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Posted on Wed, July 29, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Call your representative today and urge them to support the Kaptur-Farr Food Safety Proposal.
H.R. 2749, The Food Safety Enhancement Act, has been moving through committee and now is slated to go to the floor of the House on Wednesday, July 29. The bill will go to the house floor under a suspension vote, which means limited debate and no amendments can be introduced on the floor. A two-thirds majority is needed for passage.
Last week, representatives Marcy Kaptur (OH-9), Sam Farr (CA-17), Maurice Hinchey (NY-22), Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL-2), Peter Welch (VT-at large), Chellie Pingree (ME-1) and Earl Blumenauer (OR-3) submitted a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee with specific proposed changes to HR 2749 that addresses many of the concerns raised by the sustainable and organic agriculture community.
H.R. 2749 contains provisions that could hinder sustainable and organic farmers’ access to markets, require expensive fees, and lead to dismantling of important conservation practices and wildlife habitat.
Please call your Representative today, Wednesday, and ask them to join the effort to protect small and mid-sized family farmers, the environment, and consumer choice by supporting the provisions in the Kaptur-Farr proposal to HR 2749.
Its easy and only takes a minute to do:
Click here to find your Representatives name and enter your zip code in the top left-hand corner of the screen.
Then call the Capitol Switchboard and ask to be directly connected to your Representative’s office: 202-224-3121. You can say:
“I am a constituent of Representative___________ and I am calling to ask him/her to support the Kaptur-Farr proposal to HR 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009. I am also asking him/her to vote against HR 2749 unless the proposals included in the Kaptur-Farr letter are included in the final bill.”
Posted on Mon, July 20, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Kurt Michael Friese (this post originally appeared on Grist)
Grinnell Heritage Farm is 152 years old. Andrew Dunham is the fifth generation of his family to work this land about 50 miles east of Des Moines. He is a direct descendant of Josiah Grinnell, founder of the town and the man Horace Greeley once famously quoted as having said, Go west, young man, go west. Andrew and his wife Melissa are a few months shy of receiving their formal certification as an organic farm.
Across the road, due north of their land, is a field of corn that is managed by the nearby Monsanto seed corn plant. In Iowa and anywhere commodity corn is grown, it is common practice around this time of year to use chemicals to control fungus. Often this is accomplished via the use of aerial application, commonly referred to as cropdusting. On July 6th, a rustic-looking old biplane swooped in to spray Monsantos field. To put it mildly, the pilots bombardiering skills were not what one would hope.
Dunhams crew was in the field picking broccoli and spinruts (turnip backwardsa Japanese form of the root vegetable). They witnessed the plane as it failed to shut off its spray mechanism in time, and the fungicide drifted into their tree planting and hay field. The hay ground is in the third year of transition and would have become organically certified on September 1st, Andrew said. Now, probably not.
Youd think that this would be a clear-cut cause of action, as the legal folks would put it. But the clever folks at Monsanto hire the crop dusters as contractors, and they in turn use a corporate shell with no assets, so when something like this happens and a victim sues, they simply file bankruptcy and then form a new corporation.
Iowa is the single most radically altered landscape in the country. No state has changed more since the arrival of European settlers, and today the land is heavily mono-cropped. Nature abhors a lack of diversity, but pathogens love it so farmers respond with more and stronger chemicals to fight off the bugs and weeds and fungi. No one owns the airspace, so planes can fly over any land they choose. Even if the pilots are incredibly accurate, Iowa is a windy place (thus the massive increase in wind energy production here in recent years). Drift is practically inevitable.
Posted on Fri, June 26, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Part of what I love about “food books” as a genre is that the phrase is entirely non-specific, and covers everything from poetry to science, from art to history, from memoir to fiction. Today, some more summer reading suggestions, both about our broken food system, but very different from each other.
First, Robyn O’Brien‘s theUnhealthy Truth: How Our Food is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It
. Her book is a good companion piece to “Food, Inc.” I think, exploring how food is making our kids sick, and how big business is profiting from that, all from a Mom’s first-hand perspective. As she explains it, pretty plain and simple: “the recent deregulation of the American food system allowed chemicals and additives into the American food supply that have either been banned or labeled from foods around the world in order to enhance profitability for the food industry.” Click here to read an excellent interview with her on Civil Eats.
Next up, a book I had the pleasure of getting to hear read aloud live (ok, well, parts of it) by the author the other night. Lisa Hamilton, a photographer and writer has crafted a beautiful triptych—three stories, three farmers, and how they are struggling to keep their way of farming alive in a world pushing towards the industrialization of damn near everything.Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness
is clearly the work of a seasoned photographer; it reads like a giant photograph, with depth of field, and texture, and life bubbling up off the page.
Posted on Thu, June 25, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA Biodiversity Intern Regina Fitzsimmons
Do you want better oversight of GE Crops?
You have 5 days to tell the USDA what you think
In the winter months of the Bush Administration, the former President allowed the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to weaken its oversight on genetically engineered (GE) crops.
