Food

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 …

Whatever happened to cellulosic ethanol?

AP: cellulosic ‘not even close’ to being ready to satisfy government mandates

For a while, I’ve been wishing I had time to write a feature on cellulosic ethanol, the allegedly "green" biofuel that’s been "five years away" from commercial viability for about, oh, two decades.  Government mandates — backed by a plethora of tax breaks, grants, and other goodies — require production of 16 billions of the stuff by 2022. Today’s production, rounding off, amounts to about zero. Every once in a while, I catch hints of official skepticism poking through a veneer of mindless optimism regarding cellulosic ethanol. In January, Colin Peterson — chair of the House Ag Committee and a …

Two takes on World Food Day

Distributing industrial-ag commodities vs. reviving local-food economies

Across the globe in various ways, people are observing the U.N.’s "World Food Day." (Over on the Washington Post, Kim O’Donnel has a pointed "by the numbers" take on the event.) I’d like to compare two World Food day ceremonies, one in Des Moines, the other in Mozambique. In Des Moines, former U.S. Senators Bob Dole and George McGovern are being honored with the annual World Food Prize. Started by Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug — the world’s most distinguished champion of industrial agriculture — the prize recognizes "the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, …

World Food Day 2008: Cooking and food preservation come to the table

Age-old cooking and preserving techniques could relieve food insecurilty worldwide

Today is World Food Day, and it’s time to assess the prospects for the short- and long-term future of our food. As I write this, there are more than 100 million new starving people in the world since last year. As I write this people in Iceland, one of the world’s richest nations, are wondering whether there will be any imported food coming into their country. As I write this, one out of every 11 Americans — and as many as one in seven in states with high levels of poverty — require food stamps to be able to eat. …

More than one way to raise a hog

Hog farms can benefit rural agriculture and community

I spent last Thanksgiving on a 320-acre farm in Pocahontas County, Iowa where Jerry Depew grows corn and soybeans, and for more than 10 years, has also raised hogs. Jerry never has more than several hundred hogs at a time, and while this used to be commonplace on Iowa farms, most small and mid-sized hog operations in the state were lost during massive industry consolidation over the last 15 years. Jerry’s hogs remained because he raises them differently. The hogs I saw on Jerry’s farm lived in hoop houses. These pole-supported buildings have a partial concrete floor (the rest is …

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