News Bites

June 24, 2011

sites/default/files/redrome04.jpgThe New Dirty Dozen List
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a new version of its well-known Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce last week, with a new “worst of the Dirty Dozen” 1) apples, 2) celery and 3) strawberries.  

In a discussion that might remind one of the “should I eat local or organic” dichotomy the media is fond of, the LA Times posed this question: should you fill your plate with half fruit and vegetables (as MyPlate, the new alternative to the food pyramid, recommends) or avoid fruits and vegetables that are known to be pesticide laden. While the added cost of organic produce is not an option for everyone, it’s worth noting that there are many creative ways to do both.

Meanwhile, Tom Philpott echoed and expanded on a CUESA article from a few years ago that takes the discussion beyond consumer exposure and explores the impact pesticides have on farmworker communities and the environment. See: Is the “Clean 15” Just as Toxic as the “Dirty Dozen”?

GM Salmon
In a recent article called Genetically Engineered Salmon’s Empty Promises, author Paul Greenberg wrote of the company behind the first genetically engineered salmon: “Should salmon farming come to be dominated by the AquAdvantage fish, farmers could become dependent on a single company for their stock, just as soy, corn and wheat farmers must now rely on large multinationals like Monsanto to provide seed for their fields year in and year out. AquaBounty will literally own salmon farming.”

For the moment, however, it looks like AquaBounty’s plan is foiled. Last week, in a surprising move, a group of US Senators (including Don Young from Alaska, the state that is home to a billion-dollar wild salmon industry) essentially blocked the FDA from approving genetically engineered salmon.

sites/default/files/yao_min_shark_fin_soup.jpgShark Fin Ban
As a bill that would ban the sale, distribution, and possession of shark fins moves through the California state legislature, the Washington Post ran this article, which looks at the big picture of shark finning: Distaste widening for shark’s fin soup.

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at this anti-shark fin soup PSA (see image above), featuring the NBA player, Yao Ming.

The E. Coli-Antibiotics link
The recent outbreak of E. coli in Germany had a large, very unfortunate down side (to the tune of over 3,500 infections, 800 cases of kidney failure, and 39 deaths so far).

The fact that the strain in question (E. coli O104) is resistant to more than a dozen antibiotics in eight classes (read “The reason why this deadly E. coli makes doctors shudder” for more) has, however, brought renewed attention to the routine use of antibiotics in animal agriculture, a major known cause of this kind of resistance. 

It’s not entirely surprising then that several members of the Senate, led by California’s own Dianne Feinstein, have chosen this moment to reintroduce a bill to ban the use of antibiotics in animal feed (a practice that accounts for as much 80 percent of all the antibiotics used in this country). Read more: Senate Bill Addresses Antibiotics in Animal Feed

sites/default/files/farmarazzi_slideshowjpg.jpgAg Gag Bills
In a coordinated effort to control the public’s window into the world of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), the meat industry has worked on a state level this spring to roll out a series of bills that would outlaw photography on factory farms. The “ag gag” bills have appeared in multiple agriculture-heavy states, including New York, Florida, and Minnesota, but Iowa appears to be where the action is. Read What Does Agribusiness Have to Hide in Iowa? for more.

The latest internet advocacy silver lining is the 41,000-signature petition that Slow Food USA has delivered to the Iowa State Senate as part of the Farmarazzi campaign. (The photo above is borrowed from the Farmarazzi slide show Slow Food USA compiled to encourage transparency on farms.)

More Food and Farming News:

No Food Safety in These Numbers
Mark Bittman weighs in on proposed cuts to WIC and the FDA

Why Laying Off Ag Reporter Philip Brasher is Bad for Food
A grass roots twitter campaign responds

Subsidized Crop Insurance: The Next Ag Boondoggle?
Will new federal crop insurance rules let industrial farms off the hook on conservation?

Advice for Young Farmers from Swanton Berry Owners

Farmer Jim Cochran offers a list of how-tos
Farm Subsidies Map
Curious about farm subsidies in your state? Check out this map from the Environmental Working Group

Pilot Program Helps Cooks Develop Business Plan
Market vendor La Cocina gets a mention on SFGate

Fire Escape Farms: Urban Garden Store Pops Up
Where art and urban farming overlap

It’s Gettin’ Real in the Whole Foods Parking Lot
An interview with the man behind that video people won’t stop posting