May 26, 2015

CLF Week in Links: Drug Data, Ag-Gag, Punishable Poop

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

John OliverDark humor. This past weekend on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver did an 18-minute segment on chickens and, in particular, on inhumane chicken farming practices. It’s a hilarious, harrowing 18 minutes—enjoy!

Times Square. Be sure to check out Food & Water Watch’s 15-second film, Factory Farms Make Me Sick: Times Square Edition. Be sure to watch and then tweet your thoughts with hashtag #LoadOfCrap.

More data on antimicrobials. In keeping with the Obama administration’s effort to decrease unnecessary use of antibiotics, the FDA will start collecting more information about which drugs are used in the raising of food animals. Currently producers are required to report “collective data” on drug use; this new move will require more specific use data on each drug. This is an important move in the right direction, although as Rep. Louise Slaughter (D–NY) announced, it doesn’t go far enough. Here’s the AP story that appears in U.S. News & World Report.

NC ag-gag. On Tuesday, the North Carolina Senate passed an ag-gag law that would make it illegal to film or record the goings-on in “restricted workplaces;” the real target is would-be whistleblowers who want to expose what happens in industrial livestock production facilities. Governor McCrory is expected to sign the bill into law. Here’s more from Reuters, and here’s a blogpost on the issue from guest blogger Daisy Freund of the ASPCA. UPDATE 6/1/15: On 5/29/15, Governor McCrory vetoed the ag-gag bill, saying that if passed it would not adequately protect or give clear guidance to honest employees who uncover criminal activity. Here’s the story. UDPATE 6/4/15: The North Carolina legislature has sunk to a new low. They voted to overcome Governor McCrory’s veto of the ag-gag bill; now the ag-gag bill will become law, turning whistleblowers into criminals.

Concentrated CAFO animal manure is punishable. In a landmark case, three Yakima Valley (Washington) mega-dairies have been found to be posing a threat to human health and have finally settled on how the dairies must take responsibility. It’s the first time that cow manure, when concentrated in large volumes, has been ruled a hazardous material and subject to regulation by EPA under RCRA (the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, passed by congress in 1976 to regulate hazardous waste). In the food systems world, we are hoping that this sets a precedent for all factory farm operations that produce more manure than can be used as fertilizer without damaging the environment. For more information about the terms of the settlement, read the story in the Yakima Herald Republic. We’ll be reporting in more depth about our partners’ and CLF’s role in the victory.

Trade deals. We’ve written about the problems we anticipate if a trans-Atlantic free trade agreement (TAFTA) gets passed, and the problems are the same with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently being debated. The Senate is preparing to approve a “fast-track” for the TTP, which would mean that President Obama would be able to say “yay” or “nay” with no negotiation. This CNN story mentions Hillary Clinton’s and Elizabeth Warren’s take on the issue.

CEO doesn’t know. An announcement by Joe Sanderson, CEO of Sanderson Farms, got a lot of laughs in the food systems world this week. Sanderson Farms is one of the largest chicken processors in the U.S.—and Mr. Sanderson, in response to moves by companies such as Perdue and Tyson, says that concerns about antibiotic resistance are overblown. If you care to read more about Mr. Sanderson’s ignorance, you may do so here.

Help for the honeybee. The Obama administration announced the first National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators, a plan to save the bee, other small winged animals and their breeding grounds. The Washington Post reports that President Obama has quite a fondness for these creatures. Here’s more from The Post: “Bees — along with birds, bats and butterflies — play a key function by pollinating commercial fruit and vegetable crops; alfalfa and clover that provide feed for cattle; and the nuts, seeds and fruits that sustain massive grizzly bears and delicate songbirds. Some estimates put the economic value of their activities at roughly $15 billion a year.”

France cracks down on wasted food. This story in The Independent reports on a new move by France that makes it illegal for supermarkets to throw away edible food. According to the article, the country’s National Assembly unanimously voted in new laws on Thursday night that will force chains to donate discarded food to charity or allow it to be turned into animal feed, compost or energy.

CLF in South Korea. This weekend CLF’s Jillian Fry heads to South Korea for the World Aquaculture 2015 Conference where she’ll present a paper published in 2014 in The Journal of Current Environmental Health Reports. Here’s our press release about the paper, which examines aquaculture’s impact on environment and public health.

CLF in Milan. At the invitation of the U.S. Department of State, I traveled to Milan to speak at a forum at the U.S. pavilion at Expo Milano 2015. The theme of Expo Milano is “Feeding the Planet; Energy for Life,” emphasizing food security achieved through sustainable food production methods using the best of traditional methods and advances in technology. There are 140 nations participating in the Expo, which runs from May 1 through October 31. The forum sponsored by the Department of State focused on successes, challenges, and opportunities to achieve a more resilient and sustainable food system to provide food security with equity.

Congratulations, Fellows. I’d like to congratulate the CLF-Lerner Fellows who graduated this week: Ricardo Castillo Neyra, Wei-ting Chen, Megan Clayton, Laura Cobb, Elisabeth Donaldson, Lisa Lagasse, Melissa Poulsen, and Patricia Truant. These doctoral students have been committed to the discovery of knowledge that can contribute to the creation of a healthier, more equitable, and more resilient food system.

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