Category: Drought

MIDYEAR RECAP: PUSHBACK ON NEW POLICIES

This edition of Influence Feed ranks the most highly discussed topics from the past six months as well as recent insight from our influencers. Commitments from large food companies and analysis from various nongovernmental organizations drove influencer conversations of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and pesticides. Regulatory action enflamed debates about agricultural policies and practices. Meanwhile, drought in California served as a consistent backdrop for commentary on agriculture in the United States.

In recent events, influencers have turned to Washington to address concerns about the health of humans and of poultry: Poultry farmers aired grievances regarding the handling of the avian flu epidemic; a nutrition study called for a reduction in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages; and the prepared food industry applauded a relaxed deadline on menu labeling.

Regulation and Rejoinders

Influencers critical of modern agricultural practices are often quick to propagate information that showcases these modern practices in a negative light. This same group is noticeably silent when information is favorable. That was certainly the case following two recent reports from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding antibiotic use. See which report drew plenty of attention and which drew silence in the latest edition of Influence Feed.

Antibiotic Resistance Plan, Glyphosate Debate

Discussion regarding antibiotic use in food production continues to gain prominence. See what the White House has announced regarding its position on fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria and why one vocal congresswoman says the administration’s position does not go far enough. You’ll find reactions to this and other issues shaping food and agriculture in the latest edition of Influence Feed.

Causes, criticism and caution

Even around the Labor Day weekend, there was no holiday from debate over the substantive issues facing our food industry.

Take a New Yorker piece on environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva, whose global campaign against genetically modified crops prompted reaction, reflection and rebuttal. Or consider legislative efforts to address the drought in California through water regulation. Although the legislation gained support in government, the focus on regulating groundwater use will result in family farmers and ranchers “dealing with the consequences of the legislation for years to come,” as one California farm leader pointed out.

Causes and solutions are seldom black and white. You’ll find some deep reflection on the details in this edition of the Influence Feed.

Speaking Up

The past two weeks saw a relative absence of pivotal new issues in food and agriculture, but several topics maintained high-level dialogues among influencers. The discussion regarding the definition of wholesomeness and healthfulness continued on several fronts, while food manufacturers felt pressure in the form of identifying and limiting added sugars. Traditional grocery and quick-service chains continue to capitalize on “free-from” labeling to compete with growing competition from “supernatural” outlets. In addition, skeptics of the current school lunch program became increasingly vocal, requiring its defenders to underscore its benefits and successes.

Critics specifically challenged poultry production during this period, demanding—and receiving—responses from industry leadership. The Meat Racket continued to make waves in major media outlets. Meanwhile, the Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection rule met heavy criticism in Congress.

Numbers, Figures and the Fine Print

Between announcing the federal government’s first major updates to the Nutrition Facts panel in 20 years and the restriction of in-school advertising of foods that don’t meet healthy guidelines, first lady Michelle Obama had a busy couple of weeks. Those announcements made waves throughout food and agriculture circles, as did a few other players who approached the issues with eye-catching facts to get results. Azodicarbonamide would probably have not been removed from Subway’s ingredient list had a blogger not pointed out that the common dough conditioning agent was also used in the manufacture of yoga mats. The USDA, in an effort to resuscitate its Food Waste Challenge program, calculated the waste figure in the trillions of calories. And a publicity writer compared the cancer risks of eating animal protein to those of smoking, generating a massive discussion about a well-debated topic in an academic study published in Cell Metabolism.