By Modernfarmer.com

Blog | May 22, 2015

Ag graduates, Trans fats, Bees & Other news

Phasing out trans fats has been on the FDA’s mind since 2013, but could an outright ban be closer than we think? Decades after the discovery of trans fats, scientists came to the conclusion that they wreaked havoc on our cardiovascular systems, causing problems with cholesterol, inflammation, and the health of our blood vessels. For most, the end of these artery-clogging ingredients can’t come soon enough, “The time is long overdue to get trans fats out of the food supply,” said Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who encouraged mandatory labeling of trans fats, a rule that has been in place since 2006. Even with the food industry reducing its use of trans fats by over 85% according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, we can still find them in foods such as microwave popcorn and baked goods. While we’ve been labeling trans fats for almost a decade, trace amounts can still sneak in to products labeled “trans fat free.” If you’re looking to avoid them, be sure check the ingredients list for partially hydrogenated oil.

Graduation season is upon us, as is the widespread job-search-induced panic among seniors – unless you majored in agriculture, according to this piece from Agweb. With only 35,400 students annually graduating with ag degrees, and 57,900 job openings in the field, the agriculture industry is facing a shortage of qualified individuals willing and able to take jobs in agriculture technology, plant science, and water management, to name a few. “Not only will those who study agriculture be likely to get well-paying jobs upon graduation, they will also have the satisfaction of working in a field that addresses some of the world’s most pressing challenges,” said Tom Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture,

In an attempt to shake off their reputation of being too expensive, Whole Foods announced its new spinoff grocery store with lower prices to appeal to younger shoppers. According to Walter Robb, co-CEO of the upscale chain, the new, unique store will feature “value prices … a modern, streamlined design, innovative technology and a curated selection.” While there’s definitely incentive for the store to please its unhappy investors (Whole Foods reported lower than expected same-store sales and missed its profit estimates for the second quarter), marketing professor Anthony Dukes of USC’s Marshall School of Business believes the move may be more influenced by criticism of its high prices. “That price issue has been a thorn in their side. And if that’s keeping some people away, because they feel it’s too expensive, that new format addresses that issue.” Whole Foods hasn’t announced a name for it’s new store, but NPR’s unofficial poll yielded some humorous suggestions such as Wholer Foods and Half Foods.

A study released last Friday on the environmental impacts of trenbolone acetate (TBA), a hormone that acts like testosterone used in the beef industry to facilitate rapid muscle growth. Previously believed to be harmless to the environment, this study follows the hormone after it is excreted from the cow and into runoff, groundwater, and finally to shallow stream beds. Adam Ward, member of the research team and professor at Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, found the consequences of the hormone to be particularly apparent in minnow fish populations in the streambeds. “These fish are constantly swimming around in really low doses of testosterone, which has an impact,” says Ward. The minnow fish exposed undergo reduced reproduction rates, partial or complete sex reversal, and alterations to their endocrine system, which change a host of behaviors related to reproduction. While these findings are clearly harmful to the minnows, Ward doesn’t see the hormone as particularly problematic for humans, “To be perfectly frank, I don’t think there’s a huge issue for human health. And I don’t think it’s contaminating our wells in a way that’s harming us. I also don’t think the pharmacy or beef industries have done anything wrong.”

After a disastrous decade for the bee industry, the United States is getting closer and closer to the end of domestically produced honey. This past winter, 40% of America’s honeybees died, marking the second largest disappearance of bees in history. While foreign sources of honey may be available, aspects of the supply has raised concerns for US consumers, such as safety and purity; the European Union once banned honey from India due to contamination concerns. Not only do we have to worry about our domestic honey production, according to the USDA, bees are responsible for contributing about $15 billion each year in crop value. Without bees, crop value could most certainly drop. Contributing factors to bee deaths include Asian mites and changing farming habits, such as the increased use of pesticides. Dennis vanEngelsdorp, entomology teacher at the University of Maryland, explains that bee deaths don’t necessarily mean extinction, but rather, beekeepers are finding it too costly to maintain their colonies, “Yes, bees are dying every year, but you have to distinguish between losses and declines. What’s happening is it’s becoming more expensive to maintain the current levels,” he says. Researchers are asking for money so they can study ways to overcome the factors contributing to bee decline.

California’s nearly $30 billion produce industry is both ahead and behind this year. With two consecutive warm winters, fruits have ripened and are ready to pick at abnormally early dates, while vegetables have been in short supply, resulting in higher than normal prices. The wholesale price for red leaf lettuce has doubled due to the shortage, and romaine lettuce prices are up 50% according to the USDA. The higher temperatures, spiking to 80 degrees in Salinas Valley from the usual 60, have interrupted the heavily planned schedule of planting and harvesting that farmers rely on to ensure a steady supply of produce throughout the year. With some fields ready earlier than planned, farmers are left with a gap in production. “As soon as we put our best-laid plans on paper, Mother Nature comes along,” says Mark McBride of Coastline Family Farms, a major vegetable grower based in the Salinas Valley.

Phasing out trans fats has been on the FDA’s mind since 2013, but could an outright ban be closer than we think? Decades after the discovery of trans fats, scientists came to the conclusion that they wreaked havoc on our cardiovascular systems, causing problems with cholesterol, inflammation, and the health of our blood vessels. For most, the end of these artery-clogging ingredients can’t come soon enough, “The time is long overdue to get trans fats out of the food supply,” said Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who encouraged mandatory labeling of trans fats, a rule that has been in place since 2006. Even with the food industry reducing its use of trans fats by over 85% according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, we can still find them in foods such as microwave popcorn and baked goods. While we’ve been labeling trans fats for almost a decade, trace amounts can still sneak in to a product without being labeled “trans fat free.” If you’re looking to avoid them, be sure check the ingredients list for partially hydrogenated oil.

Donate today

Give $75 or more to get the
official Farm Aid beanie to be
ready for cold weather!

Connect with us