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.

Survey Says!

Consumers no longer want to be kept in the dark about food

A new survey came out indicating that (surprise, surprise) only 20% of Americans trust food companies to “to develop and sell food products that are safe and healthy.” While the depth to which food companies’ reputations have sunk is impressive, the phrase from the survey question is both interesting and unfortunate. IBM(!), who performed the survey, put “safe and healthy” together. As a result, we can’t really know which aspect, safety or health, is driving that low number. If I had to bet, I’d say safety since survey results often track media coverage of an issue and there’s certainly been …

Annals of Sausage Making

Collin Peterson is not killing the planet

Not yet, anyway. I agree with Tom Philpott that Peterson’s meddling in the Waxman-Markey climate bill is far more than a distraction. Weakening the bill out of spite is pretty much the extreme opposite of statesmanship. And I decried Peterson’s clearly implied climate denial just the other day. But I’m a bit leery of going quite as far as Philpott did today: In short, if Peterson wins this battle, our nation’s first significant climate legislation will likely end up at worst rewarding, and at best not penalizing, chemical-intensive, greenhouse-gas-spewing agriculture. We will have bungled a major opportunity for positive change. …

NYC's Newest Farm

Three-acre organic farm appears in the middle of New York Harbor

Could. Not. Resist. From NYT’s City Room Blog: The sustainable garden with the most exclusive real estate in Washington is no doubt the one at the White House. The sustainable farm with the most exclusive view in New York City is the one that opened on Governors Island last week. Oh. Yeah. Governors Island is an island in New York Harbor not far from the Brooklyn waterfront. It was an army base for almost two hundred years and then a Coast Guard base for a few decades after that. It was decomissioned in 2001 and since that time various redevelopment …

Notable Quotable

Marion Nestle takes on the “organics are elitist” meme

“[P]lease don’t blame organic producers for the high prices. Until the latest farm bill, which has a small provision for promotion of organic agriculture, organic farmers received not one break from the federal government. In contrast, the producers of corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton continue to get $20 billion or so a year in farm subsidies. …Dealing with the elitism implied by the higher cost of organics means doing something about income inequities. If we want elected representatives to care more about public health than corporate health, let’s work to remove the corruption from election campaign contributions. If Congress were …

Reality bites

UPDATED: Never mind! Lead levels in White House soil “ridiculously low” for an urban garden

First Lady Michelle Obama hosts the Bancroft Elementary School for the garden harvest of the White House in Washington on June 16, 2009Offical White House Photographer Samantha Appleton [MORE UPDATES:] Obamafoodorama looked into the issue in depth. Now the story is there’s no story. Here’s an expert commenting on the 93 PPM figure: that number is “ridiculously low” for any urban garden, according to Dr. Gabriel Filippelli, chair of Geology at Indiana University, and associate chair of the Center for Environmental Health. Dr. Filippelli spent a lot of time chuckling during a recent conversation about the White House Kitchen Garden, …

Fundamentally unserious

The climate bill is about more than shaking the money tree

Shake it, but please don’t break it.While Tom Philpott has been following the cage match between the House Ag Committee and its chairman Rep Collin Peterson, and Rep. Henry Waxman, author of the Waxman/Markey climate bill currently before Congress, the latest doings seem to have broken through to the broader blogosphere. Maybe it’s because the prospect that a handful of farm state representatives might really be able to kill our chance to address climate change. Or maybe it was because Peterson declared today that global warming is, all things considered, fine by him. After all, as he told the WSJ, …

Desert Blooms

NYC sends veggie carts to underserved areas — and they’re a hit

New York City took a baby step recently towards a state role in distributing healthy food. It significantly expanded a program to bring fruit and vegetable “carts” to low-income neighborhoods that lack good food options — so-called “food deserts.” And if the early response as reported by the NYT is any indication, the program looks to be a rip-roaring success: …[O]n Wednesday afternoon, an urgent line formed at a cheery new produce cart that had materialized at the corner of East Fordham Road and Decatur Avenue near Fordham University in the Bronx. “These strawberries look great, and they’re a bargain,” …

Food - Time = a Big Problem

Fixing food isn’t only about agriculture. Just ask Europe.

Michael Pollan spoke to Newsweek about the new documentary on our industrial food system Food, Inc. In his comments, he made some crucial points about differences between US and Europe that go beyond “food culture”: [T]hey have a better safety net [in Europe]. You can afford to spend 15 to 17 percent of your income on food if you don’t have to worry about healthcare, if you know you’re going to get, I don’t know, five weeks of vacation a year and your retirement is not in doubt. So one of the reasons we’re so dependent on cheap food is …

Food safety beefs

Big Meat says, “Keep the FDA away from our CAFOs!”

National Cattlemen: butt out of our business, you … regulators!Roll Call is reporting that Big Meat is less than pleased with the food safety bill currently moving through Congress. While on its face, this might be surprising, what’s been notable to this point, as Jill Richardson recently pointed out, is the overwhelming support the bill has found among other industrial producers. Nothing like a $1 billion in losses from some a little bit of contaminated peanut butter to convince you that maybe, just maybe, the government has a role to play in food safety. But of course, that logic didn’t …

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