Who are the Good Guys? (tracking agriculture and food system materials)

(this continues a logfile I started last fall after a conversation with Jeff Barnett)
18 January 2004
It seems that nobody is disinterested when it comes to questions of agriculture, food production, food policy, and the politics of nutrition.

It's difficult to sort out the landscape of organizations interested in agriculture and food issues --or, more to the point, to identify just what the interests are, and how they affect perspective, 'objectivity', alliances, and connections to other forces great and small. It's easy to demonize, and potential demons abound; it's regrettably easy to adopt a convenient set of blinders in the name of consistency or reason, and thus miss other perspectives entirely. One needs to be able to pay attention to a very broad spectrum of information, and develop the tools and sensors to monitor an even broader array of messy data streams.

I need to explore this territory for myself, in order to develop a guide for this year's Global Stewardship Institute. I expect that it will be a messy process, so I'm going to start with a log-style collection, and try to emphasize the means to assess 'interestedness' and interconnectivity. What I'd like to end up with is a conceptual map of the topology of global agriculture, and a goodly array of links to relevant research and writing.

We have to begin someplace, and (as usual) the interesting part is how the trail winds:

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) --and Google link: search (I got to this one via yesterday's feature article in The Globalist, which cites
TITLE Ending hunger in our lifetime : food security and globalization / by C. Ford Runge ... [et al.] 
IMPRINT Baltimore, Md. : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003. 
CALL NO. HD9000.6 .E53 2003. 
--and one of the Subject Headings from that plunks us into 'Globalization Moral And Ethical Aspects' ...)
Linked on IFPRI's main page is

Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) --and Google link: search

One pretty basic design/procedure problem: how to handle the subtopics whose salience is especially great --like GM foods, BSE, 'bird flu'-- and the grander issues --like Globalization and the New World Orders of the present-- which connect up with food system questions? There must be interesting solutions in the hypertext realm that have yet to occur to me...

I mean... whaddya DO with something like "meat recovery system" (part of the back-and-forth of links and pointers and texts that Ron and I have enjoyed lately). Wonder if somehow RSS would figure into managing all this? It (the accumulating body of stuff) needs to be searchable as well as more or less organized...

The sort of thing we need to make appropriate space for: watching the emergence of such things as 'bird flu' or 'avian influenza'... and a search in Google News for 'H5N1'...and Science search for 'avian influenza'

In 2003, highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza virus, including the H5N1 and H7N7 subtypes, again crossed from birds to humans and caused fatal disease. Direct avian-to-human influenza transmission was unknown before 1997. (from Are We Ready for Pandemic Influenza? Richard J. Webby and Robert G. Webster, Science Volume 302, Number 5650, Issue of 28 Nov 2003, pp. 1519-1522)
(perhaps the point to be made here: we have a new array of highly-sensitive tools for tracking emergent information; we need to make those tools available, certainly, but beyond that, we really need to make their use a quotidian matter, for ourselves and others...)

Another on the Sugar account: Google search for "Pepe Fanjul" ...e.g. ...and even a picture (Pepe on the right, his wife in the middle)... and another pointer to Marie Brenner's IN THE KINGDOM OF BIG SUGAR ...and CNN story (1998)... and Center for Responsive Politics

27 January
I've been tracking H5N1 via a separate log file, but along the way I've run into some non-fowl bits that probably belong here. Consider this:

Saudi move to boost Indian beef imports Trade Arabia: Food & Catering News Posted: Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Traders have welcomed Saudi Arabia's decision to lift its ban on Indian beef, said a report.

'This is good news,' a food importer said in remarks published in the Arab News.

He said that India had been exporting beef to Gulf and Middle East states and western countries for many years.

'We have been expecting the ban to be lifted,' said the trader.

The Saudi ban on Indian meat was imposed in 1984.

'I hope the ban on Indian seafood will also be lifted, as the seafood is being exported to many countries including the US and Japan,' said Timochin Hassan, an executive in a food importing company, was quoted as saying.

'With the lifting of the ban, meat imports from India will pick up within a month as Indian meat costs $500 per tonne compared to Australian or New Zealand meat with prices ranging from $1,500 to $8,000,' a food company manager said in the report.

Indian meat imports are expected to reach 1,000 tonnes a month

A ban on Indian mutton, imposed in 2001, was lifted last August.

Reminding ourselves that food distribution is an essential part of the "food system": Wal-Mart vs. America's Middle Class by James O. Goldsborough (San Diego Union-Tribune January 26, 2004)

One way to look at President Bush's amnesty plan for illegal immigrants is through the lens of Southern California's grocery shutdown. Employers such as Wal-Mart, already under investigation for hiring illegal immigrants and other malpractices, will use amnestied workers to drive wages and benefits down still further.

The grocery business is living on the edge, and not just in California. Traditionally, grocery workers have been able to make a decent living. The wage of full-time unionized clerks averages around $15 an hour – $25,000-$30,000 annually, depending on hours worked. In addition, workers have had health care benefits.

At these levels, grocery clerks survived in this region despite its high real estate prices. Often they had long commutes, especially if their stores were in affluent suburbs, but for decades these workers were as much a part of America's solid middle class as service workers anywhere. They owned houses, raised families, took comfort in belonging to America's company-based health care system.

Along comes Wal-Mart, the world's largest business, whose revenues equal an astounding 2 percent of U.S. GDP and whose power rivals that of the great trusts of a century ago. Specifically, Wal-Mart resembles the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, which in its heyday owned 80 percent of the supermarket business, until Washington used the trust laws to whittle it down to size...

31 January
Some exchanges back and forth with Ron and some bits of reading remind me of the necessity to think about the complex spectrum of alternate Realities that complicates any effort of study food systems. Some of this thinking-about really needs to be part of pedagogy, especially since that's really what we're trying to encourage students toward as a general strategy. We're using food systems or agriculture or whatever as a means to that end, and not with the primary objective of providing them with an agenda that will turn them into food system revolutionaries.

So we need to make the spectrum available to them; we're looking as much at 'interestedness' (i.e., at what it is to be an 'interested' party) in the abstract as at how interestedness plays out in a particular complex of industries.

