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Food concerns meat of UW consumer issues conference

Wyoming

Food issues simmering among consumers--including food choice, food safety, leaving a smaller carbon footprint and food sources--are among topics at the 2009 Consumer Issues Conference Sept. 24 and 25 at the University of Wyoming.

Throw in obesity, dietary supplements, animal cruelty, pesticides, organic foods, genetic modification, two tours--and whether the government should become more or less involved in the food industry--and consumers may find a full plate of issues during the gathering at the Wyoming Union. Information about "Food Safety, Security and Sources: A Recipe for Tough Times" is at www.uwyo.edu/consumerconference/default.htm.

"Every consumer needs food and is concerned about its cost, cultivation and possible contamination," noted Dee Pridgen, one of the organizers of the conference and associate dean and professor in the UW College of Law, explaining in part why the topic was chosen.

"There are a variety of motivations for choosing this topic," she said, "from consumers wanting a local food source rather than having food transported by air from far parts of the world, food-borne illnesses, the alleged abuses by large food processing and production farms, animal cruelty, to migrant labor and concerns over working conditions."

Health care is also involved said Virginia Vincenti, also a conference organizer.

"There is a lot of concern about obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and other conditions that are being recognized as resulting at least in part from our consumer choices," said Vincenti, a professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences in the UW College of Agriculture.

"Health care costs are out of sight, and there is much disagreement about what should be done about it," she said. "Food plays an important role in this complex issue. Consumer food issues are more timely than we even knew they would be when we selected the topic."

There are three tracks with concurrent presentations as well as plenary speeches during the breakout sessions each morning.

The three tracks are: food sustainability and security practices; food safety v. food freedom; and nutrition and health choices.

This year's conference includes two tours in the afternoons. The Sept. 24 field trip is to Grant Family Farms north of Fort Collins, Colo. On Sept. 25, the UW Meat Lab, Laramie Farmers' Market, the UW ACRES farm, and Big Hollow Food Co-op will be toured. The ACRES Student Farm, which stands for Agricultural Community Resources for Everyday Sustainability, is an area of land near the UW Greenhouse where students raise vegetables for students and community residents and to sell at the Laramie Farmers' Market.

"The tours both afternoons are to give attendees concrete experiences with some of the issues they will be learning about during the morning presentations," said Vincenti.

A controversial documentary about the food industry in America will be presented at 8 p.m., Sept. 24 in the College of Agriculture auditorium. The documentary is free of charge and open to the public.

How to influence politicians, policy makers and those in charge of the food supply can also be learned at the conference, said Pridgen.

"Consumers can find out what they can do if they are concerned about the source and safety of food," she said. "If you are not satisfied with the policies that exist, what can you do to influence the state legislature and Washington, D.C.? "



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