The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed both the strengths and limitations of globalization. The crisis has made people aware of how industrialized food production can be, and just how far food can travel to get to the local supermarket. There are many benefits to this system, including low prices for consumers and larger, even global, markets for producers. But there are also costs — to the environment, workers, small farmers and to a region or individual nation's food security.
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By Danielle Nierenberg and Alonso Diaz
With record high unemployment, a reeling global economy, and concerns of food shortages, the world as we know it is changing. But even as these shifts expose inequities in the health and food systems, many experts hope that the current moment offers an opportunity to build a new and more sustainable food system.
1. Be My Guest: Reflections on Food, Community, and the Meaning of Generosity by Priya Basil (forthcoming November 2020)<p>Priya Basil explores the meaning of hospitality within a variety of cultural, linguistic, and sociopolitical contexts in this short read. Basil uses her cross-cultural experience to illustrate how food amplifies discourse within families and touches on the hospitality and the lack thereof that migrants and refugees experience. <em>Be My Guest </em>is at once an enjoyable read and a hopeful meditation on how food and hospitality can make a positive difference in our world.</p>
2. Biodiversity, Food and Nutrition: A New Agenda for Sustainable Food Systems by Danny Hunter, Teresa Borelli, and Eliot Gee<p>In <em>Biodiversity, Food and Nutrition</em>, leading professionals from Bioversity International examine the positive impacts of biodiversity on nutrition and sustainability. The book highlights agrobiodiversity initiatives in Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Turkey, featuring research from the <a href="https://www.bioversityinternational.org/research-portfolio/diet-diversity/biodiversity-for-food-and-nutrition/" target="_blank">Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition Project </a>(BFN) of the <a href="https://www.bioversityinternational.org/alliance/" target="_blank">Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT</a>. Through this analysis, the authors propose that the localized activities in these countries are not only benefiting communities, but are transferable to other regions.</p>
3. Black Food Geographies: Race, Self-Reliance, and Food Access in Washington, D.C. by Ashanté M. Reese<p>In <em>Black Food Geographies, </em>Ashanté Reese draws on her fieldwork to highlight community agency in response to unequal food access. Focusing on a majority-Black neighborhood in Washington, DC, Reese explores issues of racism, gentrification, and urban food access. Through her analysis, she argues that racism impacts and exacerbates issues of unequal food distribution systems.</p>
4. Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice edited by Hanna Garth and Ashanté M. Reese (forthcoming October 2020)<p>Access, equity, justice, and privilege are the central themes in this forthcoming collection of essays. The food justice movement often ignores the voices of Black communities and white food norms shape the notions of healthy food. Named for Black Lives Matter, <em>Black Food Matters </em>highlights the history and impact of Black communities and their food cultures in the food justice movement.</p>
5. Diners Dudes & Diets: How Gender and Power Collide in Food Media and Culture by Emily J.H. Contois (forthcoming November 2020)<p>In <em>Diners, Dudes & Diets</em>, Emily Contois looks at media's influence on eating habits and gendered perceptions of food. Focusing on the concept of dude foods, the book follows the evolution of food marketing for men. In doing so, Contois shows how industries used masculine stereotypes to sell diet and weight loss products to a new demographic. She argues that this has influenced both the way consumers think about food and their own identities.</p>
6. Feeding the Crisis: Care and Abandonment in America’s Food Safety Net by Maggie Dickinson<p>The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is essential for individuals who face food insecurity on a daily basis. Still, the program fails to reach many, including those who are unemployed, underemployed, or undocumented. <em>Feeding the Crisis</em> provides a historical overview of SNAP's expansion and traces the lives of eight families who must navigate the changing landscape of welfare policy in the United States.</p>
7. Feeding the Other: Whiteness, Privilege, and Neoliberal Stigma in Food Pantries by Rebecca T. de Souza<p>In <em>Feeding the Other</em>, Rebecca de Souza explores the relationship between food pantries and people dependent on their services. Throughout the work, de Souza underscores the structural failures that contribute to hunger and poverty, the racial dynamics within pantries, and the charged idea of a handout. She argues that while food pantries currently stigmatize clients, there is an opportunity to make them agents of food justice.</p>
8. Feeding the People: The Politics of the Potato by Rebecca Earle<p>In <em>Feeding the People,</em> Rebecca Earle tells the story of the potato and its journey from a relatively unknown crop to a staple in modern diets around the world. Earle's work highlights the importance of the potato during famines, war, and explains the politics behind consumers' embrace of this food. Interspersed throughout are also potato recipes that any reader can try.</p>
