Food


See here and here.

See here.

See here.  This press relaese uses loftier language than the actual opinion, but the crops must be removed from the ground.

 

I just finished reading “The Town That Food Saved” by Ben Hewitt.  It’s a must read for Vermonters who want to know more about the agricultural entrepreneurs in and near Hardwick, Vermont (enterprises like High Mowing Organic Seeds, Pete’s Greens, Claire’s, and the Center for Agricultural Economy).  I enjoyed the book both because it’s nice to read about a community in your home state, and because Hewitt recognizes the criticism placed upon high-priced organic artisanal food (something I discussed in an earlier post), and tries to define a successful localized sustainable food system (e.g., economic vitality to small-scale producers, it must feed locals, based on sunshine rather than fossil fuels).  Unfortunately, the issue of price/affordability remains, and in his book (and in my own work), there remains no answer of how to make healthy sustainable food more affordable in the face of industrial agriculture.  At the end of the book, Hewitt seems to suggest that an economic collapse of the industrial food model may result in price reorganization, but I’m more skeptical of such a collapse and instead have come to belief that big business (e.g., Wal-Mart) will instead seek to control the organic market where these large firms then bring smaller farms under their control by dictating production quantities and growing conditions.

Finally, yesterday I posted about the new Food Safety Bill passed by the Senate.  It seems Hewitt has his own take on the bill.

See here.

UPDATE: Sen. Sanders (I-VT) has a press release on the issue, “Senate Passes Food Safety Bill, Sanders Provision Protects Small Farmers and Processors.”

UPDATE 2: Process Mistake May Kill Food Safety Bill

I’m becoming increasingly sympathetic and more understanding of the types of argument made in an article in Newsweek entitled “Divided We Eat” (where Michael Pollan is quoted as making the statement used in the subject of this post).  The article argues that a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and grains is becoming less affordable to most Americans.  One certainly sees that high-calorie mass produced foods are increasing in price at lower rates than healthier foods, and many healthy foods (e.g., good produce) is not available in many poor urban neighborhoods.  In addition, it is true that having an organic locavore diet is becoming a sign of being of higher socio-economic status.  I do think the article undervalues the importance of food literacy (e.g., knowing where your food comes from, how to cook, and what is healthy), underestimates the power of marketing for unhealthy industrial food, and does not address whether eating healthy with better coventional ingredients could be affordable when cooking as opposed to buying prepared foods.  Finally, I am becoming fascinated of late with price (i.e., how can we all afford healthy local low-input food) and choice (i.e., why are we spending so much less of our income on food).   At the end of the day, I think the locavore and organic movements are good, but we can’t lose sight of wider social justice concerns like hunger and food insecurity.  Locals should be able to afford local food, and everyone should have access to fresh raw fruits and vegetables, and healthy dry grains.

Green reports that the InterAcademy Medical Panel is urging a low-carbon diet and lifestyle.  This should come as no surprise, but perhaps is long overdue.  Many things that are ‘low-carbon’ are much healthier than the alternatives (and both healthier for your personal biology and the environment).  Examples abound: red meat v. chicken, chicken v. vegetable, walk v. drive, etc.  Sometimes the choices aren’t so clear.

Sweden, with it’s new dietary guidelines that take the environment into account, is on the cutting edge.  These recommendations have been suggested for a whole host of environmental reasons in addition to acknowledged health benefits.  For example, the guidelines account for the high climate impact of beef due to methane released in cattle digestion, the depletion of many fish stocks, the energy-heavy refrigerated transport required by delicate fruits and vegetables,  the fact that fiber-rich root vegetables are more likely to be grown outdoors than in greenhouses requiring fossil fuels, that water-soaked rice fields produce more greenhouse gases than potato farms, that oil palms are often cultivated on former rainforest lands, and even the high carbon footprint of plastic water bottles.

Today I delivered the Stegner Center Young Scholar Lecture at the University of Utah entitled “The Environment, Food, and Law.”  Turnout was good and everyone has been wonderful in planning my visit.  The talk was about the environmental harms of the modern industrial food system, and discusses the role of informational regulation and structural change (e.g.,  access to different food models) in achieving a more sustainable food system.  This builds upon my forthcoming article in the Stanford Law Environmental Law Journal and my forthcoming piece in the University of Utah’s Journal of Land, Resources & the Environment.

The talk when relatively well, mostly because the topic of food and the environment has grown sexy thanks to folks like Michael Pollan, but the topic also proves challenging given the diverse and complex set of concerns and interests.  What is clear is that on the labeling front, I need to make a better case as to what circumstances eco-labeling is most effective, and, on the structural front, I still need better data on successful initiatives to create a sustainable food systems from a planning and/or implementation perspective.  Finally, I need to think harder about how this all relates to food costs.

Given the complexity of food and ag systems I’m really excited about the new book contract I’ve just signed with co-authors Professor Mary Jane Angelo (University of Florida) and Bill Eubanks entitled “Food, Agriculture Policy, and the Environment: History, Law & Proposals for Reform” (Environmental Law Institute Press, forthcoming 2012).

Tomorrow is talk #2 in Salt Lake City entitled, “Climate Policy and US-China Relations.”  More details here.

In route to my lectures at the University of Utah College of Law, I stopped in Milwaukee for 38 hours to see friends, family and former colleagues at Marquette University Law School.  I was able to have dinner at my favorite Milwaukee restaurant Crazy Water and tried a surprisingly good restaurant that I hadn’t been to before.

Now I’m in Salt Lake City, and it’s clear I’ve developed a somewhat new fascination with the West.  I think this started when I drove cr0ss-country last year and loved the mountains of Wyoming, and has taken hold since teaching Natural Resources Law again and discussing all the federal lands and national parks of the West.  I think this will be cured only by a two-month trek of natural resources in the West.  For now, I’ll enjoy the beauty of the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges out my window.  But my fascination also results from my strong distaste for the sprawl and low-lying development of western cities.

I have been chosen as the 2010 Stegner Center Distinguished Young Scholar.  See here (page 8).  The announcement is here about my CLE presentation in Salt Lake City on ‘Climate Policy and U.S.-China Relations’ on Nov. 17.  I’ll also be presenting on ‘The Environment, Law, and Food’ on Nov. 16 at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law next week as well.  See schedules here.

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