Action Alert


Fair trade or free trade? Let your voice be heard on Minnesota’s future!


The Obama Administration is negotiating two new mega trade deals (one with Pacific Rim countries, another with Europe) entirely in secret, with the goal of further expanding the NAFTA-model of free trade. These trade agreements could have major impacts on Minnesota's farmers, workers, small business owners and rural communities. They could limit Minnesota’s ability to support local food and energy systems and grow local businesses. In order to stay up to speed, Minnesota has set up a new Trade Policy Advisory Council (TPAC) to advise the state legislature and Governor.


TPAC wants to hear from Minnesotans: What concerns do you have about free trade? What role could TPAC play in the future? Now is your opportunity to have a say in our future trade policy. Complete the survey and let them know future trade negotiations should be public, not secret. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard in the development of trade agreements and that they protect local control and our quality of life. The free trade model has failed for Minnesota and we need a new approach to trade. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard before trade agreements are completed, and that they protect local control, our natural resources and our quality of life.


Please take five minutes and complete the survey. To find out more about these trade agreements, go to iatp.org/tradesecrets.

Posted January 30, 2012 by Dale Wiehoff   

On January 23, over 20,000 people poured into the streets of Berlin to say that they have had enough of industrial agriculture. The demands made in Germany can be heard all over the world starting with fair treatment of farmers and consumers, safe food, an end to food speculation and a respect for nature and the welfare of animals.

Tomorrow, in New York City, the Occupy Wall Street movement is calling for protests to support 60 family farmers, small and family-owned seed businesses, and agricultural organizations that are challenging Monsanto's patents on genetically modified seed in federal court.

Like the Germans, it time for us to say, “We’ve had enough!” of Monsanto’s agriculture. From super weeds to pest resistance in corn, genetically modified seeds have failed. Now Monsanto is turning to even more dangerous products with new varieties that will only increase the amount of herbicides in the environment.

At the heart of industrial agriculture is a long running conflict between corporations and farmers on who will control food production. Occupy Wall Street has come out on the side of farmers and all who eat to say, “We’ve had enough!”

Posted January 30, 2012 by    

Local FoodAgricultureAgribusinessFoodSustainable Agriculture

Used under creative commons license from Yuba College Public Space.

Institutional buyers, like colleges, hospitals and schools, can make a big difference to Ag in the Middle farmers by buying locally and regionally grown food.

Farming is a tough way to make a living and no segment of the American farm community has been harder hit in recent decades than the farmers known as Ag in the Middle (AITM).  These are the producers of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and meat products that are too big to sell directly to consumers and too small to effectively compete with agribusiness—a difficult place to be in a globalized food system and yet these midsize farmers are essential for supplying the significant quantities of food needed by retailers, institutions and other larger market channels. 

While the number of very small farmers in the U.S. has started to rebound, the number of Ag in the Middle farmers (those with gross annual farm sales of $50,000 to $500,000) fell nearly 18 percent from 1997 to 2007. 

One strategy helping to keep these farmers on the land are efforts by institutions such as colleges, hospitals and schools to purchase locally and regionally grown foods.  Since 2009, IATP has partnered with Compass Group USA on just such an initiative. Compass Group is one of the largest food service management companies in the world, serving over one million meals per day in North America. Compass also owns Bon Appétit, which manages foodservice operations for colleges and clients across the country. Bon Appétit has led the way for local, sustainable food sourcing and is a catalyst for improving fairness and equity in the food system, while reducing their carbon footprint.

Given their size and reach, Compass has the capacity to steer significant dollars to AITM farmers through their procurement practices. Recognizing Compass’ purchasing power, IATP launched its partnership with Compass to expand their local and regional produce purchasing. Starting from initial pilots in North Carolina, Minnesota and the Washington, D.C., area, the initiative was rolled out nationally in 2010 and further expanded in 2011. 

