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When business rules our kitchens-CSE's Fortnightly News Bulletin , June 16, 2011

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  • Sumant Joshi
    Here s some more poisonous news =============================================== CSE s Fortnightly News Bulletin (June 16, 2011)
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 17, 2011
      Here's some more poisonous news
      ===============================================

      CSE's Fortnightly News Bulletin (June 16, 2011)
      ===============================================

      Down To Earth, this fortnight, brings you a cover story on the sticky business of clinical trials of new drugs in India. By next year, our country will be hosting five per cent of all such trials conducted in the world -- but without any rights and guarantees for safety of the subjects...




      Three more health stories that may catch your attention are the analysis of a WHO report linking mobile phones to cancer, the latest on the endosulfan debate, and an update on the GM discussions, ongoing activity in the energy sector is also included in the issue.




      Also, we have more news on the Bamboo drama, and a peek in the past- excerpts from Down to Earth's analyses of the Rio conference in 1992, as part of our two decade long engagement with global environmental politics.




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      EDITORIAL: When business rules our kitchens (by Sunita Narain)

      ========================================================
      Once again there is a food safety scare. A deadly strain of E coli bacterium has hit Germany,where it has taken the lives of 25 people and affected another 2,300 till date. German food inspectors on the trail of the source of contamination have as yet made two errors—blaming Spanish cucumbers and then organic bean sprouts—but no breakthrough.




      The investigation will not lead anywhere because we are refusing to look where it matters. The fact is that something is seriously wrong with the way the world is producing food and even more with the way it is managing its regulations for safety. But we just don’t get it.




      Let’s recap past food scares to understand the crisis and the response. In 2005, avian influenza hit the chicken we eat. The world went on a rampage, killing chickens and wild birds to contain the deadly virus spreading across the connected world. But nobody targeted the real problem—the nature of the modern world’s poultry business, which is highly vertically integrated and globalised, and produces factory chickens not food. In this business companies strive for lower cost of production because agribusiness requires scale and global reach. As a result, it is widely accepted, chicken-manufacturing practices are leaving the birds susceptible to diseases and consumers vulnerable to mutated viruses. This is an inconvenient truth.




      So what did the world do? It went after the backyard poultry business. Vietnam, under pressure from international food inspectors, went as far as asking its people to convert to factory-style methods. Ironically, in the name of hygienic food the world ended up promoting the very nature of the business that was causing shock and shame.




      Cut to 2009 when the next big food scare hit the world: Influenza A (H1N1) virus, formerly named swine flu. Across the developing world, pigs, important sources of food for the poor, were slaughtered. But mega hog-factories, run by powerful food giants, were not indicted for their toxics-rich practices. The modern factory uses everything from antibiotics and hormones to biocides and vaccines to grow pigs in highly concentrated and unhealthy environments. The nature of business was not questioned.




      Worse, the food crisis allowed the big business to further concentrate its hold over the lucrative pork. Family farms went out of business because of tightened safety regulations and cost of surveillance.

      In 2008, China was racked by milk contaminated with melanine, which killed babies. Next year the US was hit by salmonella in popular brands of peanut butter.




      Food has become a dangerous business. Just consider how the food scare over E coli, which is confined to the city of Hamburg, has hit farmers and shaken consumers across Europe. The reason is that food is no longer a local or national business; it can be grown in one place, packed in another country, shipped to yet another for processing and then lifted to supermarket shelves across the globe. It is an anonymous business built to scale, hence profitable.




      The world is now hooked on this model of churning out vast quantities of food at the lowest possible cost. Industry does not care if it compromises public health. What’s worse, food regulations, designed for environmental safety and public health, end up promoting this fundamentally flawed and fatal model of growing food.




      The problem is we have designed regulations for food like for any factory product. The focus is on good manufacturing practices, which boils down to improving inter-nal hygiene by donning white coats and hair nets, scrubbing factory floors and using plastic in packaging. This ends up driving out small producers and local food vendors. They cannot keep up with the cost of meeting tougher standards, inspectors and now certification.




      In this way, bad food business thrives. Health suffers.

      How, then, should it work? Cheap, mass-produced food, which forces farmers to cut corners and use intensive practices, cannot be the way to secure our health. Securing health requires food regulators to see food as food, not business. It will mean drawing guidelines, which will incentivise food grown naturally and locally by small producers. It also means we pay more for food as consumers—or subsidise farmers for growing healthy and safe food.




      This recognition is growing perhaps for the first time even in the US, the mecca of food business. In a recent article in Science leading academics have argued that the US must transform its agriculture, which has become environmentally and socially destructive. But it can do this only by transforming policies, particularly those that reward the consolidated agro-food industry’s thrust for large volumes of low-cost food, feed, fibre and fuel. This requires going back to the drawing board to invest once again in knowledge systems for agriculture that are driven by public interest and public funds.




