Posted By Cathryn December 5, 2011
Corrections to hyped-up misperceptions can crop up in unlikely places. Many people might assume that they already know what a magazine called The Natural Food Insider would publish regarding high fructose corn syrup. Reading a recent article detailing nutritionist and weight-loss expert Joy Bauer’s advice to an industry-wide convention, it became evident that both Bauer and the publication want the world to understand what corn farmers and scientists already know: high fructose corn syrup is metabolically the same as sugar that, like all sweeteners, is fine to eat in moderation.
Bauer, a widely-respected expert who has been featured on The Today Show, addressed the suppliers’ conference in Vegas speaking authoritatively on the steps that food producers should take to increase the overall health of their products. Those who may have considered jumping on the anti-HFCS bandwagon received quite a shock when Bauer noted that, not only is HFCS the same as sugar, but that she feels okay with marketers changing the name on the ingredient label to corn sugar. She went on to explain that her acceptance of the name change is based in the fact that HFCS is actually not higher in fructose than sugar.
Dashing food marketers’ hopes that simply labeling a product “HFCS free” should connote a better selection for weight or health conscious consumers, Bauer explained that the type of sugar consumed does not matter. Instead, consumers should look at how much sugar a product contains.
Saturday Night Live may mock the information explained through the “Sweet Surprise” educational campaign, but natural food industry publications validate the accuracy of its message. Sugar is sugar whether corn, cane or beet. So enjoy it! Just watch how much you eat.
Posted By Mark December 1, 2011
France’s top administrative court on Monday overturned a government order banning French farmers from planting genetically modified crops France’s agriculture ministry imposed a ban in February 2008 amid concerns over public safety, but its decision had already been called into question by the European Court and has now been annulled by the State Council.
Truthfully, their ongoing and Zombie-like fight against proven GMO technology has been like watching a bad movie that you just can’t stop watching. The ludicrous and persistent effort has been watched by farmers, scientists, regulators and some consumers without cable TV around the world. And one might suspect there might even be some betting pools initiated regarding who would finally put a bullet in the head of this persistent, riveting political theatre. (Ok, I have France planting their first GMO crop in 2013 with 3-1 odds).
Both courts overturned the national ban declaring the French Government presented no scientific evidence of any risk to health or the environment from these crops. EuropaBio’s Director of Green Biotechnology Europe, Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, said: “These judgments from the highest European court and the highest French court send one message loud and clear: bans of GM crops cannot be based on political dogma. As both judgments state, no ban on planting GM crops can be declared without valid scientific evidence, something that France and other European countries have not produced.”
Even if French corn growers don’t get to enter the modern world of corn production in 2012, this is yet another positive sign that the belabored and disingenuous GMO soap opera is on its final legs. Forgive me for saying this but I can hear the EU fat lady signing.
The French court’s decision also offers support for what U.S. scientists, regulators, and industry have been saying all along….there has been copious scientific testing and years of actual use in the real world and the GMO bogeyman remains firmly in the closet where he belongs. However, evidence rises that France will launch new restrictions. French president Nicolas Sarkozy said this week the government was preparing a “new safety clause” to forbid sowing of MON810 produced by Monsanto.
“The French government keeps and will keep its opposition against the cultivation of the Monsanto 810 maize on our soil,” Sarkozy said during a visit in southwestern France. Why do I have this feeling that President Sarkozy DVR’s the “Walking Dead?”
Posted By Cathryn December 1, 2011
There is a conversation going on about food. Entire television networks, radio programs and magazines have long sought to elevate the humble act of eating by transforming the tastes and textures of our meals. Now, consumers want to know more. They want to know how their food was produced, if it is safe and if it is the best option for their families.
Farmers must be part of this conversation. Logically, it makes sense. Farmers grow the food. They have the most intimate knowledge of how they do so and why they select particular methods. They understand consumer questions intimately because they too must answer them when they prepare meals for their own tables.
