As summer heats up, a tasting of six “natural” white wines

When it comes to white wine, the nose knows. Photo: Tyler Bell When the summer sun rages, there are few antidotes more pleasing than a light dinner and a glass of chilled white wine. Of course, as summers get hotter, it gets more difficult to enjoy that indulgence without thinking about climate change and other ecological degradation. And that leads to a natural question: Where did the wine originate? On some vast agribusiness-like estate that relies on chemicals, or on a human-scale farm that respects the surrounding ecosystem? To identify the latter wines, many consumers look for the organic label …

Gulf dead zone likely to be more gigantic than ever

The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico may be vaster than ever this year, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists predicted Tuesday. Thanks in large part to recent Midwest flooding, the oxygen-starved zone — caused when fertilizer runoff from upstream ag spurs growth of algae that suck oxygen as they decompose — could measure 8,800 square miles, or about the size of New Jersey. The current dead-zone record holder is the 2002 zone, which was 8,481 square miles. The Gulf zone gets its “dead” moniker because it cannot support most marine life, and thus poses a great threat to …

Dispatches From the Fields: The 'far' in farmers markets

For some farmers, distant markets offer the best prices

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. I don't know how many different farmers markets readers have the opportunity to attend within one area. As a consumer, it seems reasonable to pick one and stick with it. But as a farmer, it's a good idea to sell at multiple markets; it offers the opportunity to sell products at different times during the week as produce becomes available and also increases sales, since the farmer can reach that many more customers at each market. Here in southwest Colorado, the farmer for whom I work attends no fewer than four markets per week. Two of them are fewer than 10 miles from the farm, and the other two are much further afield, requiring drives of 45 and 75 miles to reach. Interestingly, the market that is farthest away is also the most lucrative, and this got me thinking about farm location versus consumer location, a dynamic that makes the buy-local trend a little challenging.

The new film <em>Wall-E</em> gets it right

The link between obesity and the environment

Slate's Dan Engber has attempted to take down Wall-E in classic Green Room style with a piece slamming the film's connection between obesity and environmental destruction. Engber's critique is flawed in so many ways that it's hard to know where to begin ... For instance, he doesn't seem to believe that obesity really has much to do with being too sedentary or eating too much. To support this, he cites research saying that 80 percent of the variation in body weight can be explained by DNA. But what the research actually shows (and what his own colleague, William Saletan, has recently gotten right) is that 80 percent of the variation can be explained by DNA among individuals living in the same environment. If fatness is determined so strongly by genes, as Engber would have us believe, how in the world, then, is it possible to explain skyrocketing obesity rates in the past several decades? In sum, Engber thinks the Nalgene-toting eco-liberals are ridiculous (and disingenuous) in their linking of the expanding waistlines and climate change. It's a too-easy analogy, he says. Granted, I (most likely, we) are among those people Engber loves to loathe and could scarcely be dissuaded from doing so, but just in case -- in case there's been a fundamental oversight, a gap in education -- I feel like sending him a copy of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food or Paul Robert's The End of Food. It's impossibly hard to argue, after reading either one, that agriculture, ecological degradation, and obesity aren't closely intertwined.

EPA cracks down on the pesticides on your peppers

The U.S. EPA plans to tighten restrictions on five nasty soil fumigants that keep pests away from strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, and peppers. The proposed mitigation measures include buffer zones, warning signs, air-quality monitoring, management and outreach plans, emergency-response training, and provision of breathing masks for farmworkers. The rules would apply to five scary-sounding ‘cides: chloropicrin, dazomet, metam sodium, metam potassium, and methyl bromide (which depletes ozone and must be ceased altogether where alternatives are available). The EPA has never before required buffer zones, which could range from 25 feet (which health advocates say is inadequate) to half a mile …

As the ground shifts under their feet, food giants experiment with new strategies

When you smile, the food world smiles with you … maybe. Photo: Original by heatkernel For more than a generation, the major corporations that process and sell the vast bulk of our food have had it pretty easy. They’ve had access to cheap energy to ship food over globe-spanning distances and run giant food-processing plants; reveled in cheap inputs like corn and soy, transforming them into everything from breakfast cereal to chicken nuggets; and relied on low-paid, abundant, and politically disenfranchised workers to do the dirty jobs. Together, these elements formed a kind of tripod propping up the industry’s enormous …