Food

Synthetic biology: Coming soon to a gas tank near you?

With little oversight, BP, Chevron, ADM, and Cargill cook up next-gen biofuels

Synthetic biologists, a brave new breed of science entrepreneurs who engineer life-forms from scratch, are holding their largest-ever global gathering in Hong Kong this week, known as “Synthetic Biology 4.0.” Although most people have never heard of synthetic biology, it’s moving full speed ahead fueled by giant agribusiness, energy and chemical corporations with little debate about who will control the technology, how it will be regulated (or not) and despite grave concerns surrounding the safety and security risks of designer organisms. Corporate investors/partners include BP, Chevron, Shell, Virgin Fuels, DuPont, Microsoft, Cargill, and Archer Daniels Midland. “Bankrolled by Fortune 500 …

Nourishing reading for the next president

Michael Pollan lays out a national food agenda

Food policy hasn’t exactly been a hot-button issue in the presidential election. And it’s not going to be. We’re sure to hear more about a vague acquaintance of Barack Obama, or a bush-league politician’s fantasy-world twaddle about energy independence, than farm subsidies or school-lunch policy. Knowing that full well, Michael Pollan has published a serious article on food policy the upcoming Sunday’s New York Times Magazine adressed not to the candidates but rather to the next president. Pollan deftly places food at the center of three key topics: climate change, energy, and healthcare. Anyone seriously interested in addressing those issues …

Has the ag bubble burst?

Tough times for agribiz giants — and likely soon for farmers

A few months ago, the "smart money" was pouring into all things agricultural. Corn was flirting with $8/bushel (up from less than $2 as recently as 2005), hedge funds were snapping up farmland everywhere from the Midwest to Africa, and that weird guy who babbles and blusters about stocks on cable TV — Jim Cramer — was bellowing the praises of fertilizer companies. People like me lamented the consequences: gushers of agrichemicals onto farmland and into air and water, expansions of monocrop agriculture into environmentally sensitive areas, all without any real increase in food security or food access for the …

Kibbles and fits

Is organic pet food worth the trouble?

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. —– Dear Grist, I eat organic food; should my dog? What’s the deal with organic dog food and what’s the problem with conventional dog food anyhow? And most importantly, does organic dog food taste better? Not that my dog has ever been too picky about what he eats, but I’ve always wondered when I dump the same dry kibble in his bowl day after day if he actually …

Recipes for a classic, unfussy Southern meal built around field peas and history

It’s what’s on the inside that counts. Photos: April McGreger Growing up in a rural Mississippi farming community, I learned to value connectedness to the land, to the people who grow our food, to those who cook it, to those who gather at the table, and to the memories of all who have enjoyed this food before us. My identity is grounded in every step of the process. To remind myself who I am, I have an annual tryst with a dishpan of purple hull peas. I sit in the rocker on my front porch and shell peas while sipping …

A new vision of 'credit crunch'

While global markets crater, a Vermont town unites around food

The effort to revive global credit markets has devolved into farce. Every day, U.S. authorities announce some earth-shaking new measure — a $700 billion bailout, the Fed’s extraordinary move into the commercial-paper business, a coordinated global set of rate cuts — and every day, investors continue acting as tweaky as meth heads when the dope has run out. Why should this matter to anyone who doesn’t have a pile invested in the stock market? Because we’re in what’s known as a credit crunch. When banks stop lending for a long period, economic activity slows to a crawl, and the economy …

Dispatches From the Fields: Your tax dollars at work

Big ag, little ag, and government support

In “Dispatches from the Fields,” Ariane Lotti and Stephanie Ogburn, who are working on small farms in Iowa and Colorado this season, share their thoughts on producing real food in the midst of America’s agro-industrial landscape. —– In the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a couple of events here in southwestern Colorado sponsored by the state and federal governmental agriculture agencies. Taxpayer-funded ag technicians showed off impressive new methods of irrigation and water management. They also demonstrated their commitment to the standard ag paradigm: maximizing yield of industrial inputs — e.g., crops that produce seeds that …

Umbra on green cookware

Dear Umbra, I’m thinking it’s time to start switching out my family’s cookware. When hubby and I got legally partnered, we received some Calphalon (am I allowed to name names?) and pseudo-Calphalon non-stick cookware, and we’ve used it for a number of years. While the non-stick finish has been well cared for and is not chipping, flaking, or peeling, I have some concern about non-stick finishes and want to be able to put my cookware under the broiler. I know cast iron is supposed to be good, but is the enamel-coated kind OK? (I fear all that seasoning.) Or should …

A tasting of five fall-friendly organic dark brews

According to hippie wisdom, early fall is a delicate time, holistically speaking. The season’s first chill causes sniffly noses and sour moods. To chase the fall blues away, one alternative-medicine-minded friend recently suggested eating plenty of greens. Well, I already eat plenty of greens. What I really need now is a beer — one dark and flavorful enough to take the bitter edge off of summer’s exit. For this tasting, I went looking for organic beers worthy of therapeutic autumnal sipping. While coworkers tease me about the “tough job” of tasting beer, the task of actually finding organic brew really …

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