We’re pleased to announce that Compass’ purchases from Ag in the Middle farmers across the country rose by 46 percent from 2009 to 2011. That equates to more than $26 million in purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables that are produced by AITM farmers and eaten within 200 miles of where they were grown. This effort also builds upon widespread training efforts with Compass chefs and the company’s “Four Seasons of Eat Local” program, which aims to make local foods available year-round.

As Marc Zammit, Compass vice president for sustainability and culinary initiatives puts it, “The local food movement is here to stay and we expect that it will continue to grow. To put seasonal and regional flavors on our plates, we need the Ag in the Middle farm community to be successful and to keep growing the healthy, fresh foods that our patrons love. Our Ag in the Middle initiative demonstrates that it is possible to support local farmers through a large-volume business model. We look forward continuing this work with our farmers, distributors and IATP to keep building that momentum in the years ahead.”

Posted January 27, 2012 by Andrew Ranallo   

Green JobsBusiness and industryGreen chemistryGreen Marketing

Attendees break for lunch at the 2012 Minnesota Green Chemistry Conference. See more pictures.

In its purest form, green chemistry is nothing short of fine art: creating chemicals for use in products and processes that are just as effective as their traditional—and often toxic or resource intensive—counterparts, but safer, cost neutral, environmentally benign and a source of economic boon for everyone involved. Sounds like common sense, and indeed, this was the sentiment of many at yesterday’s Minnesota Green Chemistry Conference, co-hosted by IATP and the Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota.

The day opened with Senator Al Franken delivering a video welcome from Washington, D.C., in which he declared Minnesota a natural leader in green chemistry due to its strong university system—in fact, the University of Minnesota is one of few with a dedicated green chemistry course—and long history of environmental stewardship. He warned, however, that to remain a leader, Minnesota will need to make further investments to expand educational programs to train the next generation of green chemists as well as mid-career training for professionals already in the field.

“We must reinforce argument with results.” –Booker T. Washington

Minnesota’s Secretary of State Mark Ritchie used the aforementioned quote to both contextualize the state of green chemistry and to introduce the keynote of the day, Dr. Patrick Gruber, Gevo CEO and former University of Minnesota graduate.

Gevo is working to develop “biobased alternatives to petroleum-based products using a combination of synthetic biology and chemistry,” specifically isobutanol, with uses as broad as “jet fuel and feedstocks for the production of synthetic rubber, plastics and polyesters” beyond the usual use as an additive to gasoline.

Dr. Gruber showed, beyond exciting plans for the future, a deep understanding of the complexity of the issues at hand. Touching on topics as diverse as the unequal distribution of arable land—and malnutrition—around the world as related to land use for biostocks, and the naturally frightening lack of health and environmental information we have about the countless chemicals—often petrochemicals—in our food, medicine and industry.

Going further, Gruber argued that the rising costs of oil coupled with rising global demand, means that even beyond the health of people and environment—something that should be persuasive enough on its own—the time is now to move away from petrochemicals on an economic basis as well. He then asked the attendees to imagine the possibilities of taking the $400 billion the U.S. pays out annually for oil and used it domestically to advance and develop alternatives.

In the end, he said, it’s all about “cleaner, greener, cheaper.” So where does that leave companies?

The real nitty gritty…

The conference panels, “Product Improvement through Green Chemistry,” “Green Product Value Chain” and “Minnesota Grown to Minnesota Made—the Promise of Bio-Industrial Processing,” spanned both the production and retail sides of the equation, with professionals sharing their experience with incorporating green chemistry. Lynne Olson, senior program leader at Ecolab, said advocates of green chemistry may feel like the Lorax in the current infrastructure, but that in her eyes, “green chemistry will be viewed as common sense,” in the future. Linda Meschke of  Rural Advantage highlighted the Madelia Model project, which is using a variety of sustainably grown crops to fuel a bio-based industrial park in south central Minnesota.  Roger McFadden, vice president and senior scientist at Staples, Inc., called green chemistry a team sport: “No company is large enough, no government agency is powerful enough,” to make it happen alone, he said.

