Digest: U.S. farmers mad over GM rice, Bee-t hypothesis, FDA fights back
Rice flows: Rick Weiss has another excellent feature, this time on rice farmers' frustration over seeds' contamination with genetically modified varieties unapproved for human consumption. Biotech proponents are asking "what's the big deal?" and claiming no harm has come to human health. (But since U.S. genetically modified food isn't labeled, how can we track its effects?) Aside from ethical concerns, farmers are peeved because the contamination causes their products to be suspect in many lucrative export markets. Washington Post
Bees and Bt: A Pennsylvania beekeeper suggests in a persuasive op-ed that genetically modified crops (incorporating the natural pesticide Bt) might be to blame for "colony collapse disorder," the mysterious plague wiping out bee populations around the U.S. At the very least, we hope someone jumps on his suggestion to compare colony losses of bees from regions where no GM crops are grown, and to put test hives in areas where modern farming practices are so distant from the hives that the foraging worker bees would have no exposure to them. San Francisco Chronicle The Sacramento Bee has a devil's-advocate story about how the bee crisis might be overbuzzed by the media.
FDA reacts: Stephen Sundlof of the FDA has written a letter to the editor taking reporter Rick Weiss to task for his story over the FDA's approval process for a new antibiotic to be used in cattle. Washington Post We're very glad to hear approval is not a foregone conclusion. The Post also has an editorial advocating caution on the drug.
Organic bandwagon slowing?: Consumers are not clamoring for organic food as widely or as loudly as Wal-mart and conventional supermarkets were hoping they would, according to this Reuters story. The executives say they think interest will perk up when prices come down. We think this story is a plant by Big Food — too lazy to educate consumers about what the organic label actually means — to put pressure on organic suppliers to lower prices. Let's hope the media doesn't fall for it. Boston Globe
Fed to give go-ahead to ocean fish farming: A plan to be announced Monday by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez will allow ocean farming for shellfish, salmon and saltwater species in federal waters three miles to 200 miles offshore for the first time. No mention was made of what environmental safeguards would be put in place, or preventing fish from escaping and interbreeding — just the value of the aquaculture market. Houston Chronicle (via AP)
No expense spared — for pets: Every newspaper in the country seems to have picked up this AP story about how much Americans are medicating their pets — supposedly drugs for pets have surpassed drugs for farm animals, although we find that hard to believe. Associated Press
Getting cornery over ethanol: Hog farmers want federal ethanol incentives abolished so they can compete on a more level playing field for corn. Des Moines Register
Buzzing in your ears: On Friday KQED's call-in program Forum featured an hour about disappearing bees, with expert guests from three universities. (KQED radio)
Trolley good: The Whole Foods store opening in London will be judged by English consumers not just on the quality of its produce, but on food-miles, packaging, and other elements. One unimaginable difference from its U.S. brethren: the store will not have a parking lot. Houston Chronicle
Not so heretical himself: At some point we'll have to read Barry Glassner's new book "The Gospel of Food" for ourselves, but the NYT's food reporter Kim Severson has the most critical — and zingy — review to date. New York Times
Portrait of Ferry Plaza farmers market: Patrons of the San Francisco farmers market might know which farmer brings which types of produce, but how big is the farm? How are pests controlled? CUESA collected some data from their farmers that provide an illuminating snapshot. (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture)
Polar bear attack: The possible listing of the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act may have placed the Bush Administration in box it can't get out of — one that could force it to take action on global warming. Truthout.org
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