crop rotation to grow exclusively soybeans or corn with dramatic added impact on soil erosion and needs for added chemical pesticides. In the US some 41% of all herbicides used are already applied to corn. Monsanto and other makers of glyphosate herbicides like Roundup are clearly smiling on the way to the bank.

Going global with bio-fuels

The Bush-Lula pact is just the start of a growing global rush to plant crops for bio-fuel. Huge sugarcane, palm oil and soy plantations for bio-fuel refining are taking over forests and grasslands in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Paraguay. Soy cultivation has already caused the deforestation of 21 million hectares in Brazil and 14 million in Argentina, with no end in sight, as world grain prices continue to rise. Soya is used for bio-diesel fuel.

China, desperate for energy sources, is a major player in bio-fuel cultivation, reducing food crop acreage there as well. In the EU most bio-diesel fuel is produced using rapeseed plants, a popular animal feed. The result? Meat prices around the globe are rising and set to continue rising as far ahead as the eye can see. The EU has a target requiring minimum bio-fuel content of 10%, a foolish demand that will set aside 18% of EU farmland to cultivate crops to be burned as bio-fuel.

Big oil is also driving the bio-fuels bandwagon. Prof. David Pimentel of Cornell University and other scientists claim that net energy output from bio-ethanol fuel is less than the fossil fuel energy used to produce the ethanol. Measuring all energy inputs to produce ethanol from production of nitrogen fertilizer to energy needed to clean the considerable waste from bio-fuel refineries, Pimintel’s research showed a net energy loss of 22% for bio-fuel—they use more energy than they produce. That translates into little threat to oil demand and huge profit for clever oil giants that re-profile themselves as "green energy" producers.

So it’s little wonder that ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP are all into bio-fuels. This past May, BP announced the largest ever R&D grant to a university, $500 million to the University of California-Berkeley to fund BP-dictated R&D into alternative energy including bio-fuels. Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Program got $100 million from ExxonMobil; University of California-Davis got $25 million from Chevron for its Bio-energy Research Group. Princeton University’s Carbon Mitigation Initiative takes $15 million from BP.

Lord Browne, the disgraced former CEO of BP declared in 2006, "The world needs new technologies to maintain adequate supplies of energy for the future. We believe bioscience can bring immense benefits to the energy sector." The bio-fuel market is booming like few others today. This all is a paradise for global agribusiness industrial companies like Cargill, ADM and Monsanto, Syngenta.

All this, combined with severe weather problems in China, Australia, Ukraine and large parts of the EU growing areas this harvest season, guarantee that grain prices are set to explode further in coming months and years. Some are gleefully reporting the end of the era of "cheap food." With disappearing food security reserves and disappearing acreage going to plant corn and grains for food, the bio-fuel transformation will impact global food prices massively in coming years.

Another agenda behind Ethanol?

Uh Huh. The dramatic embrace of bio-fuels by the Bush Administration since 2005 has clearly been the global driver for soaring grain and food prices in the past 18 months. The evidence suggests this is no accident of sloppy legislative preparation. The US Government has been researching and developing bio-fuels since the 1970’s. The bio-ethanol architects did their homework we can be assured. It’s increasingly clear that the same people who brought us oil price inflation are now deliberately creating parallel food price inflation. We have had a rise in average oil prices of some 300% since the end of 2000 when George W. Bush and Dick Halliburton Cheney made oil the central preoccupation of US foreign policy.

Last year, as bio-ethanol production first became a major market factor, corn prices rose by some 130% on the Chicago in 14 months. It was more than known when Congress and the Bush Administration made their heavy push for bio-ethanol in 2005 that world grain reserves had been declining at alarming levels for several years at a time when global demand, driven especially by growing wealth And increasing meat consumption in China, was rising.