A couple of days ago John Fraser Hart's The Changing Scale of American Agriculture (HD1470.5 .U6 H37 2003) arrived, and I've found the parts that I've looked at very useful in thinking about and reviewing the broad sweep of current issues in the North American food system. The Amazon.com record includes this bit in its blurb:

Hart contends that modern family farms need to become integrated into tightly orchestrated food-supply chains in order to thrive, and these complex new organizations of large-scale production require managerial skills of the highest order. According to Hart, this trend is not only inevitable, but it is beneficial, because it produces the food American consumers want to buy at prices they can afford.
...a set of ideas calculated to send Ron ballistic, though I'm not sure it's an accurate depiction of Hart's stance or conclusions.

Contending Visions of Reality and notions of How It Ought To Be are at the very heart of the "stewardship" that's still a part of our charge as a Program. We want to broaden the palette that our students can draw upon, and give them exposure to the unfolding history of ideas about Environment and humanity's place(s) within it, and notions of responsibilities great and small, local and global. Exploring controversy is an inevitable part of that, and I think "interestedness" is a good frame for that. Examining one's own linkage to 'interest' is a part of that --if one grew up with visits to grandparents' farm, one thinks of agriculture differently than if experience of the food system is essentially suburban; if one has been entangled in the daily lives of a farm family, it's not possible to think only of the overall efficiency of the food system.

Wavy Gravy [arguably one of the great Stewards]: You Are What You Don't Shit

We are also obligated to look at the consequences to people (as individuals, communities, sectors of the Population) of decisions made at the managerial level, by government and corporate actors, and we need to hone the tools that will allow us to examine such decisions and decision-making dispassionately. This is where the Emperor's Clothing comes in: an enormous and finely-tuned apparatus of disinformation and 'do not look at the man behind the curtain' advice assures us that the Emperor's Raiment is magnificent, and continually reassures us that our eyes are not deceiving us. And once you start to question any part of that received wisdom, other bits are called into question, and pretty soon you're not seeing the world as others see it.

It's so easy to get distracted by details, by examples and instances, by the particular --but that's exactly the challenge. How are we to integrate new bits of observation and data if we don't look at cases as they come up, and then go through the difficult work of seeing how they ramify through the structure of what we think we know? That process is fraught with inconsistencies, and the continual temptation to partition and redecorate rather than renovate from the ground up...

1 February
Living on Earth had segments today on the food system, and one of the people mentioned was David Wallerstein, the adman who came up with 'Supersize' (Google search) --another for the Gallery of Saints and Demons. I've also grabbed the mp3 of that segment of the show (but I think writing it to a CD is the only practical way to distribute it, since it's 14MB).

see You Want Fries With That? MICHAEL POLLAN / Review of FAT LAND / NY Times 12jan03 Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World Greg Critser. 232 pp. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. $24.
Some of the credit for creating this new environment belongs to an unheralded businessman by the name of David Wallerstein, the man Critser says introduced ''supersizing'' to America. Today Wallerstein is an executive with McDonald's, but back in the 1960's he worked for a chain of movie theaters, where he labored to expand sales of soda and popcorn -- the high-markup items that theaters depend on for their profitability. Wallerstein tried everything he could think of to goose sales -- two-for-one deals, matinee specials -- but found he couldn't induce customers to buy more than one soda and one bag of popcorn. Why? Because going for seconds makes people feel like pigs.

But Wallerstein discovered that people would spring for more popcorn and soda -- a lot more -- as long as it came in a single gigantic serving. Thus was born the Big Gulp and, in time, the Big Mac and jumbo fries. Though Ray Kroc himself took some convincing: the McDonald's founder had naïvely assumed that if people wanted more fries they'd buy another bag. He didn't appreciate how social taboos against gluttony (one of the seven deadly sins, after all) were holding us back. Wallerstein's dubious achievement was to devise the dietary equivalent of a papal dispensation: Supersize it!

see also excerpts from Fat Land collected in Noreen K's blog, including some on high-fructose corn syrup.

...which reminds me that I need to revisit the materials I started to gather last spring on sugar and corn.

Forthcoming: Ecological Effects of Transgenic Crops and the Escape of Transgenes into Wild Populations
Diana Pilson
Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics. Volume 35, Nov 2004


Environmental Impacts of Transgenic Plants
Maureen O'Callaghan, Louise Malone, Elisabeth P.J. Burgess, Travis R. Glare
Annual Review of Entomology. Volume 50, Jan 2005

and this one is already available:

A. M. Shelton, J.-Z. Zhao, R. T. Roush
Annual Review of Entomology. Volume 47, Page 845-881, Jan 2002 ...which has been cited by (among others)
One foot in the furrow: Linkages between agriculture, plant pathology, and public health
Scholthof KBG

...the methods of food production and the importance of agriculture are increasingly invisible in our society... We expect to have ready access to wholesome, inexpensive food, yet most of us lack basic knowledge about farming, where food is produced, and how it reaches the marketplace.

...Because increases in suitable land for cultivation are unlikely, improvements in crop yield and quality are therefore the most realistic strategies to meet the ongoing demand for food, especially cereals, a food staple worldwide. The processing, transport, and storage of foods are political and economic challenges that must be met as food quality and security, or the perceptions of such, are primary determinants of the health and welfare of individuals and societies

...One example of the economic and potential food security impact of monoculture was revealed during an epidemic of southern corn leaf blight in the United States in 1970 caused by the fungus Cochliobolus heterostrophus. At this time, about 80% of the hybrid corn in the United States had Texas male-sterile cytoplasm (CMS-T), which was an advantage for hybrid corn production since these lines did not produce viable pollen (82). This resulted in cheaper production of hybrid maize because workers were not needed to hand-emasculate the plants. However, the CMS-T maize was preferentially susceptible to this fungal pathogen, especially T-toxin producing strains. This disease outbreak resulted in 80% to 100% yield losses in fields planted with maize hybrids with a CMS-T genetic background (62, 82). This lesson in plant pathology caused the industry to abandon the use of CMS-T maize, and it was a wake-up call to agriculturists of the dangers of planting a genetically uniform crop across a broad swath of the United States.

