Digest: Fetal exposure worries, monkfish might be toxic, Farm Bill play-by-plays

NEWS

Not the dose, but the timing: About 200 environmental scientists from five continents issued a grim warning that exposure to common chemicals makes babies more likely to develop an array of health problems later in life, including diabetes, attention deficit disorders, prostate cancer, fertility problems, thyroid disorders, and even obesity. The likely chemical perps? Compounds in plastics, cosmetics, and pesticides. (Los Angeles Times)

More poisonous food from China!: The Associated Press reports that a Chinese export labeled as monkfish has been recalled because it may contain a potent toxin usually associated with certain types of pufferfish. NPR's Morning Edition has an in-depth report on food imports from China, and a Q&A about the safety of our food supply with a former FDA commissioner. Why not just cut off imports until China gets its food-safety act together? MarketWatch says that U.S. soybean producers would pay too high a price. Consumers [shrug], we got millions of them to spare.

Watching the sausage being made: If your head is spinning attempting to follow what's going on with the Food and Farm Bill, you're not alone. Seems like even house Ag Chair Collin Peterson gets confused. Brownfield Network reports that Peterson said his mark-up of the farm bill conservation title might have gone differently "had he known he had a green light" to touch the $20 billion dollar reserve fund, meaning maybe Conservation Security Program (CSP) sign-up won't be frozen after all. For a great summary, check out Steph Larsen over at Gristmill, who breaks down where we are in the process and points to the scuttlebutt appearing on various Hill blogs about how there might not even be a Farm Bill passed this year, if the floor fight turns too bloody. Also, WashPo correspondent Dan Morgan has a guest post on FarmPolicy.com that explains some new twists, such as the Section 32 program that lets the USDA use a portion of annual customs duties to boost farm income, and how lawmakers are also eyeing the food-stamp program for as a possible weak target for raiding funding. Now go take an aspirin.

Pirates of the Mediterranean: Seven French ships attacked a fishery research vessel that was recording the illegal activities of a fleet of about 80 French fishing boats, which were using banned driftnets to catch tuna and swordfish in the Gulf of León and even within the Pelagos sanctuary, an international area in French, Italian and Monegasque waters set up for the protection of cetaceans. (Press release, via Gristmill)

Liquid assets: Coca-Cola announced today that it will buy Glaceau, the maker of Vitaminwater, for $4.2 billion in cash to "upgrade its portfolio of noncarbonated beverages, the sales of which have been growing much faster than soda." (New York Times)

Cheap food engenders no loyalty: Hormel Foods posted a lower-than-expected quarterly profit yesterday. Although sales of higher-end grocery items like microwave meals were strong, the company has "struggled to pass through higher feed costs in its Jennie-O Turkey Store business." (New York Times)

Over a hundred marine scientists beg WTO to push all countries to stop fishing-industry subsidies (Reuters)

Mild avian flu hits Welsh chicken farm (CIDRAP release)

USDA to allow public to comment on its handling of melamine contamination (Reuters)

Ireland holds imported feed because of GM material (Brownfield)

L.A. County considers ban on polystyrene containers (Los Angeles Times)

Whole Foods recalling tahini (sesame seed butter) for possible salmonella contamination (NY Daily News)

FEATURES & COMMENTARY

Boom goes the neighborhood: An interesting perspective on how for farmers, ethanol — with the high corn prices it brings — is looking less and less like a blessing and more like a curse. Write Lisa Hamilton, "It's beginning to feel ominously like the lead-up to the farm crisis of the 1980s, when high times led to unsustainable debt. They fear that the near future holds widespread foreclosure, not rural salvation." (AlterNet, via ChewsWise)

Damn those fava-planting squatters: Guerrilla gardeners have transform several empty city lots in San Francisco, sometimes controversially. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Economy vs. Ecology war over BC salmon farming: Aquaculture is big business in British Columbia, despite complaints from environmental activists. The federal and provincial governments depend on the industry to provide an alternative to declining wild stocks, and some coastal First Nations are caught in the middle in the economy vs. ecology debate. (The Tyee)

Arrivederci Vucciria: Celebrating — and elegizing — the dying 700-year-old farmers market Vucciria, in the heart of Palermo's historic old city. (New York Times) Meanwhile, the Seattle P-I is marking Seattle's Pike Place Market's centenary with some great features and slide shows.

Either/nor: Tom Philpott tackles the "food versus fuel" corn-based ethanol dilemma and says, "We're being asked to choose between low-quality food and low-quality fuel. ould reject both." (Grist)

More victims of ethanol: Hmong farmers, who immigrated to the U.S. after the Vietnam War, grow vegetables using organic and biodynamic techniques on rented land in Minnesota. With the ethanol boom driving up demand for corn, the landowners are pushing the Hmong out, even though their farms are three times more profitable than a typical Minnesota farm. (Star Tribune)

The American diet: Sunnyside councilman Eric Gioia spent a week eating on a food stamp budget. He was hungry all the time yet still managed to gain two pounds. (Queens Tribune)

Fin de siecle: In China, which accounts for more than half global shark fin consumption, people know little of how endangered sharks are, thinking them fierce killers and that eating their fins is good for the health and a demonstration of wealth, a survey found. (Reuters)

Ohio U. students sort through campus dining trash as part of composting pilot project (Athens OH News)

BLOG SNACKING

Now you're Cookin': The Environmental Working Group's Ken Cook directs several Molotov cocktails' worth of sarcasm at Big Oil and Big Ethanol in a must-read post. "Congress meanwhile has fingered the real culprit: price-gougers in the gas biz. The hunt for them is in full cry again on the Hill. (Can someone send in evidence of success from past hunts — preferably captured gas-gougers sprawled across the hood of a big, regulation black congressional SUV?)" Rock on, Ken! (Mulch)

You have to read it to believe it: It's the 100th anniversary of Rachel Carson's birth, and instead of celebrating the legacy of "Silent Spring," turns out there are entire astroturf groups out there dedicated to spewing pro-DDT propaganda over it. Fortunately, bloggers like Tim Lampert are busy debunking websites such as "Rachel Carson: we call her a baby killer." (Deltoid, via Gristmill)

This one's for Sam: The Guardian and the Observer have cooked up a new food blog, and one of the initial posts tackles the perennial charge of elitism and farmers markets. But wait! Writer Rachel Dixon cites research showing that much fresh produce is actually more expensive at UK supermarkets. With organic food, the price difference is striking: meat and poultry was found to be on average 37% more expensive at the supermarket, and vegetables were 33% cheaper at farmers' markets. (Word Of Mouth)

Obama jam: Christy Harrison on the various ways that the 2008 presidential candidates are positioning themselves around good — and bad — food. (The Grinder)

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