“Boosting” pet food: The FDA says that the melamine used in recalled pet food may have been intentionally included by Chinese manufacturers to boost the apparent protein content. And in other disturbing developments, only two pet-food manufacturers who used the contaminated rice protein have recalled their products; two others have not. Meanwhile, some of the tainted food that was rejected for pet food was fed to hogs. Yeah, to the meat that people eat. (Hmmm…the pork industry just asked for “downer” hogs to be allowed to enter the food supply. Coincidence?) Even though it does seem that smaller animals (like 10-pound cats) have been most adversely affected by the tainted food, versus big dogs and presumably, 250-pound hogs, the sheer disregard for public health leaves us slack-jawed. Heads should roll. (Associated Press) Note to commenter Frances B: we couldn’t find any reports confirming a connection between melamine and farmed fish feed that you asked about.
Save the seeds!: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the government of Norway are donating millions to create a new, more secure, seed bank in the Arctic. The project will focus particularly on “orphan” crops — like cassava, coconut and taro — that are staples in poor countries but have not been the focus of commercial plant breeders. Many seed banks are in precarious locations (like in the path of wars or typhoons), and with the rapidly dwindling diversity of crops on farms, the hasty introduction of transgenic crops seemingly everywhere, and a changing climate, we could probably use a few more banks like this one. (New York Times) See also KCRW’s Good Food.
Don’t know jack about Big Macs: A new field poll finds that consumers don’t know much about fat and calories in restaurant food. The California legislature is trying to remedy that with a bill that would require restaurants with more than nine outlets in California to post calories on menu boards and disclose calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium content on menus. Not surprisingly, the California Restaurant Association is opposed to the bill. San Francisco Chronicle
Deen defends Smithfield: HuffPo reports that celebrity chef Paula Deen, under fire from union activists for endorsing Smithfield pork products, put out a statement saying she went with Smithfield because it “shared my family values and traditions.” Does she know anything about the company at all, other than how generous its checks are? Unless her family gene pool includes Genghis Khan, we think Deen needs to wake up and drop Smithfield like a hot piece of fried butter. Huffington Post
Mmm, lard sandwiches: Earth Dinner cards — bearing recipes, food facts, trivia, and questions about the memories and connections to food experienced by those eating it — can bring a new element to any meal, holiday or not. Grist
Keep on truckin’: With fresh food moving every which way, we sometimes forget about the people who transport it hither and yon. But truck drivers are a critical link in the system, especially when refrigerated food is considered. During the spinach recall of 2006, many truckers weren’t paid for delivering their shipment because of quirks in their contracts — trucking organizations are pushing for regulations that will prevent such a ‘payment recall’ during future food recalls. Land Line Magazine
“Either you bring the water to L.A. or you bring L.A. to the water”: A Superior Court judge is not budging on a ruling that in two months could virtually shut down the California State Water Project, stopping the flow of Northern California water to Central Valley farms and 17 million Southern Californians. At issue: the huge pumps that siphon water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are killing thousands of threatened and endangered fish. Los Angeles Times
Yes, John B., you are a hater: The East Bay Express’s restaurant critic — who in person is a mild-mannered, soft-spoken fellow — showers the “mandarin” parade of the Pennywise Eat Local Challenge, as covered by the Chron, with his particular blend of withering ridicule … the kind that makes us laugh even as we wince, knowing we could well be his next targets. “Isn’t a complex scheme of artificial limitations on your daily life the kind of self-indulgent game that elites love to play?” he asks. “Isn’t it a bit like masturbation?” Yowch! In defense of our penny-pinching elite locavorean friends, we’d like to point out that they’re quite capable of organizing to influence the 2007 Farm Bill and volunteering for People’s Grocery AT THE SAME TIME as cooking elaborate four-course meals for $1.76 from within their admittedly lavish foodshed. Here in the Bay Area, we have something more like a foodpalace instead. East Bay Express) But what do you guys think? Elites being elite again, or a valid exercise to shut up the real haters and skeptics? Discuss.
Wal-Mart not backing off: Wal-Mart is firing off letters refuting the BusinessWeek report that selling organic food is going badly for the world’s largest retailer. Treehugger reprints the entire letter. Treehugger
Organic in da House pt. 2: More on organic farmers’ testimony to Congress this week. Some colorful quotes: “I think a lot of people would like to pretend that this industry doesn’t exist, or that it’s concentrated on that crunchy-granola Whole Foods shopper. It clearly is not.” Article’s conclusion also made a lightbulb go off in our heads regarding a hazy idea we’ve been mulling: organic agriculture has the potential to be a bipartisan uniter. We just need to focus on how it’s about small farmers, self-reliance, no government subsidies, and meeting market demand. San Francisco Chronicle
Bottom line — get a clue!: Watch as our blood pressure rises! In an article titled “Organic vs. Conventional: What do Experts Say,” CookingLight.com reporter Amy Spindler gives organic food props for being more nutritious. Then she says its environmental benefits are hotly debated for experts, thanks to toxic natural pesticides (so much worse than organophoshates) and because organic fertilizers “may contain harmful bacteria, such as E. coli.” Um, yeah, it might, but it is far less likely to than is conventional fertilizer. Only the manure used in organic compost is heavily regulated, unlike that in conventional, which happily sprays raw liquid manure on fields or in a new development, injects it. There’s some other annoying half-truths that lead to this conclusion that eaters should just focus on their own body’s health. You need better experts, Ms. Spindler. CNN.com
Renewable chemicals boom: High oil prices have bolstered the economic rationale for companies like Cargill to add plastics, foam, and lubricants from plants to their offerings. Soybeans and corn are showing up in carpets, disposable cups, and soon surfboards and car seats. Sure they’re biodegradeable, but you can’t call corn environmentally friendly. Wall Street Journal (subscribers only)
And we thought “environy” was good: Reporting on the demand for raw milk in Ohio and the underground network for “moo-shine.” Oxford Press
Perk up and sign: Equal Exchange, the organic and fair trade coffee group, has a petition drive to block the USDA decision that would decertify organic ‘grower groups’ such as coffee co-ops. Gristmill
Idaho’s Iowa’s handful of organic growers want help from state, feds to meet demand (Des Moines Register)
How to pick eco-friendly seafood (Chicago Sun-Times)
Another guide to SOLE labels (NOW Toronto)
A short list of eco-friendly restaurants across the country (The Daily Dish)
Representative Delores Mertz (D-Ottosen) singlehandedly kills pork meatpacking reform bill in House (Blog for Rural America)