The ethics of eating

Is one way of eating more socially responsible than another?

March 30, 2012

Meat or potatoes. »

Fashion reform

Will food politics influence clothing choices?

March 28, 2012

In recent years, many people have decided that, say, buying organic milk or GMO-free food is worth spending a little extra money. Will our thinking about what we eat start to carry over into our thinking about what we wear? A recent Tom Philpott column on Mother Jones addressed this topic, with the provocative question "Is Your Fierce Wardrobe Starving People?"

The real question, Philpott pointed out, is whether we should use land to grow food or to grow cotton: “With global food prices hovering near all-time highs, putting millions of people in the global south on the verge of hunger, the amount of cropland we’re devoting to generate disposable clothes — even if it’s less than 4 percent, not upwards of 40 percent — does seem obscene.”

Methyl iodide, gone

The controversial fumigant is pulled

March 26, 2012

In case you missed it, last week the controversial fumigant methyl iodide was pulled from the market — not just in California, the original focus of the chemical’s use, but nationwide.

What axed the chemical? An old-fashioned boycott. As the San Francisco Chronicle noted, “Sales of methyl iodide have been sparse in California. The high-profile campaign against methyl iodide is one reason proponents say few California farmers have used it.”

Trans fats linked to aggression

Another reason to avoid trans fats

March 23, 2012

Researchers at the University of California San Diego recently found a correlation between trans fats and aggression. So not only is margarine bad for you, it may also be bad for your attitude.

A finding like this one always sounds a little dubious, but Grist List editor Jess Zimmerman did a little digging and seems to think it’s legit.

The study surveyed 945 men and women and found that participants who consumed more trans fats were more likely to experience irritability and aggression. Of course, as Zimmerman rightly points out, trans fats may not be the cause of the aggressive behavior — the jury is still out on that front. But either way, it’s not like we needed another reason to avoid eating the bad fat.

Kitchen hows and whys

The physics of cooking

March 21, 2012

Harvard professors + chefs = nerdy deliciousness. »

More hormones in milk

No, not recombinant bovine growth hormone

March 19, 2012

Can pregnant cows cause cancer? »

The pink-slime wars

An outcry over school lunch

March 19, 2012

After much agitation in the news and online last week, the USDA finally caved and announced that the nation’s schools would no longer have to serve the so-called "pink slime" — an ammonia-treated filler product used in ground beef — to students. Of course, the filler isn’t limited to school lunch; as NPR reported, “pink slime” is likely present in ground beef at your local supermarket, too.

A BPA reversal

The chemical is fading away

March 14, 2012

Over the past few years, we’ve become more aware of the health hazards associated with bisphenol A, a chemical typically found in plastics. Some vendors and manufacturers have moved to rid their products of BPA, which is often found in the linings of canned foods. Now comes word that the FDA is considering following the lead of France and banning BPA outright from foods. (Want to tell the FDA what you think? You’ve got till March 31 to do so.) Even Campbell’s, the iconic soup company, is removing the chemical from its products. We’ll drink tomato soup to that.

Fake meat and surplus milk

Will we ever reform our animal industries?

March 13, 2012

Two recent New York Times articles explore the modern meat-and-milk industries in depth.

The first, an op-ed by Mark Bittman, endorses synthetic meat products made from plants; doing so, says Bittman, is the right move for the health of the planet, the animals thereby saved, and yourself. (Bittman doesn’t address, however, the environmental and health costs of the massive-scale soy farming and laboratory production necessary to make those fake meats.)

And the second, a brief history of the American dairy industry by economics writer Adam Davidson, explains why we’re awash in milk even as dairy farmers are struggling. It’s the same old story, of the little guy squeezed out by the consolidated and merging big guys:

Dairy farming has its own 1 percent: that tiny sliver of massive farms, with thousands of cows, that make the biggest profits and are better equipped to pay agriculture-futures experts to help them manage risk. They continue to invest and grow. Unable to keep up with the changes, many smaller farms have gone out of business in the past decade.

Internet fed

A roundup of recent food news

March 7, 2012

Linkage. »

Drop the soda can

And get moving

March 6, 2012

Scientists say diet soda and lassitude are bad for you. »

GMO corn at Walmart

Will it be available?

March 5, 2012

At times, it seems like you can’t get away from the GMO corn thing. The latest: the campaign to convince Walmart not to carry Monsanto’s new GMO sweet corn when it hits markets this summer.

Many grocery chains, including Trader Joe’s, have promised not to carry the corn. But, as the Just Label It campaign has made clear, you won’t have any way of knowing whether that ordinary sweet corn is genetically modified or not, since GM foods aren’t currently required to be labeled as such.

Of course, the new corn has a label of its own: Enlist. Suggestive, no?

Court rules in favor of Monsanto

An untimely ruling in the ongoing fight against agribusiness

March 2, 2012

A federal district court dismissed a class-action lawsuit against Monsanto on Monday. The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) brought the suit on behalf of more than 50 organic farmers, organizations, and seed companies. Reuters reports that the lawsuit was an effort to prevent Monsanto from suing farmers whose fields have become accidentally contaminated by the corporation’s patented seeds.

The news came in the midst of Occupy Our Food Supply, a day of action in the name of food justice.

But the farmers aren’t willing to give up just yet. OSGATA president Jim Gerritsen released a statement on the association’s website: “Family farmers deserve our day in court and this flawed ruling will not deter us from continuing to seek justice.”

Flesh and drugs

Antibiotics and superbugs in meat and shellfish

March 1, 2012

Overuse and no oversight. »

Sift archive — March 2012

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