News of the beard

Seattle chef Maria Hines wins James Beard Award for her organic creations

Photo: Ron WurzerSeattle chef Maria Hines has cooked up an award-winning recipe for success: serve sustainable, organic foods from your local area in a welcoming atmosphere with a neighborhoody feel. The resulting dish? Tilth. Nestled in small green home in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, it’s only the country’s second restaurant to receive organic certification from Oregon Tilth, a distinction that promises 95 percent organic offerings and eco-responsible business practices. And its savory sups just won Hines a coveted James Beard Award — essentially the Oscars of the foodie world. Curious about her strong commitment to sustainable foods and her advice for …

The water we eat

Drought, fish, and our fruit-and-veg problem

High and dryIn the United States, when people say “eat your veggies,” they are essentially urging you to take a bite out of California — or, more to the point, take a a big swig of its increasingly scarce water supply. How much do we rely on California for fruits and veg? With its rich soils, variety of microclimates, long growing season, and huge geographical footprint, California should be a major ag producer — certainly a regional food-production hub for the southwest. But its sheer dominance of U.S. fruit and veg production (numbers from the the California Department of Food …

Fox in the Henhouse

Close friend of Big Meat may be put in charge of food safety

USDA chief Tom Vilsack is once again on the verge of stepping in it regarding his pick for food safety czar, i.e. the head of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Some may recall that back in March the Obama administration nearly appointed Dr. Michael Osterholm to the post only to back off when his views on meat irradation (aka “Zap the Crap”) proved too hot to handle. Ironically, Osterholm — who has ties to the meat industry, biotech heavyweight Monsanto and defense contractor 3M — is also a legitimate expert on pandemic preparedness, a skill which might’ve come …

Follow the herd

Another symptom of swine flu: instant amnesia

Photo illustration by Tom Twigg / Grist Swine flu: how very two weeks ago. Sure, H1N1 transmission is “still on the upswing” in the United States, and the World Health Organization warned that as much of a third of the globe’s population could eventually catch it, Reuters reported last week. But the disease is turning out to be little more virulent than the common flu. It resists older anti-viral treatments, but fortunately, new ones like Tamiflu have its number. For now, anyway. “We all pray this remains sensitive to antivirals,” CDC chief virologist Rubin Donis recently told Science — not …

the view from the blend wall

Resistance grows to increasing the amount of ethanol in gasoline

The ethanol lobby may still be reeling in the subsidies, but it doesn’t seem to be having any luck dealing with their other obsession, the so-called “blend wall,” i.e. the legally prescribed limit to the amount of ethanol that can be mixed into gasoline. The NYT has a nice summary of the mounting scientific and industry backlash against ethanol lobbyist Growth Energy’s EPA petition to raise the blend wall from 10% to 15%. The NYT lays out some of the objections this way: Approving E15 would have a huge impact on consumers, said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center …

Hog wild

Uncomfortable facts about the swine flu outbreak

You’re testing my patienceDon’t associate U.S. pork with the swine flu outbreak — you can’t catch it through pork. Plus, no pigs on U.S. CAFOs are infected with it. That’s message the industry and the USDA are straining  to get across, anyway. Except … you can catch swine flu from pork, according to the World Health Organization. Here is the Reuters: Meat from pigs infected with the new H1N1 virus shouldn’t be used for human consumption, the World Health Organisation cautioned on Wednesday, adding it was drawing up guidelines to protect workers handling pigs. … The WHO … said it …

Don't be corny

A bad idea, plus lots of cash

What’s that in your gas tank?This is a blog post about the intersection of a bad idea and lots of cash–your cash. The bad idea is this: growing crops to ferment and distill them into ethanol for internal combustion engines. A few days ago, the EPA revealed that by its calculations, use of corn-based ethanol will actually raise greenhouse gas emissions over the next 30 years compared to gasoline. And then Friday, Science published a paper by Stanford academics claiming that it makes much more sense to burn corn to produce energy for electric cars than it does to convert …

Larder starter

The non-survivalist’s guide to stocking up for hard times

Dear Lou,As a resident of South Mississippi, I think it is officially time to stock my swine flu/tornado/hurricane/foreign invasion pantry. How do I do this without filling it with a bunch of processed crap, but still manage to stock away flavorful and nutritious staples? Kelly S. Dear Kelly,This particular swine flu pandemic–which may or may not be linked to factory farms–doesn’t appear to pose much of a public-health menace. But it reminds us of an old lesson: chaos happens. Regarding pandemics, our very own government advises people to keep two weeks’ worth of supplies on hand, which is truly the …

Change we can devour

Vilsack’s USDA shakes things up

I know some are still reeling from the recent Obama administration announcement on biofuels and its implication that it remains a bit too much in thrall to the concerns of Big Ag. And Tom Vilsack’s continued pimping for Monsanto and other biotech companies seems both unsustainable and uninformed. But a slew of positive decisions have come down from the USDA in recent days that merit attention and suggest that business is very much not as usual at ag’s end of the Mall. First up was USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan’s announcement of $50 million in funding from the USDA’s Environmental …

Got 2.7 seconds?

We've devised the world's shortest survey to find out what kind of actions our readers are taking. You know you want to.