Gene Silencing of GMO’s Not Considered

While the topic of gene silencing brought about by ingestion of GMO’s has had some scientific study done, not once has it been taken into consideration by the Powers that Shouldn’t Be when approving GMO’s for human or animal consumption in the US. The article below touches on that subject in relation to the recent approval of GMO Simplot potatoes. These are the primary potatoes for McDonald’s french fries.

Poorly tested gene silencing technology to enter food supply with Simplot potato

on 08 November 2014.

USDA approves new GM potato developed with new, little understood form of genetic engineering called RNA interference (RNAi)

EXCERPT: “We simply don’t know enough about RNA interference technology to determine whether GE crops developed with it are safe for people and the environment. If this is an attempt to give crop biotechnology a more benign face, all it has really done is expose the inadequacies of the U.S. regulation of GE crops. These approvals are riddled with holes and are extremely worrisome,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, Ph.D., CFS director of sustainable agriculture and senior scientist.

Poorly tested gene silencing technology to enter food supply with Simplot potato

Center for Food Safety, November 7th, 2014
http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press-releases/3594/poorly-tested-gene-silencing-technology-to-enter-food-supply-with-simplot-potato

* A new form of genetic engineering will soon be sold to unsuspecting consumers

Center for Food Safety (CFS) is today warning consumers about a new genetically engineered (GE) potato that may soon enter the food supply. Because GE foods are not required to be labeled, the new GE potato will be sold to consumers without their knowledge. The GE potato was one of two new crops approved today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that uses a new, little understood form of genetic engineering called RNA interference (RNAi). The other is a new low-lignin alfalfa from Monsanto. Despite the unprecedented nature of these approvals, USDA has inexplicably failed to undertake the legally required rigorous and overarching analysis of the GE crops’ impacts or reasonably foreseeable consequences.

“We simply don’t know enough about RNA interference technology to determine whether GE crops developed with it are safe for people and the environment. If this is an attempt to give crop biotechnology a more benign face, all it has really done is expose the inadequacies of the U.S. regulation of GE crops. These approvals are riddled with holes and are extremely worrisome,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, Ph.D., CFS director of sustainable agriculture and senior scientist.

Analysis of RNAi by a panel of independent scientists requested by the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that there were many significant uncertainties about potential risks from this technology, and that current risk assessment procedures were not adequate. Despite such cautions USDA is rushing the technology forward.

Unlike earlier genetic engineering techniques that splice in segments of DNA, the new technique used in the Simplot potato and Monsanto’s low-lignin alfalfa is based on the manipulation of the plant’s RNA-based control mechanisms. RNA interference (RNAi) induces the plant to silence or dial back expression of the plant’s own genes, such as those responsible for natural processes like browning or lignin production.. However, RNA manipulations may end up turning down, or off, genes other than those that were targeted because many genes contain similar, or even identical, stretches of DNA. Current testing requirements do not reliably detect such effects on other important crop genes.

Concerns with Simplot Potato:

Developed by the J.R. Simplot Company, the potato would be the only GE potato variety on the U.S. commercial market. The Simplot potato has been genetically engineered with RNAi technology to reduce browning by silencing the expression of one of five polyphenol oxidase genes, which is normally highly expressed in potato tubers. This is attractive to the potato processing industry because bruised potatoes are culled for cosmetic reasons. However, bruised potatoes have not been associated with health risks.

These potatoes are also silenced for genes affecting sugar production and the amino acid asparagine, which during frying and baking lead to the production of acrylamide, a probable carcinogen. However, it is unclear whether the observed reductions will lead to positive health outcomes, given that acrylamide is found in many other foods. In addition, fried potato products have other serious negative health effects.

“In light of the obesity crisis, there has been an important national push to discourage children and adults from eating large quantities of fried foods like french fries or chips. In creating the false illusion that fried potatoes are now healthy, the Simplot potato sends the absolute opposite message,” said Elizabeth Kucinich, policy director at CFS. “Claims of health benefits by USDA and Simplot are short sighted, misleading, and in the light of the science, could actually be potentially dangerous.”

