Back to the Future: Will Food Riots Become Our Norm?

•March 8, 2012 • Leave a Comment

“In 2008 and in 2011, the world was rocked by riots and by revolutions coinciding with spikes in food prices. Now researchers are projecting that by 2013, food prices will soar to unparalleled heights, causing widespread hunger in the most vulnerable populations and social unrest, with an enormous potential for loss of human life”.

Today, the New York Times covered a startling publication. Research from the New England Complex Systems Institute delineates the potential for a new food crisis.

How have corporations reacted?  Bloomberg reports that many companies are increasing prices for their food products. As one investment banker stated, “it’s commodities, commodities, commodities and whether or not there’s an ability to pass on those costs.” One lone voice, a CEO  is calling for severe changes to the commodities market, while others state that the focus on biofuels has driven up prices.

Is ethanol conversion or increased speculation in commodities to blame? Or both?

In either case, the loss for human life due to hunger should not be a byproduct of activities in the capital markets. Access to food will be hampered as prices become more volatile, just as we saw a few years ago. One question that must be asked and remain in the forefront is can those in already stressed situations carry these costs? Will regulation, like that put forth by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the Fall, be enough?

Global food prices swings affect us all. We cannot just colloquially welcome people to the table. There must be actions behind our words. Providing access to food can be our gateway to sharing, sustainably.

What action do you think is necessary?

McDonald’s Says No to Gestation Crates: I’m Lovin It.

•February 14, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Mark Bittman recently explained the significance of McDonald’s decision to phase out gestation crates for sows. When a leader, or large market player decides to make a move, others must follow.

First, what is the issue? Sows, or pregnant pigs, are often put into crates until they give birth. These metal stalls are so small, the sows cannot turn over. Take a look at the article for pictures and further explanation of this practice. Other companies have recently made pledges to move to group sow housing to provide a better environment.

Back to the boldness of this Bacon Big Mac move… as evidenced by history:

The effect on the industry will be huge, because in the world of big-time meat supply, there are two kinds of producers: those who sell to McDonald’s and those wish they could.

When, in 1999, McDonald’s requested that its suppliers give caged hens 72 square inches of space instead of 48 (72 is still smaller than a piece of 8×10 paper), not a single factory-farmed hen in the country was being raised with 72 inches of space. Yet the entire supply chain was converted in just 18 months, and 72 square inches is now effectively the industry standard.

This is the kind of movement we like to see, one that can be a game changer!


There are some who are hungry. Ask why.

•February 13, 2012 • Leave a Comment


For Congo Children, Food Today Means None Tomorrow

I saw this frightening article in the Kinshasa Journal via the New York Times. Immediately I asked myself why. Why are children in the Congo hungry, actually some of the  hungriest in the world according to the 2011 Global Hunger Index, while the country is so rich in minerals?

Evidence from the article:

Ten years ago, even poor Congolese could expect to eat one substantial meal a day — perhaps cassava, a starchy root, with some palm oil, and a little of the imported frozen fish that is a staple here.

Agricultural productivity is simply gone.

Half the population eats only once a day…while a quarter eats only once every two days.

But regardless of the facts, we still ask why.

Roundup of the News!

•January 18, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Food News: January 17, 2011, compiled by the wonderful Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility


  • MUST WATCH: Horn of Africa Crisis: Drought Zone (Climate Change, Food, Water issues, commodities speculation)

As millions in Kenya suffer from extreme hunger, is the US addressing the causes of the crisis or just its symptoms? The report follows a pastoralist tribe struggling to survive the arid lands and deadly competition for increasingly scarce resources that have characterized the region’s worst drought in 60 years. The report also investigates the causes of the crisis and the US response. UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, told Fault Lines that the issues of climate change and financial speculation in commodity markets—both carried out or caused by the developed world—have had drastic and dire consequences for the Global South, particularly the Horn of Africa.


On Monday, December 19, the EPA announced that it is extending the comment period on a proposed rule with requirements for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to report specific information about the their operations to the agency.  Comments are now due January 19, 2012.  EPA has issued a fact sheet with information on submitting comments.  Read more…

  • California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act

This initiative, when passed by a majority of California voters in November 2012, will require foods sold in California retail outlets that contain genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled, just like other nutritional facts.

Every year, factory farms produce millions of gallons of manure, which often end up contaminating waterways and threatening human health (not to mention producing such a strong odor that neighbors and farm workers suffer from intense headaches, nausea and other potentially long-term health problems). Worst of all, we know very little about these massive polluters because they’re not required to report on their pollution.

