March 19, 2009

So much news...

Amid the outrage over what seems like epidemic levels of white-collar crime and white-collar chicanery and just plain ol' white-collar irresponsibility, there has been a ton o' food and agriculture-related news.

It's hard to stay on top of it all. Sadly, I have not.

So, for those interested, here are some links that may prove useful:

1) Obama continues to send mixed messages on food-related issues. Names an FDA commissioner with extensive food safety/regulation background, but is apparently looking to name a guy to head a Food Safety Working Group who helped Monsanto get its genetically modified veg onto grocery market shelves and into humans with effectively no requirement for clinical testing. This guy is the epitome of the revolving door between industry and government and everything Obama has railed against. Just like in a college basketball game, all I ask for is consistency.

2) Tainted peanuts scare the bejeezus out of legislators. Or, at the very least, makes them think it's a political winner, 'cause there's all sort of food safety legislation that's been introduced. If the feedback I've seen from the local sustainable ag community is any barometer, there is concern that these bills won't effectively differentiate between small, family farms and small-scale meat processors and the big factory farms and their often co-owned massive meat-processing/packing facilities. The latter, for the uninitiated, are the ones linked to things like spinach and beef recalls.

3) NAIS. It's hard to get a grip on this thing, but the small farmers hate it and it appears to be with good reason. A lot of action has taken place and it's unclear to me what can be done at this point about it. I wrote about it last summer. But a lot has happened since them.

4) And, finally, Nickolas Kristof at the NY Times is opening eyes to antibiotic resistance and the gross overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Must read graphs:

The peer-reviewed Medical Clinics of North America concluded last year that antibiotics in livestock feed were “a major component” in the rise in antibiotic resistance. The article said that more antibiotics were fed to animals in North Carolina alone than were administered to the nation’s entire human population.

“We don’t give antibiotics to healthy humans,” said Robert Martin, who led a Pew Commission on industrial farming that examined antibiotic use. “So why give them to healthy animals just so we can keep them in crowded and unsanitary conditions?”

The answer is simple: politics.

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