Animal Welfare Approved

GM Labeling Bill Dies in North Carolina

GM Labeling Bill Dies in North Carolina

By Andrew Gunther | October 6, 2011

Have we just witnessed Big Ag’s first legislative strike against labeling of genetically modified foods in one of Big Ag’s home states?

North Carolina Rep. Glen Bradley, an advocate for consumer rights introduced a bill earlier this year to require labeling of genetically modified foods. House Bill 446 sought to require “labeling of food and milk products sold in this state that are or that contain genetically modified food and or milk and milk products from animals that have received recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH).” First introduced on March 23, 2011 it was passed the very next day to the Agriculture Committee where it promptly withered and died. A representative from the office of House Bill 446 co-sponsor Rep. Bill Faison told us that it was highly unlikely to be revived this year.

If I were a cynical person, I would speculate that we have Big Ag to thank for this bill’s death. Why? Because industrial agricultural companies are the only entities that profit from our ignorance of what is in our food.

Greening our Food Deserts from the Ground Up

By Andrew Gunther | October 3, 2011

One of the things I love most about my job as program director at Animal Welfare Approved is that I get to meet people who are literally changing the world from the ground up. Ron Finley is the perfect example, except that he’s not the typical farmer or rancher whom I usually meet. He grows fruit and vegetables on an urban community garden: a 10ft by 150ft strip of land between the sidewalk and the curb in front of his house in Crenshaw, south central Los Angeles.

I bumped into Finley at the recent Good Food Festival in Santa Monica, CA. We got talking and he told me about his recent successful fight with city bureaucrats over his community garden and the grassroots initiative he’s set up to help urban communities to grow healthy, organic food for themselves. From the outset I liked the man, and we were clearly fighting the same fight, just on very different fronts. His story was as inspirational as anything I had seen or heard before.

Antibiotic Resistance: Consider the Source

By Andrew Gunther | September 17, 2011

When it comes to public relations there is spin and there is downright deceit. A recent press release from the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) on the potential link between antibiotic resistant bacteria and industrialized farming definitely falls into the latter category. At issue here is a statement released by National Pork Producers Council President Doug Wolf on the new Government Accountability Office report, “Antibiotic Resistance: Agencies Have Made Limited Progress Addressing Antibiotic Use in Animals.” Wolf says, “Not only is there no scientific study linking antibiotic use in food animals to antibiotic resistance in humans, as the U.S. pork industry has continually pointed out, but there isn’t even adequate data to conduct a study.” He continues, “The GAO report on antibiotic resistance issued today confirms this.”

Wolf’s comments are hogwash and he knows it. The truth is that the GAO report does nothing of the sort, nor was that ever its intention. Even from the report title it’s already pretty clear what the overall conclusion is: key government agencies – namely the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) which are primarily responsible for ensuring food safety in the U.S. – are not doing enough to combat the growing threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria to public health.

AWA Announces Landmark Sustainable Meat Conference

By Animal Welfare Approved | September 14, 2011

George Washington University’s Urban Food Task Force, Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) and the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) have joined forces by providing a platform for DC’s vibrant culinary community to focus on strengthening the supply chain for sustainably raised meat.

Food for thought – and sport!

By Andrew Gunther | August 13, 2011

Ever heard of the term “you are what you eat?” Well, no one takes this more seriously than today’s top athletes. They need to ensure that their bodies receive the correct balance of nutrients and energy and avoid potentially harmful additives. So it’s no surprise to find that top athletes are turning to sustainably produced foods to ensure their success.

I know this first-hand from conversations I have had with Will Witherspoon, linebacker for the Tennessee Titans – and sustainable farmer. Will is a unique human being; a gentle, humble and quiet spoken man whose day job is making the quarterback’s life as uncomfortable as possible. He’s also passionate about producing sustainable, healthy and nutritious food on his family farm, Shire Gate Farm, near Owensville, Missouri.

Through our farming connection, I have been very fortunate to have got to know Will and he’s become a family friend. On several occasions, he has given both my sons one of those talks that only a true sportsman can. As any dad knows, we can talk until we are blue in the face about the need to eat well and look after yourself, and to dedicate yourself to your sport. Yet after one minute chat with Will, my boys are immediately re-energized and focused.

Cargill’s Turkey is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

By Andrew Gunther | August 5, 2011

How many more lives must be lost or irreversibly damaged before we finally accept the fact that industrialized farming is killing us? So far, the contamination from a new strain of Salmonella (Salmonella Heidelberg) has resulted in one death in California and at least 79 illnesses across 26 states. According to reports, it appears the outbreak “officially” began in March 2011, when a growing number of cases of Salmonella Heidelberg were noted. However, the FSIS didn’t issue a public warning until July 29, and even then this was a broad statement about potential links with ground turkey. Questions are already being asked about the significant time lag between the March detection of the spike in cases, the FSIS announcement in late July, and Cargill’s voluntary withdrawal in early August. But I have far graver concerns about this outbreak.

