Maddie worked as a travel guide in Argentina and a teacher at several educational nonprofits in San Francisco before joining Mother Jones. She’s also written for Outside, the Bay Citizen, and the Rumpus. She manages Mother Jones' Ben Bagdikian Fellowship Program.
When you think about the Kentucky Derby, what flavors come to mind? A refreshing mint julep? Pillowy biscuits propping up salty glazed ham? The sweet tang of pickled shrimp? Or how about…tamales? As radio journalist Tina Antolini discovered, that's the dish that best embodies "the backside" of the Derby, where horse walkers, grooms, stable cleaners, and trainers live and work. The majority hail from Central America, and due to the migratory nature of the job and a lack of kitchen access, they rely on hot plates and crockpots to re-create their traditional cuisine.
Tina Antolini Photo by Pableaux Johnson
Antolini dug into this Derby subculture for an episode of Gravy, a new biweekly podcast from the Southern Foodways Alliance that explores a changing American South through the lens of food. The podcast's host and producer isn't exactly a good ol' girl; Antolini grew up in a coastal Maine town full of "lobstermen and artists." Her mom, a cookbook editor, would spend "three hours making a complicated deal for dinner," so she developed an early interest in all things culinary. Jobs at pier-side seafood joints and upscale restaurants fortified her passion—food would become a theme in her reporting for New England Public Radio and later for the podcast State of the (Re)Union, for which she is still a senior producer.
Having a Yankee host doesn't seem to have detracted from Gravy's allure. The podcast, along with its quarterly print version, won Publication of the Year at the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards—a.k.a. the "Oscars of the food world." Dorothy Kalins, chair of the awards committee, commended Gravy for its "humor and style" and for "giving voice to the unsung characters who grow, cook, and serve our food."
"The food has to take us somewhere," says Tina Antolini, host and producer of Gravy.
But don't come looking for recipes—Antolini rarely gets into ingredient lists. Rather, she uses food as a launchpad for stories about race, culture, health, and business. "The food has to take us somewhere," she told me. Episodes have covered water wars from the perspective of feuding oyster farms, the buried history of black culinarians, and military vets who turn to farming. And Gravy transcends geography. As illustrated by the Kentucky Derby episode, "the themes we are dealing with in these Southern-based stories," Antolini says, "are really at the heart of understanding the United States."
Toni Morrison is no stranger to historical fiction. Her last novel, Home, whisked readers into the shoes of a struggling Korean War veteran. A Mercy, the one before that, pictured life through the eyes of teenage bondswomen on a 17th-century Anglo-Dutch farm. And who could forget Beloved, her wrenching tale of a mother's radical attempt to save her child from slavery in the mid-1800s?
But when the octogenarian author sat down to compose her 11th and latest novel, God Help the Child, she faced a new challenge. "I was nervous because I didn't have a handle on the contemporary," she told me. "It's very fluid." Leave it to Morrison, a recipient of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to find a way. Through Bride, her "blue-black" protagonist—who shines in the beauty industry but flails in her relationships—Morrison boldly examines the ways in which a hellish childhood undermines a person's sense of self.
Mother Jones: How did the Bride character come to you?
Toni Morrison: I started the book before I wrote Home, but I was unsure of how to do it. And then I began to just look around at what people were doing and saying about themselves: You know, everybody's naked, everybody's gorgeous. I was very keenly aware of the new, wide-open, in many cases very healthy but certainly very aggressive sexuality. That becomes the success, particularly of a woman. Having looked at part of the Oscars, it was even more obvious. [Laughs.]
MJ: What about them?
TM: The clothes. The slits are higher, the breasts are prominent, which they always were, but now it's just about nipples—the only part you cannot show. It just seems hysterical, because that's the first thing any human gets in his mouth! I don't know. I'm 84, so you can imagine how many phases of this I have witnessed.
"I'm 84, so you can imagine how many phases of this I have witnessed."
MJ: Bride capitalizes on her unique looks to get ahead, but under the surface something's not right.
TM: She's very successful—you know, the "panther in snow." But in her brain, she's returning to that despised little black girl her mother didn't even like.
MJ: Her "You Girl" makeup line is marketed for "girls and women of all complexions, from ebony to lemonade to milk." Which seems empowering, and yet people fetishize Bride's blackness. Was this an intentional jab at the beauty industry?
