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Boosting crops for fuel will hurt water supplies, says report

Increased production of corn and other crops to fulfill America's biofuel gluttony could threaten both availability and quality of water supplies, according to a report released today by the National Research Council. Fulfilling President Bush's stated goal of producing 35 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2017 "would mean a lot more fertilizers and pesticides" running into rivers and oceans, says researcher Jerald Schnoor. In addition, he says, corn requires "a high amount of water" -- about 2,000 gallons per bushel, to be precise -- not counting the H2O used in ethanol factories. The National Research Council is an arm …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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Want environmentally conscious effervescence? DIY

If you're a fan of sparkling water but feel guilty about having to buy it bottled, you might enjoy this NYT story about home seltzer makers that provide "environmentally conscious effervescence." Myself, I don't care for the bubbly stuff, but I did find this part amusing (emph. mine, obvi): Plain tap water has become the surprise food fashion of the year. A growing number of restaurants are offering it in place of bottled water, which is much more lucrative and whose popularity had made the free-flowing kind seem déclassé. On the street, it is not uncommon to see people toting …

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Umbra on tossing food waste

Dear Umbra, I am a college student. I eat a lot on the go. Not fast food or boxed meals, but when I leave my dorm I usually grab an apple, banana, or other fruit/veggie to eat as I walk to my destination. I don't compost, instead I just throw the banana peel or apple core into the bushes. I like the thought that maybe one day my apple core will become an apple, or that my banana peel will help nourish that piece of ground/animals in the area over ending up in a landfill. To me this eco-littering is …

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Sarkozy pushes proposals on energy and the environment

We have already seen that British Conservatives "get" global warming -- both the danger of inaction and the economic opportunity of a "green revolution." Now the right wing cheese-eating surrender monkeys are also putting their American political counterparts to shame. As Nature reports about the new conservative French president: Sarkozy made the greening of France a major plank of his election campaign this year. He has since created a superministry for ecology, biodiversity and sustainable development, with responsibility for the powerful sectors of transport, energy and construction -- a first in France, where ecology was previously off the political radar. …

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A journey into the heart of industrial agriculture

  Americans live in a post-agricultural age. Today, fewer than two of every 100 U.S. citizens owe their living primarily to the land. A century ago, two of every five did. Yet even though very few of us contribute to food production, we all still eat -- and food comes from somewhere. But where? In a sense, the answer is: Iowa, buckle of the farm belt, heart of the heartland. Do you know where your food comes from? Illustration: Keri Rosebraugh Accounting for less than 2 percent of the U.S. landmass, Iowa churns out a fifth of U.S. corn and …

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A Grist special series on food and farming

You know where babies come from, sure -- but do you know where Tater Tots come from? In this two-week series, we'll take you on a behind-the-scenes tour of your very own diet. Everybody eats, every day, but we tend to gloss over the details. Things like the work that really goes into putting food on our plates, the environmental impacts of food production, and how we can make the best choices -- for our bodies and the planet -- when it comes time to chow down. So take a seat at the Grist table as we venture to the …

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EPA approves carcinogenic pesticide

Just when we think the U.S. EPA might have some sense, it goes and approves a carcinogenic pesticide, ignoring scientists' warnings that "pregnant women and the fetus, children, the elderly, farmworkers, and other people living near application sites would be at serious risk." As a substitute for ozone-depleting fumigant methyl bromide, California and Florida strawberry growers and other farmers will welcome in newly OK'd methyl iodide, which has caused thyroid tumors, neurological damage, and miscarriage in lab animals. But really, what do lab animals know?

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Research funded by seafood industry concludes that moms should eat fish

A group of scientists affiliated with the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB) announced conclusions yesterday that new moms and moms-to-be should eat at least 12 ounces of seafood per week to encourage wee ones' brain development. Federal agencies, which advise moms to consume no more than 12 ounces of seafood per week to reduce babies' exposure to mercury, found that fishy. "We are members of [HMHB], but we were not informed of this announcement in advance, and we do not support it," said a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson. The National Institutes of Health, Centers for …

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An autumn swim at Walden, a warm robe, and a piping hot bowl of soup

Walden Pond, a hit with tourists and Transcendentalists. Photo: Sonny Morningstar It's an odd fraternity, the group of people who continue to swim at Walden Pond well past Labor Day. Dusk comes earlier and earlier and the water begins to cool, but these autumn swims are one of the great pleasures of my life -- and, of course, each swim feels increasingly precious as we move inevitably toward the cold and dark of winter. The little I knew about Walden Pond I learned from my 10th-grade American Literature survey course (hey, Mrs. Garr!), and it never once crossed my mind …

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Inspired by the spinach scare, new California rules could wilt small farmers

This is a guest essay by Judith Redmond, co-owner of Northern California's legendary Full Belly Farm and president of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. California is on the verge of adopting a policy that would regulate all of the state's salad greens-producing farms -- including ones that sell to a local market -- as if they were huge operations that ship cross-country. That's as predictable as it is absurd -- another case of the problems caused by industrial agriculture being used as a tool to consolidate industrial ag's power. The essay originally appeared in The Sacramento Bee. ----- California's …

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