Friday, July 26, 2013

Genevieve's Farm and Food Roundup

GenevieveRamakrishna Mallampati, a PhD student from the National University of Singapore,  is making use of discarded fruit peels after discovering they have the ability to remove pollutants from water.  With tomatoes being one of the most commonly consumed foods, and millions of apples being used to make apple juice everyday, Mallampati knew there had to be some way to make use of all the excess waste this provides. He took the skins, seeds, and fibers from leftover tomatoes and apples, and put them in a tea-like bag before immersing them in water. Once submerged, the peels acted like carbon filters due to their high absorbency, attracting pollutants that stick to their surface. Of course, this method and will not leave water 100 percent pollutant-free, but it is enough to turn potentially harmful water into a safer, and useful resource. Mallampati hopes that this discovery will be beneficial to farmers who don't have access to water treatment plants, by providing them with cleaner, drinkable water.

Hey, guess what! Strawberries, raspberries, and cherries aren't the only thing causing that pretty pink hue you see upon peeling the lid of your yogurt, but bugs are too! The popular yogurt maker, Dannon, has been exposed for using carmine in its "Fruit on the Bottom," Strawberry Oikos Greek, and Activia yogurt products. Carmine is a color additive made from crushed cochineal beetles, and although stated in the ingredient list, has caused quite the stir among yogurt enthusiasts and health officials. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is urging Dannon to remove the bug juice in favor of real fruit juice, arguing that its presence could be potentially disastrous for unaware vegetarians, those who keep kosher, and people with food allergies. A similar situation occurred last year when Starbucks was exposed for using carmine in its fruit smoothies, leading them to quickly remove the additive. As for now, it is unknown whether Dannon will do the same, so I would think twice and read the label before tossing that yogurt in your shopping cart if you have concerns.  

Already one of the fracking capitals of America, Colorado is considering the addition of three more drilling wells to a residential area just outside of Greeley, an area that is already undergoing significant fracking. The proposal was raised by Synergy, an oil-and-gas company responsible for fracking a large portion of northeast Colorado, and is currently being reviewed by a seven-member planning commission. The addition of more wells near Greeley has raised concerns among its residents, as well as residents of cities across the nation that, "don't want to become like Greeley." Such significant amounts of fracking in one area causes citizens to worry about the potentially negative affects it could have on their health. After all, one hundred new wells were just installed in areas around Greely after an approved proposal in May, making Greely look like "a shrinking 'donut hole' surrounded by drilling." However, at this rate, it seems that Synergy is likely to get what they want.

It looks like Utah has a lawsuit on their hands, as animal rights activists, journalists, and a woman who was charged under the law, sued the state for its Agricultural Operation Interference law. Passed about a year ago, this ag-gag law criminalizes visual or sound recordings from inside an agricultural operation without permission from the owner. Opponents have accused the law of being unconstitutional by violating freedom of speech and equal protection. Animal rights activists argue that it prevents the necessary exposure to the public of what goes on in some slaughterhouses and factory farms. On the other hand, those in favor of the law argue that it's not about the protection of animals, but rather the protection of property rights. Results of the case are to be determined.

The FDA has drafted a proposal suggesting that farmers keep all their chickens away from any potential contact with other wildlife, in an effort to reduce the risk of salmonella infection. The rules of organic farming require egg-laying hens to have access to the outdoors as often as possible, leaving organic farmers and proponents of free-roaming chickens unsure of how to go about this. In response, the FDA suggested they install fences, traps, and nets to keep wildlife out of range from the chickens. As expected, farmers are unhappy with the additional expenses these new rules would bring about, as well as the additional stress it would inflict on their chickens, making them more likely to get sick.  Critics, such as The Cornucopia Insitute, accused the new rules of being "a plot by the FDA and the USDA to 'eliminate true organic production.'" However, in the end, the proposal is merely a recommendation, and will not be strictly enforced.

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