The asparagine gene has also been shown in recent research to be important in plant defenses against pathogens. The Simplot potato was not adequately tested for a possible weakening of its ability to defend itself against disease. If this occurs in the field, it could lead to increased fungicide use, greater farmer expense, and possibly reduced productivity. The latter effect was seen in several tests of these potatoes.

“We need answers to these questions before these potatoes are commercialized,” said Gurian-Sherman.

Concerns with Monsanto’s Low-Lignin Alfalfa:

Monsanto and Forage Genetics International (FGI) have genetically engineered alfalfa for reduced levels of lignin through the suppression of a key enzyme in the lignin biosynthetic pathway. It represents the first non-regulated GE crop with reduced lignin levels. Lignin and its building blocks perform many functions in plants, including structural stability and plant defense. Lowering lignin levels could make the alfalfa more prone to attack by insects or diseases, and potentially increase pesticide use. Moreover, there are still many unknowns about how plants make lignin, making it premature to manipulate this important pathway. Additionally, alfalfa is a perennial crop and can cross-pollinate at great distances, allowing it to interbreed with other types of alfalfa. Any adverse impacts of the new variety will therefore be spread rapidly through much or all of the alfalfa seed supply

Regulatory Failures:

USDA assessed the risk from these crops under the inadequate plant pest provisions of the Plant Protection Act (PPA) of 2000. USDA has ignored the noxious weed provision of the PPA, which would allow a more thorough risk assessment. By failing to develop reasonable regulations under the PPA 14 years after its passage, USDA continues to fail in its mandate to protect the public and the environment.

 

Feeding Hogs Swine Is Likely Culprit in Hog Deaths

Feed Is Suspect in Spread of Deadly Pig Virus

March 30, 2014 7:28 p.m. ET

Porcine plasma has been a mainstay of piglet diets in the U.S. since the 1990s. It helps protect young pigs from disease and helps them switch from milk to a grain-heavy diet. Shown, a sow and her healthy piglets on a Missouri farm last year. Associated Press

My Comments on following article:

 Despite the nearly 100% traceability achieved in hogs via ADT (which is NAIS done a little differently, or the National Animal Identification System after name change) the hog industry is STILL experiencing a massive disease problem. The entire sell behind NAIS was that traceability would stop disease. Ha! We all know that tags or chips can’t stop disease, and this PED epidemic shows that solidly.

 However, there are some pretty serious issues brought to light by the PED epidemic. First of all, it should be obvious to anyone that the forced cannibalism that is largely responsible for Mad Cow (BSE) is a bad idea for all species. Secondly, the consolidation in agriculture, especially hogs and chickens, is a serious concern. The fewer producers of food, the easier it is to run into natural or created shortages.

 Anyway, kudos to the reporter for doing a good job on the feed issue that looks to be responsible for 7 million pig deaths in about one year….Truthfarmer

Scientists and regulators investigating the mysterious spread of a deadly virus plaguing the U.S. pork industry are stepping up their scrutiny of what the nation’s hog herd eats.

With a dearth of solid leads, investigators are exploring whether something in pig feed could be a conduit for porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, which has spread to 27 states and killed millions of young pigs since it was first identified in the U.S. last April. One focus of the inquiry: porcine plasma, a widely used feed ingredient made from the blood of slaughtered hogs and fed to piglets.

Scientists say the virus, one of the most devastating diseases to afflict U.S. livestock in years, is fatal only to young pigs, and poses no threat to human health or food safety. But it has rapidly increased costs for major hog-farm operators, such as Smithfield Foods Inc. and Maschoffs LLC, as prices for replacement pigs have soared to new highs.

The disease threatens to curb U.S. pork supplies in coming months and raise costs for big meat processors, such as Hormel Foods Corp. and Hillshire Brands Co. , as well as retailers and consumers, analysts say.

