In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites
- NPR graphed the changes in price for various food items over the last 30 years. We now spend less than 10% of our household budgets on food, compared to about 13% in 1982. Staples such as meat, dairy products, and some fruits have decreased in price rather significantly since 1982. Others, such as vegetables and grains, have increased. There are many political and economic factors influencing such changes.
- Farmers in Brazil are engaged in a long battle with biotechnology giant Monsanto over the issue of genetically-modified soy beans. The country is the second-largest global producer of GM crops, and soya is the most commonly grown plant. Farmers who grow non-GM crops are suing Monsanto for contamination from neighboring GM fields. The suit is similar to others in several countries around the world. The issue of GM crops has gained relevance as corporations and farmers alike wonder how to produce enough food for a growing global population.
- The Economist has a straightforward and interesting piece on the slow progression of the 2012 Farm Bill. The Senate version of the bill is currently being debated, and the House is working on its own amended bill. The Senate bill reduces spending by about $23 billion over 10 years, primarily by decreasing direct payments to farmers. Such a change is politically unappealing given the strong farm lobby. If the bill is not passed by September 30, the Congress may vote to extend debates for another year.
- Mark Bittman has an important op-ed in the New York Times that highlights the plight of food service workers. He focuses on restaurant industry employees, who are often left out of conversations around food production and consumption. Shockingly, the minimum wage for tipped employees is a measly $2.13 per hour. This rate hasn't changed since 1991. Bittman calls for better treatment of food service workers as a necessary component to the definition of "sustainability."
- Local eating is a hot issue these days, with farmers markets and CSAs popping up in nearly every city. But is eating local really good for the environment? Two scientists argue that the concept of "food miles" doesn't add much to our lexicon of sustainability. Transportation, consumption patterns, and production methods all contribute to a food's carbon footprint, but eating a food that was grown nearby doesn't necessarily reduce the emissions involved in that food's production. It's a complicated discussion that these authors address succinctly.
About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.