10 Food Stories You Should Know About

Brie Mazurek, CUESA Staff
September 27, 2013

Between the farm bill, the Monsanto Protection Act, and the release of several eye-opening reports, September has been a busy month for food news—some good, some bad. Here’s our roundup of the latest food news you can use.

Food Stamps on the Chopping Block

In a highly contentious move, the House voted last week to cut a whopping $40 billion from the $80 billion-a-year food stamp budget over the next 10 years. In contrast, the bill passed by the Senate makes about one-tenth of the cuts. Congress has until September 30 to reconcile these differences by passing a new farm bill or extending the current one. Meanwhile, the lives of 47 million Americans who rely on supplemental nutrition assistance to put food on the table—the majority of whom are children, teens, and seniors—hang in the balance. Read more »

Expiration Dates Create Food Waste

What do those “sell by” or “use by” dates on food packages mean? Not much, according to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. With about 40 percent of our nation’s food going to waste, these unregulated labels—which suggest peak quality for retailers, not food safety—mislead eaters into tossing billions of pounds of safe, edible food into the trash or compost bin. Read more at Food Safety News »

Some Good News: Senate Kills Monsanto Protection Act

Signed by President Obama last March as part of the Continuing Resolution (budget legislation), the Monsanto Protection Act, officially known as the Farmer Assurance Provision, would allow biotech companies to sell and farmers to plant GMO seeds that have been outlawed by federal courts. But thanks to Senate leadership and concerned citizens who logged thousands of calls to Congress, the rider has been struck from the Senate’s bill and will expire at the end of the month. Read more at Center for Food Safety »

Fight for GMO Labeling Continues

For those disappointed with the results of California’s Proposition 37 last fall, the GMO labeling torch is being carried by Washington’s I-522 this election season. But as in California, the Washington campaign faces a tough battle, with biotech companies pitching in millions to defeat the initiative. To combat arguments made by labeling opponents, Just Label It! recently announced the findings of a new independent study, which indicate that labels have little impact on food costs. Read the report at Just Label It! »

Antibiotic Use in Livestock Leads to Resistance, Says CDC

The Centers for Disease Control just released a new report about the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which sicken more than 2 million Americans and lead to 23,000 deaths each year. The comprehensive report implicates healthcare facilities as well as industrial-scale animal farms in the growth of antibiotic resistance. The meat industry accounts for about 80 percent of antibiotic use in the U.S., where the drugs are used liberally in livestock not only for treatment of illness, but also for disease prevention and growth promotion. Get the scoop at Mother Jones »

Farmworkers in High Demand

At the height of the fall harvest, California farmers are facing labor shortages, leaving many high-value crops unpicked. With approximately half of California’s farms struggling to find workers amidst a slow U.S. economy and increased border security, some growers are raising wages and offering incentives to keep workers in the fields. Farmers are calling for immigration reform, but that legislation is stalled in Congress. Read more »

Chefs Speak Out Against Fracking

Last week, Governor Jerry Brown approved SB 4, a state bill that regulates hydraulic fracturing and other forms of oil and gas extraction in California. The bill has been controversial among oil companies, who oppose any sort of regulation, as well as some environmentalists, who deem the regulations too weak and are pushing for a ban on fracking. Taking cues from the East Coast’s Chefs of the Marcellus, Alice Waters and others in the West Coast food community (including CUESA’s market chef and many others who shop and participate in the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market) have signed a letter to the Governor urging a moratorium on fracking in order to protect our food, farms, and water.

Food Safety Laws Raise Concerns for Small Farms

Following the 2011 passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most comprehensive reform of food safety laws since 1938, the FDA has proposed new rules to combat foodborne illness. But some of the regulations have producers worried, applying the same one-size-fits-all standards to large-scale factory farms as they do to small organic farms. Learn more about the proposed rules at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and submit your comments by November 15 »

Proposed Legislation Tackles Nutrition Labels

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) has introduced legislation that would modernize nutrition labels and take a bite out of unsubstantiated food claims. Under the proposed law, the FDA would establish a standard symbol system for front-of-package food labels and would redefine and regulate the use of terms like “healthy,” “natural,” and “whole grain.” Read more at The Consumerist »

“Buy California” Legislation in the Works

New legislation that would encourage hospitals, schools, and prisons to purchase food from California farms has made its way to the Governor’s desk. AB 199 requires that state-run institutions purchasing food give preference to in-state producers if the price is equal to or lower than out-of-state bidders. Another bill, SB 12, would establish a state-regulated “Made in California” label. Read more at the LA Times »

Congress photo from Center for Food Safety. Cow graphic from the Centers for Disease Prevention. “Food Not Fracking” art from Food and Water Watch.

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