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Sustainable Fillet-O-Fish?

I’m lovin’ it

I've got an interview over at Salon with Charles Clover, a British journalist who has been covering the oceans for 20 years and has a book out, End of the Line. Among his more startling revelations: that McDonald's fish sandwich is more sustainable than Nobu's menu (the restaurant for the stars), because it is sourced from an Alaskan fishery certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. McDonald's, though, does not advertise the MSC label because then it would have to pay a licensing fee.

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Thirty years to hone an argument

Arguments supporting government subsidies of agrofuels are getting polished

This is my formal rebuttal to David Morris's "case for corn-based fuel." I'm using my access to the bully pulpit to pull it out of the comments field. How did the use of ethanol end up alongside tyranny and torture as an evil to be conquered? That's easy. A whole lot of real smart people have been giving corn ethanol a lot of thought and have found that "an evil to be conquered" isn't a bad description. In smaller quantities, it does smaller amounts of damage, but as quantities increase, so does the damage. I mean, what's not to like …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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Scarce Fell On Alabama

Crops, neighborly relations suffer in Southeastern U.S. drought A severe drought is gripping most of the Southeastern U.S., threatening crops, inspiring prayer, and turning neighbors against each other. "It's one of the worst droughts in living memory in the Southeast at this point," said Doug LeComte, a drought specialist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "This happens only about every 50 years or so." With a high-pressure system keeping rain away, some of the hardest-hit states -- including Alabama and Georgia -- are imposing restrictions on outdoor water use and often fining offenders. In one Georgia county, officials report …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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Understatement of the week

A federal judge tells the Bush administration that, yes, there is a difference between wild fish and farmed fish. "A healthy hatchery population is not necessarily an indication of a healthy natural population," [Judge Coughenour] said. Insert your insult here ...

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Not (entirely) USDA-approved

Even USDA researchers are a bit creeped out by corporate control of food

Food production and retailing have gotten so squarely under the heel of a few corporations that even the USDA is raising an eyebrow. At the top, the agency teems with PR flacks for the agribusiness giants. But that doesn't mean there aren't competent researchers among the rank and file. One of them, Steven W. Martinez, has issued a useful report (PDF) on consolidation in the food industry. On page 21, a chart reveals that in 1972, the four largest milk processors controlled 17 percent of the market. By 2002, that figure had risen to 42 percent. And as the market …

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Berries, brewpubs, and a blitz torte recipe

I am traveling on the West Coast, and have been diligently eating my way southward. I've been to Victoria, B.C., for a conference on agriculture and sustainability; to Sooke Harbour, B.C., where I visited Sooke Harbor House and took a tour of their organic garden and on-site water reclamation plant; and to Vancouver, B.C., where I had dinner with Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon, authors of the local-eating manifesto Plenty. In Seattle, I met the Grist staff, and in Portland, I had dinner at Fife, a restaurant that's applying for organic certification. By chance, I happened to get to Portland …

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Nothing busted but our chops

How the 2007 Farm Bill can help restore market competition

Are federal authorities finally taking the idea that a few companies shouldn't be allowed to dominate the food system seriously? Well, the Federal Trade Commission recently blocked Whole Foods from gobbling up rival natural foods marketer Wild Oats. Congratulations to the FTC for busting up the natural-foods trust! But even combined, Whole Foods and Wild Oats would account for only 15 percent of natural-foods sales. Meanwhile, Smithfield Foods alone now controls 30 percent of the pork market after acquiring Premium Standard Farms a month ago -- a deal that the Department of Justice waved on. In fact, our food production …

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Ignorance like this is how biofuels schemes prosper

Food? Farms? No connection at all!

From the BBC: The Linking Environment And Farming organisation found that 22% of 1,073 adults questioned did not know bacon and sausages originate from farms ... The survey also found four in 10 people did not know yoghurt is made using farm produce, nearly half were unaware the raw ingredients for beer start off in farmers' fields and 23% did not know bread's main ingredients came from the farm. (I'm not pinging on the Brits; I'm sure the U.S. is even worse.)

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Dumping the sour 'organic' milk

Dairy farmers’ organic practices called into question

Regulation might not be the best way to create greener markets, but the right sort of regulations enforced the right way can work. That's a lesson in the organic market, which witnessed a first this week: a mega-organic dairy with 10,000 cows (3,500 "organic"), which was clearly skirting regulations, was suspended by a certifier and no longer allowed to sell "organic" milk. I blogged on this development over at Chews Wise, and only bring it up here because the organic market is one of the most developed green markets. It has been around for nearly three decades and has been …

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What the world eats

Lots of fruits and bread in Sicily; lots of junk in North Carolina

There is a fascinating photo essay over on Time magazine's website. Using a format similar to that used by photojournalists who have posed families in front of their entire household possessions, this one shows what a few families around the world typically purchase to eat over the course of a week. Not exactly a scientific survey, but revealing nonetheless.

Read more: Food, Living