The number of new confirmed cases of the virus has accelerated recently, confounding farmers and veterinarians, who have ramped up their already stringent “biosecurity” measures since last spring. Those precautions include more aggressively disinfecting trucks and workers’ boots and clothing when they enter and leave farms and barns.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Agriculture Department and pork-industry officials are examining a range of feed ingredients and manufacturing processes as well as other possible pathways for the virus, like contaminated air or dust particles carried from farm to farm.

Though the evidence is inconclusive, some researchers say that porcine plasma could be spreading the virus from adult pigs that show few symptoms, or that some plasma may have been contaminated in transit.

The ingredient has been a mainstay of piglet diets in the U.S. since the 1990s, after scientists discovered it provided antibodies to protect young pigs from disease and helped them switch from feeding from their mother to the grain-heavy diet common on livestock farms.

Studying feed is hard because manufacturers mix and process feed differently. Associated Press

Last month, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency disclosed that it had found plasma contaminated with the virus, after multiple hog farms in Ontario that were hit by PED, and another farm on Prince Edward Island with a suspected case, all reported that they bought feed from the same vendor, Ontario-based Grand Valley Fortifiers.

The Canadian agency said that the virus was present in plasma that originated in the U.S. and was obtained at the company that manufactured Grand Valley’s feed, which the agency has declined to identify. It said the plasma contained virus “capable of causing disease in pigs.”

Earlier this month, however, the agency said laboratory tests in which it fed Grand Valley’s feed pellets to piglets failed to demonstrate that the feed, which contained plasma and many other ingredients, could cause infection.

Still, Grand Valley recalled its products containing plasma and no longer uses the ingredient, said Chief Executive Ian Ross. “While we don’t have conclusive evidence that our feed infected any pigs, it is clear that live virus was present in the plasma in some of our products,” he said. “We’re not willing to play Russian roulette with clients, hoping we never get a bad batch [of plasma] in the future.”

The U.S. Agriculture Department and the FDA, which have been investigating potential pathways for the virus’s spread, said they haven’t been able to link feed samples to a known case of the disease. The FDA has been studying the manufacturing process at the U.S. facility that supplied plasma for the Grand Valley feed, and is seeking “to learn more” about the conditions the raw material is subjected to, said agency spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey.

Scientists say studying animal feed is difficult because feed manufacturers mix and process their feed differently.

Porcine plasma is one of more than 40 ingredients in typical piglet feed. “Many people think that feed is the most likely suspect,” said Greg Stevenson, a veterinary pathologist at Iowa State University who has studied the virus. “But practically speaking, we have no proof.”

Suspicions already have roiled the half-dozen companies that manufacture plasma in the U.S. and Canada; some farmers have stopped feeding the ingredient to their pigs, out of caution.

Sunterra Farms, of Acme, Alberta, recently stopped feeding plasma to the 300,000 pigs it raises each year in the U.S. and Canada. “There are a lot of people making this decision,” said Ben Woolley, vice president.

“People are turning away from the products,” said John Bowlsby, a vice president of Minnesota-based Hemotech LLC, a U.S. plasma supplier whose business has suffered. “We’re trying to weather the storm on this.”

Smithfield Foods, a unit of China’s WH Group Ltd. and the largest hog farmer and pork processor in the world, declined to comment on plasma. Maschoffs, North America’s largest family-owned pork producer, said that without firmer epidemiological evidence linking plasma to the virus it continues to use the ingredient in piglet diets while working with suppliers to ensure its safety.

The North American Spray Dried Blood and Plasma Protein Producers, which represents plasma makers, said porcine blood products that are properly sourced, collected and processed are safe and don’t contribute to the spread of the virus. Louis Russell, the group’s chairman, said that feed ingredients like plasma could be contaminated after processing, during transportation or mixing.

