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War is peace; sickness is life

Livestock registration, pitched by feds as voluntary, is creeping toward mandatory

You have read, in this space among many others, of the sinister nature of genetic modification and the patenting of seeds. I have ranted endlessly about the dangers of the food system being in the hands of just a few corporate land barons. No reason to stop now. For about five years now the USDA and many large corporate interests have been pushing a program called the National Animal Identification System. NAIS is touted as an effective tool in battling the spread of livestock diseases such as cattle tuberculosis and bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow. It provides …

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Countdown to the 2008 Farm Bill: Part V

Direct and value-added marketing in the farm bill

This is the last installment of a five-part series of farm bill fact sheets from the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. For additional information about the status of sustainable agriculture priorities in the House and Senate versions of the farm bill, please check out SAC's farm bill progress chart. Farm Bill "conference" negotiations are underway at the staff level. Please call your Senators and Representative today and tell them what you want to see in the final Farm Bill! Increasing consumer demand for healthy, sustainably-produced food and agricultural products from local and regional markets has great potential to improve farm income. However, …

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Ecosystems are nonlinear

Here's a disturbing study that seems to mimic nothing so much as my mother-in-law's theory that small brownie pieces cut from the edge of the remaining mass of brownies left in the pan ("the efficient frontier," an economist might call it) don't have calories, because each little tiny mini-slice hardly changes the amount of brownie left at all. On the one hand, the example cited is not particularly objectionable: Researchers claim to have found a mangrove where you can remove 20% of it with little reduction in flood control capacity -- meaning you can use that 20% for factory farmed …

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Absolut greenwashing?

Vodka maker launches global cooling campaign

In a partnership with Live Earth (yes, they're still doing stuff), Absolut Vodka has launched a Global Cooling campaign that "encourages consumers to reduce the effects of global warming by offering simple steps they can implement in their daily lives." As part of the campaign, Absolut is sponsoring the Live Earth Film Series, a collection of short films that will make the rounds at various film festivals this year -- starting with Sundance this weekend. Absolut will also be donating up to $500,000 to three charities -- the Environmental Media Association, The Ocean Foundation, and The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation …

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Slow Food working to help Kenya

It’s not always just Monsanto screwing with the food system

Creating a food system that is "good, clean, and fair" involves more than the buy-local mantra and the anti-Monsanto-ADM-WalMart rhetoric I and so many others constantly chanting. Sometimes even more evil and insidious obstacles lie in our way. Witness what's taking place in Kenya: The political crisis in Kenya is now turning into a food crisis. Some of the areas hit the hardest by violence -- among them the Rift Valley, Coast Province, Nyanza Province, Western Province and Nairobi -- are considered to be the eastern African nation's "bread baskets." They are also the areas in which many of Slow …

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Notable quotable

"I like real food. Food that I can pronounce the name of." -- House minority leader John Boehner, protesting to the new, healthier menu offered at the House cafeteria thanks to Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi's "Greening the Capitol" program (Background on opposition from ag lobbies here. Some rather ... piquant comments from Chris Bower here.)

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Pennsylvania will allow hormone labels on dairy products

A decision by Pennsylvania agriculture officials that dairy products sold in the state could not be labeled as synthetic-hormone-free sparked a consumer outcry and a review by Governor Ed Rendell. Yesterday, officials more or less reversed that ban: dairies will be allowed to advertise that their cows aren't shot up with synthetic hormones, which increase milk production. However, dairies touting the non-injection of their bovines will not be allowed to use the language "hormone-free," as some hormones occur naturally in cows, and must also include a disclaimer that no significant difference has been shown between milk from injected and non-injected …

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Plowing up the Amazon

Scientist says biofuel boom endangers world’s largest rainforest

A fifth of the Amazon rainforest -- the world's biggest carbon sponge -- has disappeared since the 1970s. The Brazilian government has succeeded in recent years in slowing the deforestation rate, but its efforts have recently been faltering. Bungle in the jungle. Photo: iStockphoto In the last four months, 2300 square miles of rainforest got leveled, Reuters reports. In the year before that, the forest surrendered 3700 square miles. If the current rate holds over a full year, that would mean a 9200-square-mile loss -- an alarming acceleration and the first rise in four years. What's driving the trend? Traditional …

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Monsanto’s latest court triumph cloaks massive market power

At first glance, it was an open-and-shut case. In 1998, Mississippi farmer Homan McFarling bought soybean seeds with genetic traits owned by Monsanto, then as now the world's dominant provider of genetically modified seeds -- and also the biggest herbicide maker. Like all farmers who buy GM seeds, McFarling signed a contract obliging him not to hold back any of the resulting harvest as seed for the next year's planting. But McFarling saved his seeds anyway -- and Monsanto busted him. Hot to protect its multibillion-dollar investment in genetic modification, Monsanto set loose a cadre of rent-a-cops into the farm …

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Notable quotable

"I really think the more I look at this whole cellulosic issue, there is a lot bigger problem to overcome here than people realize in terms of the feedstocks. We have a lot of work to do in that regard. I'm not sure cellulosic ethanol will ever get off the ground." -- Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee

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