Agriculture


First, Ben & Jerry’s decided to remove their ‘All Natural’ label due to public interest group pressure.  Now Log Cabin All-Natural Syrup’s label is being challenged since the product contains only4% maple and comes in a real maple syrup style jug.  Are caramel coloring, xanthan gum and citric acid natural?  The FDA regulates marketing claims (thus, Log Cabi is removing the coloring), and Vermont has it’s own maple syrup regulations, but the term “natural” is not defined from a production process standpoint under federal law like the word “organic” under the Organic Foods Production Act.

If this issue is of interest to you check out this article, Fish or frankenfish? FDA weighs altered salmon.  Also on my reading list is the book Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food.

UPDATE: Greenwire reports, “Consumer and environmental groups want genetically engineered salmon clearly labeled in the supermarket, but the Food and Drug Administration demurred yesterday, saying that such labeling is outside its rules.  FDA is considering whether to approve the sale of salmon that are engineered to grow to full size in half the time as their normal counterparts.  If approved, the fish would be the first genetically engineered animal to enter the food supply. FDA said its rules do not allow labeling of a food merely because it is genetically engineered, and there needs to be outside reasons such as modified taste, nutrition or safety to warrant the action.”

Dan Farber on Legal Planet posts about when an environmental impact statement is necessary for USDA approval of genetically-modified crops, and Friday’s federal court decision revoking the USDA approval of genetically modified sugar beets for violating the National Environmental Policy Act.  The concern is that, absent safeguards and due to cross-pollination, genetically-modified crops will over-run conventional crops, i.e., farmers won’t be able to produce non-GMO crops.  This issue has garnered attention of late with the Supreme Court’s decision in Monsanto v. Geerston Seed, and Vermonters should find this case of interest since both the sugar beet and Monsanto (about Roundup Ready alafalfa) cases included High Mowing Organic Seeds of Wolcott, Vermont as a plaintiff.  Their involvement should be of no surprise given that that area of Vermont has been home to, according an article to author Bill McKibben, “the most interesting agriculture experiment in the country,” where neighbors are eating solely from locally produced foods rather than industrial processed foods.

[Note: In writing this post, I learned of a book I will ask the Vermont Law Library to acquire, The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food by Ben Hewitt.]

The 2nd Annual Growing Local Fest, a celebration of local food and culture, will be on Saturday, September 11, from 2-7pm at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Green in Montpelier.  The event is being organized by the Central Vermont Food Systems Council (an outcome of enVision Montpelier).

In addition to live music, food- and ag-related workshops, local food vendors, and a beer tent, there will also be a HOME BREW CONTEST, a PESTO CONTEST, and a YOUTH FARMERS’ MARKET!

For the most up-to-date details and schedule of the event, go to www.cvfsc.wordpress.com.

Doubtful, especially given the amount of methane that dairy cattle produce.  But see here.

I’m watching the movie Food Inc. while writing this post.  The movie provides more examples of how America’s industrial food system is bad for both human health and environmental health.

Part of the movie discusses “Kevin’s Law,” H.R. 3160, a bill that never became law that would give the USDA greater authority to regulate the meat and poultry industry to help stop the spread of pathogens that result from CAFOs (concentrated animal feed operations) and factory processing.

The Farm Bill also plays a role in impacting American’s diet by subsidizing the production of cheap commodity grain like corn.  This means that industrially produced food, fast food, and snack foods are often cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables.  If you’re interested in learning more, read the articles Corn, Carbon and Conservation: Rethinking U.S. Agricultural Policy in a Changing Global Environment by Florida Law Professor Mary Jane Angelo and Paying the Farm Bill: How One Statute Has Radically Degraded the Natural Environment and How a Newfound Emphasis on Sustainability is the Key to Reviving the Ecosystem by Bill Eubanks.

If academic articles are not to your taste, try reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

I’ve started reading “Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should be Good, Clean, and Fair” by Carlo Pertrini.  In the Forward by Alice Waters, she writes, “We soon discovered that the best-tasting food came from local farmers, ranchers, and foragers, and fisherman who were committed to should in sustainable practices.”

More most be done to promote a local organic food system.  I am working on an article now discussing how law both impedes and can help facilitate such a market.  Not only does local chem-free food taste better, but it limits the environmental costs of food consumption.

Food choices can contribute to the climate crisis, cause species loss, impair water and air quality, and accelerate land use degradation.   For example, an estimated 25 percent of the emissions produced by people in industrialized nations can be traced to the food they eat.   The causes of these environmental costs are many—the livestock industry, a processed and meat-heavy diet, agricultural practices like pesticides and fertilization, and fossil-fuel intensive food transportation, factory processing, packaging and large-scale distribution systems.  These are traits of the dominant industrial food model.

As many know, I am a big proponent of local food and local farming.  Here in Vermont, we’ve joined Wellspring Farm Community-Supported-Agriculture (CSA) Program.  When we lived in Milwaukee we were CSA members of Rare Earth Farm.

But local does not need to be rural.  Southeastern Wisconsin has two cool urban farms.  Check out these articles about Natural Green Farms built in an old industrial building in Racine and Growing Power in Milwaukee.

Urban Farm in Racine.

A five-story farm that Growing Power is considering building in Milwaukee.

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