Digest: FDA clears chicken and fish for melamine, GM rice to be planted in Kansas, lots lots more


Chickens, fish greenlighted for food supply: Some 80,000 chickens being held on Indiana farms are safe to eat despite being fed rations of recalled pet food that contained tiny amounts of the chemical melamine, Reuters says the FDA has ruled. Apparently the chickens weren’t fed straight contaminated pet food, just had their feed supplemented with it, lowering the exposure. AP reports that the FDA has also cleared the farmed fish that ate the feed. We’re wary: Cats have been sickened more than dogs by the tainted food, and chickens weigh half as much or less as the typical house cat, meaning lower exposure might have bigger effects, same with fish. We also note that the FDA has not commented on whether the animals’ health has been at all affected by the food; we’re wondering if they’re simply saying that those that are still alive are safe to eat, a lá cloned animals. Related: More pet food has been recalled.

Rice a no-no: The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has approved a plan to use transgenic rice to produce human proteins, despite over 20,000 comments opposing the plan and only 29 in favor. Ventria Bioscience will plant the rice in Geary County, Kansas, supposedly far enough away from other rice fields to prevent contamination. Do they know how this novel organism might interact with the ecosystem, such as earthworms and birds? How about under stressors such as drought? Guess we’ll find out. (Reuters)

Passing the food-safety buck: The FDA earlier this year came up with an ambitious, industry-endorsed plan calling for tough new regulations on the handling of fresh produce, but the plan went nowhere after it got a cold reception from FDA’s parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday (subscription required). An HHS spokeswoman says the February meeting was just a background session and didn’t require a policy or regulatory decision. Reuters recapped the story, but reading the original, sounds like the WSJ was following an FDA leak designed for spin control.

The treehuggers union?: Labor and environmental groups are working together to influence the conservation portion of the Food and Farm Bill. Labor’s motivation? Many labor union members hunt and fish, pasttimes that will be a lot more difficult if the entire Midwest is covered with corn. (The Hill)

Breaking even in the north: The number of farms and farmers in Canada continued their long-term decline, says a new report on Canadian agriculture. But the number of million-dollar farms is up. (Nova Scotia Business Journal)

Another week, another recall: A Michigan company is recalling 129,000 pounds of meat shipped to 16 states, because of possible E. coli contamination. (MILive (AP))

Study of 14,893 European children seems to show drinking farm milk reduces allergies and asthma (Reuters)

Utah farmers visit Washington to lobby for immigration reform (Salt Lake Tribune)

Center for Science in the Public Interest is suing Burger King for using trans fats (Reuters)

UK’s Sainsbury supermarkets see rise of 450% rise in sales of organic products last year (Daily Mail)

Ethanol pipeline industry wants Congress to ease risks with handouts (Congressional Quarterly)

Chinese catfish banned in three southern states (WMC TV)

[Features & Commentary & On the Blogs after the jump]


California is cooking: Whoa! Unbeknownst to us, the alumni magazine of UC Berkeley devoted its May/June issue to the food movement. We haven’t read even a fraction of it yet, but there’s a great, unusually in-depth look at Alice Waters’s attempt to revolutionize both school food and school curricula, a piece on New Ruralism (an eclectic outgrowth of farmers and urban planners), Michael Pollan on the Farm Bill, Eric Gower on breaking culinary rules, a roundtable about the state’s agricultural future, and more. Check it out. (California Magazine)

Cultural hero: Tom Philpott intervews fermentation maestro Sandor Katz, who “reminds us of the forgotten benefits of living in harmony with our microbial relatives” and has a lot to say about the fallacies of modern agriculture. (Grist)

This one’s for you, Walter: A comprehensive feature about how the federal National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is promoted as pro-health, but actually threatens healthy farming practices. Also delves into into who’s behind the plan, and who would benefit from it. (Mother Earth News)

Clucking awesome: Perhaps the world cutest poultry story, about a family raising chickens in a Manhattan apartment. (New York Times)

