Why Is the FDA Inspecting So Little Imported Seafood?

From Mother Jones:  http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/10/fda-barely-inspects-imported-seafood

By Mon Oct. 22, 2012

If you eat a lot of fish, likely as not you’re eating something that was raised on a farm and hauled in from thousands of miles away. According to NOAA, we import about 86 percent of the seafood we consume, about half of which comes from from aquaculture. And just because you find it in a gleaming supermarket fish case or on a well-presented restaurant plate doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat.

Over at BusinessWeek, there’s a pretty startling piece on the sanitary conditions on some of those farms. In Vietnam, farmed shrimp bound for the US market are kept fresh with heaps of ice made from tap water that teems with pathogenic bacteria, BusinessWeek reports. Tilapia in China’s fish farms, meanwhile, literally feed on pig manure—even though it contains salmonella and makes the tilapia “more susceptible to disease.” Why use hog shit as feed? Simple—it’s cheap, and China’s tilapia farms operate under intense pressure to slash costs and produce as much cheap tilapia as possible.

And, as Wired‘s Maryn McKenna showed in a post earlier this year, harmful bacteria like salmonella aren’t the only potential health problem associated with Asia’s fish and shrimp farms. There’s also the threat of residues from the chemicals farm operators use to control those pathogens. Like US meat farmers, Asia’s shrimp farmers rely heavily on antibiotics, traces of which can stay in the shrimp. And many of the antibiotics in use on Asia’s fish farms are banned for use in the US for public-health reasons.

Now, you might think that the Food and Drug Administration, which is charged with overseeing the safety of the food supply, is protecting us from potential harm from these products. The agency is certainly aware of the problem. Testifying before Congress in 2008, then FDA deputy director of food safety Don Kraemer put it like this:

As the aquaculture industry continues to grow, concern about the use of unapproved drugs and unsafe chemicals in aquaculture operations has increased significantly. There is clear scientific evidence that the use of unapproved antibiotics and other drugs and chemicals, such as malachite green, nitrofurans, fluoroquinolones, and gentian violet, can result in the presence of residues in the edible portions of aquacultured seafood.

Continue reading at:  http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/10/fda-barely-inspects-imported-seafood

Of course Monsanto says it’s safe

From  Food and Water Watch:  http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/blogs/of-course-monsanto-says-its-safe/

By Tim Schwab
October 18th, 2012

If you’ve been paying attention to the news about food lately, you’ve probably read about the now infamous “Seralini study,” in which University of Caen (France) molecular biologist Gilles-Eric Seralini demonstrated major health issues associated with eating Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) corn and the herbicide used in conjunction with it, RoundUp.

Widely covered by the media, most reports have tried to portray Seralini as a strident, ideologically driven researcher who willfully designed a study to produce a result showing that GE food is bad. Many science journalists criticized Seralini for having an anti-GE bias, for taking research money from a foundation that is anti-GE, and for not disclosing every piece of data to the public.

But this attack coverage seems grossly disproportionate given the realities around funding and bias in agricultural research. Science journalists seldom, if ever, cover the opposite angle: that industry has funded much of the scientific literature we have about the safety of GE foods. These industry-funded studies aren’t science as much as they are public relations, always concluding that GE is safe and good. And in our broken regulatory system for these controversial new foods, these industry studies are also what regulators use to approve new genetically engineered crops for our food supply.

Indeed, the strain of corn that Seralini studied, NK603, has been shown in the scientific literature to be safe—in studies done by Monsanto.  The company has produced at least seven studies about NK603 – all of them positive – in four peer-reviewed journals.   More shocking, at least three of these peer-reviewed journals openly advertise their corporate sponsors from the food industry, like Archer Daniel Midlands and Pioneer.One of these, the Journal of Animal Science is run by the American Society of Animal Science, which counts biotech companies BASF and Monsanto, as gold and silver sponsors. Most of the Monsanto studies include co-authors from public universities, whose names add credibility.

Does anyone honestly think that Monsanto is going to fund research about its products that casts them in an unfavorable light, then publish these findings in a journal over which it has financial influence for all to see?

