business news in context, analysis with attitude

Bloomberg reports that Brazilian companies have stopped buying American grain "because they're concerned that Brazil's stringent regulations on genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, threaten to hold up shipments, according to people familiar with the situation." ironically, this move comes as Brazil's chicken industry faces "a surprise domestic shortage of corn with which to feed its birds," which under normal circumstances would make the importing of corn from the US a no-brainer.

The situation could change, the story says, of the Brazilian poultry industry requests permission from the government to "import GMO crops that aren't currently permitted" under the nation's laws.

Bloomberg goes on: "The uncertainties of importing modified crops in Brazil illustrate how the wide variation in GMO regulation around the world can sometimes disrupt international trade. In recent years, some of the largest commodity trading companies have refused to take certain GMO crops from farmers because the seeds used hadn't received a full array of global approvals, something that can lead to holdups at ports or even the rejection of entire cargoes."

• This gets our nomination for most disgusting food-related headline of the weekend:

Egg producers pledge to stop grinding newborn male chickens to death.

Unfortunately, the Washington Post story that follows the headline isn't much more appetizing. An excerpt:

"It's a disturbing practice most Americans probably know nothing about: On the day they're born, all the fluffy male chicks born to egg-laying hens at hatcheries are gruesomely killed - usually by being run, while conscious, through what is essentially a blender. That's because they're useless to the industry: They can't grow up to lay eggs, and they weren't bred to be the fast-growing chickens sold as meat."

However, there is good news - that under pressure from animal welfare activists, "United Egg Producers - the industry group that represents hatcheries that produce 95 percent of all eggs produced in the United States - announced Thursday that it would end this 'culling' of millions of chicks by 2020, or as soon as it's 'economically feasible' and an alternative is 'commercially available'."

Culling? That's what they call it? Yuck.

The story notes that there has been a lot more attention paid to the cage-free egg issue, which has resulted in many US food retailers and restaurant chains pledging to shift to the use of eggs laid by chickens not confined in cages. But, the Post writes, "the Humane League, a relatively new group that's also played a big role in pressuring companies to switch to cage-free eggs, evidently also decided to drill down on the male culling."

I'm wouldn't describe myself by any means as being an animal rights activist. I'm sympathetic, I try to do the right thing in terms of my consumption behavior, but it is not an issue at the top of my list. But I have to say that I'm really glad the Humane League pushed these issues ... these practices just seem randomly cruel.

• The Wall Street Journal reports that "satisfaction with the current state of the U.S. economy hit an 11-year high in June, but Americans continued to lose confidence in the future. The University of Michigan said Friday that its closely watched index of U.S. consumer sentiment slipped to 94.3 in June from 94.7 in May."

I always discount to some extent these kinds of studies during election years since, no matter who is in office, the other side benefits from talking about how awful things and how the country is going to hell in a hand basket. Not that the country isn't going to hell in a hand basket ... but 24-hour cable news networks are able to drive ratings by amplifying the concerns.'
KC's View: