Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Good News of Modern Beef Production

Harold W. Harpster
Professor of Animal Science
Department of Dairy and Animal Science
The Pennsylvania State University

Let’s be optimistic and say that that the agricultural industries are slowly getting better at informing the general public on how and why their food is produced the way it is. The days of assuming we can raise animals any way we want and keep consumers in the dark are OVER! However, we must do a much better job of educating the public to the realities of food production. Continue reading The Good News of Modern Beef Production

Math Lessons for Locavores

Op-Ed Contributor
New York Times

By Stephen Budiansky
Published: August 19, 2010

IT’S 42 steps from my back door to the garden that keeps my family supplied nine months of the year with a modest cornucopia of lettuce, beets, spinach, beans, tomatoes, basil, corn, squash, brussels sprouts, the occasional celeriac and, once when I was feeling particularly energetic, a couple of small but undeniable artichokes. You’ll get no argument from me about the pleasures and advantages to the palate and the spirit of eating what’s local, fresh and in season.

But the local food movement now threatens to devolve into another one of those self-indulgent — and self-defeating — do-gooder dogmas. Arbitrary rules, without any real scientific basis, are repeated as gospel by “locavores,” celebrity chefs and mainstream environmental organizations. Words like “sustainability” and “food-miles” are thrown around without any clear understanding of the larger picture of energy and land use. Continue reading Math Lessons for Locavores

Italian Farmer Pushes Genetically Modified Crops

Bloomberg Business Week
August 18, 2010


Giorgio Fidenato has made a habit of carrying a raw ear of yellow corn and taking a hearty bite whenever a camera is in sight.

It’s a provocation. The Italian farmer’s corn is genetically modified, grown surreptitiously in fields in the northeast not far from the Austrian and Slovene borders.

“Our biggest goal is to show consumers that it is safe to eat,” said the 49-year-old advocate of what’s known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

More activist than farmer, Fidenato’s cultivation of nearly 5 hectares, or 12 acres, of genetically modified corn is a rogue act aimed at forcing the legalization of genetically engineered crops in Italy. He waxes on about their benefits: They require fewer chemicals and produce higher yields and greater profits. Continue reading Italian Farmer Pushes Genetically Modified Crops

Are Organic Foods Over-Hyped?

Virginia Ishler
Dairy Complex Manager
Department of Dairy and Animal Science
Penn State University

News media has a tendency to portray certain aspects of agricultural production either positively or negatively. Doug Powell, an associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University co-authored a paper on “Coverage of organic agriculture in North American newspapers: Media – linking food safety, the environment, human health and organic agriculture,” just published in the British Food Journal.

Powell examined how organic food production is portrayed in the media. The paper is based on a study Powell conducted from 1999-2004 with two colleagues at the University of Guelph in Canada, Stacey Cahill and Katija Morley. Cahill was one of Powell’s students at the time. The team explored how topics of organic food and agriculture were discussed in five North American newspapers. Using the content analysis technique, the 618 articles collected were analyzed for topic, tone and theme regarding food safety, environmental concerns and human health. Continue reading Are Organic Foods Over-Hyped?