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Big Apple Takes on Big Gulp

The controversy surrounding New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s recent plan to ban sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces ranges from praise for taking on “America’s expanding waistline” to deriding him as a “nanny” for infringing on our personal choices and freedoms. But what’s largely missing from the debate is a real critique of the true villain in this battle—Big Food. Read more

Supporting Vets’ Letter to President Obama on 2,4-D a Fitting Memorial

Today is Memorial Day, a day when many across the country will stop and remember the meaning of military service and the ultimate sacrifice so many gave—and are still giving. Remembering is what the day is all about. And yet sometimes we can do more than reflect. We can honor vets by listening when they speak, and acting at their urging. Right now, they’re talking–and they’re asking for our help on an issue important to every one of us.

Center for Food Safety strongly supports last week’s Vietnam Veterans of America appeal to President Obama on the hazards of 2,4-D resistant corn, developed by Dow Chemical Company, to dramatically increase use of the company’s toxic 2,4-D herbicide. Make no mistake, this is an effort rooted in profit and market dominance, not science. The Vietnam vets of this nation know all too well the price to be paid when the truth is hidden from sight. Read more

Our Deadly, Daily Chemical Cocktail

Chemicals and additives found in the food supply and other consumer products are making headlines regularly as more and more groups  raise concern over the safety of these substances. In a statement released yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) asked for reform to the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. The group is particularly concerned about the effects these substances have on children and babies.

Last month, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) held hearings on the safety of food dyes but failed to make a definitive ruling—the most recent study on Bisphenol-A (BPA) added to growing doubts about its safety but the FDA’s stance remains ambiguous. Meanwhile, in 2010, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the FDA is not ensuring the safety of many chemicals.

Yet while the FDA drags its heels and hedges on the safety of these substances, Americans are exposed to untested combinations of food additives, dyes, preservatives, and chemicals on a daily basis. Indeed, for the vast majority of Americans consuming industrial foods, a veritable chemical cocktail enters their bodies every day and according to the GAO report, “FDA is not systematically ensuring the continued safety of current GRAS substances.” Read more

The EPA: Cleaning Up Crappy Water Since 1970

This is a story about crap–literally, tons of it. Piling up in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and being sprayed onto farm fields, animal manure is polluting the nation’s waterways and is nearly impossible to regulate.

Last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a ruling [PDF] reversing the decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requiring CAFOs to obtain a Clean Water Act permit in order to pollute. The court did uphold the EPA’s right to fine those that do pollute after the fact. Here’s the rub: Farmers are not responsible for manure that exits their property and enters waterways when it rains. Read more

Agribiz: Food or the Environment But Not Both

In a piece on the EPA’s attempts to save the Chesapeake Bay as well as USDA’s new policy of acknowledging risks of genetic contamination or organics by GMO crops, Tom Philpott has a key insight about industrial agriculture:

In both the case of the Chesapeake Bay watershed’s vast chicken factories and that of GM alfalfa, industrial agriculture is admitting that it needs to trash its neighbors and the surrounding landscape to thrive. It wants us to believe that there are no alternatives if we want to feed ourselves plentifully.

The idea that protecting the environment is a luxury we can’t afford is a standard defense for corporations in many sectors–though typically only trotted out by the dirtiest industrial polluters (e.g. coal and oil companies). Read more

Underground Food Market Goes Legal

When the New York Times reported on the growing phenomenon of underground food markets in New York City earlier this month, the Greenpoint Food Market in Brooklyn was forced to shut its doors.

The Times article “put us on radar with the officials,” wrote Joann Kim, the market’s organizer and founder, in an email to market devotees. “Since then we have gone back and forth with the city trying to find a solution to how the market can keep its mission while adhering to rules and regulations.” Read more

Can the USDA Really Fight Industry Consolidation?

The first of the much anticipated agricultural competition workshops began last Friday in Iowa. Hosted jointly by the USDA and the Department of Justice, the workshops aim to explore the question of consolidation in agribusiness. The workshops themselves have already come under scrutiny for initially excluding actual farmers on the panels–and have come in for continued criticism that the farmers who have been put on are more representatives of corporations than real farmers.

It’s hard not to be somewhat cynical about our government’s claim that they’re shocked, shocked to discover there’s anti-competitive behavior in agriculture. On the other hand, for the last twenty or so years, consolidation has been–in Washington at least–the crime that dare not speak its name. So the fact that it’s the USDA and DOJ running these workshops is nothing short of astonishing. Read more

FDA on BPA: Our Hands are Tied

The FDA finally released its BPA report. The good news is that the FDA now admits that BPA—the endocrine-disrupting, heart disease-causing ingredient in plastic food packaging and can linings—isn’t entirely safe (contradicting the agency’s statement from 2008 that it was), particularly for infants and children. The bad news? There’s not much the agency can do about it. Here are the immediate, limited steps the FDA feels it can take “to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply”: Read more