Cultivating Influence: The 2008 Farm Bill Lobbying Frenzy

As Congress navigates its way through the 2012 Farm Bill process, Food & Water Watch today released a report that delineates the special interest lobbying efforts that shaped the 2008 Farm Bill. Food & Water Watch estimates that $173.5 million was spent by agribusinesses, commodity groups, food manufacturers and others to perpetuate policies that favor the largest food and agriculture industries. The public demand for broad-based reforms to the food system has been largely stymied by the special interest lobbying muscle that spent more than $500,000 a day during the 110th Congress.

The report, Cultivating Influence: 2008 The Farm Bill Lobbying Frenzy, finds that the 2008 Farm Bill was one of the most well-financed legislative fights of the past decade and breaks down the lobbying spending by more than 1,000 companies, trade associations and other groups. Read more

Corporate Lovebirds of the Mutant Corn

Today, some will feel the sting of cupid’s arrow and fill their days with red roses and chocolate (hopefully fair trade) and a romantic dinner at a fancy restaurant. Other people call today Black Tuesday and will boycott all the hype and commercial schmaltz and stay home, maybe alone, eating leftovers. Still others will eschew people and proclaim their love of profit above all else. This is a love story about the latter category. Sure, we may not consider these two dollar-signs-in-their-eyes lovers people, but the Supreme Court does, so they deserve to couple up like the rest of us, right? 

He’s a mad scientist who got rich producing chemical agents for war in his lab and is now trying to pawn off those old toxic chemicals as pesticides and herbicides and squeeze as much money as possible out of raindrops. He calls himself GE Seed King, but we know him as Monsanto.

She ran away from her small hometown in Arkansas to take over every suburb and rural town in America and is now setting her sights on urban centers and every country in the world. To her inner circle, she’s known as Big Box Mama, but to us, she’s Walmart.  Read more

Report on Kitchen Table Talks: Magnificent Mushrooms

At the beginning of last December, the basement of Viracocha Gallery was brimming with some of the most exotic, rare, delicious, and even deadly mushrooms in the Bay Area. The astonishing array of fungi weren’t growing there–they were brought in by four pioneers in cultivating, cooking, and foraging mushrooms, who gathered to speak to a packed house for the last Kitchen Table Talks of 2010. Read more

Kitchen Table Talks: Magnificent Mushrooms

For the next Kitchen Table Talks in San Francisco on Tuesday, December 7, 2010, we’re going beyond shiitakes and portabellas with a group of mushroom maestros as our guides to the little-known wonders of the mushroom world. They will give us an overview of the science, history and lore, dispel myths, and offer hands-on practical information.

Millennium Restaurant’s Executive Chef Eric Tucker will be whipping up a delicious mushroom snack for the audience and sharing his secrets on the best ways prepare all types of mushrooms and which are the tastiest. For the adventurous, mushroom cultivation instructor Ken Litchfield will invite daring audience members to join him in tasting a Death Cap! Read more

Kitchen Table Talks: The Farmer and the Fisherman Talk Water

It is impossible to build a sustainable food system without addressing the issues surrounding water. The struggle over water in California is more than a century old and continues today with an $11 billion water bond, Proposition 18, proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger for November’s ballot.

Some portray California’s water problems as a farmer vs. fisher battle, but this is a simplistic, inaccurate depiction. Small and midsized farmers are just as concerned about the ecological health of the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta as the fishermen and women whose livelihoods have been devastated by the reduction in fish populations over the past several years. Additionally, many feel that continuing the status quo through the development of more dams on California’s rivers will benefit large-scale corporate agribusiness, not the family farms that serve local and regional markets. Anyone who advocates for sustainable agriculture in California needs to know about the state’s water politics.