As a result of the diversion of record acreages of US and Brazilian corn and soybeans to bio-fuel production, food reserves are literally disappearing. Global food security, according to FAO data, is at its lowest since 1972. Curiously that was just the time that Henry Kissinger and the Nixon Administration engineered, in cahoots with Cargill and ADM—the major backers of the ethanol scam today—what was called The Great Grain Robbery, sale of huge volumes of US grain to the Soviet Union in exchange for sales of record volumes of Russian oil to the West. Both oil and corn prices rose by 1975 some 300-400% as a result. Just how that worked, I treated in detail in: A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics.Today a new element has replaced USSR grain demand and harvest shortfalls. Bio-fuel demand, fed by US government subsidies is literally linking food prices to oil prices. The scale of the subsidized bio-fuel consumption has exploded so dramatically since the beginning of 2006 when the US Energy Policy Act of 2005 first began to impact crop planting decisions, not only in the USA, that there is emerging a de facto competition between people and cars for the same grains. Lester Brown recently noted, "We’re looking at competition in the global market between 800 million automobiles and the world’s two billion poorest people for the same commodity, the same grains. We are now in a new economic era where oil and food are interchangeable commodities because we can convert grain, sugar cane, soybeans—anything—into fuel for cars. In effect the price of oil is beginning to set the price of food."

In the mid-1970’s Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a protégé of the Rockefeller family and of its institutions stated, "Control the oil and you control entire nations; control the food and you control the people." The same cast of characters who brought the world the Iraq war, the global scramble to control oil, who brought us patented genetically manipulated seeds and now Terminator suicide seeds, and who cry about the "problem of world over-population," are now backing conversion of global grain production to burn as fuel at a time of declining global grain reserves. That alone should give pause for thought. As the popular saying goes, "Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you."


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I Know....

Food Supply

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released its first projections of world grain supply and demand for the coming crop year: 2007/08. USDA predicts supplies will plunge to a 53-day equivalent- their lowest level in the 47-year period for which data exists. “The USDA projects global grain supplies will drop to their lowest levels on record. Further, it is likely that, outside of wartime, global grain supplies have not been this low in a century, perhaps longer,” said NFU Director of Research Darrin Qualman.

Most important, 2007/08 will mark the seventh year out of the past eight in which global grain production has fallen short of demand. This consistent shortfall has cut supplies in half-down from a 115-day supply in 1999/00 to the current level of 53 days. “The world is consistently failing to produce as much grain as it uses,” said Qualman. He continued: “The current low supply levels are not the result of a transient weather event or an isolated production problem: low supplies are the result of a persistent drawdown trend.”

Qualman said that the converging problems of natural gas and fertilizer constraints, intensifying water shortages, climate change, farmland loss and degradation, population increases, the proliferation of livestock feeding, and an increasing push to divert food supplies into biofuels means that we are in the opening phase of an intensifying food shortage.


Monday, July 09, 2007


Poison Play - Strategic Globalization

There is pernicious strategic intent behind the relocation of massive manufacturing capacity to China. It ties down a potential competitor [American corporations consume a majority of the junk China produces and China in turn props up the debt-ridden American economy] and re-situates the most visceral kinds of pollution [while seeding regional conflict as China seeks greater access to resources] to a different part of the world [the Eurasian landmass]. China's "development" needs to be re-evaluated in light of emerging evidence [of ecological destruction that these two rogue nations are causing in Eurasia and indeed the rest of the world]:

The cloud of dirt was hard to make out from the ground, but at an altitude of 10,000 meters (32,808 feet), the scientists could see the gigantic mass of ozone, dust and soot with the naked eye. In a specially outfitted aircraft taking off from Munich airport, they surveyed a brownish mixture stretching from Germany all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.

These kinds of clouds float above Europe for most of the year and they've traveled far to get there. By analyzing the makeup of particles in the cloud, European scientists were able to identify its origin. "There was a whole bunch from China in there," says Andreas Stohl, a 38-year-old from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research.

On the other side of the Pacific, in Yokohama, Japanese climate change researcher Hajime Akimoto places three photos of the Earth next to each other. They show in red where concentrations of nitrogen dioxide are especially high. The picture from 1996 shows the area between Beijing and Shanghai as a loose group of reddish spots, but one from 2005 completely covers that part of China in bright red.

Winds are blowing ever-greater amounts of pollution from China into Japan, leading many Japanese to complain about irritated eyes and throats. Last year, two cities made official warnings about health dangers caused by Japan's big red neighbor across the sea for the first time.

The Chinese are no longer simply destroying their own environment. Just as trade is global these days, so too is the threat against nature.

The connection isn't always apparent at first glance. For example, what does the spreading desert of Inner Mongolia -- a massive autonomous region in northern China -- have to do with the comfy cashmere sweaters that shoppers are snapping up for next to nothing in cities from Berlin to Boston? For years, Chinese herders in the region let millions of goats graze until the grass was gone, roots and all. Then the soil simply blew away and the desert began to expand at an alarming rate. Since the early 1980s, China's grasslands have shrunk each year by some 15,000 square kilometers -- an area the size of the US state of Connecticut.

