Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Food

Comments

The corn supremacy

A new piece on the insanity that is U.S. ethanol policy

I have an article in Salon on the insanity that is America's ethanol policy. The new energy bill sets this country on a path to finish the assault on the world food supply begun by the (even lamer) 2005 energy bill. As I explain, our ethanol policy does not help fight global warming, but it does threaten food supplies: In just the past two years, food prices have jumped 75 percent in real terms ... The Economist points out the amazing statistic that "the demands of America's ethanol program alone account for over half the world's unmet need for cereals." …

Read more: Food, Politics

Comments

Franken-broccoli?

The GM seed giants lumber into the veggie patch

In 2005, Monsanto bought Seminis, the world's largest vegetable-seed company. At the time, Monsanto -- which enjoys a dominant position in the global market for GM soy, corn, and cotton traits -- claimed it had no imminent plans to subject veggies to genetic modification. Now I learn from the excellent new blog SeedStory, by Matthew Dillon of the Organic Seed Alliance, that Monsanto is working on RoundUp Ready lettuce. And the few other transnational giants that dominate the global GM seed industry are also upping their position in vegetables. Bayer-Crop Science, Dillon reports, has snapped up Paragon, the world's biggest …

Comments

Leafy green problem

The E. coli outbreak’s continuing negative effect on wildlife

Farming is often seen as in conflict with wildlife, but it needn't be. The Wild Farm Alliance is a grassroots group that's trying to chart a new direction. They don't just talk about how agriculture can coexist with cougars and wolves, though. It's also about the little guys -- the birds and rodents that live in the wild margins between fields. That's why the USDA's proposed Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (a national version of the California program of the same name, which came about after last year's E. coli outbreak) has them riled, and rightly so. According to WFA, this …

Read more: Food

Comments

Notable quotable

"I really would like to vote for this bill because we desperately need an energy bill. The world and particularly the United States faces a real challenge on energy in the future. But I cannot vote for this bill primarily because of the corn ethanol mandate. A recent article in The Economist noted that our use of corn for ethanol doubled the price of corn about a year ago. Farmers then moved lands from soybeans and what would have been in soybeans and wheat to corn. We now have further increased the cost of corn and we've increased the cost …

Comments

Now entering the dead zone

The ethanol boom could trigger a ‘tipping point’ in the Gulf

Days after Congress voted to ramp up the government mandate for corn ethanol, bringing it to fully three times current production levels within a decade, we get bracing news from the Gulf of Mexico. Here is the AP: The nation's corn crop is fertilized with millions of pounds of nitrogen-based fertilizer. And when that nitrogen runs off fields in Corn Belt states, it makes its way to the Mississippi River and eventually pours into the Gulf, where it contributes to a growing "dead zone" -- a 7,900-square-mile patch so depleted of oxygen that fish, crabs and shrimp suffocate. This year, …

Read more: Food

Comments

China drafting rules for humane slaughter of livestock

Under pressure from international animal-rights advocates and food-safety organizations, China has announced it's drafting rules for the "humane" treatment and slaughter of livestock. The proposal recommends stunning animals before slaughter, ensuring as little time as possible passes between stunning and killing, making sure unloading platforms are at heights where pigs won't injure themselves when offloading, and using plastic prods to herd pigs instead of electric ones. While animal-rights activists expressed hope at the moves, human-rights activists hoped humane treatment of human prisoners will be next, especially the recommendations against electrocution.

Read more: Food

Comments

Pollan connects the dots

Why bees and pigs are not machines

In yesterday's New York Times Magazine, Michael Pollan writes, "Two stories in the news this year, stories that on their faces would seem to have nothing to do with each other let alone with agriculture, may point to an imminent breakdown in the way we're growing food today." Can you guess what they are? Answer here.

Read more: Food

Comments

House of Representatives’ food service goes sustainable

Cafeterias in the House of Representatives are getting a makeover today: out with the high-fructose corn syrup, in with the free-roaming hens. (Well, there won't actually be hens roaming in the cafeterias -- you get what we mean.) Under Speaker Nancy Pelosi's ambitious Greening the Capitol initiative, the privately owned House food service -- which provides more than 2.5 million meals a year -- will start dishing out local, organic, seasonal chow, which can be taken out in compostable containers and eaten with biodegradeable utensils. Unfortunately for hungry senators, the Senate-owned food service will continue to provide iceberg lettuce, processed …

Read more: Food, Politics

Comments

Senate farm bill post-mortem

The Sustainable Ag Coalition delivers its assessment

Ferd Hoefner of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has been involved in farm bills since the mid-1970s, working behind the scenes to try to snatch farm legislation from the paws of agribusiness. So when he delivers his assessment on how things went, he does so from the perspective of long memory. His insights are particularly important now, as sustainable-ag and food-justice advocates figure out what's in the Senate version that's worth fighting for. And there is plenty more fighting to be done. Early next month, the process of reconciling the Senate and House versions will begin. And then the final version …

Read more: Food, Politics

Comments

Two takes on the farm bill

My opinion, and an industrial soybean farmer’s

Speaking of the farm bill -- and who isn't -- y'all should check out an interview I recently did with something called the Lambert Report. Check out the big ol' Monsanto ad in the upper right corner. And look what they juxtaposed my answers with: those of a dude who used to be president of the American Soybean Association.

Read more: Food, Politics