We’ve got COOL, now let’s get … TAMS?

As of today, the new COOL (Country-of-Origin Labeling) law goes into effect.  Basically this means that any fresh produce sold in the US must have a label declaring what country it’s from.  The government is giving growers until spring before beginning to fine them, but you should at least begin to see the new labels at stores.  More details about the law and its implementation can be found here.

And that’s great.  I think it will promote consumer awareness and help alleviate some of the worries of food scares and give us a little more information about where our products come from.  But I want more.  I was thinking that I want to know when my organic radishes are from the farmer two miles away and when they’re from Texas.  I want to know where my veggies have been shipped before they came to me, and where they might have stopped in transit, and how long it took them to come.  Ripeness is an issue.  Health is an issue.  Environmental impact is an issue.  I want to track that.

I propose the Tracking and Management System.  I want to know where my stuff went, where it came from – including a little blurb about the farmer – and how long it took to get there.  I want to know details of its shipment, including how far it travelled and at what environmental cost.  Lastly, I want to know the conditions of its transport – was it sent in a refrigerated box?  Was it overheated?  Unintentionally frozen?  I know they’re doing this sort of tracking now with wine, and I know for more commodity items, it’s probably less fiscally feasible.  But still, I want it – and I think it’s something other consumers, even at a more speciality store level which would provide this kind of information, would want it.

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More drugs in the water.

A day after the Associated Press came out with their findings on pharmaceuticals in our drinking water, more findings are being published regarding the impact on various plants and animals. While the primary studies are in and around Lake Mead, where water consumption is high as well as where Vegas’ sewage treatment plants exit, there have been other related studies done around the world, confirming the extent of many of these impacts.

There were a few I found particularly interesting. First, the hermaphrodite tendency. While it remains unclear (at least to me) whether or not this tendency is caused by hormones like estrogen and testosterone being released into the water, it is possible that this reaction could be a direct correlation. But basically, it has resulted in a bunch of partially hermaphroditic fish. Walleye and carp males have been reported as producing ‘egg yolk proteins’, females have actually developed male genitals, and bass of both sexes that produce sperm and eggs at the same time. Second, there’s algae. Evidently the trace amounts of pharmaceutical slop inhibits its growth. I evidently need some Lake Mead to fill up our fish tanks – but then, we’ll probably never see more fish babies after that either.

The most alarming portions of the article are not focused solely on aquatic life. Plants such as corn, lettuce, and potatoes – so staple foods – fertilized either with livestock waste or waste-water showed amounts of pharmaceuticals. So that chicken without growth hormones probably was a good buy, because we’re already registering trace amounts of that hormone being passed along. In addition, you may even be getting cholesterol medication in your daily fruits and veggies. Yum. Finally, there was an almost complete die-out of vultures in Pakistan due to eating livestock remains. So your new liver problem may be about your steak, rather than your alcohol consumption.

While researchers are already working on ‘cures’ such as bacteria that eat estrogen, maybe there’s another solution. Maybe we should stop taking so many drugs.