Unfortunately, today these public institutions are increasingly serving private interests, not the public good. Hundreds of millions of dollars are now flowing from corporate agribusiness into the land-grant university to sponsor buildings, endow professorships and pay for research. One land-grant university, South Dakota State, is headed by a man who sits on Monsanto’s board of directors.
The influence this money purchases is enormous. Corporate money shifts the public research agenda toward the ambitions of the private sector, whose profit motivations are often at odds with the public good. It strips our public research institutions of the time, resources and independence needed to pursue public-interest research that challenges the status quo of corporate control over our food system or that offers farmers alternative agricultural systems to monocultures and factory farms.
Industry-funded research routinely produces results that are—surprise, surprise—favorable to industry. This “funder effect” produces a well-documented bias on research while weak conflict-of-interest policies throughout academia (including at many scientific journals, which don’t require full disclosure of funding source) mean agribusiness’s pervasive influence over public research is basically unchecked. Read the full article…
Yesterday, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed its version of the 2012 farm bill. The next step in the process is for the bill to go to the Senate floor. We do not know when that will happen, although the Chair of the committee, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), says it will be in “a few weeks.”
Overall, this is not the fair farm bill we have been fighting for, although there are a few bright spots (mostly on existing programs that were threatened but survived.) The Senate bill cuts support for nutrition programs that feed the neediest families, fails to provide an adequate safety net for farmers when prices are low and costs are high, and does nothing to address the power of big agribusiness over farmers and consumers. While it increased funding for some local food systems and organic farm programs, the funding for these programs remains about one out of every thousand dollars spent by this bill.
The Senate Agriculture committee kept the bill secret for months and only released it to the public less than a week before it was passed out of committee. Over a hundred amendments were listed when the committee met to consider the bill, however many of them were never introduced for a vote. Some of the potential amendments would have been dramatic improvements to the bill, such as Senator Grassley’s packer ban amendment and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-New York) amendment to fund research into non-GE seeds and animal breeds, but these were not put up for a vote. Read the full article…
Watch our executive director, Wenonah Hauter, talk at TEDx Manhattan about the abuses suffered by poultry farmers like Valerie Ruddle — and why we need to continue the fight for a fair farm bill.
Update: The entire day of presentations from TedXManhattan is available online here and on DVD. The TEDxManhattan DVD is free for noncommercial educational purposes and can be ordered by emailing [email protected].
Speakers for the day were:
Patty Cantrell – Regional Food Systems
Marianne Cufone – Recirculating Farms Coalition
Mitchell Davis – James Beard Foundation
Wenonah Hauter – Food & Water Watch
Howard Hinterthuer – Center for Veteran’s Issues
Michelle Hughes – Greenmarket/GrowNYC
Fred Kirschenmann – Leopold Center for Sustainable Ag/Stone Barns Center
Robert Lawrence – Center for a Livable Future/Johns Hopkins University
Paul Lightfoot – BrightFarms
Gary Oppenheimer – AmpleHarvest.org
Wayne Pacelle – Humane Society of United States
Cara Rosaen – RealTimeFarms.com
Urvashi Rangan – Consumer Reports
Stephen Ritz – Green Bronx Machine
Kavita Shukla – Fenugreen
David Wallinga – Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
The Glynwood Institute has also created Dinner and Some Ed, a website and project to encourage consumers to host a sustainable meal and enjoy discussions around TED and TEDx talks on sustainable food. For more information, please contact Diane Hatz, Diane Hatz or phone 646-495-6086.
McDonald’s new ad campaign hit twitter earlier today with a promoted hashtag, #MeetTheFarmers. It’s a clever way of promoting the campaign, but some, like Andy Bellatti over at Grist, are calling the ads “farmwashing.”
One of the company’s videos addresses how a handful of producers in one area of the nation provide 80 percent of the lettuce American’s eat. But is this a good thing? It’s certainly not good for food safety, since one mishap in a large facility or farm can get spread far and wide. We’ve seen this several times over the past few years, like in 2006, with a massive recall of spinach found to contain E. coli. Salmonella-tainted peppers and peanut butter soon followed. And in 2010, over half a billion eggs from just two factory farms were recalled. At least 14 Americans died and many thousands became ill from those four major outbreaks thanks to mistakes that made it into the food supply.
It’s not good for consumers or farmers to have a system with so few players. McDonald’s ad campaign gives us a good opportunity to talk about how the farm bill affects what we eat, every day.
What do you think about McDonald’s new ad campaign?
