Digest – News & Commentary: Stress + fast food = obesity; EU to plant GMOs

NEWS

starStressed-out, supersized mice: Researchers have found the neurochemical pathway in mice that makes them fat when subjected to chronic stress and a junk-food diet. They've also found how blocking those signals can prevent fat accumulation and shrink fat deposits, "while stimulating the pathway can strategically create new ones, possibly offering new ways to remove fat as well as to mold youthful faces, firmer buttocks and bigger breasts." Why even bother trying to decrease our stress levels, or change our diet, when we can manipulate our brain chemistry instead? (Washington Post)

Because following America's lead has worked out so well recently?: In a move widely seen as buckling under to U.S. pressure, the European commission is about to give the go-ahead to the first commercially grown transgenic crops since a public outcry nine years ago halted their cultivation. (Times Online)

McDonald's UK moooves to organic milk: Consumer demand in the U.K. for organic food is creating problems that could end up irrevocably damaging consumer confidence in the industry. Newsworthy tidbit: McDonald's announced that by the end of this month, all the milk used in the tea and coffee it sells in its 1,200 restaurants in the UK will come from organic British cows. (The Observer)

Which came first, the chicken or the feed: Hawaii's local egg producers are having trouble competing with eggs grown on "the mainland." Ironically, one of the biggest problems for local producers is the cost of shipping in chicken feed. (Honolulu Star Bulletin)

Cheap meat means cheap profits: Meat producer Smithfield Foods says it has been able to absorb soaring corn costs by raising its own prices by about 5.5 cents per pound. Currently, the company produces about 3 billion pounds of processed meats in the U.S. and makes between 4 cents and 6 cents per pound. (Houston Chronicle)

30 farm and community groups unite to oppose Section 123 (USDA preemption of local laws) (Grand Island Independent)

California has set a record price for milk; spike will make other products more expensive, too (San Francisco Chronicle)

COMMENTARY

starGene theory questioned: This interesting, but somewhat opaque New York Times piece by Denise Caruso, author of the stellar nonfiction book "Intervention" (our review of which is criminally overdue), looks at how current gene theory just might be all wrong. According to Caruso's take, not only would this invalidate most industrial patents on genes, but the "evidence of a networked genome shatters the scientific basis for virtually every official risk assessment of today’s commercial biotech products, from genetically engineered crops to pharmaceuticals." Over at the ScienceBlog Evolgen, RPM says Caruso "muddies the waters by overemphasizing the importance of the recent ENCODE paper. At least, we think she's writing about ENCODE". Several commenters pick apart Caruso's assertions; none of them seem aware of her book.

Greenies eat more greens than meat: A good op-ed reminder about how eating "lower on the food chain" saves more resources. To whit: "To produce a pound of wheat, it takes about 25 gallons of water, a lot of sun and less than an acre of land. Yet it takes 16 pounds of wheat and soy, along with 2,500 gallons of water, to make one tiny pound of beef. More than half our farmland and half our water consumption is currently tied up by the meat industry." (Record Online)

star"Low-hanging fruit": A fascinating insider's look at why Tyson's new antibiotic-free line of chicken is "the right call at the right time" for the health of the Big Meat industry. (MeatPoultry.com; registration required)

Step up and lead, please: What unfolds with the Farm Bill over the next several weeks bears watching both for not only agriculture and trade, but for what the process will say about the leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other key Democrats. (Des Moines Register)

2 Responsesto “Digest – News & Commentary: Stress + fast food = obesity; EU to plant GMOs”

  1. Gregory Emerson says:

    Regarding the "lower on the food chain" article:

    The argument that eating higher up on the food chain is intrinsically unsustainable only applies to the industrial food chain. A grass-fed cow eats exactly zero pounds of corn, wheat and soy over the course of its lifespan. Though grass growth requires water, as long as the grasslands are not irrigated this water usage does not reflect a net loss. In fact, if the grasslands are well managed and integrated with a sorrounding forest ecosystem, the ranch may actually create more water than it uses. Contrast this with California grown rice, which may be "low on the food chain" but still requires an enormous waste of resources to produce.

    This whole "Diet For a Small Planet" explanation of the food chain is an outdated oversimplification written by a woman who did not understand the first thing about sustainable agriculture. Solar power is a near-limitless resource, and it is absurd to talk about "wasting" solar energy. Any food that ultimately derives its energy from the sun is intrinsically sustainable, no matter how high up on the food chain it may lie.

  2. Bonnie aka Dairy Queen says:

    Hi Gregory -- Thanks for saying what we should have said, if a) we had room in the Digest and b) our brains were functioning in the proper skeptical mode. You're exactly right. Solar-powered food is the key!