2/3/11 Nourishing News Roundup

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Happy Year of the Rabbit!

That’s right–today marks the start of 4709 in the lunar Chinese calendar and the Year of the Rabbit. After the wild ride that was the Year of the Tiger, this year promises a chance to stop and catch your breath. Celebrate with good-luck foods like tangerines and oranges, which you can turn into a tasty–and festive–granita.

Where Shouldn‘t You Buy Seafood?

Sustainable seafood expert and author of Sustainable Sushi Casson Trenor reveals four places where you shouldn’t purchase seafood, starting with retail giant Costco. AlterNet

USDA, You Suck

Sheesh, we’re starting to sound like a broken record, yammering on about the USDA continuing to say it supports organics and sustainability. But in an actions-speak-louder-than-words move last week, the agency announced its decision to fully deregulate Monsanto’s Roundup-ready genetically engineered alfalfa. “After conducting a thorough and transparent examination of alfalfa through a multi-alternative environmental impact statement (EIS) and several public comment opportunities, APHIS has determined that Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as traditionally bred alfalfa,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. Guess that depends how you define “safe.” The Center for Food Safety notes widespread use of the GE alfalfa will increase herbicide use (and give rise to herbicide-resistant weeds) and potentially contaminate organic crops. And the Organic Consumers Association notes that in a case of very strange bedfellows, Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm have come out in support of USDA’s latest move with the caveat that the government fine Monsanto if (and when) organic crops are contaminated. We’ll see how that one nets out.

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  • Chris

    My only question about the “USDA, You Suck” story is why you say that Stoneyfield Farm came out in support of the USDA’s decision when the newsletter I get from Stoneyfield Farm is titled “We Stand United in Opposition to GE Alfalfa”. Here is a link to thier newsletter article: http://www.stonyfield.com/blog/2011/02/01/we-stand-united-in-opposition-to-ge-alfalfa/

  • Chris

    Whoops, sorry I spelled Stonyfield wrong

  • http://nourishnetwork.com/members/liahuber/ Lia Huber

    Good question, Chris. That trio does oppose GE, but it (they) decided to go along with the USDA decision and push for compensation if (and when) crop contamination occurs. I think they essentially saw the writing on the wall–that the USDA was not going to continue to regulate GE alfalfa–and came up with the best solution they could think of, which is to try to at least get the USDA to hit Monsanto where it hurts if they do infringe on others. I can’t say I blame Stonyfield and the rest. But I also can’t say I’m not disappointed they couldn’t do more. These guys are the heavyweights in the organic realm, after all; if they can’t persuade the government to make sound choices to protect the integrity of our crops and our choices as consumers, who can?

  • Chris

    The way I read the letters from Gary Hirshberg on the Stonyfield blog, they are still participating in the lawsuit to stop the introduction of not just GE alfalfa, but also sugar beets, corn and soy. In fact they include links for action alerts, donations to the legal fund, and to contact the White House. Yes, once the USDA took the complete ban action off the table they did stick around to negotiate protections for farmers and consumers. They did not apparently though, give up participating in legal action to stop the introduction altogether. That’s not exactly “going along with the decision”. If they simply decided to go along with the USDA decision I doubt they’d still be asking people to write the White House, or donate to the Center for Food Safety legal fund. Which brings me to the letter from the Organic Consumers Association. I am always wary of believing everything I read, online or otherwise. I am especially wary of phrases like “informed”, “anonymous”, or “unnamed” sources. While the article on the OCA sites sources for Whole Foods, the connection to Organic Valley and Stonyfield is more obscure. Organic Valley is only named in one sentence as part of a self appointed cabal, and in addition to its inclusion in that sentence Stonyfield is mentioned only as having a CEO who is a personal friend of the head of the USDA “according to informed sources”. The Whole Foods Company website does indeed include a letter stating support for the coexistence option, given that the only other option the USDA was offering was complete deregulation. But both the Stonyfield Farm and Organic Valley company websites continue to push for a ban on all GE crops. About halfway through that article I was dissapointed to see the author move from reporting “facts’ to what appeared to be random theorizing about what he thought was the motivation behind WFM business practices without any citations or sources to back up his analysis. I have never lived anywhere near a WFM so I can’t even say whether he’s close to correct or not, maybe that’s why I looked for confirmation of what he claimed.I would suggest double and even triple checking facts instead of relying on the integrity of just one source. And I’d also add that when doing that fact checking you verify that your other sources aren’t quoting the same original source. Go to the people, or companies, themselves for thier version of the story. It only took me a couple of mouse clicks and I came up with multiple links questioning the veracity and sourcing of many parts the OCA report.

  • http://nourishnetwork.com/members/liahuber/ Lia Huber

    Thanks for your comments, Chris. There’s no doubt, this is a complex, highly political issue. We’ve got questions for comment out to many different agencies and companies, our curiosity sparked–as yours was–by the sources we named above.

    Please note that our Nourishing News Roundups are more summaries of what’s buzzing in the worlds of nutrition and the environment with links to differing points of view. We felt it was important to give an easily browsable summary so that NN fans could keep informed on the issues that affect them in the moment that they’re happening. Yes, we have an opinion of what went down, but we don’t delve too deeply here. That we do in fully researched articles after speaking with credible primary sources to get to the heart of what’s really going on.


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