Food

Paying for environmental services

A little noted provision of the new Farm Bill

The federal Farm Bill that was passed and signed into law in June contains a little noted provision directing the USDA to establish a framework that would facilitate participation of farmers and landowners in emerging environmental services markets. At a time when the American market system seems to be collapsing all around us, how should the USDA proceed in carrying out this directive? A set of case studies of environmental service markets in agriculture and forestry around the world that was recently published by the international journal Ecological Economics provides some valuable insights. The Farm Bill provision on environmental services …

An interview with author and nutritionist Marion Nestle

The contents of your dog’s bowl — kibble, kibble, more kibble — may not look that interesting, but to nutritionist Marion Nestle, they’re nothing less than a microcosm of the global food system. In her new book Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine, Nestle (pronounced NES-uhl, no relation to the multinational) investigates the 2007 pet-food contamination scandal, at the time the largest consumer product recall in U.S. history. Companies withdrew nearly 200 brands of cat and dog foods from store shelves, and while the federal Food and Drug Administration eventually confirmed only 17 or 18 animal deaths, …

Must 'science' mean 'corporate science'?

Wired: Two top Obama science advisors are tied to Monsanto and Amgen

I hope the executive branch’s "war on science" era ends in January. Heading into a period of climate change, tight fossil energy supplies, growing trouble with food-borne illnesses, declining health metrics, etc, we clearly don’t need a bunch of creationists and climate-change deniers knocking about the White House. At the same time, I hope we don’t swing in the direction of a hyper-corporate vision of science: the idea that big problems demand big solutions — the kind conveniently offered by really big companies. Well, Wired recently got the Obama campaign to reveal its five main science advisors. Unhappily, two of …

Bottled water, everywhere

Natural Hydration Council: drink more bottled water … please?

Bottled water sales growth may be "drying up," but the bottled-water industry is veritably gushing on the PR front. Here it is investing in a high-dollar sponsorship of the upcoming presidential campaigns, joining Anheuser-Busch, EDS (which specializes in "information technology outsourcing), BBH, a big U.K. advertising firm, and others. And over here, you’ve got water giants Nestle Waters, Danone, and Highland Spring rolling out the Natural Hydration Council. Right, because the only way to stay “naturally hydrated” is to package water into tiny plastic bottles and haul it around the globe. The NHC will "research and promote the environmental, health …

When the basil plants get out of control, reach for the mortar and pestle

Mortarin’ pesto. September in Iowa always brings the same delicious dilemma — what to do with all that basil. Few herbs are as surrounded by mythology and folklore as basil. Its origins are debated, but most seem to think it came from India. There, the plant offered innumerable culinary uses: A devout Hindu has a leaf of basil placed on his breast when he dies, as a passport to paradise. Basil figures in Christian tradition as well. It was the herb Salome used to cover the smell of decay from John the Baptist’s head. Then there’s Haitian Voodoo practice, where …

Dispatches From the Fields: Playing chicken with local food

Small-scale slaughterhouses are vital to the health of local food economies

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. —– A trailer load of chickens. Photos: Ariane Lotti In the cold and dark that is 5:30 a.m. in North Iowa these days, I go out with Jan and Tim of One Step at a Time Gardens to load 129 sleepy and reluctant chickens out of their pasture pens and onto a make-shift chicken trailer. At nine weeks of age, the chickens are about …

FDA releases guidelines for developing genetically modified animals

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will today announce guidelines for the development of genetically modified animals, a step on the road to their broad commercialization. The agency is expected to ask companies developing genetically modified animals to report a range of information about how they were engineered and how the alterations could affect the animals’ behavior, health, and nutritional value. Companies will also be asked to provide minimal safety information such as how they intend to keep track of the animals and how the beasts will be kept separate from non-modified animals. But the measures are less than comforting …

Monsanto: herbicide powerhouse

The GMO seed giant expects Roundup to generate $1.8 billion in profits in 2008

Monsanto positions itself as a green company. “Using the tools of modern biology,” its website informs us, “we help farmers grow more yield sustainably so they can produce more and conserve more.” Compare that twaddle to this bit from Monsanto’s announcement on Tuesday: [Monsanto's Chief Financial Officer Terry] Crews will indicate that Monsanto’s Roundup® and other glyphosate-based herbicides business is on track to be above $1.9 billion of gross profit for the 2008 fiscal year, ahead of the previous forecast. Wow. Nearly $2 billion in profit, from Roundup alone. As recently as February, Monsanto was expecting to make $1.4 billion …

Slow Food Nation interview: Deborah Koons Garcia

Future of Food director on ‘making soil sexy’

Filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia burst onto the sustainable-food scene with her 2004 documentary the Future of Food, a biting, well-researched indictment of Monsanto and genetically modified food. I caught up with her at Slow Food Nation to discuss her current project, a documentary about a topic dear to my heart: soil.