Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Take a Bite Out of Global Warming!

The Center for Food Safety and the CornerStone Campaign recently launched the Cool Foods Campaign – a new campaign designed to help people reduce their personal contributions to global warming by changing the way they eat.

One way to reduce global warming is to begin with the food we eat. The Cool Foods Campaign educates the public about how their food choices can affect global warming and equips them with the resources they need to reduce their impact. The aim of the Campaign is to inspire a groundswell of informed people committed to making sustainable food choices to reduce their “FoodPrint” (defined as the measure of the impact of the food you consume on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced in the growing, preparation, and transportation of that food).

Is Industrial Agriculture Cooking the Planet?
Did you know that our food system is a major contributor to global warming? The U.S. food system uses between 17-19% of the total energy supply in the country, contributing a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere every day.

On large-scale, modernized industrial farms, greenhouse gases are created numerous ways. Pesticide and fertilizer applications, irrigation, lighting, transportation, and other machinery are powered by greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels. The production of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides alone require the equivalent use of over 123 million barrels of oil, making them one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture.

The overuse of agricultural chemicals pollutes watersheds and kills plants that could otherwise capture greenhouse gases and actually reduce global warming. As the plants decompose they emit methane, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Methane is also emitted by the 95 million cows raised each year in the United States. The waste from these animals, and 60 million hogs raised every year, are collected and stored in stagnant manure pits which release not only a pungent smell, but more methane.

Once our food is grown it is transported throughout the country to grocery stores and markets. The average American meal has traveled about 1,500 miles before it arrives on your plate. All told, the U.S food system uses the equivalent of over 450 billion gallons of oil every year.

What You Can Do: Reducing Your Carbon FoodPrint
You can have a major influence on global warming by making better food choices, and reducing your FoodPrint. The “Coolest” foods have the lowest FoodPrint and are made without producing excess greenhouse gases. When foods that produce higher FoodPrints – those considered “Hot” – are avoided, we reduce our individual contributions to global warming. An easy way to tell if your food is “Cool” or “Hot” is to ask yourself these 5 basic questions before you buy.

(1) Is this food organic? Organic foods are produced without the use of energy-intensive synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, growth hormones, antibiotics, and they are not genetically engineered or irradiated. To Be Cooler: Buy organic and look for the USDA organic label to ensure that the food you eat is “certified organic.”

(2) Is this product made from an animal? Conventional meats – eg. beef, poultry, pork, dairy, and farmed seafood – are the #1 cause of global warming in our food system. Animals in industrial systems are fed foods they cannot biologically process and are confined to unhealthy and overcrowded cages – conditions that contribute to malnutrition and disease. In an attempt to keep animals healthy they are sprayed with over 2 million pounds of insecticides every year. They also ingest an astounding 84% of all the antimicrobials, including antibiotics, used annually in the U.S. To Be Cooler: Limit your consumption of conventional meat, dairy, and farmed seafood. Buy organic meat and dairy whenever possible, since these foods are produced without energy-intensive, synthetic pesticides and herbicides, and look for wild (not farmed), local seafood.

(3) Has this food been processed? Compared to whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, processed foods require the use of energy-intensive processes such as freezing, canning, drying, and packaging. To Be Cooler: Do your best to avoid processed foods all together, but “certified organic” processed foods are a good alternative.

(4) How far did this food travel to reach my plate? Transporting food throughout the world emits 30,800 tons of greenhouse gas every year. The average conventional food product travels about 1,500 miles to get to your grocery store. To Be Cooler: Choose locally produced foods or foods grown as close to your home as possible. Look for country of origin labels on whole foods and avoid products from far away.

(5) Is this food excessively packaged? Packaging materials, like plastic, are oil-based products that require energy to be created and are responsible for emitting 24,200 tons of greenhouse gas every year. To Be Cooler: Buy whole foods. Purchase loose fruits and vegetables (rather than bagged or shrink-wrapped), buy bulk beans, pasta, cereals, seeds, nuts, and grains, and carry your own reusable grocery bags.