Indeed, cooperation was a recurring theme throughout the afternoon. Beyond environmental sustainability, solutions must be economically viable as well, and therein lies the rub, but Dr. Patrick Gruber wasn’t intimidated. Of the replacement of petrochemicals with biobased, sustainable alternatives he remarked “It’s not magic. It’s not 10 years from now. It’s happening.”

IATP is working, as co-convener of the Minnesota Green Chemistry Forum, with businesses, government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academia to advance green chemistry practice and policy in Minnesota and nationally. Learn more at www.greenchemistry.org. Presentations from the 2012 Minnesota Green Chemistry Conference will be available soon. 

 

Posted January 25, 2012 by Dale Wiehoff   

Used under creative commons license from http://www.flickr.com/photos/annaleeg/.

If, as the old saying goes, states are the laboratory of democracy in our country, then counties, townships and cities are surely the shop floors, where citizens have a direct hand in crafting solutions to their needs and protecting their communities. On Thursday, January 26, the  Minnesota House Government Operations and Elections Committee will attempt to tie the hands of local governments by limiting their power to enact temporary or interim ordinances. This erosion of democracy comes at a moment when many small communities find themselves contending with corporations whose net values are greater than that of many countries, and whose influence and legal power dwarf the capacity of cash-strapped local governments to evaluate and respond to their corporate agenda. The bill will limit  communities’ ability to say “Slow Down!” to developers, mining companies, big box stores, toxic waste and other businesses.
 
Rural communities in particular often find themselves being rushed to act with the threat that if they don’t go along, the outside developer will move on to other townships that are more accommodating.  Economic opportunities deserve the serious consideration that local governments are willing to give. With Minnesota’s strong tradition of citizen engagement and civic participation, it is a travesty to say that local governments can’t make important decisions on what is in their best interest. We have today and tomorrow to let Minnesota representatives know that our counties and local communities are not ready give up the power to make informed decisions.
 
IATP’s friends at the Land Stewardship Project have taken the lead in calling for action on this bill. We urge you to join them and IATP in calling your legislator today!
 
Bill that Weakens Township & Community Rights Up in the House Thursday, Jan. 26, at 10:15 a.m.
Calls Needed NOW!  Last legislative session we stopped attempts by corporate interests to weaken township and community rights in Minnesota. This year they are taking the issue up right away. This Thursday, at the very first meeting of the House Government Operations and Elections Committee, lawmakers will take up House File 389 (Beard, Quam, Nelson, Sanders) which weakens township, county and city local control. 
House File 389 will make it more difficult for citizens who want their township, county or city to take action to protect the community from unanticipated, harmful development. The bill does this by weakening the power of local governments to enact interim ordinances. An interim ordinance allows local governments to quickly put a temporary freeze on major development. This power is essential when the community is caught off-guard by unanticipated and potentially harmful proposals, especially those from outside corporate interests and outside investors, such as big box stores like Walmart or a large-scale factory farm. An interim ordinance freezes the status quo and gives the community time to review or create the appropriate zoning ordinances. (More details below.)
TAKE ACTION! Make these calls TODAY.   
1.  Contact the bill’s author Rep. Michael Beard (R-Shakopee) at 651-296-8872 or 800-657-3550 or  rep.mike.beard@house.mn.
2.  Contact these key members of the House Government Operations and Elections Committee:
Here is a suggested message:  “Minnesotans value strong local control and township rights. House File 389 authored by Rep. Beard undermines these rights, specifically the right to enact an interim ordinance. I urge you to oppose it. An interim ordinance allows the township, county or city to quickly put a temporary freeze on major development. This power is essential when the community is caught off-guard by unanticipated proposals, especially those from outside corporate interests. This power needs to stay strong. Weakening local control should be off the table.”  
If you have more time, contact these other members members of the committee:


