Antibiotic resistance has finally made its way onto the Senate radar again and with good reason considering that we’ve seen antibiotic resistance across British farms and this year in US hospitals and nursing homes to name just a few. It’s a problem that’s only getting worse with the expanded overuse of antibiotics. It’s this practice that a Senate bill is looking to limit with the re-introduction of The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA).
According to Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the primary sponsor for PAMTA, reported on Civil Eats. “[t]he effectiveness of antibiotics for humans is jeopardized when they are used to fatten healthy pigs or speed the growth of chickens. This is a basic food safety initiative that would phase out the misuse of these drugs so that food in supermarkets across America will not spread strains of drug-resistant bacteria.”
The Federal Register outlined how the sub therapeutic use of antibiotics actually causes resistance:
Misuse and overuse of antimicrobial drugs creates selective evolutionary pressure that enables antimicrobial resistant bacteria to increase in numbers more rapidly than antimicrobial susceptible bacteria and thus increases the opportunity for individuals to become infected by resistant bacteria.
According to the FDA, 80 percent of the antibiotics produced in this country are used in animal agriculture. This amount is estimated to be more than four times the amount of drugs used to treat human illness.
The bill, which Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), all have worked together on was outlined by Civil Eats and does the following:
- Phases out the non-therapeutic use of medically important antibiotics in livestock;
- Requires new applications for animal antibiotics to demonstrate the use of the antibiotic will not endanger public health;
- Does not restrict the use of antibiotics to treat sick livestock or to treat pets.
“PAMTA will limit the agricultural use of seven types of antibiotics that have been identified by the Food and Drug Administration as critically important in human medicine to ensure that antibiotic-resistance is not inadvertently accelerated,” according to Feinstein’s office.
Let’s hope that this time it gets some traction.
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More on Antibiotics
Denmark Drastically Limits Antibiotics in Livestock: Here’s Why
The FDA Releases the Amount of Antibiotics Used in Factory Farmed Livestock and It’s a Ton
Can We Get Antibiotics Out of the Meat Industry?
Just as it seems we may be moving back toward some sort of food culture in a nation plagued by the side effects of big Ag, red tape chokes another small producer out of business. Take the story of artisan yogurt producer Homa Dashtaki, recently written up in The Economist. Dashtaki makes the kind of artfully created yogurt that makes a foodie sing. But while Big Ag can dump endless supplies of pesticides on genetically modified produce, Dashtaki is called to shut down immediately or risk prosecution for making her artfully prepared yogurt.
Homa Dashtaki started a tiny artisan yogurt business, named The White Moustache, for her father. According to The Economist, she had yet to make a profit, as she brought in $300 in revenue a week, before she was called to shut down.
[S]he encountered that other American tradition, red tape (after the red bands that used to hold bundles of bureaucratic papers together in the old days). For although she had spent a year getting the required permits from Orange County, she had, it turned out, yet to make the acquaintance of the “milk and dairy food safety branch” of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). On a Saturday morning in March, Ms Dashtaki got a call and was told to shut down or risk prosecution.
It’s a keen example of pushing a start up down when it’s what we need the most. Again, The Economist:
Her business, while it lasted, consisted of herself, making yogurt on the instructions of her father. Ms Dashtaki was renting space in the kitchen of an Egyptian restaurant where she and her father, “like elves before and after their working hours”, lovingly cultured their yogurt under a blanket, then drained it through a certain kind of cheese cloth, then stirred it for hours, and so forth. For the taste to be divine, everything has to be just so. And, being artisans, they kept the volume tiny, about 20 gallons (76 litres) a week, for sale only at local farmers’ markets.
Dashtaki was willing to comply with necessary regulations until she learned what they were. In fact, the out-of-date regulations, which had been enacted in 1947, required that all yogurt go through an elaborate pasteurization system. The only problem was that Dashtaki’s yogurt wasn’t starting from a raw product; the milk had already been pasteurized. The regulation required that her $300 per week business set up a Grade A dairy plant just as large manufacturers would do, an entirely ridiculous proposition. Even though the yogurt had already been pasturized, Dashtaki was unable to get a waiver.