Croplife America .org...

3 February
Quoting Ilaria Capua ("a virologist at Italy's National Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza, a part of the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie in Padua"):

Capua suspects a combination of factors. The most important may be a phenomenal growth in demand for poultry, leading to denser concentrations of larger poultry farms without appropriate biological safeguards. Once an infection is introduced into this environment, "it spreads very rapidly and is very difficult to get rid of," she says. Even if the virus is successfully contained this winter, Capua believes it is only a matter of time before it reappears.
(Science Volume 303, Number 5657, Issue of 23 Jan 2004, p. 447)

How can we document this "phenomenal growth"?

Demand for wings takes off in Jan. By LULADEY B. TADESSE delawareonline.com
It's the peak season for one of America's favorite finger foods: chicken wings.
Historically one of the least profitable parts of a chicken, spicy wings are a hot commodity during Super Bowl season.
Demand for chicken wings has risen so much that it has boosted the price to about $1.15 a pound wholesale, compared with 69 cents a pound a year ago. In fact, wings cost more than chicken breasts, which are selling for about 96 cents a pound.
"This time of year, there is exceptionally high demand, because you are coming from the holidays where there are a lot of parties, then the playoffs and the Super Bowl [tonight]," said Doug Johnson, retail sales manager for Mountaire Farms in Selbyville. "If a chicken could grow six wings right now, we could sell them."
For many poultry companies, January is the busiest season for wings. For example, Perdue Farms sells 42 percent more prepared or ready-to-eat wings to retail stores in January compared with the average month.
"Companies don't actually produce chickens for the wings, but they are certainly very glad to get a good price when they can," said Richard Lobb, spokesman for the National Chicken Council in Washington.
The largest buyers of wings are fast-food chains, bars and casual dining restaurants followed by retail grocery outlets. Last year, about 10.5 billion chicken wings were marketed as wings, as opposed to being sold as part of a whole chicken, according to the National Chicken Council. About 67 percent, or 7 billion wings, were sold to the food-service industry.
For Wings to Go franchisee Eric Ruger, the Super Bowl is the single busiest day of the year. Ruger, who owns a store in Bear and another in New Castle, asks his customers to place their wing orders a couple of days in advance and has warned them not to wait till 5 p.m. today.
"We try not to take any orders past 5 p.m. because that is going to be a problem, because everybody wants the wings fresh and hot for 6:30 p.m.," Ruger said. He cooks 500 batches of wings every 15 minutes so customers can get fresh wings to go in time for the game.
Ruger said he expects to sell about 25,000 wings at each of his stores today compared with 1,600 on an average Sunday. That will earn him about $7,000 at each store compared with $1,000 on a typical Sunday.
Chicken wings haven't always been so popular.
Poultry companies used to sell chickens whole, so they didn't have to worry about selling wings separately. Then, as chicken marketers realized there was added value in selling chickens in parts, they often found they could sell most of the meat, but were often stuck with wings. Most people didn't know what to do with wings except use them to make stock for soup.
"It was a profit loser for the whole industry," said Chris Whaley, spokeswoman for Perdue marketing. "There was not a demand for wings, so it was one of those situations where we had to get rid of them so we sold it for practically nothing."
Then, in 1964, Teressa Bellissimo served deep-fried wings with a secret sauce at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y. Soon after, chicken wings began gaining popularity as a finger food.
But what really has helped bring chicken wings to the mainstream and turned them into the finger food of choice at sports gatherings and parties has been their adoption by pizza chains. Domino's Pizza first introduced wings as a side order in 1994. The chain, which has 4,875 franchises throughout the country, is credited for paving the way for other fast food eateries to make wings a part of their menu.
"The connection between pizza and Buffalo wings seems to be this: They're both informal, social, indulgent finger foods," said Holly Ryan, Domino's spokeswoman.

Measures of Changes in Demand for Beef, Pork, and Chicken, 1975-2000 and DEMAND FOR MEATS: PAST, PRESENT, AND A LOOK AHEAD [has US per capita consumption data, 1975-] (Wayne D. Purcell)

The Changing Consumer and the Demand for Meats (Chris Bastian)

International Food Trade -- Case: The Trade of Chicken (Ming Teng) (ppt)

Selling Poultry in China No Longer Chicken Feed by Nancy Morgan (ca. 1997)

China is second only to Russia as a market for U.S. poultry meat exporters, and with a population almost 10 times as large, promises great returns in the future. From 1992 to 1996, U.S. poultry meat exports to China (including Hong Kong) more than tripled, reaching nearly 600,000 tons.
To illustrate the value impact: U.S. poultry exports scratched up $480 million of a total $3.6 billion agricultural export tab in 1996, second only to cotton in U.S. exports to the China/Hong Kong market.
Two distinct quirks characterize this Chinese market: The majority of imports to China go through Hong Kong, a phenomenon likely to continue with unification; and China not only imports but also exports poultry and poultry meat.
With its lower labor and transportation costs, those Chinese exports have challenged the market shares of Thailand, Brazil and the United States in the lucrative Japanese market. Trade policies that allow the import of poultry meat products for further processing and re-export at reduced tariff levels further feather China=s export nest.
Prospects for increased poultry meat production in China are good, and this domestic market will probably be the chief competition for future U.S. exports.
...The predicted increase in a preference for poultry will further accelerate the growth in demand for chicken meat, supporting growth in the domestic and import markets. And the increasing privatization of the Chinese wholesale market will allow producers and importers to meet this need.
The rapid growth of the fast-food sector and the development of a food processing industry will egg on the steady increase in poultry consumption, which has been rising 14 percent annually over the past decade.

