Introduction: This is part of a regular series listing my top 5 things to take away from today's food and ag news, including local and national developments. I won't say most important. That would be foolish.
1. We need to talk about palm oil (Huffington Post)
- It's an ingredient in A LOT of stuff we buy, including food, fuel, and beauty products
- The demand is leading to major deforestation where it's harvested, mainly Malaysia and Indonesia, which supply 85 percent of what the world consumes
- Deforestation threatens species, displaces indigenous people, contributes to smog, and drives climate change
- Public awareness and outrage has spurred major companies to espouse sustainability goals, but little has actually changed.
2. Here's the GMO label coming in 2020 (New Food Economy)
- Label will appear on anything made with GMO (or "bioengineered") soy, corn, sugarbeets, etc, as well as products like the Arctic Apple and Rose Pineapple. It takes effect next year and all GMO food must have labels by 2022.
- The rule has some exemptions, including for products made from/by animals that consumed feed with bioengineered ingredients. It also excludes food made by gene-editing. Additionally, oil or sugar made from GMO crops like corn or sugarbeets won't require labels.
- Biotech experts say the labeling rule promotes transparency for consumers and isn't addressing nutrition or food safety, since GMO foods are widely considered safe (90 percent of scientists agree).
- Exemptions lead to confusion and raise questions about whether the rules will accomplish that goal of transparency.
3. Researchers 'hacking' photosynthesis (NPR)
- A regular task plants perform during photosynthesis – detoxification – takes a lot of energy and is done inefficiently. It takes away from the plant's job of growing leaves that we use for food or other products.
- Scientists at the University of Illinois are working on improving production in those plants by inserting genes that shutdown their inefficient system in favor of a better one. They started with tobacco, which grew faster and bigger. Now they're turning attention to plans important for food to see if the method will produce more fruit or if it will just grow more stalks and leaves.
- The goal is to increase crop productivity.
4. New Minnesota Pollution Control Agency commissioner talks about water quality (MPR)
- The new commissioner is Laura Bishop, who formally led sustainability efforts at Best Buy
- After Walz announced her appointment Thursday, she said she's ready to look at water quality data so the state can take next steps
- Pollutants including farm runoff, road salt, and chemicals in products we use diminish water quality in the state
- The state needs to move to address climate change, she said, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from sources including agriculture
- Walz says he'll approach environmental regulations with "humility" that asks businesses to cooperate, not just comply.
- Minnesota farmers didn't like the way the Dayton rolled out new rules on buffers and fertilizer
- Not noted in the story: MPCA has say on studying environmental impact of factory farms. The agency recently sidestepped an opportunity to require an EIS (environmental impact statement) for a proposed hog farm in Fillmore County. The agency denied the permit and, since that was its decision, avoided answering the EIS question.
5. Podcast interview with Samin Nosrat (Longform)
- I listened to this yesterday. It's a rerun from May 2017, before Nosrat's book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat was published
- Nosrat started working at a restaurant while attending Berkeley - Alice Water's restaurants no less. She didn't have an interest or experience cooking before that, and she turned it into her career. She was told to read tons of cookbooks to learn, but she noticed no one actually used cookbooks. She picked up on the unspoken rules: master salt, fat, acid, heat. She realized every cook knew the principle, but no one had written about it.
- She started writing after forming a friendship/connection with Michael Pollan. No big deal??
- The book is written as a master class. It teaches the principles of those four primary ingredients, but doesn't promote any single way of cooking. She believes anyone can cook.
- PRACTICE is key. How true of all things in life.
- I bought it immediately.