• A small specialty fruit company is attempting to bring a genetically-modified apple to market in the U.S. and Canada. The fruit would not brown when cut, eliminating one of the most difficult and inevitable problems for apple producers. Though genetically-modified foods are very common in our food system, they tend to be hidden inside processed foods. This would be one of the first GM products that the consumer eats fresh.
  • A big article in the New York Times explores the exponential growth and arguable cooptation of organic agriculture. As organic's price tag and niche appeal has grown, big companies have bought out smaller brands and growers. Few organic labels are now standalone companies, and organic farms have greatly increased in size. And the number of nonorganic substances that are allowed to be used in the production of organic products has also grown, a result of industry lobbying and the increased involvement of Big Food.
  • The House Agriculture Committee passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill this week. The Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act included funding cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps), and stricter guidelines on who can receive said benefits. The Act also included a provision to allow SNAP recipients to use their benefits for CSA programs. The current Farm Bill expires on September 30th.
  • Researchers are investigating a strain of E. Coli that causes urinary tract infections, a common and uncomfortable bladder infection that usually affects women. This strain of E. Coli has proven resistant to some antibiotic treatments, requiring intermediate care for an increasing number of UTI patients. Some doctors speculate that this antibiotic resistance is the result of consumption of chicken that was fed preventative doses of a similar antibiotic during its lifetime. This research could provide invaluable insight into the human consequences of low-dose antibiotics in animal feed.
  • A piece in the Economist highlights an impending hunger crisis in the Sahel, a dry region just south of the Sahara desert. Nearly 19 million people are currently facing chronic hunger and malnutrition in the area. This will be the third big food crisis in the region in just seven years, and the causes of the crises are recurrent: political strife, drought, poor infrastructure. Large international agencies are split on the best way to address international hunger; some argue for more preemptive development funding, and others prefer the emergency aid approach. Organizations such as USAID and the UN are working to find a solution for the Sahel region before too many lives are lost.

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.

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