The Center for Food Safety writes, Instead of tightening controls to protect the public and environment from contamination and harm, what the USDA has offered further endangers your right to choose the foods you and your family eat and farmers rights to their chosen livelihoods.
The proposed rules raise concerns for many: among them, the Center for Food Safety and 83 other farm, food, public interest and environmental organizations who previously wrote to our new Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, last March about oversight of GE regulations.
Some of the many regulation concerns include: proposed rules that will ensure more frequent GE contamination of organic and conventional crops and continued permission to the self-interested biotechnology organizations to make the decision about whether their GE crops should be regulated at all. Whats more, the USDA published these rules before releasing the full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)a breach of lawresulting in an absence of required public review that would provide the USDA with informed regulatory recommendations.
In the past few days the Center for Food Safety has drafted a letter to the USDA and Slow Food USA has signed on. If you would like to submit a letter of your own, you can send this sample letter or use it to help compose a letter of your own. You still have 5 days to comment before the comment period closes.
For an interesting debate on the roots of GM opposition, the role of big agribusiness, and whether weve achieved real scientific consensus, click here.
Now, you might be saying: It sounds like there are problems surrounding GE, but Im not completely convinced that GE is a bad idea. I think I need more information before I decide one way or the other. If I sign this form, am I saying that GE crops are bad?
No, youre not. And if youre confused or on the fence about GE, youre not alone. By signing your name to the Center for Food Safety letter you are asking the government to follow the law and allow a public review of USDAs GE regulations. You will be asking for a moratorium to be placed on commercial planting of new GE crops until new regulations of GE crops are implementedregulations will be developed from the pool of collected information and recommendations from the public. In sum-up, you are asking for transparencyfor all GE practices to be brought out in the open, and be subject to public opinion.
Posted on Wed, June 24, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
by Slow Food USA intern Carol Dacey-Charles
HR 2749The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009has passed through committee and is on its way to the House of Representatives for a vote before the July 4 holiday break. Now, given the recent and on-going challenges our food system has faced with recalls of peanuts, pistachios, spinach and tomatoes, not to mention mad cow and swine fluyou may think a little more regulation might be in order and I would agree with you. But how much of this is a good step forward in protecting the public and how much is using a sledgehammer to put up a tack?
The Act gives the FDA some powers that you might want in a food regulatory agencythe power to order a food recall, access to a farmers or producers records, and establishing a means to trace food along its chain of production. Other aspects of the new bill may make you think Big Brother is about to take over our food system. Among the “Alarming Provisions” of the bill (as reported in the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund site) are: giving the FDA the power to quarantine a geographical area—prohibiting all food movement in that region; empowering the FDA to dictate how crops are raised and harvested; and the narrow definition of a “farm” that would be excluded from these new fees and regulations—it turns out if you make cheese, bread or use lacto-fermentation you are a manufacturer and not a farm. How many growers at your local farmer’s market create value-added products to boost their incomes—probably no longer if this bill passes in its current form.
Posted on Tue, June 09, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
There are a bunch of sustainable food documentaries that have been kicking around our circles for a few years now. Some of them are very good—enlightening, celebratory, inspiring, damning. But we all have probably wondered: who sees these but the proverbial choir?
Filmmaker Robert Kenner, along with producers Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, is making a go at hitting the big time,—i.e. lots of viewers, even ones outside the usual circles—with his movie “Food, Inc.” The movie, which opens in NYC San Fran and LA on June 12th, got some primetime coverage in the New York Times this past weekend. The Times article will help the word spread, but so can you. Go see the movie, and while you’re at it, go tell some others to see the movie.
Participant Media is a unique production company in that they release their movies as part of a social action campaign. Remember “An Inconvenient Truth?” This time around they are focusing on food issues of all shapes and sizes. The movie touches on many issues, including violations of farmworkers’ rights; aggressive litigiousness on the part of large agribusiness; food safety; the role of industrial organic; and some straight up weird stuff like an irradiated fat slurry that goes into most hamburger meat produced in this country. The main theme, as the title suggests, is what goes wrong when corporations control the food system.
Along with the movie they have released a companion book with the subtitle: “How Industrial Food is Making us Sicker, Fatter and Poorer—And What You Can Do About It.” It includes pieces by many of the faces in the movie, like Eric Schlosser, Gary Hirshberg (of Stonyfield Farm Organic), and farmer Joel Salatin, as well as a few people and organizations who did not have face time in the movie, such as Heifer International and United Farm Workers.
In addition, they are focusing on improving school lunch and the Child Nutrition Act’s Reauthorization—you can check out their “interactive cafeteria” and sign their school lunch petitionhere.
With movies like this, it’s important to head out the first few days they’re open, so run out this weekend and see “FOOD, Inc.” if you haven’t already.
