Food

Survey Says!

Consumers no longer want to be kept in the dark about food

A new survey came out indicating that (surprise, surprise) only 20% of Americans trust food companies to “to develop and sell food products that are safe and healthy.” While the depth to which food companies’ reputations have sunk is impressive, the phrase from the survey question is both interesting and unfortunate. IBM(!), who performed the survey, put “safe and healthy” together. As a result, we can’t really know which aspect, safety or health, is driving that low number. If I had to bet, I’d say safety since survey results often track media coverage of an issue and there’s certainly been …

Bone of Contention

Ask Umbra on meating your needs

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Hi Umbra, I was shopping in the commissary (our lovely military grocery store) this afternoon when I noticed the “reduced for quick sale” meat section. [As a former vegetarian], I literally feel the weight of the world when I buy meat … but when I saw this meat, it occurred to me that it was going to be thrown away within the next day or two if someone did not purchase it. To me, this is a worse crime: To have had that animal suffer a cruel factory farm existence only to have its …

Big Ag Wins!

Peterson gets his way with climate and energy bill

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) on Tuesday surrendered to agriculture interests on a key provision in the massive climate and energy bill he introduced with Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). Facing a defection from farm-state Democrats, Politico.com reports that Waxman agreed to change the bill so that “the U.S. Department of Agriculture will oversee the [carbon] offset program for farmers, and the House will seek further guidance from the Obama administration about the appropriate role for the EPA.” Politico further reported that Waxman “agreed to ask the EPA to roll back its new requirements that farmers offset rural land developed in other …

Supermarket gothic

Food Inc. Director Robert Kenner speaks on the ills of the food system

Food Inc. director Robert KennerRobert Kenner never set out to make a terrifying film when he started Food, Inc. But along the way, he found the food industry to be stunningly secretive–and what it’s hiding to be downright scary. The film shines a bright light on the handful of corporations that, behind a cloak of glitzy marketing campaigns, do the dirty work of putting cheap food on our plates. As Variety put it, the film “does for the supermarket what Jaws did for the beach.” Not long after the film opened nationwide, I caught up with Kenner by phone from …

Our genetically modified State Department

Memo to Hillary’s science czar: organic ag isn’t a ‘myth’

Is organic farming productive enough to feed billions of people–or will it always be a yuppie niche in a food system increasingly dependent on agrichemicals, massive animal factories, synthetic fertilizers, and biotechnology? Nina Fedoroff, the State Department’s chief technology adviser, propounds the latter view. A trained scientist with ties to the biotech industry, Fedoroff thinks organic is a fraud. (She attained her current positon during the Bush Adminsration in Condoleeza Rice’s State Department; SecretaryNina Fedoroff, with her previous employer. Clinton has elected to keep her on.) In a recent forum on biotech  in Seed Magazine (in which I also participated), …

Annals of Sausage Making

Collin Peterson is not killing the planet

Not yet, anyway. I agree with Tom Philpott that Peterson’s meddling in the Waxman-Markey climate bill is far more than a distraction. Weakening the bill out of spite is pretty much the extreme opposite of statesmanship. And I decried Peterson’s clearly implied climate denial just the other day. But I’m a bit leery of going quite as far as Philpott did today: In short, if Peterson wins this battle, our nation’s first significant climate legislation will likely end up at worst rewarding, and at best not penalizing, chemical-intensive, greenhouse-gas-spewing agriculture. We will have bungled a major opportunity for positive change. …

The issue is not growth or no growth, but a better world

Growing a better world

Crossposted from Znet “Every society clings to a myth by which it lives. Ours is the myth of economic growth.” So begins “Prosperity Without Growth“[1], the report of the UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission.  Questioning growth has been the obsessive focus of many for decades. Questioners make important points. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been, at best, a very rough proxy for wellbeing, often not even that. For this and other reasons many liberals, progressives, and leftists consider a “steady state economy” part of building a good society.  For all that critics of growth get right, they focus in the …

Collin Peterson, climate villain

Big Ag aims its pitchfork at historic climate legislation

Photo illustration by Tom Twigg / GristLike a tractor inching through a wet field, the Waxman-Markey climate legislation slowed to a crawl last week, on the verge of getting stuck. The bill’s authors still have to deal with plenty of mud, but it’s now looking like they will get a vote by Friday of this week after all. The main obstacle is still House Ag committee chief Collin Peterson (D-Minn.). About a month ago, Peterson warned anyone who would listen that he had de facto veto power over the historic climate bill. Unless the bill could be tailored to the …

NYC's Newest Farm

Three-acre organic farm appears in the middle of New York Harbor

Could. Not. Resist. From NYT’s City Room Blog: The sustainable garden with the most exclusive real estate in Washington is no doubt the one at the White House. The sustainable farm with the most exclusive view in New York City is the one that opened on Governors Island last week. Oh. Yeah. Governors Island is an island in New York Harbor not far from the Brooklyn waterfront. It was an army base for almost two hundred years and then a Coast Guard base for a few decades after that. It was decomissioned in 2001 and since that time various redevelopment …