Politics of the Plate: Mr. McGuire was Dead Wrong…


…when he gave Benjamin in "The Graduate" his famous word of career advice: "Plastics." The substance might be everywhere now, but I'm beginning to wonder about its future. The latest cause for concern was a study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The Duke University research team that published the paper found that exposure to bisphenol A, a chemical widely used in the manufacture of plastic bottles and food containers, can alter genes in fetal mice (The study did not examine the effects of the chemical in humans who consume food and beverages stored in plastic.) Two things happened to the mice. One was that exposed rodents were prone to obesity, diabetes, and cancer as adults. If that doesn't make your hair stand on end the next time you sip from a plastic bottle of spring water, consider the other genetic alteration: their fur turned bright yellow. Read the Washington Post's story.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Factory Farm

Food and Water Watch has just come out with a fun—albeit somewhat sobering—interactive map of the United States that shows how many factory farms and factory-farmed animals are in each county and state. If the wind's blowing in the right direction where I live in Vermont, one sniff of the air tells me that there's a factory dairy on the other side of the hill. If that test doesn't work for you, click on this link to see how your 'hood stacks up.

Eat Good, Feel Good

I like to think that I buy organic food as a selfless act—doing my bit to help the environment. Now Maryellen Molyneaux, president of the Natural Marketing Institute has informed attendees at a food technology conference in Chicago that fear and good, old self interest may be driving organic food sales, which are climbing at a steady 20 percent a year (read the .pdf here) while the rest of the food sector struggles to keep up with inflation. "Food scares are always good for the organic industry," she said to the Ottawa Citizen. But it turns out that there is one sector in the food industry that's growing twice as fast as organic—fair trade. A report issued by Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International shows that consumers spent more than $2 billion on those products last year, a 41-percent jump over 2005. The surge was not attributed to fear.

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