Friday, April 14, 2017

Call to Action: Use Habitat to Reduce E. Coli on Leafy Greens

I will be giving a short talk at the DC March for Science about Daniel Karp's research on wildlife habitat and food safety, and I would like to encourage people to take action on it. Essentially he found no evidence that clearing habitat near leafy greens reduces E. coli contamination. In fact, his research provides some preliminary evidence that habitat removal could actually increase food safety risk. However, it is not clear that companies buying greens have gotten the message, and some of them are likely still requiring or encouraging farmers to destroy habitat.

When you buy greens, please reach out to the company producing / packaging the greens, and ask them to discourage farmers from clearing habitat (sample text you can use in an email is below). You can also talk to the staff at the customer service desk of the grocery to ask them about their sourcing criteria, and pass on the information about this research.

Sample text:
"I've recently become aware that many buyers of leafy greens have been requiring or encouraging farmers to clear natural habitat near to their fields, out of concern for possible contamination by wildlife. However, now that scientific research has found no evidence that clearing habitat near leafy greens reduces E. coli contamination (and provides some preliminary evidence that habitat removal could actually increase food safety risk), I'm hoping that you will disincentive your growers from clearing habitat. Please let me know how you are engaging on this issue. You can read a blog summarizing the findings here: http://blog.nature.org/science/2016/06/03/nature-doesnt-hurt-farmers-it-helps/
and the full references are:
Karp DS, Gennet S, Kilonzo C, Partyka M, Chaumont N, Atwill ER, et al. Comanaging fresh produce for nature conservation and food safety. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2015; doi:10.1073/pnas.1508435112

Karp DS, Moses R, Gennet S, Jones MS, Joseph S, M’Gonigle LK, et al. Agricultural practices for food safety threaten pest control services for fresh produce. Manning P, editor. J Appl Ecol. 2016;53: 1402–1412. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12707"

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