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Posts Tagged ‘CAT 125’

It’s still only February, but California’s strawberries are already blushing as if it were mid-summer. As I carried three pints of the radiant morsels home from the farmers’ market yesterday — on my bike, wearing a T-shirt and sunglasses, I should add — I smiled and forgave SoCal all its sins. This is what living on the West Coast is all about, I thought.

But as much as I try to prolong them, those moments of blissful consumption just never last. Although my berries were grown organically by local farmers I know, I couldn’t help considering the broader socioeconomic factors that keep our state’s $2.1 billion strawberry tractor tilling year-round. In particular, I thought back to last December, when the California Department of Pesticide Regulation approved the use of a cancer-causing fumigant known as methyl iodide.

While the chemical poses no direct threat to consumers, the DPR’s decision floored scientists and activists alike due to the serious health impacts that it could have on farm workers across the state. Samuel Fromartz summed up the issue well:

“I wonder if the state, or even the EPA, would have thought differently about the pesticide if there was a consumer risk. Farm workers and farm communities tend to be abstract and distant — we don’t know who these people are. Often, because they are immigrants, they remain silent.”

Even at the farmers’ market where I work, over half the strawberries for sale this weekend were conventionally grown, meaning that there is a good chance they didn’t get so red and delicious all by themselves. This is a grave public health issue that must be addressed at the state, if not national, level. Please join me in urging Gov. Jerry Brown to reverse the CDP’s decision. You can also sign the national petition here.

In the meantime, if you manage to find yourself some organic (preferably local) strawberries, make Jonsi and Alex’s raw strawberry coconut pie. It will make you wish you had made two. (This video is a riot, but the recipe is also available in written form if you prefer.) Enjoy!

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Walmart wants to build a dozen new stores in San Diego over the next five years in the name of public health, and as of Tuesday night, the City Council is on board. So is Michelle Obama.

All of Walmart’s healthy food initiatives make great soundbites. For example, it’s about time the store cut back on the levels of sugar, sodium, and trans fat in its products. The company also intends to reduce the cost of healthy foods, label them more clearly, and make them more accessible for people living in low-income food deserts such as Logan Heights.

But as Marion Nestle points out, the nutritional improvements only apply to processed foods, and Walmart’s new labels are based on the company’s own nutrition criteria, which aren’t much stricter than the good-for-you guidelines written by Pepsi and Kraft. In addition, Nestle writes,

“The idea that Walmart is going to do its own front-of-package label to identify those products is particularly annoying. They are doing this just when the Institute of Medicine and FDA are trying to establish research-based criteria for front-of-package labels. So here is one more company trying to preempt FDA regulations.”

Food quality aside, can we really trust Walmart to reform American lifestyles and promote healthy communities, given the company’s infamous reputation for exploiting workers and crushing local businesses? Just last month, the Miami New Times published a story exposing the not-so-responsible sourcing of Walmart’s “Love, Earth” jewelry line. Is there any reason to believe that their food sourcing will be any more virtuous?

And what will the consolidation of our food supply mean for small farmers, including the 6,000 in San Diego? In order to make fruits and vegetables more affordable, Walmart buys in mega-bulk, meaning that single-crop yield (not diversification) is the name of the game.

I desperately want to believe that we can improve food accessibility and incentivize local production without relying on the business interests of Walmart — or even Whole Foods, for that matter. But are farmers’ markets, CSA boxes, and community gardens sufficient to feed every neighborhood in San Diego? In America? I’m still not sure.

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