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The rhetoric of population in the hunger crisis

Perhaps you saw the recent UNESCO report on the future of agriculture. It calls for a major paradigm shift in agriculture away from fossil fuels toward organic agriculture and greater equity of distribution. Wow, I wonder why no one ever thought of that before? Seriously, this is the largest single report ever to tell us what we already knew: the status quo is not an option. That is, we cannot go into the future as we are. We all know this on some level. But until now, the larger narrative has been that we will rely on some magical technology …

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Nitrogen fertilizer is in short supply

Yet another phenomenon tightly tied to soaring food prices: the price and availability of fertilizer. Global consumption of cheap chemical fertilizer has leapt an estimated 31 percent from 1996 to 2008, boosting modern agriculture around the world. But now, fertilizer is pricey and in short supply, leaving farmers scrambling to sufficiently feed their crops. "Putting fertilizer on the ground on a one-acre plot can, in typical cases, raise an extra ton of output," says economist Jeffrey Sachs. "That's the difference between life and death." Fertilizer companies say they're confident that new factories, of which at least 50 are in the …

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Jake Gyllenhaal to open organic restaurant

Jake Gyllenhaal is planning to open an organic restaurant with a childhood friend. The 27-year-old reportedly wants to launch a high-class eatery in LA with chef Chris Fischer ... The actor is said to be planning a cycling holiday in Tuscany with girlfriend Reese Witherspoon to help develop ideas for the menu. Oh, Jakey ... I just want to eat you up!

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Food prices are high, and so are Big Ag’s profits

Food prices hitting you hard in the pocketbook? Agriculture giant Archer Daniels Midland feels for you, it really does -- but gee, its profits jumped 42 percent this quarter, so it can't really empathize. ADM's grain-processing division is doing lively business keeping up with the bumper corn crop. And, they'll have you know, high food prices are due to high oil prices, not to the ethanol push. Backing away from biofuels would be "foolish," "dangerous," and an "empty gesture," says ADM CEO Patricia Woertz, adding, "It won't fill anyone's stomach. It won't fill anyone's gas tank." It won't fill ADM's …

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Independent report calls for major reforms to industrial animal farming

Photo: FarmSanctuary.org Industrial animal farming in the United States needs to make many major reforms in order to protect public health and the environment, an independent two-and-a-half-year study by the Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has concluded. The report criticized the widespread use of antibiotics to promote animal growth, saying the practice can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and may expose the public to antibiotics that would then be less effective when used to treat human diseases. The heavy concentration of pollution created by crowded factory farms, the quick spread of disease in tightly packed …

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Nonsensical nuggets from the prez’s press conference

George W. Bush -- dark green? I kid you not. Here's what he said in his press conference today: One thing I think that would be -- I know would be very creative policy is if we -- is if we would buy food from local farmers as a way to help deal with scarcity, but also as a way to put in place an infrastructure so that nations can be self-sustaining and self-supporting. It's a proposal I put forth that Congress hasn't responded to yet, and I sincerely hope they do. I have no idea what he's talking about …

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Let’s raze more Amazon rainforest!

Blairo Maggi is a powerful man in Brazil. He owns a company called Grupo Andre Maggi that runs vast soybean plantations in the state of Matto Grasso, which straddles the Amazon rainforest and what the Nature Conservancy calls "the world's most biologically rich savanna." The New York Times has called Maggi "the largest soybean grower in the world ... with 400,000 acres of his own under production." Maggi works closely with the world's biggest soybean processors: Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill. He has received support from the World Bank for his projects. To top it all off, he's been the …

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U.S. should back off from biofuels to bring down food prices, says Texas guv

Has the U.S. push for biofuels contributed to rising global food prices? Well, yes, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday: "There has been apparently some effect, unintended consequence from the alternative fuels effort." But, she hastened to add, "biofuels continue to be an extremely important piece of the alternative energy picture" and "we think that it is not a large part of the problem." Unconvinced, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has suggested that 50 percent of the federal renewable-fuels mandate be waived for a year to take some pressure off of food prices and the Texas economy. But his critics …

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Ousted L.A. gardeners continue to farm

In June 2006, a land dispute led to the shutdown of the South Central Community Garden in Los Angeles. Weeks of protest and tree-sitting by celebrities and regular folk proved unfruitful, and the 14-acre garden, tended by 350 low-income families in the middle of one of L.A.'s poorest neighborhoods, was bulldozed. Nearly two years later, with legal wrangling over the land's ownership ongoing, the gardeners are plotting again in Buttonwillow, Calif., a tiny town west of Bakersfield. With the help of a nonprofit foundation, some farmers have bought 85 acres of land that they hope convert into a working farm …

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A gap between rich and poor makes free markets fail

It's really an absurd travesty when starvation gets blamed on "global warming do-gooders," and we haven't seen the last of that. The problem is miscast, though. There isn't a food shortage, at least not yet. There is a food price crisis, which is a very different beast. Are its roots in the huge resource gap between the relatively rich and the very poor? If that's true, it has broad implications. Here's one way of looking at it, from the Omaha World-Herald: The list of likely damages from global warming is long and includes those from rising sea levels, more intense …

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