Currently browsing posts about: Food-systems

Mar 7 2012

U.N. Special Rapporteur: Five Ways to Fix Unhealthy Diets

Olivier de Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, has issued five recommendations for fixing diets and food systems:

  • Tax unhealthy products.
  • Regulate foods high in saturated fats, salt and sugar.
  • Crack down on junk food advertising.
  • Overhaul misguided agricultural subsidies that make certain ingredients cheaper than others.
  • Support local food production so that consumers have access to healthy, fresh and nutritious foods.

De Schutter explains:

One in seven people globally are undernourished, and many more suffer from the ‘hidden hunger’ of micronutrient deficiency, while 1.3 billion are overweight or obese.

Faced with this public health crisis, we continue to prescribe medical remedies: nutrition pills and early-life nutrition strategies for those lacking in calories; slimming pills, lifestyle advice and calorie counting for the overweight.

But we must tackle the systemic problems that generate poor nutrition in all its forms.

Governments, he said:

have often been indifferent to what kind of calories are on offer, at what price, to whom they are accessible, and how they are marketed…We have deferred to food companies the responsibility for ensuring that a good nutritional balance emerges.

…Heavy processing thrives in our global food system, and is a win-win for multinational agri-food companies…But for the people, it is a lose-lose…In better-off countries, the poorest population groups are most affected because foods high in fats, sugar and salt are often cheaper than healthy diets as a result of misguided subsidies whose health impacts have been wholly ignored.

Much to ponder here.  Let’s hope government health agencies listen hard and get to work.

For further information, the press release adds these links:

Oct 17 2011

Five new books about global food systems

It’s the fall book season and the food books are pouring in.  Here are five good ones, so recent that some have 2012 publication dates.

Michael Carolan, The Real Cost of Cheap Food, Earthscan 2011: The chapter titles, all of which start with Cheap Food, tell the story:  Globalization and Development, Conflict, Hunger and Obesity, Meat, The Environment, But at What Price, Community and Culture, and Who Wins.  The conclusion is Making Food Affordable.  How?  Eat less meat, don’t grow food for fuel, support urban agriculture, and other such excellent ideas.

Colin Sage, Environment and Food, Routledge, 2012: A beautifully designed and well written examination of every possible way in which food interacts with the environment.  It focuses on global food systems and their challenges and what we need to do to make the systems more sustainable.

Per Pinstrup-Anderson P and Derrill D. Watson II, Food Policy for Development Countries: The Role of Government in Global, National, and Local Food Systems, Cornell University Press, 2011: A serious look at how global food policies affect nutrition and health, poverty and food insecurity, and domestic markets, and the effects of all this on managing natural resources and climate change.  The book ends with a chapter on ethical aspects of food systems: “Investments in national and international public goods, particularly infrastructure and agricultural research developed for smallholders, are critical elements in supporting pro-poor economic growth and achieving their human rights.”

Madeleine Pullman and Zhaohui Wu, Food Supply Chain Management: Economic, Social and Environmental Perspectives, Routledge, 2012: A textbook for an undergraduate course but well worth a look for its analyses of how commodity food chains work, trends toward vertical integration, and the way supply chains are or are not regulated: “Many agree that the current system and trends have created a formidable force against the emergence of alternative food systems—particularly one that considers economic, environmental and social attributes simultaneously.”  Desirable foods supply chains would do better for consumers, farm workers, and the environment, and would be a whole lot more sustainable.

Alan Bjerga, Endless Appetities: How the Commodities Casino Creates Hunger and Unrest, Bloomberg Press, 2011:  Food prices are rising to the point of international crisis.  Based on the author’s personal visits to farmers around the world, Bjerga explains how the crisis happened (short answer: greed), its tragic effects, and what now has to be done to reverse them.

 

Jul 6 2011

How to pay for a better food system?

At TPMDC, Brian Beutler explains why the U.S. does not have enough money to pay for food assistance programs, safety regulation, better school food, or support for sustainable agriculture.

 

Jan 21 2011

Eating Liberally: What about those smarmy Monsanto ads?

Every now and then, Eating Liberally’s Kerry Trueman, aka kat, writes an “Ask Marion,” this one titled, “Let’s Ask Marion Nestle: Is Monsanto’s Warm & Fuzzy Farmer Campaign Just A Snow Job?”

