It’s really just 75 pages. Plus appendix. Done and done (and to be defended on Wednesday).
What else have I been reading?
The New York Times report that it will be harder to enforce the Obama administration’s nutritional guidelines for school lunches after the House Appropriations Committee created a loophole for schools that couldn’t afford to comply with the program to opt out of it. It’s heartbreaking how the issue of the economic accessibility of healthy food is thus recognized, but totally side-stepped – since who else would opt out but the poorest schools that have already the hardest time keeping afloat, such that underprivileged kids who most probably have a hard time finding healthy food options at home will be doubly punished by the reversion to the cheap lunch? So sad. Favorite quote:
Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the legislation was an attempt to gut school food standards. “Just because math and science programs in schools are hard,” she said, “you don’t throw out the courses.”
Another disappointing development in the House Appropriations Committee was the vote to prohibit USDA from protecting livestock, swine, and poultry producers against fraudulent, deceptive, and retaliatory practices by meatpacking corporations. This so-called GIPSA rider prevents the USDA from implementing a set of regulations that are supposed to counter the excessive concentration in the meat industry and protect farmers that speak out against contract abuses they face coming from meatpacking companies. “Unfortunately, it has become very common, particularly in the poultry sector, for companies who control farmers’ contracts to retaliate against growers who in any way speak about the abuses they experience in their relationships with those companies. Similarly, growers who attempt to join together with other farmers in growers associations to ask for better treatment from their company often suffer retaliation and threats as well. Common forms of retaliation include canceled contract, delayed bird deliveries, and delivery of sick animals.” The specific amendment however explicitly prohibits the USDA from intervening. How this particular piece of legislature helps advance the common good is beyond me.
In other news related to the affordability of healthy food, the CBC drew attention to an OECD study that Canadian obesity rates have increased since the begin of the global recession. Correlation or causation?
Then, National Geographic reports on the Chicago Council on Global Affair’s recent meeting on global food security, in which they outline a variety of solutions, including but not limited to “improving harvests in vulnerable regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where harvests are low or unreliable and the need for food solutions is escalating. Topics include “sustainable intensification” of agriculture, which means getting better yields without damaging the land and water; improving irrigation in Africa; and using field schools to teach improved farming techniques.
Climate change gets some attention too. The group is examining how agriculture—which is responsible for about one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions—can reduce its impact on climate through precision tillage and fertilizer use. Discussants also emphasized the need for accelerated crop research to breed more climate-resistant crops that can survive heat waves, droughts, floods, and saltwater.“
(side note: check out the sponsors of the symposium:)
The group also published a report (which you can read here) asking the US to step up its game in taking food security seriously. Recommendations include:
- Passing legislation for a long-term global food and nutrition security strategy.
- Increasing funding for agricultural research on climate change adaptation. Research priorities should include improving crop and livestock tolerance to higher temperatures and volatile weather, combating pests and disease and reducing food waste.
- Collecting better data and making information on weather more widely available to farmers. There are significant global data gaps right now on weather; water availability, quality, and future requirements; crop performance; land use; and consumer preferences.
- Increasing funding for partnerships between US universities and universities and research institutions in low-income countries, to train the next generation of agricultural leaders.
- Advancing international action through urging that food security be addressed through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.
These all sound rather reasonable, right? Interesting sidenote, again: ‘Generous support for the report was provided by The Bill and & Melinda Gates Foundation and PepsiCo.‘. This brought all sorts of questions to my mind – why do all reports and meetings need to be sponsored? What are the implications in terms of independence and impartiality of the recommendations? Why do I have a bigger problem with PepsiCo sponsoring it than with the Gates Foundation? Although – why is the Gates Foundation paying a group of pretty well-off scientists and policy-makers to write a report? Is that in their mandate? And does it equal out the impartiality issue if you have two sponsors with at first glance opposing objectives both pitch in? Questions, questions.
If you don’t want to think that much, finally, NG also has a nice travelogue on a visit to Darjeeling on the quest of the best tea in the world. Perfect to read while sipping a cup of your own.