March 11, 2009
While the organic folks may have cornered the language involving sustainable, natural and healthy, they use the same promotional BS that any big food company would use. […] The same organic folks who criticize industry for putting out promotional brochures and information are guilty of … putting out promotional brochures and information. As Katija and I pointed out in our 2004 paper, “The production of safe food is the responsibility of everyone in the farm-to-fork chain. With established relationships between growers and regulatory infrastructure, the CGSB organic standard would be an ideal vehicle for providing organic growers with information and guidelines on identifying and controlling microbial hazards on their produce.”All growers – organic, conventional and otherwise – need to focus on microbial food safety. There’s just too many people getting sick from the food they eat.
Nitrogen Fertilizer: Less is More – Sustainable Food
Agriculture is a significant source of greenhouse gases. Though while much has been made of carbon dioxide and methane, not as much attention is paid to nitrogen oxides, called NOx gases, which are about 25 times more powerful as greenhouse gases than CO2.The application of nitrogen fertilizer in excess of crop requirements is responsible for a great deal of these emissions, while also polluting water. Nitrogen in drinking water can be toxic to children, while excess nitrogen in aquatic ecosystems can cause oxygen depletion by promoting algae overgrowth. Though as it turns out, much of that nitrogen fertilizer might be going to waste for no reason at all.
On Friday, Obama Foodorama reported a tip from reliable Capitol Hill sources that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack plans to name Michael Osterholm as the under secretary for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA. In the last twenty-four hours, both Food Democracy Now! and Food and Water Watch have put out action alerts to block Osterholm’s appointment, due to his long-standing affection for irradiating food. But Osterholm’s history encompasses far more interesting activity than simply being a proponent of irradiation: Osterholm has a dense, disaster-opportunism resume, and murky ties to Big Ag, Big Pharma, and private defense contractors. Appointing him head of FSIS is a fascinating move, and speaks to a willingness on the part of the Obama Administration to go against its own goal of closing the revolving door between the public and private sector that allows lobbyists and paid consultants to influence government decision making.
Documentary Takes on Big Food – Daily Bread
The timing couldn’t be better for a documentary film like Food, Inc., which Variety describes as “a civilized horror movie for the socially conscious.” As the Obama administration ponders how far to go in taking on Big Food on any number of fronts—crop subsidies, genetically modified foods, safety and environmental regulation, marketing junk food to children, regulation of organics, antibiotic-laden meat—a film like this is just the thing to get the public involved in the discussion. According to Food, Inc.’s marketing materials, the film examines the “highly mechanized underbelly that’s been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA.”
USDA Says Antibiotic Use in Animals Can Be Reduced at Reasonable Cost – Union of Concerned Scientists’ Feed
The overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture contributes to the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans that are costly and difficult to treat. According to a new report from the USDA’s Economic Research Service, there are moderate-cost alternatives to the routine use of antibiotics in animal agriculture, including keeping living conditions for animals more sanitary and testing chickens for disease so that treatment can be provided only when necessary. The report—which focused on the increasing size, industrialization, and specialization of U.S. farms over time—found that routine feeding of antibiotics does not provide more than marginal benefits for broiler chickens and adult pigs, and confers benefits only to young pigs. CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) are particularly prone to use antibiotics intensively (Read the report here).
Vilsack Details Economic Stimulus Funding for Ag Programs – Meatingplace.com (Login required)
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday announced USDA will be delivering its first actions implementing the $28 billion provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Funding is aimed at rebuilding and revitalizing rural communities as well as stimulating local economies and creating jobs throughout the country.