Monthly Archives: September 2010

Take Care, Honey

They say, you are what you eat. But do we know what we are eating? Do we know who is cooking and who is serving us the food we take into our kitchens and then into our bodies?

The more I dig into this issue, it is clear that our world of food is spinning in directions that we know nothing about. This is not the way it should be.

Take honey. A sweet preserve that we take for granted comes from the bees that collect it from the nectar of flowers. We pick up the bottle from our local shop, believing that the honey has been collected naturally, it is fresh and certainly without any contaminants.

In most cases, we would even think that small farmers produced it or it was collected from the wild and packaged by large companies. In any event, we believe it is the honey that nature produced, collected and delivered to us, as nature would have wanted.

But little do we know
how the business of honey has changed. Nobody explains that the culture of food is intrinsically linked to biodiversity, of plants and animals.

But mess with biodiversity and you mess with food. The ubiquitous bee is one such instance. Some years ago, leading scientific institutions sold the idea of introduction of the European bee (Apis mellifera) into India, as it was a more prolific producer of honey.

This economically viable bee took over the business, virtually replacing the humble but more adapted Indian bee (Apis cerana) from our food. At the same time, the business of honey was also transformed.

It moved away from the small producers collecting honey from the wild and cultivating honey in natural conditions. It got consolidated into a highly organised business, controlled by a handful of companies.

Now it is these companies that handle all aspects of the trade – from the supply of the queen bee to the paraphernalia of bee-housing, feeding and disease-control to the producers, spread across different states.

It is an outsourced business
, run by franchisees whose job is to find places, like the apple farms of Himachal, where there is nectar for bees to suck.

We have lost the biodiversity of the bee and we have lost the diversity of the business. Business is not about food. It is about commerce.

But nature has its way of getting back at us.
The European bee is now showing signs of over-use across the world.

In the US and in Europe, there is worrying news about honeybee colony collapses – where bees are disappearing from colonies, not to return. This is hitting crop production as bees play a critical role in pollinating food crops across the US – a service, which is officially billed at some $20 billion annually.

The trade in pollinator bees involves carting bee colonies across the county, where crops need their service. But now there is evidence that this overwork, combined with the use of nasty new pesticides, new diseases and immune-suppressed bees, is destroying bees.

In India, we are no different. The dependence on one introduced species and emphasis on over-production mean bees are overworked in this competitive business.

As disease grows, the answer is to feed bees antibiotics liberally, mixed in sugar and other syrups. The bee makes honey and with it comes the lethal dose of unwanted antibiotics in our food.

When the Pollution Monitoring Laboratory of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) checked honey, it found a cocktail of antibiotics – mostly banned and severely prohibited to be in our food.

It found everything from the commonly used Ampicilin, Enrofloxacin, Ciprofloxacin, Erythromycin to the strictly banned Chloramphenicol in the honey made and packaged by the biggest and the most known. These antibiotics in food are bad for us, as any doctor will tell you, because they add to the bugs getting resistant to antibiotics.

The fact is that CSE’s laboratory checked two foreign brands bought from our local store. We know that there is strict control in these countries against antibiotics. In fact, Europe has kicked hell and banned Indian honey for having these antibiotics.

They do this because they say they care about their health.

Good. But the question is what about our health? Who cares about
this? Both brands that were checked had the same and even higher levels of antibiotics in them. The fact is that why should they care, when our government does not? The same government, which makes strict standards for the exported honey, could not care about what we are using domestically. There are no standards for antibiotics in Indian honey.

There is certainly no check on what ends up on our tables and in
our bodies.

But do not be surprised. This is the age of takeover by the big and the powerful only because we have compromised and have complicit food regulators. The recently set up Food Safety and Standards Authority has been dead on entry.

Do not be surprised. But be angry. This is not a takeover we
should allow.

It is about us. Our bodies. Our self.

Your comment is very much awaited.


