Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of California
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

UC blogs

Weekly food dispatch

California


Lake County residents suffer poor ‘health outcomes'
California's Lake County was found to have the lowest “health outcomes” in the state, according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin. The Lake County population has the shortest length of life and, in terms of physical health, the lowest quality of life compared to other counties in California. Lake County Tribal Health Consortium is trying to change the ranking. HealthyCal.org

Industry influence kills labeling bills
California lawmakers considered four bills this year that would give residents more information about their food and beverages. Two of them, one that would have required labeling of GMO foods and the other the addition of warning labels on non-diet sodas, died in the face of industry opposition. “There is definitely a dynamic at play where the lobbying resources make a difference,” said Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel). Sacramento Bee

The nation


Food costs buoy inflation
The rising cost of food U.S. is behind a persistent 2 percent (annual) inflation rate in the last four months. Core inflation, which disregards food and energy, is at 1.9 percent per year. The Washington Examiner

Extra! Extra! Tofu scramble and Asian kale
The city of Chicago is converting four defunct newsstands into kiosks that sell fresh, healthy food. The new “e.a.t. spots” (which stands for education, agriculture, technology) features food items developed by local chef Shaw Lash to provide quick, easy access to healthful food. Chicago Tribune

Cupcakes, conversation hearts and chocolate banned
All school parties – including birthdays, Halloween and Valentine's Day – will be free of food, candy and beverages (except water) in a suburban Illinois school district, a committee of parents and staff decided. Furthermore, elementary school students' snacks will be limited to fruits and vegetables; middle school children's snacks may also include cheese and yogurt. The strict policy was instituted to reduce allergic reactions. Chicago Sun Times

The world


Ten companies control the world's food
A relatively small number of companies wield an enormous amount of influence on agriculture and world food production. All had revenues in the tens of billions of dollars in 2013. With such scale, many of the company policies have a significant impact on millions of lives. The largest of the 10 companies, Nestle, had sales exceeding $100 billion and employed 333,000 people in 2013. Huffington Post

Nestle pushes suppliers to improve animal welfare
One way Nestle is exerting its power is by adopting animal welfare standards that will affect its 7,300 suppliers around the globe. Under the new standards, Nestle will not buy products derived from pigs raised in gestation stalls, chickens in barren battery cages, cattle that have been dehorned or had their tails docked without anesthesia, and animals whose health has been damaged by drugs that promote growth. New York Times

They're great!
Another of the 10 largest food companies in the world, Kellogg's, has pledged to use responsible sourcing and new natural resource conservation efforts to address climate change. Examples of its sustainability achievements, shared in a news release, include “helping wheat farmers in the United Kingdom improve soil health, supporting a women's cooperative of more than 600 farm families in Bolivia, and promoting new rice growing methods in Thailand that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Kellogg's


A compilation of news from the World Wide Web relevant to the UC Global Food Initiative, which aims to put the world on a path to sustainably and nutritiously feed itself. By building on existing efforts and creating new collaborations among UC's 10 campuses, affiliated national laboratories and the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the initiative will develop and export solutions for food security, health and sustainability throughout California, the United States and the world.

Posted on Friday, August 22, 2014 at 9:20 AM

UCCE leads Northern California Fire Science Consortium

UCCE fills the need for the latest fire science in joint program.
Fire is the focus of increasing attention and interest in California and throughout the country. However, the interpretation and application of science remains a challenge, and fire scientists and managers often find themselves in separate spheres, with limited opportunities for shared learning and knowledge exchange.

The Joint Fire Science Program – a multi-agency program that funds wildland fire research – has recognized this issue, and fire science delivery has become one of its core objectives. Using Joint Fire Science funding, the newly formed California Fire Science Consortium (CFSC) is now a statewide educational organization with five regional teams.

