Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Oct 24 2017

Celebration of Michael Jacobson

I’m going to be at the National Press Club in Washington DC tonight for the gala event celebrating the retirement of Michael Jacobson from 45 years as president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

I first met him in 1978 when he and his director of nutrition, Bonnie Liebman (dressed as Bonnie Broccoli), came to a conference I was keynoting on nutrition and health at the University of California San Francisco.  He’s been an inspiration to me ever since, not least for having been at it so long.

I love these photos of Bonnie and Mike in the 1970s and more recently (Source: Dan Charles in The Salt).

 

An inspiration indeed!  Congratulations to Mike and best wishes for a busy retirement.

Oct 23 2017

Book launch: Alice Waters’ Making of a Counterculture Cook

For those of you in New York, tonight at 7:30 Alice Waters will be at BAM talking with Hilton Als about her new book:

Alice Waters.  Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook.  Clarkson Potter, 2017.

It’s a memoir of her early years leading up to the launch of Chez Panisse, her now famous Berkeley restaurant, in 1971 at the age of 27.  The book recounts familiar stories of her discovery in France of the taste of fresh ingredients, and her attempts to recreate those tastes in America.

But it also draws on her experience with Berkeley politics in the 1960s as the inspiration for her life’s work.  Most touchingly, she dedicates the book to Mario Savio, the now-deceased leader of Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement, and talks about the importance of her work on Bob Scheer’s ultimately unsuccessful run for Congress in 1966.

The book is a lovely food memoir that answers lots of questions about what got Alice started on this path.

What it does not do is explain the enormous effectiveness of her moral force—the movement for fresh, local, seasonal, sustainable foods and ingredients; the White House garden; and the thousands of schools with gardens and food as part of the standard curriculum.

I hope she will do another memoir to explain how all that happened, as well.

Oct 20 2017

Weekend Reading: Seven Cheap Things

Raj Patel & Jason Moore.  A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet.  University of California Press, 2017.

I was pleased to do a blurb for this one:

This is a highly original, brilliantly conceptualized analysis of the effects of capitalism on seven key aspects of the modern world. Written with verve and drawing on a range of disciplines, A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things is full of novel insights.

What are the seven things so cheap that they are not valued appropriately?

  • Nature
  • Money
  • Work
  • Care
  • Food
  • Energy
  • Lives

Read the book to connect the dots.  As Patel and Moore conclude, if what they say “sounds revolutionary, so much the better.”

Share |
Tags:
Oct 19 2017

Childhood obesity: progress in the UK, not so much in the US

FoodNavigator reports that Public Health England is taking on—what a concept!—calories as a means to prevent childhood obesity.

It will be looking at ready-to-serve meals, pizzas, burgers, savory snacks, and sandwiches in an effort to help children cut back on the excess 200-300 calories a day they are currently consuming.

The UK is planning targeted reductions in sugars in processed foods.

The food industry doesn’t like this: bans on advertising sugary foods to kids are “choking the industry.”

I once attended a White House meeting at which I heard representatives of food companies insist that they could not stop marketing to children.  This was their line in the sand.  They had to keep marketing to children to stay in business.

As for the United States, the CDC has just published the latest data on obesity in adults and children.

The trend?  Upward.

Looks like marketing to kids works, and well.

Public health, anyone?

Oct 18 2017

Keeping up with food politics: new reports

Reports related to food politics flood in.  Here are a few from the last couple of weeks.

The Nation: Special Issue on The Future of Food: Setting the Table for the Next Generation

Global Alliance for the Future of Food: Unravelling the Food-Health Nexus: Addressing Practices, Political Economy, and Power Relations to Build Healthier Food Systems.

Multiple channels across food systems threaten human health. The resulting health impacts are severe, but are rarely examined together, systematically. Each impact appears as discrete and unrelated to the next, but through a systems view their interrelationships, linkages, and complex associations are revealed. The health impacts of food systems disproportionately affect the most vulnerable in our communities, and are compounded by climate change, poverty, inequality, poor sanitation, and the prevalent disconnect between food production and consumption. The true costs of these impacts are staggering…Over the coming months we will be tracking reactions and feedback to determine phase II of research for reviewing the positive health impacts of food systems, and begin to plan a global  convening focused on the food-health nexus.

IPES (International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems): Too Big to Feed

Consolidation across the agri-food industry has made farmers ever more reliant on a handful of suppliers and buyers, further squeezing their incomes and eroding their ability to choose what to grow, how to grow it, and for whom….The rush to control plant genomics, chemical research, farm machinery and consumer information via Big Data is driving mega-mergers – and stands to exacerbate existing power imbalances, dependencies, and barriers to entry across the agri-food sector. Dominant firms have become too big to feed humanity sustainably, too big to operate on equitable terms with other food system actors, and too big to drive the types of innovation we need.

