Food

Agrofuel proponents hone tactics

The food price blame game

Tactic No. 1: Create a straw man. Nobody in their right mind can claim that corn ethanol has no impact on corn prices, or that corn prices have no impact on food prices. You can only debate the extent of the corn’s impact. Here’s a conclusion from a study released this year [PDF] that supports all previous studies: A system of five equations representing the U.S. corn market is estimated by 3SLS. Results show that increasing ethanol production has a significant impact on the national average U.S. corn price. The positive price change is consistent with previous research. You can …

Gisele Bündchen goes green -- psyche!

Rumors swirl that Brazilian bombshell’s NFL heartthrob BF caught MRSA

I’ve been writing about the antibiotic-resistant bacteria strain called MRSA for a while. Evidence is mounting that by regularly dumping strong antibiotics into the feed rations of confined hogs, the meat industry is creating virulent bacteria strains that infect humans. My BF’s got a nasty bug! Photo: Daniel Semper. Well, I knew antibiotic abuse by industrial meat producers was a serious problem, but it always seemed a bit abstract to me. No more. Get this, from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s editorial page: Three of the NFL’s biggest stars have been tackled by something so small it can be seen only under …

Of rice and men

Perennial rice on the rise?

It was good to read this weekend in the Land Institute’s The Land Report that they’re now working hard to develop perennial rice varieties (in addition to their well-known perennial prairie polyculture experiment, which could transform large parts of the American plains back into a wildscape that produces lots of food). Because agriculture is technically the world’s largest ecosystem, moving it toward a perennially-cropped system will have major impacts on soil health/soil building, biodiversity, energy use, and possibly carbon sequestration. Rice is the second most important cereal crop in the world; developing a variety that does not require annual plowing, …

More thoughts on USDA and Obama

With the food world’s eyes on farm policy, is the real action at Treasury?

Food-politics blogs and listservs are blowing up with speculation about whom Obama will tap as USDA chief. I’ve weighed in myself here and here. (Update: House Ag Committee chair Colin Peterson, tipped as a top contender for the USDA spot, says he’s not interested. Evidently, he calculates that his current post is the more powerful one). But I’m starting to think the real action has already happened — with Obama’s recently announced economics team. Our food system is intimately intertwined with the broader economy; reforming it will require new ways of thinking about economics. And Obama has delivered a team …

Making biofuel out of small farmers

Impoverished Africans can’t eat their own crops

From an interesting article by Dave Harcourt in Ecoworldly: The castor [oil], equivalent to 12,000 tons of oil, would actually be grown by 25,000 families [small African farmers] contracted by GEE and would have a value of around US$ 10 million [$400 per year or $1.10 per day per family]. … Ashenafi Chote was one of the farmers contracted by GEE. He as well as the other farmers have not been paid for their production because … GEE has been unable to raise the loan it was expecting to use to buy the castor. Ashenafi Chote is now in a …

Reclaiming the beauty of Thanksgiving

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others. – Cicero   In a couple of days, we’ll celebrate our best, most important holiday. While celebrations of the harvest have existed for as long as civilization (for indeed it was agriculture that necessitated both), this particular holiday is uniquely American. Or at least it was until other former British colonies started having a festival called Thanksgiving too. There are those who enjoy pointing out the tragic irony of the American Thanksgiving: that it was originally a celebration of the bountiful harvest provided by the …

Beyond secretary of agriculture

How to change USDA with sustainable agriculture allies

In a recent post, I discussed likely candidates for secretary of agriculture in the Obama administration and encouraged you to voice your support or dislike of the names being floated to Obama’s transition team. You can have an impact: in large numbers, voices of the people are very powerful. Please continue to make your opinions known on the candidates for secretary of agriculture under consideration. (Note: Since the original post, Philip Brasher of the Des Moines Register reported yesterday that Tom Vilsack is no longer in the running; in addition to the candidates listed, Lancaster Farming has said that Dennis …

Biofuelishness unbowed

‘Second generation’ or not, biofuels contribute to Peak Soil

The Seattle Times has another story peddling the fantasy that there are "second generation biofuels" that magically appear without use of energy, land, or water (not to mention subsidies). The most revealing comment in the piece pushes that idea that biologic systems generate "waste," and that "waste" is a huge resource that’s going unused. Apparently it’s available for conversion into motor fuel, and we can keep the whole carburban dream going by other means. It’s funny how many of the same people who love to talk about biomimicry and closed-loop processes that imitate nature maintain the fantasy belief that you …

New annual quota for bluefin tuna does the fish no favors, say greens

A new legal quota set Monday for Atlantic bluefin tuna is a “mockery of science” and may cause the tuna population to collapse, green group WWF warned. The 46 member nations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas set the annual quota at some 24,000 tons, defying scientists’ recommendations that it be lowered to 16,500 tons.

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