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2012: The Year In Food News

From droughts to hurricanes, 2012 has been rocky one for farmers and foodies alike. Here's our annual roundup of the year's major food news stories.

The second hand on an analog clock approaches the 12.

Photo: Earls37a (Flickr)

All lot of news has crossed Earth Eats' news desk this year.

Remember When?

With 2013 fast approaching, it’s time to take our annual walk down memory lane.

Remember when European dairy farmers dowsed policemen with milk to protest unfair pricing? How about when Canada cracked the largest maple syrup heist in history, or when we got so worked up about Pink Slime that schools nationwide promised to ban the stuff?

Then there was California’s ban on foie gras, and Oklahoma state senator Ralph Shortey’s attempted ban on the use of aborted fetuses in food.

Here are some of the biggest stories in food news from 2012.

Farm Bills And SNAP Issues

A large concrete question mark lying on a grass and gravel ground.

Photo: alexanderachmann (Flickr)

If Congress fails to pass a new farm bill before the New Year, policies will revert to those of 1949.

At the end of 2011, we were worried about Congress’s failure to pass a new farm bill. A full year later, we’re still worried. The Senate’s passed one version and the House has come close to passing something completely different.

One of the biggest points of contention in the farm bill debate is what to do about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps. Republicans want to see the bulk of spending cuts come from SNAP, while Democrats have farm subsidies in their cross hairs.

Once-In-A-Lifetime Drought?

feet standing on cracked ground

Photo: IRRI Images (Flickr)

The drought that lasted through most of the growing season affects food prices not only because of decreased crop yields, but because of the difficulty of feeding and watering livestock.

Although early rains and good weather early in 2012 led experts to project a banner year, by June we were worrying about “dry spells.”

By August, the U.S. was battling the worst drought in 25 years.

A dismal corn crop inspired a large-scale government meat buy-out to relieve the pressure on struggling livestock farmers, and is expected to drive up food prices.

Hurricane Sandy

A NASA image showing rainfall caused by Hurricane Sandy throughout the Caribbean. It indicates the path of the hurricane across Jamaica and Cuba.

Photo: NASA

This NASA image illustrates the total rainfall caused by Hurricane Sandy as it passed through the Caribbean between October 18 and 25. The white line indicates the storm's trajectory, crossing directly over Jamaica and Cuba and bringing heavy rainfall to southern Haiti.

When the “frankenstorm” hurricane Sandy ravaged the American east coast, it paralyzed farmers throughout the region, knocking out power and shutting down their distribution routes.

In the Caribbean, the storm devastated Cuban coffee crops, Jamaican bananas and Haitian agricultural infrastructure.

Food Laws To Make You Fit

big soda cup

Photo: Mr. T in DC (Flickr)

In the Big Apple, 16 ounces is the size limit for sugary beverages sold in restaurants and concession stands.

Governments around the world implemented new policies in hopes of improving citizens’ diet and health.

In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg instituted a ban on all large sodas. France instituted a “Nutella tax” aimed at curbing rising obesity rates.

Denmark moved in the other direction, loosening its “fat tax” so Danes can pay a little less to cook with real butter.

In California, citizens succeeded in bringing Proposition 37 to the ballot. Had it passed, California would have been the first state to require that all GMO foods be labeled. The legislation was soundly defeated in the November election.

Science!

Soup can

Photo: stevendepolo (flickr)

A 2012 study found a correlation between childhood obesity and BPA levels in urine samples. BPA has been used in liquid infant formula cans, beverage cans, fruit and vegetable cans, baby bottles, sippy cups and reusable water bottles.

2012 also saw plenty of food-related science.

With any luck, the decoding a common domestic pig genome will help us come up with strategies to combat antibiotic-resistant illnesses in pork, which was also the subject of research this year.

Preferences for organic food may not affect human health though some experts still recommend serving organic food to children. Either way, organic foodies apparently tend to be bigger jerks than the general population.

BPA consumption is correlated with elevated obesity rates, so maybe how we store our food is more important than what goes in it when it’s grown.

Happy New Year!

And with that, we here at Earth Eats wish you a happy New Year!

We look forward to bringing you 2013′s food news.

Sarah Gordon

Sarah Gordon has been interested in food ethics since she was 15, learned about industrial slaughter, and launched into 10 years of vegetarianism. These days, she strives to be a conscientious omnivore. Now a PhD candidate in folklore, her research has caused her to spend a lot of time in the remote Canadian sub-arctic, where the lake trout (sustainably harvested) tastes amazing.

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