Foster Farms has been in the news lately because the company was linked to a Salmonella outbreak that sickened hundreds of people last year. Last week a plant was closed after USDA found cockroaches and sanitation problems. They’ve been quick to make promises about doing better, but so far we haven’t heard any explicit pledges to prevent the further spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
If you’ve been reading the running commentary over at Grist for the past six months, journalist Nathanael Johnson has been opining about genetic engineering in agriculture, diving into the debate and surfacing now with a final “what I learned” piece. His column has gotten a lot of attention from news media writing about his “exploration” of genetically engineered (GE) food or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and has sparked heated comments on his blog, but his reporting has done little to help people understand what’s really at stake in the debate about this technology, which in my opinion, is a hell of a lot.
On January 8, 2014, the growing food movement achieved an important milestone. The California Food Policy Council (CAFPC) released its first report to evaluate California’s legislative record related to food and farms. It is the first state-policy-focused analysis of legislative votes in the nation. This action in California is sure to be followed by similar action throughout the nation. The timing is excellent because I believe 2014 will see even more progress in the intensifying struggle over the future of our nation’s food and farms.
As many of you know, in March, 2012 I launched on The Lunch Tray a Change.org petition seeking to remove lean, finely textured beef (“LFTB,” more widely known as “pink slime”) from the ground beef procured by the USDA for the National School Lunch Program. The petition garnered over a quarter of a million signatures in just a few days and ultimately led the USDA to change its policy, allowing school districts for the first time to opt out of receiving beef containing LFTB.
Last week, the food industry congratulated itself for cutting calories from its products after one major corporation, General Mills, announced that Cheerios would henceforth be free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Both stories generated plenty of media attention, and in an era when food companies are widely criticized for their poor quality foods, the industry needs all the good press it can get. But if you scratch just below the surface with both of these stories you’ll find little more than meaningless “changes” made for appearance’s sake.
Women own or co-own nearly half of our farmland in the United States and are increasingly producing a greater diversity and value of agricultural products, yet are rarely engaged in leadership positions in commodity organizations or on federal policy committees.
Lauren Augusta realized the need for sustainable agriculture exchange while working at a conventional agriculture training program, where she observed the detrimental effects of agrochemicals on the land and farmers’ health. “I loved the idea of cross-cultural exchange, but I ultimately couldn’t defend the agricultural model my old program promoted,” she says. “I was increasingly alarmed by the unjust and disconnected farming practices I witnessed.”
It’s a tolerable 40 degrees in Mount Dora, Florida, where 18-year-old Selena Zelaya is from. Instead of hanging out with friends or working at her part-time job at McDonald’s, Zelaya braved the freezing temperatures in DC to lobby on an issue close to her heart: Farmworker protections. It’s her second time lobbying in DC on this issue.
America has a growing appetite for handcrafted gourmet food products. With this high demand, small-scale food producers often wrestle with questions of growth. How big can they get while remaining true to their values and maintaining the quality of their product? Has the word “artisanal” lost its meaning in the marketplace? How can one identify responsible small businesses that use authentic ingredients and value craft and transparency?
Join CUESA, Kitchen Table Talks, and the Good Food Awards at the Ferry Building for a panel discussion on Monday, January 20, from 6 – 8 pm with three successful artisan food producers who have found their way in the expanding market. The panel will be followed by a reception with refreshments generously provided by Bi-Rite Market.