Food

EPA slipping up on pollution control from factory farms, report says

The U.S. EPA has failed to control pollution from factory farms and has also been sluggish in determining risks to human health from huge concentrated animal-feeding operations, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. In recent years, the GAO said, consolidation in the livestock industry has spawned more and more factory farms that have also expanded in size; now, packing some 800,000 hogs or 140,000 cattle onto one property is not uncommon. Such a massive concentration of livestock, the report said, produces more waste in a year than the city of Houston. However, unlike Houston, the farms …

Will Allen: urban farmer, 'genius'

Milwaukee’s Growing Power founder snags a much-deserved MacArthur

Fifteen years ago, a former professional basketball player named Will Allen made a most unlikely career move: he decided to launch a farm in a low-income neighborhood in Milwaukee. His farmhands would be un- or ill-employed neighborhood teens. Will Allen. At the time, brutal economic conditions were pushing the nation’s few remaining African-American farmers into bankruptcy; and the concept of "urban farming" seemed more like an oxymoron than an answer to the inner city’s economic and public-health problems. Since that time, Allen’s organization Growing Power has established itself as a model for how urban resources can be used to grow …

Urban farmer awarded ‘genius’ grant

Will Allen. Urban farmer Will Allen has been named one of this year’s recipients of the prestigious “genius” grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The grant recognizes Allen’s work bringing affordable fresh produce and quality grass-fed meats to the urban poor and educating communities about sustainable farming. Allen co-founded the group Growing Power in Milwaukee in the early ’90s to engage kids in food production and educate them about where food comes from. At the same time, the organization also worked to ensure that low-income neighborhoods had access to fresh fruits and vegetables via farmers’ markets …

Slow Food vs. Monsanto

Michael Pollan and Monanto’s Hugh Grant square off at Google.org forum

What do you get when industrial agriculture’s most famous critic crosses swords with industrial agriculture’s (arguably) most powerful executive? Michael Pollan and Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant squared off at a forum put on recently by google.org (video below the fold.) The topic of the discussion: how to “feed the world” as population expands over the next 20 years. What happens during the debate? Sparks fly, but neither deals a body blow. Deploying his his lilting Scottish brogue to good effect, Grant deftly paints his company as a benevolent and even charitable force for lifting the globe’s miserable billions out of …

EPA not likely to set standard for perchlorate in drinking water

The U.S. EPA is expected to decide as soon as Monday whether or not to set a standard restricting the amount of perchlorate allowed in the nation’s drinking water, but so far, such a standard looks unlikely. Perchlorate is a chemical found mainly in rocket fuel and fireworks that has been associated with thyroid dysfunction in young kids and pregnant women. The EPA has been duking it out with the U.S. Department of Defense for years over potentially setting a perchlorate standard. DoD is one of the biggest perchlorate polluters around so setting a tough standard to protect public health …

Wheat and ethanol: They just don't mix

New research shows that ethanol will continue to increase the cost of wheat

I, like most Americans, love bread. Crusty, warm, and fresh-baked bread is a carb overload I am willing to indulge in even if it means a few extra minutes of running. But the American love affair with all things baked might be at jeopardy. We all know that oil and water don’t mix, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that wheat and ethanol are a bad combination as well. New research from the University of Illinois indicates that the high prices for wheat, as well as corn and soy, are here to stay. The research confirms what common sense should have …

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 …

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