Dashtaki is considering moving out of California to another state with more realistic laws, but for now she’s in a holding pattern. It’s time to take a step back and look at who’s getting hurt by such antiquated and downright absurd laws.
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The new rules are set to be implemented July 3. According to Food Production Daily:
The first regulation allows the FDA to detain foods that the agency believes to have been produced under unsanitary or unsafe conditions, when until now the FDA had only been authorized to hold products if they had been produced or mislabeled in a way that could cause “serious adverse health consequences or death” to people or animals. From July 3, the FDA will have the authority to hold products that it believes are adulterated or misbranded for up to 30 days.
The second rule is specifically targeted to food imports:
In addition, a second rule will prohibit food from being imported into the United States if any other country has already blocked the same product. This means that anyone importing food into the US will have to report to the FDA if a country has refused entry to the same product, including animal feed.
The bill initially created angst with small farmers who contended that the regulations would put undue pressure on them and in some cases, force them out of business, but in the end, many of the fears were quieted because a “manager’s amendment” was added to the bill.
“Farmers who make less than $500,000 a year in revenue and sell directly to consumers, restaurants or grocery stores within their states or within 275 miles of their farms would avoid the expensive food safety plans required of larger operations. State and local authorities would still have oversight over those farms,” according to Huffington Post.
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More on Food Safety
Food Safety Bill Surprisingly Passes the Senate: What Now For Small Farmers?
FDA and USDA Employees Admit: Corporate Interests Reduce Food Safety
Proposed Food Safety Bill Has Little to Do with Actual “Food” or “Safety” – Or Does It?
Chocolate milk has become a real point of contention in schools across the nation. Schools in the District of Columbia and Los Angeles County have become the center of controversy over none other than flavored milk. And Jamie Oliver was even kicked out of LA County schools for bringing light to the issue, amongst other district nutrition problems, but it seems he may actually be making some headway. The new LA County superintendent says he will recommend the removal of flavored milk in the nation’s largest school district.
I wrote over at Planet Green about the controversy surrounding of all things, chocolate milk. That controversy, which started in DC has spread to LA. According to the Washington Post, Fairfax County and D.C. schools banned chocolate milk last year from elementary lunch lines and it was a real source of contention. Schools received letters and petitions from a slew of nutritionists and influential special interest groups.
“We got 10 to 20 e-mails a day,” said Penny McConnell, director of food and nutrition services for Fairfax. “It was a lot of pressure.”
Due to the pressure both from parents and industry groups, DC schools reintroduced flavored milk made from sugarcane and beets rather than high fructose corn syrup and decreased the fat content. My reaction can be put no better than school nutrition advocate Ann Cooper: “Trying to get students to consume calcium by drinking chocolate milk is like getting them to eat apples by serving them apple pie.”
Jamie Oliver Puts The Pressure on LA Schools
Just to give you a little background. Seventy-five to 85 percent of all milk sold in public cafeterias in this country is flavored milk mostly strawberry or chocolate milk. One 8 oz carton of flavored milk has 28 grams of sugar, that’s more per ounce than a soda. In a country where 1 in 3 people are projected to have diabetes in their lifetime, this is a real problem for kids.
Jamie Oliver put the pressure on LA County schools on his show Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. This isn’t the first time he’s had a few words to say about school nutrition. And it turns out he’s made a big impact. According to a story I found on MNN, while the former superintendent kicked Oliver out of LA County schools, the new superintendent said he would recommend to the board of education that flavored milk be banned.
Watch LA’s new school superintendent and Jamie Oliver on Jimmy Kimmel
It’s time to teach our kids that the over processing of already hormone and pesticide laden milk does not a healthy body make. And that building healthy bones comes more from nutrient dense foods like dark leafy green vegetables, broccoli, kale, collards, and bok choy as well as whole grains, than just a diet loaded with non-organic dairy.
