No comment, no say: lend your voice to shaping four big food & ag policies

Photo from Iowa, courtesy of factoryfarm.org. It's easy to get cynical about our ability to influence policy or policymakers - especially when we don't have lots of money or a well-dressed K St. lobby firm to throw around. But I'd venture to say that with all the change-making, democracy-taking action...

Not milk: The ingredient behind the dairy crisis

I have no idea what it would feel like to be a dairy farmer. I don't run a business that was started by my father or mother or grandparents, or that I built myself; I don't own and manage land that has been in my family for generations. Come to think of it, I've never really had to make a major business...

Down (and out) on the farm: When even the good years don’t look so good

In late 2006, I was driving by corn fields in eastern Iowa when Tom Ashbrook's  NPR show "On Point" came on the radio. The topic was ethanol. Among the commentators was an ag economist from Iowa State -- which seems to produce ag economists at a rate close to that at which Iowa produces corn -- who...

All steriled up: Produce safety guidelines throw sustainability out, keep toxic bathwater

Readers may remember back in November when I announced the first installment of a two-part post on produce safety. It's taken me a few months to get around to it, but here we are: part 2! Photo of a "sterile farm" courtesy of the Wild Farm Alliance. Part 1 of this post found me sitting awkwardly at an FDA...

Beer me: Trolling for craft brews in an ocean of Bud

Out of fairness, I should begin this post by admitting that I do not actually like beer. Never a big drinker, when the urge hits, my tastes veer toward wine and, OK, a nip of whiskey. But just as I appreciate (and, in fact, spend my professional life studying) livestock production despite being a...

Dope shit: Who to thank, and why, for antibiotics in your veggies

Manure, my favorite topic of conversation (particularly at parties), is pretty awesome. It has been a staple crop fertilizer virtually since humankind began cultivating its own food. It's everything synthetic fertilizer wishes it could be: Chock full of nutrients, it is — assuming you raise animals —...

Let’s cure Absencia Grassosis! Weigh in on organic pasture rule by Dec. 23

We've reported before on a disturbing disease that's been plaguing large-scale organic dairies: Absencia Grassosis. Sounds pretty nasty, doesn't it? Loosely translated, it means lack of grass. Industrial-organic companies including Aurora (supplier of organic milk to Safeway and other private-label brands)...

Human Rights Day revelation: Global food companies suck

I have a background in human rights work, so I was especially chagrined to discover this afternoon — having spent the day skulking about my office and being generally useless — that today was International Human Rights Day. The discovery came in the form of a press release from the nonprofit International...

Produce perversions part 1: Living with the underbelly

Updated on 11/29 to clarify that perchlorate is from rocket fuel, not jet fuel. Thanks, Marc! (I admit that I thought they were the same thing; that is why I do not work for a defense logistics company.) 2008 has been, let's just say it, a pretty lousy year for food safety. Southern California meatpacker...

Shameless: The Bush deregulatory free-for-all

Back in March, I reported that the EPA was proposing to exempt Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) from one of the very, very few pollution reporting requirements that currently apply to them. This week, the issue reared its head again -- and it's uglier than ever. Right now, under the Community...

Dispatch from APHA: Searching for the silver lining

Day two of the American Public Health Association meeting found me carting my breakfast (a poorly-executed bagel) to a hyper-air conditioned room to learn about bacteria on meat. Not the most ambient setting for food consumption, but I didn't mind: The panel promised to cover CAFOs and would be led off by...

Dispatch from APHA: Seeding local food in schools

As I write this, the day's far from over at the American Public Health Association's annual conference "Public Health Without Borders," but my brainpower is fading fast. Before I give up on knowledge intake and shift to taking in some of the great local San Diego eats suggested by readers, I'll share a few...

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