You wouldn’t think that free-trade deals could lead to a diabetes and obesity epidemic, but they have. Today, many countries in the global south are seeing an explosion of these afflictions – all because their governments welcomed in transnational food companies looking for new “growth markets” for poor quality, heavily processed or just plain junk food. For big conglomerates to increase their profits, they need to develop and sell products aimed at hundreds of millions of the world’s poor. Many of these people and communities still eat food that they produce themselves, or buy from informal markets that sell local produce. These local food systems and circuits are their livelihood for untold numbers of people. To reach these potential consumers, large food corporations are infiltrating, inundating and taking over traditional food distribution channels around the world, and replacing local foods with junk, often with the direct support of local governments. Free trade and investment agreements have been critical to their success. The case of Mexico provides a stark picture of the consequences. Over the past two decades, the government of Mexico has signed more than a dozen free trade agreements and nearly 30 investment treaties that have opened up the countryside and the retail
Our modern society is highly dependent upon the “system.” Not only do we rely upon utility services to bring us electricity, water and natural gas, but also on an incredibly complex supply chain which provides us with everything from food to computers. Without that supply chain, most of us wouldn’t know what to do. This situation is actually becoming worse, rather than better. When I compare my generation (I’m in my 50s) to that of my children, I see some striking differences. In my generation it was normal for a boy to grow up learning how to do a wide variety of trade skills from his father, and seemingly everyone knew how to do basic carpentry and mechanic work. But that’s no longer normal. If we extrapolate it back, we can see that my father’s generation knew even more – and my grandparent’s generation even more. Those older generations were much more closely tied to the roots of an agricultural society, where people were self-reliant. There are multiple skills they had which modern society no longer considers necessary. But if we were to have a breakdown in society, those skills which we never bothered to learn would become essential. Those
What if you took a spoonful of your morning cereal and had an allergic reaction or even felt tranquillized? But when you looked at the package labeling there were no ingredients that would seem to be red flags? Increasingly, thanks to an FDA loophole, food makers use additives and chemicals that they and not the FDA have declared “safe” and the ingredients do not appear on the labels. Sometimes the FDA does not even know they are added to the food products. For example, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council(NRDC), the bitter alkaloid of the cacao plant theobromine can be in beverages, chewing gum, tea, soy milk, gelatin, candy, yogurt and fruit smoothies with no mention on the label. The peanut-related legume sweet lupin can be in baked goods, dairy products, gelatin, meats, and candy with no mention on the label. The chemical epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) may be found in teas, sport drinks and other beverages, says NRDC, with no mention on the label despite its links to leukemia. Nice. How did this happen? There has been a “growth in the marketplace of beverages and other conventional foods that contain novel substances, such as added botanical ingredients or their extracts,” says the FDA. “Some of
Food & Water Watch filed two legal petitions today asking the FDA to evaluate AquaBounty’s (ABTX) genetically engineered salmon as a “food additive,” instead of as an animal drug, and to declare GMO salmon unsafe to eat based on the food additive review process. “It couldn’t be more clear to consumers that GMO salmon is a food, not a drug,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “It’s also clear that there are serious food safety concerns with this fish and major scientific gaps in FDA’s animal drug risk assessment. It’s time for FDA to step up and protect the health and welfare of American citizens rather than the economic interests of the biotechnology industry.” Food & Water Watch’s identical petitions filed with the FDA today — one citizen petition and one food additive petition — both argue that FDA’s current animal drug review process is insufficient to protect public health, and that the agency is required by law to review GMO salmon under what should be a more rigorous food additive review process. As a food additive, GMO salmon would be presumed unsafe unless it undergoes comprehensive toxicological studies to ensure that it is safe to
