For decades, Americans believed that we had the world’s healthiest and safest diet. We worried little about this diet’s effect on the environment or on the lives of the animals (or even the workers) it relies upon. Nor did we worry about its ability to endure — that is, its sustainability.
Here are some ideas — frequently discussed, but sadly not yet implemented — that would make the growing, preparation and consumption of food healthier, saner, more productive, less damaging and more enduring.
As I reported last week, the USDA announced late Thursday it would allow the planting of genetically modified alfalfa, the nation's fourth-largest crop, without restriction. Was the decision based on a careful weighing of the evidence by the USDA -- or on political consideration emanating from the White House?
When organic farmer Michael O'Gorman read in 2006 that a disproportionate number of military veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan came from America's rural communities, it was a call to action.
A country boy himself, he arranged a meeting with five other California farmers, and together they hatched a plan to recruit returning veterans for careers in the organic farming industry. Thus began the Farmer-Veteran Coalition, now based in Davis, an organization as committed to supporting the troops as they are to growing a new green economy. The coalition is hosting a seminar at the Ecological Farming Conference this week in Pacific Grove.
In the latest issue of the Journal of Dairy Science, a new study funded by the European Union compared the fat composition of retail milk produced through conventional methods and milk produced using an organic approach. The findings suggest that organic milk provides greater health benefits to humans than ordinary milk.
Specifically, the study indicated that organic milk has much higher concentrations of beneficial and nutritionally desirable fatty acids than milk from conventional production systems. Additionally, organic milk was found to contain lower levels of harmful saturated fat. Although the overall fat content was similar in both types of milk tested, the organic milk showed evidence of more "healthy" fats.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced plans to allow commercial planting of Forage Genetics International’s (FGI) Glyphosate-Tolerant Alfalfa genetically engineered to tolerate St. Louis-based Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide without any federal requirements to prevent contamination of the rest of alfalfa seed and plantings. The genetically engineered technology is licensed exclusively to the seed maker FGI by Monsanto. The expected impact of this decision is far reaching, particularly to organic farmers.
“This creates a perplexing situation when the market calls for a supply of crops free of genetic engineering. The organic standards prohibit the use of genetic engineering, and consumers will not tolerate the accidental presence of genetic engineered materials in organic products yet GE crops continue to proliferate unchecked,” said Christine Bushway, Executive Director and CEO of the Organic Trade Association (OTA).
The Center for Food Safety criticized the announcement today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it will once again allow unlimited, nation-wide commercial planting of Monsanto’s genetically-engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa, despite the many risks to organic and conventional farmers USDA acknowledged in its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). On a call today with stakeholders, Secretary Vilsack reiterated the concerns surrounding purity and access to non-GE seed, yet the Agency’s decision still places the entire burden for preventing contamination on non-GE farmers, with no protections for food producers, consumers and exporters.
This afternoon, my farmed-salmon research and trip prep were rudely interrupted by an unexpected regulation-related announcement: the USDA has decided to approve the use genetically modified alfalfa without any restriction.
The decision marks a sharp reversal: USDA chief Tom Vilsack had hinted strongly that he would place geographic restrictions on the growing of GMO alfalfa, to protect organic alfalfa growers from the threat of GMO contamination. He even floated a fancy name for the policy: "coexistence," as in GMO crops and organic crops all just getting along. Even such a relatively mild restrictive policy would have broken with the longstanding USDA practice of giving GMOs a free pass.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Thursday that he would authorize the unrestricted commercial cultivation of genetically modified alfalfa, setting aside a controversial compromise that had generated stiff opposition.
In making the decision, Mr. Vilsack pulled back from a novel proposal that would have restricted the growing of genetically engineered alfalfa to protect organic farmers from so-called biotech contamination. That proposal drew criticism at a recent Congressional hearing and in public forums where Mr. Vilsack outlined the option.
The following article reveals the devastating and unprecedented impact that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide is having on the health of our soil, plants, animals, and human population. On top of this perfect storm, the USDA now wants to approve Roundup Ready alfalfa, which will exacerbate this calamity.
If these standards come into force, they could set American children on a healthier eating track that could last a lifetime. The proposed rule, issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the newly-passed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, could also save billions of dollars in future health care costs.
Putting this plan into action seems like a no-brainer, but its expense, which USDA estimates at almost $7 billion over five years, is a major stumbling block. Nearly half of that cost would go to put more fresh produce on school breakfast and lunch menus.