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Cod Shortages, Hurricane Relief Efforts, and More in Food Policy This Week

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Cod fishing. [Photograph: dkeats on Flickr]

Declining Populations Threaten Cod Fishing Industry

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determines how many fish New England's fisherman can catch without depleting available fish stocks, and they've consistently lowered the catch quotas in recent years due to shrinking fish populations. In his most recent piece for Yankee magazine, Rowan Jacobsen joins the NOAA on their quest to set the quotas. Jacobsen highlights the spectacular decline of the codfish, one of the most popular fish for consumers. Since overfishing of cod began in the late 20th century, populations have decreased so significantly that one NOAA rep has this to say: "The fishermen say the codfish are still out there. Well, no, they aren't." This article about a high-stakes issue is worth a full read.

As Holidays Approach, Low Wages Raise Controversy

Both McDonald's and Walmart were under fire this week as their low wages drew scrutiny from labor activists. A video released by the organization Low Pay is Not OK reveals a McDonald's employee support site suggesting "breaking food into pieces often results in eating less and still feeling full." This and other advice angered those who felt that the company dismissed the inability for some employees to make ends meet on McDonald's wages. And a Walmart in Canton, Ohio made headlines after it held a Thanksgiving food drive for its own employees. Workers at that Walmart argued that this insensitive gesture ignores the fact that Walmart's low wages keep many of its employees on food stamps. The recent cuts to the food stamp program and the upcoming holidays make wages an especially large issue for many working-class families. Labor advocates are demanding that these employers pay their workers enough to keep them off of federal benefits.

Climate Change Continues to Threaten Crop Yields

This piece in the New York Times discusses how climate change continues to threaten crop yields across U.S. and the world. The author revisits the worldwide food shortages of 2007 and 2008, and notes that hunger is a continuing problem as developing countries struggle to cope with the impacts of climate change on their agricultural lifestyles. More recently, a leaked draft of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations committee, indicated that that group is increasingly worried about the threats of climate change on agriculture. The author suggests that the U.S. could adapt its agricultural methods to changing weather patterns, except that research on agricultural adaptation has stalled due to over-confidence in our current agricultural methods.

Haiyan Response Raises Food Aid Questions

The Obama administration recently proposed changes to the U.S.'s international food aid program. The changes would allow a greater percentage of food aid to take the form of purchases from local suppliers in affected countries, rather than shipping food grown in the U.S. to countries overseas. The move was predictably opposed by agricultural interests in the U.S. But in light of Hurricane Haiyan, the issue has taken center stage as the U.S. spends millions on relief efforts. Advocates of food aid reform note that while current purchasing from suppliers in the Philippines is high, that rate won't last. The additional time spent shipping food from the U.S. to the Philippines could impede the relief process.

About the Author: Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her other work can be found at her website, and you can follow her on Twitter @leahjdouglas.

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