More details on this legislation:
  • House File 389 is authored by Reps. Beard (R-Shakopee); Quam (R-Byron); Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park); Sanders (R-Blaine) 
  • Senate File 270 (the Senate companion) is authored by Sen. Limmer (R-Maple Grove).  
Interim ordinances are a part of strong local control. An interim ordinance allows a city, county or township to quickly put a temporary freeze on major development. This is necessary when the community is caught off guard by unanticipated and potentially harmful development. This power has been attacked repeatedly by corporate interests over the years.  
The power to enact an interim ordinance matters. For example, communities in southeast Minnesota have been bombarded with outside corporate interests wanting to mine for sand to be used in frac mining. These mining proposals are much different in scale and scope from the aggregate mining that takes place there now. In response to citizen concerns, Wabasha, Goodhue and Winona counties enacted interim ordinances that put a moratorium on frac sand mining while they study the issue to see if their current ordinance are sufficient to deal with this new type of mining.
Here are the details of how these bills weaken local control:
  • Under the proposed legislation, merely applying for a permit exempts a proposed development from any future interim ordinance. But all too often neighbors do not get any information about a project until AFTER the permit has been applied for.  When that happens, an interim ordinance may be needed to freeze the status quo and create time to assess the situation.  
  • The legislation requires a two-thirds vote (a super majority) to enact an interim ordinance. Currently, an interim ordinance can be enacted by a simple majority — that’s how democratic rights should work. There is no reason to make adopting an interim ordinance so difficult.
  • The legislation slows the process for enacting an interim ordinance by mandating public notice and a hearing before an interim ordinance can be enacted. In many cases, a local unit of government — particularly a township — does not get complete information on a proposed development until shortly before approval. In those cases, there can be legitimate concerns that the local government needs to address. When that happens, an interim ordinance must be enacted quickly to be effective.  An interim ordinance can only be adopted at a public meeting but currently no special notice is required to be given that the interim ordinance may be considered at the meeting. The fact is that the very nature of an interim ordinance is to address unanticipated situations and so there are times when it must be enacted quickly as an emergency measure.

Posted January 20, 2012 by Dale Wiehoff   

On Saturday, January 21, the giant grain and financial company, Cargill, is going to be the recipient of a Global Citizens' arrest for, as the organizers say, “profiteering off people and the planet.” It would take too long to list the indictment of Cargill’s many crimes, but one of its latest is a campaign to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board in partnership with a gang of powerful agribusiness corporations, called Grain Visions. Its members include, in addition to Cargill, Louis Dreyfus Canada Limited, Rahr Malting Canada Limited, Agricore United (a company whose largest single shareholder is ADM), Saskatchewan Wheat Pool (no longer a farmer cooperative) and James Richardson International Limited.

The Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) has been a thorn in the side of the big grain companies since 1935. The CWB came from a long line of Canadian wheat marketing boards, coops and grain pools led by western farmers who used their collective marketing power to force the Cargills of the world to pay a fair price.

CWB operates under the authority of parliament, but the majority of its board members are farmer-elected. Over the years the CWB has been weakened by the steady assaults of agribusiness, NAFTA provisions and WTO rulings that if implemented would put the Wheat Board out of business permanently.

The conservative Canadian administration of Stephen Harper declared all-out war on the CWB, driving out pro-wheat board provincial appointees and attempting to enforce the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act without holding a legally required farmer’s plebiscite. This latest attack on the CWB was challenged in federal court in December of 2011 and found to be “an affront to the rule of law.”

When three companies—Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Cargill—control an estimated 90 percent of the world's grain trade, making billions in profits while the world faces the prospect of devastating food crises, it isn’t surprising that citizens are calling for their arrest.

Posted January 20, 2012 by Andrew Ranallo   

Food and HealthAntibioticsFood safetyHealthLivestock

Used under creative commons license from essgee51.

A total of 395 pork samples were collected from a total of 36 retail stores in Iowa, Minnesota and New Jersey. Of those, 6.6 percent contained MRSA.