Programs such as CommonGround and the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance facilitate this discussion. Helping bridge the gap between the rural communities in which farms exist and the urban landscape in which most consumers reside, the volunteer farmers who speak out about their personal experiences lend a voice to the very small percentage of the population who grows food for a hungry world.
How effective are these efforts? Can one conversation really make a difference? While this evidence may be anecdotal, the impact of one conversation can radiate infinitely like ripples on a pond.
This summer, a group of women who volunteer to speak through the Missouri CommonGround program shared a lunch with Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Jon Hagler during the state fair. Through the course of their conversation, the women talked about their farms, their feelings about food and the importance of opening a positive, inclusive dialogue with the people who eat what they grow.
November 30, those messages hit a larger audience when Hagler appeared on the National Public Radio Program St. Louis On the Air. While Hagler certainly covered a variety of topics and in no way parroted the conversation, the tone of inclusive, positive, open conversation carried through.
Callers responded. Ordinary citizens from across the metropolitan area asked specific, direct questions about a wide variety of food-related topics. Whether their particular interest was in food safety, production practices, sustainability or in where to find answers, the move toward an intense public interest in agriculture was evident.
Did this one luncheon shape Hagler’s perception? While it certainly was not the entire basis for his viewpoint, the importance of a sustained conversation between farmers and the public is undeniable. Directly or through influential persons, farmers need to help address concerns and become a part of the conversation.
Make today count. Join the discussion on food. Farmers impact the world through what they grow. It is time to talk about it.
Posted By Cindy November 23, 2011
Thanksgiving dinner this year will cost more, but it’s still a bargain no matter how you slice it.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the retail cost of menu items for a classic Thanksgiving dinner including turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie and all the basic trimmings increased about 13 percent this year. That may seem like a lot, but it still means that the average cost to feed a hungry table of ten is less than $50 – not even five bucks a plate. Try to get that in any other country for the same price!
“The quality and variety of food produced for our dinner tables on America’s diverse farms and ranches sets us apart from our contemporaries around the world,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “It is an honor for our farm and ranch families to produce the food from our nation’s land for family Thanksgiving celebrations.”
The turkey itself is what gobbled up most of the price increase this year. According to AFBF, a 16-pound turkey will cost about $21.57 this year at $1.35 per pound, an increase of about 25 cents per pound over last year. That triggered some misinformed columnists to start crying fowl and place the blame for the higher price on ethanol.
“Our biofuels policies are a big cause of the rising cost of food in recent years, and it just feels wrong to use food for fuel with so many families struggling to feed their families,” wrote Marie Brill of ActionAid in the Huffington Post, adding that “federal ethanol subsidies … are driving up the price of everything from eggs to milk to — yes, turkeys — and undoubtedly, some families will just have to go without.”
However, AFBF economist John Anderson says it’s more a case of basic economics – supply and demand. “Turkey prices are higher this year primarily due to strong consumer demand both here in the U.S. and globally,” said Anderson.
A more well-rounded and less emotional look at the cost of turkey comes from New York Times’ Wealth Matters columnist Paul Sullivan. “It turns out that turkey pricing is not much tied to commodities prices. Instead, other factors, like tight margins for farmers and perceptions of value, play a much bigger role,” he explains. “For most of us, the price we pay for our turkey bears little relation to what it costs to raise it.”
By the way, if you are into the organic scene, you can expect to pay double the amount for the average Thanksgiving meal, according to the Arizona Farm Bureau. The Organic Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings will cost $106.39, with a 16-pound organic turkey at $63.84 or $3.99 per pound. But really, even that is a bargain at just over $10 per person.
So, gobble up and give thanks this week for the most abundant and affordable food supply in the world.
Posted By Cathryn November 17, 2011
Local food is sexy. Like any trend, interesting, powerful people seem to love it. From Michelle Obama to a slew of celebrity chefs, everyone seems to be talking about the exact farmer from which they purchased their lettuce. The hottest restaurants include menu descriptions that read like a list of the most prominent family from every bordering local community. On the surface, local foods appear to be the epicurean’s equivalent of retro chic.
