Digest – News: Bayer uncensured, another beef recall (yawn), fishy recommendations

We seem to have settled into a twice-weekly, midweek+weekend routine for the Digest. If you need to snack between our buffets, plenty of blogs now offer their own pithy links roundups to keep you informed, including this newish regular entry from Serious Eats, In the News (whose format may seem vaguely familiar).

Hello, Homeland Security? USDA needs help: A year after the USDA began investigating how the U.S. supply of long-grain rice became tainted with an unapproved-for-eating transgenic variety — which continues to disrupt U.S. exports — it announced yesterday that it could not figure out how the contamination happened. Therefore the government will not punish Bayer CropScience, the company whose gene-altered products slipped into the food supply. (Washington Post)

Topps topples: Topps Meat Company, one of the country’s largest manufacturers of frozen hamburgers, has gone out of business, a week after its recall of 21.7 million pounds of ground beef. (Bizarre aside: As a farewell, the company "held a barbecue where Topps hamburgers were cooked well done.") Meanwhile, the suppliers whose tainted beef it actually was remain unidentified, and presumably unpunished. (New York Times) Related: The USDA admits it could have acted faster in the Topps recall. The meat was known to be contaminated for 18 days before the order went out.

You can still eat them well-done, we hear: Cargill is recalling almost a million pounds of frozen beef patties due to — what else? — possible E. coli contamination following four cases of illness linked to a Sam’s Club (a Wal-Mart division) in Minnesota. (Reuters)

Economist photoOutback and shoot’em: Australia’s drought-plagued farmers are "dried up, washed out, fed up." (Economist)

Picking and choosing among labor laws: With a nationwide farmworker shortage threatening to leave unharvested fruits and vegetables rotting in fields, the Bush administration has begun quietly rewriting federal regulations to make it easier to bring foreign laborers into the country. (LA Times)

Scaling back on mercury: Reuters reports that "experts" are urging women to eat even more fish while pregnant, but you might want to first look behind who’s talking, advises the excellent Blogfish, echoed by Eating Liberally, who compares the recommendation to an industry-sponsored Astroturf campaign. Meanwhile, a newly published research paper discussed at ES&T News concludes that reductions of mercury emissions from sources like coal power plants will reduce the concentration of mercury in fish in the near term, and therefore reduce the exposure of fish-eating humans to mercury. However, thanks to the Bush Administration’s loyalty to power companies, regulations to reduce mercury emission are not expected anytime soon.

A different reason to lay off the fish: Bad news for the hopes of rebuilding decimated fisheries — steelhead trout grown in hatcheries apparently lose their ability to produce offspring in the wild, raising concerns about whether captive breeding programs can help save endangered fish, a new study concludes. (AP)

Scary new term alert: Birds on the Canadian farm where avian flu was detected have been "depopulated." (Brownfield Network)

Mommy, my art teacher turned my Peep into roadkill: A Chicago-area middle-school instructor is fired for either trying "to wake young people up to the politics of eating" or disseminating a radical pro-vegan agenda, depending on how you look at it. (NewsBlaze)

But next time, please use your dog’s name: Whole Foods has completed its investigation into online financial message board postings board by CEO John Mackey and continues to support him. (AP)

Not an improvement: More on the opposition to the EPA’s approval of methyl iodide (aka iodomethane) as a replacement for methyl bromide, which has been banned by international treaty, as a soil fumigant on crops like strawberries. (AP)

Avian flu mutating: The H5N1 bird flu virus has mutated to infect people more easily, although it still has not transformed into a pandemic strain. (Reuters)

Just say non: Orama, a lobbying group for French grain and oilseed growers, says that France’s more-or-less complete ban on growing GMOs will damage French agriculture’s future prospects. Importing GMO-containing foods is currently allowed by French law. (Reuters)

U.S. will not penalize Bayer for contaminating rice with transgenic version (New York Times)

Kraft recalls white baking chocolate on fears of salmonella (Chicago Tribune)

Vidarbha farmers’ suicides inspire highway blockade across India (Env. News Service)

House committee is requesting EPA’s reports on the hazards of popcorn flavorings (House Oversight Committee)


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