by Marion Nestle
Jan 8 2013

A Man. A Plan. Panamá!

On vacation in Panamá, I found few visible signs of food politics.

I had asked to visit the mountain site where genetically modified salmon are being raised in the mountains (see previous post).  Not a chance.

This made me even more curious.  I conducted an informal survey of every educated Panamanian I met:

  • Are you aware that genetically modified salmon are being raised in your country?
  • Do you care?

The answers: No and No.

I found only two exceptions: (1) a government official impressed by what he told me were five levels of security to make sure the fish don’t escape, and (2) an associate of the soon-to-open biodiversity museum (designed by Frank Gehry) who hoped that the museum could be a forum for such issues.

Both confirmed that the newspapers said nothing about GM salmon and that few people knew about them.

A chef’s reaction: Panamanian salmon!  He couldn’t wait to get some.

But I did see this Christmas display along the Avenida Balboa.

The Coca-Cola banner also says Alcaldía de Panamá: trabajando para ti (Mayor of Panamá City: working for you).

Happy new year!  Happy to be back.

  • Welcome back! The tree is priceless.

  • I would be interested in hearing your take on Mark Lynas speech at the Oxford Farm Conference, if you have a chance.

    Most of the reaction I’ve read has been complimentary, but it seemed to me to be a simplistic look at the issue–not to mention being rather offensive, considering the number of scientists (with training) who have expressed concerns about GMO.

  • Katie von der Lieth

    I can’t believe you were in Panama! I am a Peace Corps Volunteer here and I read your blog often. The influence and sheer advertisement space of Coca-Cola and other akin food companies in the country is overwhelming, even here in rural areas. I am currently in the planning stages of a nutrition project in my community, and one of the biggest challenges I foresee is reversing the message that processed foods are a status symbol and good for health.
    Cheers to the long road ahead and I hope you enjoyed your stay Panama!

  • FarmerJane

    It has been fascinating to read about the Panama Canal expansion through the eyes of writers in soybean farmers’ magazines. A recent issue of Pioneer corporation’s magazine stated that the 5 billion dollar expansion of the Panama Canal will double the area of the US that ships soybeans for export once the new post Panamax boats are able to traverse the Panama Canal. The magazine called for more soybeans to fill mega boats that will be able to fit through new locks that can hold an Empire State Building size cargo boat.

    Apparently, Walmart, Lowe’s, Target, etc are very excited about the possibilities of moving more imported goods into the US through the Post Panamax boats. Trade publications for boat construction, cargo carriers, multinational grain companies, railroads, intermodal transport companies are excited about more and bigger international trade to supply America with cheaper and cheaper goods.

    Cargo Business News highlights that the Obama Administration has fast tracked review of east coast port projects to take advantage of the expanded Panama Canal. By Executive Order, the Port of NY and NJ dreding project will be done by 2015 and the Bayonne Bridge will be raised by 215 feet so that giant post Panamax boats can enter NY by 2016 (this has all cost billions).

    Anyways, hopefully, we will all be able to get more things, probably even more fruits and vegetables from overseas ports, cheaper and cheaper.

  • melissa

    Hello! I am new on your site. Actually this is the fist time here! I was reading No more dirty looks, and someone, very niclely recommend it!!!:)

    To start, I know very little about food politics. I dont know if exist a name for it is in spanish. Well..

    I am from Panama and a year ago, somebody told me there was a salmon farm in Boquete. I didnt know if it was totally true. I DO know a little , and is that This is Not good for health. I am going to investigate more about it though, now that I read this article here.
    And of course, I guess you dont think is safe to consume salmon from farms? Can you share with me a good site to read about it?

    Glad you visit my country, somethings beautifull somethings not so much, anyways it is a special place.

  • i am a little unaware of the food politics you mentioned..i have been residing here in panama since 2010, your article says it all ..well while going through your blog i came across a lot things i was unaware thanks for the blog post and letting people know about it..