Tag Archives: organic

As seen in Macleans Magazine.

An article about our project, and the book “On a Dollar a Day” was published in this week’s issue of Macleans Magazine (basically the Canadian version of Newsweek)…enjoy!

Additionally, our friends over at Food Democracy Now sent us another message this week:

The evidence is in: America’s food system is broken. Every week we read about record-breaking food safety recalls, a spiraling childhood obesity epidemic, and the continued loss of independent family farmers.

All of these problems can be traced back to one thing: excessive consolidation by Big, corporate food. But change may be on the way. Recently, the Departments of Justice and Agriculture held their first joint workshop here in Iowa to gather evidence of antitrust violations in food and agriculture.1 We were encouraged by the workshop, the first of five to be held this year,2but also concerned that the same companies that have caused these problems were well represented on the panels, while the family farmers most negatively impacted by corporate food monopolies were only given the opportunity to speak after public officials had left the building.

Even though these workshops are an important first step, real family farmers must have a seat at the table. It will take all our voices to ensure that the Justice department holds giant agribusiness accountable.

The aisles of most American grocery stores give an overwhelming illusion of choice when it comes to our food. A closer look, however, quickly reveals that most of the meat, grain, milk — and even the grocery stores themselves — are all owned and controlled by just a few corporations.

The figures are startling:

• A single company (Monsanto) controls the seeds of 93% of soybeans and 80% of the corn grown in the U.S.3

• 4 companies (Tyson, Cargill, Swift & National Beef Packing Co.) control 83% of the beef packing industry4

• 4 companies (Smithfield, Tyson, Swift & Cargill) control 66% of the pork packing industry

For too long now, food and agricultural production has been consolidated into the hands of a few agribusiness giants. These companies dictate to us how our food is produced, how much farmers are paid for their crops and livestock and how much consumers pay for food.

Food Democracy Now! participated in last week’s workshop. We heard Attorney General Eric Holder talk about the “reckless deregulation that has restricted competition in agriculture” and promise that the Department of Justice, under his watch, was committed to “vigorous enforcement” of U.S. antitrust laws.

But given the power of the companies on the other side, we know that the change we need will not come easily. We must stand together and make our voices heard in favor of a fair and democratic food system!

Please support Secretary Vilsack and Attorney General Holder as they move forward. Join them today in pushing for real enforcement of U.S. antitrust laws and an end to America’s food monopolies. It only takes a moment. And after you’ve signed the petition, please ask your friends and family to do the same.

TAKE ACTION.

Thanks!

– Christopher

1. US pledges to probe, bust agribusiness monopolies, Reuters, March 12, 2010 http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/125?akid=112.29943.NbNkYd&t=12
2. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, Public Workshops, Agriculture and Antitrust Enforcement Issues in Our 21st Century Economy http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/94?akid=112.29943.NbNkYd&t=14
3. Monsanto’s dominance draws antitrust inquiry, Patented seeds are go-to for farmers, who decry their fast-growing price, The Washington Post, November 29, 2009 http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/95?akid=112.29943.NbNkYd&t=16
4. 2007 Concentration of Agricultural Markets report, compiled by Mary Hendrickson and William Heffernan of University of Missouri Department of Rural Sociology.

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Take a Stand for Organics!

Our friends over at Food Democracy Now have sent out a rallying call that we’d like to share:

Everything you thought you knew about organics is about to change. If the USDA and Monsanto get their way, organic integrity is about to go the way of the dinosaur.

Once again, the organic industry is under assault. This time the USDA is determined to let Monsanto ride roughshod over common sense environmental rules that would protect organic farmers from having their crops contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds.

Tell Secretary Vilsack that Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa cannot be allowed to undermine the organic industry. Comments are due by close of business on Wednesday, March 3rd. So please ACT TODAY:

http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/111?akid=88.29943.jaSt4U&t=6

During the Bush administration, Monsanto illegally won USDA approval for its GMO alfalfa by convincing USDA regulators to bypass a mandatory environmental review.1 In 2007, a court reversed this decision, ordering the USDA to complete the legally required environmental impact statement (EIS).

Shockingly, the Obama Administration’s recent review would approve Monsanto’s GMOalfalfa.

The draft USDA EIS was issued in December 2009 and is poised to allow Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa on the market, despite the fact that the USDA admits that these seeds will contaminate organic feed that organic dairy farmers rely on to produce organic milk.2

According to the CEO of the largest farmer-owned organic dairy coop in the U.S., GMO alfalfa “threatens the very fabric of the organic industry.”3 We can’t allow this to happen.

Despite massive public outcry in the past, the USDA’s environmental review went so far as to say that U.S. organic consumers don’t care about GMO contamination.

