There ought to be a little something in there for everyone regardless of their leanings.
There's been a lot of coverage of Consumer Report's tests for bacteria in conventional and "sustainable" beef. Take, for example, this Washington Post article. The article seems to be mixing a bunch of concepts. There are antibiotic resistant bacteria (aka “super bugs” – though they’re not resistant to all types of antibiotics), which is what they found less of in the “sustainable” beef. And then there are bacteria that *can* product toxins. Cooking can kill the bacteria but not the toxin, but the study didn’t actually test for the toxins (only the bacteria-producing toxins). As best I can tell, there were similar levels of these types of bacteria in both types of beef (actually, they don’t discuss levels at all but only % of samples detected with the presence of the bacteria regardless of amount). In any event, the toxins typically don’t get produced unless the beef is left out for a while at unsafe temps.
These public health researchers propose a cap-and-trade type system for calories. The authors are never really very clear about the underlying source of the externality they're attempting address (negative or positive) and why calories get at the heart of it. Moreover, what of those in the world who get too few calories?
Interesting article in Choices by James McDonald on the extent of contracting in agriculture. I was surprised to read that use of contracting decreased in recent years for many commodities. Wu and McDonald subsequently discuss related market power issues in the same outlet.
About a month ago, Nathanael Johnson wrote a piece for Grist asking: Is there a moral case for meat? In the piece, he writes:
His sentiment reflects a common theme, it seems, in writing about animal welfare and vegetarianism. In fact, back in 2012, the New York Times ran a contest for people to write essays justifying that it is ethical to eat meat. The premise was essentially the same as that put forth by Johnson:
A blog post for the New York Times by Bob Fischer and James McWilliams earlier this week attempts to adjudicate between competing factions within the vegetarian/vegan movement. In the nearly 1000 comments on the post, again and again, crops up the same premise mentioned above: that there is no intellectually sound ethical case for eating meat.
Ultimately, however, I think this premise is wrong. There are many intellectually sound, internally consistent arguments for eating meat. I think what many of these people are saying is "well, I'm not convinced by those arguments." But, that's not the same thing as saying such arguments are non-existent or bereft of intellectual punch. I will be the first to admit that there are a number of well written, internally-consistent philosophical discourses that make a compelling case against eating meat. But, that doesn't imply there aren't good counter arguments on the flip side.
I also suggest a chapter by the Judge Richard Posner in the book Animal Rights edited by Sunstein and Nussbaum.
Another good place to turn would be this intelligence squared debate, where four invited guests debate the motion: don't eat anything with a face. Chris Masterjohn and Joel Salatin make the case against the motion. After the debate, the audience was just about split between the for and against side (also note that 95% of Americans routinely eat things that had faces). Now, you may not agree with Masterjohn and Salatin's arguments, but are you comfortable calling 43% of the audience in New York City at the debate (and 95% of the consuming public) illogical, unthinking, or immoral?
Personally, I've written a number of pieces that attempt to grapple with this issue. I'll share several of them below. I'm not saying I fully endorse any of the positions, but I think they provide a flavor for how one might go about tackling the issue.
Attempt 1 (the Utilitarian case; written with Bailey Norwood a couple years ago).
Attempt 2: (The Exchange argument; also with Norwood in chapter 6 of our book Compassion by the Pound)
Attempt 3: (The stewardship argument leading to religious argument; also with Norwood in chapter 6 of our book Compassion by the Pound)
Ultimately, I'm asking for less intellectual dogmatism on the side of some non meat eaters. After sifting through all the philosophical cases for and against eating meat, here's where Norwood and I wound up:
On the way into work this morning, I heard this story on NPR about GMOs. While I don't always agree with the slant on every story run by NPR, I generally expect their stories to be fair and insightful. But, in this case, I think they missed some critical nuance.
After a "woman on the street" interview in which a some of typical unsubstantiated claims about GMOs were made, the reporter followed up with the following statement (about the 2:20 mark on the recording):
That's a highly misleading claim for several reasons. First, there are many GMOs that have nothing to do with pesticides. Arctic apples, golden rice, low linoleic acid soybeans, and many others have nothing to do with pesticides use or carcinogens. In fact there is now a GMO potato explicitly designed to reduce carcinogens. Moreover, some GMOs, like Bt corn and virus resistant papaya reduce the use of insecticides.
Even if we move to herbicide resistant, Roundup-Ready corn and soy, the question isn't whether Round-up is carcinogenic, but rather: what has been the overall change in toxicity from the move toward Round-up and away from older herbicides that were more toxic? Several USDA reports suggest that overall toxicity has gone down with the adoption of herbicide resistant crops.
After the above statement, the reporter followed up by making an important point but then following it up with another misleading statement. She said:
She's right that non-GMO can use just as much pesticide as GMO. In fact, as was pointed out by Andrew Kniss, Chipotle's move to remove non-GMOs from their supply chain may have actually led to adoption of crops (sunflowers) that use pesticides with higher toxicity than was the case for the GMO crops. However, when I first heard this story on air, I mis-interpreted the reporter as saying GMOs (rather than non-GMOs) were "doused with pesticides." My reaction was, first, that no farmer "douses" with such expensive products and second that non-GMOs don't mean no-pesticide. That latter point is, of course, the one that she was making, though I didn't get that in real time.
The second statement seems to imply organic means no pesticides. That's patently false.