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FDA is taking comments on “natural”

Food Politics - Mon, 11/16/2015 - 5:45am

I’m always indebted to Food-Navigator-USA for spot-on commentary on current food politics.  Here, for example, is Elaine Watson on the FDA’s amazing decision to take comments on the meaning of “natural” on food labels.

Having studiously avoided this food labeling minefield for years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has surprised many in the trade by seeking comments on the definition of a word that has launched a thousand class action lawsuits (well almost): ‘natural’.

Her piece is worth reading for its excellent reporting and interviews with industry stakeholders.

About “natural,” the FDA has said:

From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.

Now petitions have induced the FDA to seek comments, the first step in its standard rulemaking processes.

Specifically, the FDA asks for information and public comment on questions such as:

—Whether it is appropriate to define the term “natural,”

—If so, how the agency should define “natural,” and

—How the agency should determine appropriate use of the term on food labels.

“Appropriate” in this context translates as:  Should high fructose corn syrup be considered “natural?” (The FDA said yes in 2008).   How about GMOs? (the FDA’s position on GMOs is that they are not materially different from any other kind of food).

To file comments on these and other questions,

  • For electronic submissions, go to Regulations.gov and search for docket number FDA-2014-N-1207.
  • For submissions by mail, use the following address. Be sure to include docket number FDA-2014-N-1207 on each page of your written comments.  Division of Dockets Management, HFA-305, Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061, Rockville, MD 20852

The Economics of Compassion: Can This City Wipe Out Debt by 2019?

Abundant Community - Sun, 11/15/2015 - 9:00pm
A "Jubilee" initiative in Cincinnati aims to wipe out the debts of the city's poorest people. Theologian Walter Brueggemann explains the idea's biblical foundations.
Categories: Abundant Community

Unlocking the Secrets of the Ross Ice Shelf

Earth Institute -- Columbia University - Fri, 11/13/2015 - 5:55pm
The Ross Ice Shelf is much like the Rosetta Stone. The historic stone inscribed in three scripts told the same story but in different tongues, so when matched together scholars could decode an ancient language. The Antarctic Rosetta Project also brings together three different "scripts," each written by an Earth system; the ice, the ocean and the underlying bed each have a story to tell.
Categories: Non-Profits

The Paris Climate Summit: Resources for Journalists

Earth Institute -- Columbia University - Fri, 11/13/2015 - 11:24am
Many experts at Columbia University’s Earth Institute are attending or closely watching the Paris climate summit. These include world authorities on climate science, politics, law, natural resources, national security, health and other fields, who can offer expert  analysis to journalists. Also, this week we start our Paris Climate Summit blog, with news, views, and scientific... read more
Categories: Non-Profits

BALLE & Etsy Awakening the Hearts of Entrepreneurs

BALLE Living Economy Blog - Fri, 11/13/2015 - 11:10am
Fri, 11/13/2015 - 08:00 Fri, 11/13/2015 - 08:00 Show In:  Newsroom

Together, BALLE and Etsy.org are exploring a number of initiatives. Last month BALLE ED Michelle Long joined Etsy Foundation leaders in Brooklyn to serve as a field guide leading a weekend immersion for their pilot “business school for the regenerative entrepreneur.” While there, she offered a mini version of the Well-Being in Business Lab program piloted to Oakland business owners this spring.

By Michelle Long

Last month BALLE brought the Well-Being in Business Lab to the new Etsy Foundation in Brooklyn, NY.  Like BALLE, their founders believe that the skills, aptitudes, and attitudes that it took to build the old economy will not be the same that it will take to build the new. We share the belief that what is being called for requires tapping into a deeper place in our humanity, of who we really are, and who we want to be as a society – and that to solve the complex crisis of our era, we are being called as leaders to feel and make decisions from a place of our interdependence – a shift from “me” to “we.”

