Digest: Chickens implicated, Canada blocks GM seeds, U.S. insecure food system, E. coli source not yet pinpointed


Yup, we’re clucked: Feds confirm chickens ate melamine-tainted feed and entered food supply, but issue no recalls in the absence of “evidence of harm to humans.” How would they even begin to ascertain harm, if they don’t reveal which chicken companies were involved and then trace reported illnesses? (New York Times)

Stand firm, Canada!: Close to 200 tons of safflower seed genetically modified with fish growth hormone, which is not allowed anywhere near Canadian dinner tables or farm fields, is sitting at a Chilean port waiting to be loaded onto a ship for Vancouver. Welcome to molecular farming, or biopharming, in which plants are used to “grow” pharmaceuticals. It’s a world in which Canadian officials are being asked to allow large quantities of drug-producing seed, which cannot be commercially grown in this country, to move back and forth across the Canadian border. (Ottawa Citizen)

State subsidies that encourage over-fishing should be banned under any WTO free trade pact, argue environmental groups (Reuters)

Ticking time bomb: Continuing its series of hard-hitting looks at just how vulnerable the American food supply is to both accidental and deliberate contamination, the Times talks to several insiders like a former FDA associate commissioner who says, “If people really knew how weak the FDA program is, they would be shocked.” We think we’re getting an idea. (New York Times)

Solution to the wrong problem: To stop E. coli outbreaks at the source — feedlot cattle — scientists are contemplating vaccines, “antibiotics, an industrial chemical, bacterial-killing viruses and friendly bacteria to displace the evil ones.” Not on the table, r even in the story, is the idea of switching cattle back to grass and an antibiotic diet. The biggest barrier to the aforementioned industrial solution to an industrial problem is that ranchers and feedlots may have little incentive to pay for such treatments, because they do not make the cows grow faster or keep them healthier. New York Times

Chasing E. coli: The USDA’s food-safety division is still tracking down the slaughterhouses responsible for poisoning ground beef in Pennsylvania and California. Salon

Clash of the titans: In rumblings that could foreshadow an epic lobbying battle, the food industry, free traders, and the sugar industry are staking out positions on sugar policy. Manufacturers want cheaper sugar (that’s exactly what this overweight nation needs), while sugar growers want more subsidies. Free traders are concerned that the push for subsidies will derail world trade talks. (Congressional Quarterly)


More pigs in heaven: Author-turned-locavore memoirist Barbara Kingsolver writes about how “when my family tried to eat local for a year, we learned as much about politics as we did about produce.” Mother Jones

Doctor’s orders for the Farm Bill: A physician from Johns Hopkins University explains how farm policy is damaging our health, thanks to the large fraction of USDA funds that support crops that form the base of junk food. Fun fact: USDA guidelines recommend that one-third of your calories come from fruits and vegetables, only about 5% of USDA’s funds go to fruit and vegetable programs. The Farm Bill offers a chance for change. (Baltimore Sun)

Talk the line: In this Q&A, Don Stull (author of “Slaughterhouse Blues: The Meat and Poultry Industry in North America”) offers perspective on the meatpacking industry. And some advice: “Provide better and longer periods of training. Adequately staff work crews. Vary job tasks to relieve muscle strain. Provide longer recovery periods for injured workers. But, most of all, slow down the chain.” (Cattle Network)

Don’t pick a fight with these pickers: PBS’s NOW tells the story of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a group of tomato pickers from Florida who took on two of the largest food companies in the world and won. After a several year struggle, they convinced Taco Bell and McDonald’s to require supplier to provide better wages and working conditions. (digested here). You can watch the segment online. (NOW on PBS)

Bees, life and biofuels: The Living on Earth radio program had a number of Ethicurean-relevant stories last week, including a long feature on “who owns life?” debate, a conversation with a bee expert, and a discussion about biofuels. Both scripts and audio downloads are available. Living on Earth


Reading their melamineds: David Goldstein responds to the Times story on China’s widespread practice of spiking animal feed with melamine and offers an interesting hypothesis about the FDA’s behavior. “Why — in the face of an apparent wheat gluten contamination that reportedly killed nine out of twenty dogs and cats in Menu Foods’ quarterly taste test — would FDA scientists test for melamine, a chemical widely believed to be nontoxic? …Because they thought they might find it.” HorsesAss.Org

Fire the Dumb-Asses: Gina Spadafori of the Pet Connection blog, who has been all over the tainted pet food story since the beginning, has some tart comments about the FDA’s latest recall and its at-last revised numbers on the pet deaths, and don’t miss her post on what actually killed the animals.

Notes of natural gas: Tracing the carbon footprint of a bottle of Tikal, Amorio, 2005 as it traveled from Argentina to New York, minus the petroleum that went into its production. (Dr Vino)

The ivory bunker: Looking at the myriad “financially independent” food and drug research institutes which, though housed on college campuses, don’t follow higher education’s traditional standards. For example, the “Center for Food and Nutrition Policy” at Georgetown University, which later moved to Virginia Polytechnic Institute, is heavily funded by the sugar and soft drink industries. (TomPaine.com)

Slow growing: A touching, yet pragmatic reminder from a gardener, cook, and ex-reporter that “food does not just happen, even though it might appear so if you are just strolling the produce aisle at the supermarket. There is much human toil involved.” (The Slow Cook)

6 Responsesto “Digest: Chickens implicated, Canada blocks GM seeds, U.S. insecure food system, E. coli source not yet pinpointed”

  1. Martha says:


    This is just a heads up that under More Pigs in Heaven you attribute the article by Barbara Kingsolver to The Nation, but it is on Mother Jones’ website. The link you have takes you to the right place.


  2. DairyQueen says:

    Thanks Martha — as some of you may have noticed from that & the weird truncated posts that were there for several hours, the Digest was hastily assembled today. I’m using a great new (to me) software called Ecto, but it apparently has some hidden keystrokes that publish in-progress posts without the author being aware of it. Yerp.

  3. Lew Orban says:

    The big picture is that Macdonalds used the cheapest wheat gluten to coat their french fries for many years…and JR Simplot used GM potatoes and grows and coats potatoes in China…….see the big picture now? In 2004 the FDA required all allergic substances to be identified on labels of products….where people allergic to the wheat or the melamine surely being added?

  4. Nicole says:

    DQ: I like the On the Blogs re-cap. Kewl stuff.

  5. Ed Bruske says:

    Thanks for the link, Ethicurian.

    Ed Bruske

  6. Anastasia Bodnar says:

    That GM Safflower is actually rather interesting. I did a lot of research on it a while ago (http://anastacie23.livejournal.com/103210.html). The fish hormone only affects fish, so even if people ate it, it wouldn’t matter (though they are taking care to mill it on separate equipment, etc). The benefits of this product are many. Farmed shrimp are an excellent source of protein that can be farmed sustainably on land. The plants are self-pollinators and they specifically chose a variety that could be fed to fish without processing but is not eaten by birds or insects. The USDA’s report on it is very informative.