Saturday, November 20, 2010

This Month in Food News

Rodrik notes how most development groups are a very dismal bunch: low food prices are bad for the poor and so are high food prices ... just for different groups of poor people. He argues that this accentuating the negative and living off bad news makes for bad public policy. Oxfam retorts that while they do point out who suffers from whatever is currently happening, this hasn't changed their policy recommendations. World Food Prize winner Pinstrup-Andersen, who has just begun blogging, also speaks out on the culture of negativity in a new post on Food Apocalypse Fatigue.
Speaking of apocalypse, the scariest sentence Ezra Klein read on Oct 25: "There are no chain grocery stores in all of Detroit." Speaking of which, Asda (WalMart's British child) is buying up smaller stores (from another corporation - they're not buying mom and pop shops) to try out the virtues of smaller convenience stores. Coming soon to a WalMart near you?

An interesting note in regulatory history: when Congress ended Prohibition, one of the major reasons was to generate tax revenue. So regulation of (most) alcohol belongs to the Treasury, not the FDA. Hence, no nutrition labels. Mostly. The complex tangle is covered by M. Nestle.

An animal rights group planted a webcam in a chicken factory farm in Israel. The farm hasn't been able to find it yet to stop it streaming three chickens in a 15" x 12" cage to bring attention to the poor conditions.

CGIAR recently hosted the First Global Conference on Biofortification. Haddad reports on the generally upbeat proceedings for the breeding of foods that contain more iron, zinc, and vitamin A. His takeaways include how to handle the political economy of biofortification.

FAO has launched a reference calendar to help African farmers get a better sense of what crops will work with which kinds of soils and climates. The 43 African countries covered include 283 agro-ecological zones.

"Food scientist Marion Nestle talks with Academe about conflicts of interest between food companies and academics, the difference between food products and food, and the problem with pomegranates."

The Government Accountability Office is working to reduce gaps in our food safety network that could allow zoonotic diseases into the country through our animal imports. We imported more than 1 billion live animals between 2005 and 2008 alone.

A new paper on the connection between women's role in agriculture thousands of years ago and modern gender roles: societies where men ploughed tend to keep women at home more than societies where there was no plough and women did most of the planting.

USDA surveys of 46,000 US households revealed: 17.4 million families in the US experienced hunger at some point in 2009, 40 percent of them on a regular basis. This is about the same level of food insecurity in 2008, but triple the level we had before the recession.

M. Nestle is quite concerned: McDonald's, PepsiCo, supermarkets, and other food companies have been asked to help write UK health policy.  "In early meetings, these commercial partners have been invited to draft priorities and identify barriers, such as EU legislation, that they would like removed." [Nestle's emphasis] The story about trillion dollar soybean subsidies, however, IS just a joke.

Physics meets nutrition with a great idea for calorie-neutral foods. If you eat food below your body's temperature, you burn more calories to heat it up, right? So just freeze a pint of ice cream to -3706 F and the energy it takes to warm it up again burns off the calories! "The only snag is the Third Law of Thermodynamics, which says it's impossible to go below -459 F. Bummer." Speaking of the laws of thermodynamics, below is a comic celebrating living the second law as our purpose in life.

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