Tell Secretary Vilsack that you care about organic contamination and that you want him to stand up for the organic industry and organic consumers.

http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/111?akid=88.29943.jaSt4U&t=8

THANKS!

Sources:

1. Farmers Sue USDA Over Modified Alfalfa Crop, The New Standard, March 3, 2006
http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/108?akid=88.29943.jaSt4U&t=11

2. Roundup Ready® Alfalfa Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website
http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/109?akid=88.29943.jaSt4U&t=13

3. USDA stance on GM alfalfa threatens “fabric of organic industry”, The Organic & Non-GMO Report, February, 2010
http://fdn.actionkit.com/go/110?akid=88.29943.jaSt4U&t=15

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As heard on “Think” (NPR)


This past Thursday Christopher spoke live on the air with Krys Boyd, the host of “Think”, a show that airs on NPR affiliate KERA in Dallas. The hour long interview covers a range of interesting topics related to the economics of eating, and has caller initiated questions as well. You can click here, or download this interview for free as a podcast through your iTunes account. Enjoy!

– C & K

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Action Alert: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

We know that the holidays are a time for thoughtfulness and caring, so today we’d like you to be thoughtful and caring about the future of health in this country. So this post is a call to action for you from our friends at Center for Science in the Public Interest. We wrote to our senators this morning, now it’s your turn. In the season of giving, we’re giving our elected officials our input, and the chance to make our voices heard.

As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Senate health reform bill, we need your help to urge your Senators to champion the prevention provisions! The current provisions have already been cut by almost 75 percent in an attempt to decrease the overall cost of the bill. We cannot afford to lose the remaining funds dedicated to preventing chronic diseases, which account for 75 percent of our health care costs.

Currently in the Senate health reform bill, the prevention funds would increase over time to about $2 billion a year.

It’s time to let Senators know that prevention is not negotiable! For too long, health care has focused on treating people after they have become sick, instead of keeping them well in the first place. The public health investment fund and national prevention strategy would lower disease rates, improve quality of life, and help reduce health care costs for families, businesses, and the government.

The current prevention measures also include a national menu labeling policy. This policy would result in nutrition information on the menus and menu boards at chain restaurants across the country, bringing this popular policy, which has already passed in 16 local and state legislatures, to all Americans.

Please contact your Senators today and urge them to protect and champion the prevention measures currently included in health reform!

Thank you for your support!

Warmly,

Christopher

P.s. If you haven’t pre-ordered our book…do it today! (See the links to retailers on your right)

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Oppose Obama’s Big Agriculture Nominee

The following was sent to us from the Center for Biodiversity, please read and take action…

Does the talking head of Big Agriculture belong in charge of America’s agricultural trade relations? Obama thinks so. Despite claiming that lobbyists wouldn’t find jobs in his White House, Obama recently nominated former pesticide lobbyist Islam Siddiqui to be Chief Agriculture Negotiator at the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.

Siddiqui’s record is abysmal. He led the development of the first national organic labeling standards, which allowed sewage-sludge fertilized, genetically modified, and irradiated food to be labeled as organic before public outcry forced more stringent standards. Siddiqui currently works for CropLife America, a pesticide and biotechnology trade group that fights to weaken environmental laws and treaties and keep persistent organic pollutants like DDT in use.

Siddiqui’s pro-pesticide group launched a petition campaign chiding Michelle Obama for planting an organic, pesticide-free garden and lobbied to allow pesticide testing on children. CropLife America also intervened in a Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit to protect endangered species from pesticide exposure. CropLife America’s Web site declares that pesticides “contribute to biodiversity conservation” and “positively impact” endangered species. No one told that to the California tiger salamander, delta smelt, and countless other species that have been sickened and killed by toxic pesticides.

Siddiqui’s agenda is a threat to biodiversity and human health worldwide. The planet can’t afford to have Big Agriculture’s talking head in charge of America’s agricultural trade relations.

Please contact your senators today and ask them to vote against the confirmation of Islam Siddiqui as Chief Agricultural Negotiator. Urgent action is needed — the vote could happen in the next two days.

Please click here to take action!

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“Food, Inc.” & the Cornivore’s Dilemma

Movie theater employees at the Nuart in Santa Monica had a playful understanding of the irony concerning the sale of corn-based concessions to movie-goers of whom more would be expected. Also for sale was the companion book for the film, which includes essays by Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Muhammad Yunus and others. Photo by Christopher.

Movie theater employees at the Nuart in Santa Monica had a playful understanding of the irony concerning the sale of corn-based concessions to movie-goers of whom more would be expected. Also for sale was the companion book for the film, which includes essays by Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Muhammad Yunus and others. Photo by Christopher.

School is out! Friday was the last day, my grades are turned in and I am looking forward to a summer of relaxation and playing in my garden.  We started off our vacation with a trip to the movies today; a movie about food.

