Produce Police


Here’s a quick quiz: Which is more likely to make you sick, a ripe strawberry, a raw oyster, or a runny egg?

According to a database maintained by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, produce causes more illnesses than any other category of food, so it was fitting that Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced the Fresh Produce Safety Act last week, just as Dole was recalling salad mix that tested positive for E. coli, and almost one year to the day from when contaminated spinach sent more than 100 people to the hospital.

The bill calls for the inspection of packing facilities and the development of standards for irrigation water and manure application. There’s one dark cloud: the FDA will oversee the new standards. Given the agency’s track record of late, I’ll still wash my spinach.

Who’s Guarding the Pig Pen? In Iowa, the nation’s largest hog producer, the answer is nobody. Which is why a coalition of environmental groups led by the Environmental Integrity Project of Washington, D. C. recently asked the Environmental Protection Agency to revoke the authority of the state’s Department of Natural Resources to issue permits for factory pig farms. The groups accuse the department of turning a blind eye as the powerful industry illegally discharges millions of gallons of manure into rivers and streams in violation of the Clean Water Act.

Strange Bedfellows If one modified gene is good for a crop, eight of them should be eight times as good—at least for the corporate bottom line.

So goes the logic behind the decision made by Dow Chemical Co. and Monsanto Co. earlier this month to pool their research and development resources to develop a new corn variety boasting eight “stacked” genes—that’s five more than the most modified corn on the market today. The new corn, branded as SmartStax, will be able to resist weeds and insects both above and below the ground.

The two agribusiness behemoths are plowing fertile territory: 45 percent of the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified. The political field is also ripe for GM crops. According to Sustainable Food News (subscription required), just hours after being promoted to his new job last week, Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner announced that a plan to facilitate approval of biotech crops would be rolled out next spring.

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