  • Can You Imagine a World without Antibiotics?
    Tell the FDA to Protect Human Health and Regulate Antibiotics in Animal Feed

  • The Cornucopia Institute: Action Alert: Say No to Dow Chemical’s GE Corn Petition

(Resistant to 2,4-D active ingredient in Agent Orange)


  • U.S. District Court Sets Record Precedent, Orders Washington Dairy To Conduct Extensive Groundwater Monitoring

A federal judge has ordered an Eastern Washington industrial dairy to conduct groundwater monitoring and empty its wastewater lagoons each year after finding the dairy caused or contributed to contamination in the area. U.S. District Judge Lonny R. Suko issued the order Thursday requiring Nelson Faria Dairy in Royal City to take a number of steps, including installing wells to monitor groundwater contamination, tracking the application of manure on neighboring fields, and emptying and testing lagoons.

  • Questions, perception prompt burger chains to ditch product (pink slime)

Attacks on ‘pink slime’ ammonia treatment stings beef processor (this is an incredible read, how about raising and processing safe meat, instead of having to process it with ammonia…)

McDonald’s and two other fast-food chains have stopped using an ammonia-treated burger ingredient that meat industry critics deride as “pink slime.” The product remains widely used as low-fat beef filling in burger meat, including in school meals. But some consumer advocates worry that attacks on the product by food activist Jamie Oliver and others will discourage food manufacturers from developing new methods of keeping deadly pathogens out of their products.

  • FDA Withdraws Longstanding Petition to Regulate Antibiotics in Livestock Feed

The U.S. Food and Drug and Administration announced only days before Christmas that it has decided to back off a 34-year attempt to regulate the use of antibiotics in livestock feed for animals intended for human consumption, despite mounting scientific evidence that has linked the practice to the development of potentially fatal antibiotic-resistant superbugs in humans

Also see Food Safety News: Speaking With… Dr. David Wallinga:

  • FDA Restricts Use of Antibiotics in Livestock

Federal drug regulators announced on Wednesday that farmers and ranchers must restrict their use of a critical class of antibiotics  in cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys because such practices may have contributed to the growing threat in people of bacterial infections that are resistant to treatment.

  • Bacteria 1 FDA O

The particulars get confusing, but the trend is unmistakable: our meat supply is frequently contaminated with bacteria that can’t readily be treated by antibiotics…he F.D.A. has no money to spare, but the corporations that control the food industry have all they need, along with the political power it buys. That’s why we can say this without equivocation: public health, the quality of our food, and animal welfare are all sacrificed to the profits that can be made by raising animals in factories.


  • EPA dioxin limit has National Chicken Council worried products could be declared “unfit for consumption”

The Environmental Protection Agency start testing Americans’ tissues for dioxin levels back in 1982 and after 3 decades of delay is releasing new guidelines this month that would set limits on the safe exposure of U.S. consumers to this class of toxic chemicals. In response, the National Chicken Council, American Meat Institute, and other industry groups complained to the White House that their products “could arbitrarily be classified as unfit for consumption.” But the classification wouldn’t be arbitrary at all; it would be based on the level of dioxin contamination in the food. Warning consumers about the risk could “scare the crap out of people,” the industry groups contend, and “have a significant negative economic impact on all U.S. food producers.” But that’s not true either. According to the Food and Drug Administration, “over 95% [of dioxin exposure is] coming through dietary intake of animal fats.”


  • See attached for report: Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health

Two Cornell researchers just released an important academic study on impact of hydrofracking on the heath of livestock and humans. This study also raises serious questions about safety and monitoring of the food supply.  Dr. Oswald is a professor of molecular biology at Cornell Vet School and Dr. Bamberger is a practicing veterinarian from Cornell.

Also see: study goes directly to the concerns raised last week by Dr. Portier of the CDC.

Sustainable Food:

  • Leading scientist says agroecology is the only way to feed the world

Agroecological, eco-efficient, and organic agriculture, which are among the several good agricultural practices under the label “sustainable agriculture,” cannot only nourish a world population of some 9 to 10 billion people, but are the only approaches that will be able to do it in the face of climate change, natural resource scarcity, and growing demand challenges. Unless we have the resilience provided by these systems at the basis of our multi-functional production systems, we will face major problems.

So the solutions are at hand, there is evidence from the field for now over three decades that sustainable agriculture cannot only nourish the world, but can do so for the long haul.

  • How we can change the game with corporate food: Follow English Commoners’ Lead: Band Together to Force Corporate Reform

Today, class actions aiming to improve corporate governance are led by major public and union pension funds joined by individual citizens who all hold shares of stock in the companies they wish to change. To many occupiers now holding direct actions in the aftermath of their evictions, and to those still encamped in the parks of  America’s cities, the idea that these institutional investors represent their interests and should be supported may seem remote.