Cargill Meat Solutions "Expand Your Expectations" ...and Cargill Turkey Products Announces Recall Of Ready-to-Eat Poultry Products From Waco Facility (December 2000)

Specifications for Turkey Products Purchased by USDA

safetyalerts.com lists recalls (e.g. food)

A sensible and comprehensive mapping of the terrain of The Food System is a pretty vast challenge, met by just about nobody. We have to span the gamut of anecdotal to analytical, including a broad range of disciplines that have little experience of listening to each other; we include the Interests of some of the most powerful corporations and some of the most vocal social critics on the planet, as well as the tangled complicities of government agencies and individual politicians; we experience the profound interlinkage of food/agriculture and processes of globalization; we wrestle with local and national and extra-national perspectives; we juggle nostalgia for a [possibly imaginary, certainly romanticized] rural past with distaste for corporate excesses of the present, and anxiety over future consequences of today's decisions; we decry limited vision and decision making based solely on market considerations; past experience makes us suspicious of assurances of safety from corporate experts and government officials; we must balance social justice, public welfare, realities of industrial capitalism, individual motivations, hubris...

So in this complex and vitally important landscape, what should we have students read? What cases illuminate the dilemmas above most effectively and comprehensively? Which would contribute most effectively to the sensitization that 'Global Stewardship' seeks to develop?

USDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition ...and the term 'GRAS' ("Generally Recognized As Safe")

From today's Globe and Mail: Let the salmon eat meat!

I have this week been ruminating on the singularity of the salmon's eating habits.

The fish chew up krill; they feast on shrimp and on occasion turn into pteropod gourmands — a pteropod being that ugliness known as a sea slug. But slice open a salmon's belly and you may as often find crabs, jellyfish, rockfish, Atka mackerel, walleye, pollock, sculpin, and flatfish, herring, capelin, anchovies, sablefish and on occasion the unlucky brother salmon.

However, nowhere on the menu does the wily soybean appear, nor do we come across the slippery canola or the leaping flax plant.

Saints and Demons page (Midgley, Muller, Carson... etc.)

Bruce M. Pollock discusses why science is never "Safe"

You are reading this page because you suspect the products of science—the technology it produces—can place you at risk because of the greed of scientists and their corporate sponsors. You are correct. Unfortunately, the details of science are so complex and ever-changing that they are difficult for non-scientists to follow. Worse is the fact that individual scientists live in and react to the non-scientific culture of their country. This is critical when evaluating the role of science in such political subjects as the war against terror and the ownership of water.

Nevertheless, you, the public, need to protect yourselves from abuse by scientists. I believe the greatest danger at this time is world starvation from genetically modified food crops. I am publishing this web site to help you understand the culture of scientists which I hope will give you the tools to bring scientists under control and make science safe.

herbicide and agchem codes to go with R:\global\herb and R:\global\agchem ...also \stock and \crop1 \crop2 (\global\ag1980.mxd)

Pesticide Annual Use maps last updated 1998; 1997 maps

Google "broiler chickens" antibiotics

4 February
R:\global\usagric.mxd has crops and census and so on...

5 February
Ahah! United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service and Historical Data ...almost seems willfully obscurantist. From Bucknell site, which has other useful links, including a soybean animation --and other grains too

and what's this? pitbossannie.com

USDA Economic Reserach Service and especially Agricultural Outlook

Agriculture Databases from Food Safety Risk Analysis Clearinghouse

Agricultural Atlas from 1997 Agricultural Census

ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas), about to be axed in the Bush budget...

7 February
I've reopened coffee as an example, and set up a coffee log file to track additions, prompted by an exchange of letters in Science.

Also found Assessing the Impact of the Green Revolution, 1960 to 2000 (R. E. Evenson and D. Gollin Science Volume 300, Number 5620, Issue of 2 May 2003, pp. 758-762. --and see what Science offers by way of related articles

...and a quick Web of Science 'related' search produces two worth looking into:

Who sustains whose development? Sustainable development and the reinvention of nature
Banerjee SB
ORGANIZATION STUDIES 24 (1): 143-180 2003

Abstract: This paper explores the contradictions inherent in one of the more popular buzzwords of today: sustainable development. I argue that, despite claims of a paradigm shift, the sustainable development paradigm is based on an economic, not ecological, rationality. Discourses of sustainable development embody a view of nature specified by modern economic thought. One consequence of this discourse involves the transformation of `nature' into `environment', a transformation that has important implications for notions of how development should proceed. The `rational' management of resources is integral to the Western economy and its imposition on developing countries is problematic. I discuss the implications of this `regime of truth' for the Third World with particular reference to biotechnology, biodiversity and intellectual property rights. I argue that these aspects of sustainable development threaten to colonize spaces and sites in the Third World, spaces that now need to be made `efficient' because of the capitalization of nature.

Both sides now - Fallacies in the genetic-modification wars, implications for developing countries, and anthropological perspectives
Stone GD

Yesterday I started a food security gatheration, which spread into the Green Revolution area almost immediately.

Occurs to me that Troublesome Creek would be a good film to use: PBS guide

8 February
Reading Pollan's Botany of Desire led me to an exploration of apple varieties. An amazing
list of apple genotypes is just one of the wonders I found. See also Apple Journal's array ("Comprehensive Apple Variety List")

Heartsong Farm in Groveton NH --Berlin and Lancaster the nearest towns...

more from the Botany of Desire:

...the modern history of the apple --particularly the practise of growing a dwindling handful of cloned varieties in vast orchards-- has rendered it less fit as a plant, which is one reason modern apples require more pesticide than any other food crop...

In the wild a plant and its pests are continually coevolving, in a dance of resistance and conquest that can have no ultimate victor. But coevolution ceases in an orchard of grafted trees, since they are genetically identical from generation to generation. The problem very simply is that the apple trees no longer reproduce sexually, as they do when they're grown from seed, and sex is nature's way of creating fresh genetic combinations. At the same time the viruses, bacteria, fungi, and insects keep very much at it, reproducing sexually and continuing to evolve until eventually they hit on the precise combination that allows them to overcome whatever resistance the apples may once have possessed. Suddenly total victory is in the pests' sight --unless, that is, people come to the tree's rescue, wielding the tools of modern chemistry. (52)

The Plight of Birds in the Poultry and Egg Industry By Karen Davis, PhD

Value-Added Poultry Takes Flight By Nancy Backas Food Product Design November 2003

International Trade of Meat/Poultry Products and Food Safety Issues from USDA International Trade and Food Safety

from Ron: Poultry Genetic Resources--Operation Rescue Needed Janet E. Fulton and Mary E. Delany Science Volume 300, Number 5626, Issue of 13 Jun 2003, pp. 1667-1668.

