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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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Evaluating seafood choices just became a lot easier

Wondering whether the seafood entrée you are about to order at a restaurant is environmentally friendly? Pulling the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Card out of your wallet to check it out is so 2006. Enter FishPhone, a text-messaging service provided by the Blue Ocean Institute. Text 30644 on your cell phone with the message "FISH" and the name of the fish in question, and the BOI will get back to you within seconds. The FishPhone website allows mobile web users to look up seafood choices as well, and provides a "Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood" that you can download …

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Archer Daniels Midland sees glut as opportunity to consolidate the ethanol market

Over the past year, ethanol production has exploded -- surpassing even the dramatically higher "alternative fuel requirement" in last year's energy bill. And now we have a glut of ethanol on the market, which has pushed prices down dramatically and caused many ethanol plants -- particularly independent farmer-owned ones -- to struggle. But Archer Daniels Midland, hailed on Wall Street as the Exxon of corn, is seeing the downturn in ethanol prices as an opportunity to consolidate the ethanol market. It already produces a quarter of U.S. ethanol. Now it wants more. From Dow Jones newswire: Archer Daniels Midland Co. …

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Pumpkin production is down for second year in a row

Halloween may still be four weeks away, but this story's already got me spooked: Scorching weather and lack of rain this summer wiped out some pumpkin crops from western New York to Illinois, leaving fields dotted with undersized fruit. Other fields got too much rain and their crops rotted. It's the second year in a row that pumpkin production has been down. First we're losing our woolly turtlenecks and now our jack-o'-lanterns? Scary. Good thing no one's predicting scorching heat and unseasonable rain for future autumns ...

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Why we shouldn’t forget the Farm Bill

Once again, a prime example of our misguided farm policies hits like a ton of factory-farm manure sludge -- or in this case, a massive sack of federally insured, genetically modified corn. Last Wednesday, Monsanto announced that the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) approved a pilot program that will give farmers a 20 percent discount on insurance premiums if they plant a majority of their corn acres with seeds featuring Monsanto's trademarked YieldGard Plus with Roundup Ready Corn 2 or YieldGard VT Triple stack technology. This is the first time the FCIC Board has approved a crop insurance discount for …

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Federal officials claim ethanol, border fence green as can be

Well, phew. Ethanol's not to blame for high food prices and a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border will actually benefit the environment. If we can't believe the top federal farm official and the top federal security official, whom can we believe?

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Fair-trade market boosted by consumer demand

An ever-greener and ever-more-caffeinated world is boosting the fair-trade market -- not just for coffee, but for products such as cocoa, cotton, tea, pineapples, and flowers. The certification, which holds growers to strict standards per child labor, pesticide use, recycling, and more, is not a phenomenon specific to hippie shops: all Dunkin' Donuts in the U.S. and all McDonald's in England sell fair-trade coffee. Starbucks is also a big buyer, while Sam's Club just converted its private label of ground coffee to fair trade. It's still a niche market: in 2006, only 3.3 percent of coffee sold in the U.S. …

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U.S. food aid low, getting lower

The U.S. donates more food internationally than any other country, but shipping costs and rising food prices (thanks, biofuels!) have contributed to its lowest level of donation in a decade. The situation is likely to get worse: the appropriations bill moving through Congress contains no significant increases in the U.S. food aid budget, and the United Nations estimates that low-income countries will see a 14 percent jump in the price of grain imports next year. A restriction in the farm bill requires food aid to be shipped from the U.S.; in a rare proposal aligned with green values, the Bush …

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Study suggests link between DDT exposure and breast cancer

Women exposed to the pesticide DDT as children are five times as likely to develop breast cancer, according to a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives. Draw your own conclusions.

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