Food Prize Winners: Science Needed To Fight Hunger

A second study , by the pro-union National Employment Law Project, extended the analysis to individual companies, estimating that McDonalds workers received $1.2 billion in public assistance while the corporation netted $5.5 billion in Fiscal Year 2012 profits, and devoted $5.5 billion to dividends and stock buybacks. This is the public cost of low-wage jobs in America, write the authors of the BerkeleyUrbana-Champaign study. The cost is public because taxpayers bear it. Yet it remains hidden in national policy debates about poverty, employment and federal spending. A spokesperson for McDonalds declined last night to comment on the fast food campaign or the extent of fast food workers use of public assistance. A spokesperson for the fast food giant emailed in August that Our history is full of examples who worked their first job with McDonalds and went on to successful careers both within and outside of McDonalds. The National Restaurant Association did not immediately respond to a Monday afternoon inquiry. As Salon first reported , New York City fast food workers mounted an unprecedented strike last November, the first in a wave of work stoppages around the country that included a 60-city walkout in August each demanding a raise of $15 an hour and the chance to unionize without intimidation. Little Caesars worker Julio Wilson said before walking off the job that hed made my way through the fast food circuit, with stints at Burger King, Subway, Arbys and McDonalds, and theyre all the same. He told Salon that many fellow employees and their families need to be compensated to be able to live. Funding todays university report represents the fast food campaigns latest salvo against the growing, increasingly representative and virtually union-free fast food industry. The key player behind the national campaign has been the Service Employees International Union. Along with a series of one-day strikes, organizers have targeted fast food companies with media, political, and consumer pressure. SEIU strategist Scott Courtney told Salon in August that given the disparity between McDonalds profits and workers poverty, the story is leverage in and of itself. Writing in defense of Wal-Mart in Slate in 2006,Jason Furman, who now chairs the White Houses Council of Economic Advisors, criticized critics who, like fast food activists, had cited hefty public assistance tolls in making their case. As far as I can tell, wrote Furman, these are cynical attempts to expand the appeal of the case against Wal-Mart, moving it beyond an appeal to the atavistic anti-corporate instincts of some progressives by playing on the atavistic anti-welfare, anti-government, anti-tax instincts of some conservatives. The authors of the BerkeleyUrbana-Champaign study call the public assistance programs whose costs they tally indispensable, saying they provide a last line of defense between Americas growing low-income workforce and the want of basic necessities. But they suggest that such programs would be more effective if they were combined with measures to improve wages and health benefits among low-wage workers, such as increasing the minimum wage, passing local laws to raise labor standards or facilitating union collective bargaining. Noting the difficulty of offshoring a fast food job, the scholars write, Rather than reflecting the competitive dictates of global product markets, the low-wage structure of fast-food and other domestic service industries reflects a mixture of market conditions and policy choices about minimum standards for work. Jason Flakes/U.S.

The three scientists, recognized as pioneers in the development of genetically modified organisms, made their case to reporters at the three-day World Food Prize symposium underway in Des Moines. They will share the $250,000 award that they are to receive in a ceremony at the Iowa Capitol on Thursday. One winner, Robert Fraley , chief technology officer at Monsanto, said biotechnology and information technology are helping farmers globally improve crop production and can help solve the problem of a growing population with too little food. “Whether it’s a small farmer in India with a cellphone message that wind currents are changing … or planter in Iowa that says, ‘Change the way this field is planted every 10 meters to optimize yields,’ science has so much potential,” he said. “The challenge that’s going to come is: Are we going to limit it by policy and regulation?” Opponents of genetically modified crops say they are harmful to people and the environment. Some organic farmers warn that widespread planting of genetically modified crops could contaminate organic and traditional crops, destroying their value. Others are concerned about the uncharted long-term impact for those who eat products such as milk and beef from animals raised on genetically modified plants. Another winner, Marc Van Montagu , founder and chairman of the Institute of Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium said some of the fear of GMO crops is absurd. He used the example of papayas in Hawaii, which he said were saved through genetic modification. The third winner, Mary-Dell Chilton , founder and researcher at Syngenta Biotechnology, said all the discussion by critics of biotechnology should be directed at the coming problem of widespread hunger as the population grows to 9 billion people by 2050. “There are going to be a lot of hungry people here,” she told reporters at a news conference. “I hope that you will at least give a balanced view of the safety, the utility of these biotech tools. We’re going to need them, believe me.” Environmental groups and activist organizations offered opposing views by holding their own press conference at the same time the food prize laureates were speaking. Cherie Mortice, a retired teacher from Des Moines and a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, an action group that fights large-scale farms, said the prize “is the grand promenade of corporate control over food production that undermines the independent family farms that are capable of producing a diversity of healthy foods that can actually make it to our dinner plates.

Walmart Says Food Stamp Shopping Spree Was ‘Right Choice’

15, 2013 Customers push shopping carts at the Wal-Mart location in the Chinatown neighborhood of Los Angeles, Sept. 19, 2013. Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images Walmart has no regrets about allowing a wild shopping spree at two of its Louisiana stores when an electronic glitch lifted the spending caps on the cards of food stamp recipients. “We know we made the right choice,” Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg told today. The chain has no regrets even though Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services said food stamp recipients should have been limited to $50 each during the emergency and that Walmart will have to pay the difference. Lundberg declined to comment about how much the company may have lost or why it did not follow the emergency $50 limit. Read More: Walmart to Get Stuck With Most of Food Stamp Shopping Spree Courtesy Shelves in the Walmart store in Springhill, La., were cleared Saturday, when the store allowed purchases on EBT cards that didn’t show limits. Another Walmart spokeswoman Kayla Whaling said, “Our focus was to continue serving our customers.” Food stamp recipients jammed into Walmarts in Mansfield and Springhill Saturday when word of the glitch spread. Springhill Police Chief Will Lynd said some customers were buying eight to ten grocery carts full of food. The store in Mansfield temporarily closed because of overcrowding and Mansfield Chief of Police Gary Hobbs said some shoppers left with up to eight carts of food and then went back for more. The food shelves were left bare and all the meat was sold as well, Lynd said. The shopping frenzy was triggered when the Electronic Benefits Transfer system went down because a back-up generator failed at 11 a.m.