Digest – News: Anti-biotics, working for the (corporate) man, and the price of obesity

More squealing from the porkers: The National Pork Producers Council objects to federal legislation introduced Tuesday by Rep. Louise Slaughter (no pun intended, really), the only microbiologist in the U.S. Congress, that would restrict the use of medically-important antibiotics in livestock production. (Brownfield) Parke Wilde comments. (U.S. Food Policy) (See background post on the use of antibiotics and how it leads to superbugs in meat here)

But surprise, a progressive California paper loves it: Despite forgetting to mention that its own State Senator Dean Florez introduced similar legislation several weeks ago, the LA Times editorial board goes whole-hog for Rep. Slaughter’s federal bill. (LA Times) Over on Grist, Tom Philpott takes a close look at the bill. (Gristmill)

Foodborne illness is a growth market: In quintessential U.S. corporate style, Silicon Valley companies are eying the recent rise in foodborne illness… and seeing dollar signs. Valley companies are hoping to jump on the bandwagon calling for electronic farm-to-fork traceability (which, btw, would be mandated under a food safety bill introduced by Rep. Dingell (D-MI), HR 759) by developing the software. (San Jose Mercury News – thanks, Diana!)

Note to self – become a better industry hack: In a report to higher-ups, the USDA’s Inspector General reviews how well his agency is promoting genetically modified U.S. crops abroad and finds that it “lacks a coordinated, comprehensive strategy” for foisting our frankenfoods on countries that block U.S. imports of GM foods based on the precautionary principle (wusses). Stunning fact of the day, from the report: Over the last decade, GM plantings in the United States have increased from 3.6 million acres to 143 million acres, and in 2007, American producers accounted for 50% of GM plantings worldwide. (USDA [PDF])

Obesity is cheap: In the no-shit department, a study finds that price affects people’s food choices. It goes so far as to suggest that policies that make healthy food less expensive and unhealthy food costly (just the opposite of our current food and farm policies) could curb obesity. (Milbank Quarterly via EurekAlert)

Taking it on the chin(ook): In the midst of the second consecutive closure of the California salmon fishery, a new report finds that chinook salmon populations in California are simultaneously facing two dangerous stresses. In the streams and rivers, they are hit by lower flows and warmer water; in the ocean, the food supply is lower because of changing ocean currents. (San Francisco Chronicle)

When corporations talk, Congress listens: The CEO of Kellogg, which lost nearly $70 million in recalled peanut products, will tell lawmakers today that the U.S. food safety system must be overhauled and that the country needs an authority within the Department of Health and Human Services devoted solely to food safety. (Reuters)

Growing up on campus: A significant number of college students are taking their passion for environmental policy to the dining hall and growing sustainable food on campus. (Campus Progress)

Down with downers: Gourmet’s Barry Estabrook praises the USDA for finally growing a pair and banning downer cows from the food supply. (Gourmet.com)

Or you could just eat food, not too much, mostly plants: If you’re wondering just how bad that processed snack is you’re about to buy in desperation, help is on the way by phone. GoodGuide, a Web site that rates the impact of a wide range of consumer products on health and the environment, is adding more than 30,000 packaged foods to its 66K-plus database — and all listings are available online via smart phones. Users can call 41411, text “gguide” and the barcode of a packaged food. Seconds later, the evaluation is available. Scores include an analysis of nutritional offerings; potentially hazardous ingredients, environmental impact; the social, labor and political practices of the manufacturer. (San Francisco Chronicle)

A bill in Washington’s State Senate would extend loans to support USDA-certified mobile slaughter units (Seattle Weekly) (See background post here)

Volunteers pick four tons of oranges for the needy in Chatsworth, California (L.A. Daily News)

3 Responsesto “Digest – News: Anti-biotics, working for the (corporate) man, and the price of obesity”

  1. I don’t understand the “good food=expensive” “bad food=cheap” obesity argument. Even not counting what we grow ourselves it is far, far cheaper to buy basic ingredients of good food and cook for yourself than it is to buy the fattening “bad foods” which are all processed and actually far more expensive. This seems like a lame argument for people to make as excuse for not cooking. Take the time. It’s fun. It’s healthy. It’s good family time. It’s good calm time. Just because you have little money is no excuse to buy junk food. I know what it is like to live way, way sub-poverty – it is far cheaper, as well as healthier, to cook for yourself than to buy the junk food which is actually more expensive.

