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Exercise can combat both obesity and global warming, says CDC

Americans facing the triple threat of climate change, obesity, and what-can-I-do-ness can tackle all three by walking or biking instead of driving -- even if just for a half-hour per day -- and eating less red meat. So says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is considering public promotion of everyday exercise as a way to mitigate the challenges of our time.

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The Farm Bill debate does hinge on subsidies

This is a guest post from Britt Lundgren, an Agricultural Policy Fellow at Environmental Defense. ----- Tom Philpott's recent column on the ongoing debate over Farm Bill reform raises some interesting points, including the idea that commodity subsidies may not be the root cause of overproduction. But he misses the real point behind the debate, which is whether or not the current suite of farm subsidies are actually an effective and productive way to support agriculture in the U.S. Supporters of farm bill reform recognize that it is possible and necessary to replace our antiquated system of farm subsidies with …

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Domenici tries to kill the energy bill and sneak nuclear loan guarantees into the farm bill

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) is up to some serious shenanigans up on the hill. First, he has introduced an amendment that would attach the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) to the farm bill. He claims he's trying to save the RFS, in case negotiations on the energy bill (where the RFS now lives) stall out. Senate majority leader Harry Reid opposes the move. Why? It's complicated, but the gist is that lots of folks -- Reid likely included -- see this as an attempt to sink the energy bill. The RFS is one of the key planks holding support for the …

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Why gutting subsidies shouldn’t be the focus of Farm Bill reform efforts

A lot of people, myself among them, have spent substantial time this year trying to demystify the 2007 Farm Bill. But as it lurches into its stretch run -- with passage possible by year-end -- I fear that the bill is more shrouded in mystery than ever, even among sustainable-agriculture advocates. The answer ain't blowin' in the wind. Photo: iStockphoto Here's what we can all agree on: Late last month, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a version of the bill that would generally preserve the crop subsidies that have become so infamous. It would also add funding to some important …

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Food companies damaging climate through deforestation, says new report

The makers of such familiar products as Pringles, KitKat, and Philadelphia cream cheese are contributing to deforestation and climate change, says a new report from Greenpeace. Companies like Unilever, Kraft, and Nestle use palm oil from Indonesia in their products. And guess what happens in Indonesia when the palm-oil peddlers come calling? Virgin forests are cut down, valuable peatlands are drained, and all hell breaks loose. Such deforestation and drainage releases carbon dioxide -- in fact, Indonesia now ranks third in human-made carbon emissions, behind the U.S. and China. Demand for palm oil for cosmetics and biofuels is only upping …

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Fiji Water announces plan to become carbon negative

A bold new plan to bypass carbon neutrality and become carbon negative has been announced by, of all things, a bottled-water company. Fiji Water has announced specific goals to pursue renewable energy, forest preservation, and water conservation, and will buy carbon offsets to cover 120 percent of its greenhouse-gas emissions. Which is good and all, says Jon Coifman of the Natural Resources Defense Council, but "it's still hard to justify shipping over a million plastic bottles of water a day from the middle of the South Pacific, when turning on your faucet at home would do just as good a …

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Cranberries? Tofurky? We’ll eat it all up

It's that time of year again. In between taking down Halloween decorations, excavating coats, hats, and mittens from last year's pile of never-quite-got-washed-or-put-away outerwear, and putting up holiday lights, Thanksgiving sneaks up on us. Once I smell the smoke from my neighbor's woodstoves and hear the crunch of leaves under my feet, I know that the time to savor pumpkin, squash, and sage is just around the corner. This year we're asking readers to send us your own recipes, suitable for a Thanksgiving dinner. We are looking for recipes in three categories in particular: vegetarian entrées, vegan entrées, and side …

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Six farmworkers compensated for pesticide exposure, six cases dismissed

Six farmworkers who became sterile after working on a Nicaraguan banana plantation three decades ago were awarded a total $3.3 million from Dole Food Co. and Dow Chemical, after a judge agreed that the corporations "actively suppressed information about" the "reproductive toxicity" of now-banned pesticide DBCP. Six other plaintiffs with a similar claim had their cases dismissed, allowing a Dow lawyer to look on the bright side: "Dow Chemical is pleased that this jury concluded that six out of 12 plaintiffs were entitled to no recovery whatsoever." Dole's not-quite-so-diplomatic vice president declared his company will appeal: "Dole will not be …

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Call your senator today

As most people following the story know by now, the 2007 Farm Bill is looking pretty grim with respect to fundamental reform. The U.S. government seems hell-bent on pushing a policy that on balance rewards farmers for gross output at all costs -- environmental considerations be damned. However, as the Senate debates the ag committee's version of the bill, a chance remains to make meaningful reform at the margins. My friends in the sustainable-ag lobbying world tell me that the last, best hope lies with the Dorgan-Grassley Amendment, which would cap subsidy payments to farmers at $250,000. The move would …

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More evidence that industrial ag is destroying the planet

From an ecological standpoint, the fundamental problem with U.S. farm policy dating back to the '70s is that it rewards farmers for maximizing yield at all cost. Encouraged to produce as much as possible, all the time, farmers have few incentives to conserve resources or protect water, air, or soil quality. The federal government's dizzying array of biofuel subsidies -- which have propped up crop prices and encouraged yet more production -- only exacerbates the situation. I don't think greens fully appreciate the ecological troubles associated with these policies. Peter Donovan's recent post showed how agriculture has vast -- and …

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