And when I say we took a trip, I mean it. “Food, Inc.” opened yesterday in select locations only, so we took a two hour car ride up to Los Angeles to see it.  The irony of watching a movie about food, including the ubiquity of corn, while eating popcorn, was not lost on the movie theater. They offered a special “Cornivore’s Dilemma” that included a large popcorn and a large soda. We thought this was funny, but did not take the bait.

On the whole, “Food, Inc.” further opens the discussion on what has happened to the food industry over the past fifty years. There are interviews with Michael Pollan, who wrote “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”; Eric Schossler, who wrote “Fast Food Nation”; Joel Salatin, the owner of Polyface Farms and several  other farmers and workers in the food industry.

The film takes a look at the way farms have moved from the storybook image of a red barn and happy animals wandering leisurely, to the factory model of  large-scale production.  The film also explores the conditions of workers in these operations, particularly the slaughterhouses, an issue that Human Rights Watch investigated in 2005 and presented in a 185 page report titled “Blood, Sweat, & Fear”.

Already there is a website offering rebuttals of the claims made in the film. A few of their answers offer links to videos on Youtube.com to support their claims, such as a video about where McDonald’s meat comes from that shows a production plant, but the only live animals we see are about five cows grazing in an open pasture at the start of the video; only underlining the film’s claim.

Of course this link led me to the distraction of Youtube where I watched several others videos, including one of a cheeseburger and french fries from McDonald’s that a person claimed to be almost three years old.

At the end of  “Food, Inc.” the filmmakers offer suggestions for the audience on how to address some of what is happening to the food industry. Among others, they ask viewers to shop for organic and local foods, remind people that everyone deserves healthy food, suggest talking to school boards about creating healthy lunches, and recommend planting your own garden. Even if it is a small one. However, these suggestions alone may not be enough to solve the problems created by the industrial food system.

The website for the film offers a list of when the movie is playing and in which cities. If you can find one near you, definitely check it out.

Happy viewing,

Kerri

P.S. Good luck to the South Central Farmers who are holding a press conference this evening to kick off their “Take Back the Farm” campaign.

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Real Time, Real Food, Real Change.

Real change in the cost of healthy eating.

Real change in the cost of healthy eating.

Kerri has had a birthday. As a surprise, her family has come down to visit for the weekend. Last night we had tickets to be part of the studio audience at CBS Television City in Hollywood for “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Not only was it neat to be on set in the same studio where “The Price is Right” was filmed for most of its’ television history, it was fantastic to see Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and the micro-credit model. This is a man who has changed the world. He has worked tirelessly to bring people out of poverty, mainly through providing women with a way to be economically self-sufficient.

It was also great to see grammy nominated rapper M.I.A. speak out about what has been happening in Sri Lanka with the Tamil people (she escaped in 1984).

After the show we went around the block to eat at Real Food Daily, a wonderful restaurant in West Hollywood that serves organic vegan food that is both hearty and elegant. However, I fretted as the bill approached our table. This was the first meal that Kerri and I have eaten out since we finished our most recent experiment in the economics of eating. It was not cheap. For what we paid to eat, we could have bought groceries for two weeks. But it was her birthday, her family is visiting (which is rare), and the food was exquisite; a special occassion that let me justify the expense.

This morning while Kerri is making breakfast for all of us, McVegan Muffins, the herbivore’s equivalent of a fast-food legend, I found myself both exhiliarated and overwhelmed by the enormity of this conversation about food. When we started this journey, with the challenge of eating on a dollar a day, we had no idea that this dialogue would become our lives. We had no idea how changed we would be. The very rituals of our life have been re-shaped by our experiences.

Parts of this quest have been greatly enhanced by a few different factors. The first is the amount of reading that we have been doing. We read about food every day, and I finish a book on the subject once a week. As result, I would like to share with our readers a couple of blogs that I find helpful. The first is “Food Politics” by Marion Nestle (where I found today’s graphic), and the second is from Food First (an institute for food and development policy). Both are updated frequently with top notch information for those who find themselves strung-out on the ever changing menu of topics related to this subject.

In fact, as a result of the work done by Food First I would like to encourage you to click here to sign a petition that advocates for stripping the biotech research provisions component from bill SB 384. According to Food First, “This attachment to SB 384 is a stealth giveaway to agribusiness in the name of feeding the world’s poor. What it will really do is destroy the ability of poor farmers to feed themselves throughout the global south.”

Next week look forward to our take on a couple new films that will be screened at the Encinitas Environmental Film Festival. Both are about food. The first is called “Homegrown Revolution” and the second, by Sofia Joanes, is called “Fresh.” Thanks to one of our readers for the suggestion.

For now we’re off to the beach.

– Christopher

P.S. There was an interesting artcle in the New York Times today about college students who are headed off for organic summer jobs…

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