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Who owns your tomato?

Another big horticultural seed company bought by Monsanto

When Monsanto buys into a market, they buy in big. In 2005, Monsanto's seed/genetic trait holdings were primarily in corn, cotton, soybeans, and canola. That year, they purchased Seminis, the world's largest vegetable seed company (see And We Have the Seed) specializing in seed for vegetable field crops. Now their takeover of the vegetable seed sector continues, as they have announced the intent to purchase the Dutch breeding and seed company, De Ruiter Seeds. This purchase diversifies Monsanto's seed holdings in vegetable field crops (Seminis) to "protected culture" fruits and vegetables (primarily tomatoes and cucurbits produced greenhouse, hothouse, etc). Analysts …

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Against the grain: What are they thinking? Part 2

Time bashes grain ethanol

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. ----- All that glitters is not gold. And all that grows is not green. That is the belated realization about grain ethanol -- in fact, about any ethanol whose feedstock is grown on cropland. Joe Romm has done a good job posting on this issue, including his report on the recent studies featured in Science magazine. I'd like to weigh in with a few additional points. The folly of grain ethanol moved this week from Science magazine to Time in a cover article …

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The U.S. never had small government

Taxes and public investment: less intrusive than alternatives

Occasionally, as happened on one of my posts, someone will mention the early 20th century and before as a happy era when small government was the rule. These people are confusing low taxes with small government. Government has played a huge role in the U.S. since it became a nation. It's just that for much of its lifespan, the U.S. used military force to wipe out Native American nations and take their land. That extremely valuable land was then used to subsidize development. Trappers, loggers, cattle barons, settlers, and miners were all handed resource rights or land, the majority of …

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The Age of Asparagus dawned in Roman times, but the time to eat it is now

Asparagus may be associated with spring, but there's nothing new about it. It's been gracing tables -- to the joy of some diners and the horror of others -- for at least two thousand years. In the earliest known cookbook, De Re Culinaria (circa A.D. 100), proto-foodie Marcus Apicius recommends pounding asparagus tips with black pepper, lovage, coriander, savory, onion, wine, oil (presumably from olives), eggs, and a kind of fermented, fish-flavored sauce -- all then to be baked, then seasoned with more pepper. Look who's stalking. Photo: Kurt Friese Sounds like a sort of dip, ancient Rome's answer to …

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U-boat sightings

European biodiesel industry being bankrupted by loophole

They call them U-boats because they pull into a port just long enough to do a U-turn and head off to Europe. They stop just long enough to blend a touch of fuel into the tank so they can claim the government subsidy. Let's say you have a million gallons on board from, say, a palm oil plantation in Indonesia, or a soybean operation in South America. An hour or two after your arrival, your pockets are bulging with just short of a million U.S. taxpayer dollars. From the Guardian: ... the European Biodiesel Board, has uncovered the trade as …

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Got food?

Farmworker Awareness Week is a chance to recognize the people whose labor means we can eat

This is Farmworker Awareness Week, a time to support the millions of farmworkers whose labor puts food on every American table, and who work and live in some of the worst environmental conditions in our nation. It's estimated that 2 to 3 million farmworkers plant, tend, and harvest American crops every year. Many farmworkers in the U.S. are migrants who move from place to place following the harvest. Where I live, in North Carolina, migrant farmworkers are the majority. The average annual income for a farmworker in the United States is about $11,000, or about $16,000 for a farmworking family …

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Birds do it; bees do it

NYT op-ed: pesticides wiping out songbirds

When the little bluebird Who has never said a word Starts to sing Spring ... It is nature, that is all, Simply telling us to fall in love. -- Cole Porter, "Let's Do It" The immortal refrain of an old Cole Porter chestnut -- "birds do it; bees do it" -- has taken on an ominous ring. Evidently, songbirds have followed honeybees by engaging in a massive die-off. (Bats, whose mating rituals evidently didn't capture Porter's fancy, are dying off as well.) According to a New York Times op-ed by biologist Bridget Stutchbury: Bobolinks, called skunk blackbirds in some places, …

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Umbra on organic vs. natural foods

Dear Umbra, I'm trying to convince my sister that there is a difference between all-natural and organic products, and she doesn't think there is. I'm pretty sure there is a difference, I just don't know what it is. I look at the ingredients of some of the food she buys that she says are "natural" and I wonder how these products are able to claim that! What are the qualifications for something to be labeled all-natural, and how are these products different from organics? Julie Yorkville, Ill. Dearest Julie, You are correct, there is a difference. To speak broadly and …

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More signs of the Apocalypse?

Soy, corn, and wheat prices puzzling economists

Just in case you weren't worried about rising food prices, The New York Times has an article out that makes the food markets seem even more volatile. Apparently, identical bushels of corn, wheat, and soybeans are selling for two different prices on the derivatives and cash markets. Now, I'm not an economist, but the first line of the article makes the whole thing sound freakish. From the article: Economists note there should not be two prices for one thing at the same place and time. Could a drugstore sell two identical tubes of toothpaste, and charge 50 cents more for …

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'The Clean Energy Scam'

Biofuel boom leveling rainforest, Time reports

From an excellent article in Time: Indonesia has bulldozed and burned so much wilderness to grow palm oil trees for biodiesel that its ranking among the world's top carbon emitters has surged from 21st to third according to a report by Wetlands International. Malaysia is converting forests into palm oil farms so rapidly that it's running out of uncultivated land. But most of the damage created by biofuels will be less direct and less obvious. In Brazil, for instance, only a tiny portion of the Amazon is being torn down to grow the sugarcane that fuels most Brazilian cars. More …

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