23 November 2010

 Tonight’s Ecotopia takes up two topics. 

First, we  talk with Michael Halpern of the Union of Concerned Scientists about their new report that raises questions about how safe our food supply is and the political and commercial pressures put on agricultural inspectors that limits their effectiveness.

Then we talk with Chicoan and longtime KZFR programmer Chris Nelson, who has written a book about her’s and Michael Pike’s odyssey in an alternative fuel camper.  The title summarizes the story– The Veggie Voyagers: An Eco-Friendly, Low Budget Loop Of North America’s Wild Places Powered by Used Cooking Oil.

Our Discussion with Michael Halpern

Michael Halpern is Scientific Integrity Program Manager for the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington.  He has previously been active with the World Wildlife Fund and has worked with Minnesota Public Radio. 

  • UCS recently released a report called “Driving the Fox from the Henhouse” about food safety.  Who is the fox?
  •  Please clarify the responsibilities of the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration to insure food safety.  Can/do these agencies cooperate with each other and coordinate efforts?  Are there gaps? 
  • Let’s talk more about the UCS study of food inspection. How did you obtain your data for this study?  Since you are concerned about scientific integrity, how do you know your responses are reliable?
  • Please tell us about some of the findings, e.g., inspectors’ confidence levels in the safety of the food supply.
  • What are the gaps in the food protection system?  Are there enough inspectors to go around?  Are there problems that could be solved with more money?  a different system?
  • Are there political or/and corporate pressures put on inspectors?
  • The Union supports a senate bill (S510), the Food Safety Modernaization Act.  What’s in the bill?  What’s not in the bill that USC thinks should be?  What are the prospects for passage, especially given the shift of power in the recent election?
  • What steps do you recommend consumers take but with their daily bread and other foods?

The Union of Concerned Scientists.  UCS has a wide range of interests, including clean air, global warming, nuclear weapons, and clean energy.  Check out their website at http://www.ucsusa.org/. 

Our Conversation with Chris Nelson

Chris Nelson is well-known as a programmer on this station and as a long-time community activist in Chico.  Chris is also an environmentalist,and  she and Michael Pike toured North America without ever filling up at a gas station. 

  • The title of your book is The Veggie Voyagers: An Eco-Friendly, Low Budget Loop Of North America’s Wild Places Powered by Used Cooking Oil
  • What prompted you and Michael Pike (and your dog Sasha) to become Veggie Voyagers?
  • Where did you go?
  • How was the trip fueled?
  • You are a longtime social justice activist.  Please tell us about your observations along the way, specifically:
    • Monticello Utah
    • School of the Americas
    • New Orleans
    • others?
  • John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie was subtitled In Search of Amerca.   What did you “find” in your search of (North) America?
  • What’s your next “voyage” of discovery, whether done through the Voyager for from your armchair.
  • Where can people obtain copies of the book?

Playlist for Ecotopia #112

1. Food        2:40        The Turtles        The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands       

2. Home Cookin’        4:32        Linda Miles        Home Cookin’       

3. Only So Much Oil In The Ground (LP Version)        3:50        Tower of Power          Urban Renewal       

4. Route 66        3:03        Buckwheat Zydeco        Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire       

5. Route 66        3:29        The Cheetah Girls        Route 66 –

6. Weave Me the Sunshine        4:28        Peter, Paul And Mary        The Very Best of   Peter, Paul and Mary       

7. Food Food Food (Oh How I Love my Food)        2:10        The Wiggles        Toot Toot