9 February
Several from Web of Science to follow up the above

EPA's National Agriculture Compliance Assistance Center

the "first stop" for information about environmental requirements that affect the agricultural community. The Ag Center was created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Through this web site and other channels, the Center offers comprehensive, easy-to-understand information about compliance -- commonsense, flexible approaches that are both environmentally protective and agriculturally sound. The Center also provides information on reducing pollution and making good use of the latest pollution prevention technologies.

What's in the Meat

Although the rise in foodborne illnesses has been caused by many complex factors, much of the increase can be attributed to recent changes in how American food is produced. Robert V Tauxe, head of the Foodborne and Diarrheal Diseases Branch at the CDC, believes that entirely new kinds of outbreaks are now occurring. A generation ago, the typical outbreak of food poisoning involved a church supper, a family picnic, a wedding reception. Improper food handling or storage would cause a small group of people in one local area to get sick. Such traditional outbreaks still take place. But the nation's industrialized and centralized system of food processing has created a whole new sort of outbreak, one that can potentially sicken millions of people. Today a cluster of illnesses in one small town may stem from bad potato salad at a school barbecue - or it may be the first sign of an outbreak that extends statewide, nationwide, or even overseas.

The Politics of Meat (PBS Frontline)

Studies find more virulent bacteria in U.S. poultry

The U.S. Approach to Antimicrobial Related Regulations from Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food

Jaime's map of US Turkeys poses some questions, and here are some of the things I found:

CALIFORNIA TURKEY PRODUCTION (1997) --includes a section on Structure of the California Turkey Industry, and
About 70% of all turkeys grown are further processed. For this market, the industry prefers to grow toms, because their larger weight is advantageous. However, many hens are also further processed even though the unit cost is higher with the lighter weight. About 16% of all turkeys are processed for the whole body market. A larger proportion of hens are sold as whole body due to the preference for further processing the larger toms. About 14% of all turkeys produced are processed as parts. In the past, parts like wings and drums were often sold at greatly reduced prices. Today, these parts are used extensively in further processing and often end up as part of a further processed product such as ground meat.
U.S. Turkey Production Higher in 2003
Turkeys raised in the United States during 2003 totaled 274 million birds, up 1 percent from the 272 million raised in 2002.

Minnesota ranked first in the number raised with 45.0 million, followed by North Carolina with 42.5 million, Arkansas and Missouri each with 26.5 million, Virginia with 23.0 million, California with 17.3 million, and South Carolina with 13.0 million. These States accounted for 71 percent of the turkeys produced in the United States during 2003.

...and I discovered that "U.S. turkey production no longer has a significant seasonal component and the seasonal consumption component has declined in magnitude. While a major factor in the long run trend of increased turkey production, consumption and exports is due mainly to decreasing real prices of turkey meat due to technological advances, exchange rates play a key role in turkey exports..." (http://www.agecon.msstate.edu/s-287/Papers/Colyer_SAEA.PDF)

and "Minnesota is also a major turkey producing state, ranking number one or two for the last 50 years in the number of turkeys raised each year. Much of the turkey production is in the same area where wild waterfowl nest, rear their young and gather for the fall migration. Although less than 2% of the turkeys grown in Minnesota are reared on range, the few range or semi-confined flocks provide the method for AI virus to enter the commercial turkey industry." (

and even the Federal Reserve BAnk of Minneapolis gets into the act: A Turkey in every pot? By Edward Lotterman (1998)

see also Poultry Production Phases from EPA (part of Poultry Production ...which is in turn a subpart of Ag 101, which "provides a brief overview of American agriculture. It covers the primary commodities produced today and the methods of doing so."

from Ron:

Shattering: Food, Politics, and the Loss of Genetic Diversity
by Cary Fowler and Pat Mooney
University of Arizona Press - 1990
SB175 .F68 1990

Seed Issues from Primal Seeds

From Richard Manning's Food's Frontier:

The Monsantos of the business world are locked in a time warp. Because of their capital investment and the lag time from development to market --and the resulting need to make all that investment pay for itself before introducing new ideas that would render it obsolete-- commercial development is running maybe a decade behind the actual science..." (204-205)

All agriculture, from the crudest process of selection through the Green Revolution, has been based on redesigning the genetic structure of plants. (207)

A continuum of artifice may be available to us, but what seems to work best are those steps that go along with natural processes and cycles, nudging them in the direction they are going anyway. The further we veer from this course, the greater the peril.

So do transgenics represent a great variation from this course? The line alleged to have been crossed here lies in tampering with the genome, in cracking the central code of life and literally rewriting the software. Transgenic technology is a re-engineering of life, true enough, but so is conventional breeding. For at least ten thousand years humans have been engaged in selection, an artificial pressure on breeding populations. All the forms of life we call domestic have a genetic makeup, a code, that is artificial as a result of this pressure. (193-194)

Monsanto itself is a case study of how a revolutionary technology coupled with a legal system that doesn't fully understand its implications can create a monopoly. (200)

14 February
Eating Oil: Food supply in a changing climate (Andy Jones)

19 February
Fish farms still ravage the sea (Nature 17 Feb)

26 February
Google CAFOs search (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations)

CDC Health Studies Branch

EPA Region 7 (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and 9 Tribal Nations)

Photo Gallery: Hog CAFOs from Grace Factory Farm Project

The Price We Pay for Corporate Hogs Mark Ritchie, Executive Director Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

"An estimated 54 percent of livestock in the U.S. are now confined to just 5 percent of livestock farms. These CAFOs generate an estimated 575 billion pounds of animal waste each year..." (http://www.jhsph.edu/Press_Room/Press_Releases/farm_moratorium.html)

27 February
Two stories from the wonderful worlds of agriculture:

Life on the research farm By STEPHEN STRAUSS, Globe and Mail 26 February (cached here)

Aromas of Arabica coming soon to the US By Arun Bhattacharjee (cached here)

28 February
Ron suggests that The Meatrix ought to be grouped with CAFOs

10 March
Major World Crop Areas maps ...the definition of 'major' is a bit limiting, but some of the maps are helpful (e.g., soybeans in Brazil)

Two others I happened upon:

AUTHOR       Grossman, Lawrence S., 1948-
TITLE        The political ecology of bananas : contract farming, peasants, 
               and agrarian change in the eastern Caribbean / Lawrence S. 
IMPRINT      Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c1998.
CALL NO.     HD9259.B3 S174 1998.

