Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Report: Most top grocery chains fail on pollinator protection

Poll shows 80 percent of Americans support eliminating bee-killing pesticides from agriculture
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new report and scorecard grades 20 of the largest food retailers in the U.S on their policies and practices regarding pollinator protection, organic offerings and pesticide reduction. Of the top food retailers, 17 received an “F” for failing to have a publicly available policy to reduce or eliminate pesticide use to protect pollinators. Only Aldi, Costco (COST) and Whole Foods (WFM) received passing grades in this category.
“U.S. food retailers must take responsibility for how the products they sell are contributing to the bee crisis,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “The majority of the food sold at top U.S. food retailers is produced with pollinator-toxic pesticides. We urge all major retailers to work with their suppliers to eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides and to expand domestic organic offerings that protect pollinators, people and the planet.”
Today’s report, Swarming the Aisles: Rating top retailers on bee-friendly and organic food, comes amid mounting consumer pressure on food retailers to adopt more environmentally-friendly sourcing policies. A coalition led by Friends of the Earth and more than 50 farmer, beekeeper, farmworker, environmental and public interest organizations sent a letter urging the food retailers to eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides and increase USDA certified organic food and beverages to 15 percent of overall offerings by 2025, prioritizing domestic, regional and local producers. This effort follows a campaign by Friends of the Earth and allies that convinced more 65 garden retailers, including Lowe’s and Home Depot, to commit to eliminate bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides.
Bees and other pollinators are essential for one in three bites of food we eat and without them grocery stores would run short of strawberries, almonds, apples, broccoli and more. A growing body of science points to the world’s most widely-used insecticides, neonicotinoids, as a leading factor in pollinator declines, and glyphosate, the most widely-used herbicide worldwide, as a key culprit in monarch butterfly declines.
New data from a YouGov Poll released today by Friends of the Earth and SumofUs found that 80 percent of Americans believe it is important to eliminate neonicotinoids from agriculture. Among Americans who grocery shop for their household, 65 percent would be more likely to shop at a grocery store that has formally committed to eliminating neonicotinoids. The poll also revealed that 59 percent of American grocery shoppers believe it is important for grocery stores to sell organic food, and 43 percent would be more likely to shop at a grocery store that sells more organic food than their current grocery store. The full poll results are available on request.
"Over 750,000 SumOfUs members have spoken out advocating that U.S. Hardware stores take action to protect our pollinators. And after years of pressure, Home Depot and Lowe's have finally enacted more bee-friendly policies," said Angus Wong, Lead Campaign Strategist at SumOfUs, a consumer watchdog with ten million members. "And the findings of this poll show that a vast majority of consumers want to eliminate neonicotinoids from their grocery stores too. This is why food retailers must commit policies that protect our bees immediately."
The report found that while consumer demand for organic and pesticide-free food continues to show double-digit growth, only four of the top food retailers, Albertsons, Costco, Target (TGT) and Whole Foods, have adopted a publicly available company commitment to increase offerings of certified organic food  or to disclose data on the current percentage of organic offerings or organic sales. In addition to these retailers, Aldi, Food Lion, part of the Delhaize Group (DEG), and Kroger (KR) disclosed data on the current percentage of organic offerings or organic sales. None of the retailers have made a publicly available commitment to source organic from American farmers.

“To protect pollinators, we must eliminate pollinator-toxic pesticides from our farming systems and expand pollinator-friendly organic agriculture,” said Dr. Kendra Klein, staff scientist at Friends of the Earth. “Organic farms support 50 percent more pollinator species than conventional farms. This is a huge opportunity for American farmers. Less than one percent of total U.S. farmland is in organic production — farmers need the support of food retailers to help them transition dramatically more acreage to organic.”

