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Bay Area escapes aerial spraying, for now

A plan to spray Santa Cruz County with synthetic pheromones must be postponed until an environmental review is completed, a county judge ruled Thursday. The spraying, an attempt by agriculture officials to curb the invasion of the crop-gobbling light brown apple moth, was to begin in Santa Cruz County in June and expand to seven other Bay Area counties in August. But many of the 7 million residents of to-be-sprayed areas have been protesting mightily, pointing out that previous spraying in Santa Cruz coincided with numerous complaints of eye and respiratory irritation.

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Say goodbye to 'cides

Home Depot announces an end to traditional pesticide sales in Canada

For consumers concerned about pervasive toxics in the environment, this has been a very good Earth Week.  Especially if you live in Canada. Home Depot announced this week that it would stop selling "traditional" lawn and garden pesticides in all its Canadian stores. The reason? Consumers don't want them anymore. People in Canada seem to have discovered that you don't need to spread poisons around your yard in order to garden. Amazing! A huge part of that awakening is happening because of committed advocates, particularly from the public health community, that have helped lead hundreds of local by-laws in communities …

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The Betty Crocker’s Cookbook of low-carbon living

When I got to college, the best book I bought was a 3-ring notebook-style Betty Crocker's Cookbook. Not adventurous food, but for someone who knew very little about anything concerning food, it was a great first book. It assumes that you are reading a cookbook because you want to know what to do, step-by-step -- instead of just hinting, it lays it out, with pictures and plain language. Great stuff. A couple times a year my wife and I still will ask one another, "What does Betty say to do with these?" I always think of Betty (and the old …

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Thinking outside the cereal box

Thoughts on the farm bill and the skyrocketing cost of food

The rising cost of food worldwide is more complex than portrayed in recent articles in The New York Times and the Washington Post. Like a magician revealing his secrets, the once-invisible farm and food system is drawing scrutiny from the media, policymakers, and the public as we realize how intertwined our farm and food system is with the energy sector and global markets. But how did we get here? How did our modern, abundant, and affordable food system run aground? In a sector that is global in reach, absolutely essential (we must eat, after all), and includes the politics of …

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Here’s a dressing that passes muster without cutting the mustard

Now that spring is well and truly here, I can't wait for local produce to appear in the farmers' markets. In New England, that moment is still many weeks away, sadly, but at least now it seems possible -- unlike in the winter, when the farmers' markets I frequent show off piles of dirty snow, not heirloom tomatoes. I love to make and eat salad, so while I while away the weeks waiting for local tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce, I am inventing new salad dressings. Get fresh with me. I wasn't always so adept. For many, many years, I was …

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The corn identity

How Congress is shortchanging our health and sweetening things for the food industry

Are we becoming children of the corn, thanks in part to large subsidies and overproduction? Photo: NREL/Warren Gretz At dinner Sunday night, I asked my friend Prasad if he knew about the new farm bill and what it means for average Americans. He didn't. I wasn't surprised. With the election, the war, and rising prices to fret about, not many people are pondering legislation about farms. But they should, because it has huge implications for the country's nutrition, environment, and health. Here are three reasons why we all should pay closer attention to the 2007 farm bill: food, fuel, and …

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Who is a farmer?

Linguistic insights into agriculture

One of the problems people have discussing sustainable agriculture is the question of language. I was trained originally in English literature and hold as an article of faith that language matters -- deeply. That is, I believe that we can only come to an honest vision for the future with a shared language that accurately describes our world. Agriculture is in the news, obviously -- and the future of farming is a big question. But we keep running up against the question of what, precisely, a farm is. There's a lot of debate about where our farmers should come from, …

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Why survivalists make me want to die

More than peak oil or financial crash, I fear angry men armed to the teeth

"I urge readers to use less than lethal means when safe and practicable, but at times there is not a satisfactory substitute for well-aimed lead going down range at high velocity." -- James Rawles, SurvivalBlog With oil and food prices reaching all-time highs and food riots breaking out in the global south, a bit of good old-fashioned end-is-nighism is creeping into our popular culture. It hit me when I read a report in The New York Sun -- the one I blogged about -- making the startling claim that food rationing has begun in places like New York City and …

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What are GMOs good for, again?

Study: transgenic soy brings lower yields than conventional

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) came to dominate U.S. grain agriculture over the last 12 with very little real public debate. Sure, people like me have complained loudly, and groups like Center for Food Safety have mounted forceful lobbying and public education efforts. But U.S. policymakers have ignored these criticisms and chosen to wave these epoch-making technologies from the lab to the field to the plate with minimal oversight. That's at least partially because Monsanto, the dominant GMO seed producer, has managed to place its own people in high policy-making positions -- particularly during the 1990s, when the Clinton administration opened …

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The candidates are overlooking the ultimate green-collar job

Amid the din of the Pennsylvania primary and Earth Day, it seems a fitting time to talk about where the Democratic candidates stand when it comes to Mother Earth. Have the leading Dems forgotten America's greenest job? Photo: Freaking News Both candidates have called for ushering in a new green economy. Sen. Barack Obama has stressed that a green economy would not only save on energy costs but would help create jobs in manufacturing and in renewable energy infrastructure. And at a General Motors plant making parts for hybrids, Sen. Hillary Clinton declared that the factory "exemplifies" her notion of …

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