Scratch beneath the surface, though, and the local food movement isn’t always what it seems. A complete cultural shift to a paradigm in which local foods reign supreme would yield some ugly results for the economy and for our health.
Simply, local food proponents do not account for basic economic realities in their public policy platform. From the economic advantages of specialization and trade to the realities of scale of economy, the shift toward a government-favored status for local foods, already well underway, would both make food more expensive and increase pollution.
On top of that, the foods which would become the most expensive in a local food world would be those needed for a healthy, balanced diet. Obesity already plagues the United States. If locavores get their way, the poor would be condemned to a sentence of junk food options for the crime of being unable to afford their nutrient-rich, lower-calorie counterparts.
So speak up. Trends and fads come and go. Fashions and crazes like leisure suits and pet rocks pass naturally through the cycle of cool. Don’t let this trend, and all of its harmful repercussions, be written into our laws and regulations. Tell the government to keep our options open instead of basing public policy in popularity.
Posted By Cindy November 2, 2011
This week, the world population hit exactly 7 billion (give or take a few million), coincidentally celebrated by the United Nations on the eve of All Hallows Day, better known as Halloween. The better to scare you with, my dear.
The milestone was marked by hundreds of scary stories predicting the end of the world as we know it, since people are nothing but consuming zombies who are taking over the planet. The primary ways to prevent the inevitable collapse of the entire earth are to stop eating meat and stop using corn for ethanol – preferably stop growing corn – and stop making more people.
In a world where people are seen as a burden, there is little mention of the potential of the seven billion souls they represent. The potential to maintain our precious planet and feed the souls that inhabit it lies in the hearts and minds of those billions. Rather than being afraid that there will not be enough for everyone, we should be excited about the future to see what new and better ways will be devised to produce food.
Seven is a number that traditionally represents the infinite. The potential of seven billion souls is indeed infinite.
Posted By Cathryn November 2, 2011
Frequently, CornCommentary serves as a place to correct the many errors, fallacies and misrepresentations that plague media coverage of agriculture. With 98.5 percent of the population totally uninvolved in farming or farm-related activities and deep labor cuts at outlets across the country eliminating staff with any ag knowledge, this problem may seem endemic. Other times, it becomes evident that controversy sells and, should it not appear organically, some journalists happily create it.
Corn farmers have an unlikely ally in correcting the fallacies surrounding high fructose corn syrup though – Michael Pollan. Often viewed as an enemy of modern production agriculture, Pollan has come out clarifying statements he made that, in his own opinion, portray the sweetener unfairly.
This week, his rebuttals once again took center stage with websites highlighting a recent interview in which Pollan told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper, that his problem with sweetener in the American diet is based upon the amount consumed, not the type.
This statement is completely in line with earlier expressions of his viewpoint, such as that in his popular work Food Rules, an Eater’s Manual. While he does caution readers to cut down on their overall sugar intake, he pointedly notes that this includes sweetener of any kind and not just HFCS.
“Don’t fall for the food industry’s latest scam: products reformulated to contain ‘no HFCS’ or ‘real cane sugar,’” he states. “These claims imply these foods are somehow healthier, but they’re not. Sugar is sugar.”
Yet again, Pollan confirms the idea that a balanced diet leads to good health. It may be simpler to demonize a single ingredient, but the results of doing so will not be as effective. Instead, make healthy eating simple by moderating sugar intake without wasting time worrying about which specific sweetener it is.
Posted By Cathryn November 1, 2011
For more than a month and a half now, Occupy Wall Street protesters have taken over city parks and the national news programs protesting social and economic inequality and corporate greed and power. Within weeks of its beginning, the movement grew not just geographically, with satellite protests springing up across the nation, but also internally. By now, some protesters even carry signs with such articulate messaging as “I AM VERY UPSET,” as seen on the front page of a recent New York Times
Guess what? A lot of people are upset about a lot of things. But, as the many causes associated with the demonstrations multiply, some food elitists have started joining the “99%” while pushing an agenda that is not supported by the masses. Delivering misconstrued messaging that purportedly promotes democracy and touting dubitable sources, these fear mongers hype a plight that does not exist.