UCCE staff members in Humboldt County are leading the northern California region of CFSC, along with partners from the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station and Humboldt State University. They have formed a multi-agency advisory committee, which includes 11 scientists and managers from different agencies and organizations in the region, to offer guidance and support for consortium activities. The Northern California team is also working closely with faculty and staff at UC Berkeley, who act as a central hub for the statewide effort.

As fire managers develop new management plans, navigate permitting and other regulatory hurdles, and attempt to adapt to changing social, political, and environmental climates, they need access to current, science-based information that is digestible and readily applicable to their unique landscapes and management challenges.

In leading the Northern California CFSC effort, UCCE has helped to harness the vast array of scientific data on fire that is applicable for the Northern California region and make it available and understandable for the non-scientific community, contributing to the integrity and efficiency of fire management, both in the region and throughout the country.

“Responses from all of our educational events suggests that we are filling a void and helping regional fire managers and landowners become aware of the latest science,” said Yana Valachovic, forest advisor and county director for UC Cooperative Extension in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

Posted on Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 9:50 AM

A healthy start back to school

With integrated pest management, school yards are healthier environments for children.
As summer is quickly coming to a close, and most kids have already headed back to school or will be returning in the next couple of weeks, integrated pest management will be an expected and important tool for the upcoming school year.

Classrooms, playgrounds, and athletic fields that were quiet during the summer months will once again be filled with the sounds of learning and playing. Landscape and pest management professionals have been taking advantage of the slow summer months preparing the grounds and facilities for the upcoming year. While at one time this may have meant heavy applications of pesticide to rid the facilities of pest problems, today schools are healthier environments for our kids.  

Schools are required to follow the Healthy Schools Act (HSA), a law passed in 2001 in response to increasing concern of pesticide exposure and resulting heath issues. The HSA gives parents and staff the “right to know” about what pesticides are being applied and requires schools to keep records of applications and report information to the state. The HSA also encourages the use of integrated pest management (IPM) and the adoption of least toxic pest management practices as the primary way of managing pests in schools. Each school or district appoints an IPM coordinator to carry out the requirements of the Healthy Schools Act.

Healthy Schools Act Reminders for the School Year
At the beginning of each academic year, schools must provide parents and staff in writing of all pesticide products expected to be used throughout the year. The notice must include the names of the products and active ingredients. Parents and staff who wish to be notified of each specific pesticide application at their school site can register to be notified individually by mail 72 hours before the application. At least 24 hours prior to a pesticide application, schools must post warning signs. The signs must remain up for at least 72 hours after the treatment.

Each school is also required to maintain records for at least four years of all pesticides used and to report pesticide use to both the county agricultural commissioner and the Department of Pesticide Regulation. There are certain products that are exempt from the notification and posting requirements of the HSA. These include reduced-risk pesticides, such as self-contained baits or traps or gels or pastes used for crack-and-crevice treatments. Antimicrobials and pesticides exempt from registration are exempt from all aspects of the Healthy Schools Act, including reporting.

While not required, schools are strongly encouraged under the HSA to adopt an integrated approach to managing pests. IPM focuses on long-term prevention of pests by monitoring and inspecting to find out what caused the pest and taking steps to eliminate those favorable conditions to reduce future problems. IPM uses a combination of methods to solve pest problems using least toxic pesticides only after other methods have allowed pests to exceed a tolerable level.

With IPM, schools get long-term solutions to pest problems. There is less pesticide used reducing the risk of pesticide exposure. Finally, less notification, posting, and recordkeeping is required from schools.

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation School IPM Program has a new handout reminding schools of the requirements of the HSA. For more information on the School IPM program and the Healthy Schools Act, visit the DPR website, and for more on IPM, visit the UC Statewide IPM website.

Posted on Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 9:44 AM

The devil -- er, bacteria -- made me do it

Gut bacteria may affect both our cravings and moods to get us to eat what they want.
Many people worry about the outside of their gut – watching their weight and suffering through sit-ups in search of six-pack abs.

Research from UC San Francisco is showing that we also should pay attention to what's inside the gut.

