It looks like your standard caterpillar. Little, squirmy, kind of creepy, kind of cute. It turns, eventually, into this distinctly less cute fat moth:
But that's not why Brazil is freaking out about it, declaring emergency in two states. Brazil is freaking out because this thing can eat. Momma Helicoverpas can lay hundreds upon hundreds of eggs on a single plant, and those caterpillars will eat pretty much whatever plants they encounter: tomato, cotton, okra, beans, chickpeas, sorghum, tobacco, potatoes, any number of fruit and ornamental plants. And, oh yeah, soy and corn and cotton -- Brazil's big commercial crops.
Dietary news flash: Roast beef, milk, potatoes, carrots, and oranges are INSUFFICIENT for your kids to eat at school. This lunch is lacking the essential preservatives and saturated fat found in Ritz crackers, and thus your children will starve. Thankfully, the Manitoba Government's Early Learning and Child Care program has your back.
At least it did for Kristen Bartkiw, who packed her two kids this lunch. The program fed her kids Ritz Crackers and slapped her with a $10 fine. Someone call child protective services!
The city has been actively battling the bulge for years. Deep fryers were banned in school kitchens in 2010 and kids haven’t been able to buy soda in school vending machines since 2004, for instance. (On a related front, Philly has targeted Chinese takeout restaurants for excessive salt. No word on the fate of the fortune cookie.)
But the city’s most visible and far-reaching program, the largest of its kind in the country, has been the Healthy Corner Store Initiative. The city-wide project, spearheaded by Philadelphia-based nonprofit The Food Trust, is an attempt to convince corner stores, those one-stop shops for SunnyD and SnoBalls, to carry healthy food.
The program began as a small pilot project, with only 11 participating stores. In 2010, it expanded to more than 600 stores of an estimated 1,500 city-wide. “We had tested in a small sample, but we didn’t know if the store owners were going to respond,” says Brianna Almaguer Sandoval, the Healthy Corner Store Initiative's director. “But they are really stepping up. They’re reporting that they’re making money, that customers want those products.”
If there’s one thing that everyone in the GMO debate agrees upon, it’s that pollen spreads. It’s a basic fact of biology: Sex has always been hard to control. Expecting corn DNA to stop hustling around the gene pool once it’s been genetically engineered makes as much sense as expecting teenagers to become celibate once they get smartphones.
The technology that farmers use to keep plants from spreading their genes is pretty simple: It’s called distance. Keep cornfields 100 feet apart and you pretty much solve the problem, says Lynn Clarkson, president of specialty grain producer Clarkson Grain. For soy fields, 12 feet is enough, because soy pollen isn’t designed to fly. (Self-pollinating plants like soy are the introverts of the vegetable world; they mostly have sex with themselves.)
Distance, however, provides statistical prevention, not absolute prevention. A distance of 660 feet between cornfields is 99 percent effective at preventing breeding. At 1,000 feet, the effectiveness goes up to 99.5 percent. But it’s nearly impossible to get to 100 percent.
Clarkson understands this because his company deals in blue corn: “We have a pretty good sense of how far pollen will drift because blue kernels show up like beacons on yellow corn cobs.” It takes a separate grain of pollen to fertilize each kernel, so every cob provides a visual representation of the statistics in blue and yellow. “We’ve gotten calls from five miles away,” Clarkson says. “And a good Midwestern thunderstorm with big updrafts can move pollen hundreds of miles.”
So the question becomes: Who is responsible for controlling the plants? Should the person who wants carefully controlled genetics be responsible for planting in a secluded spot? Or do farmers with the potentially problematic pollen have a responsibility to keep their pollen out of other people’s fields?
You know Birchbox, the monthly package of bath and beauty samples that allows us ladies to celebrate the passage of time, rather than rue our ever-closer demise? Well, instead of (or in addition to) mini nail polish, now you can get vegan snacks in the mail. Meet the Vegan Cuts Snack Box, which uses the Birchbox model to distribute cruelty-free nibbles:
Vegan Cuts’ Snack Box is a subscription service that sends out a yummy assortment of 7-10 vegan snacks on a monthly basis. This includes treats like chewy banana bites and flavored chia crisps. As well as being completely cruelty-free, most of these snacks are gluten-free as well.
As this photo suggests, the snack box is hit with ferrets as well as humans:
In Cologne, Germany, a street artist/activist (or, if you're on the side of big corporations, a vandal) has been whiting out parts of fast food billboards and writing recipes for actual food on top. The recipes are in German, but at FastCoExist, Sydney Brownstone figured out what they're for:
Pretty simple, cheap stuff, too. Turkey and zucchini fried rice instead of a Big Mac, and spaghetti (which, okay, isn't terribly healthy either) instead of a "King des Monats" -- Deutsche for the "King of the Month" burger.
On Saturday, the Kauai County Council overrode the mayor's veto of a law it had passed to regulate biotech crops on the island. Barring further delays, the law will go into effect in nine months, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser. Seed companies, which rely on Hawaii's long growing season to propagate their breeds, have promised to sue.
The law -- Bill 2491 -- forces agribusiness to be more transparent, reports the Star Advertiser:
Bill 2491 would require mandatory disclosure of pesticides [farmers] use to spray on their fields and genetically modified crops by large agribusinesses. Affected companies are Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences, BASF as well as Kauai Coffee, the largest coffee grower in the state.
Advocates said the measure is needed to protect public health and the island's environment. Opponents of Bill 2491 contend it's legally flawed and puts the county at risk with legal challenges.
Cracking down on GMOs in Hawaii could have broader implications for biotech in the United States, as we discussed here.
In vitro meat sounds weird and gross, but Next Nature wants you to think about it. Not just think about eating it (or thinking smug thoughts about not having to, if you’re a vegetarian), but think about its bigger implications. Could it address world hunger? Would it change vegetarianism based on religious or moral concerns? And before you get too excited, how sustainable is it, really?
The group, part of Dutch design school Eindhoven Technical University, is coming out with The In Vitro Meat Cookbook next year to provoke those very questions. (Scientists served the world’s first in vitro burger in August, so it’s not completely farfetched.) The speculative cookbook combines interviews and essays from chefs, scientists, and researchers with some crazy-ass recipes:
Q.We eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and generate a lot of compost. Unfortunately we find in it lots of annoying non-biodegradable little stickers, usually with a code number. Is there any attempt to require them to be biodegradable?
Harvey New Jersey
A. Dearest Harvey,
It’s a funny world, isn’t it? Here you are striving for a healthy, produce-heavy diet (kudos on that, by the way), but your earth-friendly ways come with a slowly accumulating mountain of sticky waste. Fruit PLU labels (for “price look-up”) may seem like a small thing in the grand scheme of world problems, but even little things add up -- and if we can do better, hey, why wouldn’t we?
How do we feed ourselves without laying waste to the earth, and ruining everything for the next generation? If you think about it, that's the existential question for humanity. (As opposed to, say, should I use the Oxford comma? What's the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? And do I wear boxers or briefs?) And it is the question that journalist Sarah Elton tackles in her new book, Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet. Elton wants a food system that allows us to do more than just feed ourselves: She wants agriculture that will allow people and the environment to …