TM: In a way, but the interesting thing for me was that she was instructed [by an industry mentor] to never wear makeup. Her beauty is beyond makeup—and so she feels perfect. That's not enough for me. You have to be a complete human being, and that has to do with your generosity. That's what I wanted for her to encounter.
MJ: Bride's mother thinks her daughter's dark skin will be her doom. But didn't your own dark great-grandmother view herself as purer than you light-skinned kids?
TM: She was very, very black. What she said was we were impure and tampered with. And we were little girls! The only other time I noticed what we call skin privileges was at Howard University. It's a brilliant school. However, there was something called the "paper bag test"—whether your skin is darker or lighter than a paper bag. There were whole sororities that were proud that they had the lightest skin color. It was shocking to me. I wanted [Bride's mother] Sweetness to make explicit the advantages of being a light-skinned Negro. She was under the impression that she had to protect her very black child from these insults. But inside, she shared that kind of revulsion.
"There were whole sororities that were proud that they had the lightest skin color. It was shocking to me."
MJ: Sweetness says: "Nowadays blue blacks are all over TV and fashion magazines, commercials, even starring in movies." Do you see Hollywood growing up, featuring more dark-skinned women?
TM: I think the audiences have grown up in making demands, so Hollywood has followed. They don't much care, so long as it works.
MJ: The new book contains moments of magical realism. What inspired your literary fondness for the magical and the supernatural?
TM: My childhood was full of ghost stories, and I was very taken with Gabriel García Márquez's first book, One Hundred Years of Solitude. It was a revelation that you can do those things—that you could have ghosts. That made a big difference in the way I could conceive of characters, so that it was perfectly logical for the dead girl in Beloved to come back. She was the only one who could judge her mother. None of us could.
MJ: I'm curious whether the title of your new book is an allusion to Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child"?
TM: No. I had an entirely different title, which everyone hated. I'm not even gonna tell you what it was.
MJ: What was it?
TM: [Laughs.] No, I'm not going to tell you! I ended up with God Help the Child because Sweetness has the last word, which is, "You're gonna be parents? Uh-huh, okay." Parenting changes you. You have different concerns. It's not all kitchy-kitchy-koo.
MJ: Why did you decide to focus on childhood trauma?
TM: The ideas come to me, I don't search for them. In the process of putting together characters and their language and their interior lives, it shapes itself. I just began with a vague notion of what it must be like to be traumatized for something that has nothing to do with you. I mean, you didn't kill anybody. You didn't drop somebody on their head. You're innocent. But you still have to deal with it—and how do you deal with it?
"What's interesting is the invention, the creative thing. Writing about myself was a yawn."
Even when you think you've had a wonderful childhood, I suspect there's always some little drop of poison—that you can get rid of, but sometimes it just trails in the blood and it determines how you react to other people and how you think.
MJ: You evoke some disturbing, violent, sexual crimes in this novel and others. Does writing about such things affect you emotionally?
TM: It does, but I have the wonderful pleasure of finishing the book and closing it. And I don't read them later.
MJ: Have you ever wanted to write more about your own life?
TM: My editor suggested that I change a two-book contract to one novel and a memoir. And I said okay, and then I thought, "I don't think so." A memoir? What's interesting is the invention, the creative thing. Writing about myself was a yawn.
MJ: You've worked on operas, children's books, lyrics, and plays. Is there any other form you're eager to try?
TM: When you say it like that, I get suddenly exhausted! [Laughs.] I don't think so. I think I'll do what pleases me most, and what most challenges me, which is the novel.
Call us greedy, self-centered, or overly idealistic, but no one should ever accuse Americans of being bitter: We devour more added sugar than people in any other country—30 teaspoons a day by some estimates. (Indians, on the other end of the spectrum, consume just one.)
"Now it's challenging to find a food without added sugar."
The reasons go back to the 1960s, when supermarkets proliferated in US cities and readily available corn-syrupy sodas and juice drinks supplanted milk on the dinner table. By 1996, the daily calories we got from added sweeteners had increased by more than 35 percent.
