Victual Reality, the podcast about food politics, is hosted by Tom Philpott. Tom's guest today is Susan Kegley.
In the waning days of the Bush Administration, the EPA executed what will likely go down as the single most egregious decision in its not-always-stellar history: ignoring strong warnings from independent scientists, it approved use of a pesticide so toxic that scientists had previously used it to induce cancer in tissue samples. The chemical, a fumigant called methyl iodide, swiftly went into use in states with significant production of fruit, mainly strawberries. (I chronicled the twisted tale on Grist at the time.) But one key strawberry-growing state held out: California, which subjected methyl iodide to a separate review process. Again, independent scientists cried foul; but now, the state stands on the verge of approving methyl iodide.
In this week’s Victual Reality, the podcast about food politics, I talk to Susan Kegley, organic chemist and long-time science guru for California-based Pesticide Action Network of North America. Susan explains how this stubborn chemical keeps repelling scientists and gaining favor from politicians--and the next steps in the fight to keep it out of America’s fruit fields. To keep up with the story, follow my work on Grist and check Panna’s website, Panna.org.
Victual Reality, the podcast about food politics, is hosted by Tom Philpott. Tom's guest today is Maryn McKenna.
Maryn McKenna is arguably the premier U.S. public health journalist. Not many of her rivals on the beat can boast a bio like this:
Maryn McKenna’s newsroom nickname is Scary Disease Girl, and she earned it. She has reported from inside a field hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, a village on Thailand’s west coast that was erased by the Indian Ocean tsunami, a CDC team investigating the anthrax-letter attacks on Capitol Hill, a graveyard within the Arctic Circle that held victims of the 1918 flu, a malaria hospital in Malawi, and a polio-eradication team in India. She helped uncover the first cases of Gulf War Syndrome and trigger the first Congressional hearings on the illness, and her stories on a small Midwestern town’s cancer clusters helped residents win a nuclear-harm lawsuit against the U.S. government.
In recent years, she has turned her attention to MRSA, the antibiotic resistant staph strain that kills 19,000 Americans every year--more than AIDS. MRSA has a major food angle--today, as much as 70 percent of antibiotics consumed in the United States go into concentrated-animal feedlot operations, or CAFOs. These vast, factory-scale animal farms have been shown to harbor a novel MRSA strain. In this edition of Victual Reality, Maryn and I discussed her new book, Superbug: the Fatal Menace of MRSA.
Victual Reality, the podcast about food politics, is hosted by Tom Philpott. Tom's guest today is Ben Hewitt.
In October 2008, newspapers brimmed with grim economic news. Once-mighty Wall Street investment banks teetered on the edge of collapse, propped up only by government cash; and businesses fired workers by the hundreds of thousands.
Amid the gloom, New York Times food reporter Marion Burros published an upbeat article about a small Vermont town that was thriving instead of flailing--by using local food production as a tool of economic development. “With the fervor of Internet pioneers,” wrote Burros, “young artisans and agricultural entrepreneurs are expanding aggressively, reaching out to investors and working together to create a collective strength never before seen in this seedbed of Yankee individualism.”
The town, Hardwick, had been depressed for decades, ever since its granite mines had peaked. But it had now “united around food,” Burros reported--and was adding jobs while the national economy imploded. While the many in the food community--including me --oohed and ahed over the Hardwick miracle, a young farmer and freelance writer named Ben Hewitt was living on a farm just outside of Hardwick and observing the hubbub from the ground.
Like Burros, he had taken note of Hardwick’s frenetic agri-preneurism and begun to write about it. An article he had written for Gourmet got relegated to the publication’s Web site after Burros’ Times article beat it to print. But Hewitt stayed on the story, and this spring he brought out The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food (Rodale Books). With great sensitivity and a wealth of on-the-ground reporting, Hewitt shows that the story of Hardwick’s food revolution is a lot more complex and nuanced than could ever be expressed in a newspaper story. I recently caught up with Hewitt via phone from his farm outside Hardwick.
Victual Reality, the podcast about food politics, is hosted by Tom Philpott. Tom's guest today is Richard Charter.
Richard Charter is one of our most eminent authorities on how offshore drilling affects coastal ecosystems. When the Deepwater Horizons oil rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana last month, Charter's expertise became invaluable to anyone trying to understand what the ongoing spill meant for the Gulf of Mexico, one of the globe's most productive fisheries and vibrant ecosystems. Charter was one of the first commentators to raise questions about the heavy use of chemical dispersants to mitigate the effects of the spill. "There is a chemical toxicity to the dispersant compound that in many ways is worse than oil,” he told ProPublica reporter Abrahm Lustgarten, for a groundbreaking article (Chemicals Meant To Break Up BP Oil Spill Present New Environmental Concerns) that spurred my own investigations (What are we dumping into the Gulf to ‘fix’ the oil spill? and Chemical dispersants being used in Gulf clean-up are potentially toxic) into the dispersant topic.
Charter is Senior Policy advisor for Marine Programs for Defenders of Wildlife, and has thirty years experience working on offshore drilling issues with local and state elected officials and the conservation community. In addition, Richard presently serves as the Chair of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council.
In this edition of Victual Reality, I talk to Richard about what past oil disasters have meant for ecosystems, just what the hell is in those dispersants, and how the spill might affect the Gulf fishery.
Victual Reality, the podcast about food politics, is hosted by Tom Philpott. Tom's guest today is Patty Lovera.
Patty is a policy wonk who works as assistant director D.C.-based Food and Water Watch. FWW is one of our most rigorous watchdog/advocacy/think-tank groups on food policy. They have been closely following the hot-button issue of food safety legislation--and Patty is the point person. Among the many worthwhile reports from Food and Water Watch is this 2009 blockbuster on the scarcity of meat-processing infrastructure for small farmers.
Today, I’ll be talking with Patty about current food-safety legislation bouncing around Congress and what's at stake in the food safety debate.
Tom Philpott is the food editor at Grist.org