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More on Jaime Oliver and School Nutrition
Wake Up America, Jamie Oliver’s Healthy Lunches Make Kids Smarter
Jamie Oliver is Thrown Out of Los Angeles’ Schools
Jamie Oliver’s School Lunch Programme is in Jeopardy
If there’s ever a story that hit me hard, it was this one. I wrote about Catherine Ferguson Academy last year. It was the subject of the groundbreaking documentary Grown in Detroit. The school is one of only a few left in the country for pregnant girls or girls with children giving them the opportunity to stay in school. More than that, the school has taken advantage of the abundance of vacant land in Detroit by teaching the girls to farm. It’s a stable trade which brings local nourishment to a struggling community all with one program. And now thanks to a unilateral decision which according to Civil Eats, “allows Michigan governor Rick Snyder to dismiss locally elected officials and put in place new ones,” the school is on the chopping block and will close this summer, leaving the girls with nowhere to go.
The students at Catherine Ferguson Academy turned a small garden on their playground into a sizeable organic plot complete with apple trees, horses, pigs, and goats. In a country where, according to the movie, 90 percent of moms drop out of school because they get pregnant, there are far too few opportunities left for these young moms.
Pregnant Teens With No Place to Turn
These girls, on the other hand, have the opportunity to graduate and go to college. In fact, 90 percent of Catherine Ferguson girls graduate and they are taught with the expectation that they will go to college, according to Civil Eats. It’s downright incredible. If this isn’t working, than I don’t know what is.
Students are taught to harvest, weed, clear a bed, and market the produce that they sell from the farm. See, that’s the key. They’re not just taught how to grow fruits, vegetables, herbs, and produce honey, they are taught how to market the goods that they grow.
Rachel Maddow reports on new laws which dismiss public officials and replace them without election while closing a school that’s working without any push back. And a police department which arrests young pregnant girls protesting and then turns the sirens so loud that reporters can’t hear what the girls are saying.
Watch Rachel Maddow:
If you’d like to support the school, you can sign the petition.
The U.S. is already cultivating 165 million acres of genetically modified crops, up 7 million acres from just two years ago. Modified seeds and large monocultures in general, are monopolizing our nation’s agriculture system like never before and crop after crop are deemed “safe” by the USDA. We’re headed full speed down a dark, winding road and it seems we’re driving blindfolded. And most recently, according to a story on Grist, the USDA is starting a new program which will outsource environmental impact statements on biotech crops to the GMO industry. Obviously, biotech companies are thrilled with the idea.
Once the industry conducts its own crop environmental impact statements, which will no doubt paint a glowing picture of each Round Up Ready gem, it will present the assessment to the USDA in the hopes that they will approve the assessment.
According to Karen Batra of the Biotechnology Industry Organization Oregon-based ag journal Capitol Press,
Under the agency’s new two-year pilot project, biotech developers would conduct their own environmental assessment of transgenic crops or pay contractors to perform the analysis.
Currently, officials at USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service are responsible for the studies.
Federal environmental law requires the agency to complete such reviews before deregulating biotech crops.
The goal of the new pilot program is to make the process more timely and efficient, according to APHIS.
The program will most certainly be “more timely and efficient,” for a biotech industry that has gained 7 million acres of crop cultivation in two years, but it’s scary for our food system. This is no surprise considering the USDA’s treatment of GMO sugar beets, announcing that farmers were allowed to grow genetically modified sugar beets this season, “while it finishes work on a full environmental impact statement on the beets’ effect on other crops and the environment.” Later, a court repealed Judge Jeffrey White’s ruling that GMO sugar beets be destroyed because the risk of gene contamination in Oregon’s Willamette Valley was so great. According to Grist, Judge White warned that environmental impact statements on crops were being conducted too fast, and now with this new pilot program it seems the process will go faster than ever.
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More on GMOs
5 of the Newest and Craziest Genetically Modified Foods (3 Are Animals)
What Does the Frankenfish Scandal Tell Us About GMO Labeling?
Why Other Countries Are Scared of GMOs and We’re Not
Country By Country GMO Breakdown: Guess Who Has By FAR The Most
Blue Hill, Maine will be one of several towns in Maine to recently enact food freedom laws declaring that the federal government doesn’t have the right to intervene in local food matters, according to a story on Natural News. The bill allows this rural community of around 2,500 people to decide what foods that they buy and sell locally as well as exempting all direct sales of local food products from complying with state and federal inspection requirements.