On top of that, during the low-fat frenzy of the 1980s and '90s, manufacturers replaced the flavorful natural oils in their products with sweeteners. "Now it's challenging to find a food without added sugar," says Dr. Andrew Bremer, a pediatric endocrinologist and program director in the diabetes, endocrinology, and metabolic diseases division at the National Institutes of Health. Indeed, today a full three-quarters of the packaged foods that we purchase—including everything from whole-wheat bread and breakfast cereals to salad dressings—contain extra sweeteners.
Food companies aren't required to distinguish on labels between added and naturally occurring sugars.
That's a problem: Naturally occurring sugars (the kind in fruit, for example) come with fiber, which helps us regulate the absorption of food. Without fiber, sugar can overwhelm your system, eventually leading to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems. Given these risks, experts suggest dramatically cutting your intake of extra sweets. In March, the World Health Organization recommended that 5 percent of your daily energy come from added sugars, which for an adult of average weight comes out to roughly six teaspoons—about 25 grams.
The trouble is that it's hard to tell how much added sugar you're actually eating. You've probably learned to spot cane juice and corn syrup, but what about barley malt, dextrose, and rice syrup—and the 56 other names for added sweeteners?
What's more, food companies aren't required to distinguish on labels between added and naturally occurring sugars. The US Department of Agriculture used to list added sugars in an online nutrient database, but it removed this feature in 2012 after companies claimed that the exact proportion of added sugar was a trade secret.
Last year, the Food and Drug Administration proposed changing nutrition labels and requiring companies to display both added and naturally occurring sugars. But industry giants like Hormel and General Mills are objecting—and even if a new label gets approved, it could still be years before packaging changes.
In the graphic above, we crunched the numbers on some everyday snacks and meals to discover just how easy it is to reach six teaspoons.
There is an eerie feel to this grove of lodgepole pines that I can't quite put my finger on as entomologist Diana Six tromps ahead of me, hatchet in hand, scanning the southwestern Montana woods for her target. But as she digs the blade into a towering trunk, it finally hits me: the smell. There's no scent of pine needles, no sharp, minty note wafting through the brisk fall air.
Six hacks away hunks of bark until she reveals an inner layer riddled with wormy passageways. "Hey, looky!" she exclaims, poking at a small black form. "Are you dead? Yeah, you're dead." She extends her hand, holding a tiny oval, maybe a quarter of an inch long. Scientists often compare this insect to a grain of rice, but Six prefers mouse dropping: "Beetle in one hand, mouse turd in another. You can't tell them apart." She turns to the next few trees in search of more traces. Pill-size holes pock their ashen trunks—a sign, along with the missing pine scent, of a forest reeling from an invasion.
Beetles are chewing their way through American forests, sometimes felling as many as 100,000 trees a day.
These tiny winged beetles have long been culling sickly trees in North American forests. But in recent years, they've been working overtime. Prolonged droughts and shorter winters have spurred bark beetles to kill billions of trees in what's likely the largest forest insect outbreak ever recorded, about 10 times the size of past eruptions. "A doubling would have been remarkable," Six says. "Ten times screams that something is really going wrong."
Mountain pine, spruce, piñon ips, and other kinds of bark beetles have chomped 46 million of the country's 850 million acres of forested land, from the Yukon down the spine of the Rocky Mountains all the way to Mexico. Yellowstone's grizzly bears have run out of pinecones to eat because of the beetles. Skiers and backpackers have watched their brushy green playgrounds fade as trees fall down, sometimes at a rate of 100,000 trunks a day. Real estate agents have seen home prices plummet from "viewshed contamination" in areas ransacked by the bugs. And the devastation isn't likely to let up anytime soon. As climate change warms the North American woods, we can expect these bugs to continue to proliferate and thrive in higher elevations—meaning more beetles in the coming century, preying on bigger chunks of the country.
From 2000 to 2014, bark beetles destroyed large swaths of forests in the American West—and they're not done yet.
In hopes of staving off complete catastrophe, the United States Forest Service, which oversees 80 percent of the country's woodlands, has launched a beetle offensive, chopping down trees to prevent future infestations. The USFS believes this strategy reduces trees' competition for resources, allowing the few that remain to better resist invading bugs. This theory just so happens to also benefit loggers, who are more than willing to help thin the forests. Politicians, too, have jumped on board, often on behalf of the timber industry: More than 50 bills introduced since 2001 in Congress proposed increasing timber harvests in part to help deal with beetle outbreaks.