  • Kucinich: Protect Our Food Supply From Manufactured (GE) Crises

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today announced commonsense legislation that would prohibit open-air cultivation of Genetically Engineered (GE) pharmaceutical and industrial crops, preventing biological contamination of our food supply. The bill would also establish a tracking system to regulate and ensure the safety of GE pharmaceutical and industrial crops


  • FDA sued over lack of nanotech petition response



  • Lobbying in action: PepsiCo vs. kids’ marking guidelines

·         SNAP to Health: A virtual town hall on SNAP (food stamps) and nutrition in the United States

We are a virtual town hall for discussion of the current state of nutrition, obesity, and food insecurity in the U.S. Our goal is to improve the nutrition and health of Americans enrolled in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program

  • Bucking National Trends, Mayor Bloomberg Announces Significant Drops in NYC Childhood Obesity Rates

Following years of pioneering policies to improve child nutrition and encourage exercise, obesity rates among New York City public elementary and middle school students have decreased over the past five school years across all race and ethnic groups.

  • 10 Most Horrifically Unhealthy Cereals

EWG found that three of the most popular kids’ cereals (Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, Post Golden Crisp, and General Mills Wheaties Fuel) contain more sugar per serving by weight than a Twinkie, and 44 others have as much sugar as three Chips Ahoy cookies. Many popular cereals contain more sugar than a Twinkie or Chips Ahoy cookies.

EWG’s Cereal Report

  • NPR: The Average American Ate (Literally) A Ton This Year

The numbers that struck me the most? The 141 pounds of sweeteners (including 42 pounds of corn syrup a year), and 85 pounds of fats (think: butter) and oil we ate. And when we convert these figures back into calories, the USDA estimates that the average American is eating more than 2,000 calories a day. It’s hovering around 2,700 (of course, these are just averages).

  • Ubiquitous bisphenal A (BPA) linked to adult obesity, insulin resistance

High urinary levels of bisphenol A in older adults are associated with increased weight and waist size, both indicators of obesity that can lead to serious illness and disease.

Food Prices/ Commodities/Land Grabs:

  • MF Global Collapse: Fallout Fueling Calls for Cash Grain Trading Reforms

This is where unregulated food commodities markets and trading gets us… $1.2 billion of customer’s money missing, probably used to purchase EU sovereign debt…

  • They’re selling off the farmer: Foreign investors are buying into Australian agriculture companies in “worrying’ numbers amid warnings the nation’s food security could be “compromised” by overseas business. and in similarly; Saudi firm buys dairy farm land in Argentina as anger grows from activists, farmers alike

Channel4News Jonathan Rugman has special report from Ethiopia on the revolution in agricultural production – but small tenant farmers say they now have less food to eat than before the changes began

We should not invest in financial companies that perpetrate activities that rob agricultural land from the poor, argues Patricia Kisare of the Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office.

  • Latin America: The fat of the land

Latin American farmland is increasingly a target for risk-tolerant institutional investors who want to take advantage of rising commodity and land prices. But it is a complex investment proposition that requires specialist agricultural and local knowledge. Investors are not tied to investing in the land itself, points out James Govan, who co-manages the Baring Global Agriculture fund with Jonathan Blake. That fund invests in all parts of the value chain. “In terms of agribusiness, it is possible to benefit from the price of soft commodities – the higher the price of crops, the greater the incentive to apply optimum levels of fertilizer, and the greater the farmer’s ability to purchase machinery like tractors or combine harvesters,” he says.

Fair Trade:

The push to increase sales of goods deemed to be free of child labor and other practices has divided the movement, raised questions of whether going mainstream will undermine the cooperative farmers it was created to help and, most of all, strained the integrity of the certification systems that vouch for the fair-trade stamps that allow companies to charge consumers more…“The fair-trade movement has profoundly lost its way,” said Aidan McQuade, who has advised Cadbury on cocoa buying as director of London-based Anti-Slavery International, a human rights organization founded in 1839. “Its focus on volume — unless they have got all their systems in place to address fundamental issues like ethical trade, child labor and child slavery — is problematic.”


Food Politics, Initiatives on Food and Ag Policy/Farm Bill:


  • Urban and Rural Farmers Join Occupy Wall Street to Fight for a Fairer Food System

Watch Food Democracy Now’s video “We are Farmers, We Grow Food For the People,”which shares the experiences of one farmer, Jim Gerritsen, and why he participated in The Farmers March.