      I write this knowing well that we in India are succumbing to the definition of food that sells us the idea of modern lifestyle, which must begin by discarding the culture of locally grown, home-cooked and seasonal food. This is not accidental; this is a deliberate strategy to seduce us to be part of the food business that compromises our health for profit.




      Post your comments on this editorial online at http://downtoearth.org.in/content/when-business-rules-our-kitchens



      =======================

      MORE FROM DOWN TO EARTH
      =======================

      Down To Earth is now on Facebook and Twitter. Do follow us, share, comment, and discuss
      and stay in constant touch with our reporters on www.facebook.com/down2earthindia and twitter@downtoearthindia.




      - Cover story: Ethics on trial
      Five per cent of the clinical trials conducted across the world will be in India by 2012. While doctors and organisations conducting trials make big bucks, the rights and safety of the subjects are often overlooked. Read the complete story at http://downtoearth.org.in/content/ethics-trial




      - Patently Absurd: Disclosure-shy industry
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      - Special Report : New cancer risk
      WHO links excess mobile phone use to cancer; experts divided on health impact of radio frequencies
      http://downtoearth.org.in/content/new-cancer-risk




      - Bt gene harms GM plants
      New answers to old questions on biosafety on GM crops
      http://downtoearth.org.in/content/bt-gene-harms-gm-plant




      - Rajasthan seed initiative wilts: MoUs with biotech seed companies in limbo as protests force a rethink.
      http://downtoearth.org.in/content/rajasthan-seed-initiative-wilts




      - News: Centre seeks view on Endosulfan
      States say all is well with the hazardous pesticide
      http://downtoearth.org.in/content/centre-seeks-view-endosulfan




      - Interview: "Energy conservation is a moving target"
      Ajay Mathur, director of Bureau of Energy Efficiency, shares his views on the Energy Conservation Act enacted in 2001
      http://downtoearth.org.in/content/energy-conservation-moving-target




      - Shale gas: hype and reality
      As the world rushes for the gas, scientists gather evidence of its environmental risks.
      http://downtoearth.org.in/content/shale-gas-hype-and-reality




      - Crosscurrents: An excercise in flippancy
      Planning Commission report for a low-carbon future disappoints
      http://downtoearth.org.in/content/exercise-flippancy




      - Twenty year special: Only one people
      Rio Declaration(1992) on Environment and Development resulted in an action plan called Agenda 21. Down To Earth was the first to capture this debate in the inaugural year's June 15 issue. Edited excerpts : http://downtoearth.org.in/content/only-one-people




      - Special Report: Good Lord! No trees
      Wood used in Jagannath's chariot vanishing fast from Odisha's jungles
      http://downtoearth.org.in/content/good-lord-no-trees




      - Betrayal via bamboo: Largest paper manufacturer is using most of the bamboo in Maharashtra, leaving little for residents
      http://downtoearth.org.in/content/betrayal-bamboo




      - Sharks in Soup: India goes against world in not banning shark fin trade
      http://downtoearth.org.in/content/sharks-soup

      - Infect the mosquitoes: Bacterial that can control malarial spread indentified.



      http://downtoearth.org.in/content/infect-mosquitoes

      - Civil Lines: Acquisition made easy
      New land acquisition bill won't bring relief to tribals



      http://downtoearth.org.in/content/acquisition-made-easy

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      Web Special
      ==========================



      - Radio DTE: Dr. Prabhat Jha on Selective Abortions in India

      Founding director of Centre for Global Health and Research talks about the report....
      http://downtoearth.org.in/node/85/video

      - Web DTE: FSSAI's scientific panel reconstituted



      But members of the panel now designated as “independent consultants” were a part of the panel as representatives of the industry till February
      http://downtoearth.org.in/content/fssais-scientific-panel-reconstituted




      - Photo Gallery: Endosulfan victims through the years
      http://downtoearth.org.in/node/389

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      UPDATES FROM OUR PROGRAMME UNITS

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      - Deadline for applying extended till July 15,2011 for third CSE Media Fellowships for the South Asian Region: Water barred: need or greed?
      A fellowship on South Asian water bodies, community and ‘development’



      For journalists from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka

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      ----------------------------------------------------

      - Release of CSE's report on profit sharing, Bhubaneshwar
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      The Food Safety and Toxin Quarterly Report

      This quarterly newsletter is an effort of CSE to bring you up-to-date with the developments in the country regarding food safety
      and environmental toxins. Tracks the latest in policy and regulation on food and toxins and also presents the results of tests



      conducted by CSE Pollution Monitoring Laboratory on various consumer products.

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      The Climate Change meet at Bonn

      We bring you day to day update on the perspectives held by various countries participating in the climate change debate in Bonn.



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      CSE's research on lakes



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      http://www.cseindia.org/node/689
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      >From our stores
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      Our brand new range of 100 per cent organic cotton t-shirts are here.
      Just visit http://csestore.cse.org.in/t-shirts/100-organic-t-shirts.html and place your orders.Sent from my BSNL landline B-fone

      Warm regards,

      Sumant Joshi


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