Porcine plasma is made from blood captured in chilled vats at slaughterhouses. It is treated with an anticoagulant and spun in a centrifuge to separate the plasma from blood cells, then transported in insulated trucks to processing plants. The plasma is shot through a spray nozzle into a heated chamber to evaporate excess water, leaving a powder that is run through stainless-steel dryers, bagged and shipped to feed companies.

Plasma makers say they collect blood only from healthy animals in federally inspected slaughter plants. But because the virus has only a mild effect on fully grown hogs, infected animals might not be identified at slaughter, said Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council, a trade group.

Mr. Russell, who is also CEO of American Protein Corp., of Ankeny, Iowa, one of the world’s largest plasma producers, said the industry is conducting research to “validate” the safety of the product. “We understand the significance of this disease,” he said. “We’re working closely with other groups to understand how we can contribute to solving the problems of the disease.”

Write to Jesse Newman at jesse.newman@wsj.com and Kelsey Gee at kelsey.gee@wsj.com

Monsanto Protection Act is Now Law

If people remember, before Obama became President he said he would get GMO’s labeled…Ha! Instead, in the standard American corporate government method, he just gave the go ahead for massive expansion of GMO crops. While other nations are firmly constraining and refusing these aberrations, we get more of them here. Almost makes on want to move to a non-GMO country. Even China is refusing to accept shipments of this garbage.

More ‘Corporate Welfare’: Obama Signs ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ Into Law
Just signed provision prevents federal courts from stopping the planting of genetically engineered crops, despite health, environmental consequences

– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

“In this hidden backroom deal, Senator Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental, and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto,” said Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety. (Photo: Peter Blanchard/flickr)
President Obama signed what has been dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” on Tuesday, legislation critics say amounts to “corporate welfare” for biotechnology corporations like Monsanto, and puts farmers and the environment in jeopardy.

Summing up the provision in H.R. 933: Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, Eric Darier, a senior campaigner on sustainable agriculture at Greenpeace International explains that it

will effectively bar US federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops even if they failed to be approved by the government’s own weak approval process and no matter what the health or environmental consequences might be.
The rider from H.R. 933 reads:

 

Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, writes that the rider presents a “threat to farmers and the environment,” and that while the rider’s language indicates that steps will be taken “…to mitigate or minimize potential adverse environmental effects…,” historical evidence shows that there are indeed risks. In 2006, for example,

unapproved GE rice owned by Bayer, probably originating from a small, short-term controlled field trial in Arkansas, was found to have contaminated the U.S. rice supply. That little incident resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost rice exports and farmer lawsuits that continued for years. […]

A similar threat exists to the environment in the form of gene flow—the transfer of genes from one organism to another—from crops to wild cousins, or from poorly domesticated cultivated plants like forest trees or grasses grown for lumber, pulp, or biofuel.

In fact, gene flow of glyphosate herbicide-resistant creeping bentgrass has already occurred…twice. This also happened from temporary field trials that were conducted in Central Oregon and nearby Idaho specifically to prevent gene flow! USDA mandated an isolation zone of 900 feet around the trial, but gene flow occurred up to 13 miles from the Oregon site.
There could be “long-lasting and serious consequences” from the rider, writes Appetite for Profit author Michele Simon. “This list of pending petitions to USDA to approve genetically-engineered crops includes new versions of corn, soybean, canola, and cotton. Once these crops get planted, it will be too late to do much about it.”

The Center for Food Safety writes that it was Senator Barbara Mikulski, the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee (D-MD), who allowed the legislation to move forward without hearings and without bringing it in front of the Agriculture or Judiciary Committees.

“In this hidden backroom deal, Senator Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental, and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto,” Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement.

This is the kind of deal biotechnology corporations have been hoping for, according to Food Democracy Now!, a group that has been campaigning against the GE rider. “Since losing a court case in 2010 to Center for Food Safety for the unlawful planting of GMO sugar beets, Monsanto and other biotech companies have been desperate to find a way around court mandated environmental impact statements required as a result of a U.S. district court’s ruling,” the group writes.