A rapidly growing body of evidence is spotlighting the overuse of antibiotics—and the antibiotic-resistant bacteria it breeds—in pork production as a widespread and serious danger to the American food supply and public health.

Today, IATP issued a press release detailing a new, peer-reviewed study we conducted in partnership with the University of Iowa College of Public Health finding methicillan-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)—a bacteria that can cause serious human infections of the bloodstream, skin, lungs (pneumonia) and other organs—in retail meat products at nearly double the rate previous research suggests.

The samples, 395 in total, were collected from a total of 36 retail stores in Iowa, Minnesota and New Jersey. Among these samples, S. aureus was isolated from 256 samples (64.8 percent) and of those, 26 pork samples (6.6 percent of the total) were found to contain MRSA.

Take a potentially deadly bacteria like S. aureus and make it resistant to antibiotics and you have a dangerous, difficult to treat and costly public health threat. According to 2005 estimates, MRSA accounts for about 280,000 infections and nearly 19,000 deaths a year in hospitals. Infections outside of hospitals, in communities and on farms, are rising as well.

Our latest study comes in the wake of other research published in 2011, and one as recent as earlier this week out of Michigan, suggesting that using antibiotics in pig feed increases the number of antibiotic-resistant genes in gastrointestinal microbes in pigs—even resistance for antibiotics other than those administered.

The growing evidence against nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in animal feed speaks for itself. Threats like deadly MRSA are only increasing, and unless additional testing can inform both food policy and the American consumer, the trends will continue. We know the dangers of the estimated 20 million pounds a year of antibiotics used in animal feed, now we need action.

Read the press release for more, or the full report.

Posted January 18, 2012 by    

In August 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that they would complete their reanalysis of non-cancer health effects of dioxin and post the results by the end of January 2012. The EPA also promised to move on to the cancer portion of the Reanalysis as expeditiously as possible. For the sake of public health, we sent a letter to the EPA this week urging the agency to move forward with this plan without further delay.
 
Since 1985, EPA’s assessment of health risks from dioxin has been delayed time after time, while Americans continue to be exposed to toxic dioxin and dioxin-like compounds. (IATP called for the EPA to act on dioxin back in 2000.) While dioxin might not be on the radar of the average American, it continues to be a key environmental pollutant and a big contributor to the toxic body burden of the U.S. population. An extensive body of science links exposure to dioxin to cancer and adverse effects on development.
 
Dioxins are unintentional byproducts of industrial processes like metal smelting and refining, chemical manufacturing, biological and photochemical processes and combustion. Burning chlorine-containing products, like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, generates dioxin.
 
Dioxins released into the air from combustion settle on grasslands, where grazing cows ingest them, and in water bodies where they build up in fish. Dioxins can also accumulate in animal feed. Fetuses are at greatest risk from exposure to dioxins, which cross the placenta during pregnancy. This means that a mother’s body burden of dioxins is passed on to her fetus.
 
We are all exposed to dioxin in the food system, specifically in fish, meat and dairy products. When IATP gives parents advice on how to reduce their exposure to food contaminants, we caution them to eat smaller fish and avoid dioxin in fatty foods. However, dietary advice goes only so far. We also need active policies to reduce dioxin in the environment, so that nursing mothers don’t have to worry about dioxin in their breast milk.  
 
EPA’s dioxin reassessment is an important step in addressing the critical public health issue of widespread human exposure to dioxin. We urge EPA to make good on its promise to finalize the non-cancer dioxin health assessment by the end of January and to move ahead with the cancer assessment as quickly as possible. Then the EPA should take the next steps to implement policies that protect American families from toxic dioxin.
 
More information about EPA’s dioxin plans is available at http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=209690.

Posted January 18, 2012 by Sophia Murphy   

FinanceFoodFood ReservesFood security

Used under creative commons license from ILRI.

Rushing to buy bread as wheat runs short and food prices rise in Mozambique.