From seed to plate, our food system is now even more concentrated than our banking system. Most economic sectors have concentration ratios hovering around 40 percent, meaning that the top four firms in the industry control 40 percent of the market. Anything beyond this level is considered “highly concentrated,” where experts believe competition is severely threatened and market abuses are likely to occur…Many key agricultural markets like soybeans and beef exceed the 40 percent threshold, meaning the seeds and inputs that farmers need to grow our crops come from just a handful of companies. Ninety-three percent of soybeans and 80 percent of corn grown in the United States are under the control of just one company. Four companies control up to 90 percent of the global trade in grain. Today, three companies process more than 70 percent of beef in the U.S.; four companies dominate close to 60 percent of the pork and chicken markets.


  • Conglomer-ATE: The Consolidation of American Food (Infographic)

  • 20 graphic designs from the Farm Bill Hackathon and organized them in a self-explanatory slide show: EWG: Hackers Unite to Visualize a Healthy Farm Bill

·         Ten Food and Farm Stories of 2011

Environmental Working Group’s agriculture team came up with the top ten food and farm stories of 2011. View this slideshow to take a look back at what happened, and what might be next in 2012.

You must be joking!

Simple Steps to Eat More Compassionately

•January 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

CNN’s 5@5 blog recently wrote of 5 simple ways to include more compassion into your diet. Some of these may shock you!

1. Eat less chicken products including eggs
Chickens are some of the most abused animals, as Gene Baur explains. “Chickens raised for meat are often crammed by the thousands into filthy warehouses and denied access to the outdoors, fresh air and sunlight for their entire lives”. He also says that chickens that are raised for eggs are packed so tightly they never stretch their wings.

2. Choose a new milk
“The only way for people to consume cow’s milk is to routinely tear newborn calves from their mothers as dairy cows are trapped in an endless cycle of pregnancy and lactation. Pushed beyond their biological limits, they are worn out and sent to slaughter after just a few years ‘in production!”

3. Do not eat  foie gras
Thankfully, we most likely do not come across this delicacy too often. “Foie gras, or fatty duck liver, is only produced by the systematic and abusive practice of over feeding ducks via a metal tube that is forced down their throats.”

4. Go veg- at least once a week
“Simply decreasing your consumption of factory farmed meat will prevent countless animals from living a life of pure misery.”

5. Eat, eat, eat more plants!
“From salads and pasta dishes to vegetarian meats and cheeses, there’s a new world of flavorful alternatives to enjoy as part of a kinder, healthier eating plan”.


The post finishes with some food for thought:

“It’s 2012 — isn’t it time we stop eating foods produced by industries that treat animals like unfeeling commodities and start eating in a way that reflects the healthy, evolved, compassionate society we aspire to be? Let this be the year you opt out of eating cruelly. You’ll be amazed at how great it feels (and tastes) to eat compassionately.”



5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Grabbing what?

•December 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Who is taking a stake, literally, in farmland? Everyone from universities, pension funds, even foreign governments!

Take a look at this map of Africa to see who is involved in this “gold land rush”

What’s the latest in sustainable food trends?

•December 22, 2011 • Leave a Comment

2011 has brought in some new food ideas…what have been the best received by the public?

Is it pickled anything or gourmet bugs? Take a look at this GRIST article to keep yourself up to date!

A blessed Thanksgiving to all!

•November 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Readers, we wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! We are grateful for your support to sharing the table.

We thought you might like GRAIN, a wonderful resource. GRAIN is a non-profit, focusing on supporting small farmers in sustainable systems. While this is not the type of grain that you can cook with, you can certainly bring these topics of conversation to your Thanksgiving dinner!

Remember, you are always welcome at the table!

A new music video on GMO’s

•October 31, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Do you know what’s inside?

We Feed Back

•October 10, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Isn’t it nice to order a pizza? What’s better than going out for sushi? If you love eating, and are bothered by the number of people who aren’t able to enjoy, nay, have access to a small fraction of the nutrition that you do, there is a service that can help you share your good fortune.

Check out this video:

Now that you’ve done that, it’s time to check out the website where the delicious math happens:


For lunch today I had to run errands. So I made a very infrequent stop at Burger King. My small veggie burger combo cost just shy of $5.00. I put that into the calculator to find out how many kids I could feed for that same amount. Of course I understand that the cost of living in the U.S. is much higher than most of the world, but was I ever shocked to find that for what I paid for relative junk food, I could help supply life sustaining nourishment for 20 kids, how could I not take action? And they make it easy. I used my Paypal account and made a $5 buck donation.

I also trust the source. Being an arm of the United Nation Food Programme gives me peace of mind knowing that it’s going to be handled with care.

Now, isn’t it time for you to go have lunch with a few of your furthest friends?