9. Food in Cuba: The Pursuit of a Decent Meal by Hanna Garth<p>In <em>Food in Cuba</em>, Dr. Hannah Garth looks at food security and food sovereignty in the context of Cuba's second largest city, Santiago de Cuba. Throughout the work, Garth defines a decent meal as one that is culturally appropriate and of high quality. And through stories about families' sociopolitical barriers to food access, Garth shows how ideas of food and moral character become intimately linked.</p>
10. Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America by Marcia Chatelain<p>Scholar, speaker, and strategist Marcia Chatelain provides readers insight into the ways fast food restaurants expanded throughout Black communities. Dr. Chatelain traces their growth during the 20th century and their intersection with Black capitalists and the civil rights movement. This book highlights the dichotomy between fast food's negative impacts on Black communities and the potential economic and political opportunities that the businesses offered them.</p>
11. Honey And Venom: Confessions of an Urban Beekeeper by Andrew Coté<p>In <em>Honey and Venom,</em> Andrew Coté provides a history of beekeeping while taking the reader through his own trajectory in the industry. A manager of over one hundred beehives, Coté raises colonies across New York City, on the rooftops of churches, schools, and more. Coté's<em> </em>passion for beekeeping comes through clearly as he narrates the challenges and rewards of his career.</p>
12. Life on the Other Border: Farmworkers and Food Justice in Vermont by Teresa M. Mares<p>Agriculture, immigration, and Central American and Mexican farm workers may conjure ideas of the Mexico-U.S. border, but in <em>Life on the Other Border</em>, Teresa Mares gives a voice to those laboring much farther north. Mares introduces the readers to the Latinx immigrants who work in Vermont's dairy industry while they advocate for themselves and navigate life as undocumented workers. This is an inspiring read that touches on the intersection of food justice, immigration, and labor policy.</p>
13. Meals Matter: A Radical Economics Through Gastronomy by Michael Symons<p>In <em>Meals Matter</em>, Michael Symons argues that economics used to be, in its essence, about feeding the world but has since become fixated with the pursuit of money. Symons introduces readers to gastronomic liberalism and applies the ideas of philosophers like Epicurus and John Locke to the food system. Through this approach, he seeks to understand how large corporations gained control of the market and challenges readers to rethink their understanding of food economics.</p>
14. No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg<p>Greta Thunberg addressed the United Nations at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit and has since been a global symbol of environmental activism. Her community organizing and impassioned speeches are uncompromising as she argues that climate change is an existential crisis that needs to be confronted immediately. <em>No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference </em>includes Thunberg's speeches and includes her 2019 address to the United Nations.</p>
15. Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It by Tom Philpott (forthcoming August 2020)<p>In <em>Perilous Bounty</em>, journalist Tom Philpott critically analyzes the centralized food system in the U.S. and argues that it is headed for disaster unless it sees some much-needed changes. Philpot argues that actors within the U.S. food system are prioritizing themselves over the nation's wellbeing and provides well-researched data to back up his claims. Providing readers insight into the experiences of activists, farmers, and scientists, this is a great read for those starting to learn about the state of the country's food system and for those who are already deeply involved.</p>
16. Plucked: Chicken, Antibiotics, And How Big Business Changed The Way The World Eats by Maryn McKenna<p>In this exposé on the chicken industry, acclaimed author Maryn McKenna explains the role antibiotics played in making chicken a global commodity. <em>Plucked </em>makes it clear that food choices matter and show how consumers' desire for meat, especially chicken, has impacted human health. McKenna also offers a way forward and outlines ways that stakeholders can make food safer again.</p>
17. Stirrings: How Activist New Yorkers Ignited a Movement for Food Justice by Lana Dee Povitz<p>Between 1970 and 2000, food activists in New York City pushed to improve public school lunches, provide meals to those impacted by the AIDS epidemic, and established food co-ops. In <em>Stirrings</em>,<em> </em>Lana Dee Povitz draws on oral histories and archives to recount the stories of individuals who led these efforts. She highlights the successes of grassroots movements and reminds readers of the many women leaders in the New York food justice movement.</p>
