Published on January 18th, 2014 | by Tanya Sitton0
Top News from the Food Front: 15 Must-Read Stories for Mindful Foodies
Did you catch the best food news stories this week? Researchers publish new studies on health and obesity, GMO wheat looms on the agricultural horizon, Utah pushes back against ag-gag resisters, and would-be horse meat purveyors gnash their teeth over the new spending bill that effectively reinstates the U.S. horse slaughter ban. Meanwhile antibiotic resistant Heidelberg salmonella wreaks havoc for chicken-eaters — and buying organic doesn’t save the day, this time. Knowledge precedes action: to make mindful choices about what goes on your plate and in your body, you need to know what’s going on with your food. Read on, and find out!
We’ve covered some serious food news shenanigans this week here at EDB!
1. ‘Death to the Dollar Menu’ Say Fast Food Chains (Really) — Once an iconic industry staple, the dollar menus are making certain clowns pull their hair and gnash their teeth.
2. How Real Is McDonalds Aim To Buy Sustainable Beef? — They’re a lot of unpleasant things, but they’re not fools: the conscious eating movement is gaining ground so fast, even our arch-enemy-industry knows they must try to appease us, mwahahaha!
Will I eat at McDonald’s now? Nope. But as a sign of the times, it’s worth noting: they know they need to at least pretend to do it! Keep doing what you’re doing, o ye mindful eaters; I do believe it’s working.
3. West Virginia Water Supply Poisoned by Dirty Coal – WHAT?! Self-regulation by industry somehow failed to protect consumers? Say it ain’t so… How strange!
4. Kauai News: World’s Largest Chemical Companies Sue to Squelch Bill 2491 — So basically people in Kauaʻi, HI, would greatly prefer not to have their schoolchildren and sick folks sprayed with pesticide. Bill 2491, formerly known as Ordinance 960, ‘establishes buffer zones around sensitive areas such as schools and hospitals, mandates disclosure of pesticide use, and instructs Kauaʻi County to complete a health and environmental impact study.’
Since that’s pretty reasonable and all, the bill passed with strong popular support despite political conflict — it was passed by the Kaua’i County Council, vetoed by the mayor, then passed anyway when the council overturned that veto in November 2013.
Now the chemical companies who sell the GMO seeds and pesticides involved are throwing a big ol’ legal hissyfit, trying to prevent the buffer zones, since (after all) they’re supposed to get to do whatever they want. Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer Hi-Bred, and a Dow Chemical subsidiary filed a lawsuit in federal district court to block implementation of Bill 2491, planned for August 2014.
The word ‘shameful’ keeps popping up in media coverage of this lawsuit, and I think it’s a good one to apply to the corporate behavior on display in this (pesticide-saturated) dust-up.
Good Week for Horses (?)
5. Spending bill would restore ban on horse slaughter — The federal budget unveiled Monday includes language to specifically prevent USDA inspection of horse slaughter plants, effectively reinstating the horse meat ban in the US.
The bill passed both House and Senate consideration, and headed for the White House on Thursday.
6. Congress Cuts Funding for Horse Slaughter — The new budget language puts legal action between the USDA and would-be horse butchers on indefinite hold. Senatory Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) fought hard to strip the horse slaughter ban from the bill but couldn’t find the votes: he describes the issue as ‘pretty emotional.’
No kidding, Senator! Americans have never seen horses as ‘food animals’ and don’t want to start doing so now, thank-you-very-much.
A ban on horse slaughter in the US expired in 2011, but until now the USDA has declined to provide inspectors to horse processing plants — meaning that for all intents and purposes, the ban was still in effect. The last meat company that killed horses in the US closed its doors in 2007.
Even among those who breed and kill cows for a living, horses aren’t typically seen as ‘food animals.’
From a source that I don’t usually have occasion to cite:
The latest BEEF poll, found at beefmagazine.com asks, “As a beef producer, do you favor the U.S. ban on horse slaughter?”
With almost 1,500 votes cast so far, 63% of respondents say, “Yes, it’s inhumane and people shouldn’t be eating horses.”
7. Oklahoma senator introducing amendment to reinstate horse slaughter plants in U.S. – When it comes to potential profit for meat companies, they’re used to getting the laws they want; whether or not the country wants it is neither here nor there. At least, that seems to be the view of Senator Jim Inhofe (R- Okla.), who just introduced a bill to put the horse meat back on the legislative table.
Bless his sweet heart, he’s just so awfully concerned about the suffering of horses; so logically the cure is to rip ‘em apart and make tons of money selling their flesh. I mean, who knows better how to protect animals: animal protection groups hailing the reinstated slaughter ban as a victory for horses and those who love them, or profit-driven meatpacking companies?!
Yeeeeeaaaaahhh, no. I don’t think I’m’a buy that particular bridge today, sir.
If you live in Missouri or Oklahoma — if you live anywhere in the U.S. – maybe let your legislators hear your voice! None of our food system’s problems will be ameliorated in any way by adding another species to the list of industrial animal agriculture’s slaughterees.
We’ve got enough problems with our meat industry around here, without adding more to the mix!
8. Tyson Foods Recalls 33,840 Pounds of Chicken — if you need inspiration to eat less meat, here you go!
This story perfectly highlights the problems we’re creating via industrial animal ag: create antibiotic resistant bacterial strains, by crowding animals in filthy conditions and feeding them antibiotics; exempt slaughterhouses and packing plants from any meaningful regulation; allow producers to speed production lines infinitely, regardless of human toll or degree of poop in the meat – and ta-da! Stories like this are inevitable.