And now in the midst of a deadly drought, the sand dunes move ever closer to the small village Chaogetu Hure. Inch by inch, seemingly unstoppable, they claim everything in their path, as if the dunes purposely want to bury the government's expensive efforts to plant trees, build fences, corral goats and resettle local inhabitants.

Only a few kilometers away, on the edge of Luanjingtan, farmer Xu Changqin inspects a few meager green stalks of wheat. The local peasants worked hard to plant their fields, but last May a sandstorm covered them over. "The grassland is getting smaller, the fertile grounds are disappearing," says Xu, explaining how growing numbers of people are moving away to seek more hospitable places to live.

The fine sand from the farmer's homeland blows all the way to California and Europe. It's mixed in with ash and other dangerous particles from industry in China's Inner Mongolia region, which is home to countless factories, chemical works and power plants.

Along the Huang (Yellow) River in the city of Shizuishan, in the Ningxia region adjacent to Inner Mongolia, the extent of the pollution becomes rather obvious. Swaths of gray-black cloud blot out the sun to make the perfect setting for a Hollywood film about the end of the world. Two power plants belch ash into an artificial lake separated from the nearby river only by a thin dam. The wind blows the ash upward to start it on its journey around the globe.

The country opened itself to the world in the late 1970s, its bizarre mixture of communism and capitalism has since produced astounding growth rates. But China was simultaneously turned into one massive, poison-producing factory.

The country is home to 16 of the world's 20 dirtiest cities. The inhabitants of every third metropolis are forced to breathe polluted air, causing the deaths of an estimated 400,000 Chinese each year. Half of China's 696 cities and counties suffer from acid rain. Two-thirds of its major rivers and lakes are cesspools and more than 340 million people do not have access to clean drinking water. The Yangtze River, once China's proud artery of life, is biologically dead for long stretches. Many other rivers flow with blackened water and along their banks there are the notorious "cancer villages" where many people die early.

It's now begun to dawn on Beijing's politicians what China's economy is doing to China's ecology. Experts like Pan Yue, the deputy minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), are already fearful that environmental pollution will destroy the impressive economic growth of recent years. SO2 emissions cause damages worth €50 billion each year and the World Bank estimates environmental pollution already shaves eight to 12 percent off of China's gross national product (GNP).

"China has gone through an industrialization in the past 20 years that many developing countries needed 100 years to complete. That's why the country now has to deal with environmental problems that would also take 100 years to solve in many Western nations," says Pan.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has also distanced himself from the country's raping of the environment to promote "sustainable growth," which includes an ambitious nuclear program. At least 20 new nuclear power plants are to be built by 2020 -- but the communist leadership doesn't say where the radioactive waste will end up. Beijing also wants at least ten percent of the country's energy needs to be covered by renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydro. Photovoltaic facilities have already been erected in thousands of villages and giant wind parks dot China's eastern coast. Beijing also actively participates in the international emissions trade and provides foreign environmental polluters with opportunities to buy their way out of their obligations by financing somewhat clean chemical plants. The Chinese government plans to spend around $125 billion on sewage treatment facilities and new water pipes over the next five years.

But such impressive-sounding announcements, measured by the scope and speed of China's environmental destruction, fall far short of what's needed.

A disaster in the making

When a chemical plant exploded in the northeastern Jilin province in November 2005, the industrial city Harbin had to cut water supplies for four days to prevent its 9 million inhabitants from being poisoned. But that didn't keep the catastrophe from spreading, as a thick benzene film traveled from the Songhua River into the Amur River, where it slowly dissipated in Russia's Far East.

Alexei Makinov, saw the disaster in the making. "It wasn't just a problem since the accident," says the 54-year-old Russian geologist and head of the hydrology lab of the Russian Academy of Sciences in the Far East in Khabarovsk. "The river has been stinking since 1997." The scientist's desk is covered with tables and statistics and his cabinet with its glass door is crammed full of papers. All of it is environmental data on the Amur.

But it's easy to see with the naked eye just how much damage the river has suffered. The Sungari -- as the Songhua River is known in Russia -- carries tons of poisonous sludge hundreds of kilometers downstream to the Amur. When fishers cut a hole in the river ice during the winter, a horrible odor is released. Makinov thinks the smell is from dying plant life and tells of residents complaining of infections, rashes and diarrhea.

