Digest: Bee conference, MickeyD’s makes Greenpeace, pass the chuck

“Mad bee disease”?: About 60 scientists are sharing their early findings regarding “colony collapse disorder” in bees. They’re focusing on the most likely suspects: a virus, a fungus or a pesticide, particularly the neonicotinoids group banned in France for causing what the French called “mad bee disease.” They’ve set aside for now the possibility that the cause could be bees feeding on the genetically modified crop, Bt corn, “because the symptoms typically associated with toxins, such as blood poisoning, are not showing up in the affected bees.” Although we’re wondering why they think transgenic crop side effects would resemble conventional toxins, we’re intrigued by their suggestion to look into the practice of feeding bees supplements produced from GM crops, such as high-fructose corn syrup. New York Times

Amazon dot balm: An unlikely team of Greenpeace activists and McDonald’s executives took a boat up the Amazon to see the destruction of rainforest that’s been partly driven by McDonald’s demand for soybeans. While the story calls the partnership a case study in how “once-unthinkable partnerships can become forces for addressing environmental and social problems that governments cannot handle,” we’re reminded of Jeffrey Goldberg’s recent fascinating study in the New Yorker of the “greening” of WalMart and corporations’ latest smart strategy to co-opt liberals and activist groups. Washington Post

Shit happens: The Merced company that distributed the hamburger patties that sickened three Napa County children with E. coli bacteria is blaming the contamination on the slaughterhouse, and on the Little League folks for not grilling the shit out of the meat, literally. “Most people have the sense to cook it so it’s not rare or raw,” said the Richwood Meat Company spokesperson. Somebody needs to go to crisis-management training. San Francisco Chronicle

Shit happens (chorus): Documents and interviews show that the FDA has known for years about contamination problems at the Georgia peanut butter plant and on California spinach farms that led to the latest disease outbreaks. FDA officials conceded that the agency’s system needs to be overhauled, but contended that the agency could not have done anything to prevent either contamination episode. Washington Post

Tigers by the tail: Three 27year-olds think their technologically advanced system of producing a sustainable supply of fresh shrimp year-round in a non-polluting environment may represent the future source of America’s favorite seafood — or at least earn the partners a tiny piece of the market, currently dominated by not so sustainable Asian companies. Signs are good: in the past two months, demand has exceeded their supply, and they have stopped taking on new restaurant clients. Washington Post

Super Size that fear!: Fast food companies are running scared as governments stir themselves over the obesity epidemic, especially with the Federal Trade Commission issuing compulsory requests for information from food companies to get a “more complete picture” of their kid-marketing practices. The Ad Age story says that the problem is “whose definition of sustainable you’re using — that of consumers or that of the government — as better-for-you brands are not necessarily what consumers are looking for.” There are all sorts of problems with that statement. A “sustainable” business is first and foremost one that doesn’t kill its customers, and meanwhile, these companies know better than anyone that consumers can convinced that they’re looking for just about anything if it’s marketed right. Advertising Age (Via AOWF

Silent Springtime again: Evidence that pesticides can cause Parkinson’s disease is stronger than it has ever been, say experts. One study shows that farm workers who used the common weedkiller paraquat had two to three times the normal risk of Parkinson’s. Reuters

Vitamin xenophobia: Think tainted petfood ingredients bode ill for imported human food? You’re right. Even if FDA regulators wanted to crack down on products emanating from the riskiest foreign facilities, they couldn’t, because they have no way of knowing which ingredients come from which plant. Interesting side note: Currently, most of the world’s vitamins are manufactured in China, much of them unregulated and some of questionable quality. But take this Washington Post editorial with a sizable (locally sourced) grain of salt, as the author is a management consultant to “many large food ingredient companies.” Something tells us his clients are not China-based. Washington Post

Like putting out fire with gasoline: A Baltimore biotech company will seek U.S. regulatory approval of a spray composed of bacteria-killing viruses that will destroy E. coli on raw hamburger and fresh produce. The viruses, which are called bacteriophages, are E. coli’s natural predator and “pose no harm to humans,” the company says. Newsday

B.S. degrees: Colleges must customize menus to accommodate students’ increasingly demanding taste for socially responsible, environmentally friendly, allergen-free foods. Nitpicking: the food service director at Oberlin, which offers rBGH-free milk and grass-fed beef, says that while the milk tends to be a little “grainy,” the beef is more “tender.” Much as we love our grassfed beef, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d say it was more tender than corn-fattened conventional beef, and there’s no way you can taste the difference between milk from cows who’ve received rBGh and those who haven’t. New York Times

Big Green Grapes: Wineries with any claims to being sustainable or eco-friendly are gearing up to spend major coin on marketing themselves, including Brown-Forman Corp.’s Fetzer and Gallo’s Turning Leaf. There is no formal certification process for claims of sustainability. Courier Journal

Killing us softly: We have a favorite new blog. We’ll let them tell you about their subject. “Suicide Food is any depiction of animals that act as though they wish to be consumed. Suicide Food actively participates in or celebrates its own demise. Suicide Food identifies with the oppressor. Suicide Food is a bellwether of our decadent society. Suicide Food says, “Hey! Come on! Eating meat is without any ethical ramifications! See, Mr. Greenjeans? The animals aren’t complaining! So what’s your problem?” Suicide Food is not funny.” SuicideFood.com (Thanks, Shuna!)

File under Only in California: Enter valet bike parking — a quintessentially Californian response to clogged freeways and overflowing parking lots. L.A. Times

One Responseto “Digest: Bee conference, MickeyD’s makes Greenpeace, pass the chuck”

  1. Bruce says:

    “Much as we love our grassfed beef, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’d say it was more tender than corn-fattened conventional beef…”


    Time for a steak cooking lesson Miz DQ.