AUTHOR       Jenkins, Virginia Scott.
TITLE        Bananas : an American history / Virginia Scott Jenkins.
IMPRINT      Washington [D.C.] : Smithsonian Institution Press, c2000.
CALL NO.     HD9259.B3 U537 2000.

*** Horticultural and Tropical Products Division of Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of USDA

12 March
Maize and Biodiversity from Commission for Environmental Cooperation

Big firms dig in to Asian rice bowl By Ranjit Devraj Asia Times

NEW DELHI - Control over rice, Asia's staple food, is steadily passing into the hands of transnational corporations that are based far away in Europe and the United States and that use unfair patents and genetic modification, food-security experts have warned.

As the world marks the International Year of Rice, agribusiness giants led by Du Pont in the United States are working overtime to select rice genes they reckon would be commercially useful from among the estimated complement of 50,000 genes.

The scramble for monopoly control over rice genes began two years ago after the Swiss agribusiness giant Syngenta and Myriad Genetics Inc in the United States announced the sequencing of 99.5 percent of rice DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Internationally known food-security expert Devinder Sharma says that since then some 900 genes, representing a variety of traits such as resistance to droughts, pests, pesticides and salinity and higher yield and nutritional characteristics, have already been patented by various multinationals. Du Pont, he says, tops this list.

The Oil We Eat (Richard Manning, from Harper's

20 March
Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry

Nikolai Vavilov, geógrafo soviético. El recolector de vida (Carmelo Ruiz Marrero)and Las tres muertes de Vavilov, por Enildo Iglesias, Rel-UITA

Cornell and Polish research scientists lead effort to save invaluable potato genetic archive in Russia FOR RELEASE: July 20, 2000

Priceless Vavilov Seed Bank Critically Endangered

Following in Vavilov's footsteps (from New Agriculturalist (UK)

22 March
Food Production Daily (a European source: "Breaking News on Food Processing & Packaging") --see also Food Navigator, "Breaking News on Food & Beverage Development" --and cf Just-food.com ("your best choice for food industry news, analysis and research")

26 March
Farmers' sweet deal makes for fat Americans [Corn syrup vs sugar] (from FreeRepublic.com "A Conservative News Forum" )

4 April
Loss of Agricultural Diversity: Pressure State Response Indicators

Genetic diversity of livestock is being lost. The number of breeds has markedly declined over the past half century. Up to 30% of global mammalian and avian livestock breeds (i.e., 1,200 to 1,500 breeds) are currently at risk of being lost and cannot be replaced.

History of Research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Agricultural Research Service, by decade

Save Jerry's Corn

I am an Iowa farmer who has farmed all his life. My hog breeding operation in Harlan, Iowa, about an hour west of Des Moines, used to be one of the most successful in the area. But in the year 2000, reproductive rates of swine dropped terribly because of a problem called pseudopregnancy that scientists think is related to the corn I fed to the animals. My cattle had problems conceiving too.

I'd like to know what happened. This is also a problem that other farmers have suffered, so I would like to see someone figure out what the true cause of the problem is so it can be avoided in the future. I am writing to appeal for your help in obtaining the corn for research before it is destroyed either directly or by the inaction of the USDA.

(see also google search 'jerry rosman' --and n.b. parallels with Percy Schmeiser... a "little guy" collection?)

6 April
Reading Jackson & Jackson The Farm as Natural Habitat (S589.7 .F36 2002), I find many quotables:

This book is a reaction, in part to the bullying notion that the agricultural landscape we see now in Iowa, with only one-tenth of 1 percent of its original vegetation intact, and home to some of the most nutrient-polluted lakes and streams in the United States, is inevitable. (4)

A small group of agricultural suppliers and processors have a huge influence on what farmers can grow and market --and their political power is enormous. (5)

(The sustainable agriculture) movement complained that large farms, big equipment, and livestock confinement grew larger at the expense of family farms, good stewardship, and animal husbandry. The land grant colleges of agriculture were indifferent to the plight of family farmers going bankrupt but fascinated with improvements in technology to create higher yield and serve large farming operations... (5)

Before the advent of agrochemicals, farmers needed livestock and diverse cropping systems to return nutrients back to the land and control pests... After WWII, it was assumed by most farmers that synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides made the fertility-building, pest-killing abilities of diverse cropping rotations superfluous. (33)

...a simplified agricultural system that must be propped up by lots of energy, chemicals, and water. (35)

Economic self-interest is the best stewardship incentive, goes [the argument of agribusiness]. But a combination of rich soils and chemical inputs has provided the system with a nice disguise, allowing it to hide its innate unsustainability. When the traditional nutrient cycle was disrupted and organic mtter was lost through erosion, man-made nitrogen fertilizer plugged the hole that was created. When diverse plant systems were eliminated, pesticides helped make sure bugs and weeds didn't take too much advantage of the situation. (35)

We need to interact directly with farmers, searching for common ground as Aldo Leopold did before us. This will mean being willing to learn how farmers' decisions are constrained by markets, agricultural policy, history, labor, and capital as well as by natural resources. Ultimately, it will mean coming to terms with the consolidation of land and markets into fewer, more powerful hands. "The farmer," able to make decisions independently for the good of family and community, is being replaced by people who work for land management comapnies, contractors growing livestock for large corporations, custom manure haulers, and hourly wage tractor jockeys. (51)

Current federal commodity policies, coupled with land grant research agendas and "feed the world" food markets only serve to constrict the choices farmers have. (118)