The unanimous vote comes on the heels of similar votes in neighboring towns of Sedgwick and Penobscot. Activist Post, reported that the The Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinance has drawn national attention from around the U.S., Canada, and as far away as New Zealand. Local producers want similar legislation in their neck of the woods.
According to Food Freedom:
Dan Brown, farmer from Blue Hill, noted during the discussion on the Ordinance that this comes down to whether or not small-scale food producers can earn a livelihood. “They come to me, close my doors, and I’m back to driving truck.”
Losing even more farms and food producers, says Brown, means local people have less access to local food. “Shut me down, then people don’t get their tomatoes, their milk.”
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Bloom Energy, headquartered in Sunnyvale, California has developed an incredible technology that traces its roots to NASA’s Mars program. This technology is one of the few available that saves you money and helps you to go green at the same time. Not many people are willing to pay to take there home, company, or organization to the ‘green side’, but what if you can be more environmentally cautious and save money in the process.
If you are thinking this sounds like a great opportunity then you are in good company. There are a number of companies already taking advantage of this technology such as: Google, eBay, Walmart, Coca-Cola, and FedEX to name a few. So you might be wondered, what exactly is this technology all about? Well let me start by saying, as an electrician, what they have developed is truly incredible.
Bloom’s Energy Servers are truly revolutionary in the way they help you to lower your energy costs and improve your energy reliability all while helping to save the environment at the same time. Their Bloom Electron Service offers you the ability to start small and pay as you go. You have the opportunity to eliminate up front costs and simply pay for the electricity that you use. For those looking to maximize the return on their investment they have the opportunity to purchase the equipment outright eliminating the need to pay for consumption.
Due to the fact they have a simple modular, building block system it is easy to install, maintain, and upgrade. Visit http://www.bloomenergy.com/ to find out more information today.
Fun Fact: With this technology a box the size a snow globe can power a European home, two boxes the same size can power an American home.
Back in 2008 we heard about a man arrested for stealing waste grease to make biodiesel but as Kristin noted in her post about the freegan documentary Dive! The Film, dumpster divers eating from the trash also run the risk of prosecution. For most, this seems like just one more nuisance alongside angry shop keepers and stores that deliberately contaminate their waste. But for one unlucky freegan it became a very real problem when police showed up on her door to arrest her for “stealing” potato waffles.
Dumpster Diving Equals “Theft By Finding”
According to The Daily Telegraph, British shop worker Sasha Hall was arrested for ‘theft by finding’, having helped herself to about £200 worth of food that had been left out in the street by a Tesco supermarket.
Freegan Handcuffed and Charged
It’s unclear from the article how police ended up on Hall’s doorstep, but what is painfully evident is that they were taking the incident very, very seriously indeed:
“They knocked at the door and said if I didn’t open up they would use a battering ram. They handcuffed me and treated me like I was a hardened criminal and when we left they raided my house. I haven’t got lots of money. I only make £600 a month.”
A spokesperson for Tesco responded by explaining that the store aims to minimize waste wherever possible, but in the meantime it was “assisting police with their inquiries.” While dumpster diving may not be for everyone, you would think that the police would have better things to do than track down these “thieves”, and that stores might not want to draw attention to the disgusting amounts of food they throw out every day.
Sure, there are public health risks involved in eating from the trash, and every freegan has to take personal responsibility for their health. But to arrest people for liberating trash from landfill is absurd beyond belief. Of course if the food had been destined for composting or energy generation, there may be a little more debate to be had as when waste becomes a resource it is no longer waste.
Freegans Are Heroes, Not Criminals
But ultimately food is intended to be, well, eaten and if the modern supermarket system can’t always make that happen, I for one am thankful for the hungry, the poor and the just-plain-frugal who go out there and take action. They are doing us all a favor. Someone should give them a medal, not a criminal record, and maybe cook them dinner…
For more on this ridiculous incident, check out Katharine Hibbert’s defence of dumpster diving over at The Guardian.
More on Dumpster Diving and Freegans
Man Arrested for Stealing Waste Grease to make Biodiesel
Dumpster Diving Documentary: Dive! The Film
Secret Freegan is Dumpster Diving Robin Hood