Gurian-Sherman writes that the rider has biotechnology corporations’ fingerprints all over it:

It was introduced anonymously, without accountability. But let me stick my neck out and say that it is highly likely that the biotech industry influenced the introduction and passing of this rider. Monsanto spends more money influencing our government than any other agriculture company. It spent millions, more than any other firm, to defeat the efforts in California to label engineered foods.
In her post titled “Monsanto Teams up with Congress to Shred the Constitution,” Simon adds that this is “such a big deal” because

The court system is often our last hope, with Congress, the White House, and regulatory agencies deep inside industry’s pocket. Several legal challenges have resulted in court decisions overturning USDA’s approval of new GMO crops, for example, sugar beets.
So the biotech industry, unable to make its case to a judge, figured why not just rewrite the Constitution instead…
Darier concludes that the ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ ultimately shows the power corporations wield at the expense of democracy:

This should also be a reminder to all of us across the world of the ability of some corporations like Monsanto to influence policymakers to adopt measures that are against sustainable agriculture, farmers, consumers and the environment. And let’s add now to this list: independent judicial review! A very sad day for democracy and the future of our food.
_____________________________

 

Missouri resolution FOR Agent Orange Crop Approval

So here in the home state of Monsatan, the General Assembly is running a resolution to encourage the US Congress to instruct the USDA to approve 24D crops quickly. These are crops that are genetically modified to be resistant to one of the most important ingredients in Agent Orange. The supposed need for this approval is that weeds are becoming resistant to glyphosate (Round  Up) and we definitely ought to get more toxins in our food supply and start growing other herbicide resistant genetically modified poisons for general consumption.

If you’re not in Missouri, please check your own State for such things. Round Up Ready alfalfa was approved after a similar push by 75 US Congress members wrote a letter to the USDA about how important it was for farmers to be able to grow toxic crops.

For Missouri, you can go to http://www.moga.mo.gov to find your representative. Please call and encourage your rep to go against this resolution.

Here is the language of the resolution:

HOUSE COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE FOR

House Concurrent Resolution No. 20

97TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY

5632H.02C

WHEREAS, the total economic impact of agricultural sectors in Missouri is over $31.4 billion annually and contributes to our nation’s robust agricultural tradition; and

WHEREAS, Missouri’s production of corn, cotton, and soybeans alone is valued at more than $3.7 billion per year, with nearly 80 percent of corn and cotton and 50 percent of soybeans exported annually; and

WHEREAS, these yields are threatened due to no less than six weed species having developed glyphosate resistance throughout important agricultural counties in the state; and

WHEREAS, without access to new modes of action, farmers soon will be forced to revert to outdated, costly, and environmentally unsustainable farming practices to manage weeds such as tillage and weeding by hand; and

WHEREAS, crops tolerant to 2,4-D and dicamba represent new technologies that will inhibit herbicide-resistant weeds from reducing crop yields in Missouri and allow farmers to employ ecological and economical farming practices; and

WHEREAS, these new seed technologies have been under review by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for three to four years or more; and

WHEREAS, these delays by federal regulatory agencies put Missouri farmers at a competitive disadvantage in the global marketplace as Canada and Brazil have already approved some of these crops; and

WHEREAS, American farmers also must have access to these same tools to provide a livelihood to their families and ensure that Missouri remains a top agricultural producing state:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the members of the House of Representatives of the Ninety-seventh General Assembly, Second Regular Session, the Senate concurring therein, hereby request the United States Congress to urge the USDA and EPA to quickly approve 2,4-D and dicamba tolerant crops to allow Missouri farmers fair access to needed advancements in agriculture; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chief Clerk of the Missouri House of Representatives be instructed to prepare a properly inscribed copy of this resolution for the Majority and Minority Leaders of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives and each member of the Missouri Congressional delegation.

