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Europe may ban two types of genetically modified corn

Europe may end up sans two types of genetically modified corn, as E.U. environment officials have proposed a ban on the seeds. Officials say the GM corn, made by powerful biotech companies DuPont Pioneer, Dow Agrosciences, and Syngenta, could harm wildlife and disrupt food chains. E.U. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said the genetically modified corn could have "unexpected ecosystem-scale consequences" and that "potential damage on the environment" could be "irreversible." Well, we're convinced -- but the European Commission will have the final say.

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Agritourism: not just for Italy anymore

The NYT gets its hands dirty

In Italy and France, people don't love small farms just for the delicious food they produce. They also prize them for their looks -- small-scale diversified agriculture is pleasing to the senses. So city dwellers often head out to the country on the weekend and hang out on farms, and support them with their tourist dollars. Last week, Emily Biuso of The New York Times ran a good piece about how agritourism is slowly catching on in the United States. I direct you to it because it's an interesting read, not just because Emily stayed on my own Maverick Farms …

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How egregious are farm subsidies?

So egregious that they make the Bush administration look reasonable. I repeat my contention that completely eliminating this boondoggle that trashes the environment, increases incentives for obesity, and distorts the entire global agricultural trade should be a high priority for environmentalists. Step #1: call it what it is -- corporate welfare.

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Umbra on reheating coffee

Dear Umbra, As a web developer for a certain respectable online magazine somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, I drink a lot of coffee to keep me alert and my very demanding employers happy. However, in my constant imbibing of the dark elixir, I'm concerned about the energy use involved. Specifically, I can only drink coffee piping hot, and sometimes when I take a break from being wired and resume my regimen, what little coffee is left is ice cold. So I toss out the chilly remainder (about one-fourth of the original pot) and put in another pitcher of water. So …

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Have an organic, free-range, local Thanksgiving

If you've waited 'til the last minute to buy ingredients for your Thanksgiving feast, allow us to suggest that you seek out turkeys of the organic, grass-fed, free-range, local, and/or heritage variety. Because no one's thankful for pesticides in their gristle (or for butylated hydroxytoluene, for that matter). Apples, celery, and potatoes are all high on the best-to-gobble-organic list. And don't forget to prepare the food safely, says food-safety expert Sam Beattie: "You do not want your family or guests ho-ho-hoing in the bathroom." Um, wrong holiday, dude. But point taken.

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Revamping the current ag subsidy system

Revenue insurance is a promising option for farm aid

This is a guest post from Britt Lundgren, an Agricultural Policy Fellow at Environmental Defense. It is part of a recent conversation on agricultural policy. ----- Fixing farm policy, which has been the single largest influence on the shape of agriculture in the U.S. since the Dust Bowl, is not easy. "Not easy" will seem a drastic understatement to anyone who has followed the endless debate on the Senate floor over the past two weeks, which has produced much hand-wringing and rhetoric about our "safe and abundant food supply," but no actual Farm Bill. Tom Philpott has argued in recent …

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USDA orders Tyson Foods to stop using antibiotic-free labels on poultry

Tyson Foods will no longer be allowed to use its "raised without antibiotics" label that the U.S. Department of Agriculture originally approved in May, due to a mix-up at the agency and disagreement over whether a medication used in Tyson's chicken feed should be classified as an antibiotic. Tyson launched a $70 million ad campaign in June touting its fresh chicken as antibiotic-free and labeling it as such. But early this month, the USDA notified Tyson that it had made a mistake in approving the label as the agency had ignored its own longstanding policy of classifying a drug Tyson …

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It's economics, not agronomy

Why gutting commodity subsidies should be the focus of Farm Bill reform efforts

Thomas Dobbs is Professor Emeritus of Economics at South Dakota State University, and a W.K. Kellogg Foundation Food & Society Policy Fellow. ----- Tom Philpott wrote an article in which he challenged some of the key assumptions underlying Farm Bill reform efforts of the past year ("It's the Agronomy, Stupid"). He contended that gutting commodity subsidies would not solve the U.S.'s long-standing oversupply problems, and that we need the money currently in the "commodity" title to remain available for eventual support of conservation and other measures reformers hold dear. The following day, a guest post by Britt Lundgren appeared in …

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The future of the farm bill

Moving toward responsible agriculture

North Dakota senator Kent Conrad calls the farm bill a "legislative battleship that you cannot turn around quickly." As of mid-November 2007, this year's $286 billion farm bill appears to be having engine trouble. It is stalled in the Senate, and there is talk of a presidential veto. Should farmers be able to receive more than $250,000 in subsidy payments? What should the funding be for biofuels, for school lunches? Most of these arguments are about the speed of the battleship, or which flags it should fly, not the direction. For generations, that direction has been the maintenance and continued …

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