Digest: China condemns ex-head of food agency, bees’ needs, Swift & Co. acquired


U.S. FDA head very glad he is not Chinese: China has sentenced the former head of its food and drugs agency to death for corruption. The sentence, which could still be reduced on appeal, reflects the weight China's top leaders are giving to the issues of corruption and food safety as they grapple with the fallout overseas after a series of safety breaches involving toxins in food and other products. Given how well capital punishment works to deter crime in this country, we're sure the Chinese food system will reform itself immediately. (Washington Post/Reuters)

Stinging accusations: A must-read Salon roundtable discussion with bee experts. As they outlined some of the biological agents behind colony collapse disorder, and dismissed others much debated on the Internets (you can turn your cell phone back on), they list the ways in which we are forever altering the planet's delicate web of life and likely about to experience a wave of industrial disease. (Salon)

More consolidation in the meat industry: Bloomberg reports J&F Participacoes SA, which controls JBS SA, Latin America's biggest meat producer, agreed to acquire Swift & Co. of the U.S. for $225 million in cash to create the world's largest beef and pork processor. The acquisition will give JBS access to the U.S, the world's top consumer of beef, and open Asian markets such as Japan, which ban imports from Brazil. The Greeley Tribune speculates that the company might move the hog operations of Swift to South America but most likely would sell those operations of Swift, as well as the lamb processing plant in Greeley.

Dept. of Better Late than Never: China will put in place a system allowing the recall of unsafe or unapproved food products. (Reuters)

Drawing the line: Ag Com chair Collin Peterson says that funding commodity programs will not increase in the next Food and Farm Bill. "I've told them they're going to have to live with what they have" (more than $40 billion over the next five years). (CQ Today Midday)

Calif. farmers mobilize to defeat slashing of Williamson Act (Sacramento Bee)


What do those urban eggheads know: The Gray Lady opines in favor of the Food and Farm Bill reforms proposed by Sen. Richard Lugar and Rep. Ron Kindthat would phase out agricultural subsidies and replce them with a single “risk-management account” whose main purpose would be to cushion farmers from annual price swings. (The New York Times)

Labors lost: A great, informative rant about the proposed guest-worker program and "the essential hypocrisy" of those who oppose immigration, whose "goal is not to keep out immigrants, who are indispensable to the U.S. economy, but rather to control and exploit them more effectively." (Mother Jones)

Oh, the environy: A record harvest should be good for farmers, right? Not in the southern Africa country of Malawi, where farmers have plenty of corn but no one to buy it. And at the same time, the U.S. pledges aid for the hungry of Malawi, not in cash, but in — wait for it — corn (and soybeans). After packaging and transport is factored in, the food product made with U.S. is 2.5 times more expensive than if made from locally grown corn (and would provide jobs for Malawians). Citizens of Malawi, of course, do not have a voice in the Food and Farm Bill being discussed in Congress. (The Observer)

Two Hmongs don't make a right: The Crider poultry-processing plant in Stillmore, Ga., lost two-thirds of its work force last year after a federal immigration agency raid. Since then, Crider has scrambled to replace the employees and in an unusual experiment, has recruited a small group of Laotian Hmong refugees to move from Minnesota to Georgia, hoping they'll start a new community. (NPR)

Granny cooks, they deliver: In India, where many traditions are being rapidly overturned as a result of globalization, the practice of eating a home-cooked meal for lunch lives on. Mumbai residents rely on a chain of delivery men, called dabbawallas, who manage to deliver tens of thousands of meals with near-clockwork precision for pennies apiece. (New York Times)

You're not alone, Potato Non Grata: In the grocery store, many men have difficulty finding items, forego buying rather than risk purchasing a substitute for an item on the list, and hesitate to ask for help if they can't find an item, says a new report on men's supermarket shopping habits. Soon to be followed by a reductionist survey of women's behavior in Home Depot. (Reuters)

The N crowd: Natalie Angier pens a poetic discussion of the role and makeup of nitrogen in life. (New York Times)


Technology blossoms on the farm: Fruit farmer and Organic Shmorganic blogger Michael Biltonen has posted his first video dispatch from Stone Ridge Farm detailing the pollination of apple trees. (YouTube)

Neighbors helping neighbors: The North Dakota program Farm Rescue was started by volunteers to help struggling farm families. It doesn't cut checks, but puts each family's major crop into the ground and helps harvest it. Has a link to some great multimedia clips of various Farm Rescue projects. (Bismarck Tribune)

Rachel Carson has not killed African babies: Living on Earth reviews the life and legacy of Rachel Carson. The story includes a recording of Carson herself saying, "Anyone who has really read the book knows that I do not advocate the complete abandonment of chemical control, that I criticize modern chemical control, not because it controls harmful insects but because it controls them badly and inefficiently; and because it creates many dangerous side effects in doing so. I criticize the present methods because they are based on a rather low level of scientific thinking. We really are capable of much greater sophistication in our solution to this problem." (transcript and download available). (Living on Earth)

One Responseto “Digest: China condemns ex-head of food agency, bees’ needs, Swift & Co. acquired”

  1. We really do need to eliminate subsidies. Not just for farms but for everything. The worst subsidies are for fuel. It propagates throughout our economy making it appear to be cheap to ship food from the other side of the world. Elimination of subsidies would let people see the real costs and then the markets would react appropriately. People will conserve when it costs them enough.