2011-01-21-Farmer.jpg

KT: Now that the Supreme Court has declared that corporations are people, too (happy birthday, Citizens United!), Monsanto is apparently out to put a friendly, slightly weatherbeaten, gently grizzled face on industrial agriculture (see above photo, taken at a DC bus stop just outside USDA headquarters.)

This guy looks an awful lot like Henry Fonda playing Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, which seems only fitting since Agribiz may be helping to create a 21st century Dust Bowl.

After decades of boasting about how fossil-fuel intensive industrial agriculture has made it possible for far fewer farmers to produce way more food, Monsanto is now championing the power of farming to create jobs and preserve land. Does this attempt by a biotech behemoth to wrap itself in populist plaid flannel give you the warm and fuzzies, or just burn you up?

Dr. Nestle: This is not a new strategy for Monsanto. Half of my book, Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (University of California Press, 2010), is devoted to the politics of food biotechnology. I illustrated it with a Monsanto advertisement (Figure 17, page 182). The caption may amuse you:

In 2001, the biotechnology industry’s public relations campaign featured the equivalent of the Marlboro Man. Rather than cigarettes, however, this advertisement promotes the industry’s view of the ecological advantages of transgenic crops (reduced pesticide use, soil conservation), and consequent benefits to society (farm preservation). In 2002, a series of elegant photographs promoted the benefits of genetically modified corn, soybeans, cotton, and papaya.

Last year, Monsanto placed ads that took its “we’re for farmers” stance to another level:

9 billion people to feed. A changing climate. NOW WHAT?
Producing more. Conserving more. Improving farmers’ lives.
That’s sustainable agriculture.
And that’s what Monsanto is all about.

That’s sustainable agriculture? I’ll bet you didn’t know that. Now take a look at the Monsanto website–really, you can’t make this stuff up:

If there were one word to explain what Monsanto is about, it would have to be farmers.

Billions of people depend upon what farmers do. And so will billions more. In the next few decades, farmers will have to grow as much food as they have in the past 10,000 years – combined.

It is our purpose to work alongside farmers to do exactly that.

To produce more food.

To produce more with less, conserving resources like soil and water.

And to improve lives.

We do this by selling seeds, traits developed through biotechnology, and crop protection chemicals.

Face it. We have two agricultural systems in this country, both claiming to be good for farmers and both claiming to be sustainable. One focuses on local, seasonal, organic, and sustainable in the sense of replenishing what gets taken out of the soil. The other is Monsanto, for which sustainable means selling seeds (and not letting farmers save them), patented traits developed through biotechnology, and crop protection chemicals.

This is about who gets to control the food supply and who gets to choose. Too bad the Monsanto ads don’t explain that.

May 9 2010

Food politics in the media: recent examples

I’ve collected a few video bits and other such things.  Can’t wait to share them:

Enjoy!  Happy Mother’s Day!

Feb 27 2010

Manhattan’s sustainable food system?

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who is clearly serious about sustainable food issues, just issued a new report: FoodNYC: A Blueprint for a Sustainable Food System.

Here are some of its goals:

  • Promote urban agriculture
  • Connect upstate and Long Island farms with downstate consumers
  • Increase the sale and consumption of regionally grown foods
  • Increase the number of “alternative” food markets, indoors and outdoors.
  • Require a food curriculum in public schools
  • Support large-scale and small-scale composting
  • Increase access to drinking water fountains
  • Support the rights of farm workers
  • Create a Department of Food and Markets

If Manhattan can do this, other boroughs (and cities) can do this too!  Let’s do what we can to help Mr. Stringer make these work!

Feb 22 2010

Food systems affect public health: research!

I’m catching up on my reading and have just gotten to the special 2009 issue of the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition on food systems and public health.  If you – like most public health people – don’t usually think of agriculture as a major factor in health status, the papers in this journal will come as a revelation.  They demonstrate tight links between agriculture and public health issuees such as childhood obesity, food safety, and environmental health.    Best, they are downloadable at no cost, which means they can be easily shared with students.  I will use them in my food policy class next fall.

Aug 20 2009

Time magazine: America’s food crisis

This week’s must read: Time Magazine on what’s wrong with industrial food production systems and all the good things lots of people are doing to make it better.

August 26 update:  The American Meat Institute didn’t like the article much:

It’s dumbfounding that Time magazine would take one of the great American success stories — the efficient agricultural production of an abundant variety of healthy, safe and affordable foods for consumers in the U.S. and throughout the world — and turn it into an unrecognizable story of exploitation, manipulation and greed.

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