New media = new image?: Monsanto has been a punching bag in the blogosphere for years. We should know. Now, the biotech giant has not only launched an ad campaign aimed at food's "thought leaders," it's digging into its deep pockets to fund a new Facebook presence, Twitter stream, and a blog, Monsanto According to Monsanto. (St. Louis Post Dispatch) Our favorite post has to be "Monsanto - We're Just Like You." Yeah, just like us — if we worked at a company that coerces states into passing laws limiting milk labeling to protect its growth hormone market, that intimidates farmers, and that has polluted communities around the world.
Update: Monsanto's social-media director has responded to this blurb in the comments section.
Has ObFo bugged the White House?: How else could L.A. blogger Eddie once again scoop everyone in announcing that Sam Kass has been named the White House Food Initiative Coordinator? Perhaps she's just the best-connected food-pol blogger ever. As she points out, this means the First Lady apparently wants to make food issues a formal policy platform, with Kass to play a big role. (Obama Foodorama)
Paging Dave Murphy! Your 15 minutes have been extended to a starring role: Over at Grist, equally wonky Tom Laskaway weighs in on last week's much-debated Times piece about whether the food movement has come of age. He zeroes in on its historic (and often accurate) portrayal as a fad, a "self-help rather than a social movement." But now it's got political power, says Laskaway, thanks in large part to the big Iowan dude behind Food Democracy Now (recently profiled in the Post).
Anti-terror = pro-terroir: Local farmers are changing the frame and arguing that supporting local food should fall under the government's homeland security efforts. Regionally produced food offers security against tainted imports like melamine-laced Chinese milk powder, and having a functioning local food system will be critical in the event of a terrorist attack. Apparently, the government agrees: homeland security officials are working with major grocers to create a strategy for distributing local food in the case of emergency. Can't they do it before then, too? (Norwitch (CT) Bulletin)
SOLE food is so … scary?: Eddie reports on how haters are finding Michelle Obama's sustainable food-related activity unpalatable (Obama Foodormama). Meanwhile Jill gets her hands on a letter promoting conventional (aka chemical) agriculture that Mid America CropLife Association sent to Michelle Obama, then forwarded around with this message: "The White House is planning to have an "organic" garden … great idea, [but] the thought of it being organic made Janet Braun, CropLife Ambassador Coordinator and I shudder." (La Vida Locavore)
Maybe it's just the F in HFCS to blame?: ScienceDaily.com reports that Johns Hopkins researchers are thinking that fructose is metabolized differently than glucose by the brain, in such a way that it may increase food intake and by extension, obesity. (Press release here; Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications paper here.) Maybe high-fructose corn syrup ain't just like sugar after all. We're sure the Corn Refiners Association will stop by within seconds to put us straight.
Traceability becomes a value-add: Most food manufacturers and distributors cannot identify the suppliers or recipients of their products despite federal rules that require them to do so, federal health investigators have found, reports one New York Times piece, while another a few days later in the Technology section touts how small, cutting-edge small food companies like Stone-Buhr flour are using the Web to connect consumers to the farmers who grow their products.
Accountability is good too: Cargill Meat Solutions, the second-largest beef processor in North America, as adopted video monitoring at all its beef slaughterhouses. ()
Washington is buzzing … about the first-ever White House beehive. Charlie Brandts, a White House carpenter for 25 years, is now the First Beekeeper. (US News blog)
Poultry growers say regulations are crap: Chicken producers in the "Delmarva" peninsula — many of whom raise birds for large companies like Perdue and Tyson — are sounding alarms as the deadline nears for them to apply for EPA permits and monitor their discharge of poultry manure into waterways. But environmentalists say it's crucial: the region turns out far more manure than it can deal with. Last year Delaware, which alone produces nearly 250 million broiler chickens a year, subsidized the transport of nearly 110,000 tons of chicken manure to other farms and — interestingly — to a Perdue-owned organic fertilizer plant in order to lessen the impact on the environment. (Delaware News Journal)
Maine dairy down the tubes?: Retail milk prices in Maine haven't budged much in recent months, but the state's dairy farmers have seen their income drop by half. Now, due to budget cuts, a state subsidy program that helps dairymen and -women weather the worst price downturns may get the ax. The number of dairy farms in the state has dropped from 2,000 to 331 since 1980—could this be the end of Maine's dairy industry? (Kennebec Journal)
Which one is Lee Marvin?: The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture checks out the Environmental Working Group’s updated Dirty Dozen list, in which the EWG ranks conventionally grown fruits and vegetables based on their pesticide residue. (CUESA's Weekly E-letter)
Planting ideas: Plant pathologists tell policymakers they need more information (that is, research) to be able to identify the best ways to avoid pathogens in the food system. (American Phytopathological Society news release)
That's not what we thought "plumping" meant: Industrial poultry producer Foster Farms is launching a consumer awareness campaign to inform shoppers how other companies practice "plumping," or injecting fresh chicken with unusable saltwater. ()
Wooly bellies: The curly-haired, luxuriously fatty Mangalitsa pigs of Hungary are back in style, particularly among U.S. chefs. There's only one American breeder of Mangalitsas, Heath Putnam in Auburn, Wash. (who Ethicurean readers may remember from his cantankerous Wooly Pigs blog). (New York Times)
Bon appetit! Marc Gunther investigates the Low Carbon Diet launched two years ago by Bon Appetit Management Company, which operates cafeterias for Target, eBay, MIT, and many other corporations and institutions. It's "pretty simple. You eat less beef and cheese. You throw away less food. And you try, when possible, to eat locally grown food." (Huffington Post)