Mother Earth News Blogs > Homesteading and Livestock

Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

It's Not the Bugs in Your Food That You Need to Worry About

I saw an article in the Toronto Star newspaper recently about how weevils had been found in some bags of rice. But they just weren’t found in the rice, they had “infiltrated and contaminated” the rice. Really? Contaminated? 

After the contaminated bags were removed the area was inspected by a pest-control company and thoroughly cleaned. Because you know, you don’t want your food to come into contact with bugs! 

Well, I’ve got news for you. Food does come in contact with bugs. Lots of them. Most of our food wouldn’t even exist if bugs hadn’t pollinated it at some point. Oh, and by the way, food grows in dirt! That’s right, it grows right in the dirt! Yuck! 

Our world has reached the point where people freak out about a perfectly natural process. It simply amazes me that people who eat things like hamburgers, which are ground up pieces of cows, freak out over bugs. “Oh those bugs are gross, but please pass me some more liver.” 

Our sterile, Styrofoam-packaged culture has distorted our perception of reality and something as natural as bugs are seen as unsanitary, while the real threat to your health is what you can’t see. It’s the pesticides and insecticides and fungicides and all those other “cides” that make your food look perfect, but which can cause huge problems in your body. 

People who don’t grow their own food don’t get the link between all the parts of the food chain and the cycle of life and death that comes into play growing food. And it’s too bad because you lose an appreciation for just how amazing a grocery store is. 

Steven Spielberg made a great movie in 1987 called “Empire of The Sun” about a boy separated from his parents in China during World War II. He spends the war in an internment camp. I will always remember one of the final scenes of U.S. P51 fighters shooting up an airstrip and the great footage. 



The other thing I will always remember from that movie is what people had to eat in order to survive. It was pretty gruesome. There was a scene in which the boy is eating from a bowl of rice, and much of what’s in the bowl is moving and wiggling around. Sure, we’ve all seen the “Survivor” participants eating bugs, but this little boy’s bowl of rice & bugs hits a little too close to home. At first the boy starts separating the rice from the bugs, but one of the adults shakes his head as if to say, “Just leave it, you need the protein, better to not notice which is which.” 

I’m not advocating that we all start pounding back the bugs, but I am suggesting that people need to lighten up. Many of the cans of food that you buy are coated with endocrine disruptors like Bisphenol A (BPA) but are people concerned? Not really, it’s just those weevils in the rice that we don’t like. They’re like ... well ... bugs! They squirm and wriggle. That’s gross. 

People focus too much on the stuff that isn’t dangerous and not enough on what is. 

I suppose we can suggest that the media plays a role in this. I recently read that the media are now reporting and editorializing on environmental issues less and less often as the temperature of the planet goes up more and more. 

In a previous blog post I mentioned that Brian Williams was on the NBC Nightly News recently asking the Weather Channel guy if there something to all this crazy weather - New Yorkers wearing shorts in January, flooding in the east, wild fires burning drought-ravaged Texas, tornadoes wiping out Joplin, Missouri and hurricanes drowning New Orleans, etc etc etc blah blah blah. The weather guy carefully dodged the question and never did say whether or not climate change has anything to do with our crazy weather. It’s like there’s an unwritten rule - just report the weather, don’t editorialize on what’s causing it, other than when they blame the cold on one of those fronts that the Canadians send down from Canada. 

I’ve done a few radio interview shows and I often hear from people who call in to say that they don’t support the concept of climate change. I wonder how they view this crazy weather and the fact that we keep breaking records and experiencing the hottest years ever?  In fact, 2010 was the hottest year ever, taking that title over from 2006, which had been the hottest year up until then. 

Climate change is a bummer. Really, who wants to read or hear about that on the news? Better to just ignore it. I don’t blame the media for giving people what they want. With privately owned commercial based media I guess we should expect nothing less. But it’s unfortunate. There seems to be a lot of information to suggest that we should be taking climate change more seriously. Really seriously. 

I really like this Norwegian video about the long-term trend and the variations around it. Yup, the temperature is going up and down over the short term. And yes, with climate change, sometimes places that don’t usually get snow might get dumped on. That doesn’t affect the long-term trajectory. It’s going up, up, up! 



Sometimes I wish I could just be one of those people on a permanent news blackout and just read novels. Then I think I could just forget about this climate change stuff. But next summer, when I am battling the latest drought that threatens my farm and my livelihood, I won’t be able to ignore it. I guess I need to move to the city, get an air-conditioned apartment with underground parking, let someone else grow my food, and sit around and read novels. That’s the solution! Come on Michelle, we’re movin’ back to the city! 

* * * * * * *

Cam has a new book available from Mother Earth News! "Little House Off the Grid" is the story of Cam & Michelle's move from the city to an off-grid century-old farmhouse in the country. See more about Cam and this book in the current issue of Mother Earth News magazine!

For more information about Cam or his books please visit or

bruce mcelmurray
2/17/2012 2:32:47 PM

I think before we trash the potential effects of what BPA causes or doesn't cause we need be more patient. Making rash statements that it is harmless because it doesn't have conclusive evidence of causing disease is pretty rash. Our government used to hide harmful components from us like DDT and Thalidomide for example. DDT was finally banned when they discovered it was responsible for the decline of eagles. Thalidomide was finally regulated as the go to pill for morning sickness drug when they discovered it caused birth defects. 2,4,D as a herbicide after 50+ years is just now being revealed that it causes various forms of cancer. Studies take time and lab rats don't have the same results that humans do so to get conclusive evidence is time consuming. The jury is out conclusively until more evidence comes in. Our Gov't is now telling us there are potential hazards to use with caution and we have those who even question that as being true. In the meantime I think to jump to a polarized side one way or the other is not called for. It is a persons choice whether they want to take the chance to expose themselves to a recognized potential harmful chemical or not. There was one idiot who drank 2.4.D to prove it was harmless. Personally I think we need to be cautious as to what we use, and if the final analysis comes back conclusively that it causes disease that action should be taken at that time.

t brandt
2/16/2012 3:44:23 PM

Hey, Cam! Try to keep up, will you? Even with their incompetent methods of collecting & manipulating data, and not arguing about whether or not 2010 was the hottest on record, average world temps (whatever that means) have been stable for the past 13 yrs. Hurricanes & tornadoes are actually less common and less severe for the past 30 yrs than they were earlier in the 20th century. You should avoid the evening news because they're lying to you.The weather guy was avoiding the truth because his network won't allow him to admit there's no climate change...You're absolutely right about the disconnnect between the urbanites and their food sources, but exacxtly how many illnesses have been caused by routine exposure to BPA? (answer: ZERO)...You're entitled to your opinion, but MEN editors have to be more careful about letting unsubstantiated comments be published disguised as facts.

denise roberts
2/15/2012 4:01:33 PM

I agree about the bugs! The climate change is completely different - the earth is and has been in constant change. We may have high temp records since the time they began recording, but looking at history, the earth has made major changes over billions of years. 3,000 year old cities where once thriving communities with large rivers and lakes, plants and animals - they are now deserts. Areas that were deserts are now at the bottom of lakes and rivers. As new islands appear in the oceans, others disappear. Remember reading about the Ice Age? Our world is in a constant state of change and anyone who thinks humans can stop it are just kidding themselves. Earthquakes, volcano, tornado, floods, drought, cold, hot - it is what makes this earth habitable. If climates didn't change - stayed the same forever - and the earth didn't renew itself, we would be in bigger trouble!