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Can We Sue Them for Label?

House passes industry-beloved food-labeling bill Yesterday, the House of Representatives stood up to a powerful business lobby to protect public health and safety. Ha ha! Just yanking your chain. Actually, the House approved by 283 to 139 an industry-backed bill that would wipe out over 200 state laws requiring safety and warning labels on foods -- noting the presence of cancer-causing ingredients, for example -- and establish a (weaker) national standard. States would have to petition federal regulators to retain tougher laws. Several of the legislation's major supporters have, believe it or not, close ties to the food industry. Take, …

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Something Fishy: Fish and RIPs

Tips on seafood consumption from a seafaring wench

Ahoy there, fellow poop-deckers! I hope the fair seas have treated ye well since me last arrrr-ticle. This one, dear mateys, will focus on grub -- that's food to you landlubbers -- specifically seafood. There's been much to-do lately on mercury advisories and the safety of sushi, so how's a seadog to know what's safe to eat, what's caught (or farmed) sustainably, and what's not? But before I delve into the murky waters of seafood safety, I've a message for any bilge-suckers planning to comment on this post about how "un-environmental" I am for suggesting that seafood is an acceptable …

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Tray’s Anatomy

Hospital menus getting green overhaul Soon "hospital food" may no longer mean the worst American factory-farmed cuisine has to offer. A handful of hospitals around the country are starting to put hormone-free meats, rBGH-free milk, and organic veggies on their menus. For years, the best advice of health-care professionals hasn't been reflected in the typical hospital menu. But now, hospitals "are increasingly seeing food as a treatment issue and not necessarily as a cost center," according to Scott Exo, director of a group working with hospitals to green up their menus. Patients at the Good Shepherd Medical Center in rural …

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Nobody Undoes It Like Sara Lee

Industry-backed bill would overthrow state food-labeling laws Two hundred or more state laws requiring warning labels on foods -- labels indicating the presence of, say, cancer- or birth-defect-causing ingredients -- would get nixed under a bill debated yesterday in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation would preempt state food-labeling rules in favor of a national standard, even when the state laws are tougher. Critics of the legislation, including state food and agriculture regulators and a bipartisan coalition of 37 state attorneys general, say this is the food industry's bid to overturn state rules and regulations they've opposed in the …

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In London, no more cooking with greenhouse gas

Once the global capital of bad food, London shows the way forward.

Since I started writing for Gristmill, I've tried to make the point that our food system amounts to an ongoing environmental disaster, and deserves much more attention from greens. Over in London, Mayor Ken Livingstone is putting that idea into action. As the Guardian reports, Livingstone recently declared that "The energy and emissions involved in producing food account for 22% of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions." Ponder that number for a minute. Rather than obsess about hybrids and switchgrass and CAFE standards -- worthy topics, to be sure -- it might make sense to push for policies that make food …

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Iowa grows local

In the heartland of industrial agriculture, a county goes local and organic

Nestled in the heartland of globally oriented commodity-food production, Woodbury County in Iowa has made a bold move away from industrial agriculture. Last summer, the Kellogg Foundation's Food and Society (FAS) website reports, "the County passed an 'Organics Conversion Policy,' offering up to $50,000 annually in property tax rebates for those who convert from conventional to organic farming practices." And then in January 2006, FAS continues, the county ... ... became the first in the United States to mandate the purchase of locally grown, organic food. The "Local Food Purchase Policy" requires Woodbury County departments to purchase locally grown, organic …

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Save the Life of My Child

Organic diet causes pesticide levels to plummet in children, study finds If you needed that extra nudge to start feeding your kids organic grub, here it is: In a recent U.S. EPA-funded study, 23 Seattle-area youngsters were switched to an all-organic diet, and the levels of pesticides in their bodies declined to essentially zero after only five days. When the kids started eating conventionally grown food again, their pesticide levels shot back up. The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, focuses specifically on a class of pesticides not typically found in residential use, but common in agriculture. While showing that …

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Attack of the killer corn

Why the heavily subsidized corn harvest amounts to an annual environmental calamity

While researching my Poverty & the Environment piece on the food system, I had occasion to look closely at the corn harvest, source of so much of our cheap food. As bad as the annual flood of cheap corn is for our health -- nutritionally worthless high-fructose corn syrup, cheap feed for confined animals pumped full of antibiotics and hormones -- it may be even worse for the environment.Bolstered by government subsidies that have averaged about $4 billion annually since 1995, U.S. production accounts for nearly 40 percent of the world's corn output. Every year, the USDA reports, corn farmers …

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How poultry producers are ravaging the rural South

A person driving through the South might notice the chicken houses dotting the hills and flatlands. He might marvel at the larger ones, as long as a football field. He might react to their gagging stench for a moment, and then forget as he travels on. But those who live near the structures -- stuffed with as many as 25,000 chickens each -- combat the odor and health hazards daily. Not yer pappy's chicken coop. Photo: USDA. "There's a horrible odor, a stench, and I have flies and rodents digging in, trying to get into my house," says Bernadine Edwards, …

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What a green wants: An index-card manifesto (first draft)

A positive environmental program that can (almost) fit on an index card

Without further ado, here's the first draft of my index-card manifesto. It turned out to be two index-card manifestos, with five points each: one for stuff I consider immediately urgent, and a second for what I consider longer-term goals. Feedback is welcome -- nay, requested. (I'll discuss the whole project more in a subsequent post.) WHAT A GREEN WANTS: IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES Energy efficiency: Proven techniques can get the same amount of work with 50% of the oil. Tax/subsidy shifts: Markets should tell the ecological truth. That means shifting subsidies from industries and practices that harm us to those that help …