Together, BALLE and Etsy.org are exploring a number of initiatives, and last month I joined them as a field guide to lead a weekend immersion for their pilot “business school for the regenerative entrepreneur.” Over the course of a day I offered their Brooklyn-based cohort of entrepreneurs a mini-version of the five-month Well-Being in Business Lab we developed for and with 40 Oakland business leaders in the first half of 2015. Together we touched on the four threads of interdependence, which according to the Greater Good Science Center, make all human beings deeply well: connection to purpose, connection to each other, connection in reverence to the larger natural world, and acting to address suffering with compassion. Research shows that to be human is to long for and to feel joy when we have touched into these aspects of interconnection. Research also shows that these capacities can be developed.

Over the course of the immersion we used story-telling to explore how these motivations are being translated into service through business in every sector. Sparks of that emerging future are here with us now! Participants helped each other to identify small ways to practice these capacities over the course of the program, and a partner for encouragement and accountability. One person wanted to rekindle awe and committed to daily walks in the woods and sending a photo to a friend each day as proof. Another person committed to hosting a dinner with critics of her industry to better understand the suffering they knew. Someone else made the commitment to journaling each night about what gave him joy at work that day, with the intention that this would bring him closer to his purpose.

From Oakland to Brooklyn, these entrepreneurs are ready to move beyond incremental steps and toward business as service to our humanity. Next we’ll be with BALLE Local Economy Fellows Alfa Demmellash, CEO of Rising Tide Capital, and Jessica Norwood of Emerge Change, alongside a group of local entrepreneurs in Jersey City on December 8.

If this intention speaks to you, join us on December 3 at noon PT/3pm ET, for a webinar with myself, Dr. Dacher Keltner of the Greater Good Science Center, and Erin Kilmer Neel of the Oakland Sustainable Business Alliance and co-creator of the Oakland Well Being in Business Lab, as we explore together the awakening of the heart of the entrepreneur.

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The Changing Face of Air Quality

Earth Institute -- Columbia University - Fri, 11/13/2015 - 6:39am
Looking at regional differences in PM2.5 concentrations gives us a sense of the changing face of air quality throughout the world.
Categories: Non-Profits

Weekend Reading: Philosophy Comes to Dinner

Food Politics - Fri, 11/13/2015 - 5:19am

Terence Cuneo, Andrew Chignell, Matthew C. Halteman, editors. Philosophy Comes to Dinner: Arguments over the Ethics of Eating.  Routledge, 2015.

I was happy to do a blurb for this book, having met Andrew Chignell and participated in an online course he ran at Cornell based on the book.

In recent years, I’ve seen an explosion of student and public interest in the politics and ethics of food.  It’s great to have philosophers contributing to this discussion, and this book explains why.

When thoughtful people differ about issues in food and nutrition, it isn’t always easy to decide what the right thing is to do.  Philosophers have ways of looking at controversial issues that help with such decisions.  This book lays out some typical arguments and explains how the major philosophical frameworks can help sharpen the discussion.

Should I sell my crops wholesale?

PlacerGrown Blog - Thu, 11/12/2015 - 10:32am
A question I have been struggling with lately is whether or not I should sell the vegetables I grow to a wholesale produce distributor. The reason I have been wrestling with this question is that after fourteen years of selling at farmers' markets, I would really like to have my Saturdays back. I love farmers' markets and I love the customer interaction, but I am starting to love the idea of having my free time even more than all the things I love about the market. What I don't know is...
Categories: PlacerGrown Blog

Should American Wood Fuel European Power?

On-Sustainability Blog - Fri, 11/14/2014 - 11:13am

scientificamerican.com | Article Link | by Elizabeth Harball and ClimateWire 

A growing feud over the use of American wood to fuel power production in Europe came into sharp relief yesterday as an environmental group staged a seafaring protest during a forest industry conference.

Participants at this week's Mid-Atlantic Forest Products Conference toured a deepwater export terminal near Norfolk, Va., owned by Enviva LP, a major wood pellet manufacturer and conference sponsor. The tour group was met by about 16 protesters on a party boat circling Enviva's Port of Chesapeake, brandishing a 16-foot banner reading "SOS—Save our Southern Forests" and waving smaller signs that read "Stop Enviva."

