the irresistible fleet of bicycles

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this month in food justice: peanut butter CEO sentenced to 29 years in prison


Before it was over, the Salmonella outbreak of 2008-2009 infected hundreds of people, killed nine, and was traced to peanut butter from the Peanut Butter Corporation of America. Seven years later, the CEO of the company, Stewart Parnell, has been sentenced to 29 years in prison for his role in the outbreak. Parnell, his brother, and another executive of PCA knew about Salmonela contamination in their peanut butter and still continued to ship it to consumers. In an email to a plant manager awaiting Salmonella tests, Parnell wrote, “Just ship it anyway.”

The CEO was found guilty of a whopping total of 72 counts of conspiracy, fraud, and other federal charges and his sentence is the most severe punishment ever given to anyone in a food illness outbreak in this country. Personally, we have to ask, nine people died and he only got 29 years?! That’s only nine more years than this guy got.

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EPA (finally) updates (antediluvian) standards to protect farm workers from pesticides

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Seeing as the the USDA’s worker-training about pesticide safety still (very necessarily) includes the above image and instructions, we couldn’t welcome these development more.

The new revisions to EPA standards “give farmworkers health protections under the law similar to those already afforded to workers in other industries.” You can read the full list of revisions on the EPA fact sheet, some highlights include:

  • children under 18 are no longer allowed to handle pesticides
  • mandatory yearly training for farm workers about pesticides (as opposed to every five years)
  • equirement to provide more than one way for farmworkers and their representatives to gain access to pesticide application information and safety data sheets – centrally-posted, or by requesting records
  • mandatory record-keeping of pesticide application

Great! But if news of the revisions leaves you feeling… I don’t know… a little angry about what they imply about conditions for workers on industrial farms, The United Farmworkers have a number of ongoing actions and campaigns to improve health, life, immigration, and economic conditions for workers on American farms.

Their reaction to the updated standards? “Is it ever too late to do the right thing? It’s been a long time coming, but it has come today.”

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article: west coast grange wars


On one hand you have an established order that, while quick to conjure its Populist origins, appears threatened by the kind of grassroots change it once championed. On the other, a contingent of rogue Grangers—progressives decidedly less interested in nostalgia than their national counterpart—attempting to breathe new life into an aging system that doesn’t seem to want the CPR.

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“There’s a contestation around what the Grange will be,” says Von Tscharner Fleming. “Right now, the Grange present is captured by a pretty corporate voice. The original Populist voice of the Grange is not present on the national level. We called our project Grange Future because we’re claiming an interpretation. We’re saying: the future’s a long time and we’re going to be here and we can use these buildings and this infrastructure.”

In a captivating article feature on In These Times, John Collins takes on the history of The Grange, the recent polemical schism between the California Grange and the national organization, and Grange Future.

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soul foods, not whole foods (staying abreast of the riots in Baltimore)


Just because Spring is the busiest time of year for farmers doesn’t mean that we’re not taking the time to keep a close eye on the riots in Baltimore. We know that the entrenched system of labor exploitation and land abuse that makes it to be a small farmer in this country is exactly the same system of greed, racism, and oppression that devalues black bodies and black life.  We understand that the success of our (and, in fact, all progressive) movements are not separate but intrinsically linked.

Whole Foods came out last week in support of The National Guard Last week. No surprise here, but we’d like to suggest that, in response, you choose not to support them. Check out this handy (though not complete) list Black Farmers to Buy from Instead of Whole Foods.

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on decay: dental, moral, and otherwise


In delightfully unsurprising news for conspiracy theorists, a recent paper published in PLOS Medicine Journal reveals a rather crooked historical alliance between the National Institute of Dental Research and the cane and beet sugar industry.

The distillation of the story is alarmingly familiar: federal health organization caves to pressure from big ag and industry groups, turning a blind eye to risk to Americans’ health.

Thousands of internal industry documents analyzed by the paper’s authors reveal that the Sugar Industry knew as early as 1950 that sugar was a key player in dental decay. In order to prevent dentists from doing what dentists arguably do best (handing out apples on Halloween?), trade organizations attempted to deflect attention from the sugar question towards research on enzymes that reduce dental plaque and a dubious vaccine against cavities.

The study notes that a whopping “78% of a report submitted to the NIDR by the sugar industry was directly incorporated into the NIDR’s first request for research proposals” for its National Caries Program (NCP), whose purported goal was to eliminate tooth decay in America. Meanwhile, the NIDR neglected to call for research that would potentially damage sugar industry interests, and, when the agency launched the NCP, it omitted this kind of research from its priorities.

The Sugar Industry responded to the paper by calling its tactics “‘a textbook’ play from the activist agenda.”

To which we say, “Carie on!”


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