Monthly Archives: May 2009

Food poisoning lawyer Bill Marler calls Washington State University’s bluff over Michael Pollan cancellation threat

Here’s an excerpt from the NY Times story by Patricia Cohen:

Controversial author Michael Pollan

Controversial author Michael Pollan

Among the things that Bill Marler feels passionately about are Washington State University (his alma mater), food safety and negotiation. So after he heard about a dustup on campus over the cancellation of a program requiring all freshmen to read the same book — Michael Pollan’s double-fisted examination of agribusiness, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” — he stepped in to resolve it.

This month administrators said budget cuts forced them to suspend this year’s program, but some faculty members and students were skeptical. They suspected that the decision had less to do with money than with pressure from the state’s powerful agribusiness interests.

The nearly uncommon reading.

The nearly "uncommon" reading.

After all, they pointed out, the university had already purchased 4,000 copies of the book (published by Penguin Press), which links the agriculture industry to obesity, food poisoning and environmental damage.

So Mr. Marler, a personal-injury lawyer who has received a Distinguished Alumnus award and served on the university’s Board of Regents for six years, figured that he would find out if money was really the issue by offering to pay the program’s estimated $40,000 shortfall. The result is that the common reading is back on.

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Author Michael Pollan discusses food security with PBS host Bill Moyers

Michael Pollan, who is author of  “In Defense of Food” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” talks to Bill Moyers in this series of videos about some of his ideas for a forward-thinking American national food policy. This discussion with PBS host Bill Moyers was a followup to Michael Pollan’s earlier article in the New York Times, which was an open letter to the next Farmer in Chief. We found these videos on the Community Farm Alliance blog. Here’s part of what they say on that blog by way of introduction:

“…..In this series of videos, Pollan sits down with Bill Moyers to discuss what direction the U.S. should pursue in the often-overlooked question of food policy. The insights are incredibly relevant to the work of restoring our food system to one that preserves the health and wealth of Kentuckians that CFA members are so deeply engaged in. There’s even reference to our own Wendell Berry at the end. Enjoy!…”

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Australian experience with Animal I.D.

Today’s story is from Darol Dickenson of the naisstinks.com website. Nah, they wouldn’t be biased, or at least they’re not biased in favour of NAIS. The original title is a curious one “NAIS – on coon hunting and animal I.D.” But before we get to the main course, here are the two video clips mentioned further down in the story. They can be found on this page, along with other NAIS-related videos.

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Brazil shows what is possible when feeding people becomes a priority

The good news in John Perkins’ recent book “The Secret History of the American Empire” is that people all across South America (with the exception of drug-war-torn Columbia) have seen American imperialism for what it is and are taking back their goverments, despite assassinations and threats of “covert action” from imperial forces.

Secret no more!

Secret no more!

One shining example of the positive potential of such liberated government can be seen in Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte, where the city government has taken steps to move food from a commodity to a right. The important thing about all this is the precedent they’re setting. If they can do it there in a country as poor as Brazil, why couldn’t anyone do it anywhere? So now here’s that excerpt from Tuesday’s story on the Salt Spring News, titled “Belo Horizonte — The City that Ended Hunger”. The story is originally from Frances Moore Lappe’s “YES” website.

More than 10 years ago, Brazil’s fourth-largest city, Belo Horizonte, declared that food was a right of citizenship and started working to make good food available to all. One of its programs puts local farm produce into school meals. This and other projects cost the city less than 2 percent of its budget. Above, fresh passion fruit juice and salad as part of a school lunch.

More than 10 years ago, Brazil’s fourth-largest city, Belo Horizonte, declared that food was a right of citizenship and started working to make good food available to all. One of its programs puts local farm produce into school meals. This and other projects cost the city less than 2 percent of its budget. Above, fresh passion fruit juice and salad as part of a school lunch. Photo by Leah Rimkus

“….The new mayor [of Brazil’s 4th largest city], Patrus Ananias—now leader of the federal anti-hunger effort—began by creating a city agency, which included assembling a 20-member council of citizen, labor, business, and church representatives to advise in the design and implementation of a new food system. The city already involved regular citizens directly in allocating municipal resources—the “participatory budgeting” that started in the 1970s and has since spread across Brazil.

During the first six years of Belo’s food-as-a-right policy, perhaps in response to the new emphasis on food security, the number of citizens engaging in the city’s participatory budgeting process doubled to more than 31,000. The city agency developed dozens of innovations to assure everyone the right to food, especially by weaving together the interests of farmers and consumers. It offered local family farmers dozens of choice spots of public space on which to sell to urban consumers, essentially redistributing retailer mark-ups on produce—which often reached 100 percent—to consumers and the farmers. Farmers’ profits grew, since there was no wholesaler taking a cut. And poor people got access to fresh, healthy food. …” Continue reading

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Must people already have a healthy immune system to safely drink raw milk?