By the 1970s, the transition was in full swing. Agricultural statisticians stopped reporting "minor crops" altogether and began rounding their numbers to the nearest 10,000 acres. As crops became lessdiverse, livestock followed suit. Family-sized poultry operations began to disappear as the processors moved to the southeastern United States. At roughly the same time, huge beef feedlots cropped up on the High Plains, where cheap underground water resources fed irrigated corn. Beef processors soon followed. Facing lower prices and reduced options for marketing their cattle, many Iowa farmers got out of the beef cattle business, with dairy following soon after. Hogs, long the "mortgage burner" for the family farm, remained firmly in the hands of independent producers until the late 1980s. Unlike poultry, beef, and dairy production, hogs remained an important part of the agroecosystem --they just moved to corporate controlled factory-scale operations. In 1987, Iowa had 36,670 hog producers. In 1999, there were 14,500 hog producers, raising roughly the same number of hogs. (139)

Biological Confinement of Genetically Engineered Organisms from National Academies Press, Jan 2004

7 April
Smithfield Foods search via topix.net (continuous update --and the point is, it's possible to set up this kind of monitoring for lots of different purposes...)


Changes Impact Southampton County: Va.-Area Landowners, Tenant Peanut Farmers (Linda McNatt Virginian-Pilot September 06, 2002)

Peanut Program (from Citizens Against Government Waste)

Seventy percent of quota holders make their profits (more than $200 million annually) by renting their peanut-growing privileges to other farmers, who pay exorbitant rates for those rights. Currently, 80 percent of the peanut quota is owned by 20 percent of the growers, denying many prospective peanut farmers access to a potentially lucrative U.S. market.

Defenders of the peanut program often claim that the peanut quota system uniquely benefits minority farmers. However, while 13 percent of peanut quota holders are African American, they only control 4 percent of the total poundage quota. Thus, the average peanut-quota owner holds more than three times the amount of quota held by the average African American peanut-quota holder.

2004 Peanut Production Guide from Va Tech

Global warming could cut peanut production

Nuts and Nutmeats 5 years of production statistics

World Peanut Market: An Overview of the past 30 years (GA Agricultural Experiment Station)

Food Facts and Trivia: Peanuts

About the Peanut Industry (American Peanut Council)

The Peanut Farmer (magazine)

11 April
Brazilian Climate and Crop Information from USDA (from Major World Crop Areas and Climatic Profiles --as close as anything I've seen to an Atlas of Agricultural Production). For North America, state and county maps for various crops).

23 April
Wonderful bits of linguistic inventiveness suffuse the food industry. Two examples I've encountered: "identity preservation" and "case-ready meats" (in Kneen's Invisible Giant, "Cargill is a case-ready pioneer, ready to meet Walmart's objective of handling only case-ready meats" [3]):

One has to wonder WHAT happens to unsold "case-ready" meats in all those WalMart stores?

From World Agriculture and the Environment (S589.75 .C53 2004):

The general market chain (the stages between producers and consumers) for coffee includes on-farm growing, harvesting, primary processing and sorting, export, shipping, distribution, roasting, packaging, redistribution to retail stores, purchase by the consumer, brewing, and drinking... (78)

From Brewster Kneen's Invisible Giant: Cargill and its transnational strategies (HD9039 .C37 K58 2002):

Cargill is certainly one of the most powerful and effective corporations in the world, and deserves to be known and understood. Cargill has and will continue to shape the agricultural policy of as many countries and regions as it can... there are fundamental choices to be made about how we and future generations are going to live and how we are going to feed ourselves. These choices should not be left to Cargill or any other transnational corporation, regardless of the quality of their employees. It is simply not a good idea to put control over our food in the hands of a very small number of men whose job it is to serve corporate as opposed to public interests. (x)

Of its purchase of Continental's grain business, Cargill said: 'We are going to create a much more competitive infrastructure to take grain off the farm and bring it to consumers around the world. Producers will get a better price, and consumers will get a better price.' The question farmers have to ask is, why should Cargill want the primary producer to get a better price? The question the public has to ask is, why should Cargill want [consumers] to get a better price? The major motivation for 'globalization' has not been to ensure that the primary producer gets a fair price, stays on the farm and feeds the family and the community, but to provide reliable and cheap access to raw materials, anywhere in the world, for the so-called 'value-adding' activities of the food-system giants. The 'value' that is being added is not nutritional, however. It is shareholder value. (2)

Now, in 2001, the global food system, from seed to supermarket, is in the hands of alarmingly few very large corporations whose primary commitment is to maximizing shareholder value. (3)

My own favourite picture of the world is a composite satellite photo-map of the world that displays topography, highlights water, and is devoid of superimposed political jurisdictions. No counties, no provinces, no states, no nations, no World Bank, no United Nations. This image of the world is Cargill's starting point, even though it studiously cultivates relations with political jurisdictions at every level... What does Cargill see from its satellite perspective? A relatively simple picture of the major growing areas of the world, and the water routes that can or might connect them to the major markets of the world. Thus, in Brazil, what Cargill sees is rivers of soy; not rain forests and clear-cut jungle, but the great plain of the Mato Grosso and its potential for soybean production, if only the water routes to the sea can be made navigable... (8)

(quoting Whitney MacMillan, president and chairman of Cargill until 1995)

There is a mistaken belief that the greatest agricultural need in the developing world is to develop the capacity to grow food for local consumption. That is misguided... Countries should produce what they produce best, and trade... (10)
Cargill is a supplier of inputs, a buyer, trader and processor of commodities, and a speculator throughout the entire system. The arch enemy of Cargill is subsistence agriculture, self-provisioning, self-reliance, or whatever you want to call the alternative to being incorporated into its growing global system of dependency... (10)

Warren Staley, chairman and CEO: "At our core, Cargill is about nourishing people. We're in a knowledge business, and we are changing how we come together as a company of diverse and enterprising people to make a valuable difference for food and farm customers." (18)

