Why Quinoa Is Complicated; Oregano-Fed Chickens; South Africa's Wine Industry

In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

A roundup of news clippings we're reading that affect the way we eat.

Quinoa Salad

  • Quinoa is a culturally significant food to many communities in parts of Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru. But as the grain has become more trendy in the U.S., quinoa prices have risen starkly in those parts of the world. As a result, many people who traditionally have relied on quinoa for sustenance are now selling their grains for pasta and rice, cheaper alternatives that are becoming new dietary staples. Tom Philpott explores the social and economic issues embedded in the Westernizing of Andean food culture, and the environmental cost of increased quinoa production.
  • In the midst of panicked debates about feeding animals large quantities of antibiotics, some farmers are turning to more natural sources to help their chickens stave off infection. Some farmers have tried feeding chickens, goats, and piglets oregano oil as a means of controlling parasites, worms, and bacteria. Many have seen success from this natural product. And with a growing interest from large buyers in antibiotic-free meat, switching to an oregano-based medicine chest could prove profitable for many meat growers.
  • Workers in South Africa's wine industry have begun near-daily protests in the Western Cape province, demanding improved wages and working conditions. The wine industry was once fueled by slave labor, and modern-day workers assert that their conditions aren't much better than those of their ancestors. Human Rights Watch has reported on the unsanitary living conditions and terrible pay - an average of $8 per day - that workers undergo in the region. A South African labor federation is calling for a worldwide boycott of South African fruit and wine to put pressure on producers.
  • The FDA finally released long-awaited rules as a part of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was passed in 2011 and was the first major food safety overhaul passed since the 1930s. The first rule would require food manufacturers to have a written plan detailing their efforts to avoid contaminating their products with bacteria that might cause foodborne illness. The second rule contains science- and risk-based standards for the safe handling and harvesting of food on farms. These rules are open for public comment. The head of the FDA, Michael R. Taylor, said that the administration worked hard to craft rules that were adaptable to and appropriate for farms of all sizes.
  • Western Farm Press featured a Top 10 of their biggest agricultural stories of 2012, including Prop 37, last summer's devastating drought, and California's marijuana industry. Some of the biggest stories of last year's food policy issues.

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.