‘The fact is, there are strategies that take advantage of what we already know about using resources more efficiently that have the proven potential to double food supplies while at the same time reducing agriculture’s burden on the environment.’ (Image:naturalsociety.com) EWG released a new analysis on Tuesday debunking the myth that genetically engineered crops (often called GMOs) will be crucial to “feeding the world” as the population soars. My report takes a hard look at recent research and concludes that so far, GE crops have done nothing to improve global food security – and there’s little reason to think that they will any time soon. The chief causes of global hunger today are poverty and small farmers’ lack of access to basic resources such as fertilizers and roads to market. So why do Big Ag and biotech companies keep insisting that the solution to meeting the demand for food is investment in their genetically engineered seeds? The fact is, there are strategies that take advantage of what we already know about using resources more efficiently that have the proven potential to double food supplies while at the same time reducing agriculture’s burden on the environment. Read
The AND seems to be proving its own lack of credibility by endorsing Kraft Singles—and then claiming it’s not actually an endorsement. State-based Action Alerts! Last week, the New York Times reported  that Kraft Singles—the individually wrapped slices of “cheese product” popular in school lunches—were the first product to boast the AND’s new “Kids Eat Right” label. The label is part of a wider AND initiative  to promote children’s health, because the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics knows that “kids need a quality diet of the right foods to optimize their growth and development and to maintain a healthy weight.” It would appear that Kraft Singles are part of that “quality diet.” The AND’s website explains, “Our expertise is the reason we must become more involved to improve the lives of generations to come.” The AND claims  it is not promoting Kraft Singles, but merely increasing the visibility of their Kids Eat Right campaign by partnering with Kraft, which has given the AND an undisclosed sum of money. But everyone, including registered dieticians (RDs) who are members of the AND, sees this for what it is: an implied endorsement. If your mind is reeling from the glaring disconnect between statements like “improving the lives of generations to come”
Researchers evaluated the eating habits and mental ability of more than 950 older adults for an average of five years. Those who consumed one or two servings of foods such as spinach, kale, mustard greens and/or collards daily experienced slower mental deterioration than those who ate no leafy greens at all, the study found. The brain benefits associated with dark leafy greens likely stem from several key nutrients, particularly vitamin K, said study lead author Martha Clare Morris of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The researchers “observed a protective benefit from just one serving per day of green leafy vegetables,” which are known to be rich in vitamin K, added Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. Morris was scheduled to present her team’s findings Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition in Boston. Research presented at meetings is usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. The study cannot actually prove that leafy greens preserve clarity of thinking. But another expert, Dr. Yvette Sheline, said the finding is both “interesting and in some ways surprising.” “It makes sense that leafy green vegetables would have an effect on mental health,” said Sheline, a professor of
The latest in health and healing, and how we can live a longer and more enlightened life. Then, an environmental study that reveals there are only two intact forests left on earth. Also, a NY bill that would effectively make you a felon if you are arrested at a protest. Information on California’s water crisis and changing our food system. And much more.
As a federal government panel prepares to hear testimony and then finalize an updated version of influential nutritional guidelines on Tuesday, a coalition of more than 100 organizations and prominent food and health experts have joined together by calling for more sustainable recommendations than previous versions by replacing diets heavy with meat products with ones containing more plant-based foods. Prepared by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), under the authority of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal nutrition guidelines act as the government-approved blueprint for what constitutes a healthy diet. Updated and widely distributed every five years, the guidelines are used in nutrition education programs nationwide and dictate the meal plans for government institutions, including schools, prisons, military facilities and cafeterias for federal workers. On Tuesday, as part of the campaigning efforts of the ‘My Plate, My Planet‘ coalition—which includes groups like the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and the Center for Food Safety alongside notable food experts like Eric Schlosser, Michelle Simon, Chef Tom Colicchio and Frances Moore Lappe—the group took out full-page advertisements in major U.S. newspapers as a way to amplify its message. “People and the planet will
Interview with Karen Hansen-Kuhn, Director, International Strategies at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) about how trade deals rubber stamped via Fast Track will harm food and agriculture and degrade food choice.