January 25, 2013

The CLF Week in Links: Horsemeat, Transgenic Salmon, and More

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Gen Mills, Marriott & Au Bon Pain: ditching the stalls

POTUS and climate change. On Monday, not far from our office in Baltimore, President Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term, and the issue of climate change was prominent in his speech. Appealing to nationalism and invoking religious obligation, he underscored the need to pay attention to this very real threat, to develop sustainable energy, and to preserve cropland. Now we just need to have the President’s Secretary of Agriculture make the connection between a high-meat diet and greenhouse gas emissions.

Another reason for Meatless Monday. The discovery of horse DNA in supermarket beef products in the UK created quite a stir. But it’s not just horsemeat, offensive enough to horse lovers; there may be pig meat in the beef as well. I can’t imagine British Muslims are taking this news lightly. Food safety issues are being investigated. This is yet another reason to adopt Meatless Monday and reduce our meat consumption.

Aquaculture. A new study on farmed fish in Norway, Chile, Pakistan, and Tanzania shows that fish raised with antibiotics are developing antibiotic-resistance to pathogens. Many aquatic bacteria and bacteria pathogenic for humans belong to the same group, including Vibrio and Yersinia, and the study offers evidence that resistant genes from bacteria in aquaculture have spread to human pathogens. Yet another reason to ban the misuse of antibiotics in industrial food animal production, whether on land or at sea.

Good news for pigs and hens. General Mills, Marriott International and Au Bon Pain have announced their plans to shift pork purchases to suppliers who do not house sows in gestation stalls. In similar news, Marriott and Au Bon Pain have additionally announced policies to shift egg purchases to suppliers who operate cage-free production systems. Educated consumers are making themselves heard.

Genetically engineered food. There’s only one more month to submit comments to the FDA regarding the approval of AquAdvantage salmon, which would be the first transgenic food animal sold in the U.S. What other food animals and pets are being engineered? Also, there’s a plan afoot to revisit the European Union’s policy on GM food. There are seven crops of interest awaiting approval, developed by the likes of Monsanto and Dow. And last, Mexican farmers embarked on a hunger strike and sit-in in Mexico City to protest genetically modified corn; Mexico’s Maize Defense Network characterizes the planting of GM corn as a crime against the people of corn, against biodiversity and against food sovereignty.

Coca-Cola. In last week’s roundup, I mentioned the Coke video that Marion Nestle refers to as “an astonishing act of chutzpah.” Now Mark Bittman gives us an earful on the campaign, and I was pleased that he reminded his readers to revisit “the brilliant Real Bears animation of this past fall,” which I heartily recommend watching.

Global food security. Global food prices have doubled since 2003, according to the FAO Food Price Index. A new report in The Independent says that Goldman Sachs has boosted its bottom line on the backs of people struggling to pay for food, while others, like economist Paul Krugman, say it may not all be Wall Street’s fault.

Community-supported agriculture. The Maryland Department of Agriculture is urging citizens to sign up for a CSA now. I couldn’t agree more. The CLF-sponsored CSA with One Straw Farm is about to launch its sixth season.

Contaminated Chesapeake. A new federal report posted on the website of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay program, notes that nearly three-fourths of the bay’s tidal waters are “fully or partially impaired” by toxic chemicals, with contamination severe enough in some areas that people are warned to limit how many fish they eat from there.

The world of MOOC. This week a colleague and I took our first step into the brave new world of massive online open courseware, known as MOOCs. With more than 17,000 students enrolled in Introduction to the U.S. Food System, offered via Coursera, it will be interesting to see how the concepts being taught resonate.

One Comment

  1. I love the fact that the Maryland Dept of Agriculture is encouraging folks to sign up for a CSA! I recently became aware of an initiative in Wisconisn where health insurers give rebates to people who are CSA members. Love to see more and more people become aware of the benefits of CSAs.

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