Digestif

The first in a new line of posts, the daily Digestif will recount the course of food policy events as played out on the world’s front pages. 

  • Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group explain the importance of today’s milestone event in a video for The Guardian, noting the necessity to weigh both animal welfare and global food system sustainability when considering the rapidly increasing rate of demand for meat. For further background reads on Mark Post’s lifelong passion to create in vitro meats, read Michael Specter’s ’11 New Yorker piece
  • In commentary, Princeton’s Peter Singer lays out the ethical and environmental framework in support of future replacement of animal meat with in-vitro meat if possible at a reasonable cost. A humanizing conclusion from a figure pressed for dietary prescription dogma:

Some vegetarians and vegans may object to in vitro meat, because they don’t see the need for meat at all. That’s fine for them, and of course they are free to remain vegetarians and vegans, and choose not to eat in vitro meat. My own view is that being a vegetarian or vegan is not an end in itself, but a means towards reducing both human and animal suffering, and leaving a habitable planet to future generations. I haven’t eaten meat for 40 years, but if in vitro meat becomes commercially available, I will be pleased to try it.

  • Asked for comment concerning a Pediatrics-published study (co-written by Columbia researcher Ryan Demmer) which followed SSB consumption of 9600 children in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey—Birth Cohort, Mailman’s Dr. Claire Wang noted implied a growing consensus around a public health clarion call: “This is really just adding to the evidence we already know that (drinking) sugar-sweetened beverages in childhood is associated with weight gain. It’s definitely one of the major, if not the main, driver in childhood obesity.” The study’s results:

Higher rates of SSB consumption were associated with higher BMI z-scores among children age 4 (P < .05) and 5 (P < .001) but not yet at 2 years. Children aged 5 years who drank SSB regularly (compared with infrequent/nondrinkers) had a higher odds ratio for being obese (1.43, confidence interval 1.10–1.85, P < .01). In prospective analysis, children drinking SSB at 2 years (compared with infrequent/nondrinkers) had a greater subsequent increase in BMI z score over the ensuing 2 years (P < .05).

  • The Rodale Institute celebrated the thirty year anniversary of its Farm Systems Trial (FST). I have little comment to add, as the short article recap is worth reading in full. In brief:

As America’s longest-running side-by-side comparison of these farming systems, the FST has revealed that crops grown organically are truly healthier and hardier in the long run, and better able to cope with weather extremes. Organic fields in the FST produce just as much as the chemical-reliant fields, despite claims that organic farming uses more resources to produce less food. But it is the performance of the organic fields during drought years that is truly amazing.

More after the jump.

In four out of five drought years, the organically grown corn produced significantly more than the conventionally grown corn. The organic corn of the FST was even more successful under drought conditions than the drought-tolerant seed varieties were in the industry trials. The Rodale Institute’s organically managed fields produced between 28.4 percent and 33.7 percent more corn than conventionally managed fields under drought conditions.

Monsanto boasted that its genetically modified drought-tolerant corn was “one of our most significant R&D milestones,” producing between 6.7 percent and 13.4 percent more under drought conditions than other corn varieties. DuPont touts hybrids that produce 5 percent more on average, and Syngenta, which is leading the pack, has managed to produce 15 percent more with its drought-tolerant seeds.

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