Food

Geopolitics of food

The great wealthy nation land-grab

Land is where the food isGlobally, farmland — and just as critically, water on that land — is disappearing at an alarming rate. Approximately 50 million acres vanish each year to urbanization, population growth, and economic and industrial development. So what are countries doing in response? Looking to buy or lease fertile land in parts of the developing world, where property is cheap and governments are eager for foreign investment. For example, Cambodia has entered land-for-oil talks with Kuwait and Qatar, and Laos has signed away 15 percent of its arable land. Yet both Cambodia and Laos have large food-insecure …

Not the triple theat?

Current flu virus may be 100% swine in origin

Everything swine and dandy?This intriguing notice posted to the International Society for Infectious Diseases by Columbia University researchers suggests that the current swine flu outbreak may be a “reassortment” (i.e. rearrangement) of existing swine flu viruses and not a swine, avian, and human influenza combo: The preliminary analysis using all the sequences in public databases (NCBI) suggests that all segments are of swine origin. NA and MP seem related to Asian/European swine and the rest to North American swine (H1N2 and H3N2 swine viruses isolated since 1998). There is also interesting substratification between these groups, suggesting a multiple reassortment. We …

The nasty bits

Symptom: swine flu. Diagnosis: industrial agriculture?

Several days after news broke of a possible link between Mexico-based hog CAFOs and the rapid spread of a novel swine-flu strain, what have we learned? • Clarifying details about respiratory ailments in the Perote area of Vera Cruz State — where U.S. pork behemoth Smithfield Foods raises nearly a million hogs a year in large confinement buildings, under a subsidiary called Granjas Carroll — have emerged. In my original post on this topic, I didn’t fully understand that the outbreak of a virulent respiratory condition in the town of La Gloria — located near Smithfield’s farming operations — wasn’t …

Gettin' fresh

Seattle’s Ferry Farm Stand brings fresh produce to hungry commuters

Photo: tobiaseigen via Flickr.It’s a mid-week summer evening, and you’re making the commute back home to Bainbridge Island wondering what’s for dinner. You’re craving fresh, local produce, but you’re on a boat (you’re on a boat, everybody look at you!). Lucky for you, this is a dinner dilemma no longer: Starting June 25, the Ferry Farm Stand will set up shop at the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal Wednesday evenings to serve commuters headed home on the busy 4:40 and 5:30 p.m. sailings. They’ll be offering convenient $5 bags of fruits and veggies picked from Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap farms. …

Tired of rearranging your closets? Why not play with some genes?

OMG, it’s DIY GMOs

I learned of a newly popular hobby for the masses thanks to a recent edition of Food Chain Radio podcast: amateur gene tinkerers. It’s such an obvious plot for a Michael Crichton book, featuring an innocent experiment wiping the planet’s motherboard. Why let corporations and academics in their ivory towers have all the fun? Just join DIYbio and you can access all the info and encouragement you need to extract DNA and poke it WHERE IT DOESN’T BLOODY WELL BELONG without the hassle of safety protocols (why destroy novel organisms in an autoclave when you can just flush them down …

When pigs flu

Swine-flu outbreak could be linked to Smithfield factory farms

One flu east, one flu westThe outbreak of a new flu strain — a nasty mash-up of swine, avian, and human viruses — has infected 1,000 people in Mexico and the U.S., killing 68. The World Health Organization warned Saturday that the outbreak could reach global pandemic levels. Is Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork packer and hog producer, linked to the outbreak? Smithfield operates massive hog-raising operations Perote, Mexico, in the state of Vera Cruz, where the outbreak originated. The operations, grouped under a Smithfield subsidiary called Granjas Carroll, raise 950,000 hogs per year, according to the company Web …

Stir-fried pork

Chinese agribiz giant eyes Smithfield takeover

Want some Chinese dollar reserves in that ration? Like a pig pumped full of antibiotics, gorged on corn, soy, and industrial byproducts, and stuffed into a room with thousands of its peers huddled over a lagoon of their own waste, the U.S. meat industry is feeling a bit haggard just right now. Like many U.S. industries, Big Meat has relied heavily on easy credit for years, and is getting pinched by the credit crunch. Also, recession-straped consumers are eating out less and opting for cheaper items down the food chain, slowing the growth of meat consumption. Finally, corn and soy …

Not milk?

Navigating the non-dairy ‘milk’ aisle

In Checkout Line, Lou Bendrick cooks up answers to reader questions about how to green their food choices and other diet-related quandaries. Lettuce know what food worries keep you up at night. Dear Lou,I went to pick up some milk at our local mom-and-pop shop and noticed they had soy milk.  Since it seems a lot of our friends have switched to soy milk, I thought I would try some. Oh, the choices!  Not only were there three different organic soy milks, there were three rice milks and two hemp milks! Totally confused, I stuck with the organic milk from …

Deposing King Corn?

Corn ethanol approaches a moment of truth

Courtesy Randy Wick via Flickr [UPDATED 4/24] As expected, California’s Air Resources Board passed the LCFS with the indirect land use component intact. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the actual model to be used in the calculation (including to what extent gasoline will incur an indirect land use penalty) won’t be finalized until 2011, a year before the rule actually goes into effect. The badder news is that Reuters reported that CARB’s chair, Mary Nichols, sent a to letter for Fmr. Gen. Wesley Clark, CEO of Growth Energy, the main ethanol lobbying group, declaring “that corn …

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