Food

Organically grown offsets

A climate policy for agriculture that works

A proven climate solution. Not since Earl Butz’s famous “hedgerow to hedgerow” comment of the 1970s have America’s farmers been at such a turning point. Food and farming policy in the United States is largely determined by the Farm Bill, behemoth legislation that comes around once every five years.  Yet, the current climate legislation–The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES)–offers an unprecedented opportunity to rethink the way America farms.  Since the start of ACES, agriculture interests have had an unspoken, yet powerful voice in the bill. Ag was explicitly exempted from the “capped” sector, which meanth that from the …

Genetically modified offsets

Will Big Ag plow under Waxman-Markey?

Waxman and Markey prepare for the ag lobby. As the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill moves forward in the House, Big Ag interest groups are circling their plows and sharpening their pitchforks. Some of the largest corporations in the agribusiness sector–including the GMO-and-herbicide giant Monsanto–are pushing to control how agriculture would fit into the bill’s cap-and-trade scheme. The main agent for their will is House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who has launched a veritable jihad to make sure the historic climate legislation hews to the interests of “production” (i.e., industrial) agriculture. Via Farm Policy blog, here’s an MP3 …

Agriculture: A necessary complication in the climate negotiations

Despite a sense that the international climate change negotiations, convened in Bonn, Germany this week, are grinding forward at a painfully slow pace, there is a momentum to the process that makes adding new ideas very difficult. It took several years of behind the scenes technical work and at least two years of carefully planned campaigning to get the deforestation issue substantively on the table. While we know that agriculture can make a vital contribution to addressing climate change, it lags behind the forest discussion and effectively including it in the Copenhagen deal at this late date will be no …

Drinking the Kool-Aid of Corporate America

Why are milk prices plummeting?

Dairy farmers are in deep trouble. Milk prices have fallen by half since last year, dropping to a 30-year low. Consumption has fallen in light of the slowing world economy and now there is a huge milk surplus, or so the “experts” tell us. It’s a nice theory: surplus equals low prices. Easy to explain and easily accepted by farmers. Farmers want an explanation, they listen to the dairy ”experts.” They drink the Kool-Aid. Milk prices, like the rest of the world economy, crashed because of a globalized, unregulated free market system, not because of surplus product. According to New …

Do dirty coal plants make us more vulnerable to swine flu?

Scientists have discovered that exposure to a common pollutant may make people more likely to experience severe symptoms from swine flu — and it’s a pollutant emitted in large quantities by coal-burning power plants and other industrial facilities. The culprit is arsenic, a highly poisonous semi-metal which, according to a new study by researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory and Dartmouth Medical School, compromises a person’s ability to mount an immune response to the H1N1 swine flu virus.  Most disturbingly, the study — published last month in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives — found that arsenic can weaken the immune …

Good Fish, Bad Fish

Is your favorite seafood unhealthy for the planet?

When I was growing up, my family lived in New Orleans for several years, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. One of my father’s friends had a boat, and he liked to take it out shrimping. My dad and I would often join him and his son. I loved those early morning boat trips (except for the time that I got very seasick — probably my fault for snacking on Fritos — and the trip that I’m about to tell you about). The lake was so big that you could barely see the shoreline. On one occasion, our nets …

A disturbing fish tale

‘The End of the Line’ is a compelling indictment of industrial fishing

If scientists are correct, 2048 will be a terrible year for sushi restaurants. And diners selling tuna melts, too. The End of the Line isn’t going to make you feel so good about hitting the neighborhood sushi bar.In fact, if I had any money to invest in a seafood venture, Carl Safina’s suggestion to “consider the jellyfishburger” may be the best advice. By mid-century, jellyfish may be the only “fish” left to catch. Though it lacks the starpower of a certain former vice president, The End of the Line does for the fish what Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth did …

Food safety beefs

Big Meat says, “Keep the FDA away from our CAFOs!”

National Cattlemen: butt out of our business, you … regulators!Roll Call is reporting that Big Meat is less than pleased with the food safety bill currently moving through Congress. While on its face, this might be surprising, what’s been notable to this point, as Jill Richardson recently pointed out, is the overwhelming support the bill has found among other industrial producers. Nothing like a $1 billion in losses from some a little bit of contaminated peanut butter to convince you that maybe, just maybe, the government has a role to play in food safety. But of course, that logic didn’t …

Jellyfish Fry

On World Oceans Day, consider the jellyfishburger and fries

Photo: Christopher ChanAround the world, fishermen and swimmers are running into a problem: jellyfish. The slick, stinging blobs are showing up in increasing numbers, earlier in the year, and in more places than ever before. Is there a reason for the jellyfish invasion? Unfortunately, yes—and like most reasons for ocean decline, it relates to how we are changing the environment. Data is lacking, but it’s likely that warmer waters help jellyfish grow faster and reproduce better. Also, overfishing can mean both fewer jellyfish predators and fewer competitors, which means more peace and more food for jellies. As large predatory fish …

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