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The mercury problem isn’t contained to New York City’s sushi restaurants and markets

In case you needed another reason not to consume the dangerously overfished bluefin tuna: This week, The New York Times had a story about a study of mercury contamination, conducted by the newspaper, of leading sushi restaurants in New York. Guess which species showed the highest level of mercury? In the study, the Times collected samples of tuna sushi from leading restaurants like Blue Ribbon Sushi and Nobu Next Door. The results "found so much mercury in tuna sushi from 20 Manhattan stores and restaurants that at most of them, a regular diet of six pieces a week would exceed …

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Ag practices are mucking with the Mississippi River, says research

The Mississippi River has been dramatically changed by agricultural practices, says new research in the journal Nature. In the past 50 years or so, carbon levels in the river have jumped 40 percent, while the actual amount of water flowing through the riverbed has increased 9 percent -- the equivalent of five Connecticut Rivers. "Agricultural practices are causing a greater percentage of rainfall to make it to river water instead of being evaporated back into the atmosphere," explains researcher Peter Raymond. The extra-mighty Mississippi then transports ever more nutrients and pollution into the Gulf of Mexico, where they contribute to …

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New superfood is higher in press-release fluff and poor journalism than your average carrot

The best way to read this post is to begin with a recent press release from Texas A&M on their new Supercarrot. Second, read Wired magazine journalist Alexis Madrigal's coverage of the story. Alexis praises the next generation of biotech crops. He writes that, "A carrot that increases what's known as the bioavailability of calcium could have a major impact in the marketplace." Really? You are correct, Alexis: it could have a major impact on a totally uninformed marketplace -- but not much of an impact on nutrition. However, it is likely to have an impact on genetic contamination, wasted …

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Eating extremely local pigs

For pork lovers squeamish about hunting, check out this fascinating account of an intrepid urban farmer who doesn't let the fact she lives in the hood in Oakland, Calif., get in the way of her commitment to eating local. Very local. Like backyard local. So ... here's the piggies on day one. And last days.  Read up from the bottom. She's a beautiful writer, and she has some insightful things to say.

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Better agronomy for energy crops

I believe improved crop practices are a vital aspect in meeting our cellulosic feedstock needs. There are a few areas that offer significant potential: crop rotation, the use of polyculture plantations, perennials as energy crops, and better agronomic practices. We address all four issues here. Though none of these have been extensively studied, early studies and knowledgeable speculation point to their likely utility. Further study of these techniques is urgently needed, especially the use of grasses or other biomass-optimized winter cover crops. Crop rotation I have proposed the usage of a 10 year x 10 year energy and row crop …

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Tuna sushi in New York tests high for mercury

Tuna sushi in 20 Manhattan stores and restaurants contained high levels of mercury, according to testing commissioned by The New York Times. In five establishments, fish mercury levels were so high that the seafood could legally be removed from the market. According to a 2007 survey, New Yorkers' blood mercury levels are three times the national average. Recently, mercury has been linked not only to neurological problems but to cardiovascular disease. So skimp on that sushi, New Yorkers -- and that goes for the rest of you, too. sources:

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Seed-savers and greens unite to challenge Monsanto’s latest cash cow

For years, candy makers and other industrial food manufacturers refused to use genetically modified sugar, fearing a consumer backlash. Photo: iStockphoto As a result, Monsanto's Roundup Ready sugar beet -- designed to withstand heavy application of Roundup, Monsanto's herbicide -- has been dead in the water. (Sugar beets, grown in the Midwest and Northwest, account for half of U.S. sugar production; cane, grown mainly in Florida, provides the rest.) But as of last fall, all of that changed. Big Food -- which has already given a bear hug to another genetically modified sweetener, high-fructose corn syrup -- changed its tune. …

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Erosion is as big a problem as climate change, say experts

Planet Earth loses some 1 percent of its topsoil to erosion every year -- and that's an environmental threat on par with global warming, say experts. "Globally, it's pretty clear we're running out of dirt," says geologist David Montgomery, who identifies agriculture as the main culprit for "soil mining." In the U.S., cropland is estimated to be eroding at least 10 times faster than it's replaced. Farmers with an interest in sustainability are trying to persuade others to adopt "no-till" and organic farming methods to address the problem, but "it's hard to get people to pay much attention to this," …

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How food sovereignty benefits people and planet

One of the most prominent voices fighting corporate control of food and water, Food and Water Watch, recently teamed up with international development and human rights organization Grassroots International to issue an important paper, "Towards a Green Food System" (PDF), about how the food sovereignty movement (the right of peoples to define their own food, agriculture, livestock, and fisheries systems independent of market forces) emerging from Asia to Africa is good for both people and planet. It discusses the building of a food system that protects rather than degrades the environment, and explores this rather important link well. At the …

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A review of six Central American coffees

Coffee surely counts as one of our more problematic daily pleasures. Java-slugging Grist readers should know that coffee deserves some of the blame for global warming. A lucid account by University of California-Santa Cruz historian Chris Brooks tells the sad story, which encompasses slave labor, razed rainforests, and the colonialism of the 19th century. Six competitors line up for their mug shot. Coffee remains a troublesome beverage today; it deeply taxes resources in places where it's grown, and its vast footprint tends to be concentrated in impoverished areas where land might be better used growing food for local consumption. Worse …

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