February 6, 2015
Head of FDA to step down. NPR and The New York Times report that Margaret Hamburg will be stepping down as head of the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Hamburg held that position for six years, and during her tenure she’s demonstrated a personal commitment to food reforms and improving the efficiency of new drug approvals. The Times says this: “Dr. Hamburg leaves as some in Congress are pushing for change in the regulation of food and drugs. A group of legislators has recently proposed combining the F.D.A.’s food safety capabilities with those of other agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture.” Here’s another charming piece of trivia from the Times: “Dr. Hamburg was the first New York City health commissioner to give birth while in office, and her children’s birth certificates bear her name in two places: as their mother and as health commissioner.”
Iowa Ag. The Des Moines Register tells us that the first-ever Iowa Agriculture Summit will happen next month. The new event will be hosted by Bruce Rastetter, an influential mainstream Republican who earned his wealth in Iowa agribusiness, and it looks like the summit will be drawing quite a number of contenders for the Republican nomination. So far here’s who’s planning to attend: former Governor Jeb Bush (Fla.), former Governor Mike Huckabee (Ark.), former Governor Rick Perry (Tex.), Gov. Scott Walker (Wis.), Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), Sen. Rick Santorum (Penn.), and New York businessman Donald Trump. Among this group we shouldn’t expect a heavy emphasis on science or evidence-based decisionmaking about improving the safety or health of our food supply. The focus of the summit is production agriculture, renewable fuels and GMO policy, among other issues.
Dwindling oceans. CLF faculty member Jillian Fry was quoted in this NBC News story about how our increasing fish consumption may be emptying out the oceans. The U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines suggest a rate of consumption of fish that, if followed by every American, would drain the oceans. Here’s what Jillian had to say: “I’m not sure we should be even advising people to eat 8 oz. of fish per week. But we should at least include advice that people eat lower on the food chain: sardines, anchovies, herring. Those fish reproduce much faster and are a very healthy choice.” As we at CLF have been saying for a long time, move over salmon, make way for sardines.
Funding for antibiotic resistance. Last week the White House announced that President Obama’s 2016 budget would propose a near-doubling of funding for federal efforts to combat the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Key components of the plan include antibiotic stewardship, risk assessment, surveillance, and research innovation. There is a nod to the need to develop alternatives to antibiotics in agriculture. Let’s hope the Congress approves the budget and allows the White House to put its money where its mouth is.
Not-Meatless in Nebraska. According to the Norfolk Daily News (Nebraska), even the suggestion that students go one day a week without meat is enough to cause serious concern. A student group at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln requested funding to promote Meatless Monday—but still leave meat on the menu—in the school cafeteria. Among the ag science students it provoked a knee-jerk reaction as though the request was an attack on their livelihood—overlooking how a new way of looking at the question of meat consumption might spur innovation at land grant schools.
Meatless in San Fernando Valley. Last week U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D–California) sent a letter to his fellow representatives urging them to join the Meatless Monday movement. Cárdenas’s staff takes part in the Meatless Monday efforts by not only avoiding meat, but also posting favorite vegetarian recipes on various social media outlets.
Progressive in Pennsylvania. CLF program officer Brent Kim will be speaking at the PA Progressive Summit on Saturday. His topic will be public health and factory farms, and how local control can protect its citizens. Here’s a link to the summit website.
A Life in the Heartland. Former CLF visiting scholar Dennis Keaney has published a memoir titled The Keeney Place: A Life in the Heartland. In this book, Dennis walks us through a lifetime of agricultural change, both the good and the hopeful. It’s available for pre-order.
Coursera is underway. CLF’s free online food system course, “An Introduction to the US Food System: Perspectives from Public Health” began two weeks ago, with more than 7,000 students enrolled. We are now up to almost 8,500 students with 123 on the signature track. Check out this blogpost by Meg Burke for more information.