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Grass Backwards

Carbon dioxide contributing to un-grassing of grassland, says new study Thanks in part to rising levels of carbon dioxide, the world's grasslands are turning into woody shrublands, says a new study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When researchers artificially doubled CO2 levels over sections of the Colorado plains, they observed a fortyfold increase in the growth of fringed sage, which takes over the prairie flora that serves a crucial purpose as a livestock buffet. Grasslands, which are also in danger from overgrazing and wildfire suppression, cover 40 percent of the earth's land surface; some projections hold that current CO2 …

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More cleverness from Free Range Studios

A short video called ‘The Farm Bill Food Battle’

Funny and smart.

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Umbra on singles and CSAs

Hi Umbra! I've held back from joining a CSA because 1) I live alone and am worried about wasting food, and 2) I'm worried I'll get so much oddball stuff, especially in the winter, that I won't know what to do with it. I figure I can overcome No. 1 by seeking out some sufficiently hip neighbors and seeing if they want to share (although someone cautioned me that it gets hard to split the choice stuff -- she mentioned an incident with six strawberries). But I'm more concerned about the second. I work a lot, and don't have a …

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Radiation breeding of plants is way better than it sounds

Think two wrongs don't make a right? Meet radiation breeding, a method of modifying crops by zapping them with gamma rays. While "radiation" and "modify" are unpleasant words to many, "I'm not doing anything different from what nature does. I'm not using anything that was not in the genetic material itself," says plant breeder Pierre Lagoda. The practice -- which is to be thanked for red grapefruit, black currants, and whiskey-bound premium barley -- leaves no residual radiation and is an entirely different process than genetic modification, which splices foreign genetic material into plants. Radiation breeding is widely used in …

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I scream against ice cream consolidation

How to stick it to the ice-cream Man

I've written a lot about the consolidation of U.S. food markets, and have become jaded to facts such as: just four firms slaughter 83.5 percent of cows, and so on. But I actually gagged on my ice cream when I read this bit in BusinessWeek: The days of mom-and-pop parlors and local brands are fading fast. Today, the $59 billion ice cream industry is dominated by two global giants: Switzerland's Nestlé (NESN.DE) and Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever (UN). Together, they control more than one-third of the worldwide market -- and half of ice cream sales in the U.S. -- and they're …

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Gardens in the hood

Urban agriculture does more than provide healthy food for those who need it

Phoebe Connelly and Chelsea Ross have a detailed and incredibly heartening story on urban agriculture in In These Times. It focuses on urban ag projects that target inner city "food deserts," where liquor stores outnumber groceries 20-to-1 and the most easily available food is fried. It's not just about food, though: "We are what most folks would consider organic, but we're not certified," the Food Project's Burns says. "That's not as important to us. We're in the community; folks can just come by and see our practices. It's about transparency." Accessibility is at the heart of what these groups call …

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Udderly awesome

Starbucks vows to make 100 percent of its milk rBGH-free

If you haven't been ordering that double whipped Frappuccino at your local Starbucks with soy milk, you've likely been gulping down Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). It makes cows produce more milk, but it's thought to increase the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancer in humans (if only they could come up with something to make cows squirt machiatto directly from their udders). But now, after two years of pressure from the organization Food and Water Watch, Starbucks has announced that it's going to go rBGH free by December 31, 2007. Moo-chas gracias, Starbucks! (photo: Tami Witschger) Whew! Now …

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Your food mileage may vary

A small grocery chain uses food mileage as an advertising tactic

Roth's, a tiny (11 store) grocery chain in Oregon's mid-Willamette Valley, is promoting a "Go Local" campaign that's interesting in many respects, including its "Support our Northwest food system" slogan and ads: "Go Local" products are grown, caught, or produced in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, or Northern California. Look for the "Go Local" icon on products in your weekly Roth's ad. Buying these products will help build a regional food economy, ensuring farms in our community [sic] and protecting our food security for years to come. Where does your food come from? If it's a "Go Local" product from Roth's, then …

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Haiku Times on community gardens (with gorgeous photos)

There is a really nice issue of Haiku Times devoted to community gardens. The haikus are variously lovely, funny, and insightful, and the photos are absolutely beautiful.

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On summer’s end and salad dressing

It's mid-August and the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts is filled with crops that are making their final push to ripeness and fruition. On a warm day, the air feels like it is practically vibrating with all that energy. As I drive to the Hampshire College campus for the annual Northeast Organic Farmers' Association conference, I pass fields of corn that seem to have reached their peak. The corn is so tall, I am amazed to think that each stalk was a mere seed just a few short months ago. It's mind-boggling to think of the amount of energy -- …

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