This piece by Sophia Murphy and Timothy A. Wise was originally published on the Triple Crisis blog.

The spikes in global food prices in 2007-08 served as a wake-up call to the global community on the inadequacies of our global food system.  Commodity prices doubled, the estimated number of hungry people topped one billion, and food riots spread through the developing world. A second price spike in 2010-11, which drove the global food import bill for 2011 to an estimated $1.3 trillion, showed that while global leaders may now be alert to the problems, our agricultural systems remain deeply flawed.

Various inter-governmental institutions responded with alacrity to the food price alarms. But the most powerful governments remain resistant to reform. In the final two months of last year alone, the G2-0, the WTO, and the Durban Climate Summit all turned big opportunities for action into small communiqués of little import.
In our new report, “Resolving the Food Crisis: Assessing Global Policy Reforms Since 2007,” we find that the recent crisis has been a catalyst for important policy reforms, but governments have yet to address its underlying causes. By avoiding deeper structural reforms, the countries that dominate international agricultural markets leave the world at risk of another devastating food crisis.
 
The report, released today by IATP and Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute, is based on a comprehensive assessment of the policies and actions taken since 2007 by four international groups of actors: the UN, the G-20, the World Bank and international donors.
 
There is a lot to applaud. The price crisis helped reverse a long-running decline in donor support for developing country agriculture. Much of the renewed support acknowledges the important role governments play in redressing the market failures that plague agriculture. Many developing country governments began to rethink the prevailing orthodoxy that they could import rather than invest in growing their own food. Many now emphasize domestic food production and the central role of small-scale farmers and women. We also saw encouraging attention to environmental issues, including climate change, in local and national plans.
 
But these reforms fall well short of what is needed to meet the world’s current and future food needs in a sustainable way. New international funding is welcome, but only $6.1 billion of the G-8’s pledged $22 billion over three years represents new funding. Those pledges may not materialize and are anyway well short of what is needed. They also focus too narrowly on increasing production. This just encourages an expansion in industrial agriculture based on external inputs and ever-more expensive oil.
 
As the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food said when accepting his second 3-year mandate in 2011, “Too much attention has been paid to addressing the mismatch between supply and demand on the international marketsas if global hunger were the result of physical scarcity at the aggregate levelwhile comparatively too little attention has been paid both to the imbalances of power in the food systems and to the failure to support the ability of small-scale farmers to feed themselves, their families and their communities.”
 
A structural shift in global markets is underway, caused by the deepening integration of agricultural, energy, and financial markets in a resource-constrained world made more vulnerable by climate change. Powerful multinational firms dominate these markets, and they slow, divert, or halt needed policy changes. This leaves international institutions promoting market-friendly reforms but resistant to imposing the regulations required to ensure well-functioning food and agricultural markets.
 
A paradigm shift in policies is needed as well. Governments need to discourage industrial biofuels expansion, regulate financial speculation, limit irresponsible land investments, encourage the use of buffer stocks to moderate price swings, reduce fossil fuel dependence, promote agroecological practices and reform global trade rules.
 
Unfortunately, the institutions reviewed have shown little appetite for decisive action. The world’s most economically powerful nations asserted leadership on food security at the G-20, then backed away from reform. This has had a chilling effect on reform efforts elsewhere in the international system, most notably at the U.N. (See earlier posts on this here.)
 
Three areas in particular demand decisive action. First, biofuels expansion must be slowed. It is widely recognized as one of the key factors behind rising agricultural commodity prices, driven by government incentives in rich countries. Second, the high levels of price volatility must be addressed. Financial regulations must limit speculation, well beyond the weak measures already enacted. Firewalls need to be put back in place between traders’ risk hedging activities and speculative investment. Food reserves are also needed to cushion price swings. Third, land grabs by resource-constrained nations and speculative investors must be stopped. Such investments compromise the long-term food-producing potential of developing countries and violate the rights of those now on the land.
 