USDA Now Wants to Save the Bees

Funny that we have to spend millions to figure out what we already know. How typical. Those who create the problem use your money to find their solution. Maybe I am being a bit too cynical here, but it gets tough not to be after seeing so many offenses and atrocities.

For your consideration:

Feds unveil plan to save honey bees — and $15 billion in crops they pollinate

Claiming that the future of American food production depends on a revived honey bee population, the Agriculture Department on Tuesday announced it will spend $3 million to help ranchers and farmers improve the health of the bugs, key to pollinating $15 billion worth of food.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement, “Expanded support for research, combined with USDA’s other efforts to improve honey bee health, should help America’s beekeepers combat the current, unprecedented loss of honey bee hives each year.”

The money will be in the form of financial assistance and technical help targeted to five Midwestern states: Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

“Honey bee pollination supports an estimated $15 billion worth of agricultural production, including more than 130 fruits and vegetables that are the foundation of a nutritious diet. The future security of America’s food supply depends on healthy honey bees,” added Vilsack.

The bee industry has been under assault from pests and enemies for years, but the recent emergence of mysterious “Colony Collapse Disorder” has resulted in the deaths of 30 percent to 50 percent of honey bee colonies each year, double the normal rate.

Ag said the assistance “will provide guidance and support to farmers and ranchers to implement conservation practices that will provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees. For example, appropriate cover crops or rangeland and pasture management may provide a benefit to producers by reducing erosion, increasing the health of their soil, inhibiting invasive species, providing quality forage and habitat for honey bees and other pollinators, as well as habitat for other wildlife.”

The area was chosen because over 65 percent of the commercially managed honey bees in the country are dropped in farms in the five states.

Bee managers would also like the administration to limit the use of exotic pesticides which them blame for some of the colony deaths.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner’s “Washington Secrets” columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.

Corruption in Science? You’re Kidding!

As anyone who follows the approval of FDA and USDA “science” knows, we no longer have much at all in the way of actual science. Instead we have black balling of those who don’t tote the corporate line, and science based studies that have nothing to do with legitimate science and the scientific method we are supposed to learn in school.

The following interview by Democracy Now! has clearly exposed the issue. Check it out:

US Wastes Billions of Dollars of Food

The USDA has done a report on the amount of food wastage in the US. Interestingly, this is at a time right before food prices are going to sky rocket. One thing that has apparently not been addressed in this report is the regulatory and insurance side of the profligate waste we appear to have.

Morningland Dairy was forced to waste about $250,000 dollars of cheese that hadn’t made one person sick in over 30 years. Fast food restaurants throw out huge amounts of food at close and are prohibited from allowing people to getting it even out of the dumpster. People who want to feed the homeless are routinely fined, punished or prevented from doing so because they don’t have permits and licenses that prove they prepare food in a permitted and licensed kitchen.

It could be readily argued that a vast amount of our food is garbage anyway, and therefore going where it should go, but truly not having enough to eat is about to become a reality for a larger percentage of our population than in anytime in recent memory.

There is a massive drought in California, there are 25% of greenhouses that heat with propane that have either shut down or significantly scaled back, the vast majority of chicken houses heat with propane and most of those growers finished what they had and held off on losing everything due to either being unable to afford or in some cases even acquire the propane to heat with. Brazil, the highest global producer of beef and a major exporter of food in many categories is in a drought where rationing of water is occurring in 142 cities. And don’t forget that South Dakota lost around 100,000 cattle and we have cattle populations in the US at 1951 levels.

While we’re throwing all of this away, or being forced to throw it away, we’re looking at massive rises in food costs. Time to learn how to preserve whatever excess we have.

Here’s an article about the USDA wastage report:

Americans trash about 1/3 of their food, worth $161bn – USDA

Published time: February 25, 2014 08:56

AFP Photo / Spencer PlattAFP Photo / Spencer Platt

About 30 percent of the 430 billion pounds of food produced in the United States is wasted, an incredible statistic, especially given the lack of landfill space, not to mention the global menace of world hunger.

