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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



      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
      Pharma and biotech firms are lobbying hard to block disclosure of origin of genetic material used in inventions, but they also
      raise thorny issues. Read on http://downtoearth.org.in/content/disclosure-shy-industry

      - Special Report : New cancer risk
      WHO links excess mobile phone use to cancer; experts divided on health impact of radio frequencies

      - Bt gene harms GM plants
      New answers to old questions on biosafety on GM crops

      - Rajasthan seed initiative wilts: MoUs with biotech seed companies in limbo as protests force a rethink.

      - News: Centre seeks view on Endosulfan
      States say all is well with the hazardous pesticide

      - 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

      - Shale gas: hype and reality
      As the world rushes for the gas, scientists gather evidence of its environmental risks.

      - Crosscurrents: An excercise in flippancy
      Planning Commission report for a low-carbon future disappoints

      - 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

      - Betrayal via bamboo: Largest paper manufacturer is using most of the bamboo in Maharashtra, leaving little for residents

      - Sharks in Soup: India goes against world in not banning shark fin trade

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


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


      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....

      - 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

      - Photo Gallery: Endosulfan victims through the years

      On India Environment Portal


      - Sub-portal on South Asia and Sustainable Development: Provides in-depth information through news, reports, analysis, opinions and events, linked to other key institutions and websites etc. Please do contribute studies, reports, court orders etc, especially from our neighbouring countries in the South Asian region.


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      Courses offered by Anil Agarwal Green College

      E-outreach: Three-days workshop on how to leverage new media technologies for advocacy and strategic communication.

      Date: July 6-8, 2011

      Last date for registration: June 20, 2011

      Nominations accepted online at http://www.cseindia.org/node/997

      Course details: http://www.cseindia.org/content/e-outreach-new-media-technologies-advocacy-and-strategic-communication-0

      Contact person: kiran@..., kirandwi@...

      The new Green Schools training programme

      Date: July  28-29, 2011 &  August 18-19, 2011

      Course details: http://www.cseindia.org/node/1186

      Course contact:Ashish Shah
      Deputy Coordinator, Environment Education Unit

      Tel:   +91 9871702439
      Email: ashish@...

      Social Impact Assesment:

      Date: August 10-12, 2011

      Last date for applying: July 25, 2011

      Course Module:
      - Exposure to aspects of SIA, from theory to applications
      - Integrated approach for addressing SIA and EIA process - from scoping, data collection to impact assessment as well as the role of public

      - Knowledge on review of SIA reports and identification of strengths and weaknesses
      - Post SIA monitoring
      - Procedure for institutional strengthening and capacity building
      - Experience sharing on national and international best practices in SIA

      Course details: http://www.cseindia.org/node/2208

      For more details contact: Sujit Kumar Singh
      Industry & Environment Unit, Centre for Science and Environment

      Tel: + 91-11-29955124/ 6110, Extension: 281, |
      Fax: + 91-11-29955879 Mob. No.: +91 9899676027
      E-mail: sujit@...

      Covering India: Where journalism meets environment

      Date: November 1-30, 2011

      This certificate course is designed as a hands-on 'bootcamp', and targets those interested in a career in mainstream or niche news media, development communication, civil society campaign and advocacy initiatives, and industry CSR, among others.

      Course Module:
      - Environment as a subject of coverage
      - Ecological rights, natural resource management and food security
      - Urban growth: contemporary challenges
      - Climate change policies, politics
      - Hands-on research labs

      - News writing & editing studios
      - Supervised field-based reporting and writing

      Some fellowships for participants from South Asia available.

      Course details: http://www.cseindia.org/node/2607

      Course Contact: Sharmila Sinha
      aagc@... / cseindiasharmila@...




      - 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

      Date: August 2011 – November 2011

      Last date of receiving application: July 15, 2011

      For details, visit http://www.cseindia.org/node/2599


      - Release of CSE's report on profit sharing, Bhubaneshwar
      The report is an analysis of the profit sharing mechanism, international practices being followed in different countries,

      the need for profit sharing, etc.

      Date: June 24, 2011

      For details, contact Sugandh Juneja at sugandh@... or
      visit http://cseindia.org/node/2633


      - The Annual Green Schools Awards
      The top 'green' schools of Delhi and other parts of India will receive the coveted Green Schools Awards in July 2011.

      To know more: http://www.cseindia.org/content/gobar-times-green-schools-awards-ceremony-2010-2011

      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.

      The first e-newsletter will be released this month. Please subscribe using the following link:


      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.

      Follow the developments, by clicking http://cseindia.org/node/2666

      CSE's research on lakes

      Our urban water unit has put together a comprehensive data bank on lakes in India. To get all the details, follow


      Rain Water Harvesting technical support

      Every Friday between 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) provides detailed technical guidance to interested individuals,

      RWAs and institutions to implement rainwater harvesting. The technical assistance will be provided at CSE’s office at 41, Tughlakabad Institutional

      For details see the following link: http://www.cseindia.org/content/catch-rainwater-solve-your-water-problems

      >From our stores

      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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