What’s at Stake in the 2012 Farm Bill? Health, Innovation and Equity

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Named one of “Nine Innovative Food Websites You Can’t Live Without” by Forbes, IATP’s What’s at Stake Series takes a fresh look at seven key issues for the 2012 Farm Bill.

As debate of the 2012 farm bill continues, this webinar will highlight three key issues from the IATP series: health, equity and publicly funded research. Jennifer Billig will discuss how food and agricultural policy is disconnected from concerns for public health even though the health impacts of the farm bill are considerable. Food and Community Fellow and New Mexico farmer Don Bustos will focus on justice and equity issues in the farm bill. In particular, he will discuss inequitable support for socially disadvantaged farmers, many of whom grow fruits and vegetables. Mark Muller will discuss how public research heavily influences the small price differences that sway important decisions, including those made by corporations about what food products to develop and market, as well as those made by consumers about what to feed their families.

The Autism Revolution: Thinking about environment and food

Send us your feedback  Conditions affecting children’s behavior and brain development, like autism and ADHD, are exploding in prevalence. The CDC estimates autism now is diagnosed in 1-in-88 children, a more than 70 percent increase over just six years. These increases leave many parents, and clinicians, with questions about what’s causing autism and how we can work to prevent it.

This webinar focuses on new science that’s revolutionary in what it uncovers about the contribution of environment, toxic chemicals and food to these problems. Clinicians and parents often struggle how to best make use of this new information.  What’s exciting is that if public policy can address some of the environmental causes, it may help us manage existing autism and ADHD and perhaps prevent future increases.

Join us on June 11 where we’ll hear from Martha Herbert, MD, PhD, a Harvard pediatric neurologist with a brand new book, The Autism Revolution: Whole body strategies for making life all it can be, which discusses food, toxins and personal strategies for avoiding toxins while improving diet to reduce “total load” of stressors and improve function. Renee Dufault, a retired FDA toxicologist and former officer in the US Public Health Service, has coauthored three recent peer-reviewed studies, the latest of which has been published in the Journal of Clinical Epigenetics. The study models how certain dietary factors like vitamin deficiencies or high fructose corn syrup consumption could impact complex metabolic functions governing the body’s ability to eliminate toxic chemicals, including mercury and pesticides, indirectly contributing to autism and other disorders of brain function and behavior. Kathleen Schuler of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy moderates.

Creating Just and Healthy Food Systems: The Role of Professional Associations

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Food systems are big and controlled by powerful interests. To overcome inertia and realize a healthier, more just food system will take the strength of numbers. Professional asociations can bring numbers and the resources of their staff and combined membership.

IATP’s Dr. David Wallinga provides a big-picture perspective on “talking food systems” with health professional organizations like the American Public Health Association and the American Medical Association. He discusses their increasing involvement in food systems issues, such as the Farm Bill and the use of antibiotics.

Angie Tagtow, a registered dietitian and environmental nutritionist, shares her experiences, strategies and successes for cultivating sustainable and accessible food and water systems concepts and competencies within the 72,000-strong Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

IATP Food and Community Fellow Cheryl Danley of the Center for Regional Food Systems at Michigan State shares her experience engaging young scholars of color in Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS), a national association with 72 chapters at grant universities from 38 states and one of the most diverse organizations of its kind.

Join our panelists for a discussion on the important role of professional associations in creating food systems change. This webinar is brought to you by Healthy Food Action and IATP’s Food and Community Fellows Program.

Webinar highlights: how health professional associations can effect food systems change

By Eve Laabs, IATP Food and Health Program Intern

Health professionals today have the monumental task of improving public health within an overwhelmingly toxic food environment, but by finding a unified voice as members of professional associations, they can exert a significant force in creating positive changes in our food system. There is strength in numbers here – the combined membership of the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics now approaches 500,000. This figure balloons further with the inclusion of public health professionals, planners, naturopaths, and even students. Comprised of members who serve on the front lines to protect the nation’s health every day, these associations’ positions can be keenly influential in shaping policy reform. This was the theme in the April 19th webinar, Creating Just and Healthy Food Systems: The Role of Professional Associations.

IATP’s David Wallinga, MD provided the big-picture view: the current obesity epidemic lies against a larger backdrop of a food system that is unhealthy, unjust and unsustainable. Powerful commercial interests control 40 to 70 percent of major food system sectors, creating an overall sense of inertia. Unsurprisingly, the food system is developing into a hot-button issue. Public awareness of issues ranging from antibiotics in livestock feed, pesticide use and fair labor practices is rapidly growing. Active engagement in these topics can be a magnet by which professional associations attract new and young members.