But Six believes that the blitz on the bugs could backfire in a big way. For starters, she says, cutting trees "quite often removes more trees than the beetles would"—effectively outbeetling the beetles. But more importantly, intriguing evidence suggests that the bugs might be on the forest's side. Six and other scientists are beginning to wonder: What if the insects that have wrought this devastation actually know more than we do about adapting to a changing climate?
A BUG'S LIFE
An adult mountain pine beetle lays her eggs under the bark. On her way, she disperses fungi that turn the trees' tissue into food for her babies, eventually killing the tree.
Though they're often described as pesky invaders, bark beetles have been a key part of conifer ecosystems for ages, ensuring that groves don't get overcrowded. When a female mountain pine beetle locates a frail tree, she emits a chemical signal to her friends, who swarm to her by the hundreds. Together they chew through the bark until they reach the phloem, a cushy resinous layer between the outer bark and the sapwood that carries sugars through the tree. There, they lay their eggs in tunnels, and eventually a new generation of beetles hatches, grows up, and flies away. But before they do, the mature beetles also spread a special fungus in the center of the trunk. And that's where things get really interesting.
Six focuses on the "evolutionary marriage" of beetle and fungi at her four-person lab at the University of Montana, where she is the chair of the department of ecosystems and conservation sciences. Structures in bark beetles' mouths have evolved to carry certain types of fungi that convert the tree's tissue into nutrients for the bug. The fungi have "figured out how to hail the beetle that will get them to the center of the tree," Six says. "It's like getting a taxi." The fungi leave blue-gray streaks in the trees they kill; "blue-stain pine" has become a specialty product, used to make everything from cabins to coffins to iPod cases.
A healthy tree can usually beat back invading beetles by deploying chemical defenses and flooding them out with sticky resin. But just as dehydration makes humans weaker, heat and drought impede a tree's ability to fight back—less water means less resin. In some areas of the Rocky Mountain West, the mid-2000s was the driest, hottest stretch in 800 years. From 2000 to 2012, bark beetles killed enough trees to cover the entire state of Colorado. "Insects reflect their environment," explains renowned entomologist Ken Raffa—they serve as a barometer of vast changes taking place in an ecosystem.
Under the microscope, Diana Six picks up a dead mountain pine beetle in her Missoula lab. Shawn Gust
Typically, beetle swells subside when they either run out of trees or when long, cold winters freeze them off (though some larvae typically survive, since they produce antifreeze that can keep them safe down to 30 below). But in warm weather the bugs thrive. In 2008, a team of biologists at the University of Colorado observed pine beetles flying and attacking trees in June, a month earlier than previously recorded. With warmer springs, the beetle flight season had doubled, meaning they could mature and lay eggs—and then their babies could mature and lay eggs—all within one summer.
That's not the only big change. Even as the mountain pine beetles run out of lodgepole pines to devour in the United States, in 2011 the insects made their first jump into a new species of tree, the jack pine, in Alberta. "Those trees don't have evolved defenses," Six says, "and they're not fighting back." The ability to invade a new species means the insects could begin a trek east across Canada's boreal forest, then head south into the jack, red, and white pines of Minnesota and the Great Lakes region, and on to the woods of the East Coast. Similarly, last year, the reddish-black spruce beetle infested five times as many acres in Colorado as it did in 2009. And in the last decade, scientists spotted the southern pine beetle north of the Mason-Dixon Line for the first time on record, in New Jersey and later on Long Island. As investigative journalist Andrew Nikiforuk put it in his 2011 book on the outbreaks, we now belong to the "empire of the beetle."
In a weird way, all of this is exciting news for Six: She is not only one of the world's foremost experts in beetle-fungi symbiosis, but proud to be "one of the few people in Montana that thinks bark beetles are cute." (She's even brewed her own beer from beetle fungi.) As a child, she filled her bedroom in Upland, California, with jars of insects and her fungus collection. But as a teenager, she got into drugs, quit high school, and started living on the streets. Nine years later, she attended night school, where teachers urged her to become the first in her family to go to college. And when she finally did, she couldn't get enough: classes in microbiology and integrated pest management led to a master's degree in veterinary entomology, then a Ph.D. in entomology and mycology and a postdoc in chemical ecology, focused on insect pheromones.
