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Archive for Food Safety

Unfounded Fears About GMO Labeling

Monday, November 5th, 2012

But the insidiousness of much paid-for-by-vested-interest advertising is that it makes people second guess their own gut level instincts–often by making things more complicated than they really need to be. Take the California Labeling Initiative–Proposition 37–which over a million California’s petitioned to get on the ballot for a statewide vote.

This political season it should come as no surprise to anyone that paid television advertisements don’t necessarily contain (ahem) the truth. Although deep pocketed industries spend millions to win our vote, our loyalties, our buy-in’s to their agendas, more and more people have developed the ability to think critically and avoid succumbing to their influence.

Listen to John Robbins, author Diet for a Small Planet discuss GMO Labeling on Connect the Dots radio.

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Oh, No! GMOs? What the Heck Are You Eating?

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Back when President Obama was a Senator, he promised to label GMO foods, to support the consumer right to know “where their food comes from. Americans should know what they are buying,” he said  (see video here.) But despite these promises, it hasn’t happened. Family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations filed suit against Monsanto in New York court over six months ago, but still no action from the President. According to the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) which filed on their behalf, the plaintiffs were forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from future accusations of patent infringement when Monsanto’s genetically modified seed contaminates their crops, something which cannot be prevented once GM seeds are released. Read More→

Hurricanes, Floods, and Climate Change: How Can Farms Survive?

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Even without grokking the science of climate change, it’s obvious that novel weather events have increased around the country and the world. Thanks to Hurricanes Irene and Lee, at summer’s end, torrential rains swept the Northeast region, flooding the areas where New York’s food comes from. In these upstate regions in Ulster, Sullivan, and Delaware counties, there’s a new breed of organic and sustainable farming. But will those farmers, their farms, and their food survive changing weather patterns to continue to grow and supply the foods health and environmentally conscious people prefer to eat? Read More→

A newly discovered pathogen, visible only under an electron microscope, is destroying plants and undermining the health of livestock, thereby posing a deadly risk to the U.S. food supply, a senior plant pathologist warned USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. In a January 2010 letter to Vilsack, (a former Iowa governor and agribusiness champion, appointed by President Obama), Dr. Don Huber advised caution in introducing additional GMO crops. But just weeks later, the USDA approved expansion of GMO crops to include alfalfa, the most widespread animal feed crop. Read More→

Step Up to Quantum Activism

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

For some reason, we’ve gotten programmed to believe that Proactive Health means— “taking care of my health,” not taking care of “our health.” That’s why in my radio show, blogs, and ezine, I want to make it easier for all of us to take health action. Each week, I’ll be focusing on one action you can take every week to make a critical difference for health– your’s, mine, and our’s. On this week’s Connect the Dots, radio program, physicist Amit Goswami explains how we can do this and why we must. To listen, go here at Noon ET on Saturday, January 29th. Read More→

Keeping Track: Status Report on the Food Safety Bill

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

There have been so many twists and turns with the passage of the Food Safety bil, that I am posting this blog which I will amend with updates for those of you wishing to follow its progress. The Food Safety Bill, originally designated as Senate bill, S510 will affect food quality, safety and price– and the rights to health supplements– for years to come. In late November, author Michael Pollan added his voice to the group of citizens and organizations urging people to contact their Senators to assure that the bill that passes will not undermine the movement of organic, local sustainable growers and food producers. Read More→

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Food Safety S510 Alert: Just in! Aggies Go After Tester

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

You asked to keep updated in this crucial week prior to the upcoming vote on S510 set to occur the Monday after Thanksgiving. This just in from Citizens for Health to warn about Agribusinesses active behind the scenes to remove the Tester-Hagen Amendment which shields small suppliers and farmers from the onerous reporting and bureaucratic regulations needed for the giants. Read More→

Critical Action for Food Safety

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

A vote is likely today or tomorrow on the Food Safety Bill S510, a bill that will affect food quality, safety and price– and the rights to health supplements– for years to come. Yesterday author Michael Pollan added his voice to the group of citizens and organizations urging people to contact their Senators to assure that the bill that passes will not undermine the movement of organic, local sustainable growers and food producers. Read More→

Categories : Food, Food Safety
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Who’s Afraid of Taking Action for Health?

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

We can proclaim the joy of eating healthy, and meditate our stress away. But when it’s time to take action to change policies that affect the health of millions, the response is: Who me? Read More→

Will the Food Safety Bill Really Make Food Safe?

Monday, October 18th, 2010

With a vote likely imminent on the Food Safety Bill S510 this week, many of us want to call our Senators and weigh in on the impending vote, which will affect food quality, safety and price for years to come.

