I recently learned about a new group that launched at the ICN2 conference in Rome in November 2014: The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition. I’ve been reading their publications to date and they seem quite refreshing and practical. The Panel recognizes that our policy needs are changing as a result of changes in our food system. It is no longer simply sufficient to continue the call for greater agricultural productivity. We must also consider improving diet quality, increasing product diversity, supporting national infrastructure, and supporting producers of all sizes. Overall, I thought that the various global success stories, the reasonable policy options, and the utter practicality of the technical brief made it well worth a read. My three main critiques/concerns would be:
- They made no mention, anywhere, of clean drinking water;
- They seem to support genetic engineering, even as they state one of their goals as “to help generate and stimulate a stronger evidence base for… changes in agriculture and food systems”; and
- International development is a noble goal but with often disastrous consequences. The Panel hinted at, but did not give specific examples of, how to approach the development aspect without harming indigenous peoples, systems, or cultures.
You can see a video, the summary brief, and the technical brief here; or for the technical brief, click the image below.
I just had to share this link to Marion Nestle’s fantastic post on Food Politics today. She does a great job of explaining how and why the U.S. creates trade agreements with other countries, and what some of the major issues are with the process. (Hint: A total lack of transparency, political bullying, and undermining native farmers’ products, to name a few.) It’s well worth a read.
“Objectives such as supplying diverse, culturally-acceptable foods to communities, supporting smallholders, sustaining soil and water resources, and raising food security within particularly vulnerable areas, must not be crowded out by the one-dimensional quest to produce more food…”
-Olivier de Schutter, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
I just learned that Vermont became the first state to sign a GMO labeling bill into law! I am so very excited about it, although I agree with the author of the article that it will likely be challenged in court by food companies. I hope the higher courts have a spine on this issue and don’t allow corporate dollars to interfere with a judicious decision.
I had the pleasure of hearing Cathy Nonas speak at this year’s Arizona Public Health Association Conference just over a week ago. She shared this clip from Parks & Recreation that says it better than I ever could.
“The fact is, we recoil at social engineering by the government, but for some reason we accept it by industry. Social engineering is going on every time you walk into the supermarket. The fact that the sweetened cereals are at eye level and the plain, un-reconstructed oatmeal is down by your feet is social engineering – and we’re not offended by that. Yet we’re offended as soon as the mayor says, ‘No, 16 oz. cups.’”
-Michael Pollan (source)
I came across this extensive (though I’m sure not exhaustive) list of the revolving door between Monsanto and the U.S. government in the movie The Future of Food. It’s no wonder genetically modified organisms still aren’t labeled!
Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy, Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Monsanto’s senior counsel at King & Spalding
Vice president for public policy, Monsanto
Deputy Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Assistant Administrator – Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, EPA
Assistant Administrator – Office of Policy, Planning and Evaluation, EPA
Chief of Staff to the EPA Administrator
Vice President of Government Affairs, Monsanto
Supreme Court Justice
Lawyer for Regulatory Affairs, Monsanto
United States Secretary of Commerce
Board of Directors, Monsanto
United States Secretary of Agriculture
Board of Directors, Calgene (biotech company purchased by Monsanto)
Former acting commissioner of the FDA
Senior Vice President of clinical affairs, GD Searle (a subsidiary of Monsanto)
Chief Administrator, FDA
Monsanto Board Member
Secretary of Defense
President, GD Searle (a subsidiary of Monsanto)