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U.S. health agency says ubiquitous chemical may harm kiddos

A U.S. federal agency has declared that there is "some concern" that chemical bisphenol A can harm the development of children's brains and reproductive systems. The National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, issued a draft report following up on an 18-month review of BPA. The agency reported more concern than was suggested by its advisory panel, which critics alleged was biased toward the chemical industry. BPA can seep from hard plastic beverage containers, including baby bottles, and was detected in the urine of 93 percent of participants in a recent study. In light of the NTP …

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Higher food prices mean crappier cafeteria fare for kids

As food prices rise, who gets hit first and hardest? Clearly, urban dwellers in the global south, where people spend upwards of half of their incomes on food. According to the Wall Street Journal, here's the ever-growing list of nations that have experienced food-price riots: Rioting in response to soaring food prices recently has broken out in Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Ethiopia. In Pakistan and Thailand, army troops have been deployed to deter food theft from fields and warehouses. World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned in a recent speech that 33 countries are at risk of social upheaval …

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Health Canada primed to declare bisphenol A toxic

Canada's health department is expected to become the first regulatory body ever to declare chemical bisphenol A a toxic substance that humans should reduce their exposure to. BPA shows up in (and leaches from) hard plastic water bottles, aluminum cans, and other containers that consumers regularly eat and drink from. The chemical, which has been linked to reproductive anomalies, has come under some scrutiny in the United States, but industry folks insist that it poses no threat. A declaration by Health Canada that BPA is toxic would set the stage for federal regulation or a ban.

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Thirty years ago, high crop prices caused environmental destruction, too

Last week, I wrote about high crop prices that were inspiring people to make all manner of dubious land-use decisions, like plowing up environmentally sensitive land to plant environmentally destructive corn. Then I came across an interesting bit from Merchants of Grain: The Power and Profits of the Five Giant Companies at the Center of the World's Food Supply, by veteran Washington Post reporter Dan Morgan. I've just started the book, which first came out in 1979. It's riveting. After laying out the great boom in grain prices of the early 1970s, which arose after massive, secretive grain sales to …

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How expensive is food, really?

There is no doubt whatsoever that rising food costs are hurting people all over the world. More than half of the world's population spends 50 percent of their income or more on food, and the massive rise in staple prices threatens to increase famine rates drastically. We are already seeing the early signs of this in Haiti and in other poor nations. It is also undoubtedly true that rising food prices are digging into the budgets of average people, including me. And I've got it easy. The 35 million Americans who are food insecure (that is, they may or may …

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The legislation isn’t perfect, but it’s far better than extending the 2002 bill

With the new farm bill languishing in the last stages of negotiations, many are bemoaning its lack of sweeping reform, suggesting that we have gained very little from months and years of work. But if the new bill is not to be the visionary document that many hoped and advocated for, what, if anything, do we stand to lose if the new bill is vetoed or negotiations reach an impasse and the 2002 farm bill is extended for two years? There are several small but important gains that we are poised to win if the new farm bill gets passed, …

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Coca-Cola and McD’s top brands among teens, study says

Photo: Taneli Mielikäinen There has been a lot of great work in the last decade to wake kids up to alternatives to industrial food. Here and there, farm-to-school programs have been launched, soft drinks banished from cafeterias, books like Eric Schlosser's Chew on This have emerged. Yet clearly, much more work needs to be done. Seems that teens are still gulping down Coke and flocking to McDonald's (when they're not heading for Burger King, evidently seen by kids as the main alternative to McD's). I'm getting this from an article in BrandWeek on the latest marketing poll on teens. Evidently, …

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Meat of the future may be grown in a lab

Problem: Large-scale meat production has environmental problems out the wazoo, but Homo sapiens shows much reluctance to giving up meat. Possible solution: Test-tube sausage! The awkwardly named In Vitro Meat Consortium just wrapped up the first-ever international conference focused on the potential for replacing slaughtered animals with grown-in-a-lab chicken nuggets and ground beef. In theory, test-tube meat seems to have the potential to win over animal-rights activists, environmentalists, and others concerned about a protein-hungry, growing population -- but can it overcome the ick factor?

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As food prices rise, policymakers ignore potential of home and community gardens

This originally aired on WSHU Public Radio in Fairfield, Conn. ----- "Gardens are viewed as 'hobbies' by most politicians/bureaucrats and administrators and are seldom taken seriously as real sources of real food," says a University of Connecticut agricultural extension specialist, speaking of the United States Department of Agriculture. This attitude represents a serious impediment to a healthy, and sustainable food supply and society. Photo: Laura Gibb Feeding a growing population with shrinking resources without polluting the planet is one of the greatest challenges facing us, locally and globally. The USDA is the world's largest agricultural research and extension organization. If …

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Why plowing up Conservation Reserve Program land won’t solve the food crisis

Uh oh. The New York Times reports that "thousands of farmers are taking their fields out of the government's biggest conservation program, which pays them not to cultivate." Rather then let the ground lie fallow, they're planting it with corn, soy, and wheat -- the price of each of which stands near or above all-time highs. "Last fall, they took back as many acres as are in Rhode Island and Delaware combined," The Times reports. And there's serious pressure to bring more out: But a broad coalition of baking, poultry, snack food, ethanol, and livestock groups say bigger harvests are …