    On the food illness software industry, that is a big part of what is driving the USDA’s/Big Ag’s proposed National Animal Identification System (NAIS) (http://NoNAIS.org). The tag and software makers see a huge market they can make off the backs of consumers and farmers. Government mandated profits for them that will drive the cost of food up, drive out small farmers all while not actually increasing your food security, quality or safety. Anything mandated by the government will be far more wasteful, inefficient and costly to consumers than if it were done privately for private market reasons. The fact is we don’t need to electronically track food farm-to-fork. Virtually all food born disease is caused after the food leaves the farm at the processor, storage, stores or consumers homes. Forcing farmers to tag the food will just increase costs. If you want good food, grow it yourself or buy it locally. Stop buying the Mega Producer stuff.

    Congrats to the USDA for finally banning downers. Frankly, as a farmer, I can’t imagine allowing them into the commercial food supply. I have eaten older, non-mobile livestock but I knew the animal personally. I knew exactly what was wrong with it. I knew that it was not a health concern. However I would never have sold that animal to a customer – it is just for our consumption and to feed our livestock guardian dogs. If there is any question, it shouldn’t be in the human food supply. Seems simple so why did it take so long for downers to get banned? Greed.

    On the antibiotics, we need to express our support for them. I have written to Senator Edwards and Representative Slaughter as well as to my Congressional critters:

    I am a member of the NHNPC and an independent pork producer. I strongly disagree with the National Pork Producers Council (NNPC) position on antibiotics (and a lot of other things).  As a farmer, a consumer, a parent and a citizen I urge you to ban the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock (same for humans). This is especially imporant with types of antibiotics used to treat human diseases.

    Note that I am not one of your constituents, I’m in neighboring Vermont, but this issue is very important and I have previously written to my representative and senators about this. I write to you because I heard that you are introducing legislation to band the use of antibiotics. I urge you on with this important issue. I realize you will get a lot of opposition from the NNPC with their high paid Big Ag lobbyists but please get this bill through.


    -Walter Jeffries
    Sugar Mountain Farm
    Pastured Pigs & Sheep
    in the mountains of Vermont

  2. I was caught up in the cheap food cycle for a long time. When I went out on my own to make my way in the world, I could boil water, but barely cook anything else. Mom’s specialties were Stouffers and Kelloggs. Pillsbury was ever-present, but vegetables made rare appearances, and then were frozen or canned. Not a lame excuse, simply a lack of knowledge led me to the processed food aisle. “We have an FDA and a USDA to protect me, so surely the food at my store is good for eating,” was my thinking.

    It’s taken a lot of self-education to get me to where I am now. To pursue this education, I had to turn off the TV, read real books, do internet research and teach myself to cook. I invested in good cookware and knives, and am thankful I had the resources to do that. But with the conflicting information out there, it is an uphill battle. One must constantly reassess new claims and be willing to seek out the truth.

    Not everyone is willing or able to put in the hours I have. Not everyone has access to research, or is trained in rhetoric and logic to winnow the truth. As long as there are a multitude of voices saying conflicting things, and as long as we believe the “powers that be” will protect us from ourselves, it is unlikely a generation will be raised that thinks, and cooks, for themselves.

  3. Red Icculus says:

    If people would be responsible and realize they are shoveling garbage into their mouth, they wouldn’t be obese.  Unfortunately, onerous government regulation like subsidies for corn makes it easily accessible to the poor and stupid.  You are responsible for the decisions that you make in your life.  Don’t blame others for your poor judgement.