Food

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 …

Bread winners

Against the grain of industrial agriculture, truly local bread stages a comeback

David Bauer of Farm and Sparrow BakeryPhoto: April McGregerOn a recent vacation to Asheville, North Carolina, I headed to the market to get a loaf of bread. Asheville is home to a large a number of small-scale bakeries, many of which sell primarily at tailgate markets and wholesale to nearby specialty food shops. I found the market shelves stocked with lovely loaves of ciabatta, baguette, marble rye, and challah, but I was most intrigued by a few loaves that I knew at first glance were special. Packaged in brown paper bags with a hand-stamped wood-cut logo, the loaves were not …

Crunchy, but not granola

Lay’s: the locavore’s junk food?

Coming soon to farmers markets nationwide? A couple of years ago, a student group formed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to reform the campus’ dining halls. Calling the group FLO Food (FLO=fair, local, organic), the students wanted flavorsome, freshly cooked food — and preferably not from abused animals or exploited workers. They noted that Chapel Hill lies in a robust foodshed, with plenty of small- and mid-sized farms churning out delicious food. Why not get some of that local fare into the dining halls? The administration’s first response was priceless: to paraphrase, hey, we buy lots …

Flour power

A farmer speaks: no to GMO wheat

Editor’s note: Several weeks ago, the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) issued a press release proclaiming that 75 percent of its member farmers support the rollout of genetically modified wheat seeds. According to NAWG, wheat farmers are clamoring to follow their corn and soy counterparts toward a biotech-dominated future. Todd Leake, a wheat farmer and NAWG member, has a different viewpoint. ——————— Since the Nixon Administration, farmers have been told that their survival was dependent on the ability to compete in the global marketplace. Wheat producers have been particularly mindful of the need to grow a product that meets …

Truth in advertising?

Monsanto targets public radio to spread false biotech messages

Editor’s note: This post originally focused on NPR; but we’ve since found that the Monsanto ads run on Marketplace, produced by American Public Media, which isn’t directly affiliated with NPR. We regret the confusion. —————- Monsanto’s ad blitzFor years my alarm has been set to public radio so I can lie in bed for five minutes and have a grasp on the day’s news before I even get up. I, like many other Americans, rely on NPR and other public-radio shows for news that is what I deem to be as unbiased and fair as possible. But this morning my …

The what revolution?

NPR: Industrial ag and India’s ‘cancer train’

Spraying pesticides: how green a revolution? Last month, NPR’s excellent Dan Zwerdling filed two reports (here and here) on the ecological and economic upshots of industrial agriculture in India. Starting in the 1960s, U.S. agronomists–backed by U.S. foundation cash and blessed by the Indian government–introduced farmers in India’s then-fertile Punjab region to the glories of monoculture, imported petrochemical inputs, and heavy irrigation. The adoption of chemical agriculture in India became known as the “Green Revolution,” and is still hailed today in some circles as a great success. But 40 years after the Green Revolution took root, Zwerdling showed in his …

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