Michelle Obama's Op-Ed; Chemical-Resistant Weeds; 'A Place at the Table' Film

In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

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

  • Michelle Obama wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the economic benefits of selling healthy food. She uses the case study of Wal-Mart, which reduced the cost of vegetables and fruits to the consumer while also increasing their profits. She points to decreasing obesity rates in some states and an overall increase in vegetable purchasing in the U.S. as indicators that we are becoming more healthful as a nation. This month marks the third anniversary of her Let's Move! campaign.
  • A Place at the Table is a new documentary that examines food insecurity in the U.S. The commonly reported statistic is that around 50 million Americans experience some food insecurity. The demand for food pantries and soup kitchens has gone up dramatically in the past five years. A Place at the Table intends to spark a movement around increasing food access and affordability for all Americans. The film was the same people behind Food, Inc., Waiting for Superman, and The Cove, among many others. It was released in select theaters on March 1.
  • In a new report for Mother Jones, Tom Philpott writes about the increased prevalence of chemical-resistant weeds. 49% of farmers reported pesticide-resistant weeds in their fields, compared to only 34% in 2011. This growth is widely attributed to the increased use of chemicals on agricultural land. Pesticide manufacturers, such as the Monsanto corporation, encourage farmers to simply use more chemicals to combat these stronger weeds. Philpott thinks there might be a better option.
  • A new study by Robert H. Lustig, a doctor at the forefront of the medical battle against sugar consumption, tracked a significant correlation between sugar availability and diabetes rates in over 175 countries. For every additional 150 calories of sugar available (the equivalent of a 12-ounce soda), the diabetes prevalence rose by 1%. The study controlled for weight, poverty, age, and other factors that affect diet. The results drove Mark Bittman to declare in his most recent op-ed that "we finally have the proof we need for a verdict: sugar is toxic."
  • A new report by the USDA outlines the effects that climate change will have on agricultural production in the U.S. The report warns that both animals and crops will be sensitive to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and that the effects from climate change are already being felt in nutrient and chemical balances in the soil. The USDA strongly calls for a human response to climate change, including new research and projections for the impact of climate change on agriculture. In his follow-up comments, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stated that the USDA would be "very aggressive" in assisting farmers in their efforts to address and mitigate climate change.

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.