Alternative Housing Movie, Synthetic Food, and Other News Items

This installment of an ongoing short news items feature included stories on a planned movie about alternative housing and a federal agency's decision on the labeling of synthetic food.

038 synthetic food - TAlexTech - Fotolia

In 1976 the USDA decided manufacturers no longer had to identify synthetic food as "imitation," because the label was hurting sales.


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The following news items were drawn from multiple sources. 

Alternative Housing Movie

Folks living in alternative forms of housing—domes, inflatables, sod structures, or others—might want to get in touch with a young movie-maker named Tom Schroeppel. The American Film Institute has given Tom a grant to put together a half-hour reel on the subject, and he's looking for as many "New Age" builders as he can find.

Synthetic Food Identification

Is it a steak or a fake? You may not be able to tell any longer, now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ruled that manufacturers are no longer required to identify synthetic foods as "imitation". Stephen McNamara, an attorney for the FDA (which, incidentally, was set up to protect the consumer) said in a recent statement that "Labeling food as an imitation has had a bad impact on selling because people think it's inferior.

Home Childbirth Advantages

A recent study on childbirth, prepared for The American Public Health Association by a team from Stanford University, says that mothers whose babies are delivered at home by midwives have fewer complications and healthier infants than those who deliver in a hospital. The research indicates that the sitting or squatting positions commonly adapted during domestic deliveries, the absence of drugs, and the relaxed atmosphere of familiar surroundings make childbirth easier and safer for all involved.

Hiking Etiquette

Who's destroying our wilderness system? No, it's not industry, big business, or hordes of mobile-home tourists: It's the millions of "ecology minded" backpackers who've not yet learned to adjust their camping and hiking habits to the severely increased demand for backwoods recreation. The U.S. Forest Service says the situation is critical. So remember: Don't travel in large parties; don't build fires (even with dead, fallen wood) unless absolutely necessary; avoid using major trails; and pack your trash and your own waste out. 

Cement Eggs

Which came first: the chicken, the egg ... or the experts? Well, it all started a few decades back when someone hatched the idea of "supercharging" chickens with drugs so they'd produce more eggs. The result, of course, is today's abundant supermarket supply of Grade A paper-shelled ping-pong balls. But never fear. Researchers at the Texas Agriculture Extension Service have been working on the problem, and have come up with yet another "improvement." They're now experimenting with a special shell-toughening formula made just for modem poultry: commercial chicken feed laced with cement.

Plywood Dome Home

Fumble-fingered folks who want to build their own low-cost home might want to look into an inexpensive, bolt together "instant house" called "Hexadome." We haven't seen the structure ourselves, but the manufacturer says the plywood unit comes shipped in kit form (24 triangles, two trapezoids, and all necessary hardware), can be assembled weather tight in just a few days (using little more than a wrench), and costs just $2,500. The company will send you a brochure on their product in exchange for a stamped, self-addressed business-size envelope.

Deaf Eskimos

Eskimos who've switched from dogsleds to snowmobiles are learning an all-too-expensive lesson on the "benefits" of modem-day transportation. A recent issue of Audubon magazine reports that a survey of 3,770 Eskimos in the Northwest Territories of Canada showed that 33 percent of adult males—in fact, 83 percent of the men in one Baffin Island village—suffered from impaired hearing that could be directly attributed to long hours of high-speed hunting behind the wheels of those noisy, gas-guzzling machines.

Methanol Research Suppressed?

An experiment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology involving the substitution of methanol (wood alcohol) for gasoline in 200 automobiles came to a halt shortly after Exxon Corporation donated $500,000 to the school, according to a report in Science magazine. University officials admit that Exxon bad been opposed to the study but deny any connection between Exxon's "gift" and the decision to can the experiment.

Iceberg Harvesting

Saudi Arabia's Prince Muhammad Faisal is reportedly considering a plan to tow icebergs from the South Pole to the Red Sea in order to increase his country's supply of drinking water. The geothermal/meteorological impact of such a maneuver is not known at present.

Packaging Increase

Packaging is on the increase according to government statistics. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in 1971 the packaging industry accounted for half of all paper usage, three-quarters of total glass production, 14% of aluminum, and 8% of plastic output in this country. From 1958 to 1971, the total consumption of packaging materials increased by nearly 71%.

House Renovation Manual

How to renovate a run-down house is the subject of a recent USDA booklet, New Life For Old Dwellings. The 99-page manual tells—with words, photos, and diagrams—both how to appraise an old structure to see if it can be salvaged, and how to rehabilitate it once you've made up your mind to move in.