A Renewed Focus on a Controversial Topic: Chemical Exposures

It was meant to be the kickoff of a national conversation, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) sponsored meeting on chemical exposures and public health, held in Washington last week, felt more like an argument at times.

The meeting started off predictably enough—with Howard Frumkin, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, discussing the importance of strengthening scientific understanding of chemical exposures, urging better collaboration among public health agencies, local governments and non-governmental organizations, and outlined the goal of developing an action agenda for strengthening the public health approach to chemical exposures. This agenda, he said, should be based on values everyone can get behind—including prevention of morbidity and mortality, good science, the effective use of resources, care for vulnerable populations, and responsible stewardship for future generations.

Lisa Jackson, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, won the loudest applause of the day for her remarks. Jackson, who leads a staff of 18,000 at the EPA, said she aims to restore America’s faith in the EPA to protect them and preserve the environment. By refocusing on core issues such as chemical management, reporting requirements, environmental justice, land use management—Jackson hopes to bring increased accountability to the agency. Read More >

CLF’s Dr. Lawrence Discusses Nation’s Water Pollution, PBS’s “Poisoned Waters”

Watch a short interview with Dr. Robert Lawrence, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

Lawrence discusses the nation’s water pollution and his involvement in the production of “Poisoned Waters,” a PBS FRONTLINE documentary that examines the increased hazards to human health and the ecosystem caused by decades of polluted runoff from agriculture, development and industries.

“Poisoned Waters,” premiers Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 9:00 p.m. ET on PBS stations nationwide. Click here to check your local listings.

Move Over Ag, We Need a Secretary of Food

In yesterday’s New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristoff addressed President-elect Obama’s soon-to-be-made choice for Secretary of Agriculture, asking whether or not a “U.S. Department of Food” would better reflect the change our country needs to see realized in our food policy. 

Kristoff notes that “a Department of Agriculture made sense 100 years ago when 35 percent of Americans engaged in farming.  But today, fewer than 2 percent are farmers.  In contrast, 100 percent of Americans eat.”  As such, what we need now “is actually a bold reformer in a position renamed ‘secretary of food.'”

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Looking Ahead: Obama’s Food Policy Platform

The Huffington Post this week looks at U.S. food policy and how it could potentially change under the Obama Administration. ‘Yes We Can’ Create a Sane Food Policy in the U.S. calls for President-elect Obama to appoint “an independent-minded secretary of agriculture who shares his concern for our nation’s youth, our national health, global development, the environment, and animals, and [to] create a National Food Policy Council and appoint a food-policy “czar” to oversee and coordinate a comprehensive and forward-thinking policy.” 

The piece also highlights the findings of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production’s report, Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America — a joint initiative between The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health — as well as the recent report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations

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Letter to Obama: Top 6 Sustainable Picks for Secretary of Ag

This week, 88 prominent figures in sustainable food and agriculture signed a letter to the Obama transition team entitled “the sustainable choice for the next U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.” This letter offered up the top 6 picks for the new (and sustainable!) Secretary of Agriculture including Gus Schumacher (MA), Chuck Hasselbrook (NE), Sarah Vogel (ND, Fred Kirschenmann (IA/NY and 2008 CLF guest speaker!), Mark Ritchie (MN), and Neil Hamilton (IA).

The letter emphasizes the need for innovation as the new Ag Secretary must “…work to advance a new era of sustainability in agriculture, humane husbandry, food and renewable energy production that revitalizes our nation’s soil, air and water while stimulating opportunities for new farmers to return to the land.” The letter also emphasizes linking local farmers with school lunch programs to promote healthier options. Check out the NYT report and CLF’s school food initiatives.