March 27, 2015

CLF Week in Links: Dietary Guidelines, Glyphosate and More

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Testifying for sustainability. This week the HHS and USDA hosted a hearing on the scientific report recently issued by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), and our own Jillian Fry was invited to present testimony. One of the points of contention with the DGAC’s report is that sustainability be considered in the recommendations for how Americans eat; another point of contention is that recommendation that Americans should eat less red meat and more plant-based foods.

To see Jillian’s testimony, jump ahead to 55:45 in the above video

Jillian did a great job with her three minutes: read this blogpost to learn more about the event and the report. Industrial agriculture was also heavily represented with their denial of the scientific evidence for the health importance of reducing meat intake and the unsustainability of current U.S. food production.

Carcinogenic Roundup. This NPR story covers what was pretty big news this week, but hardly a surprise: the well-respected International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that glyphosate, also known as Roundup, probably causes cancer in humans. Glyphosate is the herbicide that most industrial farming operations rely on as a weed-killer. In fact, companies like Monsanto manufacture and sell seeds for commodity crops that are genetically engineered to withstand applications of glyphosate—so that farmers can use even more glyphosate than they might with non-GMO seeds. The overapplication of herbicides like glyphosate is a concern for many reasons, including the threat of the toxin contaminating soil and waterways, the destruction of the ecosystem (milkweed and Monarchs come immediately to mind), and the harm posed to those working closest to the crops. Monsanto has demanded a retraction from the IARC; here’s the story on Fox News. Here’s Mark Bittman’s take on the news: “Stop Making Us Guinea Pigs.”

Food stamps on the chopping block. From the Food and Environment Reporting Network, we learn that the House Republican plan to convert SNAP into a block grant would cut funding by $125 billion, or 34 percent, by 2025. There’s no good way to achieve cuts of this magnitude, and no good outcome for the nation’s food-insecure. Already, 1 out of 7 Americans, roughly 15 percent, receive some form of nutrition assistance.

First ever U.S. junk food tax. Civil Eats reports on an interesting development on the Navajo Nation, where, according to the Indian Health Service, an estimated 25,000 of the Nation’s 300,000 members have type-2 diabetes and another 75,000 are pre-diabetic. The tribe has some of the worst health outcomes in the United States, with rampant hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The Nation’s residents are challenged by a lack of fresh foods, by the cost of fresh foods, by having to drive great distances to get to a grocery store, and even sometimes by a lack of electricity in their homes. Junk food sold at gas stations, however, is plentiful. Beginning April 1, there will be a two percent tax on junk food, i.e., “pastries, chips, soda, desserts, fried foods, sweetened beverages, and other products with ‘minimal-to-no-nutritional value’ sold within the borders of the nation’s largest reservation.” The money generated from the tax will be used on wellness projects.

Imperfectly delicious. Bon Appétit recently announced that as part of its mission to fight food waste and support local farmers, it will join Compass Group USA, the nation’s largest food service company serving 8 million meals a day, to launch Imperfectly Delicious Produce, which will rescue and incorporate misshapen but otherwise perfectly edible fruits and vegetables into recipes served in their thousands of kitchens. Bon Appétit CEO Fedele Bauccio is quoted as saying, “When I visited a large farm during harvest, I couldn’t believe how much produce was being left in the fields. I asked our team to fix that. Too much energy and work goes into growing food to waste it.” The “ugly carrot” project initiated by Wayne Roberts years ago in Toronto is finally making its way to the U.S., thanks to Fedele’s leadership.

Land grabs. This story in Dollars & Sense illustrates the problem of land grabs, especially in Africa. The author focuses on a Brazilian enterprise in Mozambique—and how it has failed. The problem of land grabs is a major issue for sustainability, food sovereignty, food security, and equity.

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