Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Food Safety

Comments

Peebottle Farms: The dirt on the dirt

Photo by Jonathan Steffens.

I’m a phenomenal putter-offer, and getting my backyard soil tested is exactly the kind of chore I am fantastic at avoiding. It is the obvious, responsible thing to do, after all, but the results can be a punch in the gut to any urban farmer.

So I blindly ate my way through two growing seasons before curiosity compelled me to find out whether I was slowly consuming an enormous amount of lead and vintage Brooklyn arsenic.

After clearing our building’s backyard of waist-high weeds and an array of very upsetting litter (note the name of our “farm”), my boyfriend, our helpful friends, and I built three raised garden beds about two feet deep. We debated whether to seal the beds off before adding new soil, using pond liner or, preferably, some organic material, but decided it was unnecessary since we wouldn’t be growing anything with very deep roots.

Were we right, or just cheap and lazy? Maybe all of the above? Sometimes, the paranoid part of my brain plays me footage of all the scary shit in that pale, diseased, clumpy soil leaching its way into our moist, innocent dirt. In this imaginary film, the toxins seep up from under the wood frames of the beds, and up the stems of our precious plants. I’ve also tried to imagine our compost somehow fighting it off. And we do even have our own organic-fed chickens pooping nitrogen gold. What more could you need?

Comments

Antibiotics in your meat? The ethanol industry might be partly to blame

Photo by USDA.

Last year, while touring a fairly small, pasture-based farmstead cheese company, I found myself in a giant feed barn with a group of curious foodies. It was one of the last stops before the cheese tasting, so no one wanted to linger. But I have a distinct memory of what it was like to stand there staring at the giant piles of grains, thinking: “The cows eat all this, on top of the grass?”

Like many dairies and livestock operations, the farm owners had been able to lower their feed costs by using the byproducts of industrial food and fuel production. Towering around us that day, we were told, were giant piles of canola pellets, cotton seeds, and soy hulls (from oil production), and dried distillers grains (from ethanol production).

Comments

FDA to GMO labeling campaign: What million signatures?

It hasn’t been a good week for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) -- if you care about public health. If, however, you think corporate interests and politics should trump science, well, then it’s been one red-letter day after another.

First, the FDA announced its refusal to ban the common endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA). Then, on an unrelated note, The New York Times published a lengthy analysis of the repeated interference by the Obama White House in the FDA’s decision-making process. (The White House meddled in calorie-labeling on movie popcorn, warning labels on low-SPF sunscreen, and an ozone-deplete chemical in certain asthma inhalers.) It’s a distressing pattern of political involvement in science that Obama inherited from the Bush administration.

But it gets worse. Or better if you’re Monsanto. The deadline for the FDA to respond to the Just Label It petition for genetically modified food labeling arrived last week. And, as required by law, the agency responded. Sort of. It supplied a letter to the group behind the petition that said, essentially, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Comments

Beekeepers to EPA: We’re running out of time

Beekeepers have seen average population losses of around 30 percent every year since 2006. (Photo by Enrique Lara.)

Beekeepers have been concerned that pesticides are to blame for the bee die-offs devastating their industry for a while now. As we reported recently, their losses have spiraled out of control, putting not just the beekeepers but our entire agricultural system in peril.

The concern centers around a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allowed to be marketed and sold even after the agency’s own scientists’ put up red flags. And now some in the industry have decided it’s time to formally challenge EPA’s negligence. On March 21, 27 beekeepers and four environmental groups filed a petition [PDF] with the agency asking it to take clothianidin -- the neonicotinoid causing the most trouble -- off the market until a long-overdue, scientifically sound review is completed.

Comments

Pig ears and donkey butts: 5 foods that could save the world

Photo by Laura Billings.

Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, eats some pretty strange dishes. Now, he wants you to do the same in the name of saving the world:

You can change the world one plate at a time. If we can take better advantage of the global pantry and eat from a wider variety of choices we would do more to combat food poverty, our damaged food production system, obesity and other systemic health and wellness issues than any one single act I can imagine. Here are some suggestions, but be creative. It works.

Here are the five foods he suggests we all start stuffing our faces with:

Comments

Campbell’s to ditch BPA from soup cans

Photo by Antonio.

Attention, shoppers: Campbell’s (FINALLY) announced plans to eliminate hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A from the linings of its soup cans. And it only took consumer outrage, countless nonprofit petitions, concern from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and hundreds of independent studies linking BPA to a hodge-podge of horrifying health maladies!

Campbell's Soup Co. spokesman Anthony Sanzio said Monday the company has been working on alternatives for five years and will make the transition as soon as "feasible alternatives are available."

Comments

School lunches still contain ‘pink slime’

For those among you who really miss the "pink slime" content of McDonald's hamburgers and Taco Bell's … everything, you can still get your fix of the ammonia-doused meat product, made of leftover, fatty trimmings. Where, you ask, can I find this abomination? According to The Daily, you can find it in your child's school lunch.

Read more: Food Safety

Comments

Why less arctic ice means more mercury in your babies

Here is a thing I definitely would not have understood without this animation.

Comments

Dr. Vandana Shiva: Occupy our food supply!

Photo by Ajay Tallam.

Today, Feb. 27, is an Occupy Our Food Supply day of action. The following essay is just one of several related posts that will be appearing around the internet to mark the day.

The biggest corporate takeover on the planet is the hijacking of the food system, the cost of which has had huge and irreversible consequences for the Earth and people everywhere.

From the seed to the farm to the store to your table, corporations are seeking total control over biodiversity, land, and water. They are seeking control over how food is grown, processed, and distributed. And in seeking this total control, they are destroying the Earth’s ecological processes, our farmers, our health, and our freedoms.

Comments

The Economist uses stale right-wing ideas to attack government regulation

Regulations kill jobs? Yeah, we've heard that one before.

Cross-posted from the Center for Progressive Reform.

The Economist’s Feb. 18 edition offers a cover package of five articles on “Over-regulated America” (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Our British friends want you to know there’s a problem here in the States that needs fixing:

A study for the Small Business Administration [SBA], a government body, found that regulations in general add $10,585 in costs per employee. It’s a wonder the jobless rate isn’t even higher than it is.

You can almost feel The Economist’s pain: The jobless rate should be a lot higher than it is, if the premise about the costs of regulations is correct. Surely if the regulatory burden were actually 12 percent of GDP -- that’s what the SBA numbers say, if you draw them out -- things would be far worse than they are. Ideologically unable to consider the obvious alternative -- that regulations don’t add $10,585 in costs per employee -- The Economist just, well, “wonders” aloud.