Tom Laskawy

A 17-year veteran of both traditional and online media, Tom Laskawy is a founder and executive director of the Food & Environment Reporting Network and a contributing writer at Grist covering food and agricultural policy. Tom's long and winding road to food politics writing passed through New York, Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area, Florence, Italy, and Philadelphia (which has a vibrant progressive food politics and sustainable agriculture scene, thank you very much). In addition to Grist, his writing has appeared online in The American Prospect, Slate, The New York Times, and The New Republic. He is on record as believing that wrecking the planet is a bad idea. Follow him on Twitter.

minor oversight

[UPDATED:] FDA’s food safety blogger doesn’t think meat safety is a problem

The WaPo and the NYT are now reporting that Michael Taylor has been officially named deputy commissioner for foods at the FDA. What remains fascinating is that both articles, like Taylor’s blog post at the Atlantic, continue to ignore meat safety. It’s only mentioned in passing in the context of Taylor’s past stint as head of USDA food safety during the Clinton administration. The WaPo’s piece even implies that Taylor all but solved problems with meat safety some 10 years ago. Meanwhile the NYT claims that this move plus new legislation that gives more power to the FDA represents the …

From AFB with love: STFU

Industrial farming head just says ‘no’ to call for civility

For those of you wondering if we can have a more civil discourse over food and agriculture in this country, American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman has an answer for you: Fat chance! According to Stallman [MS Word], the top challenge facing farmers isn’t the rising cost of seed, fertilizer, and pesticides. Or the alarming growth of superweeds (a new report says that over 50 percent of fields in Missouri harbor weeds resistant to the herbicide RoundUp, upon which the entire GMO production style is based). Or the threat posed by climate change, which could reduce U.S. grain yields substantially …

violent agreement

What does climate consensus look like?

What with the Arctic Oscillation oscillating like mad thus making the developed world colder than a… Well, really cold. And with meteorologists across the country proving that talking about the weather for a living seems to make you less likely to understand climate. And with the American Farm Bureau sort of proving the same thing, it’s enough to make you realize that there are an awful lot of climate doubters out there. So it’s time for a helpful reminder that the existence of anthropogenic climate change represents the consensus view, not just of climate scientists, but of all scientists in …

a river in egypt

Scientists demand meeting to talk climate with head of American Farm Bureau

It’s not just mountaintop removal mining that’s making activists of scientists. Now a group of 40 climate scientists backed by the Union of Concerned Scientists has written a letter demanding a meeting with American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman to discuss his group’s continued endorsement of climate denial and refusal to acknowledge the reality of anthropogenic climate change. For its part, the AFB shows no sign of backing down. According to ag journalist Chris Clayton, the AFB’s annual meeting which starts this weekend will feature the group’s climate denial prominently (sub req’d): Farm Bureau has been opposed to climate legislation …

better dying through chemistry

Pesticides loom large in animal die-offs

Yale’s Environment 360 has a new must-read report by Sonia Shah linking pesticides to the high-profile die-offs among amphibians, bees, and bats. What makes this news timely isn’t necessarily the toxicity of the pesticides per se, it’s the indirect effects on these animals of chronic, low-dose exposure to chemicals: In the past dozen years, no fewer than three never-before-seen diseases have decimated populations of amphibians, bees, and — most recently — bats. A growing body of evidence indicates that pesticide exposure may be playing an important role in the decline of the first two species, and scientists are investigating whether …

marriage of convenience

Can GMO seeds be ‘sustainable’?

The New York Times has another piece encouraging a flare-up in the cage match between organic farmers and those in favor of genetic engineering as the solution to future food needs. This one is centered on the “unlikely” but happy marriage of a plant geneticist and an organic farmer: Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak have every reason not to get along. Ronald, a plant scientist, has spent her past two decades manipulating rice from her lab bench, bending the grain’s DNA to her whim. Adamchak, meanwhile, is an organic farmer, teaching college students the best practices of an environmentally gentle …

labor pains

Milk may be cheap but dairy workers shouldn’t be

Barry Estabrook has a piece up on the Atlantic reminding us that agriculture practiced on any scale anywhere in this country relies heavily on migrant — usually undocumented — laborers to perform the hardest, riskiest jobs. And sometimes they die. [A]t about 4:00 in the afternoon of December 22, José Obeth Santiz Cruz, a 20-year-old youth from Las Margaritas in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico, died after becoming caught in a manure-removal conveyer inside the barn of the Vermont farm where he worked. Because he lacked documentation, it took more than a week for officials to determine who …

hoop dreams

Winter growers get some love from the USDA

It’s tempting to hear the news (and watch the video!) telling us that the USDA will study winter gardening and wonder why the USDA needs to study something that Eliot Coleman, a farmer in Maine, has been doing successfully — and writing about — for decades and something that Will Allen’s urban farming company Growing Power is doing commercially right now. But to do so misses a crucial point. While what follows is a bit of an oversimplification — hey, this is agricultural regulatory structure we’re talking about so give me a break! — it’s important to remember one crucial …

cut bait

Atlantic bluefin tuna inches towards protection

Can we change our tuna?With the Atlantic bluefin tuna fishery on the verge of collapse and ICCAT, the entity charged with protecting it, ignoring its own scientists’ call for a fishing ban, the tuna’s last hope appears to be a March 2010 meeting of an international wildlife management group. Marine biologists and fisheries experts (along with eaters, I should point out) hope that this group — the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) — will put the Atlantic bluefin tuna on its Appendix I list of endangered species. If the tuna gets on …