Wallinga acknowledged that the shift away from the old thinking that diet and health are a consequence of individual behavior is a positive sign; the health community now leans toward the notion that diet and health are a function of one’s food environment. He encouraged health professionals to contemplate the issues that exist even further upstream, such as farm and food policy and infrastructure development. He praised the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Nursing Association, the American Planning Association, and the American Public Health Association for initiating a collaborative process in June of 2010 to develop “Principles of a Healthy, Sustainable Food System.” The AMA has a sustainable food policy of its own that serves both as a pledge and as a set of guiding principles for the association’s activities.

Registered dietician Angie Tagtow demonstrated how one could advance sustainable food and water systems within a professional association through her own experience as a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. As members become increasingly engaged, Tagtow believes the concepts and practices of sustainable food and water systems will become better integrated not only into the association, but the profession itself.

IATP Food and Community Fellow Cheryl Danley shared her experience organizing and engaging young professionals in food advocacy work within the national association known as Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANNRS). As an agricultural economist and a professional of color, Danley decided to work with agriculturalists in an organization representing students of color and mentor them to serve in their community. She realized that professional associations welcome opportunities to bring in fresh ideas when help is provided in key areas such as creating content for their websites, developing workshop topics, or securing speakers for conferences.

Here are some ways in which you can take action:

  • The first step towards growing awareness is learning the facts – subscribe to newsletters or join specialty groups such as the Hunger & Environmental Nutrition dietetic practice group.
  • If your organization has not yet adopted a healthy, sustainable food policy, advocate for one, or encourage official endorsement of an existing one such as “Principles of a Healthy, Sustainable Food System.”
  • Professional associations have conservative tendencies. Members should develop communication outlets through which they can safely challenge the association’s positions and bring in new ideas.
  • Show your individual support for important public policy reforms such as the Farm Bill and the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act through engagement with campaigns such as IATP’s Healthy Food Action and those run by other organizations working to create a healthy sustainable food system.
  • Find key allies and establish partnerships to advance policy reforms. They can be community organizations, local schools, or companies.
  • Promote cross-association collaboration by creating umbrellas of “foodie” health professionals such as the APHA’s Food and Environment Working Group.
  • Encourage participation of professional associations in cross-sector coalitions such as the Healthy Farms, Healthy People Coalition which works at the intersection of food, health and agriculture.

Exporting Obesity? The Link Between Trade, Diet and Health

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Global diets are increasingly facing the dual challenge of undernourishment and obesity. UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, calls for a reassessment of unhealthy food systems in both rich and poor countries, both increasingly characterized by an abundance of low nutrition, high calorie, processed foods. David Wallinga, MD reports on a new IATP study examining the role U.S. agriculture and trade policies play in contributing to the rise in obesity, with a spotlight on Mexico. Karen Hansen-Kuhn moderates.

Arsenic, Organic Formula and the Food System

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What can we tell patients or our families about arsenic in the food supply? A new Dartmouth study finds high levels of arsenic in rice, particularly brown rice syrup–a sugar substitute used in formula, cereal bars and other kids’ food.

Levels in organic formula were 20 times higher than in non-organic varieties.

Previous IATP study found arsenic in chicken meat as well. In addition, an estimated 53 million Americans drink water from systems legally contaminated with arsenic at levels thought to confer a lifetime risk of dying from cancer caused by arsenic of between 1-in-500 and 1-in-5,000.

Where does all this arsenic come from? What can we do about it?

Learn more about the study and its findings on arsenic in food products with study author Dr. Brian Jackson, IATP’s David Wallinga, M.D., and Dr. Keeve Nachman from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. This webinar has been cosponsored by IATP’s Healthy Food Action and the Collaborative on Health and the Environment.

Driven to Distraction: Food, chemicals and child behavior

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Compelling science now suggests synthetic food dyes and caramel colorings often added to candy – as well as junk food and other kids’ foods – can affect their learning and behavior, and may increase cancer risk. This science forced the adoption of safer alternatives to food dyes in the UK; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been petitioned to do the same. An FDA science advisory committee reviewed the new science in April 2011. Developmental brain toxins are also found as additives to other children’s products, like toys and lunch boxes. Child advocates are pushing for policy reforms addressing these risks as well.

Speakers Karen Bowman, MN, RN, COHN-S, Michael Jacobson, PhD, Lawrence Rosen, MD, and David Wallinga, MD, will discuss the latest science and policy reforms now being debated.

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