Digest – News & opinion: Antibiotics freakout, Gupta as Doc-in-Chief, duelling op-ed duos
Side of spinach, hold the tetracycline: Researchers at the University of Minnesota find that when crops are fertilized with manure from animals routinely fed antibiotics (a common practice in CAFOs to help them survive their living conditions), the antibiotics are absorbed into the crops. This is an old study, but an article published Tuesday gave it new legs on the Internet. Look for a longer post on the topic from Elanor, the Ethicurean's manure maven, over the weekend. (Environmental Health News)
How about that corn tax, Doc?: Obama is rumored to have offered the job of surgeon general to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the neurosurgeon and correspondent for CNN and CBS. (Washington Post) While he seems like a lightweight, we remember Gupta fondly for his awakening to the cornification of America. (Better late than never.) Our new favorite blog, Obama Foodorama, calls it an "excellent move in terms of changing the amazingly bad American food safety barfscape." But Stephen Colbert fears Gupta will make us eat penises. (Yes, you read that right.)
No bailout can save our soil: Food-movement heroes Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson deliver a terrific "End Times"-ish op-ed calmly explaining how, for "50 or 60 years, we have let ourselves believe that as long as we have money we will have food. That is a mistake. If we continue our offenses against the land and the labor by which we are fed, the food supply will decline, and we will have a problem far more complex than the failure of our paper economy. The government will bring forth no food by providing hundreds of billions of dollars to the agribusiness corporations." What we need, they say, is a 50-year Farm Bill…presumably one that's less friendly to industrial ag. (New York Times).
And now for something completely different: Another joint op-ed, this one from Marshall Matz, Obama's campaign adviser on ag issues, and politician George McGovern, takes the opposite point of view, saying industrial's the solution. And organic? Well, it's nice for the suckers who pay more for it. (Chicago Tribune) We'd bitch about it more, but Tom Philpott does so with more eloquent fury. (Gristmill)
"Hog fatigue" you call it?: California's new ban on processing downer animals faces court challenges from meat industry groups. While we think vets, not courts, should make the decision whether an animal is too sick to slaughter for food, the whole system sucks. (Press Enterprise)
Yo soy scandalized!: In a press release we just almost junked without reading, we've learned that at the request of the American Soybean Association (ASA), the USDA will audit and/or investigate the National Soybean Checkoff Program. ASA wants the United Soybean Board and the U.S. Soybean Export Council scrutinized to ensure that soybean checkoff dollars — basically a tax producers have to pay for national marketing campaigns — are being properly managed. Yawn, you say? The press release mentions concerns over "use of a knife against another individual by an employee at an official function," "an improper sexual relationship disrupting the management of the Japan foreign office and jeopardizing U.S. soy exports to that market" and more. Who knew soy was so sexy? (ASA press release)
Cheap food's expensive side: A new study finds that a surprising number of inland freshwater bodies are polluted by excess nitrogen and phosophorus (much of it coming from industrial agriculture), which leads to losses of over $4 billion per year in decreased property value, reduced recreational opportunities, and additional water treatment. Little of these losses are borne by agricultural interests. (Environmental Science and Technology News)
Filling up at Starbucks: Researchers at the University of Nevada-Reno have produced biodiesel fuel from spent coffee grounds. The grounds, which contain 11 to 20% oil (by weight), are dried and then reacted with solvents to remove the oil. The remaining material can be used as fertilizer or turned into fuel pellets. (Green Car Congress)
Life's easy when you own it: Bolstered by rising demand for GM seeds in Latin America, Monsanto reports that net profit for its first quarter doubled. Monsanto currently controls more than 25% of the global market for corn seed. (WSJ MarketWatch)
Crimson with pride: A Harvard undergrad tells AgSec-apparent Vilsack, a fellow Cambrugian, how to bring sanity to the USDA. Among his recommendations: Don't let the agency continue to be a revolving door for industry lobbyists or subsidize factory farms. Well, if you're gonna use the old boys' network for things like that, we can live with it. (Harvard Crimson)
Estimating the fuel impacts of obese drivers and passengers (Engineering at Illinois)
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