Aquaculture Bill to Protect Ocean Ecosystem

A new aquaculture bill entitled the “Research and Aquaculture Opportunity and Responsibility Act” introduced last week by Senator by David Vitter (Louisiana) is worthy of support. As described in the press release, the bill calls for a 3.5 year delay on new offshore aquaculture permitting. The bill would require a report to Congress on the environmental risks, economic impacts and regulatory guidelines for offshore aquaculture.

fish farm, Scotland creative commons

fish farm in Scotland; creative commons

The US lags behind other countries, like Norway, Chile and the UK, in marine aquaculture production, and this bill would further delay activity. Understanding the risks of offshore aquaculture has long-term benefits that may be difficult to quantify, at least compared to the more immediate profits from fish sales. It is important, however, to conduct such research to ensure the health of our waters and sustainability of our fisheries.

The Vitter bill is supported by environmental and consumer advocacy group, as mentioned in the press statement, and does not shy away from confronting potential human health and environmental impacts of offshore aquaculture. The bill asks regulators to devise guidelines to prevent:

  • “pollution from concentrated fish feces and uneaten food;
  • parasites, diseases, and their effects on native wildlife species;
  • escape of marine species from offshore aquaculture facilities;
  • degradation of wild stocks of marine species;
  • negative impacts on commercial and recreational fishing;
  • inefficient reliance on wild forage fish to feed marine species in offshore aquaculture facilities;
  • inappropriate use of chemicals to treat parasites and disease in off- shore aquaculture;
  • negative health impacts from consumption of marine species produced in offshore aquaculture.”

The economic potential of land-based recirculating aquaculture also will be studied if the bill is made law. Recirculating aquaculture is a more biosecure form of fish farming where the water and fish waste are treated, then recycled back into the fish tanks. Recent 2010 funding initiatives by NOAA Aquaculture Program targeted just marine aquaculture, and therefore Vitter’s bill may help support aquaculture for land-locked states and states that do not have access fishable waters, it could also be an important step in promoting a more sustainable form of fish production.

– Dave Love

Farming our Schools

When is the last time you walked around an urban public high school in the United States?  For most of us, it’s been a while.  For me, it was just last month and I will tell you what I noticed when I walked around.  It wasn’t the dilapidated buildings, the lack of experienced teachers, or the missing vocational and practical trades that disappeared a long time ago with shrinking budgets.  I noticed land.  I saw opportunity.

What some say is the last vestige of the “commons” in America, our public school system sits on an incredible amount of land!  Walk around a public high school and you see land that is not being used; it’s either being under-utilized or it is completely abandoned.  Pavement and asphalt is the default, and green-space upkeep costs too much money for strapped urban districts.  Was it ever used?  I don’t know, but it’s time to utilize this public space for the community. 

As we stare at our nation’s expanding waistlines and the “franken-foods” that dominate our store shelves, we realize that what the communities of our great nation need is real food.  We’ve watched the obesity rates in our children triple in the last two decades, and we are left with no choice but to creatively respond to this epidemic.  If we don’t, there is a good chance they may become the first generation in our history to live a shorter life span than their parents. 

As a Government and Economics teacher in a deeply urban school in California, I come face to face with disturbing daily realities.  Recently, a 16 year old Latina student came up to me in astonishment and asked, “Are you telling me that a lemon is a fruit?”  Equally astonished are the students that walk out to the school garden and marvel at the sweet peas they can pick fresh off the vine.  “I never knew that came out of a flower,” I’ve heard them gasp.  They recoil at the sight of dirt touching a piece of produce, yet they don’t blink at paying $2 for bottled water that is less regulated than the water coming out of their tap.  I don’t blame my students for a system that produces 3,800 calories per day per person (we only need half that amount) and then uses the most sophisticated marketing tools on the planet to get our youth to consume them.  As a teacher, I have learned that you must accept your students “where they are” because getting angry about how they got there is wasted energy.  Accept the challenge and then work like hell to help them reach their potential.  I’ve accepted that the industrialized food companies got to my students first, and now I know through local food production in the schools, I can help them become healthier once again. Read More >

Farmers Market on Penn Ave?

At the Organizing for America National Health Care forum on Tuesday, President Obama surprised listeners with a new idea: host a farmers market right outside the White House.

“One of the things that we’re trying to do now is to figure out, can we get a little farmers’ market — outside of the White House — I’m not going to have all of you all just tromping around inside — (laughter) — but right outside the White House — (laughter) — so that — so that we can — and — and — and that is a win-win situation.”

In just a few days, the topic has sprouted up all over the net. Here are the LFB Top 5 reactions and summaries to the President’s market ambition.

1. Obama Foodorama, one of our favorite food blogs around, wrote about Obama’s comment and gave readers a short history lesson. Did you know Thomas Jefferson was credited with turning the earliest D.C. Farmers Markets into what they are now?

2. Our friends over at Grist ran the entire Q&A exchange so we could get the full context of his comment: “Obama Wants to Set Up White House Farmers Market.”

2. The Huffington Post’s Green Blog struck up quite a dialogue with over 90 comments on their story, “Obama Talks Up Local Foods, School Lunches, And Setting Up a Farmers Market Outside the White House.”

3. Jane Black, author of All We Can Eat, reported the news for readers of the Washington Post.com.

4. The White House Organic Farm Project jumped on the story and posted a transcript of the President’s remarks here.  The WHOFarm guys are driving their WhoFarmMobile vehicle (you have to see this to believe it) , across the country to raise awareness about TheWhoFarm mission and petition.

5.  Finally, Food First, whether in reaction to the comment or not, posted information that claims Farmers’ Markets in the U.S. are on the rise.

New Web site Connects Agriculture and Public Health

The Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has launched a Web site to enable research on the critical links between agriculture and public health. The Agriculture & Public Health Gateway is a unique information resource for public health and agricultural professionals, advocacy and community organizations, policy makers, journalists, and educators.

“Public health and agriculture are intricately linked, and there is a growing interest in the complicated connections between them,” said Dr. Robert Lawrence, director of the Center for a Livable Future. “The Gateway places important and reliable information about these connections in one central location and makes it easy to access. We hope all who are concerned about a sustainable food system and about improving the health of the public will benefit from this resource.”

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