Organized by an Asheville, N.C.-based environmental group called the Dogwood Alliance, the protest is the latest move by activists to draw attention to the wood pellet industry's growth in the South, where they allege forests are being chopped down unsustainably so European nations can meet renewable energy targets.

"We shouldn't be exporting our forests to be burned for electricity in the U.K.," Scot Quaranda, a spokesman for the Dogwood Alliance, said before the protest Wednesday. "We need to find more ways to protect and preserve forests."

A spokesman for Enviva declined to comment on the protest. In a statement to ClimateWire, Seth Ginther, executive director of the U.S. Industrial Pellet Association, said, "We are disappointed to see these anti-biomass campaigns continue to spread mis-information about the biomass industry.

"Biomass is sustainably sourced from low-value wood fiber, and from by-products and residues of other forest products industries," Ginther added. "Governments in European countries that are importing biomass for energy have set strict sustainability standards and requirements for biomass, which the industry is meeting through forestry certifications and continuous third-party audits, ensuring the sustainability of the product, as well as providing data on the carbon benefits associated with replacing coal use with biomass."


Image Courtesey of Wikimedia Commons/ Luc Viatour/www.Lucnix.be

The Top Eight Things You Need To Know About Online Education

On-Sustainability Blog - Thu, 11/06/2014 - 11:47am

forbes.com | Article Link | by Tom Lindsay

There is a variety of opinions in the media these days regarding online learning. Depending on what you read, online education can appear to be either a cure-all or cancer. In an effort to cut through the smoke, here are the top eight established facts you need to know.

1) Online learning is here to stay. Since 1986, when the first online degree program from an accredited institution was offered (by John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California), growth has been exponential. Today, one-third of America’s 21 million enrolled students are taking some or all of their instruction online. The eleven-year study by the Babson Survey Research Group shows over seven million online enrollments in the fall semester of 2013.

2) There is no significant difference in learning outcomes. Some 30 years of research, including that of the U.S. Department of Education, has found no evidence that online learning is qualitatively inferior to that obtained in a traditional classroom. Unfortunately, those who have preached online learning’s “convenience” for so long have led many to believe that this means “easy,” which is not true. Online courses can be more or less rigorous depending on the instructor who develops the course and the academic department that reviews it.

At the same time, advances in information technology now make it possible to offer significantly more rigorous courses that don’t “feel” as difficult because of the design of the course and the support features that can be directly integrated. For example, one online provider, Excelsior College, sought to address the fact that its students, like most students, live in fear of anything quantitative. In response, Excelsior built access to the Khan Academy‘s tutorials into the lessons for its required courses. The result? Both grades and completion rates went up, with no dumbing-down required.


Image Courtesey of Wikimedia Commons/Everaldo Coelho and YellowIcon

Home Solar Power Discounts Are Worker Perk in New Program

On-Sustainability Blog - Thu, 11/06/2014 - 9:16am

nytimes.com | Article Link | Diane Cardwell

Expanding the notion of corporate benefits beyond discounted health club memberships and low insurance rates, a group of major companies is set to offer employees access to cheaper solar systems for the home.

Under an arrangement announced Wednesday, employees of the companies — Cisco Systems, 3M, Kimberly-Clark and National Geographic — will be able to buy or lease solar systems for their homes at rates substantially lower than the national average, executives said. The program, offered through Geostellar, an online marketer of solar systems, will be available to more than 100,000 employees and will include options for their friends and families in the United States and parts of Canada.

Conceived at the World Wildlife Fund, the program, called the Solar Community Initiative, aims to use the bulk buying power of employees to allow for discounts on home systems.

The program’s expansion is a reflection of the shrinking gulf between camps that were once considered mutually exclusive: environmental advocacy organizations and mainstream corporate America.

“Our objective was to make this as simple and cheap as possible,” said Keya Chatterjee, senior director for renewable energy at the World Wildlife Fund. After receiving discounts through a group program for employees last year, officials at the environmental group approached a few of their corporate partners, she said.

The program is consistent with the group’s approach of working closely with corporations, often quietly trying to nudge them toward change from the inside, rather than pushing from the outside through more confrontational tactics.