A recent blog post on Civil Eats outlines what the food-motivated occupiers actually want. The outcome of their desires would effectively squelch the freedom of average Americans to select the diet they prefer in favor of dictating a “healthier” America. By painting a seriously skewed picture of American agriculture, the elitist radicals deny the basic tenets of capitalism, an idea most Americans closely link with freedom. They condescend, offering only scant information provided by sources which either speak out of their field of expertise or have been debunked time and time again. Relying on a conception that Americans will embrace this emotionally charged propaganda without meaningful consideration, they aim to dictate both the choices of consumers and the ability of farmers to produce an abundant supply of healthy food choices.
Since an early age, children learn that they can “vote with their pocketbooks” as, in a free society the laws of supply and demand provide a tool with which they affect corporate America directly through their purchasing decisions. Yet, these protesters instead pose the idea that “75 percent of the population are obese or overweight and many are chronically ill with diet-related diseases” because of a corporate-controlled food supply. In doing so, they offer the easy out to anyone who makes poor choices by denying the long-valued ideal of personal responsibility.
Americans are not spoon-fed or force-fed the oversized portions of high-calorie foods that lead to weight gain. Instead, they choose a diet that they enjoy. Average Americans may not make the same choices as these activists, or even base them upon the same values, but that does not discount their opinions.
That argument sounds strangely familiar…
Many people take the easy academic out and blame corporations for producing the choices that they secretly favor. So, the protesters validate them. By blaming obesity on the corporations, these master debaters place the blame on faceless, callous mental images of corporations. These arguments further disguise an elitist agenda under the blanket of anger against corporations spun with the threads of discontent with financial entities whose corporate irresponsibility pushed our nation toward recession.
While these protestors claim to stand up to corporate farming, they rage against a corporate machine that doesn’t exist in the way they portray it. g. In all reality, 95 percent of all farms in America are still family owned. These growers, most often the descendants of a proud tradition of the rugged individualists who first made farming flourish here, make informed decisions every year on what to put in their fields. Farmers understand what types of climates and soil produce certain crops. They know first-hand that selecting seeds that can resist stressors common in their area will increase the chance of a successful harvest. They study their land, growing the most abundant crop possible in a way that preserves the environment- the single greatest resource as growers.
Pushing this reality aside, the blog post in particular jumps to the idea many espouse: somehow, big companies are behind what farmers produce. While a variety of companies do sell seeds, as consumers farmers select what they see as the product that will grow the best crop given their particular circumstances. If they did not see value in biotech, they wouldn’t pay for it.
Pointing to the rapid growth of sales for corn seeds with the Roundup Ready trait, the blog implies that, in order to achieve this type of success, the seed provider must be exercising some sort of secret power. In a way, successful seed providers are exercising a power that may be mysterious to the protestors. They make effective, proven, safe products that farmers like. Most average citizens understand that, when you make something that people like instead of just empty rhetoric, it tends to become popular quickly. Mystery solved.
The activists cite self-proclaimed “experts.” Again relying on the inaccurate assumption that the average Americans they claim to represent will be too lazy to examine these experts credibility, their arguments rely heavily on the claims made in the Oscar-nominated documentary Food, Inc. (To read up on the problems of the documentary, read American Agri-Women’s Food Inc Analysis.)
