GM sugar beet: Trick or treat?

Sugar from GM sugar beets will soon be unlabeled and widespread

The scariest thing next Halloween might not be the monsters, zombies or witches trolling our streets — it might be the candy. Those colorful, tin-foil-wrapped Hershey’s kisses and dark chocolate pumpkins could contain sugar extracted and processed from the roots of genetically modified sugar beets. Sugar in Halloween candy comes from several sources, including sugar beets. But this year, farmers are planting Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready GM sugar beets for sale to food producers for the first time. This beet is genetically engineered to survive multiple, direct applications of the weed killer, Roundup, and its active ingredient, glyphosate. What’s particularly appalling about …

The ethics of ethanol

Big Ethanol descends on Africa for land, water, and sympathetic governments

A few weeks ago I was in Mozambique for a conference that brought together NGOs, small-scale farmers, agricultural associations, and local media to discuss the impact of biofuel production in southern Africa. While the United States and other Western countries mandate ethanol quotas to supposedly reduce their consumption of fossil fuels, many farmers in Africa are questioning the reasons and implications for such programs. As the only American at the conference, I was continually asked about the real reasons behind America’s ethanol push and the truth about biofuels and greenhouse gas emissions. Most strikingly they wondered if the United States …

The blot on Obama's green credentials

Democrat gets black mark from environmental lobby for backing of corn-based ethanol

This Guardian story was written by reporter Ed Pilkington. Grist is a member of the Guardian’s Environment Network. —– BROWNSVILLE, Neb. — Barack Obama has enjoyed near-universal backing from American environmentalists, with the Sierra Club, the country’s largest grass-roots environmental group, and Friends of the Earth both endorsing the Democratic nominee for president. But there is one policy area in which Obama and the environmental lobby have increasingly grown apart: ethanol. As senator for the corn-growing state of Illinois, Obama has been a firm advocate of corn-based ethanol, about 9 billion gallons of which is now added to U.S. gasoline …

Obama: Getting it on food and ag

‘I was just reading an article in The New York Times by Michael Pollan about food’

I was just reading an article in The New York Times by Michael Pollen [sic] about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it’s creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they’re contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, …

Some like it raw

Environmental NGOs present sustainable-sushi guides and delicious raw fish at a New York event

A lot of people I know seek out meat, eggs, and dairy from pasture-raised animals and vegetables grown without chemicals, but they do not question where their seafood comes from unless they’re worried about mercury. The concept of sustainable seafood is a revolutionary idea that I hope catches on the way dolphin-safe tuna fish has. In mid-October in Manhattan, a group of environmental NGOs joined forces to promote the idea of sustainable sushi. I arrived at the French Culinary Institute for the New York Sustainable Sushi Tasting having no idea what I was in for. The Blue Ocean Institute, Environmental …

Terra Madre notes: Redeeming fast food

On the glory of Terra Madre’s street-food section

Turin, Italy — The critique of "fast food" needs to be nuanced. Pre-fab burgers from corn-fed cows, cooked to the cardboard stage by deskilled, exploited workers and washed down with corn-syrupy Coke: surely a calamity on many fronts. But other modes of fast food are possible, even necessary. In most of the world’s cities — especially outside of the United States — there’s a kind of canteen of the streets: stalls where one can find quick, delicious, and cheap fare on the hoof, sustenance for a busy day. As a journalist living in Mexico City a few years ago, a …

Terra Madre notes: Vandana Shiva rocks the house

A food/climate manifesto presents new visions for responding to climate change

Turin, Italy — I’ve just come out of the most hopeful and interesting discussions of climate change I’ve ever witnessed. Anchored by Indian food-sovereignty activist Vandana Shiva, the panel discussion at Terra Madre unveiled a new “Manifesto on Climate Change and the Future of Food Security,” drawn up by the International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture. The room was packed beyond capacity with at least 400 people, and the discussion was translated through headsets into eight languages. The document under discussion — which can be found here — is brisk, lucid, and to the point. I will …

More notes from Terra Madre

Day two from the foodie blowout in Turin, Italy

Turin, Italy — Yesterday I left off at the Presidia section of the Salone del Gusto, having met up with my friend the fermentation scholar and teacher Sandor Katz, and his friend the food scholar Jeffrey Roberts, author of The Atlas of American Artisinal Cheese. By that point, I was overwhelmed by the variety on display and unsure what to make of it all. Sandor’s enthusiasm changed all that. “We’re sampling some English pear cider,” he informed me. “Only she won’t let us call it that,” he whispered, glancing briefly in the direction of a formidable elderly British woman. “She …

Eat local, get laid

The surprising benefits of seasonal eating

In Checkout Line, Lou Bendrick cooks up answers to reader questions about how to green their food choices and other diet-related quandaries. Lettuce know what food worries keep you up at night. Your food or mine?   Lou, I am curious about any benefits of eating seasonally — the foods or products that are traditionally or historically in abundance at particular times of the year. At one time were our bodies in sync with those seasons and the foods that were available at that time? Curious, let me know! George Dear George, What a timely question, when farmers markets and …

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