American Elephants


The Trials and Tribulations of Contemporary Technology by The Elephant's Child

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I have been pretty negative on social media. Silicon Valley is remarkably partisan, and Congress is not only noticing, but considering what, if anything, they should do about it. I just had the experience of searching for the answer to a very simple question, which I never got, but the question was clearly partisan, (I was searching for the proper title of someone in the Trump administration) and it took me well in to the high 74th – 76th posts to even begin to get close to an answer. Every conservative has noticed that their algorithms disfavor conservative websites.

But here’s a case where technology is attempting to increase the speed and accuracy of food recalls. Walmart Inc. is requiring direct suppliers of lettuce, spinach and other greens to join its food-tracking blockchain by early next year. The move comes after 28 months of tests tracing the origins of berries, mangoes, baby food, chicken and other goods on a system developed by IBM, known as the IBM Food Trust blockchain, a group that includes Walmart, Nestlé SA, Dole Food Co, and several other food companies.

This also follows a bad outbreak of E.coli linked to romaine lettuce earlier this year that spread across 36 states, caused five deaths and hundreds of illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Outbreaks like this can hurt all distributors as shoppers who hear of it simply stop buying lettuce and other suspect goods from any suppliers, even unaffected ones. Blockchain can be used to promote transparency and greater food safety. Preventing deaths from E.Coli infection should surely be a high priority. We expect the food in our modern food chain to be safe.

Both the Food Trust group and IBM are working to simplify the process of getting data on farmers’ fields. lots and shipments into the system, including a web portal for farmers to use from a desktop or laptop to enter data, and a mobile app for accessing the Food Trust.

A further caution: The idea of Organic food came up because some shoppers were afraid of chemicals in fertilizers. Plants require nitrogen as a fertilizer, and don’t care if it comes from petroleum or from cow barns, but people who are afraid of Petroleum, oil and gas, do. So the organic label was born, and organic farmers promised to fertilize their food crops with cow manure as a “natural” response to fertilizer fear. Of course oil and gas are “natural” too, but unacceptable. The trouble is that cow manure is often the source of E.coli, and organic food costs about 35% more than non-organic.

I never buy organic food, but I once bought a bottle of organic lotion, which was really silly. It was lemon verbena, and I’m a sucker for anything in lemon verbena. That suggests that the trees that grew the lemons or the verbena bushes were fertilized only with manure, but I’m just putting the lotion on me, not in me.


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