Food

Solving the apartment dweller's dilemma

Urban gardening for the rest of us

  Photo: lucy and her dent via FlickrAbout a quarter of the U.S. population lives in apartments or condos, according to the 2000 census [PDF], and most Americans will live in one or the other at some point in their lives. But apartment dwellers don’t have to miss out on the joys of growing their own food.   You don’t need a yard to garden. All you need are some pots. “Container gardening” makes it possible for just about anyone to grow their own tasty, fresh, organic, local food — and save on grocery bills. If you plant several crops …

Corn guzzler

What it means to put 4.1 billion bushels of corn into our gas tanks

The USDA just raised its projection for how much corn it expects the ethanol industry to burn through this year by 150 million bushels. It now expects a total of 4.1 billion bushels of corn to be turned into liquid fuel.  That’s about double the amount of corn that went to ethanol in 2006 (2.1 billion bushels), and a third again as much as last year (3 billion bushels.) The USDA now expects the ’08 corn harvest to hit 12.3 billion bushels. That means that 33 percent of the U.S. corn harvest will go to car fuel. The USDA projects …

Corn chronicles

USDA says crops have shaken off flood damage

In early June, heavy storms and floods pounded the Midwest, threatening the 2008 corn and soy harvests. With heavy U.S. and European biofuel mandates in place, any major shortfall in these key crops would cause food prices to spike.  Anticipating a poor harvest, investors bid corn and soy prices to all-time highs. Certain food-politics writers penned grim columns about what it all meant. Since then, however, the Midwestern weather has transformed from way-too-wet to near-ideal. And farmers’ efforts to replant flood-damaged fields and reapply fertilizers that washed away in the storms appear to have paid off. On Tuesday morning, the …

Dispatches From the Fields: Whatever happened to organic?

The limits of consumption-based food movements

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. This Olathe Sweet Corn is regionally renowned, entirely local, and grown entirely conventionally and industrially, meaning farmers use large amounts of water, fertilizer, and pesticides. Its locality has become a selling point; should this be the case? Photo: Stephanie Paige Ogburn A few years ago at farmers markets here and around the country, most customers would ask a farmer how she grew her vegetables …

Meat Wagon: Whole Foods edition

The natural foods giant stumbles into an E. coli outbreak

In Meat Wagon, we round up the latest outrages from the meat industry. Suddenly, Whole Foods can’t get a break. Its share price has plunged about 70 percent since the end of 2005. Its marketing execs are scrambling to shed the company’s reputation for premium-priced offerings — a market position they once reveled in. The natural foods titan used to wow Wall Street with seemingly endless announcements of new-store openings. Now it’s scaling back expansion plans. Amid these ill tidings comes news that Whole Foods is embroiled in an E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak. The Washington Post reports that seven people …

Umbra on diet soda

Dear Umbra, My name’s Jon and I’m a diet pop addict. My diet right now is 70-80 percent local, organic, or both, but I just can’t help myself when it comes to getting my fix. I drink several 20-ouncers a day of diet and just can’t seem to stop. Is my habit hurting the earth? Common sense says that water from my stainless steel canteen is a whole lot better than chemicals from a plastic bottle, but my addict brain is grasping at straws, hoping that diet pop is one of those rare exceptions. Jon B. Lakewood, Ohio Dearest Jon, …

Even Monsanto rejects synthetic bovine growth hormones!

Evidently, the GMO giant has better things to do than to harass dairies over labels

After years of battling in court to prevent dairies from labeling their milk rBGH-free, Monsanto is apparently udderly fed up. Facing a growing backlash against its genetically engineered Recombinant bovine growth hormone (hence rBGH) that once conquered the U.S. dairy industry, the Gene Giant is selling rights to produce Posilac, its name for the the product. Posilac had become increasingly marginal to Monsanto’s profit growth, which derives mainly from its dominance of the genetically modified corn, soy, and cotton seed markets. Whatever company buys it probably won’t have Monsanto’s deep pockets or litigious zeal for trying to prevent dairies from …

A superbug's life

Another reason to fear the factory farm

Superbugs. An alarming story in this week’s The New Yorker focuses on man-made new diseases that cannot be eradicated with conventional antibiotics, even inside hospitals. The writer quotes Michael Pollan to explain the connection to your local meat factory: “Seventy per cent of the antibiotics administered in America end up in agriculture,” Michael Pollan, a professor of journalism at Berkeley and the author of “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto,” told [the writer]. “The drugs are not used to cure sick animals but to prevent them from getting sick, because we crowd them together under filthy circumstances. We have …

Why Paul Roberts’ End of Food deserves to be digested

In the Middle East, water-poor nations are using petrol profits to buy farmland in economically depressed countries like Pakistan and Sudan. China, with its own farmland under pressure from development and pollution, is using some of its vast export income to snap up land in Africa and Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, Brazil — the globe’s emerging agricultural powerhouse and an increasingly important food supplier to China — recently threatened to nationalize its fertilizer deposits. Such a move would rankle huge U.S. grain-trading firms like Cargill and Bunge, which dominate Brazil’s ever-expanding fertilizer market. In other words, food production is rapidly emerging …

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