Blog | May 1, 2015

Victory for Vermont’s GMO labeling law & other news

GRACE Communications Foundation announced the launch of their new and improved Water Footprint Calculator, a tool to help users account for how much water they use every day. This comprehensive, yet simple series of questions adds up the water we use directly from the tap, plus the virtual water it takes to make the food we eat and the energy we use. With multiple states in the midst of a drought, GRACE felt the launch of this new tool couldn’t come at a better time. Because so many people are becoming more and more aware of their water use, there are plenty of helpful tips on reducing your water use along the way. The calculator uses data from the Water Footprint Network, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several other sources to calculate an individual’s water footprint.

There was a victory for concerned Vermonters this week as the state’s GMO food labeling law, act 120, was ruled constitutional this week by the US District Court for the District of Vermont. This ruling denies the motion to halt the implementation of the law, which was brought forth by plaintiffs such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Snack Food Association. Vermont’s new law has an expected start date of July 2016. “Americans are demanding the right to know if their food is produced through genetic engineering, for health, environmental and many other reasons,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety and counsel in the case. “This decision is a crucial step in protecting those rights.”

Tyson announced this Tuesday that they are jumping on the antibiotic-free bandwagon. As the largest poultry producer in the United States, Tyson’s elimination of most human-use antibiotics from their meat has caused quite a reaction – here’s one from analyst Sasha Stanwick from the National Resources Defense Council, “I’m going to call it and say we’ve now hit the tipping point for getting the chicken industry off antibiotics… Now we have to make sure the industry actually tips.” While many groups in the antibiotic-resistance movement see this move from Tyson and other groups in the past as a huge win for public health, other groups are wondering when these companies will be going further into ending antibiotic use, “While the chicken industry as a whole is making great strides in reducing antibiotic overuse, it begs the question: Why are the turkey, pork and beef industries lagging so far behind?” asks Steve Roach of Keep Antibiotics Working.

With the majority of Americans living in cities these days, we’re seeing more and more people in urban areas becoming city-dwelling gardeners. According to 2014 figures compiled by the National Gardening Association, the number of Americans growing food in urban areas increased 29 percent between 2008 and 2013 from 7 million to 9 million people. While this trend may seem to have few downsides, there is the issue of soil safety. While lead is a common contaminant frequently tested, there is a lack of knowledge around avoiding contaminants like asbestos, petrochemicals left behind by cars, heavy metals, or cleaning solvents that have seeped into the soil. Brent Kim, a program officer at the Center for a Livable Future, has a few suggestions for avoiding health crises that could arise from using contaminated soil: learn about the future gardening site’s history, use raised beds (but be mindful that they won’t be completely protective against contaminants already in the soil), use gloves while you’re working in the garden, and wash your produce thoroughly before enjoying. “Urban growing spaces are amazing,” says Kim. “Let’s keeping doing this, but let’s do it safely.” For more information, check out this urban gardening guide from Johns Hopkins University.

Not only were they the first to voluntarily disclose GMO ingredients in their food back in 2013, Chipotle announced this week that they would also be the first ever National Restaurant Company to use exclusively non-GMO ingredients on their menu. “There is a lot of debate about genetically modified foods,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “Though many countries have already restricted or banned the use of GMO crops, it’s clear that a lot of research is still needed before we can truly understand all of the implications of widespread GMO cultivation and consumption. While that debate continues, we decided to move to non-GMO ingredients.” Chipotle is also now actively working to create a new, simpler recipe for its tortillas, which are the only food items on its menu that include any artificial additives.

By Emily Eagan

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