Last week, I gave a presentation at the World Aquaculture Society Conference in Jeju, South Korea. The invited talk was based on a paper I published with three colleagues last year, Public Health Perspectives on Aquaculture. The conference was mostly focused on how to continue expanding the aquaculture industry, and I provided a public health view in an effort to demonstrate the importance of producing farmed seafood using methods that are sustainable and safe.
Some intensive aquaculture operations Read More >
Water sample taken from a manure lagoon in Taylor County, Iowa.
You’ve probably heard that industrial food animal production (often called “factory farming”) is bad for you, the environment, and animal welfare. But have you ever thought about the people who live near the sites where thousands or hundreds of thousands of animals are kept? I’ve spoken to people who cannot open their windows or enjoy their property due to the stench (and toxic gases) in the air, and who sometimes cannot safely drink or bathe in their water due to contamination. Sometimes, depending on the direction of the wind, people find a layer of manure Read More >
Can supply meet demand?
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) held a forum on sustainable diets earlier this month, with the goal of incorporating environmental sustainability in federal dietary guidelines. Seafood is sometimes overlooked in sustainable food system discussions, so I was pleased to see it included in the forum’s agenda. Ultimately, many critical issues were left unaddressed, especially regarding aquaculture, or farmed seafood. Read More >
Who will sell GE salmon?
A couple weeks ago, the New York Times published an opinion piece (“Don’t Be Afraid of Genetic Modification,” by Emily Anthes) that advocates for swifter FDA approval of AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon and then goes on to argue that, “Genetically engineered animals could do real good for the world.” Today, thankfully, the Times has published a letter to the editor rebutting that essay, penned by Colin O’Neil of the Center for Food Safety. We’re pleased that O’Neil has set the record straight, and that a conversation about genetically engineered foods is taking place. Read More >
Is your seafood properly labeled?
A report released last month by Oceana, an ocean conservation group, revealed that a third of seafood sampled in the U.S. was mislabeled. This story caught my eye because of the potential effects of seafood mislabeling on human health, fish populations, and the environment.
Oceana conducted the largest study to date of seafood labeling in the U.S., analyzing DNA from 1,215 fish samples collected from 15 cities. The study was not designed to determine whether the inaccurate information presented to consumers was deliberate Read More >
Also contributing to this post is David Love, PhD, science director of CLF’s Public Health & Sustainable Aquaculture Project.
In a few weeks, the FDA will stop accepting comments from the public and decide whether to approve the sale of genetically engineered (GE) salmon to U.S. consumers. If GE salmon is approved, we will have a new and alarming precedent for dealing with genetically engineered animals destined for our dinner table. (Read CLF’s comment to FDA here.) Read More >
On Tuesday, the US Department of Agriculture National Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) released a draft report that, given their usual alignment with agricultural interests, is surprisingly straightforward in its assessment of the inadequacy of conservation practices in place on farms in the Chesapeake Bay region. The report titled “Assessment of the Effects of Conservation Practices on Cultivated Cropland in the Chesapeake Bay Region” is the second in a series from the Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), initiated by the USDA in 2003.
Through the CEAP, USDA aims to (1) take stock of conservation practices currently used in watersheds and the effects they have on water quality, (2) estimate the need for additional conservation practices, and (3) calculate the potential outcomes if additional conservation practices were put into place. To generate data for the report, the USDA employed various methods including a farmer survey to assess current usage of conservation practices; a statistical survey of conditions and trends in soil, water and other natural resources; and three environment and watershed models. Read More >
Dear Professor Mitloehner,
I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my post. What you wrote was informative, but your response also raised additional questions for me. I will lay them out here and you are welcome to respond again.
From your response:
“I did not write the press releases and feel that a lot of the recent reporting has been a line-up of catchy sound bites.”
