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Category Archives: Food and Nutrition

Dept. of Agriculture 2016 Pesticide Data on organic food reported inaccurately

Washington Post/ Tamar Haspel: “The Agriculture Department recently released the latest measurements of pesticide residues in our food, in the form of the 2016 Pesticide Data Program results, so it seems timely to talk pesticides and organics. And bias. I’ve been following these issues for a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of evidence that organic foods have lower levels of pesticide residues than conventional foods, so I was surprised to read a two-part analysis on Forbes.com by Steve Savage, a conventional-side plant scientist I know and respect, showing that the number of residues, and the amount of pesticide in those residues, were virtually the same for organic and conventional foods. What could be happening in our food supply for the difference in pesticide levels to narrow so markedly? That would make an interesting column, I thought. So I started asking people, but nobody had a good explanation. There’s no evidence for widespread fraud (although there’s evidence for some), and the only other explanation was drift. Because organics are often grown in the proximity of their conventional brethren, drift happens. But that’s an awful lot of drift. And then I talked with Sonya Lunder, senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group. She’s also a data geek, a woman after my own heart, and she had actually tried to replicate Savage’s results. She couldn’t. So I figured I’d better try to do it myself. And I couldn’t, either.

The reason we couldn’t was that Savage’s data were spectacularly wrong. He reported that conventional foods had an average of 3.1 different pesticides, and organic had 2.6. The real numbers, which I downloaded the entire residue database to get, are 3.2 for conventional (okay, that’s close), and 0.8 for organic (definitely not close). I called the USDA to make sure I hadn’t screwed something up, and it confirmed my numbers. This was an honest mistake, and when I pointed it out, Savage immediately checked for himself, confirmed the error and set about retracting the articles. He told me he felt terrible for getting it wrong…

Study – Almost half of US families can’t afford basics like rent and food

CNN Money – The economy may be chugging along, but many Americans are still struggling to afford a basic middle class life. “Nearly 51 million households don’t earn enough to afford a monthly budget that includes housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cell phone, according to a study released Thursday by the… Continue Reading

Watch Morton Salt Go Dumpster Diving to Create a Font From Discarded Vegetables

AdWeek: New video aims to curb the $160 billion problem of food waste – “As Americans, we are the most wasteful creatures on the planet. Of all the food we buy, over 40 percent of it winds up in the trash, about 150,000 tons a day. Each year, Americans toss out an estimated $160 billion worth… Continue Reading

EWG’s 2018 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

“All adults and children should eat more fruits and vegetables, whether they are organic or conventionally grown. With EWG’s 2018 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™, you can choose healthy produce while minimizing unwanted doses of multiple toxic pesticides. Many shoppers don’t realize that pesticide residues are common on conventionally grown produce, even after it… Continue Reading

Welcome to the Age of Climate Migration

Rolling Stone: Extreme weather due to climate change displaced more than a million people from their homes last year. It could soon reshape the nation. “In 2017, a string of climate disasters – six big hurricanes in the Atlantic, wildfires in the West, horrific mudslides, high-temperature records breaking all over the country – caused $306… Continue Reading

CRS – Nutrition Labeling of Restaurant Menu and Vending Machine Items

CRS Report – Nutrition Labeling of Restaurant Menu and Vending Machine Items, February 5, 2018. “High rates of obesity and chronic diseases have prompted various federal, state, and local nutrition labeling initiatives. The 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (P.L. 101-535) required nutrition labeling of most foods and dietary supplements, but it did not require… Continue Reading

Dead zone conditions expanding rapidly throughout shallow coastal seas and lakes

Quartz: “On January 5, 2018, a paper published in the journal Science delivered a sobering message: The oxygenation of open oceans and coastal seas has been steadily declining during the past half century. The volume of ocean with no oxygen at all has quadrupled, and the volume where oxygen levels are falling dangerously low has… Continue Reading

Oxfam – The State of Inequality in the World

“Our new report about the state of inequality in the world reveals how our economy is delivering unimaginable rewards for those at the top by exploiting millions of ordinary workers at the bottom…Last year saw the biggest increase in billionaires in history, one more every two days. This huge increase could have ended global extreme… Continue Reading

U.S. Welfare Reform Efforts Have Been Based on an Availability of Work that Doesn’t Always Exist

“Hilary W. Hoynes, an NBER research associate and professor of economics and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, specializes in the study of poverty, food and nutrition programs, and the impacts of government tax and transfer programs on low income families. In this video, she outlines successes and failures of federal efforts to… Continue Reading

The Case Against Eating Fish

The Walrus – The Case Against Eating Fish As a biologist, I know what can happen to seafood before it ends up on our plates. That’s why it’s not on mine “…But eating mislabelled fish can make you ill. Seafood is delicate; each species has a specific temperature range at which it can be stored,… Continue Reading

NOAA – 2017 was third warmest year on record for US with record number of climate disasters

Assessing the U.S. Climate in 2017 – “Based on preliminary analysis, the average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 54.6°F, 2.6°F above the 20th century average. This was the third warmest year since record keeping began in 1895, behind 2012 (55.3°F) and 2016 (54.9°F), and the 21st consecutive warmer-than-average year for the U.S. (1997… Continue Reading

Study – deploying solar energy dev across non traditional sites

Land-Sparing Opportunities for Solar Energy Development in Agricultural Landscapes: A Case Study of the Great Central Valley, CA, United States. Environ. Sci. Technol., 2017, 51 (24), pp 14472–14482. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b05110. Publication Date (Web): December 19, 2017. “Land-cover change from energy development, including solar energy, presents trade-offs for land used for the production of food and… Continue Reading