Food News You Can Use

December 20, 2011

  • Cases of Organic Fraud: From the outing of industrial-scale certified organic dairy Shamrock Farms in Arizona (Cornucopia Institute, 12/15) to the corn fraud mentioned in last week’s news roundup and a gang of alleged organic fraud conspirators recently broken up by Italian police, discovered cases of organic fraud are on the rise (Global Organic Marketing Access, 12/13).
  • Ten Percent of U.S. Sodas Contain Flame Retardant Banned in Food in Europe and Japan: Brominated vegetable oil (BVO), patented by chemical companies as a flame retardant, is “found in 10 percent of sodas in the United States” (Scientific American, 12/12), particularly “citrus-flavored sodas such as Mountain Dew. BVO has reportedly led to soda-drinkers experiencing skin lesions, memory loss, and nerve disorders. Interestingly, these are all the symptoms of overexposure to bromine. What is most concerning is the fact that studies have found that BVO can actually build up in human tissue, accumulating in large quantities over long periods of soda consumption” (NaturalSociety, 12/16). “Reports from an industry group helped the U.S. Food and Drug Administration establish in 1977 what it considers a safe limit for BVO in sodas. But some scientists say that limit is based on data that is thin and several decades old, and they insist that the chemical deserves a fresh look” (Scientific American).
  • Recommendations for the 2012 Farm Bill: A Grist article (12/14) by young farmer (as well as director of the National Young Farmers’ Coalition and director of state policy for Transportation Alternatives) Lindsey Lusher Shute discusses the needs of young and beginning farmers in the U.S., most pressingly “capital and land access. . . followed by lack of health insurance.” Recommendations for the 2012 Farm Bill that would help these farmers succeed are included in a set of proposed laws to be included in the farm bill, the “Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011.” Anti-hunger activists, members of the NYC Food and Farm Bill Working Group, also signed a declaration suggesting five key principles for inclusion what would help “end hunger, promote health and support strong, regional farm and food economies”: “one, a health-focused food system; two, an end to hunger, and access to healthy food; three, a level ‘plowing’ field (promoting agricultural decentralization, competition, and fairness); four, good environmental stewardship and five, vibrant regional farm and food economies” (City Limits, 12/13). Suggestions include raising benefits under the SNAP (food stamps) program and requiring GMO food labeling.
  • Scientists Ask Whether Genetic Engineering May Have Helped Create European E. Coli Outbreak: Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, writing for the UK organization the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS; not to be confused with the US organization the Institute for Science and International Security, which focuses on stopping nuclear weapon proliferation) (June 2011), posits that in the case of the outbreak of E. coli O104:H4, which has a “degree of divergence from the harmless ‘wild-type’ [E. coli K12 of] . . . more than 99 percent, . . . much of [which] could be due to horizontal gene transfer,” genetic engineering may have “contributed, unintentionally, to creating it (‘E. coli 0157-H7 and Genetic Engineering’, ISIS News 9/10), in the same way that genetic engineering has contributed to accelerating the emergence of new pathogens and spread of antibiotic and drug resistance.”

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