There’s never a shortage of interesting and incendiary stories about food issues to choose from at the end of the year. This year is no exception. As we continue to build our campaign to improve the Farm Bill in 2012, we can see examples of why this work is so important just by taking a look at some of the most outrageous food stories of 2011…
1. Attack on Food Safety Budgets
2011 started out with a bang; our food safety programs got banged up by threatened budget cuts. In addition, we witnessed a number of food recalls due to contamination that threatened public health with serious illness and, in some cases, even death. It’s not a surprise that a large and complex food system such as ours requires an aggressive approach to food safety. Unfortunately, federal and state governments’ ability to use that strategy was weakened when food safety budgets were slashed. While the meat and poultry inspection program at USDA escaped relatively unscathed, the Food and Drug Administration didn’t fare as well. FDA’s budget only allotted about half of what it needed to put the newly passed Food Safety Modernization Act into action. In 2012, Congress needs to get their food safety priorities in order. Read the full article…
While the big news among good food activists has been the unsettling possibility that a secret farm bill could be snuck into the Super Committee’s recommendations and passed with no public input, Republicans have furtively dealt a crippling blow to family farmers and consumers. This week, House Republicans included language in a budget bill that gutted the fair livestock rules that have languished for more than 80 years. Once again BIG MEAT has derailed the commonsense protections that allow small livestock producers to compete and check the abusive practices of the poultry industry.
The 2008 Farm Bill included reforms to protect small and medium-sized farmers who raise cattle, hogs, and chickens from unfair treatment at the hands of meatpackers and poultry companies. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration proposed rules (known as the GIPSA Rule, after the agency) to protect poultry and hog farmers from unfair contract terms – like retaliating against poultry and hog growers who speak out about abuses – and ensured that cattle and hog producers could get a fair price from meatpackers for their livestock.
Nearly three years later, the fair livestock rules have been shredded and there is plenty of blame and shame to go around. The Obama administration failed to show leadership on this issue and reneged on President Obama’s campaign pledge to “fight to ensure family and independent farmers have fair access to markets, control over their production decisions, and transparency in prices.”
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack caved to meatpacker money and power by issuing significantly watered down rules – after nearly 18 months of foot dragging to issue the final rules at all. USDA’s final proposal indefinitely postponed any efforts to protect independent cattle and hog farmers and issued a much weaker set of protections for contract chicken and hog farmers. Many Democratic Senators on the Agriculture Committee – including Chairman Debbie Stabenow from Michigan – stood on the sidelines and refused to stand up for livestock producers in their states. Read the full article…
You know Jillian Michaels as the now-famous inspirational trainer (and former overweight consumer) from The Biggest Loser. Did you know that the main reason she has been able to maintain her healthy body is from eating organic foods and staying FAR AWAY from processed food products? It sounds like Jillian is well aware of the problems that burden our corporate-controlled food system, run by giants like Monsanto, Cargill, Tyson and Nestlé. If only the show could focus on that part of a better health strategy, it could really teach people about the critical importance of the Farm Bill in improving our food and our health as a nation.
Wait a minute… that gives us an idea!
America has already opened its collective consciousness to the lessons of The Biggest Loser. The show’s contestants are close to our hearts for good reason: they’ve allowed us to examine ourselves and how we view our own health. But, now it’s time to welcome a new group into the fold and follow them as they head down a path toward self-improvement and healing. Only this time, the contestants aren’t playing for themselves, but for everyone who depends upon a healthy food system.
The USDA has once again failed to protect independent farmers from the companies that control our broken food system. They have sent part of the much-debated GIPSA rule over to the White House for final approval – without critical parts of the proposed rule that are needed to equalize competition for independent cattle and hog producers in the livestock marketplace. While there may be some positive changes in the rule for the poultry industry (see more detail in the statement from Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter), it is clear that those companies who have solid control over the livestock market also have a lobbying arm that exerts solid control over the current administration.
In 1921, the U.S. government came to the conclusion that something needed to be done about the lack of competition in the meatpacking industry that was allowing a few companies to dominate the market. Congress passed a law called the Packers & Stockyards Act and the USDA created the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA) rule to address the problem. The problem is that they have never enforced the law. What good is a seatbelt if you don’t use it? Read the full article…
Every good foodie knows that farm subsidies are the root of all evil and a big reason why obesity rates continue to rise, right? This thinking has become so commonplace among the good food movement that we’ve stopped questioning this assumption and pretty much take it as gospel.
But now is a critical time to start asking questions about what the consequences would be – intended or otherwise – if subsidies go away. This week, Congressional agriculture committees proposed cutting $23 billion out of Farm Bill programs over the next 10 years, and by most reports, one type of farm subsidies called direct payments are the first thing on the chopping block. Even the corn and soybean lobbies seem resigned to the end of direct payments to growers of commodity crops.
So if the most often-cited example of farm subsidies is about to end, does that mean we’re on our way to a food system that makes broccoli more affordable than fast food burgers? It’s not quite that simple. As we describe in a new report, released this week with the Public Health Institute, subsidies are not making junk food cheaper and more abundant than healthy food – the real culprit is the deregulation of agriculture markets, the failure to enforce anti-trust law and the millions spent on marketing junk food. Read the full article…
Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.