EUPHA (European Public Health Association): Healthy and Sustainable Diets for European Countries

A new research agenda for Europe in the field of sustainable food systems is needed. Recent experience has demonstrated that there are many separate, relevant domains of research (e.g. involving nutrition, food science, sustainability, agriculture, economics, social science as applied to farmers and farming communities, research into acceptability of food products to the public, and other research fields as well), but that researchers in these various areas rarely interact with each other. Accordingly, what is needed is a new European research infrastructure devoted to the multidisciplinary aspects of food research, “from field to fork”, as is often stated.

Share |
Oct 17 2017

Glyphosate: a roundup (sorry, couldn’t resist)

I’ve been tracking recent reports and commentary about the herbicide glyphosate (a.k.a. Roundup) used with genetically modified crops.  Glyphosate has been linked to cancer, a connection firmly denied by its maker, Monsanto.

Now, FERN (Food and Environment Reporting Network) and The Nation ask:  Did Monsanto ignore evidence linking its weed killer to cancer?

Monsanto also hired an outside consulting firm, the Intertek Group, to orchestrate a so-called “independent” review of glyphosate’s health effects to refute the IARC’s cancer assessment. A disclosure accompanying the review, which was published in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, reported that Intertek was paid by Monsanto but claimed that “neither any Monsanto company employees nor any attorneys reviewed any of the Expert Panel’s manuscripts prior to submission to the journal.” In fact, internal e-mails indicate that Heydens and other Monsanto employees reviewed and edited drafts before the report was published. “I have gone through the entire document and indicated what I think should stay, what can go, and in a couple spots I did a little editing,” wrote Heydens [William Heydens, Monsanto product-safety strategist] in a February 2016 e-mail to Ashley Roberts, senior vice president in Intertek’s food and nutrition division. Partridge [Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s vice president for global strategy] defended the review’s independence: “It did not amount to substantial contributions, editing [or] commenting—nothing substantive to alter the scientists’ conclusions.”

This is pretty much the same story told by the journalist Paul Thacker, a few months ago.

Hints of the biotech industry’s media tactics have leaked from court cases filed against Monsanto alleging glyphosate causes cancer. Several filings reference internal Monsanto documents that describe the company’s social media strategy called “Let Nothing Go”—a program in which individuals who appear to have no connection to the industry rapidly respond to negative social media posts regarding Monsanto, GMOs, and agrichemicals.  Lawyers in one case told a judge that documents show Monsanto funnels money to the Genetic Literacy Project and the American Council on Science and Health in order to “shame scientists and highlight information helpful to Monsanto and other chemical producers.”

Six countries in the Middle East vote for glyphosate as a carcinogen.

Oman’s Ministry of Agriculture has confirmed that six Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman have banned the use of glyphosate herbicides since last year, after reviewing IARC’s classification of glyphosate as a ‘probable human carcinogen’.

Researchers at Cornell find that glyphosate kills healthy bacteria in soil.

“Beneficial Pseudomonas in the soil can help crops thrive. They can produce plant-stimulating hormones to promote plant growth and antifungals to defeat problematic fungi – such as Pythium and Fusarium – found in agricultural soil, but previous studies reported that the abundance of beneficial bacteria decreased when the herbicide glyphosate seeps underground,” said Ludmilla Aristilde, assistant professor of biological and environmental engineering. “Our study seeks to understand why this happens.”

And, the European Commission is considering voting on whether to renew approval of glyphosate at its October 25 meeting.

Comment: We use a lot of glyphosate in the U.S. (an understatement).   Hence: So much, that widespread weed resistance.

Maybe it’s time to start phasing it out—and soon?

Share |
Tags:
Oct 16 2017

Menus, San Francisco Style

Grant Street, Chinatown, October 11, 2017

Share |
Oct 13 2017

Weekend reading: Politics of the Pantry

Emily E. LB. Twarog.  Politics of the Pantry: Housewives, Food, and Consumer Protest in Twentieth-Century America.  Oxford University Press, 2017.

Image result for politics of the pantry

I did a blurb for this book:

Who knew that American housewives were up in arms throughout the last century about rising food prices and misleading package information.  Twarog traces the history of how these movements developed, their connections to unions and women’s auxiliaries, and how twentieth-century politics systematically destroyed them.  Her book has much to teach us about what’s needed to preserve—and strengthen–today’s food movements.

Page 3 of 37112345...Last »