January 4, 2013

The CLF Week in Links: New Year, New Energy

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Frankenfish in 2013?

We’re only a few days into the new year, and already exciting things (good and not so good) are happening in the food system world. Here are a few of the news items that are getting the most attention at the Center for a Livable Future.

Poultry production. Last year ended with a whimper for an important poultry pollution lawsuit on the Eastern Shore of Maryland when a federal judge delivered a verdict against Waterkeepers and for Perdue. But there’s some good news, too—as of January 1, arsenic is officially off the menu for Maryland chickens, thanks to a new Maryland law. And here’s a nice article about a large-scale Bell & Evans Pennsylvania chicken farm that uses oregano oil in its chicken feed instead of antibiotics.

Aquaculture. I’m sorry to say that the year ended on a sour note for aquaculture. The FDA is poised to approve genetically engineered salmon—without labels that indicate it as such. This “Frankenfish,” as some call it, would be the first transgenic animal allowed into our food supply, and with no assurance that transparency about labeling would allow the consumer to choose in restaurants or at the fish counter in the supermarket.

Antibiotic use in livestock. While we’ve known for some time that the agricultural industrial complex uses antibiotics to make their cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys grow faster, we’ve never known the mechanism by which that happens. We have some good leads now, plus some disturbing evidence about how those same antibiotics used in food animals may be fattening up us humans, too.

Farm bill. In the “fiscal cliff” brouhaha, the long-suffering farm bill took a big hit. As our friend Ferd Hoefner, policy director for National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, says, “The deal is blatantly anti-reform. … Many smaller, targeted programs to fund farm and food system reform and rural jobs … were left out completely.”

Global food security. I’m intrigued by this story from the Gulf Daily News, about Bahrain stepping up food security by signing an agreement with China. According to the article, the plan is to boost aquaculture and promote agriculture, including soil-less farming. I’m very skeptical. I suspect that these countries will use agricultural and aquaculture techniques that are the exact opposite of agroecology and sustainable practices—so let’s see what develops.

The way we eat. The year ended with quite a few successes for the Meatless Monday campaign, like this one in Los Angeles,  joining the company of other cities and towns in the country.

Baltimore news. For those of us who live or work in East Baltimore, there’s cause for celebration. Built in 1885, and one of five public markets owned by the city, the Northeast Market is getting a makeover; CLF is working with the Baltimore City Office of Sustainability to develop healthy meal menus, create signage to highlight healthy options, launch new stalls for local farmers, and more.

Year in review—the bad news. Here’s a good, if sad, wrap-up of 2012 in food news, from one of our friends at Animal Welfare Approved—the sardonically titled, “Big Ag’s Gifts for 2012.”

Year in review—the good news. For a good start to 2013, read Mark Bittman’s column in Wednesday’s New York Times, “Fixing Our Food Problem.” We couldn’t ask for a better rallying cry for the work we are engaged in.

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