Thursday, April 29, 2010

The First Go Big Read 2010-2011 Blog Post: DNA after Donation

Go Big Read 2010-2011 has officially started and we are starting with brand-new blog posts. This is the start of many posts on themes like medicine, research, ethics, and social change. Through the year, remember, tell us what you think! Leave us comments and suggestions to get involved!

Rebecca Skloot’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” tells the story of African American woman who had her cells taken from her cervix in 1950 and became the never-ending cell strain known as HeLa. HeLa has been sent to labs and scientists all over the world and been used in research and studies, including the Polio cure. These cells were taken without Henrietta Lacks’s knowledge, partly due to the infancy of “informed consent.” Read more »

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Organic Valley co-op supports Clean Energy Jobs Act

Cecil Wright, Vice-President of sustainability and local operations for Organic Valley La Farge wrote on Tuesday, April 20th, 2010 in a letter to the editor of Madison's The Cap Times that Organic Valley pledges its support of renewable energy provisions within the Clean Energy Jobs Act, currently under consideration in the Wisconsin Legislature.

Wright explains in the article that Organic Valley is a farmer-owned cooperative of 1,652 organic family farms and is strongly interested in the health and sustainability of small-scale family farms and rural communities. She claims that Organic Valley believes that commitment to renewable energy will help the economy grow, decrease dependence on fossil fuels, and create a healthier environment for future generations.

Wisconsin's Clean Energy Jobs Act includes an Enhanced Renewable Portfolio Standard, which will allow Wisconsin residents to receive 25% of their electricity from renewable energy by the year 2025, with at least 10% of it coming from renewable energy sources locally within the state.  The bill also includes provisions which encourage small-scale renewable energy generation that would support Wisconsin families considering new energy projects such as manure digesters, small wind turbines and solar projects.

For more information about the Clean Energy Jobs Act, visit RENEW Wisconsin’s FAQ page.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A New Partnership?: The USDA and Organic Farms

The USDA is about to change the game for farming in the United States by supporting organic and local farmers. According to a San Francisco Chronicle article, the federal government has recently reworking their structure to support small local and organic farms get their food to a larger population and more impoverished areas. According the article, USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan wants to toughen up the USDA organic label and “penetrate ‘food deserts’ in poor neighborhoods” with networking initiatives like “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” program. Read more »

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Skloot Review Books Available for Course Instructors

Last week, we announced next year's Go Big Read Selection, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. We think the book has broad appeal and has the potential to spark many interesting debates. Also, our student, faculty and staff reviewers all thought it was an engaging read.

We have heard course instructor feedback about making review copies available sooner and we have an early shipment available for this purpose. You have two choices for getting a review copy of the book:

1. If you know you will be using the book in your 2010/2011 course, fill out the online request form now . We will immediately send you a review copy via campus mail and set aside books for all the students in your course. If you have TAs, we can provide review copies for them, as well. We'll also work with Enrollment Management to get the information about the book (free!) onto
your textbook list.

2. If you need to read the book before committing to using it in your course, we're happy to send you a review copy first. Just email us and let us know your name, campus address, and what course you're considering using the book for. You have until 7/1/2010 to fill out the form for a fall course.

Please feel free to share this post with colleagues who you think might be interested.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

West African farmers enter international organic food market

Thanks to a $2.4 million German-backed FAO program that has helped them meet necessary certification and other requirements, nearly 5,000 West African farmers are able to take advantage of the growing popularity of organic foods in industrialized countries.

The project focuses on all stages of the supply chain from production, harvesting and packaging to certification and marketing.  The vital part of the project pays for the costly certification process in the conversion period and to support better hygienic conditions to comply with high international quality standards.

FAO projects in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone helped farmer groups and small exporters overcome the difficult conversion period from conventional to organic agriculture during which they tend to incur higher costs as a result of applying new organic techniques without yet obtaining the higher prices usually associated with the organic label.
Living conditions and food security in these areas have improved because the increased income generated through sale of certified organic products is mainly used for purchasing food and clothing, paying for school fees, and paying for medical expenses.

The project's impact at the community level has resulted in the creation of jobs for workers involved in the production of certified products as well as supportive services.  The new organic production methods have also been adopted by farmers who are not members of the producer groups and some of them are expressing a desire to join the new organic groups.

Follow this link to read the original article in Africa: the good news.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Food Summit April 23

The Food Summit, on Friday, April 23, will feature a series of lectures and discussions that extend the campus discussion on a wide variety of topics surrounding food, including a keynote address by former Sen. George McGovern, who was instrumental in passing federal school lunch legislation.

Other speakers at the summit will include Madison food writer Michelle Wildgen ’97 and UW faculty experts in biochemistry, food science, nutrition and consumer science.

The Day on Campus: Food Summit will be at Memorial Union, and sessions are free and open to the public. Tickets to the Food Summit luncheon are $25. The Food Summit is co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Alumni Association and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Full Schedule and Registration

Wisconsin Alumni Association Press Release

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' Chosen for Go Big Read Program

UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin has selected "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot as the book for the second year of Go Big Read, the university's common reading program.

For the full press release click here.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Calorie Count: Coming Soon to a Chain Near You!

According to New York Times article, Calorie Data to Be Posted at Most Chains, the new health care bill carries a new regulation that all restaurant chains with 20 or more outlets must display calorie information on the menu next to each item. The federal government is molding this policy after state regulations that already exist in New York City and California, with Oregon implementing similar restrictions in 2011. Read more »