As a society, we get upset by food companies processing horsemeat to sell to us in the grocery store. It’s troubling to customers; some don’t like the idea of not knowing what’s in our food.
Could we extend that same concern to the people who grow the food that end up in our refrigerators and cupboards? Could we get as enraged that food companies are looking the other way from land grabs in developing countries as families lose their farms or access to water?
There’s a range of injustices and violations that are often included in food products. Read more
Recent reports of secret meetings among industry reps and the Food and Drug Adminstration over GMO labeling piqued my interest, mostly because this critical aspect was missing: any effort to label GE foods at the federal level could bring the current grassroots movement to a grinding halt by preventing any stronger local laws from ever being enacted. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Last month, Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association and one of the leaders of the GMO labeling effort, recently published an article about how “representatives of Wal-Mart, General Mills, Pepsi-Frito Lay, Mars, Coca-Cola and others” met with the FDA on January 11 “to lobby for a mandatory federal GMO labeling law.” Read more
At the farmers market, you can meet the farmer who grew your carrots, talk to them about their growing practices, and feel confident that your food dollars are going directly to the farm. But the path coffee travels from farm to cup is much more mysterious. How can you feel good about the businesses you’re supporting with your coffee dollars and ensure that farmers thousands of miles away are receiving their fair share? Read more
I’m part of the camp that was thrilled that Proposition 37 registered a full 48.6 percent of the California vote last November. More than 6 million voters saying “yes” to labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods was a huge victory in my book, especially given that the No campaign (with major funding from chemical companies and packaged food giants such as Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, PepsiCo and Kraft) outspent the initiative’s supporters by more than $35 million dollars.
Naturally, I would like to have seen Prop. 37 win, despite the mountain of money against it, providing us with a model for more robust and honest food labeling. But the run we made at it was historic — and it is hardly the last time we’ll see GE labeling on state ballots and in legislatures. The showing California’s “right to know” initiative made is proof-positive that we are only an election (or two) or legislative victory from a different kind of understanding of both how we are producing our food and what we are eating and feeding our families. Prop. 37 was a breakthrough, not a moment of doubt. Read more
If Proposition 37, California’s GMO labeling measure, gets voted down today, it will be unfortunate and frustrating for many. But it won’t happen for lack of a movement.
Last month, in a much-quoted New York Times Magazine article, Michael Pollan framed this state-level ballot initiative as an important test with national implications. If we can translate the growing consumer awareness about the value of organic and local food into a movement with real political will, he argued, then surely this ballot initiative was a reason to pull out the stops and push this burgeoning movement to its limit. Read more
The food industry really hates it when you compare them to Big Tobacco. They try to deny the negative association by claiming that food is different than tobacco. Of course that’s true, but why are the same consultants that have worked for the tobacco industry now shilling for Big Food, opposing the ballot initiative that would require labeling of all foods containing GMO ingredients? Read more
Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a ban on the use of bisphenol A, or BPA, in baby bottles and children’s cups. BPA is an estrogen-mimicking chemical that has been used in hard plastics, the linings of cans, food packaging, and dental fillings, even receipts–for which the Environmental Protection Agency is now investigating alternatives–for years. We’ve reported about the dangers of BPA on Civil Eats here, here, and here. This move essentially made official a practice that many manufacturers of baby bottles and cups already follow in response to growing pressure from consumers.
Questions of safety remain when it comes to the use of any plastic products that come in contact with our foods. The FDA ban is raising concern and creating headlines about what manufacturers will substitute in place of the BPA. A 2011 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that all plastics contain estrogenic activity (EA) and in some cases, those labeled “BPA free” leached more chemicals with EA than did BPA-containing products. The study’s authors write, “Almost all commercially available plastic products we sampled—independent of the type of resin, product, or retail source—leached chemicals having reliably detectable EA, including those advertised as BPA free.”
When it comes to the chemicals used in food packaging, there is much we still don’t know. After a recent U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) decision last month to not put further restrictions on bisphenol-A (BPA), a new report today in the Washington Post takes a closer look at studies that reveal that such endocrine-distrupting chemicals are not only ubiquitous, they might also be harmful at much lower doses than previously thought. Read more
The California Assembly did not pass the Consumer Right To Know Act, AB 88, introduced by Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and put to a vote earlier this year. This is too bad. It would have meant that food is “misbranded” if it is a genetically engineered fish or fish product, but its labeling does not conspicuously identify it as such. The timing of this measure is significant, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing the first-ever proposed commercialization of salmon genetically engineered (GE) to mature more quickly. Read more
Though it has dropped from the headlines recently, the bisphenol A discussion continues to rage. California is one Jerry Brown signature away from a partial ban of the chemical, which is used in everything from canned goods to PVC plastic to cash register receipts. There is ample evidence that BPA, an endocrine disruptor, has been linked to various ills, including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Some scientists are even raising questions about the damage it’s doing to our oceans.
And, despite FDA footdragging on the issue, the government is worried. The National Institutes of Health recently initiated a $30 million research program (though not without some controversy) to examine the growing risks and make a final call on BPA’s safety.
Now, a new study by U.S. government scientists purports to debunk the entire BPA threat. It claims that BPA poses no risk whatsoever and goes so far as to conclude that every previous study that found otherwise was fundamentally flawed. Read more