While any outbreak of food poisoning is horrific, and the immediate focus must be to treat those affected and identify the source, few people seem to be discussing the larger public health issue: this particular strain of Salmonella is resistant to multiple antibiotics. Scientists around the world link this resistance to years of misuse of medicinally important antibiotics by the intensive farming industry. Virtually all intensively farmed animals in the U.S. receive low levels of antibiotics throughout their lives as growth promoters to help maximize production. While this lowers the price tag on industrial protein, the practice encourages bacteria to quickly become resistant to antibiotics – the same antibiotics we use to treat ourselves. In fact, some dangerous bacteria are now resistant to multiple antibiotics. This means that when we get infected, there are fewer and fewer options for treatment. And we are fast running out of options altogether.

Bachmann and the Black Farmers

By Andrew Gunther | July 27, 2011

Is presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) attack on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) settlement with African American farmers racist? Bachmann is coming under increasing fire for characterizing a settlement to black farmers who were discriminated against as mass “fraud.”

For years, black farmers alleged that they were being denied USDA farm loans or that they were forced to wait longer for loan approval than other non-minority farmers. Some contended that they endured foreclosure and financial ruin as a direct result.

Following a class action lawsuit that was initiated back in 1997 – the so-called Pigford Cases – a U.S. Court has established that between 1983 and 1997 the USDA discriminated against black farmers who applied for farm loans and other assistance on the basis of their race, and that the USDA also failed subsequently to investigate or properly respond to complaints. Following this unequivocal ruling you would think that all efforts would now turn to addressing this injustice as swiftly as possible for the thousands of individuals and families who were wronged.

Rotten Eggs

By Andrew Gunther | July 13, 2011

A recent press release issued by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and United Egg Producers (UEP) may have caught your eye. The press release heralds an “historic” new agreement on future egg production between HSUS and UEP, an industry body which represents 80% of all U.S. egg producers. A strange union, you might think, for two organizations normally at odds. So what exactly is this agreement about?

In his blog, HSUS president Wayne Pacelle says that the “landmark agreement” will “help millions of hens.” HSUS has been calling for cage-free egg production for years, so an agreement to end all caged egg production would represent an enormous advancement in welfare. Sadly for the hens, that isn’t the basis of this agreement. In defiance of common sense, and all previously expressed opinion, HSUS has achieved nothing more than an agreement to work with UEP towards new legislation which will move hens out of one type of battery cage into a another slightly larger cage. An historic welfare advancement? I think not.

The Grass is Not Always Greener

By Andrew Gunther | July 5, 2011

In a press statement conveniently released just before the busy holiday weekend, the USDA stated that Scotts Miracle Gro’s introduction of a new GM Kentucky bluegrass seed did not require any regulation. Despite ongoing protests and legal challenges from environmental groups, land managers, federal agencies and other organizations, the USDA’s decision paves the way for the unregulated use of GM lawn seed in U.S. neighborhoods – and a potentially dramatic increase in the use of a toxic herbicide that is increasingly being linked to adverse impacts on human health and the wider environment.

The introduction of GM glyphosate-resistant Kentucky bluegrass will force us all to become subjects of an experiment that should have happened in the USDA’s laboratories – not in our lawns, backyards, in our local neighborhoods, and in parks where our kids play. This experiment will further increase the use of this toxic herbicide, and will inevitably lead to the cross-pollination with wild relatives and the many environmental problems this will entail. The potential human health impacts have yet to be discovered, but I know I would plow my lawn up if I thought this seed was in it. For the sake of a few weeds, are the potential risks of GM lawns really worth it?

Can Monsanto Police Itself? or How “Refuge in a Bag” Should Stay in the Bag

By Andrew Gunther | June 14, 2011

Monsanto Canada recently reported that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has granted approval for its latest GM offering, the intriguingly named “refuge in a bag” Bt corn. With all the hype surrounding GM crops, it would be easy to dismiss this announcement as just another piece of press puff from the GM giant. But unfortunately this new development is actually something we need to keep a close eye on. As we have come to expect, the government has let the GM community police itself, leaving the companies that are peddling the new technology to regulate its use.

First, it is important to understand what a “refuge” is when it comes to GM crops. Despite the fact that Animal Welfare Approved has blogged extensively on the many drawbacks and dangers of GM technology, the concept of “refuge” actually relates to a problem that we haven’t covered in detail before – namely the inevitable development of pest resistance to GM crops.