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.

good for bottom lines, bad for waistlines

How the 40 year drop in the minimum wage helped cause obesity

I have written about the link between wages and obesity before — with wages dropping since the 60s and healthy food prices always going up, people eat more unhealthy food. But now two economists have drilled down into these issues and claim to have found a specific link between a drop in the minimum wage and obesity: Growing consumption of increasingly less expensive food, and especially “fast food”, has been cited as a potential cause of increasing rate of obesity in the United States over the past several decades. Because the real minimum wage in the United States has declined …

Oh Rats

While scientists fight over BPA studies, Congress could just act

Joining Tom Philpott on the anti-BPA bandwagon, the New York Times columnist Nick Kristof had an op-ed Sunday detailing the mounting evidence against the hormone disrupting chemical. One comment in particular summed up the debate nicely: “When you have 92 percent of the American population exposed to a chemical, this is not one where you want to be wrong,” said Dr. Ted Schettler of the Science and Environmental Health Network. “Are we going to quibble over individual rodent studies, or are we going to act?” One of the problems we face when it comes to regulating toxic substances is that …

the empire strikes back

Soda lobby gets its game on

HuffingtonPost has a piece up detailing the food lobby’s full court press over a federal soda/sweetener tax: During the first 9 months of 2009, the industry groups stepped up their lobbying in Congress. They have spent more than $24 million on the issue of a national excise tax on sweetened beverages and on other legislative and regulatory issues, according to an examination of lobbying reports filed with the Senate Office of Public Records. The review shows that 21 companies and organizations reported that they lobbied specifically on the proposed tax on sugar-sweetened beverages — which among other things would include …

ISI isn't so popular

New allies in fight against Obama’s pesticide lobbyist nominee

I’m sure many of you have seen the various petitions zipping around the Internet encouraging opposition to President Obama’s nomination of pesticide lobbyist Islam “Isi” Siddiqui to the Office of the United State’s Trade Representative. The argument against him goes something like this: The White House has nominated Mr. Siddiqui for the position of chief agricultural negotiator in the office of the United States trade representative. He is presently a vice president at CropLife America, a coalition of the major industrial players in the pesticide industry, including Syngenta, Monsanto, Dow Chemical and DuPont. That job doesn’t seem to square with …

weasel in sheep's clothing

If you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em

Photo: Kat… via FlickrConsider the weasel: so unassuming, even sweet — on the outside. But put them near their prey and watch out! I’ve got weasels on my mind, of course, thanks to Ohio Issue 2, which goes before voters tomorrow. Issue 2 is the Ohio livestock industry’s attempt to head off restrictions on their worst practices, such as tail docking, battery cages and gestation crates, and, purely coincidentally I’m sure, to keep the Humane Society of the United States from doing in Ohio what they’ve done in California, Michigan, Florida and Colorado just to name a few — either …

GMO wishes, geo-engineering dreams

Save us, [insert techno-fix here], you’re our only hope!

Don’t worry about climate change and world hunger–this lady’s got your back!Watching SuperFreakonomics author Steve Levitt sitting next to Jon Stewart as they shook their heads in disbelief that everyone wasn’t on the climate change/geo-engineering bandwagon (It’s easy! it’s cheap! We know it works!) depressed me to no end. It seems like every challenge we face now has an “easy” technological silver bullet that will spare us sacrifice or even change. GMOs will end hunger. Geo-engineering will solve climate change. A pill will cure obesity. Cellulosic ethanol will eliminate our dependence on foreign oil. It doesn’t seem to bother anyone …

Jonesin' for a Ho-Ho

Scientists claim junk food is as addictive as heroin

With the rumors swirling that Michelle Obama is a big fan of former FDA Commissioner David Kessler’s new book The End of Overeating, it seems reasonable to check in on the science behind an “addiction model” for salty, sweet, and fatty processed food (an assertion at the core of the book). As it happens, a group of researchers from the independent, not-for-profit Scripps Research Institute has just released a new peer-reviewed study on the subject. The conclusion: the brain responds to junk food the same way it does to heroin: Junk food elicits addictive behavior in rats similar to the …

Now that smarts

Will FDA take quotation marks off “Smart Choices”? [UPDATED]

SUPER DUPER UNBELIEVEABLE UPDATE: The AP reports that the “Smart Choices” label is taking a break: The Smart Choices nutrition labeling program, created voluntarily by nine large U.S. manufacturers, is halting after federal regulators said such systems could mislead consumers, officials with the labeling group said Friday. … Officials with Smart Choices in Washington, D.C., said Friday that the group will “postpone” active operations and not encourage wider use of the logo while the FDA investigates labeling issues. However, products that currently use the label are able, but not obligated, to keep using it. I admit to being surprised. May …


Big meat tries to spin new antibiotics report [UPDATED]

An update appears at the bottom of the post: The American Academy of Microbiologists (“the world’s oldest and largest life science organization”), just issued a major report on antibiotic resistance which, among many recommendations, calls for decreasing or eliminating the use of antibiotics in animal production. The report adds more support for the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), Rep. Louise Slaughter’s (D-N.Y.) bill before Congress that would end sub-therapeutic doses on antibiotics for livestock. However, if the industry website Meatingplace is any indication, Big Meat really wants you to ignore that particular detail. What stood out in …

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