Gut bacteria may affect both our cravings and moods to get us to eat what they want, and often are driving us toward obesity, according to an article published this month in the journal BioEssays.

Researchers concluded from a review of recent scientific literature that microbes influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on, rather than simply passively living off whatever nutrients we choose to send their way.

“Bacteria within the gut are manipulative,” said corresponding author on the paper Carlo Maley, director of the Center for Evolution and Cancer with the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCSF. “There is a diversity of interests represented in the microbiome, some aligned with our own dietary goals, and others not.”

We also can influence this diverse community of microbes, collectively known as the gut microbiome, by altering what we ingest, Maley said, with measurable changes in the microbiome within 24 hours of diet change.

“Our diets have a huge impact on microbial populations in the gut,” Maley said. “It's a whole ecosystem, and it's evolving on the time scale of minutes.”

The gut is a growing field for research.

Michael Fischbach, a UCSF assistant professor of bioengineering and therapeutic sciences, studies gut bacteria and how they could help reveal the causes and new treatments for Crohn's disease and obesity.

“When I look at a person, I don't just see a warm, shiny human being,” Fischbach said. “I see bacteria crawling all over you and living on every surface that's exposed and not exposed in your entire body. And you're lucky that they're there because these bacteria do very important things for you. They make your immune system function properly. They help you digest foods. And they produce important chemicals that serve as vitamins for your body.”

With advancements in genetic sequencing technology, Fischbach and colleagues are mining gut bacteria for natural products – small molecules from microbes – that could hold the key for treating diseases.

“You used to have to travel to the coast of Palau to mine the ocean sediment for drugs,” Fischbach said. “Now we can just check our gut!”

Fischbach discussed his gut research with collaborator Justin Sonnenburg, a Stanford University microbiologist with degrees from UC Davis and UC San Diego, at the recent New York Times Health for Tomorrow conference at UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center.

“The beauty of being in basic research is you don't know where you're going to end up,” Fischbach said after their panel presentation. “It's nice to be on a journey where you don't know where the ship lands. I hope it's going to improve human health.”

Read more:
-Do gut bacteria rule our minds?, UCSF
-Our microbiome may be looking out for itself, New York Times
-The next frontier of medicine, Slate
-Culturing for cures, UCSF

Posted on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 10:02 AM

$7.12 billion state water bond to appear on November ballot

The 70-year-old Shasta Dam forms the largest reservoir in California.
The Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Proposition 1) is set to appear on the November 2014 ballot. If approved by voters, it would “authorize $7.12 billion in general obligation bonds for state water supply infrastructure projects, such as public water system improvements, surface and groundwater storage, drinking water protection, water recycling and advanced water treatment technology, water supply management and conveyance, wastewater treatment, drought relief, emergency water supplies, and ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration.”

Per the full text of the proposition, the distribution of funds would be approximately as follows:

$810 million for expenditures and competitive grants and loans to integrated regional water management plan projects.

$520 million to improve water quality for “beneficial use,” for reducing and preventing drinking water contaminants in disadvantaged communities, and creating the State Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund Small Community Grant Fund.

$725 million for water recycling and advanced water treatment technology projects.

$900 million for competitive grants, and loans for projects to prevent or clean up the contamination of groundwater that serves as a source of drinking water.

$1.495 billion for competitive grants for multi-benefit ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration projects including:

  • Conservancies $327.5M.
  • Wildlife Conservation Board $200M (restoration of flows)
  • Department of Fish and Wildlife $285M (out of delta, no mitigation on Bay Delta Conservation Plan)
  • Department of Fish and Wildlife $87.5M (in delta with constraints)
  • State settlement obligations including CVPIA $475M
  • Rivers and creeks $120M

$2.7 billion for water storage projects, dams and reservoirs.

$395 million for statewide flood management projects and activities

To read the full text of the proposition visit Ballotpedia.

Posted on Monday, August 18, 2014 at 3:11 PM

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