Digest: Superbug plaguing European farm animals, sturgeon threatened, Farm Bill solution

We have almost 200 responses on our 15-minute Digest survey — if you haven’t taken it already, help put us over the top of that nice round number.


And we thought Europe was safer: A new strain of antibiotics-resistant staphylococcus is spreading rapidly among farmers in Europe, causing an array of serious infections in residents of the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium and Germany. The superbug is thought to have arisen in pigs fed antibiotics to protect them against farm-borne diseases and boost their growth. (Guardian Unlimited)

Caviar emptor: A great investigative report in the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday examined how rising demand for the legendary caviar of the Caspian Sea has created an unprecedented poaching frenzy for sturgeon, a virtual free-for-all to capture the last few remaining fish. Our eyebrows are raised by the unconscionably blithe sidebar that ran with it, supposedly about how guilt-free California farmed caviar is widely available, but mostly urging caviar lovers to go Kazakhstan and buy some black-market caviar while it still exists.

Give us a new New Deal: If you have Farm-Bill-coverage fatigue, buck up with this excellent, essay-length post by Tom Philpott about how a serious supply-management policy on the part of the U.S. government could fix our broken food system, support farmers big and small, open world markets — and seriously piss off Big Agribiz by taking their monopolistic power back away. Too bad it will never happen … anyone up for a march on Washington? (Gristmill)

Apple attack: U.S. apple growers are bracing themselves against an expected flood of cheap Chinese rivals, and hoping Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations will be enacted. China now grows five times as many apples as the U.S. — nearly half of all apples grown in the world. Factoid: Chinese apple pickers make about 28 cents an hour, compared with $9 for Pennsylvanian and $14 for Washington state pickers. (USA Today)

We might be on China’s side in this one: In one of the oddest twists of China’s food-safety system, China has blocked 39 attempts by its food industry to import Canadian peas and other pulse crops. But what’s even odder is the explanation: Frozen Canadian clams were flagged for having over twice the allowable level of cadmium, a heavy metal and known carcinogen — but “Canada and the rest of the international community have a certain tolerance for cadmium in shellfish.” (Globe and Mail)

Hop to it: Wisconsin farmers are attempting to grow hops organically, despite a disadvantageously damp climate. (Mildew can ruin an entire crop in a matter of days.) Unlike some farm products, hops require very little marketing, with brewers clamoring for organic hops…or at least they were until the USDA permanently opened the loophole in the organic standards (see Saturday’s Digest). (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Buy a jar or three of local honey today!: Cheap honey imports (and the bee plague called colony collapse disorder) are hurting honeybee farmers. Says one: “The coup de grace? Sell us your honey at 60 cents less than you produced it for, or get out.” Factoid: Honey sold at WalMart could have come from five different countries. (Associated Press)

Recently decertified dairy Case Vander Eyk has decided to pull out of the organic program for good (Chews Wise)

Moscow introduces city-wide label to identify GM-free foods (Reuters)

Pennsylvania dairies (owned by Dean Foods) tell farmers to quit using artificial hormones; farmers unhappy (Lancaster Farming)

Chicago farmers market to accept food stamp card (Chicago Tribune)

The challenging life of Chinese farmers (BBC)

Organic spice growing initiative launched in India (The Economic Times)

More on the possible health hazards of foie gras (Philadelphia Inquirer)


Planck spanked: The Times’ public editor criticizes “Real Food” author Nina Planck (and the op-ed page editors) for her controversial opinion piece, “Death by Veganism,” in which she condemned all vegan parents because of two that starved their child to death. (The New York Times)

Grassfed nation: Small ranchers in Colorado — the state that formed the feedlot-and-slaughterhouse backdrop for much of Eric Schlosser’s book “Fast Food Nation” — are getting into grass-fed meat, and this article contains some refreshingly blunt talk about conventional beef practices. “We don’t even consider ourselves part of the beef industry anymore,” says one. “I told my wife the other day, if I wasn’t in ranching I would certainly seek out someone like me.” (Daily Sentinel)

clones_01.jpgJust don’t make us eat them: William Saletan on the state of transgenic animals in science and medicine, and how the only people currently opposing humanized mouse brains, for example, are the same ones who don’t believe in evolution. (Slate) (Photo illustration by Bart Nagel, aka Potato Non Grata; originally published by Salon.com)

We couldn’t agree more: Northwestern Illinois is debuting a new food logo, “Grown Local,” and a local paper opines, “In an economy that puts a premium on price over quality, this is a good idea for local consumers…Compromising quality for the sake of profit is never a good idea when it comes to what’s served for dinner.” (The Journal-Standard)

Eat our greens, please: California salad-bowl agricultural leaders say they have made great strides in improving safety procedures and have strongly reduced the chances of another multi-state E. coli in produce scare. New food-safety practices and state inspections are set to begin Aug. 1. (Salinas Californian)

A farm policy for the whole nation: Another big newspaper’s editorial board calls for agricultural policy reform. Sample: “A small minority of farm states has controlled U.S. agricultural policy for far too long. It’s time for the rest of the country to wean agribusiness off the dole.” (L.A. Times)

Just say “non!” to “cocholat”: An op-ed notes that the comment period has ended for whether the FDA revises its definition of chocolate (we covered it here) to allow candy makers to swap cocoa butter for cheaper, lesser fats, and debunks such advocates’ claims. (New York Times)

Q&A with David W.K. Acheson, FDA’s food-protection “czar” (Boston Globe)

Basmati rice development charts new course for marketing traditional knowledge (Financial Express)

Ethical consumerism in Canada “lags far behind many places overseas,” particularly in fair-trade area (The Star)


Thanks, we’ll have the California roll: Under the rather disturbing headline “Waiter, There’s Deer in My Sushi,” the New York Times explores how a shortage of tuna has Japanese chefs considering alternatives such as smoked venison or raw horse meat. Related: U.S. accuses Europe of overfishing tuna in Atlantic.

Totalitarian puppet masters: David Barboza on the dangers of following tainted goods back to China’s factories. (New York Times)

Viva La Cocina!: A “kitchen incubator” known by its Spanish name La Cocina, in San Francisco’s Mission District, helps women, most of them immigrants, to start their own food businesses — often by making traditional food products for sale in local farmers markets. (New York Times)

Wine pairings for summer produce dishes (SF Chronicle)

Color-coded dinner plate helps diabetics shed pounds (Reuters)

Canada debuts its first ambulance for transporting obese patients (Reuters)

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