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Meredith Niles' Posts

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Losing our faith in science?

Poll shows more Americans do not believe global warming is result of man-made activity

Amidst the chaos of the Inauguration events and Obama administration's transition, Rasmussen Reports conducted a global warming poll late last week. As I perused through the poll questions and responses I could barely believe what was reported: An increasing number of people do not think global warming is caused by human activity. According to the poll, 44 percent of all people polled thought long-term planetary trends were the primary cause of global warming as opposed to the 41 percent of people who blamed human activity. In 2006, only 35 percent of people believed that global warming was caused by planetary …

Read more: Politics

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Food security and global warming: Monsanto versus organic

Organic farming beats genetically engineered corn as response to rising global temperatures

This week Science published research ($ub. req'd) detailing the vast, global food-security implications of warming temperatures. The colored graphics are nothing short of terrifying when you realize the blotches of red and orange covering the better part of the globe indicate significantly warmer summers in coming decades. The implications of the article are clear -- we need to be utilizing agricultural methods and crops that can withstand the potential myriad impacts of global climate change, especially warmer temperatures. The article significantly notes, "The probability exceeds 90 percent that by the end of the century, the summer average temperature will exceed …

Read more: Food

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If they have it their way, they'll supersize the world

Burger King launches film Whopper Virgins, simplifies U.S. to land of fast food

In the past year or so, I have had the opportunity to meet and experience a vast variety of inspiring food, environmental, and agricultural people and places. I met small-farmers in Ethiopia experimenting with pit composting instead of synthetic fertilizers. I shared meals with activists and writers in the sustainable food movement like Tom Philpott and Anna Lappé. Perhaps most exciting has been the increasing interest in sustainable food and agriculture throughout this country and among my family and friends. Helping my parents start composting, sharing books with friends, and watching the enthusiasm for a "Farmer in Chief" left me …

Read more: Food

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Bad meat, bad air, bad health: Why do we still have CAFOs?

New research demonstrates that higher infant mortality rates surround CAFOs

Thanks to Proposition 2, Californians will soon phase out some of the most egregious confining animal conditions. However the rest of the country continues to utilize concentrated animal feeding operations for the production of meat, poultry and dairy products. CAFOs are industrial facilities that are designed to produce the most amount of meat in the shortest amount of time. In practice this means confining animals tightly together, often in unsanitary conditions, without access to the outdoors. According to the EPA, CAFOs divide into small, medium or large distinctions depending on the number of animals these facilities are confining. What's most …

Read more: Food

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Feed a company, starve a country

Monsanto purchased a Brazilian sugarcane ethanol company for $290 million

At a time when many people were questioning causes of the recent food crisis, many more were investigating how our food systems can move forward to sustainably feed the increasing world population. Recently, the U.N. Task Force on Trade, Environment and Development released a report touting the noteworthy yields and economic benefits of organic agriculture in Africa. Even recognizing that organic production offers significant hope for increasing food security. Another report released earlier this year by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development noted that a "radical change" was needed for agriculture, and that agricultural biotechnology …

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The ethics of ethanol

Big Ethanol descends on Africa for land, water, and sympathetic governments

A few weeks ago I was in Mozambique for a conference that brought together NGOs, small-scale farmers, agricultural associations, and local media to discuss the impact of biofuel production in southern Africa. While the United States and other Western countries mandate ethanol quotas to supposedly reduce their consumption of fossil fuels, many farmers in Africa are questioning the reasons and implications for such programs. As the only American at the conference, I was continually asked about the real reasons behind America's ethanol push and the truth about biofuels and greenhouse gas emissions. Most strikingly they wondered if the United States …

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Trick or treat?

As Halloween nears, beware of the ‘fat-free’ candy corn

It's the beginning of October and as the cooler temperatures and colorful leaves start to make an appearance, every retailer in America is switching storefronts to include pumpkins and of course, Halloween candy. The orange and black packages are cropping up in drugstores and supermarkets nationwide, and the glycemic high that lasts from Halloween through Easter has certainly begun. Since the lipid-phobia of the late 80s, high-sugar candies like gummy bears, gum drops, and candy corn have marketed themselves as "fat-free," but, because most candy contains high-fructose corn syrup, recent research might make you reconsider those "fat-free" claims. In June, …

Read more: Food, Living

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Wheat and ethanol: They just don't mix

New research shows that ethanol will continue to increase the cost of wheat

I, like most Americans, love bread. Crusty, warm, and fresh-baked bread is a carb overload I am willing to indulge in even if it means a few extra minutes of running. But the American love affair with all things baked might be at jeopardy. We all know that oil and water don't mix, but it's becoming increasingly clear that wheat and ethanol are a bad combination as well. New research from the University of Illinois indicates that the high prices for wheat, as well as corn and soy, are here to stay. The research confirms what common sense should have …

Read more: Food

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The organic times are a changin'

New data show that 2008 organic food sales will reach $32.9 billion

As people from Haiti to Ethiopia are tragically struggling to cope with rising food prices, many are piecing together the reasons behind our recent price spikes. The culprits lie in everything from the switch to growing crops for biofuels to market speculation. The situation is complex and involves multiple factors. But as economists tally up the numbers and politicians scramble for solutions, others are beginning to wonder if this is the end for organic food as we know it. For years, the organic industry has seen sales growth in the double digits, far outpacing any other sector of food products. …

Read more: Food

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A side of gamma rays with my salad, please

Starting today the FDA will allow producers to use irradiation on lettuce and spinach

The better part of this summer seemed to be dotted with stories of continued salmonella and E. coli outbreaks. First, the FDA thought the problem was with tomatoes; but, it turns out peppers were the culprits that caused more than 1,400 people in 43 states to become sick with salmonella Saintpaul. This marks yet another incident where the FDA has failed to ensure the safety of the American public and our food supply. Now, the FDA has decided to allow use of a controversial method to combat microbial contamination of foods: irradiation. Starting Friday, the FDA will allow producers to …

Read more: Food