Join us for the next Kitchen Table Talks in San Francisco on Tuesday, July 20, where we will bring together a fisherman and a farmer to share their stories and provoke thoughtful conversation about the ties between our water and our food. Read more

Kitchen Table Talks No. 6: What You Need to Know About Genetically Engineered Food

For the sixth installment of Kitchen Table Talks on Oct. 27, about 60 people gathered at the SUB-Mission Gallery in the Mission District of San Francisco to join renowned U.C. Berkeley Microbial Ecologist Ignacio Chapela and Center for Food Safety attorney Zelig Golden for a lively conversation about the past, present and future of genetically engineered food.

For more than a decade, one of the largest genetic experiments in history has been taking place and all of us have been unwitting, or at least non-consenting, participants. According to the Center for Food Safety, up to 85 percent of U.S. corn, 91 percent of soybeans, and 88 percent of cotton (cottonseed oil is often used in food products), is genetically engineered, which means an estimated 70 percent or more of all processed foods on supermarket shelves–from soda to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Whether it’s referred to as GMO, genetic engineering, transgenic manipulation, or recombinant DNA, the process is the same — DNA molecules from different sources are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes. As he provided a brief historical overview, Ignacio Chapela explained that when transgenic manipulation began in the 1970s, it was the most radical change to ever occur in the domestication of food. “We’re not talking about beer or yogurt making here. When you alter life in this way [using genetic engineering], it has a universal effect on things that are far beyond what the human eye can see or the human mind can imagine.” Read more

Kitchen Table Talks: What You Need to Know About Genetically Engineered Food (VIDEO)

For its sixth installment, Kitchen Table Talks will begin to dissect the complex issues of genetically engineered foods and equip participants with knowledge and specific actions to protect themselves, our community and the environment. Two of the most laudable champions in the fight to educate and protect the public from the unregulated, untested genetic engineering of food and unchecked interests of industrial agriculture will lead the conversation: UC Berkeley Microbial Ecologist Ignacio Chapela and Center for Food Safety attorney Zelig Golden.  Kitchen Table Talks No. 6 will take place Tuesday, Oct. 27, from 6:30 – 8:30p.m. in a new location, SUB-Mission gallery in the Mission District of San Francisco.

For more than a decade, one of the largest genetic experiments in history has been taking place and all of us have been unwitting, or at least non-consenting, participants.  According to the Center for Food Safety, up to 85 percent of U.S. corn, 91 percent of soybeans and 88 percent of cotton (cottonseed oil is often used in food products), is genetically engineered, which means an estimated 70 percent or more of all processed foods on supermarket shelves–from soda to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients. Thanks to the tireless work of GE-critical farmers, lawyers and activists, progress is being made to shed light on GE food. The New York Times via Greenwire reported last week that the USDA has been ordered to conduct an environmental impact statement for the first time on a GE crop.

Representing the scientific perspective of genetically engineered food at the Oct. 27th Kitchen Table Talks, Dr. Chapela is the lead author of the ground breaking 2001 Nature paper that exposed the presence of genetically engineered DNA in wild Mexican maize and was a featured expert in the documentaries The Future of Food and The World According to Monsanto. Providing a view of the policy landscape and the powerful role of legal action against GE food, Zelig Golden is the Center for Food Safety attorney who was integral to the recent Federal Court victory that ordered the USDA to conduct a rigorous assessment of the environmental and economic impacts of “Roundup Ready” beets in Oregon. Read more

Kitchen Table Talks: What We Can Learn about Community Building from Quesada Gardens in Bayview Hunters Point

Jeffery Betcher was clear — he and his fellow organizers consider themselves community, not food, activists. Betcher, co-founder of the successful Quesada Gardens Initiative in the Bayview Hunters Point Neighborhood of San Francisco, was joined by fellow co-founder and board co-vice chair James Ross as featured presenters at Kitchen Table Talks’ third installment: Community Organizing: Addressing Food Access and Security in Bayview Hunters Point.

For decades, Bayview Hunters Point (BVHP) has been much maligned for regular reports of violence, environmental hazards and poverty. Betcher, a 10-year BVHP resident, believes the neighborhood doesn’t deserve its negative reputation. It has many strengths, including the highest rate of residential property ownership in the entire city, and many of its residents are thriving despite enormous environmental and economic injustices. Read more