I have spoken to researchers here at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and they report being highly involved in the creation of press releases and in making sure the documents are not only accurate, but difficult to misrepresent. The UC Davis press release contains the following text:
“…it is simply not true that consuming less meat and dairy products will help stop climate change, says a University of California authority on farming and greenhouse gases.”
And these direct quotes:
“Producing less meat and milk will only mean more hunger in poor countries.”
“We certainly can reduce our greenhouse-gas production, but not by consuming less meat and milk.”
As I stated before, those statements are not backed up by “Clearing the Air.” Based on the report, examples of supported statements include: (1) Livestock’s Long Shadow used flawed methods when they compared global GHG emissions from animal agriculture and transportation, and (2) due to differences between developing and developed countries, some country-level and regional analyses are significantly different than a global comparison of livestock and transportation GHG emissions. The “catchy sound bites” in the media follow directly from the UC Davis press release (and the subsequent ACS press release). Do the press releases accurately represent your statements?
“This key statement in LLS’s executive summary – “The Livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18% of GHG emissions measured in CO2e. This is a higher share than transport.” – has been quoted extensively over the last few years by animal welfare and food activists, leading to Meatless Monday and other social policy initiatives. This statement has now lost its validity (see BBC report http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8583308.stm), which is regretted by many who advocate for meatless nutrition. That’s what happens when a social or political agenda tries to use science as its sword.”
Even though a new comparison of GHGs from livestock and transportation is in the works at the UN, this does not mean eating less meat has no impact on GHGs. To make that claim, research would need to compare GHG amounts linked to diets with different amounts of animal products and find no difference. Again, I have not seen any such research. Also, stating that the Meatless Monday Campaign was created in response to Livestock’s Long Shadow (or livestock GHGs in general) is incorrect. It was created in 2003 in association with the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to prevent disease by decreasing saturated fat intake. The campaign incorporated the environmental benefits of decreased meat consumption (including GHG reduction) in its messages in 2009. It is a public health campaign strongly rooted in scientific evidence, and twenty schools of public health have supported it for many years.
“We should not relax on any issue concerning our society’s mass consumption and what it takes to make these products available. My personal approach is to purchase to the greatest extent possible food that is produced locally and sustainably, and that includes meat and dairy products, which we purchase from producers at our local food co-op and farmer’s market. My scientific objective, however, is to find real solutions for society at large that support a reduction in greenhouse gases and other pollutants.” Read More >
I accompanied Dr. Roni Neff to southern Pennsylvania last week and this week to attend a school board and committee meeting in order to share information about public health threats associated with large-scale food animal production facilities. Roni was invited by the Peach Bottom Concerned Citizens Group to present this information because of concern about a proposed 2,450-head hog facility to be located about a quarter of a mile away from a site where eight South Eastern School District buses are parked up to 14 hours per day.
It was quite an eye-opening experience. Both meetings were contentious because of tensions between a farmer wanting to transition to a large-scale food animal operation and citizens’ concern about the impact this type of facility will have on the surrounding environment and human health. Debates such as this one (but not necessarily surrounding school buses) have been occurring around the country for decades as food animal production has become increasingly consolidated and dependent on industrial, large-scale operations where thousands of animals are raised in confined settings. Read More >
It has been said many times, perhaps most recently by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that you should “never waste a good crisis.” The H1N1 (swine) flu outbreak is certainly a crisis and a tragedy, but I hope the public health community does not waste the opportunity to capitalize on questions and concerns being raised around the globe about the methods we use to raise animals for food. In particular, the H1N1 (swine) flu outbreak highlights social justice issues related to where “factory farms” are located.
Negative effects associated with living near an Industrial Food Animal Production (IFAP) site have been documented time and time again, including decreased health status, property values, and quality of life. In addition, the increased likelihood of these sites being located in and around communities where traditionally disenfranchised populations reside (e.g. low income, minorities) has also been documented. The location of these facilities and the associated health effects has contributed to environmental injustices and health disparities in the U.S. and around the world. Read More >