Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rejecting PETA

It’s been a rough couple of months for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
First reality TV star Kloe Kardashian called the group bullies for pelting sister Kim with flour. Then Jennifer Lawrence, star of the hit movie The Hunger Games, dissed the group in a Rolling Stone cover story. 

And now one of PETA’s outlandish billboard ads has been rejected on the grounds that it wasn’t truthful. According to a story in the Fresno Bee, the ad, stating that “Real Milk Comes from Really Sick Cows,” was to appear in Hanford, California, near where a dairy cow with Mad Cow disease was found last month.

Hal Kilshaw, vice president of government relations for Lamar Advertising, was quoted saying the PETA billboard was misleading. “Millions of people drink milk every day and don’t get sick,” Kilshaw said.

As a fallback, PETA put an ad promoting vegetarianism on a local television station.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Needed: Better Staff Work!

The folks advising the advocacy group Moms for Antibiotic Awareness need a refresher course in, well, antibiotic awareness.

The Website for the group, which lists a Pew foundation staffer as a contact, repeats the urban myth that 80 percent of antibiotics sold in this country are given to food animals often to promote growth and to compensate for “unsanitary and overcrowded conditions” on livestock farms.

Then it quotes the Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies saying there is a “definitive link” between antibiotic use on livestock farms and antibiotic resistance in humans.

Never mind that the best science suggests the risk of human antibiotic resistance problems developing from farm use of antibiotics is negligible. Or that antibiotics are needed to keep animals healthy and food safe. Or that, before it approves animal drugs, the FDA must determine that they won’t harm human health. Or that confinement systems keep livestock comfortable and protect them from disease and predators. And, of course, there is no reference to the recent Kansas State study finding that opponents of animal antibiotics wildly overestimate the drugs given to livestock.  

HOTH appreciates the concern of the moms, who spent two days in Washington this week advocating for stricter guidelines for antibiotic use on farms. But maybe someone needs to tell them the new guidance the FDA already has issued will harm animal health and increase food costs while not improving public health.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

'Rural Romanticism'

HOTH doesn’t always agree with Doug Powell, the Kansas State food scientist who churns out a variety of food safety information daily through blogs and listservs. But an essay Powell highlighted from Canadian food-safety lawyer Ronald L. Doering is too good to pass up. Titled “Rural Romanticism and ‘Natural’ Foods,” it appeared originally in Food in Canada magazine. A few samples:

With the growing recognition that organic food is not any safer, tastier, more nutritious or more sustainable, in spite of the higher price, consumers now want foods that are produced the old fashioned way on the small family farm … Not surprisingly, food companies are turning themselves inside out to try to meet this demand. So we see ads with handsome farm families beside their green fields, no doubt providing natural, no-additive, chemical-free, home-style, no-preservative, artisanal ‘real’ food.

“I grew up on a farm and it bears little relationship to the bucolic scenes I see in these ads. Farming has always been, and still is, messy, bloody, dirty and very hard work. Why should farmers eschew modern methods to lessen their physical labour and be more efficient just so they meet some urbanite’s notion of what farming should be like? In what other sector of our economy do we encourage the greater use of yesterday’s technology?

“There is much talk these days that consumers are now more knowledgeable and care more about where their food comes from. In my experience, urban Canadians know almost nothing about where their food comes from … That’s because there is so much misinformation provided by alternative medicine and natural health websites, and by ‘wellness’ magazines that flood into this country every day, all unregulated. They read books written by urban foodies that have never set foot on a farm and who are shocked to learn when they do that most organic food now comes from large ‘industrial’ farms owned by multinationals, the very entities they despise.”

Thursday, May 3, 2012

California Dreamin’

Look for a major battle in California this fall over a requirement to label foods containing genetically engineered products.

State backers of a GMO labeling initiative say they have turned in nearly double the number of signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot.

But major food companies and seed manufacturers are likely to fight hard in opposition to the initiative, which would not cover animals injected with growth hormones or fed genetically engineered feed.

The California Right to Know Campaign held rallies in major cities across the state Wednesday to mark the submission of 970,000 signatures to state election officials. They say only 555,000 signatures were needed to qualify for the ballot.

The idea of GMO labeling has picked up steam recently and, understandably, supporters see California as a favorable environment for a ballot initiative.

HOTH notes that Americans have been eating GMO foods for two decades with no apparent ill effects.