Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Twinkie vs. Apple Showdown

Check out the latest video from the makers of The Meatrix. This time, they take on the Farm Bill. Please send the link to friends and family. To learn more about the Farm Bill, see the Farm Bill 101 from Oxfam here, from Food and Water Watch, and keep up to date on Farm Bill 2007 organizing with the Community Food Security Coalition, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, and the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Starbucks Hormone-Free Milk Campaign... Wins!

I just got off the phone with Wenonah Hauter from Food and Water Watch and she has just found out that they won their Starbucks campaign. Thanks to thousands of e-mails, phone calls, and rallies by consumers across the country, Starbucks committed to serving only 100% hormone-free milk in all of its U.S. stores by the end of this year.

Now, let's call 1-800-235-2883 to thank Starbucks CEO Jim Donald for doing the right thing and let him know we'll be looking forward to New Year's Day and a happy, healthy, hormone-free 2008!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

New York City Event/Upcoming: Farms not Arms

Farms Not Arms and Family Farm Defenders invite you and your organization to attend:
What: "The War and Rural America." - a public forum and meeting.
Where: The Warwick Hotel, 65 West 54th Street, New York, NY 10019
When: Saturday, September 8, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Hosted by: Farms Not Arms and Family Farm Defenders.
http://www.farmsnotarms.org/ http://www.familyfarmdefenders.org/

As we farmers make our plans to head to New York for the 22nd annual FarmAid concert to benefit America's family farmer, we are facing new challenges.

Almost six years of war has placed a heavy burden on our farms and rural communities, with small towns and rural areas across the country bearing drastically disproportionate numbers of fatalities in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Global war, global warming, and the excessive use of fossil fuels that fuel them both are adding to the already existing crises of loss of farmland, family farmers and economic opportunity in rural America.

Now we are facing hundreds of thousands of young men and women returning from war to these very communities without adequate healthcare, counseling or vocational training.
At the public forum on The War and Rural America, we will focus on organizing to change our nation's priorities from war and destruction to a constructive program of support for family farmers, regional agriculture, growing of bio-fuels and creating of job opportunities on our farms for returning veterans.

Speakers will include:
Dr. William O'Hare, University of New Hampshire, author of the report on rural casualties.
George Naylor, Iowa soybean farmer, President of National Family Farm Coalition
Jim Goodman, Wisconsin beef and dairy farmer, speaking for Family Farm Defenders
Roger Allison, Missouri hog farmer, Executive Director, Missouri Rural Crisis Center
Ronnie Cummins, President, Organic Consumers Association
Nadia McCaffrey, Gold Star Mom, founder Veterans Village

Facilitating the meeting will be Farms Not Arms co-chairs:
Will Allen and Kate Duesterberg, Cedar Circle Farm, East Thetford, Vermont
John Kiefer, Rosebud Ranch, Saux City, Wisconsin
Michael O'Gorman, Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo, Ensenada, Mexico

Also participating will be numerous veterans and their advocates as we hope to further the building of the Farmer-Veteran Coalition, a politically neutral organization that will work to provide farm jobs, job training and land for deserving veterans and infuse our nation's food production with young people already acquainted with hard work and sacrifice.
Please join us at this important meeting. For more information contact any of the organizations listed above or:

Doug Stevenson, Farms Not Arms, 931-964-2590 mailto:douglas@farmsnotarms.org
425 Farm Road, Suite 5 The Farm, Summertown Tennessee, 38483 http://www.blogger.com/www.farmsnotarms.org

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Urge Your Senators to Support Food Aid Reform in the 2007 Farm Bill!

