Food Safety Law Face-Off

I know we have talked about this before, but I found this infographic made by Yes! Magazine a great means to dig down into what differences exist between food safety laws on both sides of the Atlantic. Especially since many of these laws could be on the table during international trade negotiations soon. Americans, Europeans, join … Continue reading Food Safety Law Face-Off

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: What Does It Mean for Ag?

In my first blog post of the year, I mentioned the ongoing negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States as one of the issues to watch out for, and thought the time was right to dig a little deeper into the question – what would … Continue reading The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: What Does It Mean for Ag?

The EU GM Battle Goes in the Next Round…

… or, alternative title: “Can anybody explain how the EU works?”

Have you heard the news? The European Commission is set to approve a new variety of genetically modified corn (a variety called Pioneer 1507 which was developed jointly by Dow Chemical and DuPont) despite the fact that 19 out of 28 countries oppose its introduction. Though the Commission declared the variety as safe, Greenpeace for example fears that its resistance to glufosinate ammonium, a strong herbicide, would lead to an increased use of such agrochemicals, with dire consequences for butterflies and moths and ultimately human health. On the other hand, some countries argue that since this variety is already being approved as animal feed in the EU, prohibiting its production within the continent’s borders would only hurt their farmers’ competitiveness in the global marketplace. Besides the pro- and contra-opinions on this particular crop, I found it particularly interesting that the decision of approving it happened against the clear popular sentiment prevalent in Europe – so let’s analyze policy-making in a European context for a change!

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Spain is one of the largest producers of genetically modified corn, much to the chagrin of neighboring France, one of the largest opponents, who fears cross-border contamination.
Image by Pau Planas, via Flickr CC.

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Salmonella Outbreak During US Government Shutdown Shows Importance of … Government.

Breaking news – the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) just issued a public health alert for chicken produced on a Californian farm that has caused 278 outbreaks of salmonella in 18 states. According to their website, the outbreak is continuing. While their announcement also refers to an investigation done by the Center for Disease … Continue reading Salmonella Outbreak During US Government Shutdown Shows Importance of … Government.

The US Government Shutdown and Its Impacts on Food Policy

Given that I am living in Europe right now and haven’t been a resident of the US for more than 17 years, it seems I am posting disproportionately about US politics, doesn’t it? Well, my apologies to my European readers, I will try to balance it in the future – however, right now there are so many more things wrong with US food policy that I guess it gives me more food for thought 😉

For example the recent shutdown of the government. If you haven’t followed along, the two chambers of Congress (the Republican-dominated House of Representatives and the Democrat-dominated Senate) are having a bitter stand-off over next year’s budget. After the House passed a bill making the passage of a budget contingent on the non-funding of President Obama’s health care reform (so-called Obama-care) in the coming year, and the Senate rejected to co-sign that bill, both sides are blaming each other for what amounts to a winding-down of almost all government activity as of yesterday (since without a budget the US government is not allowed to act).

It’s pretty impressive that, with all the problems American lawmakers already have to solve, they always manage to create new and totally artificial ones.
Image by Luca Nebuloni, via Flickr CC.

Now, first of all this means that 800,000 federal employees are ‘furloughed’ (forced to take unpaid leave) until the issues are resolved. But also many government services are affected, including food and nutrition assistance.

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Sunday Reads – The Glyphosate Debate and “Agent Orange Corn”

Remember my last post that was defending genetic engineering when done right? Well, as you know I try to keep my blog as impartial as possible and look at things from multiple perspectives, which is why this post is all about the potential consequences of genetic engineering done wrong.

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What is the right path towards responsible agricultural innovation?

In particular, I have two articles for you to read over your Sunday evening tea and/or Monday morning coffee – one from the New York Times that reflects on farmers’ misgivings on the herbicide Glyphosate, which is one the main ingredients of Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup; and another one on the possible next frontier in GMO and agro-chemical use, namely the development of 2,4 D – resistant corn and the subsequent use of this herbicide on fields around the world. The main controversy attached to this: 2,4 D was one of the components of Agent Orange, the defoliant and herbicide used by the US military in the Vietnam war which was linked to cancer and birth defects.

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The Food Bill Divorce

Remember the failure of the Farm Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives? And the uncertainty of the way forward? Two weeks ago, I wrote: “Fiscal conservatives are suggesting to split the bill in two, thereby divorcing the historically-married issues of farm support  and food stamp programs. However, the combination of these two in one bill has until now ensured a compromise that enabled the bill to be passed in the first place, since Republicans, favoring large-scale producer support, and Democrats, which feel strongly about social support through food stamps, historically left each other their pet issues as long as their own was also included. How the conservatives expect to pass not one but two bills, taking away the compromise solution, is not clear to me.

John Boehner, Speaker of the House, pushed through the half-Bill despite vigorous Democrat opposition.
Image by Talk Radio News Service, via Flickr CC.

But this is exactly what happened.

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The Benefits of Organics, According to an 8-Year-Old

When I first saw this link in my newsfeed this morning (via Butter Believer), I knew I had to share it. The video is a response to a Time Magazine article by famed TV- personality Dr. Oz, somebody many Americans would consider an expert on health issues. In that article, he advocated for the benefits of frozen (and canned) vegetables at a normal grocery store and against the “number of glossy cookbooks, TV cooking shows, food snobs and long-winded restaurant menus” telling people to go out to the farmers’ market and pick the more expensive, fresh food. According to him, “organic food is great, it’s just not very democratic. As a food lover, I enjoy truffle oil, European cheeses and heirloom tomatoes as much as the next person. But as a doctor, I know that patients don’t always have the time, energy or budget to shop for artisanal ingredients and whip them into a meal.

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EU Seed Diversity – The Final Word

About a week ago, I wrote about the threats to EU seed diversity possibly contained in a sweeping law that required the mandatory registration of all commercially traded seeds, often at considerable financial and administrative effort involved.

The European seed market is facing a big reform.
Image by Flickr-user this lyre lark, via Flickr CC.

Today, the European Commission actually presented its proposal for the first time and, lo and behold, there were some last-minute additions introduced that do take care of some of the concerns voiced.

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