FDA draft report downplays mercury risk from fish

A new draft report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration downplays the risks to women, infants, and kids from eating mercury-tainted fish, advising people of all ages to consume more fish due to its health benefits and recommending that the government’s current advisory be scrapped in favor of an all-around pro-fish approach, regardless of its mercury content.

<em>NYT</em> pundit demands 'secretary of food'

Pressure rises for a reform-minded USDA pick

The Obama transition team is taking its time mulling candidates to head up USDA. That’s a good thing, considering the generally dismal names that dominate the circulating short-lists. Meanwhile, the temperature is rising around Obama to pick a real reformer, not a business-as-usual politician or outright industry flack. The latest: New York Times op-ed pundit Nicholas Kristof has opined that Obama should rename the USDA the "department of food." Get this: Renaming the department would signal that Mr. Obama seeks to move away from a bankrupt structure of factory farming that squanders energy, exacerbates climate change and makes Americans unhealthy …

Sin-free meat alternatives

Origins of cereal linked to religion, vegetarianism

The mental_floss blog has an interesting piece on the origins of cereal. Only a short bit of it is eco-related, so I’ll post that here (emphasis mine): Meat Is Murder (on the Colon) During the early 19th century, most Americans subsisted on a diet of pork, whiskey, and coffee. It was hell on the bowels, and to many Christian fundamentalists, hell on the soul, too. They believed that constipation was God’s punishment for eating meat. The diet was also blamed for fueling lust and laziness. To rid America of these vices, religious zealots spearheaded the country’s first vegetarian movement. In …

Cultivating a new food culture

Notes from Stone Barns’ ‘Young Farmer Conference’

There’s a social movement cropping up in fields and markets across the country — America’s next generation of farmers are stepping up to the pitchfork. Young, excited and energized, they’re facing many challenges, but also reaping many rewards. To celebrate this burgeoning interest in farming, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Tarrytown, New York held their first Young Farmers Conference on Dec. 4 and 5. Bringing together 150 seasoned and new farmers, activists and leaders in the sustainable agriculture movement, the conference focused on a critical component for the future of farming — the next generation. These young …

For some families, the holidays are all about the grub

  This is the holiday season in just about every culture. I was born and raised a Unitarian Universalist, thus of the Judeo-Christian background, so in my house it’s Christmastime. For some folks, Christmas is about peace and good tidings. For others it is a joyous celebration of the birth of their savior. In my family it was, and still is, all about the food. It’s about presence rather than presents. There are many items that must be on the table, or else it simply is not Christmas. Among these are the clam dip, the wild-rice dressing, grandma’s cranberries, and …

Where does your food come from?

I wanted to recommend a story on Emmett Duffy’s Natural Patriot blog about where fast food comes from. This is not a topic I normally post on (or actually know that much about), but I loved this post because it’s a profound message combined with some interesting science.

Me, on film

Food Fight snags documentary honor

For those of you who don’t get quite enough of my writing, you can see me holding forth on the big screen! That is, if the documentary Food Fight finds a distributor. I hope it does; I hear it’s good. (I do get quite enough of my writing, and I’m repelled by the idea of watching a celluloid image of myself talk; so I haven’t been able to watch the review copy I’ve been sent.) Food Fight, directed by Chris Taylor, explores how our food system got so screwed up and what folks are doing to fix it. Interview subjects …

Crunch time for USDA pick

Activists circulate last-minute petition to urge progressive farm-policy chief

The Obama transition team is reportedly going to announce the new USDA chief in the next few days. If the short list of candidates now being circulated is any indication, the president-elect is feeling serious pressure to make an agribiz-friendly choice. But just as pressure can be applied from above, it can also come from below. As I mentioned last week, a group of sustainable-ag activists and writers has sent a letter [PDF] to Obama urging him to make a progressive pick. Initial signees included Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben, Anna Lappe, and Alice Waters. (Full disclosure: …

Umbra on store-brand organics

Hey Umbra, What with organic foods being so expensive, I’m often tempted to buy the store-brand organic produce that’s cropping up lately. Are the store brands as good (i.e., pesticide free) as any other brand of organic food? I can’t help but be suspicious. Thanks!Confused in Jersey Dear CJ, Organic is a USDA-certified labeling program. Historically, organically grown food represented an alternative to large-scale, mass-produced, polluting agricultural techniques. Organic was and, to some extent, still is a social and ecological movement; today it is also a major branding tool. And since organically certified fresh and processed foods have been a …

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