From our friends at The Oakland Institute
Call Senate Now at 202-224-3121 (Operator assistance)

Each year millions of tons of food are shipped from the United States as food aid to respond to crises resulting from droughts, conflicts and severe poverty. While there is little doubt that this aid has saved countless lives, it is also clear that the US program - where most food aid is purchased and bagged by US agribusinesses and shipped by US shipping firms - designed over 50 years ago when the US had abundant food surpluses to dispose of, is enormously inefficient.
A study by the US Government Accountability Office found that rising business and shipping costs have meant that the volume of food aid delivered over the last five years has fallen by more than 50 percent. CARE, one of the world's biggest charities, has just announced that it is turning down some $45 million a year in federal financing, saying American food aid is not only plagued with inefficiencies, but also may hurt some of the very poor people it aims to help. Deliveries of in-kind food aid can undercut local farmers' crop sales, especially when they arrive late, after a new harvest. Changing the way at least a portion of US food aid is purchased could make a huge difference for food aid recipients in countries and regions around the world.

A recent New York Times editorial says, the virtues of purchasing food in recipient countries are self-evident and need full Congressional support! Call your Senator today and let them know that you want them to support the proposed change in the 2007 Farm Bill which would allow for 25% of emergency food aid purchases under Title II to be provided in cash for local and regional purchase rather than as commodities purchased in the United States and shipped to developing countries. To learn more click HERE.

CALL Senate Now at 202-224-3121 (Operator assistance)

From the Oakland Institute

What Difference Does Organic Make (Really)?

Maybe you’re puzzled, like me, by the headlines that keep popping up, asking some version of “Is it worth it to choose organic?” I remember first stumbling on a newspaper headline posing a variation of this question more than seven years ago. Ever since, I’ve read dozens of articles, all with a similar message: The science is complicated — journalists equivocate. More research needs to be done, they add. The average reader is left scratching our head.

So, is it worth it? Sure, we need more science; we can always learn more. But these articles are confusing because they ignore what we already know. And what is that?

Well, we know that our country is blanketed with pesticides every year. By last tally in the United States, we sprayed 1.2 billion (yes, that’s with a “b”) pounds of “active” ingredients in pesticides. And we know that many of these are known to be neurotoxins, hormone disrupters, or probably carcinogens. And we know that millions more pounds of so-called “inert” ingredients are sprayed annually, with the same not-so-lovely effects on wildlife and human life. But we can’t even estimate the amount because companies are not required to disclose them.

What else do we know? We know these pesticides are unnecessary. Organic practices lead to abundant bounty. Just ask Jules Pretty, and his team at the University of Essex in England, who compared productivity on organic and non-organic farms globally, and found that organic farms performed equally well, if not better, in every country they evaluated. Plus, many of the hazardous pesticides we use in the food system are used just to get our produce looking pretty, anyway.

We also know this: Kids are the most vulnerable of all. Why? Because, pound-for-pound, children eat and drink more than adults. They also have more hand-to-mouth contact. (Spend any time with a baby and you’ll know how quickly everything they touch goes one place: into their mouths). The immune system of kids is also less developed and so provides them with less protection. Plus, children tend to eat more of specific fruits and vegetables, so their exposure to particular pesticides can mount quickly and be particularly high.

We can all think of examples; I need only think of my little brother who was a rabid apple juice fanatic. On the day he was leaving for his first cross-country adventure to visit our grandparents, his only question was “Is there apple juice in Jersey?”

Researchers have also found that turning to an organic diet can have a measurable impact on kids’ health. Researchers in Washington studying preschool-age kids found that those with organic diets had lower levels of organophosphate residues than their non-organic munching classmates. As soon as those kids switched their diets to organic, the researchers found a marked decrease in this pesticide residue. As one of the study’s authors pointed out: “Organic produce appears to provide a relatively simple way for parents to reduce their children’s exposure to pesticides.”

So what can we do to reduce our risk and our kids’ risks? Thankfully, it’s really quite simple; we needn’t scratch our heads at all. We can choose organic every chance we get.

Posted first here.