But we aren’t sure exactly how to weigh in because confusion about this bill is so rampant. Most agree that something needs to be done about industrial suppliers whose unhealthy livestock farming practices led to the recent salmonella outbreak and recall of eggs. But the question is what?

The bill’s many proponents (including Consumer’s Union, General Mills, Kraft Foods and others) assert that broader and deeper authority and an increased budget will allow the FDA to monitor safety measures and demand accountability to assure food safety, finally getting a handle on the behemoth of industrial food production.

According to a food safety expert I spoke to, “The bill is rare in having broad bipartisan support because it hits a “sweet spot” in the middle,” targeting concerns of legislators on both sides of the political spectrum.

Yet many people and groups, like Organic Consumers Organization want concrete assurances that the bill won’t apply the regulations explicitly crafted to regulate large industrial facilities (factory farms and industrial agriculture and manufacturers) to small businesses (family farmers, organic growers, farmer’s markets, food artisans and local suppliers).

I read the bill and the proposed amendment and spoke with leading experts from organizations that support — and others that oppose — the bill to answer a few basic questions:

Are small and/or local suppliers exempt from onerous provisions that would drive them out of business?

A number of groups have been working behind the scenes, knee deep in legislative policy discussions aiming to achieve flexibility for the burgeoning consumer-driven industry in healthier, locally grown foods, supplied by small to medium size operations.

As of now, the so-called Manager’s Package, a refinement of the bill, unveiled last summer, states that “raw agricultural commodities that the Secretary has determined are low risk and do not present a risk of serious adverse health consequences or death” may at the discretion of the FDA Secretary be asked to comply to modified regulations only. In addition, this new version omits “any requirements that conflict with or duplicate the requirements of the national organic program established under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990…” This is a step forward for organic and smaller growers.

However, the proposed Tester Amendment (up this week for a vote for inclusion in S510) would, if included, go even further. It would definitely make small providers adhere to more modest reporting requirements, and exempt them from the extensive ones required of larger companies. The flexibility would also extend to food products sold locally.

Concerned consumers can write their Senators to request inclusion of the complete language of the Tester Amendment, which would also exempt home gardens.

Even with this language, James S. Turner, Chairman of Citizens for Health isn’t reassured. “We have the most contaminated food supply of any industrialized country because of the way FDA applies laws,” says Turner, who I interviewed this week (listen here). “The problem is that the words written on paper and the way the FDA typically enforces are two different things.”

Few have followed and monitored the activities of the FDA for as long as Turner has. He’s been at it since 1968. He points out that former Monsanto vice president for public policy, Michael R. Taylor, as the newly appointed FDA food czar in his role as the Deputy Commission for Foods, will be the one to oversee the Food Safety Modernization Act’s implementation. Says Turner, “the FDA enforcement pattern has been to ignore, placate or make a deal with the giants, and then turn around and pick on the growers it can outsize and intimidate — the medium and small ones. Add to that, the new inclusion police powers imposing criminal terms of five to 10 years for any violations, this bill will come down like a hammer on small suppliers,” Turner believes. Here’s a list of campaign contributions made by groups, supporting, and opposing the S510.

How exactly will S510 make food safer?

Additional confusion about the bill stems in part from the different ways different people understand the word “safety.”

To some, “safety” means safer food cultivation practices that are likely to create healthier fruits, vegetables and animals. To others, “safety” means more antibiotics, more food irradiation and more “controllable” food. In the latter approach to safety, which focuses on the presence of micro-organisms, a vegetable that has been boiled at high heat and vacuum packed in a can is inherently “safer” than a raw vegetable.

As such, in its focus on safety, the FDA’s stated aim will be to enforce labeling, tracking and monitoring practices, not safer growing practices. In addition, S510 aims to coordinate with Homeland Security to decrease any perceived risks of terrorism impacting the U.S. food supply.

S510 neither mandates nor mentions the safer practices that health consumers and small, farm-friendly groups typically ask for, such as a ban on the use of:

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOS)
Genetically modified organisms
Use of hormones, pesticides or endocrine disruptors
Food irradiation
Antibiotic use in livestock

Given that industrial practices are now rampant, how do we make the foods arising from that production, safer while still leaving breathing room for the growers of healthier foods? Would healthier growing practices and concerns be better addressed by a farm bill? Will S510 clear the way for such provisions, or will it institute practices that the consumer health and agriculture movements oppose?

I look forward to hearing your responses. For health insight, action and radio, www.healthjournalistblog.com

Categories : Food, Food Safety
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