Posted on Tue, April 21, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
The title of Nicolette Hahn Nimans compelling new book, Righteous Porkchop
, is honest, and indicates one of the books strengthsits exploration of the moral issues behind our broken food system. As a vegetarian rancher she is uniquely poised to be even more righteous than most. Not only has she abstained from eating meat herself since young adulthood, she spends her days sustainably raising cattle for others to eat. Who can top that?
Of course, this wasnt always the case. Not even 10 years ago she was a young single gal in the city, recruited by Bobby Kennedy, Jr. to head up the Waterkeeper Alliances new industrial hog campaign. With a background as a lawyer, she set out to take industrial hog farms (primarily in North Carolina) to task via the legal system for their gross environmental transgressions. She worked crushing hours, giving up her healthy lifestyle and her social life. But along the way, she won several important legal battles and put the issue of industrial hog farming on the map. In addition, in a story line you just cant make up, she met and fell in love with Bill Niman, an older-than-her sustainable cattle rancher and entrepeneur, and her life was changed forever. P.S. he calls her porkchop.
In addition, her work with Waterkeeper led her inside the belly of the beastor inside the poop lagoons of the beasts, anyway—and the book follows her journey. The reader makes discoveries alongside her, experiencing her righteous indignation and disbelief upon seeing those farms, as well as her heartbreak over the treatment of the animals she meets. As she explains, the assembly lines of industrial systems function well for the mass production of inanimate objects. But they are complete failures at respecting the individuality, instincts, and needs of living creatures.
Posted on Mon, April 13, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
I’ll subtitle this post “How to look underneath a news story.” When I read the op-ed in the Times last week claiming that a new study has revealed that free range pigs are more likely than industrially raised pigs to carry dangerous bacteria, I was confused, maybe a little suspicious. Everything I have ever read—including the brand new Righteous Porkchop—has clearly and scientifically laid out how industrial hog farming is some of the dirtiest stuff around. I read through the piece, trying to keep an open mind and trying to make it jibe with what I already know. I struggled.
When I got to the end of the piece, I read the author’s bio, including the title of his upcoming book, “Just Food: How Locavores Are Endangering the Future of Food and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly. Locavores endangering the future of food? This I gotta see.
First question: who funded this study?
Second question: What does Marion Nestle have to say? I trust her implicitly on questions of food-borne illness; she is a scientist first and foremost, and I look to her to get to the scientific heart of the matter. From Dr. Nestle I learned that the author isn’t quite interpreting the study—funded by the National Pork Board—correctly. She concludes: “My point, as always, is that sponsored studies are invariably designed in ways that produce results favorable to the sponsor. In this case, the sponsor represents industrial pork producers.”
Third step: I checked out the excellent piece over at CivilEats.com, where Paula Crossfield asks “The question is, then, how do we reclaim the media, and disseminate real information to consumers?” and states the importance of our movement gaining strength and articulation from these conversations with our detractors.
[Late addition: Keep peeling away the layers, and let things be complicated. The Atlantic Monthly Food Channel invited McWilliams to explain and retort. Also, check out Kurt Friese’s post on Grist, and the Slow Food Columbus Blog]
Posted on Wed, March 04, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Two articles caught our eye this week, both exploring the potential limitations of organic agriculture.
Posted on Tue, February 17, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
Have you been playing ostrich, head in the sand, hoping that your slow eating habits mean you are safe from all the peanut recall madness? Amazingly, it is a story that is not going away any time soon—and not just because peanuts and peanut products have a long shelf life. And not just because even companies like Clif (the, er, slowest bars you can find, if a bar can be considered slow) have recalled so-called “organic” products. The story is not going away, because as we all know, the story is bigger than just peanut butter. More so even than other recent food safety stories of late, this one has revealed major cracks in the system: the inherent hazards of food production on this scale, what happens when big greedy jerks ignore initial findings of illness, the too-big job that the FDA has, etc.Americans love peanut butter
: ever had a friend in the Peace Corps write to you begging for a care package…of peanut butter? or maybe you yourself headed off to the other side of the globe, happily ex-patting and exploring new tastes until one day you woke up with a insatiable longing for…peanut butter? For a quick article on the history of Americans and peanut butter, click here.Celebrity blogger
: It’s not what you think. Food safety lawyer Bill Marler is, as you can imagine, in great demand these days for his legal services, as well as his expert opinion on what went wrong and how. Check out his blog for an inch-by-inch account of the entire debacle.What’s been recalled
: For a complete list of recalled foods, click here.What it means for food banks
: As of February 3rd, reports that over 400 schools in California, Idaho and Minnesota had been sent peanut products.Inside the Congressional Food Safety Hearings
: Check out Obama Foodorama’s blogging about shadowing Bill Marler through the hearings, including positive feedback on food-friendly Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro. While you’re at it, check out DeLauro’s post on HuffPo.
Slow Food International also runs a publishing company, Slow Food Editore, which specializes in tourism, food and wine. The library now contains about 40 titles and houses Slow, the award-winning quarterly herald of taste and culture, available in five languages: Italian, English, French, German and Spanish.