Sixteen of the top 20 food retailers were predominately unresponsive to Friends of the Earth’s requests for information via surveys, calls and letters. Primary sources of information for this scorecard include publicly available information, including company websites, company annual reports, SEC filings, corporate social responsibility and sustainability reports, press coverage and industry analyses.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Ghoulishly good times are back at IHOP® RESTAURANTS with The return of FREE Scary Face Pancakes FOR KIDS ON HALLOWEEN
On October 31st Kids 12 and Under Can Enjoy a Free Scary Face Pancake from 7 a.m.-10 p.m.

To celebrate Halloween, on October 31, kids 12 and under can dig into Scary Face Pancakes for FREE from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. at participating restaurants. IHOP encourages children and families to create a monster masterpiece from a hot-off-the-griddle, world-famous Buttermilk Pancake topped with whipped cream, a strawberry nose and served with a side of OREO® cookies and candy corn.
Participating IHOP Restaurants in the United States.
For close to six decades, IHOP has been the leader in bringing guests a freshly made breakfast served any time of day, every day, as well as unique, made-to-order limited time menu items. Scary Face Pancakes offer families a fun and unique dining experience this Halloween season.
MONDAY, October 31, 2016 7:00 AM – 10:00 PM

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Healthy Food Advocates Launch Petition Telling Safeway to Stop Creating Food Deserts

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The Care2 Petition Takes Aim at Safeway’s Practice of Blocking Other Grocery Stores from Entering Properties it has Vacated
A Care2 petition is demanding Safeway stop its practice of blocking other grocery stores from entering properties it has vacated. The Care2 petition, started by Lauren Ornelas, founder and director of the Food Empowerment Project, has gathered over 7,000 signatures. The campaign comes on the heels of efforts in Washington, D.C. to block grocery chains from keeping out the competition with such deed restrictions.
“When Safeway/Albertsons decides to leave a neighborhood, they sometimes block other grocery stores from opening up in their former locations,” Ornelas writes on her Care2 petition. “This means that when they are the only grocery store around and leave an area such as a downtown location to move to the suburbs, they include a restriction on that property that states that no other grocery store can move in. Some of these restrictions have been for as long as 15 years!”
Safeway uses deed restrictions to block competitors from moving into its former locations. The practice came to light in Vallejo, CA,  in 2011, when Winco was blocked from building a store in a former Safeway location.
The issue has also been documented in Washington, D.C., leading two councilmembers, David Catania and Mary Cheh, to introduce a proposal that would ban the practice.
Ornelas’ Care2 petition targets Safeway/Albertsons' CEO Robert Miller. She says Safeway’s deed restrictions create food deserts.
“Communities of color, the differently-abled, and the elderly already experience barriers to accessing healthy food, and companies like Safeway should not be contributing to the problem,” Ornelas writes. “They could easily change their ways and HELP neighborhoods stay healthy!”

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Report calls for investment and smart regulatory systems to stimulate innovation during a volatile business cycle, as agricultural productivity growth stalls

DES MOINES, Iowa, Oct. 12, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- For the third year in a row, the rate of global agricultural productivity growth has failed to meet its target, says a report by the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) released today.  GHI's 7th annual Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (2016 GAP Report®): Sustainability in an Uncertain Season warns that unless this trend is reversed, the world may not be able to sustainably provide the food, feed, fiber and biofuels needed for a booming global population.  

Improving agricultural productivity is not just about producing more or achieving higher yields; it allows more to be produced while maximizing the use of and impact on precious natural resources.  Agricultural productivity lowers the cost per unit of output, helping producers succeed in today's competitive business cycle, and supplies food and agriculture products for consumers at lower prices.
  It is part of a comprehensive strategy to sustainably meet global demand for food and agricultural products.  

According to GHI, global agricultural productivity must increase by 1.75 percent annually in order to meet the demands of an estimated 9.7 billion people in 2050.  GHI's annual assessment of global productivity growth – the GAP Index™ – shows the current rate of growth is only 1.73 percent.  The rate of productivity growth for low-income countries is of special concern, as it is stagnating at only 1.3 percent annually, far below that required to meet food and agriculture needs in a sustainable manner.

