A commentary that appeared on the Web site Drovers.com, an information source for beef industry insiders, said the dialog at the Farm, Food & Health Conference held March 2 and 3 in Kansas City was "unbalanced and unrealistic."
"Much of the conversation at the . . . conference," Drovers editor Greg Henderson wrote, "centered around the idea that a 'movement' is taking shape in America to change our food system."
In the article, Henderson quoted conference speaker Larry Yee, director emeritus of UC Cooperative Extension in Ventura County and co-founder of the Association of Family Farms.
"Our current system is fundamentally unsustainable," Yee told attendees. "I believe the antidote is a 21st Century recreation of the food system."
Yee said there are deep flaws in the global economic paradigm and criticized modern industrial agriculture as a system that has been developed only to seek efficiency and profits. He said the current system is designed to produce cheap and abundant food and calories.
These examples were presented by Henderson as evidence of the "tone" of the conference, which he said inferred that local, natural and organic foods are "good," and that food produced with the assistance of modern technology - such as antibiotics, hormones, fertilizers and pesticides - are "bad."
"The first Farm, Food & Health Conference produced an unflattering and unbalanced view of American agriculture - and provided unrealistic expectations for a 21st Century food system," Henderson wrote.
The Sacramento Bee picked up on a UC news release about the most recent issue of California Agriculture journal, which said more than 1 million California farmworkers face a higher risk of diabetes and respiratory disease because of poor air quality.
The news release says California's Central Valley has the highest recorded levels of particulate matter in the country. The polluted air results in increased rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. In addition, the release said research points to possible environmental links between pesticide exposure and the risk of diabetes.
In a sample of 1,300 Mexican Americans who participated in the Hispanic Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted from 1982 to 1984, higher levels of organochlorine compounds, which are found in pesticides, were observed in the blood of adults with self-reported diabetes compared to those without diabetes, according to the Cal Ag article.
"However, due to the cross-sectional design of the study, it is not clear whether there is a causal relationship between pesticide exposure and diabetes, or what the nature of that relationship may be," according to the article.
That said, perhaps the Sacramento Bee headline - "Farmworker diabetes risk linked to bad air" - is overstated.
The UC release also appeared on Yubanet.com.
The Institute provides for the creation of three centers, which were selected in a competitive application process. Those centers are:
- One Health: Water, Animals, Food, and Society, led by UC Riverside and UC Davis
- Migration and Health, led by UC San Diego and UC Davis
- Women’s Health and Empowerment, led by UC San Francisco and UC Los Angeles
One Health partners, UCR and UCD, have strong agricultural roots, including Cooperative Extension and Agricultural Experiment Station faculty, "which will enable the center to address the agriculture-water-health nexus in its action-oriented research program in a way that no other global health school in the country can," the Riverside news release quoted Anil Deolalikar, the associate dean of the UCR College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and co-director of One Health.
One Health will focus on reducing the rate of disease and death resulting from malnutrition, unsafe water, and animal- and vector-borne diseases with the aim of designing, implementing and evaluating health interventions at the national, regional, community and household levels.
“This has tremendous implications for California,” Deolalikar was quoted. “A lot of global health problems are very relevant to California – food, proximity to animals, water contamination, water scarcity, and how the combination of these factors leads to illnesses. It’s a very California problem, particularly with agriculture being such an important part of the state’s economy.”
The creation of the UC Global Health Institute was announced today in San Francisco at a conference on the importance of global health to California, according to a UC San Francisco news release. The Global Health Institute was already credited with a report on the importance of global health to California.
The report says an estimated $49.8 billion is generated annually by California companies addressing global health needs and an additional $8 billion in tax revenue for the state, or roughly 7 percent of total state taxes.
The study, conducted by UC Riverside researchers, also found that the global health sector supports 350,000 high-quality jobs in California and provides $19.7 billion in wages and salaries, generating two dollars of business activity for every dollar invested by the state into global health.
The Fresno Bee ran a feature story and editorialized in support of a UC Davis farmworker health study in the San Joaquin Valley called MICASA. MICASA is the acronym for "Mexican Immigration to California: Agricultural Safety and Acculturation," and, cleverly, also means "my house" in Spanish.
The project studies on-the-job hazards and health risks for farmworkers, their muscular and skeletal problems and their adjustment to American culture, according to the story. The researchers interviewed about 875 people -- 422 farmworker families and about 40 male farm laborers -- and conducted community forums on topics such as diabetes, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence and breast cancer.
"A large, well-funded study like ours will be read by those who have the power to make changes -- politicians, policy-makers, health professionals and so forth," the story quoted Maria Stoecklin-Marois, a UC Davis staff research associate.
In the paper's opinion section, the editors said they welcome UC Davis' efforts "to help strengthen this neglected segment of our work force, and look forward to using the forthcoming data to enhance life in the Valley."