Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Tom Philpott's Posts

Comments

South Central Community Farm update

Over on Counterpunch.org, I've published an update on the situation at South Central Community Farm in Los Angeles. The piece is based partly on a Gristmill post from last week, with loads of new info on nefarious dealings by city officials. Check it out.

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Once the global capital of bad food, London shows the way forward.

Since I started writing for Gristmill, I've tried to make the point that our food system amounts to an ongoing environmental disaster, and deserves much more attention from greens. Over in London, Mayor Ken Livingstone is putting that idea into action. As the Guardian reports, Livingstone recently declared that "The energy and emissions involved in producing food account for 22% of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions." Ponder that number for a minute. Rather than obsess about hybrids and switchgrass and CAFE standards -- worthy topics, to be sure -- it might make sense to push for policies that make food …

Read more: Food

Comments

In the heartland of industrial agriculture, a county goes local and organic

Nestled in the heartland of globally oriented commodity-food production, Woodbury County in Iowa has made a bold move away from industrial agriculture. Last summer, the Kellogg Foundation's Food and Society (FAS) website reports, "the County passed an 'Organics Conversion Policy,' offering up to $50,000 annually in property tax rebates for those who convert from conventional to organic farming practices." And then in January 2006, FAS continues, the county ... ... became the first in the United States to mandate the purchase of locally grown, organic food. The "Local Food Purchase Policy" requires Woodbury County departments to purchase locally grown, organic …

Read more: Food

Comments

How the feds make bad-for-you food cheaper than healthful fare

If you're going to talk about poverty, food, and the environment in the United States, you might as well start in the Corn Belt. So good, and so good for you -- until it's turned into soda. Photo: stock.xchng. This fertile area produces most of the country's annual corn harvest of more than 10 billion bushels, far and away the world's largest such haul. Where does it all go? The majority -- after accounting for exports (nearly 20 percent), ethanol (about 10 percent, and climbing), and excess (another 10 percent) -- anchors the world's cheapest food supply in purchasing-power terms. …

Read more: Cities

Comments

Why the heavily subsidized corn harvest amounts to an annual environmental calamity

While researching my Poverty & the Environment piece on the food system, I had occasion to look closely at the corn harvest, source of so much of our cheap food. As bad as the annual flood of cheap corn is for our health -- nutritionally worthless high-fructose corn syrup, cheap feed for confined animals pumped full of antibiotics and hormones -- it may be even worse for the environment.Bolstered by government subsidies that have averaged about $4 billion annually since 1995, U.S. production accounts for nearly 40 percent of the world's corn output. Every year, the USDA reports, corn farmers …

Read more: Food

Comments

Rebels slash production production take hostages in Nigeria.

Everyone's favorite fungible commodity is causing some real trouble in Nigeria, where rebels claiming to represent "ethnic Ijaw communities" are laying siege to property owned by Royal Dutch Shell, the Guardian reports. There's even a hostage crisis brewing: The group of three Americans, two Thais, two Egyptians, a Filipino, and a Briton -- John Hudspith -- were seized by up to 40 gunmen who stormed a pipe-laying barge. In emails to news agencies, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) said its goal was to punish oil corporations and the government for siphoning off the region's wealth …

Read more: Climate & Energy

Comments

Biotech crops have benefited shareholders in seed giants, but nobody else

A couple of days ago, NY Times writer Andrew Pollack attempted to address the failure of biotech companies to "improve" fruits and vegetable crops -- that is, to bring a genetically altered fruit or vegetable strain (as opposed to grains like corn and legumes like soy) from seed to supermarket. Unwittingly, the article illustrates the industry's hubris and the mainstream press's gullibility in covering the topic. Pollack opens thusly: At the dawn of the era of genetically engineered crops, scientists were envisioning all sorts of healthier and tastier foods, including cancer-fighting tomatoes, rot-resistant fruits, potatoes that would produce healthier French …

Read more: Food

Comments

Monsanto’s move into veggie seeds shakes up small organic farmers.

Here at Maverick Farms, a foot-thick blanket of snow swaths the cover crops and garlic beds, insulating them from sub-freezing temperatures. In the depths of the field, a big compost pile smolders. As at small farms all over the country, we've been been flipping through seed catalogs as we plan what to plant this coming season. At this time of year, optimism burns bright, sparked by the glowing prose of the seed catalogs. Here is my favorite catalog, Fedco, engaging in a bit of beet poetry: The genius of Alan Kapuler at work, this [root grex beet] is an interbreeding …

Comments

High-end book printing races to the bottom.

While we're on the topic of shocking revelations regarding high-profile green types, check out what I found out when reviewing two great, sustainable-minded books for Grist. The books, Michael Ableman's Fields of Plenty and Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio's Hungry Planet, are big, beautiful, and lavishly illustrated, with powerful photographs and printed on really, really nice paper (especially Fields). Thus I was stunned at their relatively paltry price tags: $40 for Hungry, $35 for Fields. I found the answer to this riddle inside their dust jackets: One was printed in China, the other in Singapore. The fossil-fuel energy embedded in …

Read more: Uncategorized

Comments

Two new photo books focus on food

In the valuable new book Fields of Plenty: A Farmer's Journey in Search of Real Food and the People Who Grow It, author Michael Ableman rambles across the country in a VW van, visiting small-scale farmers to talk with them at the table and in the field. Vine and dandy. Photo: Chrissi Nerantzi. Not surprisingly, he encounters an array of colorful characters, including Bob Cannard, a celebrated Northern California micro-scale organic farmer. Whereas most farmers -- even organic ones -- work mightily to beat back weeds, Cannard exults in his. In fact, he's trying to obliterate the distinction between weed …

Read more: Food, Living