Digest: Hog wrangling, Syngenta suing, Bush slashes subsidies for rich farmers

Breathing space: Hog producer Maple Leaf Foods is following Smithfield's lead and phasing out farrowing crates for sows. Not because the science behind them isn't sound, of course, but because consumers are spooked. (CattleNetwork) Other producers are sticking to their crates, according to the Fresno Bee, saying that veterinarians have determined that they cause no more problems than group housing. Could that be because the group housing is itself inhumane? In related news, Marcho Farms, one of America's largest veal producers, has decided to stop using veal crates. (Thanks Marc!)

Brazil ain't nuts: Agrochemical giant Syngenta wants a court to halt the expropriation of its farm by the Brazilian state government of Parana. The 304-acre property on the border of Brazil and Argentina was confiscated last November after local farmers protested that Syngenta was conducting illegal research into genetically modified corn. Int'l Herald Tribune

Farm Bill update: The Bush Administration revealed its proposal for the 2007 Farm Bill, and while it does cap farming operations eligible for subsidies at a surprising $200,000, it's not substantially different from the current policy. There's lots more news from AgWonk Land — and Keith Good had to resort to posting his daily policy newsletter on the Web instead of via e-mail to subscribers, so you can check it out there. FarmPolicy.com

Senator takes on cloning: Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) has introduced the Cloned Food Labeling Act to require the FDA and the USDA to mandate that all food that comes from cloned animals be labeled as such. (Press release) The biotech industry has already responded with the classic thrust and parry. (Thanks Erin!)

Fishy fuzz: Annoyed by things like California rolls, the Japanese government plans to start certifying "authentic" Japanese restaurants overseas. But will the "sushi police" also issue tickets? Financial Times (Grazie, Dr. Vino!)

Soviet producers: Nearly 300 acres of gas-heated greenhouses glow outside of Moscow, growing lettuces and mushrooms for Russian supermarkets that once had only bare shelves. While the expenditure of fossil fuel is truly breathtaking, at least they use beneficial insects in lieu of pesticides. The New York Times (Thanks, Rachel)

Born-again carnivores: Many vegetarians are finding the prospect of ethical meat a little too tempting. (Dairy Queen certainly did.) BBC (Moochas gracias, Steven)

Mad about Madison: A delightful Q&A with Deborah Madison, the goddess of not just vegetarian, but vegetable cooking, covers the community aspect of farmers markets, a defense of tofu, and the omnivore's dilemma. Culinate.com

Pollan peanut gallery: Sign a writer has become a major force in a country's culture — lots of other writers spend time dissecting your work. Seth Roberts takes Michael Pollan to task for providing generalities instead of examples in his "Age of Nutritionism" anti-processed-food essay last week, but even self-described skeptics are defending Pollan in the comments section. (Huffington Post) Meanwhile over at Slate, Daniel Engber calls Pollan's essay an example of "nutritional Darwinism" and as pseudo-scientific as the pseudo-science it purports to rebut. Snap!

"Recolonization by corporations": You know how in "The Corporation," many multinational companies were said to fit the diagnosis of sociopaths? Example A: Dominion Farms. To build a high-tech fish and rice farming operation in Kenya, the company has destroyed the delicate ecosystem of the Yala Swamp, driven all of its human residents to poverty, killed their livestock with DDT — its officials directing it all from a compound overlooked by a 30-foot cross. The Nation (Thanks, Rachel)

Lox picking: Killer whales have been spotted off the San Francisco coast, far from their Puget Sound home. They were apparently searching for salmon, which are declining in numbers in the Pacific Northwest. San Francisco Chronicle

Word nerd: All right, so the word "food" never comes up, but this interview of Republican Party verbal commando Frank Luntz by Amanda Griscom Little — no softball tosser herself — is a riveting exposé of why words matter. It also gives a good preview of the kind of re-framing the food movement has to look forward to if it starts to threaten big business. Grist

Oil spill: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. details ExxonMobile's nefarious campaign to discredit global warming science. AlterNet

3 Responsesto “Digest: Hog wrangling, Syngenta suing, Bush slashes subsidies for rich farmers”

  1. Marc says:

    A clarification is required for the headline "Bush slashes subsidies for rich farmers" and the "Farm Bill update" item.

    The item in question is only the proposal from the USDA, not any actual legislation or rules. The actual details will be determined in Congress (with consultation from the Executive Branch) over the next many months. Here's part to what Sen. Chambliss (R-GA, ranking minority member on the Senate Agriculture Committee) said in his response to the plan: "I value the Secretary’s recommendations; however, ultimately it is up to Congress to write comprehensive farm policy."

  2. DairyQueen says:

    Thanks Marc, you're quite right. If you want to follow the Farm Bill, the EWG's blog Mulch is staying on top of it, in addition to Keith Good at http://www.farmpolicy.com/.

  3. Marc says:

    Action on labels for cloned meat in the House: "Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (Conn.-3) today [2/13] introduced a measure that would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to mandate that all food derived from cloned animals be labeled. In December, the FDA ruled that milk and meat from some cloned farm animals was safe to eat and that the agency would soon allow these products to be sold in the U.S. At that time, the agency said it had no plan for distinguishing products derived from clones. ... The Cloned Food Labeling Act would require labeling for all meat and dairy products sold in supermarkets and restaurants that come from cloned animals or any of its progeny. Distributors would be subject to civil penalties for violations."

    Rep. DeLauro's bill is H.R. 992. (full text and etc available at thomas.loc.gov)