November 22, 2013

CLF Week in Links: Lead Up to Giving Thanks for Food

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

turkey-uspo-1944Final push for the farm bill? It appears that the farm bill might get completed before the end of the year; we are hopeful. As you’re thinking about food over the next week, perhaps you’ll take a few moments to contact your senator or representative and urge them to protect the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program in the farm bill. Certain industries are pushing to have canned, frozen, and dried fruits and vegetables included in the program, but we think that the “fresh” (as opposed to canned or frozen) requirement helps more farms sell directly to schools. This program provides fresh fruit and vegetables to thousands of low-income children across the nation, and it is often the only fresh fruit or vegetable they eat that day.

More on SNAP. Here’s another great Nicholas Kristof column, “Prudence or Cruelty?” In it, he discusses the proposed cuts to SNAP, the problem with farm subsidies (to people such as himself), and the problem of hunger in general. A well-timed story. So, after you’ve talked with your senator or representative about the farm bill’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, consider taking another minute to talk about halting the cuts to SNAP. “Talk about injustice,” as Kristof says.

What qualifies as food? In this opinion piece, the New York Times provides a good summary of the debate about whether imposing restrictions on what can be purchased with WIC dollars works to increase health and decrease obesity. This model and its possible application to SNAP has been debated for some time; SNAP has fewer restrictions than WIC and allows for purchase of processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages but not tobacco or alcohol.

Hell-bent cows. In this Huffington Post piece, Andy McDonald uses some very funny, but persuasive, arguments against our hunger for beef. “When put into perspective, it all makes sense: The rapid depletion of our resources, the assault on our bodily health, the bombardment of our olfactory senses, the planet-destroying flatulence — cows must be hell-bent on our ultimate destruction.” To support his “cows are the root of all evil” theory, he tips his hat to CLF as well as the UNFAO, the Cleveland Clinic, the Simpsons’ Troy McClure, and others.

Bay cleanup stalled. Fertilizing crops with manure is messy business, and the Chesapeake Bay is suffering because of it. The high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the manure runoff create dead zones and algal blooms in the Bay—but the runoff also threatens human health through contamination in groundwater. Well, the Maryland Department of Agriculture tried to do the right thing by restricting the use of manure for fertilizer. And then it backed off in the face of industry pressure. This Baltimore Sun story by Tim Wheeler explains the details of the proposed regulation and the backpedaling. Once again the political power of industrial agriculture has triumphed over the welfare of the citizens of Maryland and the health of the ecosystem on which we all depend.

Smarter fish consumption. Here’s an NBC News story about new findings showing that women of childbearing age are consuming less fish that contains the harmful heavy metal mercury. As CLF’s Dave Love put it, “This is great news. Education campaigns and consumption advisories for mercury contamination in seafood are working. This suggests that consumers may be receptive to other messages about seafood, such as risks from some aquaculture practices.”

Thank a food worker. Sunday kicks off the second annual International Food Workers Week, and a big element of their campaign is raising the minimum wage. The tipped minimum wage for restaurant workers is $2.13. A great way to thank the food workers who get the food to our tables is to sign the petition. You may also join the Twitterstorm on Tuesday by using hashtag #foodworkers and tweeting @foodchainworkers.

Genetically modified soybeans. A newly engineered soybean might be able to make a healthier oil for consumers. “The developers, Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer, have manipulated the genes of the soybean to radically alter the composition of its oil to make it longer-lasting, potentially healthier and free of trans fats.” As this New York Times story points out, this could be one of the first genetically engineered crops to benefit consumers over farmers.

More on kosher chicken. Here’s a recent article about a poultry study we wrote about in October, which showed that kosher chicken has the highest rate of antibiotic-resistant E. coli when compared to conventionally produced, organic and raised-without-antibiotics chicken. CLF friend and former fellow Lance Price is quoted in the article: “I was pretty sure that blessings wouldn’t protect chicken from antibiotic resistance.” The article discusses the number of ways that the chicken could become contaminated, and states clearly that most strains of E. coli are nothing to worry about.

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