Entomologist Diana Six, who has devoted her career to bark beetles, believes that the bugs might hold clues to saving our forests in the face of climate change. Shawn Gust
Six, 58, has light-green eyes ringed with saffron, and long silvery-blond hair streaming down shoulders toned from fly-fishing and bodybuilding. As several fellow researchers stress to me, she is the rare scientist who's also a powerful communicator. "I think about what it means to be a tree," she told a rapt audience at a TEDx talk about global forest die-offs. "Trees can't walk. Trees can't run. Trees can't hide," she continued, her sonorous voice pausing carefully for emphasis. "And that means, when an enemy like the mountain pine beetle shows up, they have no choice but to stand their ground."
To a tree hugger, that might seem a grim prognosis: Since trees can't escape, they'll all eventually be devoured by insects, until we have no forests left. Especially since, with our current climate projections, we might be headed toward a world in which beetle blooms do not subside easily and instead continue to spread through new terrain.
But Six has a different way of looking at the trees' plight: as a battle for survival, with the army of beetles as a helper. She found compelling evidence of this after stumbling across the work of Forest Service researcher Constance Millar, with whom she had crossed paths at beetle conferences.
Millar was comparing tree core measurements of limber pines, a slight species found in the eastern Sierras of California that can live to be 1,000 years old. After mountain pine beetles ravaged one of her study sites in the late 1980s, certain trees survived. They were all around the same size and age as the surrounding trees that the beetles tore through, so Millar looked closer at tree ring records and began to suspect that, though they looked identical on the outside, the stand in fact had contained two genetically distinct groups of trees. One group had fared well during the 1800s, when the globe was still in the Little Ice Age and average temperatures were cooler. But this group weakened during the warmer 1900s, and grew more slowly as a result. Meanwhile, the second group seemed better suited for the warmer climate, and started to grow faster.
Pine beetles have increasingly attacked fragile whitebark pine trees, whose cones are an important food source for grizzly bears, Clark's nutcrackers, red squirrels, and other animals in the Yellowstone area. Maddie Oatman
When beetle populations exploded in the 1980s, this second group mounted a much more successful battle against the bugs. After surviving the epidemic, this group of trees "ratcheted forward rapidly," Millar explains. When an outbreak flared up in the mid-2000s, the bugs failed to infiltrate any of the survivor trees in the stand. The beetles had helped pare down the trees that had adapted to the Little Ice Age, leaving behind the ones better suited to hotter weather. Millar found similar patterns in whitebark pines and thinks it's possible that this type of beetle-assisted natural selection is going on in different types of trees all over the country.
When Six read Millar's studies, she was floored. Was it possible, she wondered, that we've been going about beetle management all wrong? "It just hit me," she says. "There is something amazing happening here."
Last year, Six and Eric Biber, a University of California-Berkeley law professor, published a provocative review paper in the journal Forests that challenged the Forest Service's beetle-busting strategies. After scrutinizing every study about beetle control that they could get their hands on, they concluded that "even after millions of dollars and massive efforts, suppression…has never effectively been achieved, and, at best, the rate of mortality of trees was reduced only marginally."
Six points to a stand of lodgepoles in the University of Montana's Lubrecht Experimental Forest. In the early 2000s, school foresters preened the trees, spacing them out at even distances, and hung signs to note how this would prevent beetle outbreaks. This "prethinned" block was "the pride and joy of the experimental forest," Six remembers. But that stand was the first to get hit by encroaching pine beetles, which took out every last tree. She approached the university forest managers. "I said, 'Boy, you need to document that,'" Six says. "They didn't. They just cut it down. Now there's just a field of stumps."
For the timber industry and its friends, beetle invasions have been a handy excuse to open wild areas for logging.
Six and Biber's paper came as a direct affront to some Forest Service researchers, one of whom told me that he believes changing forest structure through thinning is the only long-term solution to the beetle problem. Politicians tend to agree—and beetle suppression sometimes serves as a convenient excuse: "It is perhaps no accident that the beetle treatments most aggressively pushed for in the political landscape allow for logging activities that provide revenue and jobs for the commercial timber industry," Six and Biber wrote in the Forests review.
Take the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, proposed in 2013 by then-Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and championed by then-Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.). The bill sought to designate "Revenue Areas" in every national forest where, to help address insect infestations, loggers would be required to clear a certain number of trees every year. Loggers could gain access to roadless areas, wilderness study areas, and other conservation sites, and once designated, their acreage could never be reduced. The zones would also be excluded from the standard environmental-review process.
