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Tom Laskawy's Posts

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Grist Exclusive: Will Whole Foods’ new mobile slaughterhouses squeeze small farmers?

Jennifer Hashley processes a chicken on her Massachusetts farm. Massachusetts poultry farmer Jennifer Hashley has a problem. From the moment she started raising pastured chickens outside Concord, Mass. in 2002, there was, as she put it "nowhere to go to get them processed." While she had the option of slaughtering her chickens in her own backyard, Hashley knew that selling her chickens would be easier if she used a licensed slaughterhouse. Nor is she alone in her troubles. Despite growing demand for local, pasture-raised chickens, small poultry producers throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, and even New York can't or won't expand for …

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So long and thanks for all the fish

There was some hope recently that the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the organization charged with managing the Atlantic tuna fishery, would listen to its own scientists and ban commercial Atlantic bluefin tuna fishing so that the species might survive. Nope: Environmentalists on Sunday warned bluefin tuna was on its way to extinction after a international meeting of fishery ministry officials trimmed catch quotas but upheld continued hauls of the fish, prized in sushi dishes. "After meeting for 10 days, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) refused to end fishing for Atlantic bluefin …

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Feed the world sustainably by 2050? Yes, we can!

Adding a bit more data to food system reformers' arguments, a new study led by Germany's prestigious Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research takes on the question of whether we can "feed the world" while preserving the planet come 2050. Short answer: Yes! Researchers modeled various agricultural styles, growth patterns, and diets. Here's what they say: Despite pushes from agribusiness to intensify farming to feed a growing global population that is expected to reach over nine billion by 2050, the researchers found that a diet equivalent to eating meat three times a week would allow forests to remain untouched, animals …

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How the 40 year drop in the minimum wage helped cause obesity

I have written about the link between wages and obesity before -- with wages dropping since the 60s and healthy food prices always going up, people eat more unhealthy food. But now two economists have drilled down into these issues and claim to have found a specific link between a drop in the minimum wage and obesity: Growing consumption of increasingly less expensive food, and especially “fast food”, has been cited as a potential cause of increasing rate of obesity in the United States over the past several decades. Because the real minimum wage in the United States has declined …

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While scientists fight over BPA studies, Congress could just act

Joining Tom Philpott on the anti-BPA bandwagon, the New York Times columnist Nick Kristof had an op-ed Sunday detailing the mounting evidence against the hormone disrupting chemical. One comment in particular summed up the debate nicely: "When you have 92 percent of the American population exposed to a chemical, this is not one where you want to be wrong,” said Dr. Ted Schettler of the Science and Environmental Health Network. “Are we going to quibble over individual rodent studies, or are we going to act?” One of the problems we face when it comes to regulating toxic substances is that …

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Soda lobby gets its game on

HuffingtonPost has a piece up detailing the food lobby's full court press over a federal soda/sweetener tax: During the first 9 months of 2009, the industry groups stepped up their lobbying in Congress. They have spent more than $24 million on the issue of a national excise tax on sweetened beverages and on other legislative and regulatory issues, according to an examination of lobbying reports filed with the Senate Office of Public Records. The review shows that 21 companies and organizations reported that they lobbied specifically on the proposed tax on sugar-sweetened beverages -- which among other things would include …

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New allies in fight against Obama’s pesticide lobbyist nominee

I'm sure many of you have seen the various petitions zipping around the Internet encouraging opposition to President Obama's nomination of pesticide lobbyist Islam "Isi" Siddiqui to the Office of the United State's Trade Representative. The argument against him goes something like this: The White House has nominated Mr. Siddiqui for the position of chief agricultural negotiator in the office of the United States trade representative. He is presently a vice president at CropLife America, a coalition of the major industrial players in the pesticide industry, including Syngenta, Monsanto, Dow Chemical and DuPont. That job doesn’t seem to square with …

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If you can’t beat ‘em, cheat ‘em

Photo: Kat... via FlickrConsider the weasel: so unassuming, even sweet -- on the outside. But put them near their prey and watch out! I've got weasels on my mind, of course, thanks to Ohio Issue 2, which goes before voters tomorrow. Issue 2 is the Ohio livestock industry's attempt to head off restrictions on their worst practices, such as tail docking, battery cages and gestation crates, and, purely coincidentally I'm sure, to keep the Humane Society of the United States from doing in Ohio what they've done in California, Michigan, Florida and Colorado just to name a few -- either …

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Save us, [insert techno-fix here], you’re our only hope!

Don't worry about climate change and world hunger--this lady's got your back!Watching SuperFreakonomics author Steve Levitt sitting next to Jon Stewart as they shook their heads in disbelief that everyone wasn't on the climate change/geo-engineering bandwagon (It's easy! it's cheap! We know it works!) depressed me to no end. It seems like every challenge we face now has an "easy" technological silver bullet that will spare us sacrifice or even change. GMOs will end hunger. Geo-engineering will solve climate change. A pill will cure obesity. Cellulosic ethanol will eliminate our dependence on foreign oil. It doesn't seem to bother anyone …

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Scientists claim junk food is as addictive as heroin

With the rumors swirling that Michelle Obama is a big fan of former FDA Commissioner David Kessler's new book The End of Overeating, it seems reasonable to check in on the science behind an "addiction model" for salty, sweet, and fatty processed food (an assertion at the core of the book). As it happens, a group of researchers from the independent, not-for-profit Scripps Research Institute has just released a new peer-reviewed study on the subject. The conclusion: the brain responds to junk food the same way it does to heroin: Junk food elicits addictive behavior in rats similar to the …

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