New world record, whales, and “innocent” gluten?

Hi, this is Geoff,

Some offbeat nuggets in this week’s Friday Five, so let’s jump right in…

Go, India! There are lots and lots of bizarre world records documented by the Guinness Book of World Records: For example, Donald Gorske consumed 26,000 Big Macs in a lifetime, and Johnny Strange held and cut (with a chainsaw!) eight apples in his mouth in under a minute. If those aren’t odd enough, there are records for being covered by the largest number of bees, the longest wedding dress train, and the biggest prenatal yoga class. All interesting in their own right, but here is one record that should make us all proud: 1.5 million volunteers in Madhya Pradesh, India, gathered to plant 66,000,000 trees in 12 hours. Yes, that’s 66 MILLION trees. Wow! Chainsaws, apples, and wedding dresses are all fine, but I prefer the trees 🙂

Star Trek IV and Whales: So it turns out Star Trek IV was  kind of right, whales are super important and without them we might be in trouble. In the last half century biologists have discovered something called Trophic Cascades which are basically a way to understand how ecosystems are connected.” With that interesting observation, my colleague and friend, Rob Avis, begins a fascinating post on the topic. Additional examples of trophic cascades in a variety of other ecosystems can be seen here.

Tread Carefully: There’s a lot of buzz about palm oil being the “new superfood”; I used scare quotes because palm oil has been considered a sacred food for over 4,000 years, so there is absolutely nothing new about it, other than our own modern awareness. Recently, Brazil has set its sights on becoming the world’s biggest producer of palm oil; and when it did so, excitement quickly gave way to concern. Here’s why: “Almost half of the land area of Brazil is suitable for growing oil palm, according to researchers, making it the number one country – they say – in terms of suitable land. Such growth offers potential benefits for Brazil’s rural economy. But with most of this suitable land in the wildlife-rich, forested Amazon region in the north of the country, campaigners and observers fear Brazil’s ambitious plans for its palm oil sector will fuel a surge in landgrabbing, conflict and deforestation.” The full article, prospects, and concerns are detailed here. Will the Amazon rainforest be “collateral damage”?

Gluten or Glyphosate? An epidemic of symptoms that have widely come to be known as “gluten intolerance” is getting a second look from a growing body of researchers: Is gluten the culprit, or Monsanto’s infamous glyphosate? After taking a look at the following, I invite you to be the judge: Peer-reviewed research published in Interdisciplinary Toxicology, an interview with the authors of that study – part 1 here, and part 2 here, and a more anecdotal, first-person write-up here.

In case you missed it: A few pieces of interest this week from our sister site, the non-profit Permaculture Research Institute:

If you enjoy these posts, be sure to bookmark the site as several new articles go up weekly, or check out thousands of other past articles, here.  

That’s it for the Friday Five.  As always, if you have comment / reactions / a different point of view, please share below.

Cheers, and have a great weekend

Your friend,


2017-07-09T07:42:47+00:00 Blog|4 Comments
  • Hello everybody.

    Very nice Friday Five this week. Especially the trophic cascades are very interesting.

    Concerning Brazils anticipated oil palm production locals intersted in the production should really give it a try to contact Willie Smits and get engaged in a sustainable way of cultivating this crop. With his “village hubs” he already developed a powerful tool for Indonesian village farmers around the production of shugar from shugar palm. I guess similar approaches can be achieved with the production of oil from the oil palm.

    Video link:

  • Holly Cook

    Glad you posted the backup research for the gluten intolerance-glyophosate connection. I recently shared a post by someone who believed in the connection, but I did not follow up with the research.

  • I am a third generation wheat producer in Kansas with nearly three whole sections of red winter wheat. We have been working no-till and nearly no-till for years and have significantly reduced chemical applications on most of the tracts, yet not all our contractors are as big a fans of our methods as others.

    In no case have we (my family and contractors) ever observed or applied a glyphosphate shortly before harvest to increase yield – too expensive and doesn’t make any sense for a few more kernels.

    I question the source of the claim that this is an increasingly common trend.

    I do not discount the causal relationship between glyphosphate and poor human health, I just don’t see this in my local area wheat production.

    • Bill Crandall-TA

      Here’s to no-till and to fewer chemicals, Ty–and no chemicals of these sorts, particularly.

      Those who can go up against these companies have more motive to do so than might perhaps be generally recognized. A lot of us out here in my generation remember what good loaf of bread was and probably still is somewhere. I spent more than one or two evenings with a fine sourdough and a good goat cheese, and I would sure like to do it again without several days of distress and bad functioning.

      Any of you who are growing clean have a growing market out here if you can find a way to make sure that we know that the product is not GMO and not poisoned.

      It can be a tough road with debts and subsidized opposition and land that in some cases has been used every which way, though it sounds like you’ve been in one place for a good bit. But when we complain about the chemicals and the control of big companies, a lot of us out here are rooting for you-all who make things happen, and hoping that you can break altogether clear of the impediments to practice your craft.