Food

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 …

Calling for Real Reform

Food safety in the 21st century

Just when America thought it was safe to go back into the grocery store, another food outbreak wakes us up to the fact that there is something seriously wrong with its food safety system. This time it’s Nestle Toll House cookie dough with E.coli, a treat that nearly every kid in America reaches for a few times a month during the summer. This is yet another reminder why it’s important to get the new food safety legislation, currently winding its way through Congress, right. Last week a new food safety bill passed unanimously out of the House Energy and Commerce …

Notable Quotable

Marion Nestle takes on the “organics are elitist” meme

“[P]lease don’t blame organic producers for the high prices. Until the latest farm bill, which has a small provision for promotion of organic agriculture, organic farmers received not one break from the federal government. In contrast, the producers of corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton continue to get $20 billion or so a year in farm subsidies. …Dealing with the elitism implied by the higher cost of organics means doing something about income inequities. If we want elected representatives to care more about public health than corporate health, let’s work to remove the corruption from election campaign contributions. If Congress were …

We don't want to know about your crap

Factory farms get the ultimate handout

Since the beginning of climate change legislation this session in Congress it has been clear that big agriculture would not be a part of a cap and trade program.  Yet, while the Waxman Markey bill has been making its way through Congress, the EPA has also been pushing forward its own agenda of climate related regulations, including the mandatory reporting of GHG emissions from factory farms.  Yet, yesterday the House Appropriations Committee undermined this progressive proposed regulation by passing the 2010 Interior and Environment spending bill. An amendment in the bill will prevent the EPA from requiring factory farms to …

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