The ailing Amur River has become the most important patient of 65-year-old doctor Vladena Rybakova as the end of her career nears. "The river began to stink of phenol," she says. "And at first we thought it was a natural phenomenon." But soon Rybakova and her colleagues found the actual cause -- over the Chinese border. Whereas 65 million people live on the Chinese side of the Amur, there are only 4 million on the Russian side. Since the Chinese authorities offered the Russian scientists no information on what their factories were producing and what poisons they might be releasing into the waters, the Russians began investigating on their own in the early 1990s. After Rybakova fed lab rats fish from the river and then dissected them, she discovered that "their livers decomposed before you could start cutting."

The road to Sikachi-Alyan leads past barracks and massive radar equipment. It is home to the ethnic Nanai minority, which has always lived from fishing. During Soviet times there was a fishing collective here, but now the village of wooden houses has fallen into bitter poverty. These days no one will buy what the locals catch.

"For the past 12 years, the fish have smelled like chemicals," says village leader Nina Druzhinina, a thin woman with a towering hairdo. "At first we thought it was Russian plants letting untreated water into the river. But now we know most of the filth comes from China."

Damned by dams

In order to secure their future, the Chinese also intend to dominate the Mekong River, which is known as the Lancang in China. In Yunnan province there are two major dams holding back the waters of Southeast Asia's longest river without regard for China's neighbors. Six further dams are planned. At the construction site of the Xiaowan Dam, an army of workers is transforming the once green gorges into a barren Martian landscape. Xiaowan will be one of the world's biggest hydroelectric plants --almost as huge as the controversial Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River.

A few hundred kilometers further southward, the Mekong flows through fertile rice paddies and cornfields. Here and there, bamboo groves crowd the banks. But the lives of millions of people, who depend on the river's natural rhythms, have been disrupted. The Chinese now have a dam in place and they flood the Mekong as they please -- when, for example, the water is too low and the Chinese need a big ship to enter the Thai river harbor of Chiang Saen.

In Cambodia, where river fish are one of the most important sources of food, the size of the catch is shrinking -- especially in the important Tonle Sap lake and river system. But even down south in the Mekong Delta the river has become unpredictable, according to residents. Sometimes floods wash away houses and at other times there's not enough water for the rice paddies.

Suthep Teowtrakul, district head of the small Thai town Chiang Khong, observes the river every day. He wears a yellow polo shirt sporting the words "I Love the King" and has four Buddha figures in his office. But neither his monarch nor the bodhisattva can help him counter the Chinese affects on the Mekong. "My motto is: 'Leave the river alone'," he says, while admitting that's unlikely to happen. "Because the Chinese think the Mekong belongs to them." Just like the fields they destroy or the air they pollute.

At a recent United Nations conference on climate change in Nairobi, the Chinese demanded that developing nations not be forced to make cuts in greenhouse gases. Only after pushing through this condition -- from which China has the most to gain -- did the Chinese delegates vote to work towards a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol.

China is a big country. Its leaders, accountable only to themselves, don't care for economic or environmental advice. But each year, each month, almost every week, China experiences some sort of major environmental catastrophe. The mess spreads across the land, in its waterways and the air. And far too often, the rest of the world gets sprinkled with it too.

Note: It is interesting to note that China has as many territorial disputes as neighbors.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Spot The Terrorist

THE cost of filling up a Honda Civic's 50-litre tank varies hugely around the world. Where some countries subsidise, others tax heavily. Pity Turkish drivers, who fork out $93.83, according to Gerhard Metschies in Foreign Policy magazine. Re-nationalised oil companies and heavy subsidies keep Venezuelan motorists happy, though those in Turkmenistan fare even better, paying only $1.06 a tank. Despite protests over rising prices, filling up in America is relatively cheap at $31.06. Indeed, this may explain the country's enormous daily petrol consumption, which in 2003 was more than the next 20 biggest consumers combined.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007


Pure Vegetarianism

The following article lists many benefits of vegetarianism. Other than the fact that non-vegetarianism habituates an entire society to cruelty, there are profound health benefits of vegetarianism:

Recently, there has been a renewed interest in vegetarian diets. Today there are countless books, cookbooks, and magazine articles promoting vegetarian diets and providing guidance for those who wish to follow a meatless diet.