Continue reading at:  http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/blogs/of-course-monsanto-says-its-safe/

Scenes of ‘Dust Bowl Days’ Return As Oklahoma Storm Causes Highway Pileup

From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/10/19

Year of high temps and record drought portends climate future for once fertile croplands

Common Dreams staff
Published on Friday, October 19, 2012 by Common Dreams

Dramatic video footage and eye witness accounts from Oklahoma on Thursday tell the story of a scene right out of the Depression-era ‘Dust Bowl days’ as a massive wind-swept cloud of ‘reddish-brown’ dirt made visibility impossible on a stretch of Interstate-35 between Oklahoma City and Kansas City, Mo.

The mid-western states have experienced some of the highest temperatures on record this year and a severe drought has devastated corn crops and turned once thriving fields to brown. Scientists make direct connections between these trends and the growing impact of climate change fueled by human-caused global warming.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Jodi Palmer, a dispatcher with the Kay County Sheriff’s Office, told the Associated Press. “In this area alone, the dirt is blowing because we’ve been in a drought. I think from the drought everything’s so dry and the wind is high.”

“You have the perfect combination of extended drought in that area … and we have the extremely strong winds,” said Gary McManus, the Oklahoma associate state climatologist, also speaking with AP.

“Also, the timing is bad because a lot of those farm fields are bare. The soil is so dry, it’s like powder. Basically what you have is a whole bunch of topsoil waiting for the wind to blow it away. It’s no different from the 1930s than it is now.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/10/19

Posted in Climate Change, Ecology, Environment, Food. Tags: , . Comments Off

The Risky Business of Eating in America

From Other Words:  http://www.otherwords.org/articles/the_risky_business_of_eating_in_america

By Jill Richardson
October 17, 2012

Long before human beings decoded the human genome or split the atom, they discovered that arsenic is very good at killing things. The ancient Romans prized it as a murder weapon because it could be mixed into food or drink without altering its color, taste, or smell. Plus, a tiny dose kills without fail.

What the Romans didn’t know about arsenic, and what scientists didn’t discover until the 20th century, is that a form of it — inorganic arsenic — causes cancer. And in 1999, the National Academy of Sciences found that the amount of arsenic legally allowed in U.S. drinking water posed serious cancer risks.

Since then, the U.S. government slashed the amount allowed in drinking water from 50 micrograms per liter to just 10. The potent carcinogenicity of arsenic was what Donald Rumsfeld might call an “unknown unknown” for most of human history. So was the fact that Americans can consume dangerous amounts of inorganic arsenic in one of our most common foods: rice.

Consumer Reports dropped that bombshell on the nation in September, recommending that adults limit rice consumption to just two servings per week if they wish to reduce their cancer risk from inorganic arsenic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration didn’t go so far as to recommend Americans limit their rice intake. But the agency did say that “consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains.” They also published their own data on arsenic in rice. It was consistent with the findings of Consumer Reports.

How did such a healthy food — often one of the first solid foods parents spoon into their babies’ mouths — suddenly become a deadly, cancer-causing agent? For one thing, rice is the only major crop grown under water. That allows it to absorb arsenic more easily than other crops. And though some arsenic will always occur naturally in soil and water, humans have added a whole lot more.

Continue reading at:  http://www.otherwords.org/articles/the_risky_business_of_eating_in_america

Battle Brewing Over Labeling of Genetically Modified Food

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/25/science/dispute-over-labeling-of-genetically-modified-food.html/

By and
Published: May 24, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — On a recent sunny morning at the Big Y grocery here, Cynthia LaPier parked her cart in the cereal aisle. With a glance over her shoulder and a quick check of the ingredients, she plastered several boxes with hand-designed stickers from a roll in her purse. “Warning,” they read. “May Contain GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms).”

For more than a decade, almost all processed foods in the United States — cereals, snack foods, salad dressings — have contained ingredients from plants whose DNA was manipulated in a laboratory. Regulators and many scientists say these pose no danger. But as Americans ask more pointed questions about what they are eating, popular suspicions about the health and environmental effects of biotechnology are fueling a movement to require that food from genetically modified crops be labeled, if not eliminated.

Labeling bills have been proposed in more than a dozen states over the last year, and an appeal to the Food and Drug Administration last fall to mandate labels nationally drew more than a million signatures. There is an iPhone app: ShopNoGMO.

