In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

  • The "great drought" continues around the country, with corn and soybeans grabbing the spotlight of endangered crops. The world price of corn rose by about 30 percent in the last week alone. The Midwestern agricultural region is suffering significantly, even with advanced irrigation fighting to save withering crops. Corn and soy are used as feed for animals, so price increases in those crops will result in higher meat and dairy prices. Farmers are hoping that rain in the coming weeks could salvage some of their harvest; weather experts are nervous that the dry heat could continue.
  • Last Tuesday, politicians, health care experts, and industry lobbyists spoke out at a hearing on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed "soda ban" in New York City. The proposed ban would restrict the sale of sweetened beverages in containers larger than 16 ounces. The presenters at the hearing fell into two camps: those who believe the ban would address rising obesity rates in the city, and those who feel that Bloomberg is attacking individual choice with his proposed regulations. The city's Board of Health will vote on this issue in September.
  • In 2008, New York introduced tight regulations on trans fats in restaurants and retail food operations. A study released this week provides some evidence that the regulations have in fact reduced consumption of trans fats in the city. In 2007 and 2009, city health officials recorded over 7,000 food purchases at 168 fast food locations throughout the city. The average fat content of those purchases had decreased by 2 grams during the 2-year span. Additionally, 59 percent of purchases in 2009 had zero trans fats, compared with only 32 percent in 2007.
  • Tom Philpott examines four industry-friendly policies that the Obama administration has passed in the last few years. Included in the list are lax regulations on meat producers; approval of bee-endangering pesticides; and approval of additional Roundup Ready products from biochemical giant Monsanto. Throw in foot-dragging on food safety and school lunch programs, and we've got a ways to go.
  • If you're trying to eat healthier, you may be familiar with the Meatless Mondays campaign, which encourages participants to give up meat for one day a week in an attempt to lessen their carbon footprints. Last week, the USDA released an internal memo to employees encouraging Meatless Mondays as a way to eat right and help the environment. The National Cattlemen's Beef Administration pushed back, and the memo was quickly denounced by the USDA. Marion Nestle has an interesting take on the tense politics of the situation.

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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