Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, and more than 80 farmers, public health, environmental, and organic food organizations today sent a letter to Michael R. Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Food at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and to Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), expressing serious concerns that a proposed U.S. position on food labeling would create major problems for American producers who want to label their products as free of genetically modified (GM)/genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. A copy of the letter can be found online [PDF]. Read more

Kitchen Table Talks is excited to announce its new partnership with the Center for Urban Education About Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA). We’ll be co-hosting some events together and starting off with a great panel on Tuesday, March 2, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. to discuss, “Produce to the People: New Ideas for Local Distribution.” The conversation will focus on alternative models for local produce distribution and will be held in the Port Commission Hearing Room on the second floor of the Ferry Building. The event is free and open to the public. No RSVP is required.

The Bay Area is fortunate to have abundant local produce available at multiple farmers’ markets and stores. But not everyone has access to, or can afford, farm fresh produce. Many restaurants and businesses also want to buy local, but don’t have the time or staff to shop locally. The conversation will tap into best practices and lessons learned from three of the Bay Area’s most interesting initiatives and address the creative ways these organizations are getting local produce to more people, including those in underserved and neglected communities. Read more

Beginning in 2006, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) took legal action against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) illegal approval of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa. The federal courts agreed and banned GE alfalfa until the USDA fully analyzed the impacts of the plant on the environment, farmers, and the public in an environmental impacts statement (EIS).

USDA released its draft EIS on December 14, 2009. A 60-day comment period is now open until February 16, 2010. CFS has begun analyzing the EIS and it is clear that the USDA has not taken the concerns of non-GE alfalfa farmers, or organic dairy farmers seriously, for example, having dismissed the fact that contamination will threaten export markets and domestic organic markets. You can review the EIS here and supplemental documents here.

This is the first time the USDA has prepared an EIS for any GE crop and therefore will have broad implications for all transgenic crops, and its failure to address the environmental and related economic impacts of GE alfalfa will have far-reaching consequences. CFS is spearheading a campaign to make sure all affected parties know and are involved in the public process and have the opportunity to comment. Read more

Climate change presents California agriculture with two major challenges: how to reduce its contribution to climate change while arming itself against the threats a warming planet poses to agricultural production.

Fortunately, many of the measures that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions or sequester carbon in the soil will also make agriculture more resilient to extreme weather patterns, such as the current drought. Cover cropping, composting, conservation tillage, organic fertilization and other best management practices will increase the amount of soil organic matter, reduce erosion, conserve water and enhance fertility. This, in turn, will help increase crop productivity and drought and pest resistance in the face of an increasingly dry and hot climate. According to a January 2009, ground-breaking study by University of California at Davis researchers, these practices, when combined, will generate significant greenhouse gas reduction benefits, primarily through carbon sequestration. Read more

On a recent Sunday evening, nearly a hundred and fifty people decided to drive out to Brentwood, Ca to have dinner and enjoy the harvest hospitality at the Brookside Farm.  Farmer Welling Tom was busy running about – harvesting fruit for the small vegetable stand set up on the edge of the orchard where his mom Anne would sell some pears before being called over to help serve the grilled fish and meats that accompanied their local bounty. Read more

It is often said: You are what you eat, and increasingly in this day and age we come to define ourselves by our food habits.  Are you a vegetarian or a vegan?  Are you a compassionate carnivore or a junk-food junkie?  Are you a locavore?  A raw foodist?  An omnivore?

We choose these labels for ourselves because they in many ways reflect our core values. Read more

Robyn O’Brien is the best-selling author of The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It and a “reluctant crusader” for cleaning up our food system. A Houston native from a conservative family—not the most likely candidate to be found on the frontline of the battleground for the American food supply—Robyn’s advocacy began when the youngest of her four children had a violent reaction to eggs. In a quest to find answers and solutions to what seemed to be a personal problem, she used her MBA and background in finance to uncover and report on the relationship between Big Food and Big Money and unearth how a flawed federal policy has allowed hidden toxins in our food that she argues could be contributing to the alarming recent increase in allergies, ADHD, cancer, and asthma in our children. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Robyn about her book and her work, specifically focusing on the recent engineering of patented chemical and proteins in our food. Read more

School’s out for the summer, but there’s a food fight going on in the cafeteria. In Washington, Congress is turning up the heat on the policies that determine what 30 million children will eat once the lunch bell rings.

Want hormones out of kid’s milk? Pesticides off the tomatoes? Local lettuce in the salad bar? Candy bars and snack cakes to be considered junk food? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then I urge you to step into the lunch room and learn what this food fight is all about. Read more

Author’s note: Lately a number of people have asked me what I think of how the Obama administration is approaching agriculture. Do all the gardens and talk of healthy food represent significant change, or are they a leafy green veneer on what amounts to nothing more than business as usual? Here’s my response, which was mailed by post today. Read more