February 15, 2013
Here’s what’s on our minds at the Center for a Livable Future during this week of fair-trade chocolates.
Climate change takes center stage. In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama gave Congress an ultimatum on climate change. “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” he said. This is welcome language from our President, and I hope that he acts soon. More frequent severe weather events are a major threat to food security in a world that still has a billion malnourished people, and we are long overdue for recognizing the seriousness of the threat to the health of the public represented by climate change.
Big fish, big news. Could it be that FDA is swimming upstream on its pending approval of the U.S.’s first transgenic food animal? There’s good reason to oppose FDA’s current method for approving genetically engineered food (blogpost), and on Monday one of our CLF staff spoke at a Capitol Hill briefing. On Wednesday, FDA announced that it will extend the public comments period by another 60 days—no doubt a response to mounting pressure from all sides. If you haven’t expressed your views on FDA approval of GE salmon, now is the time to do it.
Russia says “nyet” to American meat. Some U.S. meat producers add ractopamine, a growth promoter, to the feed that they give to their pigs, cattle or turkeys, and traces of ractopamine are found in the meat sold to consumers. The FDA says those small amounts pose no risk to human health, but we think further research is needed. That said, when American companies export meat to the European Union, they make sure their meat is free of ractopamine. But not so with Russia. Now Russia has banned any product with traces of ractopamine. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack wants Russia to back down, and we say “nyet” to Secretary Vilsack. The ecologically sound and sustainable solution is to raise animals for human food without relying on growth promoters like ractopamine or antibiotics.
Mark Winne at CLF. We have good news at the Center this week, as food policy activist Mark Winne has embarked on a collaboration with us. Mark is an activist, organizer, leader, and expert on food policy councils. Most recently he was with the Community Food Security Coalition, which has terminated its operations. We’re happy to have him on board.
Meatless Monday and Al Gore. This week on Ellen, author and activist Al Gore professed his affection for Meatless Monday, although he mistakenly credited Paul McCartney rather than Sid Lerner with having launched the movement. McCartney’s initiative in the U.K. is called Meatfree Monday. But since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Sid and the CLF Meatless Monday team are pleased to have Paul McCartney as part of the movement and to have Al Gore’s endorsement of the concept on national TV.
So long, Styrofoam. New York City Mayor Bloomberg has proposed a city-wide ban on plastic foam take-out trays, cups, and boxes. Public schools would be instructed to remove plastic-foam trays from their cafeterias, and restaurants and bodegas would be forced to restock.
Foodopoly. A very warm thank-you to Wenonah Hauter of Food and Water Watch for coming to speak at the Bloomberg School about her new book, Foodopoly. It was a pleasure for all us in attendance. Wenonah gave an eloquent account of how agricultural policy has been subverted by large corporate farming interests since the days of Earl Butz and at the expense of the quality and sustainability of our food system, the vitality of rural America, and the lives and wellbeing of the true family farmer.
TedXManhattan. Tomorrow, February 16, I’m proud to return to TEDx Manhattan, where I had the opportunity to speak last year. I look forward to hearing from all the speakers on the topic of “Changing the Way We Eat.” I’m especially excited to spend some time with CLF friends who will be speaking there, including community activist LaDonna Redmond of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and author Anna Lappé, founder of the Small Planet Institute. Be sure to tune in.
Speaking of speaking gigs. On Tuesday, February 19 at 12:30pm, I’ll be speaking at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. My topic will be the public health impact of the U.S. food system beyond nutrition. Here’s more information. Two days later, on Thursday, February 21at 7pm, I’ll be speaking at East Tennessee State University about water, and how the high-meat American diet is draining our aquifers. Here’s a link for the livestream.