Wednesday, September 30, 2009

USDA discussion live on Facebook

USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Kathleen Merrigan will hold a Live Facebook Chat about local food systems on Thursday, October 1 at 3:45 pm ET. Comments and questions can be submitted via the USDA Facebook page.

The discussion is a part of the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative launched in early September. According to the website:
USDA-wide effort to create new economic opportunities by better connecting consumers with local producers. It is also the start of a national conversation about the importance of understanding where your food comes from and how it gets to your plate. Today, there is too much distance between the average American and their farmer and we are marshalling resources from across USDA to help create the link between local production and local consumption.
As a former student of Kathleen, I am reminded of something she told us in her policy class: "think big!" She is dedicated to the "People's Department" being just that, and this is her way of including all in the conversation.

Friday, September 4, 2009

ADA publishes benefits of organic talking points

In July, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition(AJCN) published a meta-analysis on the nutritional quality of organic versus conventional food creating a stir in the media. This month, the American Dietetic Association(ADA) has published a 'Hot Topic' which takes a more holistic approach to the benefits of organic food. According to ADA, 'Hot Topics' are "short, concise practice and science-based answers to current questions Registered Dietitians(RD) may receive."

The 'Hot Topic' was co-authored by Christine McCullum-Gomez, PhD, RD and Anne-Marie Scott of the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition(HEN) Dietetic Practice Group(DPG) of ADA. In their review they challenge the AJCN study for "not examining differences in contaminants (such as pesticide, herbicide or fungicide residues) or the possible environmental consequences of organic versus conventional production practices." Further, the authors claim there are benefits to organic beyond human nutrition.
When considering benefits and costs of organic versus conventional agricultural production, it is important to consider benefits and costs to consumers, farmers, communities and the environment. For example, current research in numerous areas is showing both short-and long-term benefits to our population and the planet with organic and other sustainable production systems. Documented environmental benefits of organic production systems include reduced nutrient pollution, improved soil organic matter, lower energy use, reduced pesticide
residues in food and water and enhanced biodiversity.
It is refreshing to see the ADA not taking their traditionally myopic approach.
The challenge for our field(dietetics) is to understand exactly how foods and food products are grown and manufactured and the effects these methods may have on our personal health and the health of the global environment.
Disclosure: I am a HEN member. HEN is currently the fastest growing DPG of the ADA. (phew..a lot of acronyms)