Food

Masanobu Fukuoka, 1913-2008

Long live ‘do-nothing farming’

I was aiming at a pleasant, natural way of farming which results in making the work easier instead of harder. "How about not doing this?" "How about not doing that?" — that was my way of thinking. I ultimately reached the conclusion that there was no need to plow, no need to apply fertilizer, no need to make compost, no need to use insecticide. When you get right down to it, there are few agricultural practices that are necessary. The reason that man’s improved techniques seem necessary is that the natural balance has been so badly upset beforehand by those …

Dispatches from the Fields: The trouble with small-scale farming

Can sustainable farming provide a sustainable living?

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. —– Should small-scale farmers who grow organically and sell locally or regionally be able to make a middle-class living with farming as their sole source of income? I’ve always answered this question with a fervent “yes,” at least from a philosophical perspective. But the answer to the follow-up question — “do they?” — is nearly always a resounding no. Sure, there are exceptions. In …

Genetically modified diplomat

U.S. foreign policy: GMO all the way

About a week ago, The New York Times ran a brief interview with Nina V. Federoff, official “science and technology adviser” to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Not surprisingly, Condoleeza Rice’s science czar has a special place in her heart for genetically modified organisms. In the Times interview, Federoff defends GMOs: There’s almost no food that isn’t genetically modified. Genetic modification is the basis of all evolution…. The paradox is that now that we’ve invented techniques that introduce just one gene without disturbing the rest, some people think that’s terrible. Right; GMOs merely mimic nature, …

Notes on a recent trip to Mexico

In Mexico, a milpa is a garden patch, usually kept by several families, to grow a substantial portion of a year’s sustenance. Milpas are typically dominated by corn — first domesticated in present-day Mexico thousands of years ago — but also contain stunning agricultural and nutritional diversity. In addition to corn for tortillas, traditional milpas grow squash and beans of many varieties, avocados, melon, tomatoes, chile pepper, sweet potato, jicama, amaranth, and a medicinal herb called mucana, claims journalist Charles C. Mann in his 2005 book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. “Milpa crops are nutritionally and environmentally …

We waste a lot of food and a lot of water, says report

The world grows more than enough food to sustain the global population, but half of that food is wasted — and thus half of the water used in food production is wasted as well, says a new report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, International Water Management Institute, and Stockholm Water Management Institute. In developing countries, food spoils or is damaged by insects; in developed countries, it’s more often just tossed out. The United States and other industrialized countries throw out some 30 percent of their food each year, says the report: “That corresponds to [10.6 trillion gallons] …

A side of gamma rays with my salad, please

Starting today the FDA will allow producers to use irradiation on lettuce and spinach

The better part of this summer seemed to be dotted with stories of continued salmonella and E. coli outbreaks. First, the FDA thought the problem was with tomatoes; but, it turns out peppers were the culprits that caused more than 1,400 people in 43 states to become sick with salmonella Saintpaul. This marks yet another incident where the FDA has failed to ensure the safety of the American public and our food supply. Now, the FDA has decided to allow use of a controversial method to combat microbial contamination of foods: irradiation. Starting Friday, the FDA will allow producers to …

When the tomato harvest gets out of hand, the tough get canning

Too much of a good thing? Photos: Kurt Michael Friese For a tomato-loving gardener, what’s the only thing more frightening than a failed crop? Try an overabundant one. You become terrified that any of these jewels will go to waste. The specter of fruit flies congregating on the compost heap brings regret of over-ambitious spring garden planning. Even in my restaurant garden, which has the advantage of a commercial outlet, the burden of preserving it all can be heavy. Well, take heart, gentle reaper: There is plenty that can be done with all that red, green, and gold bounty. This …

Monsanto finds a buyer for its rBGH business

Pharma giant Lilly snaps up Posilac for ‘at least’ $300 million

A week or so ago, commenting on news that Monsanto was looking to unload its much-despised bovine-growth-hormone business, I offered this nugget of wisdom: Whatever company buys it probably won’t have Monsanto’s deep pockets. Hmmm. What’s that word again? Oh, yeah — W-R-O-N-G. (Hat tip to Jill of La Vida Locavore.) Today, Monsanto announced that Eli Lilly, one of the biggest of the Big Pharma companies, had bought Posilac (brand name for rBGH) for $300 million. AP reports that Monsanto could get additional cash for Posilac down the road, if it turns out to be a winner for Lilly. And …

A creepy new use for rBGH

Putting cow hormones into fish food makes them balloon

Update [2008-8-22 13:20:9 by Tom Philpott]:I was alerted to the rBGH-tilapia news item by this blurb in the Organic Consumers Association news feed on Aug. 19. But when you click on the link provided by OCA, you’re taken to a source dated 2003. Unlike reader Mr. Mean, who (very cordially) comments below, I sloppily didn’t notice how old this “news” is. I emailed E. Gordon Grau, the Hawaii-based scientist who performed the study on rBGH and tilapia, to ask him if there was anything new to report. He replied that there was no new data, and that his institute was …

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