Farmers, Workers, Consumers, Unite! New Visions in Food Justice

From Yes Magazine:

How do we make sure that our food contributes to the health of our communities and ecosystems?

by Yvonne Yen Liu
posted Oct 15, 2012

Since its founding in 1996, the Community Food Security Coalition has been the leading voice for people of color and the poor in a food movement that often marginalizes them in favor of well-heeled “foodies.” This summer, the coalition announced that 2012 would be its last year of operation. The announcement left those of us in the food movement reeling.

Although the timing was not deliberate, it seemed fitting that a gathering about the future of the food justice movement, Food + Justice = Democracy, had been planned to take place just months after the coalition’s announcement.

What was next? Would private-sector solutions, such as Wal-Mart’s expansion into urban markets, pick up the mantle? Would well-known personalities in the consumer-driven foodie world, such as Michael Pollan and Alice Waters, develop solutions capable of addressing the needs of those outside of their white middle-class audience? Or would the answer come from somewhere else?

The organizer of the conference, LaDonna Redmond, was clear about her intentions. A former urban farmer in the west side of Chicago, Redmond was inspired to grow vegetables in her backyard because she was unable to buy pesticide-free food in her predominantly black and working-class neighborhood. She is now a senior program associate with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).

“This is the first-ever conference of this kind,” Redmond explained to me over the phone. “The goals are to change the narrative around the role of people of color in the food system, to give voice to how the exploitation of land and labor are at the core, to build a national movement led by people of color and tribal communities, and to move federal policy.”

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

From Truth Out:

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.]

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