Meat as medicine: Transgenic livestock could play a critical role in developing new medications and cheaper treatments for human ailments, but their use remains controversial (to say the least) and faces regulatory, economic and societal challenges, according to a scientific paper released Monday, part of a series on how biotechnology is being used in animal agriculture. (Times Herald Record via AP)

Another side of Slow Food: Some members of the Boston convivium of Slow Food had decided they wanted to hold events that would be smaller, more intimate, and very affordable, while raising funds for the organization. Out of these needs, the slow-food potluck was born. (Grist)

Silent springtime: Examining the legacy of environmental icon Rachel Carson, 100 years after her birth. (Washington Post)

Breaking point: The ongoing stress of trying to stay on the land during a crippling drought has been tough on farmers across outback Australia. With the stress triggering depression and even suicide, doctors are warning the situation is reaching crisis point. (ABC Australia)

Kingsolver watch: Everybody’s new favorite locavore Barbara Kingsolver and Steven Hopp visit the KQED-FM studio. (KQED Forum)

Can’t stop the corn train, boys: A UC Davis professor and a former FDA commissioner argue that “in the absence of cost-effective, domestically available sources for producing ethanol, rather than using corn, it would make far more sense to import ethanol from Brazil and other countries that can produce it efficiently — and also to remove the 54-cents-per-gallon tariff on Brazilian ethanol imports.” (Los Angeles Times)

Ethanol boom drives food price up. Really.: Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development researchers that estimated increased corn prices driven by expanding U.S. ethanol production have increased U.S. retail food prices by $14 billion annually. Under a high-price crude oil scenario, the study projected U.S. ethanol production could by 2012 consume more than half of U.S. corn, wheat and other coarse grain production and trigger higher meat prices for consumers, reduced production across-the-board for all segments of the meat sector, and even greater reductions in grain and meat exports. (MeatPoultry.com)

It’s only un-natural: A coalition of poultry producers is mobilizing to push the USDA to tighten the definition of “natural,” a word food companies often use on their labels to appeal to health-conscious consumers. But never fear, they’re not seeking to ban the use of the label for factory chickens (if God had wanted chickens to have beaks, they’d e harder to cut off), just those that have been injected with artificial crap. Fun fact: In the late 1990s, a similar coalition secured a ban on labeling chicken as “fresh” if it had been chilled below 26 degrees Fahrenheit. The group’s official slogan was “If you can bowl with it, it’s not fresh”; it generated publicity by actually bowling with frozen chickens. (Cattle Network)


Meet your menu: Jay of the San Diego restaurant The Linkery is in Iowa visiting suppliers and learning about farming. Here’s his takeaway: “Hardworking people, attempting to make enough to keep their family’s land, farming only two crops they can’t eat and maintaining buildings packed with pigs they don’t want to eat, while their suppliers make good money. I honestly can’t say anyone I talked to in this situation really had much enthusiasm about it.” (The Linkery)

Say no to organic sausage in factory casings!: On the USDA’s scheming to water down organic standards for key products. This time, beer and sausage. (Gristmill)

Stalking the second-grade eaters: Ethicurean e-pal Leslie at Sustainable Table discusses a new report out this week about the tech-savvy ways that junk food companies are marketing to kids, and some cool games you can offer to thwart them. (At the Table)

Stop nuking our food: A grass-fed beef farmer discusses the creeping, unlabeled use of irradiation, including by a major hotel chain that she was going to partner with. (Well Fed Network)

Mapping U.S. manure: Once upon a time manure was a nutrient, not a contaminant, for the earth. Parke Wilde has a map of showing how immense factory farms are so concentrated in some counties — notably in North Carolina in recent years — that there is not enough cropland to dispose of all the waste that is created. (U.S. Food Policy)

One Responseto “Digest: FDA clears chicken and fish for melamine, GM rice to be planted in Kansas, lots lots more”

  1. Anastasia Bodnar says:

    Thanks for posting “All Cooped Up in a Manhattan Co-Op.” I desperately want to have some chickens of my own, which my husband does not understand at all. If they can have two in their apartment, certainly I can have a few in an Omlet in my yard! :)