Water, Water Everywhere... If You've Got a Buck

When you choose not to spend money on something you could get for free, do you feel guilty? When you find yourself at the end of the day a couple bucks richer, do you reel with the burden of it? I didn't think so. But if not, then why is New York Times scribe Alex Williams so insistent that folks eschewing high-priced hydration feel so darn guilty? ("Water, Water Everywhere, but Guilt by the Bottleful.") Personally, I don't feel guilty passing up high-falutin' Fuji while I sip my Sigg. By focusing on the guilt charge, Williams misses a key part of the story.

What Williams omits is the real outrage: Not that the pro-public water set are the new eco-nag, as she implies, but that the private companies sucking up this limited natural resource--and then turning around and charging us mightily--are getting away with it. What's worse is that what you are drinking from that Dasani bottle (or any branded water) is unregulated and therefore often no better, and indeed sometimes far worse, than what you could get out of a tap--for free.

Our friends at Food and Water Watch have launched a campaign to Take Back the Tap. Check it out here and... don't feel guilty about it!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hearst Goes Green

At least, that's what they're seeing. The media behemoth launches a green blog, The Daily Green, and I can't help but pipe in. I'll be posting my musings here, too.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Whose Afraid of Local?

I don't know how many of you are Economist readers but, if you are, you might remember the magazine’s relatively recent attack on local foods advocates. Are locavores just clueless environmentalists who don't have their facts straight? Might it be, as the Economist claimed, actually better for the environment to buy food from halfway around the world, if that food was produced more ecologically? A recent New York Times op-ed picked up a similar line of argument. See below for my mother and my unpublished response to the editor of the Times, click here to read the letters the Times did publish, and check out fan-of-the-local Michael Shuman's "On the Lamb" for an in-depth response.

Unpublished Letter to the Editor/New York Times:
In an apparent attempt to set us straight on real value of “local food” in lightening our earthly footprint, James E. McWilliams (Food That Travels Well, 8.6.07) beats up on a straw man, confusing the whole question. Local foods advocates don’t promote just any kind of local, as he implies. Tyson Foods’ highly inefficient, large-footprint factory may be local to some, but an anathema to sustainable eating activists. His prime example, that in the U.K. imported grass-fed lamb embodies less fossil fuel use than local grain-fed, is not proof that imports are superior but that we should eat less grain-fed meat. He notes that we must include organic, sustainable farming practices, as well as minimal packaging, into our eating calculations, but eat-local folks already heartily agree. The author, moreover, ignores the many reasons beyond the ecological for provisioning locally whenever possible—such as less vulnerability to concentrated political and market power.
Frances Moore Lappé and Anna Lappé
Small Planet Institute

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Help Change School Food

Here's an important message from our colleagues at the Center for Science in the Public Interest...

Dear Colleague,

We have created an on-line petition in support of the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act (S771/HR1363), which would have U.S. Department of Agriculture update its decades-old nutrition standards for foods sold out of vending machines, schools stores and other venues in schools (outside the meal programs): http://takeaction.cspinet.org/campaign/schoolfoodspetition

Please take a minute to send the petition to your Senators and Congressional Representatives and to pass it on to your organization's email network, listserves to which you belong, colleagues, friends, and family. Support for the bill is growing (we're up to more than 100 cosponsors), but your support is needed to pass the bill. More information about the bill is available at http://www.schoolfoods.org/.

Joy Johanson
Senior Policy Associate
Center for Science in the Public Interest

Monday, August 06, 2007

After My Own Heart

Had a fun time this weekend at the Grand Lake Farmers Market near where I grew up in Oakland. Bryant was doing a cooking demo complete with his rendition of KRS-One's Meat. As an added bonus, everyone walked away with this recipe for a watermelon slushee. (I tried it last night and it was delicious!!) Our friends from Sustainable Table stopped by with their bio-diesel bus and its Eat Well Guided Tour of America signs getting attention. Among all the great things they're promoting, they also talked about their "Take Back the Tap" campaign with Food and Water Watch, a cause after my own heart.

This pic is from the pie stop at PIE RANCH from the folks at sustainable table