Recently, I spent a couple of days in Monterey learning about the sustainability of our food chain, noshing on green fish and sipping eco-wines. Yeah, a hard assignment but an important one. The Sustainable Foods Institute is a two day symposium for journalists. Among the issues we covered: the state of the ocean’s health, sustainable fishing, the farm bill and America’s obesity epidemic. The conference is a ramp up to the city’s biggest event of the year. Cooking for Solutions features sustainable chefs, authors, growers and producers. Both events are hosted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The two day Sustainable Foods Institute was jam packed with over thirty speakers. Here are some highlights:
- Eco-Labels: The road to sustainability?
- Paul Greenberg, author of “Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food.”
- The history, and future, of the Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program
- Deputy Secretary of the USDA, Kathleen Merrigan
- A conversation with Ted Turner; this was a very quirky discussion on land preservation and restaurant issues.
- Trip to Earthbound organic farms
- Panels on the high cost of cheap food and the 2012 Farm Bill
Two things of note: a discussion between Barry Estabrook (Politics of the Plate blogger) and food sovereignty activist, Raj Patel yielded some heavy info. about how the price of our food does not reflect its true costs, and what this really means for society, at large. Raj’s books, “Stuffed and Starved” and “The Value of Nothing,” really get into this concept. Also, recent James Beard winner Estabrook has a new book out called, “Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed our Most Alluring Fruit.” Wow, I am just starting to read this and let’s just say I don’t think I can ever buy a supermarket tomato again.
What I learned about the farm bill is that California seems to be getting ripped off. Ninety percent of the state’s farmers don’t get federal farm subsidies yet provide a majority of the fruit and veggies needed to stay healthy.Legislators decide on a new 5-year farm bill in 2012. Certainly, a better farm bill means everyone needs to be at the table. Connected to all of these issues is the obesity epidemic which by 2018 will consume 1 in 5 health care dollars.
The conference ended on a light note with visits from celebrity chef Alton Brown and actress/environmental activist, Isabella Rossellini. If you have not seen her Green Porno videos you are really missing something. We watched three clips with her featuring the plight of shrimp, squid and anchovies. If you want to see one of the most beautiful, talented actresses in the world elaborately costumed having sex with fish while preaching sea life sustainability, this series is for you.