It’s Sunday, a day of rest, a day when I traditionally try to stay away from posting anything too depressing. It hasn’t been easy lately. When it comes to our government and our food supply there is a far greater stream of not-so-good news. It often makes me wonder just what God (or Mother Nature) must be thinking. But today I give thanks for people like Don Bustos.

Don lives and farms in northern New Mexico’s Espanola Valley. His land has been passed down from his Spanish ancestors who tilled the same soil centuries before. He went organic 15 years ago when he realized the traditional farming techniques he was using could harm his children’s health. But now, Bustos has found an even safer method — vegan organic farming without any animal fertilizers or byproducts. Read the rest of this entry »

Did you know? The Consumer Price Index for April showed the highest food price inflation in 17 years.

There are a number of factors contributing to higher food prices including higher energy costs, growing global food demand and changing weather patterns. However, policies for subsidizing and mandating the conversion of corn to fuel are the only part of the food inflation equation that Congress controls. 

Last year, food-to-fuel policies led to ¼ of U.S. corn being turned into ethanol. That number will rise to over 30% this year. By 2012 as much as 40% of our corn and 30% of our vegetable oils could be be diverted to fuel production.

This diversion of food crops is reducing the supply of food and feed and contributing to food price inflation. Today, food prices in the US are rising at twice the rate of inflation. Globally, food prices rose 83% in the last 3 years. Read the rest of this entry »

The high-level food security summit that ended last night in Rome garnered another $6 billion in new funding to tackle the global food crisis.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes said the figure of $6 billion is in addition to existing pledges of up to $7 billion that were also announced at the Conference on World Food Security.

The $13 billion amounts to nearly half the $30 billion a year the UN officials said is needed each year to eradicate hunger.

The funding will be going to smallholder farmers who need it most, said Holmes.

“We need to focus both on the immediate needs and on the longer-term issues starting right now and the focus is on the smallholder farmers in developing countries.”

“These are the people who need most help and where there is the most potential for increasing agricultural productivity and production,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »

The head chef of one of Melbourne’s best-known restaurants has called on consumers to boycott establishments that don’t commit to being GM-free.

“I know it sounds scary … but unless a massive amount of people go against (GM), nothing is going to be done to stop it,” Geraud Fabre, head chef of the famous France-Soir restaurant, says.

“I don’t say it to get more customers, but I reckon … if people close their restaurants because there are no customers … it would make the Government realise they shouldn’t (allow genetically modified crops in Australia).”

Fabre is one of a number of top chefs nationally who have signed an anti-GM chefs’ charter designed to pressure state and federal governments to prevent the introduction of genetically engineered crops into Australia.

The GM-Free Chefs’ Charter, calls for strict labelling of GM foods. The chefs who sign up to it believe GM foods pose a risk to their clientele and the nation as a whole, it says. Read the rest of this entry »

Imagine a grocery store in Wisconsin that doesn’t get its produce from warmer states hundreds of miles away. Instead, fruits and vegetables are grown right on the supermarket’s rooftop, making the produce as fresh as possible for consumers. This is the idea behind Sky Vegetables, a business venture being created by UW-Madison senior Keith Agoada and MBA student Troy Vosseller. Their concept won first place and a $10,000 prize in the G. Steven Burrill Business Plan Competition at the UW-Madison School of Business in April.

For the past year, Agoada worked as a manager’s assistant in the UW-Madison botany greenhouses. His rooftop idea came to him after watching a program about community gardens in Chicago, where people can rent inexpensive garden plots and grow their own vegetables. Agoada realized this practice could be expanded to other urban areas as well, and he did research on rooftop agriculture as part of an independent study project. “Rooftops made sense to me,” Agoada said, adding that supermarket rooftops were ideal because they eliminate the cost of delivery. Read the rest of this entry »

Struggling with soaring food costs and cash-strapped customers, restaurants across the country are swapping expensive ingredients for cheaper fare and adding new dishes that won’t break their bottom line.

Call it a menu makeover: Steakhouses are adding buffalo meat alongside filet mignon, pizza joints are trying new cheese products and seafood spots are replacing pricier entrees with humbler dishes like catfish.

The changes come as record oil prices and surging global demand for staples like rice, fish, poultry and wheat have pushed wholesale food prices up almost 8 percent in the last year, the biggest hike in three decades, according to the National Restaurant Association. Read the rest of this entry »

The current industrial farm animal production (IFAP) system often poses unacceptable risks to public health, the environment and the welfare of the animals themselves, according to an extensive 2½-year examination conducted by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (PCIFAP), in a study released yesterday.

Commissioners have determined that the negative effects of the IFAP system are too great and the scientific evidence is too strong to ignore. Significant changes must be implemented and must start now. And while some areas of animal agriculture have recognized these threats and have taken action, it is clear that the industry has a long way to go.

Public Health

Over the past five decades, the number of farms producing animals for food has fallen dramatically, yet the number of food animals produced has remained roughly constant. It is the concentration of farm animals in larger and larger numbers in close proximity to one another, along with the potential of IFAP facilities to affect people, that give rise to many of the public health concerns that are attributed to IFAP. Animals in such close confinement, along with some of the feed and animal management methods employed in the system, increase pathogen risks and magnify opportunities for transmission from animals to humans. This increased risk is due to at least three factors: prolonged worker contact with animals, increased pathogen transmission within a herd or flock, and the increased opportunities for the generation of antimicrobial resistant bacteria (due to imprudent antimicrobial use) or new strains of viruses. Stresses induced by confinement may also increase the likelihood of infection and illness in animal populations. Read the rest of this entry »

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