18. The New American Farmer: Immigration, Race, and the Struggle for Sustainability by Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern<p>In <em>The New American Farmer</em>, Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern offers a look at farm labor in the U.S. Although most farm owners are white Americans, farm workers are overwhelmingly immigrants and people of color. In this book, Minkoff-Zern details the experiences of farm laborers who are becoming farm owners themselves and outlines the many barriers that workers must overcome during this transition. Through interviews with farmers and organizers, Minkoff-Zern shows that these farmers bring sustainable agricultural practices that can benefit our food system.</p>
19. The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go from Here by Hope Jahren<p>Hope Jahren breaks down climate change for readers in an accessible and data-driven book. <em>The Story of More </em>explains<em> </em>how greenhouse gas emissions and consumption of natural resources in developed nations exacerbate climate change and outlines the consequences of these actions. Although she argues that the planet is in danger, she also provides a variety of everyday actions, like decreasing meat consumption, that consumers can take to make a difference.</p>
20. Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes by Bryant Terry<p>Author, chef, and food justice activist Bryant Terry provides readers with over a hundred recipes to create approachable and flavorful vegan dishes, without relying on meat alternatives. This book is a wonderfully practical recipe book that begins with a list of recommended tools, is organized by ingredients, and even includes a music playlist. Vegans and non-vegans alike will appreciate Chef Terry's <em>Vegetable Kingdom</em>.</p><a target="_blank" href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=Make+this+summer+a+season+of+reflection+and+self-education+with+Food+Tank%27s+reading+list+%E2%80%94+new+and+important+books+from+%40AMReese07%2C+%40GretaThunberg%2C+%40EmilyContois%2C+%40BryantTerry%2C+%40DrMChatelain%2C+and+more&url=https%3A%2F%2Ffoodtank.com%2Fnews%2F2020%2F07%2Ffood-tanks-summer-2020-reading-list%2F&via=foodtank"><span></span></a>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The demands of feeding a planet rapidly careening toward 10 billion people, coupled with the environmental degradation that industry and development has caused, has left much of the world's soil depleted of nutrients. A professor who studies soil science and is looking to improve the dirt for farmers around the world has been awarded the 2020 World Food Prize for his work, as NPR reported.
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By J. Erik Fyrwald
World Food Safety Day earlier this week reminded us of a harsh reality: Roughly 600 million people around the world suffer from food-borne illnesses, while an estimated 3 million die from illnesses contracted from unsafe food or water.
Agronomists Have an Outsized Role to Play<p>In recent decades, thanks to successful research and development in the field of agronomy, a wide variety of crop protection products have provided farmers with a set of carefully tailored tools for the production of safe and healthy crops.</p><p>For example, <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusarium" target="_blank">Fusarium</a></em> is a common fungus that can produce deadly mycotoxins in wheat, corn and barley. Recently developed broad-spectrum fungicides are now being used to prevent the spread in these crops. These agents play an active role in protecting the health of consumers and avoiding waste in having to destroy the infected grains.</p><p>In the past, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides have themselves sometimes been viewed as threats to the safety of food and water.</p><p>But innovation in crop protection products has come a long way since Rachel Carson pointed out the risk they posed in her seminal 1962 book <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_Spring" target="_blank">Silent Spring</a></em>. Today's crop protection agents are developed with both human health and the environment firmly in view.</p><p>Over the course of the last 60 years, these agents have become more targeted and more effective and they are applied much more sparingly. Since the 1950s, the agronomy sector has achieved a remarkable 95% decrease in the average application rate of active ingredients per hectare. At the same time, multiple innovations have led to crop yields from farmland more than tripling. These measures to make everyone's food safer have been reinforced with the <a href="http://www.fao.org/fao-who-codexalimentarius/en/" target="_blank">Codex Alimentarius</a>, the open, transparent system of international standards established in 1963 to protect consumer health and promote fair practice in the food trade.</p>
Crop-protection has been used more sparingly over recent decades. Source: Phillips McDougall, 2017
A Deep Respect for Health and the Environment<p>As it happens, more than a few of today's crop protection products are obtained from natural sources or are so thoroughly tested by time that they are considered traditional practices. This means they are commonly found in use on farms that specialize in growing organic produce.</p><p>Those of us working in the field of agricultural science are well aware these advances are not always appreciated by people who wish insecticides and fungicides were not a part of the global food system. Viewed in a certain light, I agree with them. But I have seen first-hand the destruction wrought by pests and the impact of a failed crop on farmers and their families. The devastation inflicted by swarms of locusts this year in Africa and Asia is just one case in point.</p>