Global demand for food and agriculture products is skyrocketing, driven by a growing population and middle class, yet in high-income countries, like the U.S., productivity growth rates have slowed and agricultural output has declined to levels not seen since the 1980s.  This downward trend in productivity raises questions about the health of U.S. agriculture, which is a key driver of the economy, providing $2 trillion in revenue annually and employing 19 million people.  
U.S. farmers are concerned about low crop prices, rising land values and higher prices for seeds, fertilizer, crop protection, machinery and storage and are looking for ways to cut costs and manage risk in order to remain competitive.  Uncertainty about regulations make it difficult for farmers and industry to plan for the future and many are worried about the negative reaction of some consumers to their products and production practices.

"We need to ensure that the agricultural value chain is competitive in every phase of the business cycle.  The food price crisis was just 6 years ago; to think that in half a decade we have created systems that will sustainably produce an abundance of food would be to disregard history," said Ben Pratt, Vice President of Corporate Public Affairs for The Mosaic Company and chair of the GHI
Board of Directors.

The GAP Report argues that the best way for farmers to improve their competitiveness is to adopt technologies and practices that make their operations more productive and sustainable.  With precision agriculture, advancements in seed, fertilizer, biotechnologies and animal welfare practices, farmers can manage costs while producing more and protecting their soils, water quality, and animal health.

GHI calls for renewed commitment to public agricultural research and development (R&D) and improvements to regulatory systems to stimulate innovations that will improve productivity and support the development of resilient food and agriculture systems that adapt to and help mitigate climate change.    

"Participants in every part of the value chain need to be able to manage their costs, by investing for innovation and growth," said Dr. Margaret Zeigler, Executive Director of GHI.  "Public sector investments in agricultural R&D coupled with sensible, efficient regulatory systems provide the foundation for innovation and ensure it gets into the hands of the farmers and producers who need it. For farmers who need access to land and finance, new opportunities for partnership are emerging that can expand their options and reduce their risks."

GHI presented the 2016 GAP Report's findings before an audience of farmers and global leaders in science, research, policy and private agriculture industry attending the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa.  The event included a discussion of the importance of agricultural productivity and policies and investments that can help farmers remain competitive while transforming agriculture into a force for mitigating climate change.

Dr. Margaret Zeigler, Executive Director of GHI, was joined by special guest Ambassador Patricia Haslach, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, U.S. Department of State and former Ambassador to Ethiopia (2013-2016); Mr. Luca Fabbri, Chief Financial Officer, Farmland Partners Inc.; Dr. Keith Fuglie, Economist, Resource and Rural Economics Division, USDA Economic Research Service; Ms. Bonnie McClafferty, Director of Agriculture for Nutrition Global Program, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN); and Mr. Ben Pratt, Vice President, Corporate Public Affairs, The Mosaic Company & GHI Board Chair.

The 2016 GAP Report is presented at the World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa and the event is streamed live online October 12 from 11:00 AM to noon CDT at
The GAP Report® can be found on  

NIFA invests $1.4 million in Health and Safety Education for Rural Communities

Focus on Substance Misuse Prevention, Mental Health and Aging

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced $1.4 million in grants to enhance the quality of life for citizens in rural areas through the Rural Health and Safety Education competitive (RHSE) grants program.

Through these awards, the program is supporting two projects to address the critical challenges of substance misuse in rural communities. Secretary Vilsack announced the eligibility of such projects for the grants in March in Atlanta at a national drug misuse summit. In January, President Obama tapped Secretary Vilsack to lead an interagency effort focused on the rural opioid epidemic. The RHSE grants are only one way USDA is using its resources to address the crisis. On Aug. 31, Vilsack announced an initiative to provide transitional housing for rural Americans in recovery from substance use disorders, and USDA has also awarded Distance Learning and Telehealth Medicine grants to health facilities to help treat individuals in rural areas.

