Foie gras is a controversial topic. It's one of the most delicious foods on the planet, but conventional foie gras comes at the price of force-feeding ducks and geese. Pateria de Sousa is doing things differently. By reviving old techniques, his family farm in Spain has managed to produce the much sought-after delicacy in a humane and sustainable way.
But bees DO pollinate a bunch of shit that you probably like to eat. Need a visual? Check out these before and after pics from Whole Foods that illustrate the amount of produce that would vanish if all the bees died off:
That isn’t what most people would think. (Especially the cotton bit. And especially the GMO bit.)
But a growing number of pests appear to share this sentiment. They've developed immunity to corn and cotton crops genetically engineered to contain the pesticide Bt, so they're now munching away with impunity.
OK, everyone have a seat and take a few deep breaths. Go to your calming place. Ready? Good. Because I’m about to talk about a new study that suggests that eating genetically modified crops might not be the best thing for us.
OK, another deep breath. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Tom, didn’t we settle this issue already?” After all, as the “plant science” industry group CropLife -- you know, the one that hates First Lady Michelle Obama -- likes to say, “more than 150 scientific studies have been done on animals fed biotech crops and to date, there is no scientific evidence of any detrimental impact.”
You’ll remember, I’m sure, the recent brouhaha over a French study by scientist Gilles-Eric Séralini that purported to find evidence that a GMO-based diet caused tumors in rats. Critics immediately raised significant questions about that study and the consensus quickly became that it was poorly conceived and executed. It was also the study that caused several science writers to conclude that anti-GMO sentiment was the moral equivalent of climate denial. Good times.
Tip: When attempting any technically not-legal tactical endeavors, it helps to start with a checklist. For some rebels, I imagine this list would include items like spray-paint and rotten eggs, maybe an iPod stocked with mood music by the Sex Pistols. Me, I’m taking a greener approach with my list: potting soil, water bottle, trash bags, low-maintenance plants, and one classic terra-cotta planter.
I assembled these items one recent evening in preparation for my first attempt at serious guerrilla gardening (that’s reclaiming a piece of underused public land by planting it, to you). I’d dropped a few wildflower seed balls around the city, sure, but those little bombs are a bit of a crapshoot. This would be the first time I’d leave anything undoubtedly living and green in my wake. And besides, seed bombs are easy to fling unnoticed; an entire pot brimming with succulents is a bit trickier to assemble in secrecy. Better add “nerves of steel” to that checklist.
My chosen site could certainly do with a little extra love. Located along a long pedestrian staircase linking a major bus route to the neighborhoods on the top and sides of a hill, the spot was overgrown with weeds and littered with bottles and granola bar wrappers. Ugly black construction netting encircled two sinkholes next to the stairs; the only decoration was the graffiti crawling up the sidewalk and across the site’s lone bench. If there was another spot within a two-mile radius of my apartment that needed some horticultural refinement more, I sure hadn’t found it.
So I loaded up my pot, my plants, and my soil, convinced my fiancé to ride shotgun, and set out to guerrilla garden the hell out of that neglected site. Or at least, leave it a little nicer, a little greener, than it was before.
Even as bees drop dead around the world after sucking down pesticide-laced nectar, pesticide makers are touting their investments in bee research.
Nearly a third of commercial honeybee colonies in U.S. were wiped out last year, for a complicated array of reasons, scientists say: disease, stress, poor nutrition, mite infestations, and — yes — pesticides. Neonicotinoid pesticides seem to be particularly damaging to bees, so much so that the European Union is moving to ban them (but the U.S. is not).
In case you or any of your loved ones missed the Grist posts about pink slime, Greek yogurt waste, fake honey, and so on, BuzzFeed has collected all the least appetizing food facts into one handy video.
We’ve known for a while now that organic agriculture is good for the climate: It does a better job at grabbing carbon from the air and turning it into soil than industrial agriculture, which often does just the opposite.
Last year, researchers reexamined all 74 studies that had looked at organic farming and carbon capture. After crunching the numbers from the results of these studies they concluded that, lo and behold, organic farms are carbon sponges.
This makes some intuitive sense: It’s generally the organic farmers who are most concerned with building up the soil -- they can’t rely on synthetic supplements if the soil chemistry runs low, after all. And when farmers talk about building up the soil what they mean -- on a fundamental level -- is creating more dirt. The new dirt comes from plants, which, in turn, are made of carbon (in part). More topsoil means less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
But it’s still a mystery as to exactly how this works.
From Nalgene to Sigg, the water bottle as accessory is nothing new. Conspicuously carrying one says, “Water fountain? HA. I care about my body enough to bring this enormous canteen with me everywhere, as if I’m perpetually returning from training to be a Navy Seal and/or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.” Carrying a reusable water bottle means YOUR hydration is never left to chance.
But unfortunately, it doesn’t lead to recurring revenue, and that made Nestle sad. The $92 billion food giant owns more than 8,000 brands, among them Arrowhead Water and Poland Spring, but none apparently has the cachet of a Lifestyle Water -- essentially, a drinkable purse. (Nestle also owns Perrier and San Pellegrino, but since they’re fizzy, they aren’t part of the coveted “premium still water” niche.)
Enter Nestle’s new bottled water, Resource. It’s not for every lady, though: mostly “trendy” and “higher-income” 35-year-olds, according to Resource spokesperson Larry Cooper, making it more of a liquid Coach bag than Target tote. “We want to raise it to the level of a lifestyle brand, where she’s proud to carry around Resource as her bottled water accessory, so to speak,” Cooper told The New York Times. Except that even handbags typically are used for more than a few hours before being discarded. Notes the Times:
The days of agricultural plenty are over and it's going to keep getting harder for everybody to afford enough food to eat.
That's the somber conclusion of a new international report, which warns that low food prices "seem now a feature of a bygone era." Blame climate change, degraded land, growing populations, and increasing energy costs.
"[W]ith energy prices high and rising and production growth declining across the board, strong demand for food, feed, fibre and industrial uses of agricultural products is leading to structurally higher prices and with significant upside price risks," states the 10-year agricultural outlook [PDF] published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization.
The report notes that “increasing environmental pressures” — which include climate change-fueled storms, drought and flooding — will be one of the main factors slowing the growth of food production around the world. In China in particular — a country the report focused on, with a fifth of the world’s population and steadily rising income levels — water shortages will be one of the key problems facing food production as rainfall becomes more variable. And there will be other risks for China as well. As the report notes: “Food availability will be impacted by changes in temperature, water availability, extreme weather events, soil condition, and pest and disease patterns.”