Addressing the Challenge of Climate Change<p>The need for effective crop protection products has steadily grown as rising global temperatures have expanded the range of many pests and blights. Just last summer in the Netherlands, a farmer told me he was seeing an insect in his fields he had never seen before.</p><p>Our team researched it and found the pest was well known in Brazil – <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuta_absoluta" target="_blank">Tuta absoluta</a></em> is a miner fly whose larvae make corridors in the leaves by eating the cells – and becoming a problem in northern climates as a result of warmer winters. One of our goals as an industry is to provide farmers with the safest and best means of keeping threats like these at bay.</p><p>When viewed at macroscopic scale, advances in agronomy clearly represent an important part of the solution to climate change. The latest crop protection products address climate change directly – by enabling farmers to produce more food per unit of land than ever before in the history of agriculture. This is critical if we hope to bring a halt to the expansion of human activity into regions such as the Amazon rainforest – a precious natural resource that serves a higher common purpose as a carbon sink and biodiversity preserve than as a cornfield.</p><p>Progress has been made on crop protection solutions that help feed humanity safely while protecting the environment, but we should all take a moment on this World Food Safety Day to strengthen our resolve. Even in the face of a global pandemic and myriad other challenges – we must keep moving forward in our efforts to safeguard people and the planet.</p>
By Paul Bierman and Amanda H. Schmidt
For most of the past 60 years, the United States and Cuba have had very limited diplomatic ties. President Barack Obama started the process of normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations, but the Trump administration reversed this policy, sharply reducing interactions between the two countries.
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A Test Case in Sustainable Farming<p>Cuban rivers run from the mountains to the ocean through cow-filled pastures, fields of sugar cane and rice paddies, <a href="https://doi.org/10.5343/bms.2017.1026" target="_blank">forests, wetlands and mangroves</a>. Along the way, groundwater seeps into river channels from below. When heavy thunderstorms strike, water pours off the land.</p><p>These flows carry soil and dissolved material into streams, which deliver this load to the coast. Cuba's coastlines have abundant mangrove thickets, underwater seagrass beds and some of the Caribbean's <a href="https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/cuba/cuba-s-coral-reefs" target="_blank">best-preserved coral reefs</a>.</p><p>We became interested in teaming with Cuban scientists because of their nation's country-wide experiment in organic agriculture dating back to the late 1980s. When the Soviet Union, Cuba's former trading partner, broke apart, Cuban farmers lost access to fertilizers, pesticides and heavy equipment, and had to <a href="https://theconversation.com/cubas-sustainable-agriculture-at-risk-in-u-s-thaw-56773" target="_blank">adopt a more ecologically based aproach</a>. Could their experience provide a blueprint for more sustainable approaches to feeding the world?</p><p>We used the <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/" target="_blank">ResearchGate</a> network to find Cuban collaborators. Supported by the <a href="http://nsf.gov/" target="_blank">U.S. National Science Foundation</a> and the <a href="https://www.ceac.cu/" target="_blank">Centro de Estudios Ambientales de Cienfuegos</a>, the research we are doing in Cuba builds on measurements we have done all over the world.</p>
Less Fertilizer Runoff in Cuba<p>For this study we analyzed water samples from each of 25 rivers in central Cuba, looking for elements from across the periodic table and for bacteria. Our <a href="https://doi.org/10.1130/GSATG419A.1" target="_blank">first results</a> show that Cuba's sustainable agricultural practices minimize the impact of agriculture on river water quality by reducing the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that washes off from fields into local waters.</p><p>Cuban farmers use about half as much fertilizer for each acre of farmland than their U.S. counterparts (3 versus 6 tons per square kilometer per year in 2016). As a result, rivers in central Cuba contain much lower concentrations of dissolved nitrogen than the Mississippi River, which drains <a href="https://www.nps.gov/miss/riverfacts.htm" target="_blank">more than 1 million square miles</a> of America's agricultural heartland. On average, the Cuban rivers we analyzed contained 0.76 milligrams of nitrogen per liter of water, compared to 1.3 milligrams per liter in the Mississippi River from 2012-2019.