In the past, many viewed vegetarianism as strange and faddish but appropriately planned vegetarian diets are now recognized by many, including the Dietetic Association, as being nutritionally adequate, and providing healthful benefits in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases.

Choosing a nonvegetarian lifestyle has a significant health and medical cost. The total direct medical costs attributable to meat consumption were estimated to be $300-600 billion a year, based upon the higher prevalence of hypertension, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, gallstones, obesity and food-borne illness among omnivores compared with vegetarians.

A large body of scientific literature suggests that the consumption of a diet of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, and fruits, with the avoidance of meat and high-fat animal products, along with a regular exercise program is consistently associated with lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, less obesity and consequently less heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and mortality. The frequent consumption of nuts, fruits and green salads was associated with 35-44 percent lower risk of overall mortality.

Distinguishing Feature
A vegetarian diet is distinguished from an omnivorous diet by its content of dry beans and lentils. These take the place of meat and fish as the major source of protein. And there are so many different kinds of beans you can choose from - kidney, lima, pinto, cranberry, navy, Great Northern, garbanzo, soy beans, and black-eyed peas. These can be served with rice, added to soups, stews, and salads or a variety of casseroles, and made into different ethnic dishes.

Tofu, or soy bean curd, can be used in dips and spreads, or served with pasta or stir-fried vegetables. Soy protein contains isoflavones, such as genistein and daidzein, that act as phytoestrogens and inhibit tumor growth, lower blood cholesterol levels, decrease the risk of blood clots, and diminish bone loss. These benefits clearly translate into a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and osteoporosis.

Cancer Protection
A major report published by the World Cancer Research Fund in 1997 recommended we lower our risk of cancer by choosing predominantly plant-based diets rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits, legumes and minimally processed starchy staple foods, and to limit the intake of grilled, cured and smoked meats and fish. These methods of preparing meat produce polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines which are carcinogenic.

Over 200 studies have revealed that a regular consumption of fruits and vegetables provides significant protection against cancer at many sites. People who consume higher amounts of fruits and vegetables have about one-half the risk of cancer, especially the epithelial cancers. The risk of most cancers was 20-50% lower in those with a high versus a low consumption of whole grains.

About three dozen plant foods have been identified as possessing cancer-protective properties. These include cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower), umbelliferous vegetables and herbs (carrots, celery, cilantro, caraway, dill, parsley), other fruits and vegetables (citrus, tomatoes, cucumber, grapes, cantaloupe, berries), beans (soybeans), whole grains (brown rice, oats, whole wheat), flaxseed, many nuts, and various seasoning herbs (garlic, scallions, onions, chives, ginger, turmeric, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, and basil).

These foods and herbs contain of host of cancer-protective phytochemicals such as carotenoids, flavonoids, isothiocyanates, isoflavones, ellagic acid, glucarates, curcurmins, liminoids, lignans, phenolic acids, phthalides, saponins, phytosterols, sulfide compounds, terpenoids, and tocotrienols. These beneficial compounds alter metabolic pathways and hormonal actions that are associated with the development of cancer, stimulate the immune system, and have antioxidant activity.

Heart Disease
Regular fruit and vegetable consumption reduces the risk of ischemic heart disease. A recent survey of 47,000 Italians found that persons in the highest tertile of vegetable consumption had a 21and 11% reduced risk of myocardial infarction and angina, respectively, compared with those in the lowest tertile of vegetable consumption.

A British study found that daily consumption of fresh fruit was associated with a 24 percent reduction in mortality from heart disease and a 32 percent reduction in death from cerebrovascular disease, compared with less frequent fruit consumption. Daily consumption of raw salad was associated with a 26 percent reduction in mortality from heart disease.

In another study, lifelong vegetarians had a 24 percent lower incidence and lifelong vegans (those who eat no eggs or dairy products) had a 57 percent lower incidence of coronary heart disease compared to meat eaters. Healthy volunteers who consumed a vegetarian diet (25% of calories as fat) that was rich in green, leafy vegetables and other low-calorie vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, celery, green beans, etc.), fruits, nuts, sweet corn and peas experienced after two weeks decreases of 25, 33, 20 and 21 percent in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and total/HDL cholesterol ratio, respectively.