There are so many reasons to eat other things! Vegan or vegetarian or flexitarian or conscious-eater omni: whatever diet you follow, please don’t support factory-style farming of animals! It’s a horrible idea, for everyone involved!*
*(except Heidelberg salmonella)
9. Wait, We Inject Antibiotics Into Eggs for Organic Chicken?! — Speaking of antibiotic resistance and chicken… if you think buying organic solves the problem: think again. Sadly, over-reliance on antibiotics seems to be such an entrenched part of the modern animal ag scene that even organic meat contributes to the problem. Luckily there’s lots of other stuff to eat!
Bad Week for Farmers
10. Supreme Court Protects Monsanto’s Right to Sue Family Farms – a group of farmers and others with organic trade interests filed this case against Monsanto in 2011, hoping for relief from being sued willy-nilly by the biotech giant over unwanted genetic contamination of their fields and products. This week the USSC declined to hear the case, leaving Monsanto ready and willing and able to pretty much continue to do whatever it wants. Disappointing, yes; I only wish it were more surprising, and less completely-status-quo.
Just in case you were worried that there’s not ENOUGH genetic contamination of your organic fields…
11. Monsanto readies first-ever GMO wheat — the title here is a slight misnomer, since Monsanto’s unapproved-for-anything GMO wheat cropped up uninvited in an Oregon field a few months ago. In this context, the author presumably means ‘first ever GMO wheat to be legally planted and sold for food, in the fields of growers who actually know it’s there and feel generally okay about it.’
Happy news! The new GMO wheat is Roundup Ready, resistant to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide that has caused so many problems with resistant weeds that the USDA is currently expediting approval of 2,4-D and stacked-resistance crops to use instead. Oh goodie!
Like hypothetical horse butchery, GMO wheat promises to bring a hefty wheelbarrow-full of additional trouble to an overloaded problem-table, in the world of food and agriculture. I understand if some folks think I’m overly optimistic when I say ‘We can do better.’
But can we please — at the very least — stop working so hard to make our existing agricultural problems WORSE?!
Based on recent history (recap: Monsanto gets to do whatever it wants, at the expense of anyone and anything downstream) I don’t feel optimistic that we’ll head this new problem off at the pass. But for the record, Monsanto abandoned its GMO wheat development and testing in 2004 because basically there wasn’t a need for it, and growers didn’t want it.
Neither of those factors have changed! We’ll see if that matters at all, as Monsanto goes forward with its plan to develop new GMO weeds. Oh oops – I meant wheat.
Down, but Not Out
12. Organic food and farm groups ask Obama to require GMO food labels – this Thursday 4 lawmakers and over 200 organic farmers, food companies, and health advocates delivered a letter to the President asking for labels on foods containing GMOs (as per campaign promises made by candidate Obama in 2007).
As this article points out,
‘Last October, an international coalition of scientists declared there still was no consensus in the global scientific community about the safety of genetically modified crops, which were first commercialized in 1996.‘
So fair and accurate labeling would be a completely reasonable policy, if we were setting national food policy with an eye towards public good vs. corporate greed (unlike now). More than 20 states currently have GMO labeling legislation in the works, with Connecticut and Maine taking first and second place in that particular race earlier this month.
Labeling GMO foods represents the best, surest strategy for beginning to curb the ravening hordes of chemical companies who are dictating national food policy right now in the U.S. As such, it deserves our focused attention and best efforts!
‘Transparency? No way, we HATE that stuff!’- Utah (Paraphrased)
13. Utah Defends Law Aimed At Livestock Filming – According to state attorneys, a federal judge should dismiss a case filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Animal Legal Defense Fund against the state of Utah. Filed last July, the case challenges Utah’s ag-gag law criminalizing undercover reporting of atrocities on factory farms. Such laws have failed in most states where agricultural lobbies tried to enact them, partly due to massive public opposition; but also because they’re constitutionally suspect.
So Utah would like this case to go away, and recently filed documents arguing that PETA and ALDF aren’t currently under ‘an immediate threat of criminal prosecution,’ so don’t have the right to challenge the law in question.
Here’s a prediction: if that works, it’ll be about half a minute until one of their undercover investigators IS under immediate threat of prosecution! So we’ll be right back here again; it’s a weak delaying tactic at best. The law deserves challenge, and will get it; this maneuver can change the ‘when’ of that plan, if it works, but not the ‘whether.’
Diets to Follow (or Not)
14. Heavier dieters using diet drinks should look at food too, study says – The American Journal of Public Health published research showing that people who reached for diet drinks during weight loss efforts also consumed more food calories, compared to dieters who consumed sugar-sweetened drinks. The takeaway here is that IT MATTERS WHAT YOU EAT, and just substituting diet sodas for regular sodas probably won’t help much towards weight loss goals.
15. Fast food isn’t making our kids fat. It’s the rest of their diet.A study published Thursday in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition makes my eyebrows lift into the ‘Oh really, who funded that study please?’ position. Researchers analyzed dietary patterns among children, and concluded that fast food has nothing to do with childhood obesity since kids are eating crappily at home too. Aggressive marketing of junk food to children (by both fast food and other food industry players) plays a pretty large role in that scenario, as do the subsidies for crap food that fast food lobbyists have worked so hard over the years to support.
Also results here contradict tons of prior research:
- The Relationship Between Obesity and the Prevalence of Fast Food Restaurants: State-Level Analysis
- Fast food restaurant use among adolescents: associations with nutrient intake, food choices and behavioral and psychosocial variables.
- Fast Food Linked to Child Obesity
Sometimes when results contradict prior studies, it means researchers have found something particularly interesting; but it can also mean someone got the results they went looking for and ignored what didn’t fit.
Speaking of weight issues: you’re working towards weight loss goals, definitely check out this TED talk. It will change (in a good way!) how you think about ‘dieting.’
Food Fans, Stay Tuned!
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