Food

Notes from Terra Madre

Day one at the foodie blowout in Italy

Turin, Italy — On the one hand, I’m exhausted and jetlagged after a day of meeting people, listening to speeches, walking the streets of Turin, and noshing on lots of cured meat, cheese, olives, and other pungent goodies. On the other hand, I’m sipping a glass of Barolo — a celebrated red wine named after a town not far from Turin — at the Salone del Gusto, a kind of vast tasting pavilion. The wine I chose was one of more than 2,000 on offer at the Salone’s expansive enoteca (wine bar). (I’m the only one with a laptop open …

Chef Dan Barber and sustainable ag expert Fred Kirschenmann set the table for a new food policy

Grist asked two gurus from the sustainable farm/food world to weigh in on the role of food in the 2008 election. Before they could get to work on their piece, Michael Pollan landed his opus in The New York Times Magazine. That sent our experts in a new direction — an op-ed as dialogue. Dan Barber. Photo: Nicholas Basilion Dan Barber: Fred, I think we both agree that right now there isn’t enough money being directed to the food crisis. And with the budget even more strained, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that we will see any major investment from a …

How to make a meal from your market basket

  Turning market treats into good eats.   On a recent trip to the farmers market, I found a mountain of leafy greens of all different hues and textures. I couldn’t resist buying four varieties: rainbow chard, red Russian kale, an Asian green similar to spinach, and escarole. Cooler weather also means the arrival of cooler-weather herbs like cilantro, and I tucked a bunch into my market basket too. Later in the week, when it was time to make dinner, I surveyed the contents of the refrigerator and the pantry. I realized I’d gotten a little carried away buying greens, …

The misadventure capitalist

Khosla’s letter to Science backfires

Vinod Khosla has a letter in the Oct. 17 issue of Science ($ub. req’d) critiquing the Searchinger et al study: “U.S. croplands for biofuels increases greenhouse gases through emissions from land-use change.” Question: Why would the editors at Science publish a letter from someone who is not a biologist or a peer of the researchers being critiqued? Answer: Searchinger et al were allowed to respond, and the response left a glowing crater where Khosla’s argument once stood. Here’s a sample: The plight of the Amazon is a matter of both forestry and agriculture. Typical logging removes a few trees per …

U.N. initiative urges green global economy

Fear not: The economic, food, and climate crises can be tackled in one fell swoop, says the United Nations Environment Program. The organization launched a Green Economy Initiative Wednesday, comparing it to Franklin Roosevelt’s Depression-tackling New Deal. “Investments will soon be pouring back into the global economy,” says Pavan Dukdhev of Deutsche Bank, which is working with the initiative. “The question is whether they go into the old, extractive, short-term economy of yesterday or a new green economy that will deal with multiple challenges while generating multiple economic opportunities for the poor and the well-off alike.” Indeed. UNEP hopes it …

Meat Wagon: Squashing beef

Consolidation in the beef industry has gotten too intense even for the Bush DOJ

Way back in March, Brazilian beef-packing behemoth JBS finished an extraordinary lunge into the U.S. market, having snapped up Swift, National Beef Packing, and the beef assets of Smithfield — the nation’s third-, fourth- and fifth-biggest beef packers. If the deals were approved by U.S. antitrust authorities — and nothing in recent history suggested they wouldn’t be — JBS would own more than a third of the U.S. beef market. And just three firms — JBS, Tyson, and Cargill — would slaughter something like 90 percent of beef cows raised in the United States. Well, the unthinkable has happened. The …

Grist to Mother Earth

I’ll be reporting from Slow Food’s Terra Madre conference in Turin, Italy

Yes, it’s a tough job, etc., etc. For the next week, starting Wednesday, I’ll be reporting from the ground in Turin, Italy, covering Slow Food’s biennial Terra Madre/Salone del Gusto event. Food activists and artisans from around the world will be there. It’s my first Terra Madre, so I don’t have a clear idea of what to expect; but I’ll be there in the middle of it, scribbling down what I see, describing what I taste, and snapping photos. Look for lots of blog posts, and let me know in comments what you’d like me to ask of these hard-core …

Gates of heaven or hell?

David Rieff on the Gates Foundation’s ‘Green Revolution in Africa’

No development project in the sustainable-ag world generates more controversy than the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations’ efforts around agriculture in Africa. On the one hand, Gates officials say they have learned the hard lessons of the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s — the one that, funded by U.S. foundation cash, brought the genius of industrial agriculture to the global south (except for Africa, where it failed). Surveying the wreckage of the farm sector in India — site of the Green Revolution’s greatest putative success — the Gates people say they won’t promote huge irrigation projects or push …

The story behind the corn industry’s cloying ad blitz

Put that fruit juice down and grab a Coke. Haven’t you heard? High-fructose corn syrup — the ubiquitous sweetener found in everything from soft drinks to ketchup — isn’t bad for you at all. It’s true, because I saw it on TV. As seen on TV. Back in June, the Corn Refiners Association embarked on what the Wall Street Journal described as an 18-month, $20-30 million campaign to “rehabilitate the reputation of the longtime sweetener.” The blitz includes full-page ads in more than a dozen newspapers and prime-time television spots. The industry is evidently worried about losing its grip over …

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