As I and many others have pointed out, the loss of as much as 70-80 percent of the US honeybee population to Colony Collapse Disorder is a far greater concern than missing that spot of honey in your lavender soy chai. Premium ice cream maker Haagen-Dazs has joined in to sound the alarm about CCD and the impact it could have on our food supply Haagen-Dazs is warning that a creature as small as a honeybee could become a big problem for the premium ice cream maker's business.At issue is the disappearing bee colonies in the United States, a situation that continue to mystify scientists and frighten foodmakers.That's because, according to Haagen-Dazs, one-third of the U.S. food supply - including a variety of fruits, vegetables and even nuts - depends on pollination from bees.Haagen-Dazs, which is owned by General Mills, said bees are actually responsible for 40% of its 60 flavors - such as strawberry, toasted pecan and banana split. When major corporations who are not "on our side" -- as it were -- begin to notice what environmentalists have been saying and sometimes shouting about for a long time, it means that our message is finally getting through. Perhaps the Chicken Little accusations will subside now that the corporate apologists wives' supply of white chocolate raspberry truffle could be interrupted.
Most of you will recall the high-profile battle fought by Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser when he was sued for growing their GM seed without tithing to the corporation for the privilege. Schmeiser insisted that Monsanto's patented DNA blew onto his land, but he lost an acrimonious fight in Canada's Supreme Court anyway. Now Percy's back for more. Schmeiser has filed suit against the agribusiness giant in his Bruno, Saskatchewan, small claims court for C$600, claiming damages when Monsanto's GM seed blew onto his land, which he had to pay to have removed so that he could plant mustard. His contention is that the GMO rapeseed plants (aka canola) are pollution, and polluters should pay. In a telling move, Monsanto agreed to pay if Schmeiser would agree to a gag order preventing him from discussing the case or its settlement. Needless to say, the feisty Mr. Schmeiser isn't having any. There are more details in The Guardian.
You have read, in this space among many others, of the sinister nature of genetic modification and the patenting of seeds. I have ranted endlessly about the dangers of the food system being in the hands of just a few corporate land barons. No reason to stop now. For about five years now the USDA and many large corporate interests have been pushing a program called the National Animal Identification System. NAIS is touted as an effective tool in battling the spread of livestock diseases such as cattle tuberculosis and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow. It provides methods for tagging livestock of any kind with RFID, the same sort of microchip that many people have put on their pets in hopes of recovering poor Fido if he ever gets lost. The thinking is that if a side of beef in a Greeley, Colorado meatpacking plant tests positive for mad cow, authorities can quickly and easily identify said cow, trace it back through the system, and discover other animals with which it may have made contact. Currently, at the federal level, NAIS is a voluntary program overseen by the USDA and administered by the several states with help from organizations like the Future Farmers of America and the Farm Bureau. Farms, feedlots, and confined animal feeding operations apply for and receive a formal numerical designation that is then applied to microchips injected into or ear-tagged onto each animal. According to the USDA, in 2007 the state of Iowa went from 11,000 registered sites to more than 20,000, an increase of over 80 percent -- all this despite a lack of any sort of government funding to participants for the program. Farmers must buy in if they choose to participate. Setting aside for the moment that this system feels like a perfect bureaucratic method for closing the barn doors after the mad cows get out, all this seems fairly innocuous until we look a little deeper. The state of Texas has recently passed legislation requiring NAIS tagging for all dairy cattle. It goes into effect March 31. Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, and Tennessee now require participation for goats and sheep. In Michigan, farmer and now reluctant revolutionary Greg Niewendorp has endured visits from the sheriff reminiscent of scenes from and old Billy Jack movie.
Creating a food system that is "good, clean, and fair" involves more than the buy-local mantra and the anti-Monsanto-ADM-WalMart rhetoric I and so many others constantly chanting. Sometimes even more evil and insidious obstacles lie in our way. Witness what's taking place in Kenya:
Regarding the article Tom mentioned yesterday, Joel Stein's Time article, "Extreme Eating": while Mr. Stein is of course free to eat whatever type of food he chooses, I must take exception to his contention that "Dodd was basically telling the Iowans that every night they should decide whether to accompany their pork with creamed corn, corn on the cob, corn fritters or corn bread. For dessert, they could have any flavor they wanted of fake ice cream made from soy, provided that flavor was corn." I am forced to question whether Mr. Stein has actually been to Iowa (outside of a presidential candidate's rally). While there is indeed a large amount of corn, soy, and pork grown here (more than anywhere in the world in fact), to say that this is all we can eat when we choose to eat locally is blindly absurd and typical of a bicoastal mentality that considers America's great heartland to be little more than "flyover states."
Fifteen years ago, I left a great job teaching at a prestigious northeast culinary school to move back to Iowa and be an executive chef at a Holiday Inn. It was difficult to find people, in Vermont or Iowa, who did not think I was certifiably insane. Those who thought they knew Iowa claimed, “There’s no there there!” And those who did not asked, “Iowa? Isn’t that where they grow potatoes?” Because I had spent my undergraduate years in Iowa, I was accustomed to the rest of the country, especially folks from the coasts, referring to it as one of …