There’s been a lot going on in the agriculture world so let’s take a look.
FDA May Remove Heart Healthy Labels on Soy Products: For years now some soy based products have been claiming that they are “heart healthy” based on a claim that using soy caused a reduction in cholesterol. But we’ve known since at least 2005 that consuming soy has little or no effect on reducing cholesterol. It looks like it only took FDA twelve years to figure that out and announce that it was going to make the 300 or so soy products that make that claim to stop using it.
Why the confusion over the issue? It’s suspected that the initial reduction in bad cholesterol that was shown wasn’t caused by soy, but by the participants in the study replacing red meat with soy products. It was the reduction in meat consumption that reduced the cholesterol, not the soy.
Food Waste and Bogus Statistics: Then I ran across this item over at AgWeb which tries to claim that there is virtually no food waste when it comes to eating meat. They claim that about 20% of fruit and vegetables get thrown away rather than eaten, but that only 3% of meat gets thrown out. Therefore, they claim, buying fruit and vegetables is far more harmful to the environment than meat production The article goes on to say that eating meat is “more satisfying” than the equivalent amount of vegetables or fruit, and that meat tastes better than plants and loading meat animals up with antibiotics is just fine and dandy because …
Oh, brother, I just can’t go on any more… She is basically claiming that because consumers throw out only about 3% of the meat they buy, meat is somehow enormously better for the environment than fruit and vegetable production, and that producing fruit and veg is actually harmful to the environment because people throw away some of it..
I’m not even going to try to follow the mental gymnastics that she goes through to try to come to that conclusion.
But I do notice one thing, that the article completely ignores the fact that almost half of a steer is inedible. Assuming you have a 1,000 lb. steer, only about 600 pounds or less is going to be useable meat. The rest; the head, innards, bones, skin, fat, etc. is inedible. Once you add in things that are trimmed off by the consumer after purchase like fat and small bones that are discarded, etc., you quickly discover that almost half of that steer can’t be used as food.
So in one way, yes, when you get that steak home you’re going to eat almost all of it. But that’s because all of the waste has been trimmed off long before you even see it in the grocery store.
Clovis Withdraws Nomination: Sam Clovis withdrew his name from consideration for a post at USDA as undersecretary for research. The job requires a thorough understanding of agriculture, scientific research methods, and basically was intended for someone who is, if not a scientist, at least someone with a thorough understanding of farming, agriculture, and science. So what were Clovis’ qualifications? Is he a scientist? No. Is he a farmer? No. Has he ever worked in any kind of business related to agriculture? No. He is a former talk radio host and a political science professor. Well, here is the man’s own words in response to questions from the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee’s top Democrat, Debbie Stabenow:
“Please list all graduate-level courses you have taken in natural science,” the second of 10 questions requested.
“None,” Clovis replied.
“Please list all membership and leadership roles you have held within any agricultural scientific, agricultural education, or agricultural economic organizations,” the third question read.
“None,” Clovis replied.
“Please describe any awards, designations, or academic recognition you have received specifically related to agricultural science,” the fourth question read.
“None,” Clovis replied.
Dicamba. Yes, Again: The apparently never ending saga about the herbicide dicamba continues. According to a report by the University of Missouri dicamba damaged 3.6 million acres of soybeans this past year. That’s a hell of a lot of beans.
The EPA has issued new labeling requirements that more strictly control how the dicamba herbicide blends from Monsanto, BASF and DuPont are used in an attempt to eliminate the problems, but the problem has been so wide spread that some states are considering issuing outright bans on the product. And a lot of people doubt that the new application restrictions and guidelines are going to do much to get a handle on the problem.
I think they’re playing with fire here. So far everyone has been focusing on the damage done to soybeans. Considering how easily this stuff seems to vaporize and drift long distances, it could very easily begin damaging large areas of ornamental plants, food crops, etc.
I’ve even been hearing conspiracy theories from some people. They’re claiming that the herbicide blends were deliberately made to drift like this to force farmers to plant Monsanto’s dicamba resistant soybeans whether they want to or not.
USDA Kills “Farmer Fair Practices Rules” (GIPSA): On Oct. 18 USDA announced it is totally dumping the FFPR, a set of rules that attempted to correct many of the abuses endured by “contract” farmers, farmers who don’t actually own the crop or animals they are growing. The famers own the land, the equipment, buildings, provide the labor, etc. but the product they are growing actually belongs to the company and is grown under a contract for a fixed price. Almost all of the chickens raised in the US are produced this way.
They may be “independent farmers”, because the big companies don’t own them, but they have only one client, and that client controls everything. They are essentially indentured servants with few if any rights. These companies are accused of price fixing, blacklisting farmers, canceling contracts on a whim, and engaging in retaliation against farmers who make waves.
The FFPR was intended to help give the famers a bit more control and flexibility to sue in cases of blatantly unfair practices.
I’m not going to get into this any deeper because it would take many, many pages to describe the whole situation. You can go do the research yourself if you’re interested. But as Chuck Grassley, a senator from Iowa said about killing the FFPR: “They’re just pandering to big corporations. They aren’t interested in the family farmer.”
Just What Is Organic Anyway? I don’t know about you, but when I think of the term “organic” the definition definitely does not include acres of green houses containing thousands of trays of robotically tended plants under grow lights being grown by soaking the roots in a chemical nutrient solution. In other words, hydroponics.
But according to the National Organic Standards Board, it is. The NOSB has ruled that hydroponics is organic.
Look, I have nothing against hydroponics. It’s an extremely useful technology. But isn’t “organic” a lot more than just producing herbicide free food?
2 thoughts on “More Farm Stuff”
I find this organic thing so opaque. They have these incredibly strict standards but they aren’t often not what the people who buy “organic” think they are.
I have a friend who thinks it is basically just local.
I have another who just wants her meat/milk to be antibiotic free. Doesn’t care too much about herbicides and chemical fertilizers. At least she is supposed to achieve that with Organic.
I have another who thinks it just means not GMO, but she isn’t really clear on what GMO means. She thinks it has something to do with chemicals causing genetic problems in humans.
Organic is basically benefiting from the misunderstanding of the consumers the same way that the “all natural” label is. It just has a lot of standards behind it and “All Natural” is mostly don’t add artificial color and preservative. But it doesn’t matter because most of the consumers aren’t actually buying the standards. They are buying a vague idea that they are doing the better thing. It’s guilt food for rich people.
Don’t get me wrong – some kind of standard needs to be set because I don’t doubt that all food manufacturers would label everything from twinkies to salami with the word “organic” if there wan’t a standard. I just find it amusing that despite it’s efforts, consumers only respond to the concept – and don’t really care if it’s real.
You’re right, of course. The “legal” definitions of these terms is nebulous, uncertain and often confusing. I was just reading an article that said most consumers don’t really know what the labels mean.
Unfortunately the food industry has done everything it can to make the situation as confusing as they possibly can.
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