The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published a new web feature documenting how agribusiness giant Monsanto Company is failing to deliver on its promise to make the U.S. agriculture system more sustainable.
A sustainable system would produce an adequate supply of food, safeguard the environment, and protect farmers’ bottom lines at the same time. Monsanto, UCS says, fails this three-pronged test.
“Monsanto talks about ‘producing more, conserving more, improving lives,’ but its products are largely not living up to those aspirations,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with UCS’s Food and Environment Program. “In reality, the company is producing more engineered seeds and herbicide and improving its bottom line, but at the expense of conservation and long-term sustainability.”
UCS explores eight ways that Monsanto has failed to deliver on its sustainability claims. The company is undermining efforts to promote sustainability by fostering weed and insect resistance, increasing herbicide use, spreading gene contamination, expanding monocultures, and suppressing research.
For the full list of Monsanto’s sustainability failures, as defined by UCS, see www.ucsusa.org.
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) pushed back against longtime biotech crop supporter, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, over its announcement that it has invested nearly $2 billion in a campaign to fund the development of genetically engineered (GE) crops in an attempt to address global hunger. The Gates Foundation has been widely criticized by food security and public interest groups for promoting GE crops in developing countries rather than investing in organic and sustainable local models of agriculture.
Since their introduction in the mid-1990s, developers of GE crops have claimed their crops will reduce agriculture’s environmental footprint, provide benefits to farmers and meet the needs of a hungry planet. GE crops have remained an industrial tool dependent upon costly inputs, such as patented seeds and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, which farmers in the most food insecure regions can ill-afford.
In contrast, the emerging consensus of international development experts is that real solutions to addressing global hunger must be inexpensive, low-input and utilize local/regional resources as much as possible.
For more on the story, see www.centerforfoodsafety.org.
The River Alliance of Wisconsin is hosting its 5th annual Wild and Scenic Film Festival on Tuesday, March 13th at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison. This year’s films highlight both the awe-inspiring power and beauty of nature and the determination-inspiring power and passion of individuals who fight to protect our natural resources. More information and tickets are available at www.wisconsinrivers.org/events/wild-and-scenic.
More whole grains, leafy greens, and fruits and vegetables will be on the menu for 31 million children who participate in the federally-supported National School Lunch Program under new nutrition standards announced in late January by First Lady Michelle Obama.
The National School Lunch Program provides free or subsidized lunch and breakfast in public and private schools. The administration’s move is aimed at reversing the childhood obesity epidemic that affects 12.5 million young people, 17 percent of Americans between the ages of 2 and 19.
The new guidelines will set maximum calories per meal for children in grades K through 12 and will significantly increase servings of fruits and vegetables. They will ensure that whole-grain foods, dark green and orange vegetables like broccoli, spinach, carrots and sweet potatoes become weekly staples in school meals. The guidelines set targets that aim to reduce sodium, saturated, and trans fats in school children’s diets.
For more from EWG, see www.ewg.org.
Center for Science in the Public Interest Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson released the following statement regarding a drop in trans fat in blood:
“The news that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a 58 percent decline in trans fat in blood between 2000 and 2009 is great news for American hearts and arteries. Trans fat raises bad cholesterol, lowers good cholesterol, and promotes heart disease, so the less of it the better. That dramatic drop represents enormous public health progress and is almost certainly preventing thousands of heart attacks and premature deaths each year.
“Credit for the reductions in trans fat is shared by many parties. New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, California, Montgomery County, Md., and other jurisdictions banned most artificial trans fat from restaurant food. (Some bad publicity and various lawsuits also helped spur progress.) Many food manufacturers and restaurants voluntarily switched oils. The FDA helped greatly by requiring that trans fat be listed on Nutrition Facts labels. And oil processors, seed developers, and farmers worked hard to produce and market healthier oils for restaurants and food manufacturers to use.
“Still, products ranging from Long John Silver’s fried foods to Pop Secret Popcorn to Pillsbury’s Buttermilk Biscuits are loaded with trans fat. It’s high time the Food and Drug Administration banned partially hydrogenated oil, the source of artificial trans fat, as CSPI petitioned the agency to do almost eight years ago.”
For more from Center for Science in the Public Interest, see www.cspinet.org.