Various factors exist in fruits and vegetables that provide possible protection against cardiovascular disease. These factors include folic acid, dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium, carotenoids, phytosterols, flavonoids, and other polyphenolic antioxidants. Typically, vegetarian diets are also somewhat lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. Vegetarians typically have lower blood cholesterol levels. Plant diets rich in soluble fiber (such as found in dry beans, oats, carrots, squash, apples, and citrus) are useful for lowering serum cholesterol levels.

The many flavonoids in fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains, have extensive biological properties that reduce the risk of heart disease. Flavonoids are among the most potent antioxidants. They protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation; inhibit the formation of blood clots; and have hypolipidemic effects and anti-inflammatory action. European studies found that those who had the highest consumption of flavonoids had 60 percent less mortality from heart disease and 70 percent lower risk of stroke than the low flavonoid consumers.

The yellow-orange and red carotenoid pigments in fruits and vegetables are powerful antioxidants that can quench free radicals and protect against cholesterol oxidation. Persons with high levels of serum carotenoids have a reduced risk of heart disease. The recent EURAMIC study found that a high intake of lycopene (the red pigment in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon) was associated in men with a 48 percent lower risk of a myocardial infarction compared with a low intake of lycopene. Cholesterol synthesis is suppressed and LDL receptor activity is augmented by the carotenoids beta-carotene and lycopene, similar to that seen with the drug fluvastatin.

Berries, Beans and Grains
Anthocyanin pigments, the reddish pigments found in fruits, such as strawberries, cherries, cranberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, and black currants, are very effective in scavenging free radicals, inhibiting LDL cholesterol oxidation and inhibiting platelet aggregation. Various terpenoids in fruits and vegetables, and tocotrienols in nuts and seeds facilitate lower blood cholesterol levels, by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase. Garlic, onions and other members of the Allium family, contain a variety of ajoenes, vinyldithiins, and other sulfide compounds that have antithrombotic action and may lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

A number of studies have shown that legumes lower blood cholesterol levels, improve blood sugar control, and lower triglyceride levels. Since beans are good sources of soluble fiber, vegetable protein, saponins, phytosterols and polyunsaturated fat, consuming a diet rich in legumes will lower risk of heart disease. In the Nurses' Health Study, the highest consumption of whole grains was associated with about a 35-40% reduction in risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. In the Adventist Health Study a regular consumption of whole wheat bread was associated with a 40 to 50% reduced risk of fatal and non-fatal heart disease.

Nut Studies
Epidemiological studies have consistently reported that frequent nut consumption is associated with a 30-60% reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease. A number of clinical trials have demonstrated the effectiveness of diets containing almonds, pecans, peanuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, or walnuts to significantly lower LDL cholesterol levels by 7 to 16 percent, without much change in HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

While nuts are high in fat, they are naturally low in saturated fat and most are quite rich in monounsaturated fat. Nuts also contain a number of vitamins, minerals and other substances important for cardiovascular health, such as potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, folic acid, copper, and dietary fiber. In addition, most nuts contain phytosterols, tocotrienols, and protective polyphenolics such as ellagic acid and flavonoids.

Stroke and Diabetes
Data from two prospective studie supports a protective relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of ischemic stroke. Cruciferous and green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits were the most protective. Data from the NHANES study revealed that consuming fruit and vegetables three or more times a day compared with less than once a day was associated with a 27% lower incidence of stroke, a 42% lower stroke mortality, a 27% lower cardiovascular disease mortality, and a 15% lower all-cause mortality. In the Adventist Health Study, non-vegetarians had a risk of fatal stroke that was 20-30% higher than the vegetarians. Data from population studies and human trials provide evidence that vegetarian dietary patterns lower blood pressure. Lower systolic blood pressures in elderly vegetarians has been reported to be best accounted for by their lower body weight. Vegetarians living in northern Mexico, were found to have lower body weights, higher potassium and lower sodium intakes, and lower mean blood pressures than non-vegetarians.

Higher consumption of nuts and whole grains has been associated with lower rates of diabetes. In a large prospective study, fruit and vegetable intake was found to be inversely associated with the incidence of diabetes, particularly among women. Men and women who reported seldom or never eating fruit or green leafy vegetables had higher mean HbA1C levels than those who had more frequent consumption. An increased consumption of fruit and vegetables appears to contribute to the prevention of diabetes.

The consumption of a generous supply of whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables provides protection against chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A plant-based diet is rich in its content of health-promoting factors such as the many phytochemicals.

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