The scale of contemporary North American beef production is as hard to imagine as it is to see. Getting a tour of a large packing plant to get a first-hand view of the deconstruction of a large animal is a virtual impossibility for reasons of health and safety and offensiveness. Beef feedlots are visible and visitable, but located only in very particular geographies beyond the travelling reach of most people. The only more or less ubiquitous and visible aspect of beef production in the mid-west is the fields of corn and grains that constitute the bulk of feedlot cattle feed. (The feedlot conversion ratio is 8-9 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef.) (49)

2 May
Fast Friends, Sworn Enemies: Organisms that work together, researchers are finding, sometimes have a falling out (Elizabeth Pennisi Science Volume 302, Number 5646, Issue of 31 Oct 2003, pp. 774-775)

A Genomic View of the Human-Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron Symbiosis Jian Xu et al. Science, Vol 299, Issue 5615, 2074-2076 , 28 March 2003

A major theme of life on our planet is the complex and beneficial interactions that occur between eukaryotes and prokaryotes. Humans are no exception. As adults, we harbor diverse communities of microorganisms whose total number exceeds the sum of all of our somatic and germ cells (1). As yet, the ways in which these communities contribute to normal postnatal development and adult physiology are largely unexplored. The human gut contains the largest such collection of microbes [1011 organisms per ml proximal colonic contents (1)]. An estimated 2 to 4 million genes are embedded in the aggregate genome (microbiome) of an intestinal community of ~500 to 1000 bacterial species (2). The products of these genes provide metabolic capacities not encoded in our own genome (3).

The gut microbiota is a key regulator of the human immune system; it acts to induce tolerance to microbial epitopes and thus to reduce responses to commonly encountered foodstuffs and other environmental antigens (4). Functional genomic studies of germfree mice colonized with components of the human intestinal microbiota are revealing other functions affected by indigenous bacteria, including fortification of the mucosal barrier and angiogenesis (5-7). These observations emphasize the need to understand more about the roles played by the microbiota in host biology, as well as the potential for control and modulation.

Commensal Host-Bacterial Relationships in the Gut Lora V. Hooper, Jeffrey I. Gordon Science, Vol 292, Issue 5519, 1115-1118 , 11 May 2001

One potential outcome of the adaptive coevolution of humans and bacteria is the development of commensal relationships, where neither partner is harmed, or symbiotic relationships, where unique metabolic traits or other benefits are provided. Our gastrointestinal tract is colonized by a vast community of symbionts and commensals that have important effects on immune function, nutrient processing, and a broad range of other host activities. The current genomic revolution offers an unprecedented opportunity to identify the molecular foundations of these relationships so that we can understand how they contribute to our normal physiology and how they can be exploited to develop new therapeutic strategies.

HOW HOST-MICROBIAL INTERACTIONS SHAPE THE NUTRIENT ENVIRONMENT OF THE MAMMALIAN INTESTINE Lora V. Hooper, Tore Midtvedt, Jeffrey I. Gordon Annual Review of Nutrition, July 2002, Vol. 22: 283-307

Humans and other mammals are colonized by a vast, complex, and dynamic consortium of microorganisms. One evolutionary driving force for maintaining this metabolically active microbial society is to salvage energy from nutrients, particularly carbohydrates, that are otherwise nondigestible by the host. Much of our understanding of the molecular mechanisms by which members of the intestinal microbiota degrade complex polysaccharides comes from studies of Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, a prominent and genetically manipulatable component of the normal human and mouse gut. Colonization of germ-free mice with B. thetaiotaomicron has shown how this anaerobe modifies many aspects of intestinal cellular differentiation/gene expression to benefit both host and microbe. These and other studies underscore the importance of understanding precisely how nutrient metabolism serves to establish and sustain symbiotic relationships between mammals and their bacterial partners.

NUTRITION AND PREVENTION OF TYPE 2 DIABETES T. Costacou, E.J. Mayer-Davis Annual Review of Nutrition Jul 2003, Vol. 23: 147-170.

In recent years, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has increased alarmingly worldwide, giving diabetes the dimension of an epidemic. Striking parallel increases in the prevalence of obesity reflect the importance of body fatness as a contributing factor to diabetes incidence. Moreover, it has been estimated that up to 75% of the risk of type 2 diabetes is attributable to obesity. Recent clinical trials and observational epidemiologic studies demonstrate the efficacy of lifestyle changes, including decreased energy intake, decreased fat intake, and weight loss, as well as regular participation in physical activity, in improving insulin sensitivity (SI) and reducing the risk of diabetes. This review evaluates evidence of the effect of diet on insulin resistance, insulin secretion, and glucose tolerance, and reflects on directions for future work toward primary prevention of type 2 diabetes.

GUGULIPID: A Natural Cholesterol-Lowering Agent Nancy L. Urizar and David D. Moore Annual Review of Nutrition July 2003, Vol. 23, pp. 303-313

The resin of the Commiphora mukul tree has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for more than 2000 years to treat a variety of ailments. Studies in both animal models and humans have shown that this resin, termed gum guggul, can decrease elevated lipid levels. The stereoisomers E- and Z-guggulsterone have been identified as the active agents in this resin. Recent studies have shown that these compounds are antagonist ligands for the bile acid receptor farnesoid X receptor (FXR), which is an important regulator of cholesterol homeostasis. It is likely that this effect accounts for the hypolipidemic activity of these phytosteroids.

DIETARY, EVOLUTIONARY, AND MODERNIZING INFLUENCES ON THE PREVALENCE OF TYPE 2 DIABETES Leslie Sue Lieberman Annual Review of Nutrition July 2003, Vol. 23, pp. 345-377

An evolutionary perspective is used to elucidate the etiology of the current epidemic of type 2 diabetes estimated at 151 million people. Our primate legacy, fossil hominid, and hunting-gathering lifestyles selected for adaptive metabolically thrifty genotypes and phenotypes are rendered deleterious through modern lifestyles that increase energy input and reduce output. The processes of modernization or globalization include the availability and abundance of calorically dense/low-fiber/high-glycemic foods and the adoption of sedentary Western lifestyles, leading to obesity among both children and adults in developed and developing countries. These trends are projected to continue for a number of decades.