Image Couretesy of Wikimedia Commons/ Laslovarga

Chasing the Zeitgeist: Behind the Conference Program

Bioneers Blog - Thu, 07/26/2012 - 11:02pm
When people ask me what the Bioneers Conference is, I say it’s a natural anti-depressant. As someone all too well informed about the magnitude of the destruction and intractable predicaments our world uniquely faces today, I’m grateful I also have the privilege of a job that amounts to a kind of “star search” for the greatest social and scientific innovators of our time. When you’re immersed in the inspiration of BioneersWorld and constantly learning about breakthrough solutions for people and planet, it’s simply impossible not to have hope.
Categories: Non-Profits

Mapping the 2012 Beaming Bioneers Local Community Conferences

Bioneers Blog - Thu, 07/26/2012 - 10:57pm
Can’t make it to the national Bioneers conference, or want to go local? Our Beaming Bioneers local partners bring home the inspiring Bioneers plenaries plus a treasure trove of live local solutions and leaders to build community resilience and restoration nationwide. Join local allies to activate your region for transformation.
Categories: Non-Profits

Working Like An Ecosystem

Bioneers Blog - Thu, 07/26/2012 - 10:50pm
How do we train 100,000 new farmers and instill a larger land ethic modeled on nature’s wisdom? How can each of us apply these ecological design principles and practices in our own backyards and communities? Don’t miss the brilliant design science full-day Permaculture intensive at Bioneers 2012 with leading masters.
Categories: Non-Profits

In Praise of Mentoring - An Essay by Carolyn North

Bioneers Blog - Thu, 07/26/2012 - 10:47pm
Several years ago I had the opportunity to help a 21-year-old gardener realize her dream of creating a mandala garden on land I was stewarding. She was bright, visionary and strong, and could hardly believe her luck at being given the go-ahead to use one acre of a beautiful meadow for her project. And what a garden it was! Two weeks later on the other side of the country in a completely unrelated incident, my 21-year-old musician daughter was approached by a woman about my age who asked her to join the string quartet of her dreams. Unsolicited. She could hardly believe her luck.
Categories: Non-Profits

Inside Moonrise Cultivating Women’s Leadership Intensive Trainings

Bioneers Blog - Thu, 07/26/2012 - 10:36pm
Each Cultivating Women’s Leadership Training blows my heart wide open, as I am struck by the vision, dynamism and beauty of strong women stepping more fully into their wholeness on behalf of our ailing world. As we take stands on behalf of what we love, in alliance with women from all walks of life, ages, disciplines and ethnicities, it seems the world bends to meet us. As research reveals, as women’s equity improves, so too does the health of all the human and ecological communities around them.
Categories: Non-Profits

Education for Action in Action at the Bioneers Conference

Bioneers Blog - Thu, 07/26/2012 - 10:34pm
There’s no “summer break” for Bioneers’ Education for Action Program, where budding initiatives are in fast-paced development to serve our expanding educational community in deeper, more extensive capacities than ever before.
Categories: Non-Profits

Indigeneity 2012 | Traditional Ecological Knowledge: The Story of Salmon

Bioneers Blog - Thu, 07/26/2012 - 10:33pm
I am a member of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe of California, raised in the heart of the Mojave Desert on our Indian Reservation along the shores of Havasu Lake, CA. My commitment and dedication to my people has afforded me tremendous opportunity to receive degrees in cultural anthropology and photography from Oklahoma State University and the Institute of American Indian Arts, and soon after serve as both a Chemehuevi Tribal Council member and Executive Director of the Chemehuevi Cultural Center. My path and purpose have led me to a life dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of indigenous culture, language, lifeways and landscapes.
Categories: Non-Profits

Building Resilience From the Ground Up

Bioneers Blog - Thu, 07/26/2012 - 10:31pm
Nature does not favor centralization. As climate change escalates and too-big-not-to-fail systems unravel, brilliant effective models of building local and regional resilience and economies are mushrooming. It’s time to create a national and globalocal network of resilient communities to build collective knowledge, transfer leading-edge models and tools, and catalyze collaborations.
Categories: Non-Profits
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