On February 10, 2012, Ronald McDonald held court in a packed elementary school auditorium. Ronald was visiting the Lexington, Kentucky elementary school as part of his sweep of that state. The visits are meant to teach “the value of leadership and community involvement,” says Ronald, and kick off fundraising drives for Ronald McDonald Houses. According to WheresRonald.com, he’s planning to visit at least 117 more schools there this year. Read more
In the summer of 2010, Robert DuBois and Aaron Zueck headed out on a 100 day bike trip across the country to document the thriving local foods movement. In the YouTube video of this “potluck across America,” the two seem genuinely passionate about farmers and healthy food—and the movement they’re documenting. As the screen goes black, a voiceover says: “Every time you drink Pepsi you support the Pepsi Refresh project. Every Pepsi refreshes the world.” Read more
It’s a tired old refrain you’ve probably heard before: “Industrial agriculture is the only way to feed the world.” Even if you shop at your weekly farmers market, and love your local kale and carrots, maybe you also secretly worry: Are you cursing people to more hunger around the world for your organic proclivities?
Well, folks, the research is in. Study after study is showing the opposite is true: we can only ensure a well-fed world if we start shifting away from an agricultural system dependent on fossil fuels, mined minerals, and lots of water—all of which will only get more costly as they run out. Some of the most esteemed global institutions have documented that the best way to fight hunger—and grow food abundantly—is to go for organic and ecological production methods and get people eating whole, real food again. Read more
A physicist, a chemist, and an economist are stranded on a desert island with nothing to eat when a can of soup washes to shore. The physicist says: “Let’s smash the can open with a rock.” The chemist says: “Let’s build a fire and heat the can first.” The economist says: “Let’s assume we have a can-opener.”
The attacks coming from economists against the local and sustainable food movement sound a lot like this joke: The arguments are based in flawed assumptions, obfuscated by fancy charts, big words, and complex calculations. Read more
Last weekend, I joined more than 30 people who braved blizzard-like conditions to assemble in a square across from Occupy Wall Street’s encampment at Zucotti Park to speak up about connections between big food and the Occupy movement. There was a food activist from Iowa, a farmer from upstate New York, students and professors from NYU, a union electrician, a nutritionist (who said she was there because “if the food system isn’t working, I can’t do my job”) and more.
Many carried plastic-covered signs with slogans like “Beat the System” and, my favorite, a line from Tom Philpott’s excellent article: “Our Food System is a Big Fat Monopoly.” As the rally ended—cut short by 30-degree temperatures, blinding snow, and 30-mile-an-hour wind gusts—I shared my commitment to do one, easy thing this week in support of the 99 percent: To move my money out of the hands of Citibank.
This week, tens of thousands of people are pledging to move their money out of the pockets of the financial institutions that got us into this mess and into the hands of credit unions and banks we can believe in. Read more
I recently wrote about attending the Food Dialogues, a national “conversation about food” hosted by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), a new trade association funded by some of the biggest players in the food industry—including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Dupont, and Monsanto. There have been a number of comments on my post. I wanted to respond to one in particular from Hugh Whaley, USFRA’s General Manager.
On Thursday, September 22, the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), a new trade association made up of some of the biggest players in the food industry—including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Dupont, and Monsanto—hosted what they called “Food Dialogues” in Washington D.C., New York City, U.C. Davis, and Fair Oaks, Indiana.
The USFRA describes the Food Dialogues, and their broader multi-million dollar media campaign, as an effort to amplify the voice of farmers and ranchers and help consumers know more about “how their food is grown and raised.”
Sounds good, on first blush.
Most of us are in the dark when it comes to the story of our food. And, farmers and ranchers—the people working hard every day to bring us our food—are nearly invisible in mainstream media. But dig into the Alliance’s membership, and its impetus for forming, and you start to wonder whether it truly represents the voices of grassroots food producers or whether this well-funded media campaign is agribusinesses latest attempt to push back against well-documented and well-publicized concerns about the environmental and health consequences of industrial agriculture. Read more
News flash: the chairman of the board of one of the largest food companies in the world—whose tripling in profits from 2009 to nearly $43 billion in 2010 was generating from selling mainly processed foods produced with inputs from industrial, chemical farms—is “skeptical” of organic food, reports FastCompany.com.
Don’t you think someone who made $10.7 million in 2010 from a company whose profit primarily depends on chemical agriculture might have a bias in the matter? Yes, it would be understandable to think Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of the Board of Nestlé, might. It also might be understandable to want to know what others, those without such a financial interest in the food status quo, think about the viability of non-industrial agriculture. But in the FastCompany.com article, like other press that pooh-poohs organic farming, those who disagree, if they’re mentioned at all, are portrayed as marginal or unqualified to speak to the issue.
In FastCompany.com, the other side is represented by unnamed (and unquoted) “nutrition professors and some food scientists.” No offense to nutrition professors and food scientists, but what if you had, instead, learned that the viability, efficiency, and safety of industrial agriculture is being questioned not only by professors and some food scientists but by countless agronomists, food security experts, economists, epidemiologists, public health experts all around the world? What if instead of “nutrition professors and some food scientists,” you heard about the numerous peer-reviewed and meta-studies that contradict Brabeck-Letmathe’s claims. Read more
With all due respect, Nina Federoff’s New York Times op-ed reads like it was written two decades ago when the jury was still out about the potential of the biotech industry to reduce hunger, increase nutritional quality in foods, and decrease agriculture’s reliance on toxic chemicals and other expensive inputs that most of the world’s farmers can’t afford.
With more than 15 years of commercialized GMOs behind us, we know not to believe these promises any longer.
Around the world, from the Government Office of Science in the UK to the National Research Council in the United States, to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, there is consensus: in order to address the roots of hunger today and build a food system that will feed the future, we must invest in “sustainable intensification”—not expensive GMO technology that threatens biodiversity and locks us into dependence on fossil fuels, fossil water, and agrochemicals. And that’s never proven its superiority, even in yields. Read more
Earlier this year, I was contacted by a PR firm working for Dow Chemical to contribute a 60-second video for The Future We Create virtual conference on water sustainability the company launches today. As a vocal advocate for strict regulation of toxic chemicals—especially for food and farming—I was surprised the company would approach me. Dow is the country’s largest chemical maker, and profits handsomely from developing some of the world’s most polluting products, many of which are widely used in industrial and consumer goods as well as agriculture.
In the video I submitted, which you can watch below, I stress that one of the greatest threats to clean water is chemical contaminants—and that Dow Chemical has a long history of water pollution. The PR representative e-mailed to say “unfortunately we can’t use your video,” but that she would be happy to include me, still, if I would consider re-recording it. When we discussed what that would mean she said, no “fingerpointing;” they wanted a “positive, inclusive discussion.” Read more