Food Choice and Beyond
Want to reduce global warming? Join our “Cool Foods” Campaign and help take a bite out of global warming by changing the way you eat!

Top 10 Things You Can Do to Take a Bite Out of Global Warming

Choose organic foods.
Reduce meat and dairy consumption.
Choose foods with as few ingredients as possible.
Look for locally-produced foods.
Choose foods with as little packaging as possible.
Choose grass-fed beef instead of grain-fed beef.
Cook your own food instead of eating out.
Choose whole foods instead of processed foods.
Look for wild-caught local seafood instead of farm-raised seafood.
Use re-usable bags at the market.
Try to buy your food from farmer’s markets instead of grocery stores.

To keep up-to-date on the Cool Foods Campaign, and for more information about what you can do to lower your FoodPrint, visit our website at www.coolfoodcampaign.org.


D.C. Circuit Court says "No" to Scotts and Monsanto on Biotech GrassesRuling is Latest in a String of Victories in Which the Center for Food Safety Successfully Challenged Inadequate Oversight of Biotech Crops

A Federal Court of Appeals has tossed out the appeal of Scotts Grass Company, ending a long-running dispute over the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) approval of the open-air field testing of genetically engineered "Round-up Ready" (GE) grasses without assessing any potential environmental impacts. The GE grasses are owned by Scotts Grass Company using patents owned by Monsanto.

In 2007 a federal district court ruled that the USDA's approvals of the tests were illegal because they did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). USDA declined to appeal the decision and instead instituted new NEPA policies for any future field tests. The court also ruled that USDA had to re-assess whether the GE grasses were "noxious weeds" under the Plant Protection Act. Scotts intervened in the case before the lower court's ruling. Scotts then appealed the decision, challenging the plaintiffs' ability to bring the case and the lower court's decision. In March the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted the plaintiffs' motion and dismissed the case.

Beyond the significant potential environmental risks of genetically engineered crops, the case is also a strong legal precedent limiting corporate intervenor-defendants' ability to continue legal challenges to government action without the government's involvement.

FDA’s Internal Report Reveals that Consumers Don’t Want Food from ClonesZero Percent of Parents Surveyed Would Feed Food from Clones to their Children

Made Available under a Freedom of Information Act Request and jointly released by the Center for Food Safety, the American Anti-Vivisection Society, Consumers Union, Farm Sanctuary, Food & Water Watch and the Humane Society of the United States, a report commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shows that the public does not want food from cloned animals, nor would they feed milk or meat from cloned animals to their children. The report, “Focus Groups on the Public’s Perception on the Health Risk Associated with Products from Animal Clones,” was written by the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine.

The FDA focus group survey, conducted in 2005, states that “more than half of the participants across the board said that they would not want to eat food derived from clones.” Significantly, the FDA survey found that all those “participants who have children said that they would not give such food to their children.” The opinion survey also found many participants had serious health and ethical concerns about both clones and their offspring.

Despite the results of this focus group report and other reputable surveys showing high consumer concerns and an unwillingness to buy food from cloned animals regardless of FDA approval, in January the FDA issued its risk assessment approving food from cloned animals and their offspring for human consumption without requiring labeling.

California Supreme Court Victory in Farm Raised Salmon CasesCenter for Food Safety, which Filed a Friend of the Court Brief in the Case, Applauds the Decision as Vindicating the Consumers' Right to Know

The Supreme Court of the State of California in February issued a decision in the Farm Raised Salmon Cases, overturning a California Court of Appeal ruling. California citizens sued various grocery stores alleging the stores violated California's Sherman Law labeling requirements by selling artificially colored farmed salmon without labeling it as "color added" as required by law.
The suit focused on two chemical dyes applied to farmed salmon sold in supermarkets (without the pink dyes, the farmed fish would have appeared grey in color). The artificial dyes, canthaxanthin and astaxanthin, pose significant health risks. These dyes have been linked to several human health problems, including impaired vision and retinal damage, cancer, and hyperactivity in young children.

