December 19, 2014

CLF Week in Links: Cromnibus, Cod, Theo Colborn

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

holidaycard2015Let me start by bestowing a little holiday cheer from our CLF family to yours.

Cromnibus. The New York Times, NPR, Mother Jones, Politico, and many other news sources have reported on the omnibus spending bill, dubbed the “cromnibus,” released by Congress this week. The good news is that the Democrats have prevented all-out Republican gutting of the EPA and its Clean Water Act, although the EPA’s budget was cut by a modest amount. Bad news items include: a congressional directive that tells the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to refrain from linking our diets’ impacts on the environment; school cafeterias are allowed to wriggle out of some requirements intended to make school lunches more healthy; and beef ranchers are kept “safe” from regulators who would want to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from their production sites. So much for any awareness of the importance of sustainability in food production on the Republicans’ watch. Here’s Mark Bittman’s astute response to the bill.

Veggies, not pills. Here’s a nice about Wholesome Wave, the program founded by Michel Nischan and Gus Schumacher, which prescribes vegetables for overweight and related conditions. The program is being implemented via the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, or FVRx, at Harlem Hospital Center, as well as a few other hospitals.

Collapsing cod. Here’s an article in the New York Times about the collapsing cod population in Maine. With waters in the Gulf of Maine heating up at a record-breaking rate, as the article states, “fish are voting with their fins for cooler places to live.” Will the famous Maine lobster be next to migrate? Some marine biologists believe that the departure of the cod has actually contributed to the hefty lobster catches of recent years. Cod are bottom feeders, and young lobsters are part of their diet. But, and this is an important but, warmer waters in the Gulf of Maine may drive the lobsters to Canadian waters.

Scary chicken. In this Men’s Health magazine article, our own program director Keeve Nachman and former CLF-Lerner Fellow Lance Price, now a professor at George Washington School of Public Health, are quoted with regard to the antibiotic-resistance bacteria found in contemporary “superchickens”—and also in the air and land they come into contact with.

Antimicrobial resistance. In July, the UK Prime Minister called for a review to result in ideas to bring the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance under control. Here is the Review team’s first paper, which demonstrates that there could be profound health and macroeconomic consequences for the world, especially in emerging economies, if antimicrobial resistance is not tackled. The review suggests that deaths from antimicrobial resistant infections could rise to 10 million by 2050. Here’s a related New York Times story about superbugs in India that are killing thousands of newborns.

Build the new. Last week we had a wonderful Dodge Lecture given by Ricardo Salvador from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Trained as an agronomist, with a personal history that begins among farmworkers in Oaxaca, Mexico, Ricardo said very wise things about how the market does and does not drive our food system, the cost to the nation of our current food system, and how we must turn our eyes toward building a new system based on permaculture and agroecological principles. He made a compelling argument for a food system built on four pillars: healthy, green, affordable, and fair.

RIP Theo Colborn. I’m sorry to bring the sad news that over the weekend, at the age of 87, Dr. Theo Colborn passed away. Dr. Colborn was a pioneer in the field of endocrine disruptors, chemicals that can be found in many pesticides and that have been shown to put human health at risk. She spoke at the Bloomberg School in 2008. Here’s footage of that talk. As I said in my introduction, she has essentially written the book on endocrine disruption, and her book, Our Stolen Future, ranks up there with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring for galvanizing our attention to the consequences of our reckless behavior with regard to our chemical use. In addition to being a leader in her field, she had a wonderful sense of humor. Here’s an obituary from Grist.

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