Vaishali Parekh

www.indian-cooking.info

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Split dreams

They were college sweethearts who seemed happily married. Three years after they tied the knot, Mayuri says she felt all knotted up. Even her husband Rakesh, an architect, felt that the duo’s relationship was radically altered. As Mayuri felt that Rakesh was more attached to his laptop, the young man himself attributed the broken marriage to deadline pressures at work. Both, in their early 30s, feel they are mature enough to take their own decisions.
In fact, soon after filing for a divorce petition at one of the four family courts in Bangalore, the couple headed to the coffee joint Koshys on St. Marks Road to celebrate their separation over a quick south Indian kaapi. “It was separation by mutual consent,” says Rakesh, “we couldn’t make it as husband and wife, but will remain friends.”
Not all cases of marital problems dogging India’s Silicon Valley end in such civility. On August 13, the police arrested top Infosys executive Satish Gupta, 32, for killing his wife Priyanka, 28, who was a schoolteacher. The police claim that Satish, in jail now, told them they developed serious differences after she forced him to separate from his parents. When he told her he wanted a divorce, she threatened to drag him and his parents to jail with a dowry harassment case. That is allegedly when he decided to act in cold blood: strangling her first, and then slitting her throat with a kitchen knife.
Though extreme, it does reflect the kind of marital stress ambitious professionals are facing in their high-pressure jobs. As if the suicide-capital tag was not enough, officials are now grappling with ways to stamp out the new virus eating away at healthy homes. In the last two years alone, nearly 4,000 divorce petitions were filed-a huge jump over previous years: 1,200 in 2004 to a three-fold jump in 2008 and rising. The IT sector and it-enabled services like BPOs are the biggest employer of youth, aged between 20 and late 30.
The backlog continues to grow. Almost 25 to 30 petitions involving matrimonial disputes are filed in a day. Three more family courts are being planned in months to come to cope with the load. Karnataka Law Minister Suresh Kumar, shocked by the divorce statistics, is traveling to Chennai to study the evening courts that have lessened the number of pending cases. “Cases hanging fire only cause more damage to the already affected parties, elders and the children,” says Kumar. He is also planning to introduce weekend courts to address the problem.
Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy’s wife Sudha says: “Right in the beginning Murthy made it clear that one of us can work and the other had to run the family. Not that I was any less qualified but am glad I made the decision to stay at home. The choice was intentional.” Sudha is a qualified computer science engineer and the first woman to join the all-male Tata auto plant in Pune before she and her husband settled in Bangalore. With both men and women earning well, women sometimes earning more, pressures on marriage start early and often end in an early divorce.
A young globetrotting software executive says her marriage is on the rocks because she is unable to spend time with her husband. Both travel a lot and one of them has to cut down on work. And both are not sure who will do that-and that inevitably drives them to lawyers like P.B. Appiah, whose hands are full. “We simply have no clue how to deal with the rising number of disputes. Today’s generation faces a new kind of challenge both in terms of work schedules, relationships and life in general,” says Appiah.
Psychologists like Hannah Samuel feel stress kicks in during the early years of the marriage when couples in IT jobs have to confront the challenges of juggling two or three careers and balancing family and work. “There is simply no time to communicate. They just get married to their jobs; drag on till the D-word hits them.” Bangalore’s Family Welfare Centre Director Father Martin Anthony makes marriage classes compulsory for couples waiting to get married, where they are counseled on how to manage money, in-laws or work-life balance. District Judge and director of Bangalore Mediation Centre, Justice K.N. Phaneendra, whose centre has handled nearly 5,000 divorce cases since 2007, throws his hands up as couples have no qualms about divorce now.
India’s Silicon Valley may be the country’s showpiece sector but what’s not shown enough is the troubles of young married techies trying to juggle high pressure careers, deadlines and a normal marriage. Clearly, no software has been written yet to protect them from the marital virus.
“To cope with the increasing rush at the family courts we have decided to launch weekend courts, perhaps for the first time in India.”Suresh Kumar, Karnataka law minister.
I came across the above facts from TOI site and  could not help myself from sharing with you.
Conclusion

Most of us are running a race… a blind, reckless race… a race to achieve and acquire. Our identity is defined by our professional success and material acquisitions.

Somewhere along the way, during this mad race, we tend to completely neglect the other aspects of our lives, which tend to fall apart. We develop into misbalanced humans. The worst part is that this is becoming the norm rather than an exception.

Is it possible to reverse the trend?
Is there anything wrong with our education and value system?
Can anything be done or are we fighting a lost cause?

Vaishali Parekh

www.indian-cooking.info

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