The suits - filed against several California grocery chains – were initially dismissed by the California Court of Appeal, which ruled that federal labeling law preempts citizen enforcement of equivalent California state laws aimed at protecting human health and safety. The California Supreme Court's ruling concluded that the lower courts erred in taking away the citizens' right to enforce California's crucial food safety law.

New Study Concludes GM Crops Increase Pesticide Use, Fail to Alleviate Poverty and Have Not Reduced World Hunger

Genetically modified (GM) crops have led to a large increase in pesticide use and have failed to increase yield or tackle world hunger and poverty, revealed a new report by Friends of the Earth and Center for Food Safety. The report coincided with the annual release of biotech industry figures on GM crop cultivation around the world.

"The biotech industry tells Africans that we need GM crops to tackle the food needs of our population. But the majority of GM crops are used to feed animals in rich countries, to produce damaging agrofuels, and don't even yield more than conventional crops," said Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth International's GMO coordinator in Nigeria.

"For years, the biotech industry has been trumpeting the benefits of GM crops, but this report shows the true emerging picture," added Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. "These crops really promote greater use of pesticides, and cause direct harm to the environment and small farmers. More and more, foundations and international aid and development organizations are recognizing the dead end that GM crops represent."
The report, "Who Benefits from GM Crops?: The Rise in Pesticide Use," found thatGM crops do not tackle hunger or poverty; GM crops increase pesticide use and foster spread of resistant "superweeds;" Overall, GM crops do not yield more and often yield less than other crops; and that GM crops benefit the biotech industry and some large growers, not small farmers. Download the report at www.centerforfoodsafety.org.

Milk Wars: rBGH-Free Labeling Under Attack

Several large dairy producers and food companies have made news recently by getting rid of recombinant bovine growth hormone, also known as rBGH or rBST, from their milk supply. Even retail giant Wal-Mart has announced that all of their Great Value brand milk will now come solely from cows not treated with rBGH. While this is great news for consumers, since this genetically engineered growth hormone is known to cause harm to cows and may pose health risks to humans, Monsanto (the company that makes rBGH under the brand name Posilac) has not taken the news as well.

FDA approved the use of voluntary labels more than 12 years ago at the request of dairy companies seeking to respond to customer concerns over the use of the genetically engineered hormone. Last year Monsanto pressured the FDA to restrict the use of labels identifying "rBGH-free" or "rBST-free" dairy products, but FDA rightly refused to do so. In late August 2007, the FTC wrote to Monsanto, "The FTC staff agrees with FDA that food companies may inform consumers in advertising, as in labeling, that they do not use rBST." Since Monsanto could not convince the Feds to ban these labels, they have taken their fight to the state level.

Under the guise of protecting consumers from misleading information, states all over the country are considering restricting or banning dairy producers from labeling milk as produced without recombinant bovine growth hormone, which would eliminate consumers’ right to know what’s in their dairy products. Many consumers object to this hormone, known as rBGH or rBST, and these proposed regulations actually take away farmers' right to free speech and censors the truthful information consumers want and need. Such rules have thankfully been dismissed in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and New Jersey due to overwhelming consumer opposition, but Ohio recently passed such an unfortunate rule.

The long-term health impacts of rBST are not yet understood, and families with young children understandably want to avoid synthetic hormone use. In fact, an April 2007 Lake Research Partners' national survey conducted for Food and Water Watch shows that eight in ten adults (80%) feel dairy products originating from cows that have not been treated with rBGH should be allowed to be labeled as such.

As Laura Fortmeyer, a Kansas farmer and boardmember of the Kansas Rural Center put it: "As a Kansas farmer, I should be able to produce and promote products that respond to desires in the marketplace. As a Kansas consumer, I want a lot more information about the food I buy-where it comes from and how it's raised-not less. If milk producers and processors are willing to make the effort to provide the rBGH-free milk that I am looking for, they deserve my business.”
Without labeling to provide that information, Laura and all the rest of us will be left shopping in the dark.