</p><p>American crop yields per acre are higher than Cuba's, thanks partly to fertilizer use, but the trade-off is stark. Nutrients that pour off U.S. farm fields and flow down the Mississippi River create the <a href="https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/noaa-forecasts-very-large-dead-zone-for-gulf-of-mexico" target="_blank">Gulf of Mexico dead zone</a>, a patch of ocean where oxygen levels are so low that almost no marine life survives. The dead zone forms every summer, fed by spring rainfall, and has covered an <a href="https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/large-dead-zone-measured-in-gulf-of-mexico" target="_blank">average of 6,000 square miles</a> in recent years.</p><p>Cuba's rivers do contain other pollutants. We found high levels of bacteria and sediment in most of the rivers we sampled. DNA analysis suggests that at least some of these bacteria were from the guts of cows. We saw many cows during our field work in central Cuba, and those animals had free access to local streams. Simple solutions, like fencing river banks, could greatly lower bacteria levels in surface waters.</p><p>We also found naturally high levels of calcium, sodium and magnesium in Cuban river water. These materials come from rocks that are naturally dissolved by rainwater. None of them are hazardous to humans, although they might leave scale in tea kettles and alter the water's taste.</p>
Enabling More Scientific Cooperation<p>Although we've done field work on Greenland's ice sheet and in rice paddies of southwest China, this work in Cuba has been a uniquely valuable experience for us, both professionally and personally. We found Cuban culture to be warm and welcoming, even to Americans whose leaders for the most part have shunned the Cuban people for decades.</p><p>Sharing and teamwork are key parts of Cuban culture. When we brought out American snacks during our first visit to Cuba, our collaborators insisted these gifts must be shared with the entire lab staff. In the tropical January sunshine, scientists, technicians, secretaries and directors gathered outside to eat Vermont maple candies and blueberry jam.</p><p>We view this project as <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.367.6483.1274" target="_blank">science diplomacy</a> in action. But our Cuban partners cannot visit us until the United States agrees to grant visas to Cuban scientists. The Trump administration is going in the opposite direction: It has <a href="https://www.state.gov/united-states-further-restricts-air-travel-to-cuba/" target="_blank">suspended commercial and public charter flights</a> to Cuba from the U.S. and imposed sanctions that are designed to <a href="https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_fact_sheet_20190906.pdf" target="_blank">deny Cuba access to hard currency</a>.</p><p>As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps around the world, scientific cooperation is more important than ever. To us, it doesn't make sense to increase sanctions against a country that has more doctors per capita than any country on Earth and has <a href="https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-response-why-cuba-is-such-an-interesting-case-135749" target="_blank">responded more successfully than many nations</a> to COVID-19. We believe that science in the U.S. would gain from reopening communication with Cuba and sharing knowledge that could help heal the global community. </p>
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By Andrea Germanos
A new report released Tuesday draws attention to the worldwide decline in insects and calls for global policies to boost the conservation of both agriculture and the six-footed creatures.
Insect Atlas. Bartz / Stockmar, CC BY 4.0
Insect Atlas. Bartz / Stockmar, CC BY 4.0
<div id="8fdf8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="375c252c346fe9796c1409d1a05fb0eb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1270286526702850050" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">What are the consequences for our food supply? "If we continue using pesticides so heavily, farmers will lose the… https://t.co/Kiz6VXe6Mc</div> — Friends of the Earth #BlackLivesMatter (@Friends of the Earth #BlackLivesMatter)<a href="https://twitter.com/foeeurope/statuses/1270286526702850050">1591694883.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Schimpf also drew renewed attention to the <a href="https://www.savebeesandfarmers.eu/eng" target="_blank">Save Bees and Farmers</a> European Citizens Initiative. It's centered on three key demands: a phase-out of the use of synthetic pesticides; measures to increase biodiversity; and support for farmers.</p><p>As of press time, the petition has over 355,000 signatures.</p>
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By Danielle Nierenberg
Following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, people around the United States are protesting racism, police brutality, inequality, and violence in their own communities. No matter your political affiliation, the violence by multiple police departments in this country is unacceptable.
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As many parts of the planet continue to open their doors after pandemic closures, a new pest is expected to make its way into the world. After spending more than a decade underground, millions of cicadas are expected to emerge in regions of the southeastern U.S.
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- The Climate Emergency Won’t Wait for the Press to Play Catch-Up - EcoWatch ›
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the future of the Cannard Family Farm—whose organic vegetables supplied a single Berkeley restaurant—was looking stark.