The aforementioned blog post in particular also cites a doctorate. Instead of the logical selection of citing a medical doctor for information on human health, or even a biologist, nutritionist or dietician, the information sourced are the opinions of a physicist. While a doctorate requires mental aptitude and dedication, it seems like a large leap to place trust in someone speaking so far outside of their area of expertise. If a physicist is in no way licensed to practice medicine or dispense dietary advice, it might appear more credible if the expert cited in these areas were thus raising the question of how the author made such a selection. The word “desperation” comes to mind…
Opponents rely on inaccurate data and select seemingly odd sources only when no better choices exist. This proves true yet again with the implication that Americans chose processed foods because they are cheaper. Looking at the research shows, cooking homemade meals from the ingredients that they deem healthy, albeit produced using more modern practices, actually saves money. Again, food choice has not been obliterated by a corporate plot. The average American simply does not chose the foods that the protestors’ agenda would dictate.
Instead of occupying a park only to spout propaganda, those seeking to occupy our nation’s fields and stomachs should face reality. The food system, while as much of a work-in-progress as any other human endeavor, is functional. Every year, farmers provide an abundant supply of quality food. They do so at prices lower than anywhere else in the developed world. They do so despite challenges both from the weather and from the very people eating the food they grow.
Do not let the occupiers win. The monopoly they seek to create would take away choice, push up prices and kill the efficiency that allows farmers to feed the actually impoverished, hungry masses they pretend to represent.
Posted By Cathryn October 18, 2011
Yesterday, like most Mondays, tweets linking to vegetarian recipes and reminders of “Meatless Mondays” littered the screen. Armchair activists urged their online minions to help save the planet from either incinerating or freezing by simply selecting meat-free options weekly on a day designated solely due to a public love of alliteration. Like clockwork, retweets of the original musings of the more prominent easy-fix promoters added to the cacophony. If logging off were an option, it would have been appealing.
With a fight or flight response in overdrive, an article suddenly appeared. The hashtags seemed to match the ongoing conversation, but the link carried a significantly more scientific, sensible message. Simply, demonizing specific foods or taking one action cannot and will not save the planet. People need to develop an actual understanding of the real consequences each of their choices have and then act in an informed manner.
Written by Dr. Judith Capper, an assistant professor of Dairy Science at Washington State University, the article looks at how, because no one took the time to look at the studies for indications that eating meat on Mondays can make a key impact on climate change, an industry that produces an affordable, quality food option which the majority of Americans enjoy comes off on social media as providing a socially irresponsible product.
This week, take back the Twitterverse. Spread the word that no one should base decisions on 140 characters or less. Maligning an entire industry based upon misinformation propagated due to laziness is socially irresponsible. Send out the aforementioned link and promote real science. Take a moment to ask for credible, current information on the environmental impact of livestock production.
Posted By Cindy September 27, 2011
After over five years in development the Indiana State Museum has officially opened up “Amazing Maize: The Science, History and Culture of Corn.” The exhibit will run for the next 16 months at the museum in Indianapolis, during which time the city will host two National FFA Conventions and the Super Bowl.
The exhibit highlights the 10,000 year “genetic journey” that is the evolution of ancient maize to our modern day corn. “It’s all about corn,” said Jane Ade Stevens, executive director of Indiana Corn Marketing Council. “Corn, or maize, is one of the most important crops in the world,” she says. “Our civilization was really started in part because of maize.”
Having the exhibit in Indianapolis for the 2012 Super Bowl provides a great opportunity for the exhibit to reach a large audience. “We plan to have farmers here during that time with shirts on that say they’re farmers so that when people come through here for the Super Bowl, farmers are going to be right there in the middle of it,” Jane said.
Through six different sections, the exhibit highlights the 4,200 different uses for corn, features artifacts such as hand-powered farm tools, stone and wood corn grinders, and examples of dozens of different species of corn, leading up to how present-day genetic modifications have improved productivity of the crop.
Amazing Maize is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, Ford Motor Company, Case IH, National Starch, Indiana Corn Marketing Council, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance and Brock Grain Systems.
Brownfield Ag News Indiana Farm Director Meghan Grebner was at the museum for the opening of the exhibit on Saturday and provided the interview with Jane and the photos. Thanks, Meghan!
You can listen to her entire interview with Jane here: Meghan Grebner Interviews Jane Ade Stevens
Page 6 of 10« First«...45678...»Last »