Story of the Week
American farmers routinely give the drug ractopamine hydrochloride to livestock. The chemical, which mimics stress hormones and makes the heart beat more rapidly and promotes growth and the production of lean meat. But at a cost. It has sickened more animals than any other drug on the market and killed more than 200,000 pigs alone, according to reporter Helena Bottemiller, who investigated the story for the Food and Environmental Reporting Network. Traces of ractopamine hydrochloride also have been found in the meat from treated animals. Citing concerns for human safety, European Union and several countries, including China, ban its use. If only the American government was so concerned about our health.
Bill Gates to World: Embrace GMO Crops or Die!
That was the take-home message from an Associated Press interview last week with the co-founder of Microsoft Corp. Gates criticized those of us in wealthy countries who express skepticism about bioengineering and an agricultural system based on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. I’m shocked—shocked!—but obviously Gates does not read Politics of the Plate, where I recently drew attention to the growing body of scientific research showing that he is dead wrong. The only way to feed the world in the future, particularly its poorest citizens, is to abandon expensive chemicals and high-tech hocus pocus and farm organically.
Slow Food Fight Round Two
Critics have recently lashed out at Slow Food USA president Josh Viertel for straying from the small and artisanal philosophies upon which the organization was founded and veering into the realm of—God forbid—food justice. In a post that appeared on The Atlantic’s health blog, Viertel comes back swinging in defense of the changes and lands a few through-provoking punches of his own.
Diluting Organic Standards (Yet Again)
The Cornucopia Institute, a watchdog group, can become downright vicious when protecting and enforcing organic standards. Last week, the institute sank its fangs into the backsides of both Martek Biosciences Corp. and the National Organic Standards Board. Cornucopia formally requested that the USDA launch a corruption investigation over the board’s decision to allow oils formulated by Martek to be used in “organic” dairy products and baby formula. Cornucopia says the products were made from genetically modified soil fungi and processed with synthetic petrochemical solvents.
Taking to Wings
The Superbowl Sunday is to chickens what Thanksgiving is to turkeys. In its annual Wing Report, the National Chicken Council estimated that football fans are expected to scarf 1.25 billion chicken wings (about four wings for every man, woman, and child in the country) during the big game this year, or about 100 million pounds. The most intriguing morsel of information in the report: “A chicken has two wings, and chicken companies are not able to produce wings without the rest of the chicken.” Yet.
A Real Downer from the Supreme Court
The highest court in the land handed down a decision last week overturning a California law to prevent the sale for human consumption of meat from “downer” livestock (animals to weak to stand up). Under federal law, it is illegal to sell people downer cattle. The California law was meant to apply the same restrictions on other animals such as sheep and pigs. One particularly disturbing fact that came to light: Three out of every one hundred pigs that arrive at slaughterhouses are too sick to get up on their feet, but perfectly legal to sell to you and me.