The most closely watched labeling effort is a proposed ballot initiative in California that cleared a crucial hurdle this month, setting the stage for a probable November vote that could influence not just food packaging but the future of American agriculture.

Tens of millions of dollars are expected to be spent on the election showdown. It pits consumer groups and the organic food industry, both of which support mandatory labeling, against more conventional farmers, agricultural biotechnology companies like Monsanto and many of the nation’s best-known food brands like Kellogg’s and Kraft.

The heightened stakes have added fuel to a long-simmering debate over the merits of genetically engineered crops, which many scientists and farmers believe could be useful in meeting the world’s rapidly expanding food needs.

Supporters of labeling argue that consumers have a right to know when food has been modified with genes from another species, which they say is fundamentally different from the selective breeding process used in nearly all crops.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/25/science/dispute-over-labeling-of-genetically-modified-food.html/

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Under Industry Pressure, USDA Works to Speed Approval of Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered Crops

From Truth Out: http://www.truth-out.org/under-industry-pressure-usda-works-speed-approval-monsantos-genetically-engineered-crops/1323453319

by: Mike Ludwig
Monday 12 December 2011

For years, biotech agriculture opponents have accused regulators of working too closely with big biotech firms when deregulating genetically engineered (GE) crops. Now, their worst fears could be coming true: under a new two-year pilot program at the USDA, regulators are training the world’s biggest biotech firms, including Monsanto, BASF and Syngenta, to conduct environmental reviews of their own transgenic seed products as part of the government’s deregulation process.

This would eliminate a critical level of oversight for the production of GE crops. Regulators are also testing new cost-sharing agreements that allow biotech firms to help pay private contractors to prepare mandatory environmental statements on GE plants the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering deregulating.

The USDA launched the pilot project in April and, in November, the USDA announced vague plans to “streamline” the deregulation petition process for GE organisms. A USDA spokesperson said the streamlining effort is not part of the pilot project, but both efforts appear to address a backlog of pending GE crop deregulation petitions that has angered big biotech firms seeking to rollout new products.

Documents obtained by Truthout under a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request reveal that biotech companies, lawmakers and industry groups have put mounting pressure on the USDA in recent years to speed up the petition process, limit environmental impact assessments and approve more GE crops. One group went as far as sending USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack a timeline of GE soybean development that reads like a deregulation wish list. [Click here and here to download and read some of the documents released to Truthout.]

Continue reading at:    http://www.truth-out.org/under-industry-pressure-usda-works-speed-approval-monsantos-genetically-engineered-crops/1323453319

Home Sweet Home: The New American Localism

From NPR: http://www.npr.org/2011/12/13/143538472/home-sweet-home-the-new-american-localism?sc=fb&cc=f

by
December 13, 2011

You can talk about the global village, a mobile society and the World Wide Web all you want, but many in our country seem to be turning toward a New American Localism.

These days, we are local folks and our focus is local. We are doing everything locally: food, finance, news, charity. And maybe for good reasons.

“One bedrock thing that is going on,” says Brad Edmondson, founder of ePodunk and former editor of American Demographics magazine, is that “because of aging and the recession, people aren’t moving around as much.”

The U.S. Census Bureau backs him up with a news release — based on a recent report — titled “Mover Rate Reaches Record Low.” The bureau found that only 11.6 percent of Americans changed their living spaces between 2010 and 2011. That is the lowest rate on record since the Current Population Survey of the United States began tracking geographical mobility in 1948. In 1985, for instance, the changed-residence rate was 20.2 percent.

“With homeowner mobility at an all-time low, more people are putting down roots and getting to know their neighbors,” Edmondson says. “At the same time a lot of households have seen sharp declines in discretionary income. They are looking for ways to relax that don’t cost as much, and they are substituting cooperation for cash.”

The new version of the popular bumper sticker “Support Your Local Sheriff” could become “Support Your Local Everything.”

Continue reading at:   http://www.npr.org/2011/12/13/143538472/home-sweet-home-the-new-american-localism?sc=fb&cc=f

Posted in Anti-Globalization, Food, Hard Times, Labor. Tags: . Comments Off
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