"Many individuals and families living in rural areas and communities experience disparities related to health, safety, and well-being. The opioid epidemic that is ravaging our rural communities has highlighted these challenges," said Secretary Vilsack. "Inadequate access to health and education resources is often the cause of these hardships. These projects will help promote and enhance rural health, prevent substance use disorders, strengthen economic vitality and, in the long term, mitigate the effects of rural poverty."

The Rural Health and Safety Education competitive grants program supports non-formal health education programs and services that provide timely health information suited to rural residents of all ages. Projects are tailored to life stages, cultural differences, health literacy, and occupational and environmental circumstances. These projects use behavioral and social science to increase motivation for healthy living, promote access to health and educational activities and training for volunteers and health service providers. Since 2009, NIFA has awarded $10.6 million to the RHSE program.

Fiscal year 2016 grantees include:
University of Georgia, Athens, Ga., $359,487 – Through a partnership with Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas, this project will engage rural Georgians and Texans and increase participation in recommended breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screenings, as well as nutrition and physical activity behaviors related to cancer prevention. To aid in these efforts, the projects will capitalize on the existing, successful University of Georgia Extension Program, Cooking for a Lifetime of Cancer Prevention Cooking School.

Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kan., $356,257 – This project expands on the existing Keys to Embracing Aging program to reach communities statewide in Kansas and Kentucky. The program introduces and reinforces 12 healthy lifestyle behaviors, including nutrition, physical fitness, social, and mental wellness, personal safety, stress reduction, and financial management.

Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont., $362,378 – Montana residents face serious health challenges in the form of mental illness, substance misuse and a suicide rate that is nearly twice the national average. To address the challenges of access to resources, Montana State University will lead a state-wide project to train extension faculty to promote mental health literacy and youth suicide prevention among rural Montanans.

Penn State University, State College, Pa., $359,628 – PROSPER (Promoting School-university-community Partnerships to Enhance Resilience), established in 2001, promotes healthy development and to avoid long-term health and behavioral problems in rural youth through the use of universal, evidence-based interventions. This project will expand PROSPER into new, rural communities in Pennsylvania to address issues including substance misuse, problem behavior, family strengths and positive youth development.
Previously funded projects include a University of Tennessee train-the-trainer program to foster healthier childcare and home environments for infants and children, and a University of Hawaii project that provided community workshops and water testing kits for the 60,000 rural citizens who rely on rainwater catchment systems for drinking water and other uses.
NIFA invests in and advances innovative and transformative research, education and extension to solve societal challenges and ensure the long-term viability of agriculture. NIFA support for the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel have resulted in user-inspired, groundbreaking discoveries that are combating childhood obesity, improving and sustaining rural economic growth, addressing water availability issues, increasing food production, finding new sources of energy, mitigating climate variability and ensuring food safety.

To learn more about NIFA's impact on agricultural science visit, sign up for email updates or follow us on Twitter @usda_NIFA, #NIFAimpacts.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

World Health Organization: Soda Taxes Are Important Policy Tools for Health

Statement of CSPI President Michael F. Jacobson
With critical votes on soda taxes coming on the November ballots in a number of U.S. cities, the World Health Organization has issued an important report reviewing the evidence for the need of such measures.
The WHO report found “reasonable and increasing evidence that appropriately designed taxes on sugar sweetened beverages would result in proportional reductions in consumption…” The review also found “strong evidence that subsidies for fresh fruits and vegetables that reduce prices by 10 to 30 percent are effective in increasing fruit and vegetable consumption.”
In addition to reducing consumption, the WHO review noted that soda taxes can also provide incentives to industry to produce healthier products, as well as providing funds for programs that address the chronic-disease burden caused by the excessive consumption of sugar drinks. “As such, the use of fiscal policies should be considered a key component of a comprehensive strategy for the promotion of healthy diet and the prevention and control of NCDs (non-communicable diseases),” said the report, continuing: “Oppositional arguments against taxes are usually either false or greatly overstated.”
Voters should especially keep that caution in mind as they see Big Soda’s tidal wave of misleading advertising, calling the proposed soda taxes “grocery taxes.”