Six and other scientists vehemently opposed these massive timber harvests—as did environmental advocates like the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife, the latter warning that the harvests would take logging to "unprecedented and unsustainable levels." The bill passed the House but died in the Senate last year. But Daines, now a senator and one of 2014's top 10 recipients of timber money, vows to renew the effort so as to "revitalize Montana's timber industry" and "protect the environment for future generations."
This summer, Six plans to start examining the genes of "supertrees"—those that survive beetle onslaughts—in stands of whitebarks in Montana's Big Hole Valley. Her findings could help inform a new kind of forest management guided by a deeper understanding of tree genes—one that beetles have had for millennia.
If we pay close enough attention, someday we may be able to learn how to think like they do. University of California-Davis plant sciences professor David Neale champions a new discipline called "landscape genomics." At his lab in Davis, Neale operates a machine that grinds up a tree's needles and spits out its DNA code. This technology is already being used for fruit tree breeding and planting, but Neale says it could one day be used in wild forests. "As a person, you can take your DNA and have it analyzed, and they can tell you your relative risk to some disease," Neale says. "I'm proposing to do the same thing with a tree: I can estimate the relative risk to a change in temperature, change in moisture, introduction to a pathogen."
Signs of beetle invasion on a whitebark pine tree in Montana's Big Hole Valley Maddie Oatman
Right now, foresters prune woodlands based on the size of trees' trunks and density of their stands. If we knew more about trees' genetic differences, Neale says, "maybe we would thin the ones that have the highest relative risks." This application is still years off, but Neale has already assembled a group of Forest Service officials who want to learn more about landscape genomics.
Six, meanwhile, places her faith in the beetles. Whereas traditional foresters worry that failing to step in now could destroy America's forests, Six points to nature's resilience. Asked at TEDx how she wants to change the world, she responded, "I don't want to change the world. We have changed the world to a point that it is barely recognizable. I think it's time to stop thinking change and try to hold on to what beauty and function remains."
Diana Six in her lab at the University of Montana Shawn Gust
This story was supported by a Middlebury College Fellowship in Environmental Journalism.
Should the new Dietary Guidelines—the advice the federal government issues every five years on what constitutes a healthy diet—include recommendations about what makes for a healthy planet? The meat industry sure doesn't think so.
The industry started flipping out when it saw some of the language in the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's February report: "Consistent evidence indicates that, in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods...and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with a lesser environmental impact (GHG emissions and energy, land, and water use) than is the current average US diet."
Big Meat takes issue with two main things:
1) That the committee's scientists dared to comment on environmental sustainability issues in a nutrition report.
2) That the report said (elsewhere) that a healthy diet should be lower in red and processed meats.
The film focuses on the health merits of meat, arguing that it trumps other foods because, unlike plants, "animal proteins are considered complete proteins, or ideal proteins." Never mind that plenty of other accessible and cheap vegetarian foods, including rice and beans, or buckwheat, also provide complete proteins.
One calorie of beef requires 18 times the amount of fuel to produce as one calorie of grain.
But the video does not try to refute the notion that meat's environmental footprint is cause for concern—the UN argues, for instance, that livestock produce 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Dietary Guidelines' committee points out that producing one calorie of beef requires 18 times as much fuel as producing one calorie of grain.
It's no coincidence that the committee chose to flag the carbon footprint of our food: The guidelines are ultimately about people's relationship with food, and the deterioration of the environment's health is a blow to our food security. "Meeting current and future food needs," the committee notes, will depend on changing the way people eat and developing agricultural and production practices "that reduce environmental impacts and conserve resources."
So will the Dietary Guidelines retain this responsible language when they are officially published this fall by the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture? On Wednesday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that he could not rule out the chance that the final version will mention sustainability, but he implied that he would steer clear of doling out environmental advice. He told the Wall Street Journal:
"Our job ultimately is to formulate dietary and nutrition guidelines. And I emphasize dietary and nutrition because that's what the law says. I think it's my responsibility to follow the law."
The law or the money? The AP has reported that meat processing and livestock industries spent $7 million on lobbying and donated $5 million to members of Congress during the last election cycle.