Recent Articles About Food Policy

GMO Salmon is Coming to a Store Near You. Will You Know When it Arrives?

Late last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved AquAdvantage salmon—the first edible genetically engineered animal to earn such an approval. The salmon, produced by AquaBounty Technologies, are genetically engineered (GE) with DNA that causes them to grow to market size much faster than other salmon. And while many advocates have shown concern over the fish in recent years, the FDA has declared it safe to eat.

The AquAdvantage salmon will only be raised in contained, inland facilities in Panama, from eggs produced in Canada. Once harvested, they will be imported for sale in the U.S. But exactly when they could show up on store shelves remains uncertain. “It is too early to discuss commercialization plans, but there are several paths to market that are being considered,” AquaBounty spokesperson Dave Conley told Civil Eats. Read more

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Does U.S. Farm Policy Have a Race Problem?

When it comes to the disparities within the food system, the numbers are pretty stark. The 10 largest mega-corporations generate $450 million annually in food sales. These companies’ CEOs earn, on average, 12 times what their workers make. Of those food workers, women of color make less than half of the salaries of their male counterparts and are far more likely to need nutrition assistance than workers in other industries. Black farmers have lost 80 percent of their land since 1920, while large-scale and corporate farms make nearly half the agricultural sales—despite accounting for less than five percent of all farms. Read more

Could This Bill Make Local Meat More Affordable?

Farmers and ranchers raising livestock for sale face three possible paths. They can ship their animals to a feedlot, where a large company grain-finishes, processes, and cuts the meat, the most common route of sale. They can raise it to market weight themselves and sell it as a live animal to a potential buyer (or group of buyers, as in the case of a co-op), who will then be responsible for processing and packaging the meat for their own use. Or they can send the animal to a U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected facility for processing, the only option which enables a producer to sell individual packages of meat to the public.

Ever since 1967, when Congress passed the Wholesome Meat Act, producers have been required to use a USDA-inspected facility for processing if they wish to sell meat directly to consumers, restaurants, and grocery stores. Read more

Editor’s Note: Food is Political

Recently, a colleague asked me for a “food movement primer,” a sort of what-you-need-to-know about the world of food policy today. I recommended reading our stories, of course. And I also put together an essential reading list, including Marion Nestle’s books, especially Food Politics, and her blog of the same name; Mark Bittman’s recent collection of New York Times’ columns A Bone to Pick; and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules, as well the resource list on his website, and his seminal article, “Food Movement Rising,” in The New York Review of Books.

This request got me thinking about how things have changed since Pollan’s essay appeared five years ago. If the public’s interest in food policy news is any indicator, the fact that Civil Eats’ stories are being syndicated by venerable publications such as TIME and The Atlantic, as well as by online giants like Yahoo!, seems to suggest that a much wider audience is becoming interested in the stories behind their food. Read more

U.S. Farms Becoming Less Diverse Over Time

If you’ve ever driven through the middle of the country, where single crops dominate the landscape for miles, you may think that the bulk of our farms grow just a few foods: corn, soybeans, wheat, and rice. Now, it turns out, you were right.

A new study published last month in the journal PLOS ONE, shows that U.S. crop diversity is significantly lower today than it was 30 years ago. So while it’s been a commonly held belief that U.S. farms are moving toward monoculture, and away from crop diversity, now there’s solid evidence to support that claim. Read more

GMO Labeling Fight: Big Spending on Both Sides?

The debate being waged over whether or not to label genetically engineered (GMO) foods is an especially contentious one. On the floor of Congress, in the news media, in the halls of academia, and on social media sites, pundits on both sides are weighing in, taking pot shots, and resorting to a range of tactics to support their arguments.

The fight has become especially heated since late July, when the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1599—known by its proponents as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, and by its opponents as the “DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act”—which would block GMO labeling at the federal level. Read more

Is Berkeley’s New Soda Tax Failing?

When Berkeley residents voted to approve the nation’s first soda tax by more than a 3 to 1 margin last year, they were hoping it would raise money for the Northern California city while making people healthier. 

Berkeley is charging retailers a penny per ounce of every sugary drink sold—including soft drinks, energy drinks, and pre-sweetened teas—as a “sin tax” designed to make the price artificially high to discourage people from buying them. It’s projected to bring in as much as $1.2 million in its first year. Read more