Male baby chicks won’t be going to the grinder anymore

Dylan Matthews for Vox – This is the best news for America’s animals in decades. It’s about baby chickens:

But ending chick culling has become possible recently due to technology. United Egg Producers says it will replace culling with “in-ovo egg sexing.” This is a process that can determine the sex of chicks before they develop inside their egg. That enables egg producers to terminate the male eggs and potentially use them to help make vaccines or for pet food (most humans would presumably be grossed out by cooking fertilized eggs). Horrific infanticides will be replaced with humane, painless chicken abortions.

Great news. No more grinding male baby chicks.

Not quite CSA

Julia Moskin at the New York Times – When Community-Supported Agriculture Is Not What It Seems:

“Do consumers even know that when they sign up for one of these fake C.S.A.s, sometimes it doesn’t benefit local farmers any more than if they shop at the supermarket?” Ms. Kaplan-Walbrecht asked.

Probably not. The organic farm boxes you buy online may or may not be local. Local farm boxes may or may not be organic. The farmers may or may not be paid more than wholesale prices. And customers may or may not care.

The whole point of the CSA is to directly support (and pay) your local farmer. You may want more goods in your produce box, but be vigilant and be aware of what you’re getting.

Shelburne Farms

Shelburne Farms – A working farm that produces many products (including furniture), strives to be sustainable, and best of all, has an educational mandate.

Shelburne Farms began a rebirth in 1972, when family descendants founded a nonprofit organization of the same name, dedicated to conservation education. For 40 years, the organization has offered educational opportunities for children of all ages to learn about sustainability and their connections to the natural and agricultural world.  As stewards of the property, the nonprofit has placed much of the land under conservation easements, and preserved and rehabilitated the buildings to new uses. In 2001 the property became a National Historic Landmark.

GMOs are safe, says NAS

The National Academy of Sciences has published a report – Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects:

Human Health Effects:
GE crops and foods derived from them are tested in three ways: animal testing, compositional analysis, and aller-genicity testing and prediction. Although the design and analysis of many animal-feeding studies were not optimal, the many available animal experimental studies taken together provided reasonable evidence that animals were not harmed by eating foods derived from GE crops. Data on the nutrient and chemical composition of a GE plant compared to a similar non-GE variety of the crop some-times show statistically significant differences in nutrient and chemical composition, but the differences have been considered to fall within the range of naturally occurring variation found in currently available non-GE crops.
Many people are concerned that GE food consumption may lead to higher incidence of specific health problems including cancer, obesity, gastrointestinal tract illnesses, kidney disease, and disorders such as autism spectrum and allergies. In the absence of long-term, case-controlled studies to examine some hypotheses, the committee examined epidemiological datasets over time from the United States and Canada, where GE food has been consumed since the late 1990s, and similar datasets from the United Kingdom and western Europe, where GE food is not widely consumed. No pattern of differences was found among countries in specific health problems after the introduction of GE foods in the 1990s.

Bees and colony collapse disorder

Elina L. Niño – Deciphering the mysterious decline of honey bees:

Scientists now agree that CCD was likely caused by a combination of environmental and biological factors, but nothing specific has been confirmed or proven. CCD is no longer causing large-scale colony death in North America, but beekeepers all over the United States are still reporting troubling colony losses – as high as 45 percent annually.
I repeat, nothing specific has been confirmed or proven.

Many people who are not beekeepers or growers want to know how they can help. One easy step is to grow forage plants, especially varieties that bloom at different times during the year. For suggestions, see our Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven Plant List.

Second, reduce your pesticide use for gardening and landscaping, and follow guidelines to reduce bee exposure. Finally, you can support local by buying their honey.

Ultimately, however, making our society more pollinator-friendly will likely require some drastic and long-term changes in our environmental and agricultural practices.

Good points. We definitely need to plant more forage plants in our yard.

Glyphosate – carcinogenic or not?

Kate Kelland at the Globe and Mail – To spray or not to spray: Is your weed killer carcinogenic?:

In March 2015, an IARC monograph concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic.” Yet seven months later the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an independent agency funded by the EU, published a different assessment, saying glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.”

It sucks when politics and ideals gets in the way of science. I don’t know who is right, but we need to get this sorted out. There’s also two issues I see with the use of this product – the risk to human health, and the risk to the environment. For example, bee colony collapse disorder (CCD) has been linked to glyphosates, but I’m not sure if the findings are definitive.

The EWG’s dirty dozen

I’m not sure what to make of the dirty dozen list of fruits and vegetables tested to have the highest level of pesticides, as reported by the Environmental Working Group. Certainly there needs to be constant monitoring of the industry and the products to ensure their safety. But I’m a bit skeptical of their presentation.

From the EWG FAQ:

Shouldn’t I try to buy everything organic?

EWG recommends buying organic whenever possible. Not only is it smart to reduce your exposure to pesticides, but buying organic sends a message that you support environmentally-friendly farming practices that minimize soil erosion, safeguard workers and protect water quality and wildlife.

However, we know that organics are not accessible or affordable for everyone, so we created the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ to help consumers make the healthiest choices given their circumstances.

EWG always recommends eating fruits and vegetables, even conventionally grown, over processed foods and other less healthy alternatives.

Don’t organic food producers use pesticides as well? Do they use less pesticides than conventional food producers?

More:

Do we know enough about the effects of pesticide on people?

No. Americans are likely polluted with far more pesticides than current studies report. Agribusiness and pesticide companies are not required to determine whether their chemicals are present in people, not even for compounds that widely contaminate the food supply. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national biomonitoring program has likely only scratched the surface in its efforts to determine the human body burden of pesticides.

“likely”. Yes, it’s worth being skeptical about the use of pesticides. But the EWG report does not give any information about the tested levels found in produce, nor how it compares to the limits for human consumption.

The US EPA provides some information on the human health risk assessment they perform on pesticides.

 

Not good seafood

A great investigative series by AP reporters – Seafood from slaves:

Over the course of eighteen months, four journalists with The Associated Press tracked ships, located slaves and stalked refrigerated trucks to expose the abusive practices of the fishing industry in Southeast Asia. The investigation has led to the release of more than 2,000 slaves, and the immediate reaction of major retailers and the Indonesian government.

And listen to the story of how the reporting came to be on the KCRW Good Food show:

Martha Mendoza, a national writer for the AP, takes us back to the moment when she and her colleagues decided to focus their collective investigative reporting lens on the Thai shrimp industry.

Pig farming and transportation

On CBC’s The Sunday Edition – Is it a crime to give a pig water on a hot day?:

When the thermometer hit 28 degrees last summer, Anita Krajnc pushed a water bottle into a truck-load of pigs on their way to slaughter. Krajnc was charged with criminal mischief. Public outrage and concern over animal welfare blew up, and Krajnc became an international hero.