Fortunately, many developing countries are making changes. New agricultural development programs in Africa focus on small-scale farmers and women using low-input techniques and local resources while building climate adaptation. Bangladesh and other countries used food reserves to reduce the impact of the food price spikes, and food reserves are again on the agenda. As the African Union said in its rebuke to the G-20’s June Agricultural Action Plan, “we must rely on our own production to meet our food needs. In fact, importation is not Africa’s goal.”
 
Read the executive summary, the full report, or watch a Real News Network interview with the authors below.

Sophia Murphy is a senior advisor at theInstitute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and a regular contributor to the Triple Crisis Blog. Timothy A. Wise is Policy Research Director at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University.


More at The Real News

Posted January 6, 2012 by Ben Lilliston   

 Dr. Kelly Brownell addresses the audience at State of the Plate: Minnesota Healthy Food Futures.

Yesterday more than 300 people gathered on an unseasonably warm January day at a conference center outside of Minneapolis to talk about food, farming and health. The conference, State of the Plate: Minnesota Healthy Food Futures, was co-hosted by IATP, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The event included national figures like Dr. Kelly Brownell of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and Anne Haddix from the CDC, as well as state leaders like Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger and University of Minnesota’s Dr. Mary Story—as well as community, public health and food activists.

Much of the discussions centered on the important role health professionals need to play in advocating for a healthier food system, whether at the community or state and federal policy level. Dr. Brownell argued that our children are being robbed of their future. For the first time in history, the current generation of children, he said, is expected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents, largely due to diet-related disease. Instead, Dr. Brownell said in his keynote to attendees, we need to make healthy food the “optimal default”—or put more simply, the easiest food to access.

Other topics covered at the conference included the role of the food system in health, the existing food environment, the challenges for farmers to grow healthy food and the social justice implications of our food system. See our interview with Dr. Kelly Brownell below or check out some photos from the event on IATP’s Flickr.

 

Posted January 4, 2012 by Andrew Ranallo   

Food and HealthHealthy Food ActionAntibioticsFood safetyHealth

Used under creative commons license from David W Oliver.

In 2010 alone, nearly 54,094 lbs. of cephalosporins were used in U.S. livestock operations, according to recent FDA data.

Today the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a ban for unapproved uses of cephalosporins in food animals. Cephalosporins, a class of critically important human antibiotics, are also widely used in livestock and poultry—in 2010 alone, nearly 54,094 lbs. were used in U.S. livestock operations, according to recent FDA data. While some cephalosporins are used in treating sick animals, many more have been routinely given for so-called extra-label use to prevent disease, such as by injecting the eggs meant to hatch chickens that would grow into broiler chickens. The FDA action comes in the face of abundant scientific evidence that extra-label uses have helped to create cephalosporin-resistant bacteria, in animals and also in the food products from them.  

“While we welcome FDA’s belated action, the delay is shocking. Tens of thousands of people continued to become ill from cephalosporin-resistant Salmonella when there was clear evidence the extra-label use of these drugs contributes to the spread of these and other resistant superbugs,” IATP’s David Wallinga said in a press release issued today by the Keep Antibiotics Working (KAW) coalition, of which IATP is a member.

Unfortunately, widespread use of antibiotics in animal agriculture and the increasingly resistant superbugs it helps to breed are not new developments. While the FDA’s newest ban is indeed a step forward it comes years late, and certainly leaves a lot more work ahead.

How belated is FDA’s action? Well, back in 2008, IATP and KAW submitted comments to the FDA on this very issue, and today’s ban is only the second action the FDA has taken on the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture in nearly seven years (the first coming in 2005). IATP’s Healthy Food Action also led an action in July 2011, urging supporters to write FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to ban cephalosporins once and for all.

Let’s hope the momentum continues and other sources of antibiotic resistance, like antibiotics given to livestock via feed—over 70 percent of all antibiotics administered to livestock, in fact—are addressed before public health suffers even further. 




       Sign up for our free newsletter!