The shocking statistic gives a new meaning to the term ‘junk food,’ as Americans are sending 133 billion lbs (60 billion kg) of food to the garbage dump each year. To put it another way, 141 trillion calories annually – or 1,249 calories per capita daily – went uneaten in the United States, according to a report by the US Department of Agriculture.

The top three food groups in terms of the amount of total food loss cost are ranked as follows: meat, poultry, and fish (30 percent); vegetables (19 percent); and dairy products (17 percent). Retail food waste, for example, in grocery stores and restaurants, accounted for 10 percent (43 billion lbs), while consumer losses amounted to 21 percent (90 billion pounds) of the available food supply.

The issue of food loss is becoming a serious topic not just in the United States, but across the world as countries struggle with mounting levels of garbage, while food scarcity among an exploding world population demands a new way of thinking about eating habits.

In 2010, the average American spent $4,016 on food (both for at-home and away-from-home consumption) out of an average disposable income of $36,016, the report, titled ‘The Estimated Amount, Value and Calories of Postharvest Food Losses at the Retail and Consumer Levels in the United States’, noted.

Meanwhile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of US adults (35.7 percent) are obese, which is perhaps the best argument that Americans can offset a large part of the food waste problem by simply eating less. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the US was $147 billion in 2008; the costs of providing medical assistance for individuals who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight, thereby placing an enormous strain on healthcare costs.

At the same time, the problem of global food scarcity is gaining the attention of world leaders.

“The United Nations predicts that the world population will reach 9.3 billion by 2050, and this will require a 70 percent increase in food production, net of crops used for biofuels. Currently…the number of food-insecure people reached 802 million in 2012,” the report stated.

The USDA warned that developed countries like the United States – where 49 million people lived in food-insecure households out of a total population of over 305 million – should not take their current level of food security for granted.

“Although most of this population growth will occur in developing countries, developed countries like the United States also face issues of hunger and food insecurity,” it said.

In an effort to attract attention to the problem of food waste, the USDA and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year kicked off the US Food Waste Challenge. The United Nations’ Environment Program’s (UNEP) World Environment Day’s central theme was also food waste.

 

AFP Photo / Spencer PlattAFP Photo / Spencer Platt

The report acknowledged that tackling the problem is no easy challenge given the many diverse places where food is distributed, consumed and disposed of.

There are an estimated 119 million households, over a half a million dining establishments, including fast-food outlets, and numerous other locations where people gather to eat, such as schools, institutions, and prisons across the United States, it said.

Eco-hazardous habits

A largely ignored problem associated with our intensely urbanized lifestyles is how to get rid of our food waste in a way that does not inflict long-term damage on the environment. Discarding uneaten food into plastic garbage bags and burying them in landfills only exacerbates the problem.

According to statistics by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food waste accounted for 34 million tons of some 250 million tons of municipal solid waste in the United States in 2010, with a price tag of about $1.3 billion.

After recycling a number of materials, like metals, plastic and paper, food waste came out on top in terms of what is overloading our garbage dumps, with 21 percent of the total, according to the EPA.

The most worrying problem with landfilling food waste is that it generates methane gas as it decomposes anaerobically. Methane is 21 times more powerful in accelerating global warming than carbon dioxide, according to the EPA as cited in the USDA report.

Landfills account for 34 percent of all human-related methane emissions in the United States
The report pointed to a growing human footprint on the planet as a good reason for nations to start addressing this issue.

The report offered some suggestions on addressing the issue, including expanding on community composting programs, of which there are around 3,510 such initiatives in the US that allow neighborhood residents to leave food scraps and yard trimmings at the curb for a special collection.

At the same time, companies will work to offset food waste if “it is economically justifiable, that is, if the benefits outweigh the costs.”

The report suggested the potential advantages of building “consumer goodwill” for business, using by way of example “a sandwich shop donates uneaten yet wholesome food to a community feeding organization at the end of each day.”

 

 

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