March 22, 2013
Unfortunate news from USDA. Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan is stepping down. We’re sorry to hear this—Merrigan was one of the best potentials for change in the USDA and was widely predicted to be President Obama’s choice as the next Secretary of Agriculture had Tom Vilsack retired as expected (or hoped!).
Disappointment with ADUFA. On Monday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee released its version of the Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA)—sadly, the Senate’s version lacks the provisions that would have required FDA to provide more detailed and transparent annual reporting of antibiotic sales for use in food animal production. You may tweet your messages of support for enhancing ADUFA to @SenatorHarkin, @SenGillibrand, @SenFeinstein, @SenatorBarb.
Fingers crossed for PAMTA. Last week, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the only microbiologist in Congress, re-introduced H.R. 965, Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act—this will be the fourth time since 2007. The bill would ban non-therapeutic uses of medically important antibiotics in food animal production. This would be an important step in reducing the misuse of antibiotics in industrial food animal production.
Update on GE salmon. The big news this week is that Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Aldi have pledged to not sell AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon in their stores, even if the FDA approves it. (Meanwhile, AquaBounty remains confident that there will still be a market for its genetically engineered salmon.) Also heartening is a letter to the editor published in the New York Times, in which Colin O’Neil of the Center for Food Safety states very plainly that GE foods are not the solutions we need. To join the conversation, tweet your opinions to @nytopinion.
The man behind Meatless Monday. Sid Lerner was profiled in the Wall Street Journal—find out more about this ad man’s campaign for health and the origins of the Meatless Monday campaign ten years ago. The CLF has been providing technical and scientific support to the campaign from the beginning.
Strange bedfellows. This New York Times article makes sobering reading. Dozens of Latino and African-American organizations opposed Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on sugary drinks—and they are among the recipients of millions of dollars from the beverage industry that have flowed to nonprofit and educational organizations serving them over the last decade. The support from Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association for campaigns against the Mayor’s program and sugar taxes proposed around the country is reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s disinformation campaign during the long struggle to expose the lethal effects of cigarette smoking.
Damning food execs. A strong piece in the New York Times by a former Kraft Foods executive, who writes that food execs have always known the consequences of the food they sell, but that they have “strayed from the honorable business of feeding people appropriately to the deplorable mission of increasing shareholder value.” The end result has contributed to what Kelly Brownell calls our “toxic obesogenic environment.”
Pesticide reporting in Maryland. A Washington Post article addresses two bills currently in the Maryland House and Senate that would for the first time require growers to record their use of insecticides and herbicides and submit it to the state.
Converting chicken waste to energy—more harm than good? On the Eastern Shore, where poultry production waste pollutes the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland is promoting a plan for turning waste into energy by burning it. But this could be simply trading water quality for air quality.
Climate change and Somali famine. A new study in Geophysical Research Letters concludes that human-induced climate change contributed to low rain levels in East Africa in 2011—that means global warming was one of the causes of Somalia’s famine and the tens of thousands of deaths that followed.
Food Boot Camp. I’m excited to speak next Wednesday at MIT, at the Knight Science Journalism event known as Food Boot Camp. My talk will be on the links between meat consumption and the increasing threat of water scarcity.
Big soda. And of course, here’s Mark Bittman on Mayor Bloomberg’s ill-fated Big Gulp Ban.
Photo: The Library of Congress, Farm Security Administration, Office of War Information