A recent lawsuit against a California dairy begs the question of whether it would be good business for raw dairies to sell only to the healthy and shun the sick and immune-compromised, from whose ranks adverse reactions and lawsuits are more likely to arise. But what about all those people who rebuilt their immune systems thanks to raw milk? Here’s another excerpt from a recent post on David E. Gumpert’s ever-insightful “The Complete Patient” blog:

The Alexandre family

The Alexandre family

“For some years, Stephanie and Blake Alexandre were socially friendly with Mari and Peter Tardiff in northern California’s Del Norte County. The couples attended charity and other such events together.

They were together at a party at the Tardiff’s home on Saturday evening June 7, 2008, Stephanie Alexandre recalls. Mari complained to Stephanie that she was feeling sick. Mari had only joined the cowshare a week previously, and picked up her first milk the previous Sunday, June 1.

Stephanie says it was her first hint that raw milk from her Alexandre Family EcoDairy Farms may have been the cause of illness not only in Mari, but possibly as many as 15 other individuals who had picked it up the previous Sunday. (The Alexandre family is pictured above.)

As things turned out, Mari would become extremely ill, with campylobacter that evolved into a rare condition known as Guillain Barre Syndrome. It would leave her nearly completely paralyzed, and now, while she recovers, still dependent on 24-hour care.

The reason I tell this story is that Mari Tardiff’s attorney, Bill Marler, has posted a video about how Mari and her husband, Peter, are dealing with Mari’s illness. It is an extremely sad story. What I found especially upsetting about the six-minute or so video, though, was a statement at the end by Mari’s husband, Peter, suggesting that the Alexandres knew in advance about campylobacter problems at their dairy….”

Get the whole story from The Complete Patient blog.

See our earlier post about the situation around this dairy.

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Governor-General Jean eats fresh raw seal heart in solidarity with Innuit; will Michael Schmidt’s raw milk be next on the GG’s culinary tourism menu?

That was the suggestion of one commenter following the National Post story on Governor-General Michaëlle Jean’s latest culinary exploit. But first, here’s an excerpt from that National Post story:

Detail from R. Crumbs album cover for Janis Joplins Cheap Thrills.

Detail from R. Crumb's album cover for Janis Joplin's "Cheap Thrills".

“In what she described as a gesture of solidarity with seal hunters, Governor-General Michaëlle Jean gutted a freshly-killed seal and ate a piece of its heart. 

Jean’s symbolic gesture was done on the first day of a visit to Nunavut to celebrate the territory’s 10th anniversary. Canadian Press has the story:

“Jean knelt above a pair of carcasses and used a traditional blade to slice the meat off the skin. After repeated, vigorous cuts through the flesh the Queen’s representative turned to the woman beside her and asked enthusiastically: “Could I try the heart?” Afterward Jean grabbed a tissue to wipe clean her blood-soaked fingers, and explained her gesture of solidarity with the region’s Inuit hunters.

 And just how does seal heart taste? Jean dons her food reviewer cap:

“It’s like sushi,” she said. “And it’s very rich in protein.”…”

And now here’s that comment, from “freebel”:

“Well done; can GG please visit Ontario and accept a glass of milk from Mr. Michael Schmidt to show ignorant McGuinty that his ‘raw milk’ is safe and everybody should have the right of choice without government telling you what is ‘good’ for you.” Continue reading

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Kentucky Farmers and community supporters protest at recent USDA “listening” session for NAIS concerns

Let’s hope it’s becoming abundantly clear to the American public what the National Animal Identification System is really all about. Think about this: It burdens small operators with a mountain of paperwork, enforced with draconian penalties, while requiring a minimal amount of record-keeping by the large operators whose confined animal feeding operations more often seem to be the source of emerging new pathogens (Ref 1, Ref 2, Ref 3). And what’s more, the program’s much-vaunted tracking of meat animals ends at the slaughterhouse door. Now what kind of use is that for any food safety purposes? I’m sure there is a reason NAIS is being pushed so hard, but I doubt it has much to do with food safety. Here’s a report on the outcome of one of the latest USDA “listening sessions”,  from the Community Farm Alliance:

Community Farm Alliance -- sounds like something America could certainly use more of!

Community Farm Alliance -- sounds like something America could certainly use more of!

“KENTUCKY FAMILY FARMERS AND ALLIED GRASSROOTS GROUPS PROTEST NATIONAL ANIMAL IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM AT USDA PUBLIC HEARING

Small Farmers Say Big Business Gets the Long End of the Stick as USDA Stacks the Deck

Louisville, KY (May 22, 2009) The Community Farm Alliance today charged that the agenda for the upcoming listening tour for the National Animal Identification System is biased against small family farmers and will do nothing to improve animal health or food safety. Members of the Community Farm Alliance are especially outraged that the USDA’s proposed system favors large corporate agri-business and factory farming. Ultimately, full implementation of NAIS would annihilate family scale farms, which are the majority of farms in Kentucky. Continue reading

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