Crop protection racket

Agrichemical industry steps up pressure on White House organic garden

Use our pesticide, or the spinach gets it.I’m no expert on the mafia, but I have seen the first two Godfather movies and Goodfellas, oh, a few times. One thing I’ve learned: “protection” is a major mob racket. It works like this: a thug drops by your shop monthly and makes small talk. You hand him some cash, and your shop runs smoothly. You refuse to pay, and … things go wrong. I’ve been thinking about protection rackets ever since an agrichemical industry group chided Michelle Obama for not using “crop protection” products on her White House garden. The group …

Soda quota

Tax junk food, but also subidize veggies

Soda can … harm your health.The taxman cometh for soft drinks. Or so it appears these days. We already know they’re on the table as a possible funding source for Obama’s health care reform. And behind the scenes, the co-author of an influential paper on the potential positive effect of soda taxes, New York City’s Health Commissioner Tom Frieden, has just been named to run the Centers for Disease Control. And today David Leonhardt, one of the NYT’s top economics writers published a column praising the benefits of taxing soda in particular and calories in general. I even learned that …

Choice nuggets

From bee collapse to good cheap wine, tasty morsels from around the web

Can we pleazzzzze ban insecticides? When my info-larder gets too packed, it’s time to serve up some choice nuggets from around the Web. Way to bee, manOver on Salon, Julia Scott’s got a strong piece on that stubbornly persistent mystery, bee-colony collapse. Since 2006, the nation’s conventionally kept honey bees have been undergoing large annual die-offs, and experts can’t figure out precisely what’s going on. Since a huge portion of our crops depend on domesticated honeybees for pollination, the problem is urgent. In her piece, Scott looks at the contribution of imidacloprid, a hot-selling insecticide from Bayer CropScience. Imidacloprid is …

The best fest? Yest.

Free local cheese, a win-win-win

Jeff Maurone via Flickr.If you were anywhere near Seattle this weekend and you didn’t make it to the Seattle Cheese Festival, oh man, I’m sorry. Oh man. Pike Place Market, a sample-lover’s paradise on any day, played host to more than 200 artisanal cheesemakers for the weekend. Each brought some fine creations and each offered samples with extreme generosity. There were goat cheeses, sheep cheeses, and dairy cheeses, of just about every form imaginable. There were farmers from around the Northwest, and around the world, willing to talk about their methods and the diet of their animals. As an enthusiastic …


Peterson: Leave ethanol alone, or I’ll nuke Waxman-Markey

What GHG footprint? Peterson, right, with tractor rep. House Ag committee chair Collin Peterson (D.-Minn.) has already made it clear that he’s furious that the EPA has proposed a framework for assessing the greenhouse gas footprint of ethanol. Now he’s vowing to use his clout to crush the historic Waxman-Markey climate change bill, unless Congress passes a bill that would revoke the EPA’s proposed rules. Here is the Saturday Agriculture Online: Friday, the ag committee chairman, Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN), told Agriculture Online that he will work to defeat any climate change legislation on the floor of the House of …

In defense of food talk

Pollan takes Manhattan

With his bestselling book In Defense of Food debuting in paperback, Michael Pollan spent Thursday on the TV/radio circuit in Manhattan. He was on the Leonard Lopate show on WNYC.  My favorite bit is when he touches on antitrust in the food industry. “You have more concentration in the food industry than any other industry,” Pollan says. “There’s this tight little hourglass — lots of farmers, not many buyers.” He appeared on Amy Goodman’s show Democracy Now. Amy asks him about the swine flu controversy. Michael’s response, from the rush transcript: Well, we don’t know for sure yet. We’re still …

King Corn vents spleen

Why farm-state pols rage against the EPA’s biofuel stance

His Majesty is furiousWhy are farm-state pols howling against recently proposed EPA rules on biofuel and greenhouse gas emissions? As I reported last week — echoed by Time’s Michael Grunwald — the agency made extremely generous assumptions regarding the GHG footprint of crop-based fuel. What’s more, the proposed rules actually enshrine the titanic biofuel mandates farm-state pols worked into the 2007 Energy Act. Sure, corn-based ethanol and soy-based biodiesel emerge as net GHG emitters under the proposed EPA rules; but those “first-generation” fuels are grandfathered in under the Act. And cellulosic ethanol gets a big thumbs up (even though it …

Attention ladies and Ghents

Belgian city goes veg one day a week

The Belgian city of Ghent will be the first in the world to go meat-free one day a week in an effort to cut the city’s carbon footprint, battle obesity, and say “veggiedag” as many times as possible. They’re even passing out “veggie street maps” to help citizens find vegetarian eateries around town. But not to worry, there are plenty of Belgian waffles to go around.

Local yokels

Big Food’s ‘local’ push: what’s it really about?

Photo: TheTruthAbout…, via FlickrThe Ethicurean probably had it right when it declared yesterday that “local” jumped the shark. The shark in this case (or is it the jumper? I’m never sure which is which) is Frito-Lay and its Big Food brethren, which have embarked on marketing campaigns emphasizing the “local” producers who supply them. The NYT lays it out: Frito-Lay is one of several big companies that, along with some large-scale farming concerns, are embracing a broad interpretation of what eating locally means. This mission creep has the original locavores choking on their yerba mate. But food executives who measure …