Digest – News & Commentary: Irradiation, more cracks in China, the Arcadian philosophy

NEWS

Are you listening, FDA?: The Produce Marketing Association says it supports the irradiation of produce, but believes it should be labeled and that changing the label to "cold pasteurized" will only "confuse the public and could even be perceived as misleading.” (Press release)

starThe nuking war: A good, hard look at the current state of food irradiation, which the FDA says doesn't "materially change" the food it sterilizes but yet magically delays ripening in fruits like bananas and avocados, inhibits sprouting in root vegetables, and prevents mushroom caps from opening. Money quote, from Michael Jacobson at the CSPI: "Irradiation is a high-tech end-of-the-line solution to contamination problems that can and should be addressed earlier. Consumers prefer to have no filth on meat than to have filth sterilized by irradiation." (AlterNet)

You had us at "lean meat essence": A Chinese dissident wrote a book that listed all kinds of seriously disturbing information about the food products sold in his country. So why has it had so little impact? Note: Wait until you get to the passage about "placenta soup." (Newsweek)

The Chinese "Jungle": Are the latest food-safety scandals enough to push China toward its own Progressive Era? Maybe. (New York Times)

Boxer is for bees: California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and her allies want to authorize $89 million over five years for more research and grants to help reverse the decline in honeybees. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Africa's problems heating up: In southern Africa, a region already wracked by poverty, AIDS, and malaria, climate changes will make things worse unless businesses and governments adapt, scientists warn. (Washington Post / AP)

Senators want China to agree to be held liable for contaminated products (Suburban Journals)

New Jersey consumers sue Snapple for "natural" claims on label (NJ.com)

For some groups, China's food scandals are a dream come true (New York Times)

Health food maker promotes "China-Free" products (Reuters)

COMMENTARY

starStadium Arcadia-m: Writer David Baker muses at length, and with great intelligence, about what the newfound obsession with knowing where your food came from and how it was grown, or growing it yourself, means for both the U.K. and the U.S. — what he calls the "new Arcadianism" and describes as "not a Romantic return to wildness but a Horatian return to wholeness. But the return to wholeness is conveyed with a kind of millenarian urgency: the world is going to hell in handcart, the vast majority of western industrialised mankind are en route to perdition and what is needed is not universal war but some asparagus freshly picked and lightly steamed." (That last bit is a dig at Barbara Kingsolver, who he interviews.) (Financial Times)

Tropic of Cancer-causing reading: Henry I. Miller is a physician, molecular biologist, a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, former FDA biotech chief — and a first-rate crank. Last week he got to use the New York Times op-ed page as a megaphone for Monsanto's milk booster, and now he's blathering on over at a cozier home, the National Review. There, in the issue in which the NR finally admits climate change is real, Miller can be found parroting the usual garbage about how an "increase in the demand for organic foods could be catastrophic for the environment — and harmful to the poor" and that transgenic engineering is just a natural, safe extension of cross-breeding. Because really, what could be more natural than shooting plant cells with a "DNA gun" or deliberately infecting them with GM viruses? Guess we're just cynical. (National Review Online)

Bay of ethanol: Willliam Saletan on the debate over turning crops into fuel, or who's more right — George W. Bush and Fidel Castro. It's also in the Washington Post, but there you'd miss all the fun comments. (Slate)

Comments are closed.