The eco-warriors are getting increasingly desperate in their histrionic attacks on science. A group of environmental activists will host a faux tribunal in The Hague to pretend to prosecute Monsanto for crimes against humanity. The Missouri-based company sells both genetically engineered seeds and pesticides, which makes them Enemy No. 1 of the socialist Luddites who lead the global environmental movement.
The lesson so far is lost on most lawmakers and regulators. In July, President Barack Obama signed a bill requiring foods containing genetically modified organisms to be labeled as such. It's an outwardly innocuous requirement that is supposed to leave consumers better informed but will actually cause many to be misled. The implication of the mandate is that there is some important difference between foods that contain GMOs and foods that don't. But there isn't. A recent report from the National Academy of Sciences confirmed that genetically engineered food is safe for humans, animals and the environment.This scientific reality is at odds with public opinion. A June poll by ABC News showed that only one-third of Americans think genetically modified foods are safe to eat. Federally required labels will encourage them to persist in that delusion. The government says tomato sauce may contain trace amounts of maggots. But it would not make sense to make companies publicize that ingredient because the disclosure would raise false fears.There are other ways in which labeling requirements can be harmful. Starting next year, the Food and Drug Administration will require chain restaurants to publish the calorie count of each beer on their menus.But there's scant evidence this sort of information makes much difference. Julie Downs, a scholar at Carnegie Mellon University, says that "putting calorie labels on menus really has little or no effect on people's ordering behaviors at all."
A group of mechanical engineering students at Brigham Young University-Idaho are helping the owners of a local cheese plant renovate existing equipment to produce new products. The five students, working under Alan Dutson, the university’s mechanical engineering academic outcomes and assessment director, are working to upgrade the Nelson-Ricks Creamery for their “capstone” project — which offers a real-world challenge in lieu of writing a thesis. It’s among several projects either in the works or in planning to increase the old cheese plant’s profitability, production and visibility within the Eastern Idaho community.
Just as the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur began Tuesday night, a federal judge lifted a temporary restraining order against a California synagogue performing a ritual where chickens are twirled in the air before they’re slaughtered. Judge Andre Birotte Jr. had granted the order last week at the request of an animal rights group called United Poultry Concerns, and he scheduled a hearing for Thursday. But that would have meant Yom Kippur would be over by the time he ruled, so Birotte moved up the hearing to Tuesday. The ritual known as Kaporos is typically performed in the run-up to Yom Kippur, which began Tuesday evening and ends Wednesday evening. It was not clear whether Chabad Irvine would perform it this year at all in spite of the decision. But its attorneys praised the lifting of the order as a victory nonetheless.
The United States is awash in pork, beef, eggs, milk and bountiful harvests. U.S. meat companies are producing nearly 5 percent more beef than in 2015, thanks in part to plentiful feed supplies. In turn, the big food producers like Cargill, are seeing profits rise. The Minnesota conglomerate recently reported a 66 percent jump in profits because of demand for its steaks and hamburgers. And yet the boom in supply is driving down prices at the grocery store, pinching retailer profits. The pressure may build with this week’s news that online retailer Amazon.com is opening a string of brick-and-mortar stores for its Fresh line of groceries. But while food price deflation may be good news for grocery shoppers, it’s having a boomerang effect on the restaurant industry, which is seeing other costs rise at the very time demand is flattening because folks are opting to cook at home instead of hitting the local steakhouse or fast-casual restaurant. Even demand for McDonald’s venerable gut-buster Big Mac is wheezing.
At the end of September, the agency announced that it would begin the process of redefining its official meaning of healthy, and would take into consideration public opinion. However, nutritional and medical experts as well as public health policy specialists say that the real root of the problem may actually be the word itself. They argue that defining healthy should not, and perhaps cannot be done. In September, a paper published in JAMA revealed that in the 1960s, as research started coming out that linked sugar and fat to a host of health conditions, sugar interest groups began funding and publicizing research that focused only on the latter link. Diet fads came to capitalize on that data, and turned “fat” into a four-letter word. The end result of having more and more publicized research on fat, reiterated ad nauseum by dietary trends, was that sugar came to fly under the radar. This has long been reflected by the FDA’s guidelines for “healthy” labels, whose inflexible stance on fat led KIND, a brand of granola bars, to make a complaint that it couldn’t label its product “healthy,’ but fat-free pudding and sugary breakfast cereals could.
ABC network, along with employees Diane Sawyer and Jim Avila, are asking a judge to dismiss a $1.2 billion defamation lawsuit regarding the network’s reporting on lean, finely textured, beef products. ABC had nicknamed the product “pink slime,” which Beef Products, Inc. claims led to significant losses. BPI filed the lawsuit in 2012 claiming the reporting led to the closure of three plants and roughly 700 layoffs. However, in the request for dismissal, ABC argues that the number of reports was driven primarily by questions from viewers.
Tyson Foods appears to be the first big meat company to invest in a business that, among other things, aims to reduce consumption of chicken, beef and pork by replacing it with plant proteins. Tyson, the country’s largest meat processor, announced last week that it was investing an undisclosed amount for a 5 percent stake in Beyond Meat, a company based in El Segundo, Calif., that makes “meats” from protein sources like soy and peas. Beyond Meat this year began selling the Beyond Burger, for instance, a plant-protein burger sold fresh that sizzles and oozes fats while cooking on a griddle. The venture capital arm of General Mills, 301 Inc., also has invested in Beyond Meat, as well as in Kite Hill, which uses nuts and other plant proteins to replace dairy products in cheese and other dairy items.
So far this year USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has reported more listeria-related recalls than the agency reported in 2013, 2014 and 2015 — combined. Although more robust testing surely is a factor in the increase, notably several recalls also represented the intersection of FSIS- and FDA-regulated companies. In none of those three recalls involving both sides were the products that meat processors make contaminated with Lm, which on the one hand speaks to the general success that meat processors have had in keeping that pathogen off their products. On the other, as value-added products become the rule, wherein meat processors partner with other food makers to make easy meals for consumers, recent recalls are a fresh reminder for meat processors to remain vigilant not only in controlling Lm on products though rigorous means of sanitation but also attacking it in the environment prior to product contamination.
After 20 years, the data are in: Genetic modification boosts crop yields by 21 percent and cuts pesticides by 37 percent. What have been the effects of this technology? In May a committee convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine completed a two-year review, “Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects.” The committee, which examined about 900 studies, painted a highly positive picture. The academies’ report found “no differences that would implicate a higher risk to human health from eating GE foods than from eating their non-GE counterparts.” It also “found little evidence to connect GE crops and their associated technologies with adverse agronomic or environmental problems.” In some cases, the review said, “planting Bt crops has tended to result in higher insect biodiversity,” by reducing pesticide use.