April 25, 2014
It has been a busy week in food news; here’s what caught our attention:
1. Vermont to Enact GMO Food-Labeling Law (Wall Street Journal)
In the biggest news item of the week, Vermont passed a GMO labeling bill that would be the first to go into effect by July 1, 2016. As we reported last week, the bills passed recently in Maine and Connecticut both include a “trigger clause” meaning that other states around them must pass similar bills before they go into effect. Vermont lawmakers are so sure they will be sued by the food industry that they have also created a legal liability fund, and “as much as $1.5 million in settlements collected by Vermont’s attorney general could go into the fund each year.”
2. Why American Apples Just Got Banned in Europe (Mother Jones)
Apples grown with diphenylamine, or DPA—a common chemical that prevents brown spots from cold storage—have actually been banned in the European Union (EU) since 2012. But the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report this week alerting consumers to the fact that the EU recently lowered its tolerable levels of the chemical, meaning conventionally grown apples from the U.S. are even less likely to be sold there. DPA has the potential to break down into a family of carcinogens called nitrosamines. And the last time anyone checked, it was on 80 percent of the samples tested, at about four times the new European limit. In other words, says Mother Jones’ Tom Philpott, “the apple on your counter top would likely be deemed unsafe by European authorities.” It’s no coincidence that apples have ranked at the top of EWG’s Dirty Dozen list for the last decade.
Maps released this week by the California Environmental Protection Agency show that eight of the state’s 10 census tracts most heavily burdened by pollution are in the state’s Central Valley. The reason? Not only is this part of the state in the 90th percentile for pesticide applications, it’s also home to several highly-polluting meat rendering plants.
4. The Economic and Environmental Costs of Wasted Food (New York Times)
While we haven’t made much progress in reducing food waste here in the U.S., there are several inspiring examples abroad. Britain has cut food waste by 21 percent since 2007, thanks to campaigns like Love Food, Hate Waste and work by large retailers to offer less-wasteful options, such as “lettuce in bags with two compartments, so that consumers can use one half while the other stays fresh.” And in China, a new anti-food waste law is on the table and restaurant diners are sharing photos of their empty plates on social media. In South Korea, the government aims to cut food waste by 20 percent, by charging for garbage disposal by weight. Meanwhile, the European Union hopes to cut food waste in half by 2020.
5. Is It Time to Reconsider Farmed Salmon? (TakePart)
“For more than a decade, the fish has been the poster child for what ails aquaculture,” writes Clare Leschin-Hoar about farmed salmon. But, she adds, years of collective skepticism may just be leading fish farmers to try harder to reach sustainable foodies. For instance, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council for responsible stewardship just approved its first farmed salmon, and some scientists are working on creating an eco-systems approach to farming this popular fish, as well. Even Paul Greenberg, author of Four Fish, and a critic of some farmed salmon systems in the past, appears to be interested in a more nuanced conversation about this much-maligned food. “We know it really well, so to abandon it as a farmed animal seems like it’s a mistake,” he told Leschin-Hoar.
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