Diseased meat that tested positive for TB sold for food, DEFRA confirms

The Huffington Post – Sunday 30th June

Recent press reports that Defra is selling meat and milk from cattle infected with Bovine TB, have set-off a furore of panic through the mainstream press. It makes a good story and a range of papers, including the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail, have rushed in to make it all sound as sensational as possible. However, it’s not really. Milk is pasteurised which kills bacteria, precisely so it’s not dangerous to drink. If you are drinking unpasteurised milk, then yes, you want to be careful. Meat from TB infected cattle is generally not affected, and there are no cases on record of the transmission of TB to humans through the consumption of infected meat. Also, like milk, meat is almost always cooked.

Several papers have asked whether the selling of meat and milk from infected cows calls into question the badger cull. The cull, however, is not being carried out to protect human health. While you may or may not agree with the cull, the issues surrounding it are not connected to whether or not meat and milk from infected cows should be sold for human consumption.

This article posted in The Guardian mid-week, does a pretty good job of summing up the non-story: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2013/jul/02/food-farming

Should the ‘Nobel prize for food’ go to a Monsanto exec?

Grist – Sunday 30th June

The World Food Prize has the bloggers out in full, and pretty angry are they. Grist, and the New York Times’ Opinionator have both posted highly critical pieces on the prize – the winners were three biotech and chemical company executives, including Robert Fraley, one of the pioneers of genetic engineering in agriculture.

Quite rightly, the Opinionator’s Mark Bittman points out that it’s not really surprising, since Monsanto is a key sponsor of the prize along with a range of other agribusiness and big food companies. Another case of the corporate food sector patting themselves on the back and basking in their cleverly contrived limelight.

Bittman forgoes a long rant on the subject in favour of noting some the ‘true[r] deservers’ of a World Food Prize. These are people on the ground working to extend the ‘right to food’ to a wider group than just those who have the money to access it.

Why all the fuss about GM food? Other innovations are available

The Guardian – Friday 28th June

Read this! It’s a great blog by Andy Stirling, professor of science and technology policy at the University of Sussex, asking why the big bandwagon of GM has arrived so insistently into town in the past few weeks. What makes GM the only technology worth considering, in the quest to create a more sustainable food system for the world (or at least Great Britain)? Stirling notes that there are many alternative innovations that hold promise for the long-term sustainability of agriculture – but GM seems to be the only one politicians are cheering for.

Stirling suspects that power might be at the root of it. ‘Might the resulting fuss be something to do with the degree to which [GM] offers greater prospects than other innovations, for exercising greater control over lucrative global commodity markets and supply chains?’ His question pulls the debate away from the endless ping pong of ‘my science is better than your science’ and focuses it squarely on the more pertinent question of what’s at stake here and who stands to benefit most?

Government urged to act as food poverty hits 18% of UK 

The Telegraph – Sunday 30th June

The high cost of food, and the increasing struggle of more people to put it on the table for their family, is a continuing issue in the UK. It is evidence that economic recovery is not quite what it should be. A recent study commissioned by Tesco, puts the figure at 18% of the population skipping meals and asking friends or family for food – that’s nearly one in five. The fact that we live in a country where there is more than enough food for the population makes this an even sadder situation. Snide comments made by the privileged few that free food provided by food banks only makes people want more free food, illustrate the increasing disconnection between rich and poor that is more and more evidenced in our country.

Waste is at the root of it – we throw away too much food – and Tesco, at least, is trying to do something about it by working with food banks and charities to distribute food that would otherwise go to waste. Food banks are vital to those families that use them, so keeping them stocked should be the first line of defence against hunger.

Meanwhile, Lord Freud and Michael Gove appear to be adamant that the blame is to be placed on ‘feckless parenting and a ‘scrounger mentality’ for the rise of food poverty in Britain.’ Jack Monroe, who was a food bank user for six months, whilst unemployed and seeking work, makes suggestions to tackling the root causes, such as a commitment to a living wage, increasing social housing and paying benefits quickly upon application, rather than looking to blame individuals. You can read the full post here 

India’s seed saviour goes against the corporate grain

The Guardian – Friday 28th June

The mass extinction of flora and fauna across the earth is one of the key global issues facing humanity today. The bio-diversity of species is essential in maintaining the balance of earth’s delicate ecosystems. Agriculture has wrought uncalculated damage on biodiversity in the last 50 years and industrial farming has moved increasingly towards a seed monoculture owned by the few and sold to the many.

So there is something deeply uplifting about Debal Deb’s commitment to building a seed bank to preserve the vast diversity of indigenous rice in India. Over 90% of the country’s rice seed has become extinct because of the introduction of GM seed and other industrial farming methods. Deb is helping revive the natural diversity of varietals in rice, working to re-localise its production and support the independence of farmers.

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