Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.

Articles by Vanessa Barrington:

A Flyover Zone That’s Worth a Linger

Drawing Inspiration for the future from the corn belt.

Q: In what town can you visit a facility that maintains and preserves thousands of varieties of open-pollinated heirloom garden seeds, leave your bike unlocked all night, eat locally grown foods, and marry your same sex partner?

A: Decorah, Iowa pop. 8,118

Your Health Depends on Beneficial Bacteria

How overuse of antibiotics and germ phobia may contribute to our most serious health problems.

We are more bacteria than human. More “other” than ourselves. It’s true. Bacteria cells in our bodies outnumber human cells by 10 to 1.

Scientists are just now discovering the role that the beneficial bacteria in our bodies play in governing how our bodies react to food, regulating appetite and digestion, and enhancing immunity to a host of chronic diseases. An article in May’s Scientific American (synopsis here) outlined the incredible diversity of the microbial systems living within us (our microbiome) and told how scientists are mapping the DNA of these bacteria to discover the important role microbiomes play in our health.

Ag Industry Leaders Turn to Hollywood to Influence Public Opinion

Agribusiness spinmeisters reach new level of sophistication.

I recently received no fewer than three press releases (plus a phone call) regarding a Food Dialogues event to be held in Hollywood. I thought, “Wow, they must really want me to go.” The event was billed as a series of discussions about the “realities” of food production, promising to bring together, “entertainment movers and shakers, chefs, academics, large restaurant operators, journalists, local leaders, and farmers and ranchers,” to discuss how food is grown and raised.

Label It Yourself Movement Raises Awareness About GMOs

In the absence of government action, citizens take on GMO labeling themselves.

You know the saying: “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” That’s especially true when change moves at the speed of politics and we need something done now.

Label It Yourself is a decentralized, grassroots movement that lets consumers label foods containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. It’s an idea that combines elements of DIYculture jamming, and a even a bit of the Occupy movement to basically give a big, …

5 Reasons Why Privatizing Poultry Inspection is a Really Bad Idea

Why placing fewer inspectors in poultry plants isn’t likely to result in safer food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is proposing what they’re calling a modernization of chicken and turkey inspection at slaughtering plants. In the world of government regulation, the term “modernization” usually means simplification. Sometimes modernization is a good thing when it truly untangles layers of complicated and confusing regulations. Other times it just means less regulation.

What the Foie? A Close Look at California’s Ban on Force Feeding Ducks

A look at the people and practices behind California’s foie gras ban.

Considering the number of people who have actually eaten foie gras it’s surprising the amount of attention California’s pending ban of the sale and production of foie has generated.

Last week a group of big-name chefs made headlines by coming out against the ban. Calling themselves the Coalition for Humane and Ethical Farming Standards, the chefs traveled to Sacramento to ask lawmakers not to enact the ban, offering this charter instead. The bill, SB 1520, was passed seven years ago, with a grace period until July 2012 to allow producers to explore alternatives to the controversial practice of force-feeding.

The War On Public Water

It’s up to us to say no to corporations buying up our public water and selling it back to us in plastic.

In the context of World Water Day on March 22, a report by the World Economic Forum ranked water shortage as one of the top global risks – right up there with widespread financial collapse and terrorism. And a recent U.S. intelligence report predicted that water shortages caused by population growth and climate change could spark terrorism and wars over the next 10 years.

You probably know that many people worldwide don’t have access to sufficient clean water for their daily needs, but the water wars are even in full swing in the U.S., as global corporations such as Nestle, Crystal Geyser, and Coca Cola obtain cheap water rights from strapped municipalities, bottle it, and resell it at a huge profit, turning what should be a human right into a global commodity.

20 Common Fermented Foods That Are Good For You

More everyday foods than you think are fermented.

One can barely walk down the street these days without tripping over a DIY sauerkrauter, cheesemaker, home brewer, or pickler. Fermented foods are all the rage, but they’re cool for more reasons than fashion. Fermentation is good for the gut, and increases the digestibility of foods; it’s a reliable preservation technique; and research shows that it increases the nutrient content in certain foods.  The best reason to eat fermented foods though is flavor. The process of fermenting adds layers upon layers of complexity to foods. As an illustration, think about the difference in flavor between milk and cheese, or cabbage and sauerkraut, or grape juice and wine.