Cooking the books

UPDATE: Washington State University reinstates freshman reading of ‘Omnivore’s Dilemma’

Too hot for freshmen? EVEN MORE UPDATES: Now that the NYT has weighed in, I guess it’s fair to say this story broke through to the mainstream. I’ll spare you all the assurances from WSU that this Bill Marler-funded resolution proves that the driving issue really was financial. In my view, Marler graciously provided a fig-leaf to a university administration that was very much caught by surprise that anyone would have ever noticed what they’d done. There remain too many bits of evidence that the book was originally canceled due to political pressure. Indeed, Spokane’s newspaper even claims to have …

The corn jihad

House ag chief Peterson: Waxman-Markey is mine, all mine

Corn: more important than climate? I’ve been reporting on it for a while, but now it’s reaching fever pitch: Big Ag is getting downright jittery about climate change legislation. There’s no mystery about why: industrial agriculture spews out massive amounts of greenhouse gas. Any serious scheme for reckoning with climate change will deal harshly with Big Ag. So Big Ag will work to make any climate legislation as non-serious as possible. House Ag chair Collin Peterson (D.-Minn.) has been shrieking for days now (here and here) about the EPA’s recent proposed rules on the greenhouse gas footprint of ethanol, Big …

America's other first family

Lessons in fast-food greenwashing from The Simpsons

Sunday’s episode of the Simpsons begins with a wickedly good greenwashing story: Krusty learns from one of his lawyers that “studies show your Krustyburger is the unhealthiest fast-food item in the world.” “Worse than a double Krustyburger?” “Somehow, yes.” Krusty introduces a green campaign centered on the vegetarian Mother Nature Burger, made of “100-percent wheat-fed barley.” So brilliant. Also featured: Norwegian humor, immigration humor, monkey-smoking-a-cigarette humor.

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 …

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