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Admit it: fish is meat

Would Jesus eat fish during Lent?

Jennifer Jacquet of the Sea Around Us Project just published a solid and timely essay with Science & Spirit magazine. The piece begins by asking: If Jesus can turn two fish into enough to feed five thousand people, now would be a good time to intervene. According to researchers, each American ate nearly a half-pound more seafood last year than the year before. As we reach the end of the Christian season of Lent -- the period in which seafood consumption is at its highest -- scientists predict that, if the trend continues, wild marine fisheries will disappear in the …

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Small-scale, community-owned biodiesel goes global

An honest, interesting statement from Piedmont Biofuels of North Carolina

I'm a fierce critic of biofuels, but I've always had a soft spot for small, region-based biodiesel projects that create fuel from local resources, providing jobs in the bargain. (I proudly ran Emily Gertz's feature on the topic in our 2006 biofuels series.) The income from such projects remains within communities, rippling around and building wealth. Rather than being just another conduit for transferring cash from communities into the pockets of global investors, fuel becomes an engine for real economic development. Insofar as they involve community members in making and distributing fuel -- from the feedstock to the gas tank …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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Rising food prices hit home around the world

Is a change coming to your cart? Photo: iStockphoto Hey you, in the supermarket line -- yeah, you, the one with the stuffed cart. Are you ready to pay up for those groceries? You'd better be, pal. That's the message from Bill Lapp, former chief economist for the food giant Conagra. "I think [U.S.] consumers are more prepared than we realize to accept higher prices on food and I think that's part of our future," Lapp recently declared. "It's largely been set in stone for us already." For decades, average Americans have spent just 10 percent of disposable income on …

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Bush: Not a Gristmill reader

President hails cellulosic ethanol as a panacea

I'm offended: President Bush evidently hasn't been following my string of posts about how cellulosic ethanol probably won't ever be viable. Addressing a renewable-energy conference, the president fretted that the ethanol boom he set in motion is "beginning to affect the price of food." He added: "So we got to do something about it." And what we "got to do," evidently, is throw more cash at cellulosic ethanol. Here's how The New York Times summed up his statement: [Bush said] the solution was not to back away from ethanol, but to develop ways to make ethanol from agricultural wastes, wood …

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Meat Wagon: Beef behemoth

If deals go through, three firms will own 90 percent of the U.S. beef market

In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat and livestock industries. You'd be hard-pressed to find an industry more consolidated than beef-packing. Just four companies slaughter 83.5 percent of cows consumed in the United States. In standard antitrust theory, a market stops being competive when the four biggest players control 40 percent. The beef industry's extraordinary concentration gives the Big Four massive leverage to dictate how beef is raised and sold. Their economies of scale give them power to squeeze their smaller competitors, who have to scramble to keep costs down to survive. Their suppliers, known …

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Umbra on organic honey

Dear Umbra, I was looking for a nice, local, organic honey to use in reworking some recipes so that they didn't use sugar. So I headed to Whole Foods, and was stuck looking at a honey in a plastic container labeled organic from Brazil, and a local product in a glass container but not labeled organic. And I started wondering -- what makes honey organic? I mean, bees fly. How do you know what plants they ate or pollinated unless you've caged them somehow. And that led right to the free-range bee question ... Help! It's too much for my …

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Norway says whale consumption is good for the planet

Eating whale meat is better for the planet than eating beef, pork, or chicken, according to a comparative carbon-emissions calculation by Norwegian lobbying group the High North Alliance. Says the alliance's Rune Froevik, in what may be a bit of an exaggeration, "Basically it turns out that the best thing you can do for the planet is to eat whale meat compared to other types of meat." Points out Greepeace's Truls Gulowsen, "The survival of a species is more important than lower greenhouse-gas emissions from eating it." Meanwhile, Australian activists clashed yet again with Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean. …

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A storm is brewing

Why the disaster trust fund is bad news

The following is a guest essay by Britt Lundgren and Jason Funk. Britt Lundgren is an agricultural policy fellow at Environmental Defense Fund. Jason Funk is a Lokey Fellow in the Land, Water and Wildlife program at Environmental Defense Fund. ----- The recent fires in California and the severe drought in the Southeast are just two of the litany of disasters that have hit agriculture in recent memory. When natural disasters happen, members of Congress (at least those who want to get reelected) want to respond quickly, with cash for those that are affected. Currently they must go through the …

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EPA attempt to ban bird-killing pesticide runs into opposition

The U.S. EPA has proposed a ban on a pesticide lethal to birds, but is running into resistance from the company that produces the chemical. The pesticide, carbofuran, is typically used on crops such as corn, alfalfa, and potatoes, and has been linked to the dieoff of 558 separate bird flocks since 1972. A manager with pesticide manufacturer FMC Corp. says carbofuran, "when used according to its label, can be used without causing adverse effects." But the EPA says the chemical poses an avian threat even when used as directed, and that safer alternatives exist. Nonetheless, Congressfolk from agricultural states …

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Cellulosic ethanol: not likely to be viable

New study from mainstream ag economists at Iowa State

Cellulosic ethanol represents a beacon on the horizon -- the justification cited by wiseguys like Vinod Khosla for dropping billions per year in public cash to prop up corn ethanol production. Corn ethanol, you see, is a bridge to a bright cellulosic future. But the beacon is looking more and more like a mirage, a ghost, a specter; the bridge we're hurtling down may well lead to a chasm. A quiet consensus seems to be forming among people you'd think would know the facts on the ground: cellulosic ethanol, touted as five years away from viability for decades now, may …