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All so predictable, part 2

World grain supplies tanking

Once again, a prediction is panning out(PDF): The world is consistently failing to produce as much grain as it uses. Every six years, we're adding to the world the equivalent of a North American population. We're trying to feed those extra people, feed a growing livestock herd, and now, feed our cars, all from a static farmland base. No one should be surprised that food production can't keep up. The USDA projects global grain supplies will drop to their lowest levels on record. Further, it is likely that, outside of wartime, global grain supplies have not been this low in …

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Yuppy chow, food miles, and labels

Interesting juxtaposition of stories

Interesting juxtaposition of stories: First, an essay on what has become of organics, as it turns into what Fromartz calls "Organic, Inc." Then, Energy Bulletin links to a story suggesting that some Brits might deny the organic label to food flown in from abroad. And, of course, there's the post right here on Gristmill about labeling as an attempt to help consumers understand the effect of their purchases. The issue boils down to the fact that our prices don't help consumers understand anything about food; in our perverse system, the food that has traveled the furthest at the greatest energy …

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Umbra on returnable bottles

Hi Umbra, I've been wondering lately what happened to the returnable bottles that were so common up until some point in the '70s. Why did the legislation go away? Does reusing bottles use less energy? It seems like it would, but I haven't found info on advocating for bottle reuse in any of the green action plans floating around. Anne Speck Lafayette, Colo. Dearest Anne, In days of yore, portable beverages came in glass bottles, and -- reading between the lines of the articles I read on the subject -- smallish beverage manufacturers were dispersed across this fair nation. So …

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So Long, San Pellegrino

Restaurants, schools tap into local water supplies You've heard of eating locally, but the latest fad may be drinking locally. Some restaurants and schools are starting to serve filtered tap water instead of bottled water, citing the eco-impacts of packaging and shipping a product that's already available right thar in the kitchen. But it seems that pushing pints of Perrier is such a moneymaker that only some restaurants, mostly snooty ones, can afford to quit; cutting-edgers include Alice Waters' Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and Mario Batali's Del Posto in New York. "Serving tap water is a great idea that …

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Brit's Eye View: Is carbon labeling a good idea?

Can a bag of potato chips point the way to saving the planet?

Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, writes a monthly column for Gristmill on sustainability in the U.K. and Europe. Can a bag of potato chips point the way to saving the planet? In the U.K., we have started down the path of putting "carbon labels" on products. Tesco, our biggest supermarket chain, has said they will label every product they sell. The Carbon Trust, a government agency, has already produced a prototype label and is trying it out on shampoo, a fruit juice, and a bag of potato chips. Clearly we do need to measure and manage …

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Edible Media: Gastronomica

Good stuff in the new issue of the ‘journal of food and culture’

Edible Media takes an occasional look at interesting or deplorable food journalism on the web. Anyone who loves food, and enjoys reading about it, should check out the quarterly magazine Gastronomica, which calls itself the "journal of food and culture." It's published by the University of California Press, but it's no academic rag. It tends to print quirky, passionate essays -- on luxurious paper stock, with loads of lovely photos -- by all manner of writers: cooks, poets, farmers, and food scholars. In the current issue -- available online only for a stiff fee, but soon to be on newsstands …

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The 'Terminator' eyes Cali farmland

Schwarzenegger to California farmers: Considuh this a divorce

There's a fair amount of debate on Gristmill about how much green cred to give the Governator -- that A-list action hero of enlightened Republicanism. I don't follow California politics closely enough to venture an opinion. But I do know that promoting a policy that will result in yet more suburban sprawl and evict small- and mid-sized farmers from their land -- all in an effort to save chump change from the state budget -- hardly does Schwarzenegger credit. Over on Ethicurean -- which has been running great stuff lately -- blogger Mental Masala lays out Schwarzenegger's retrograde scheme. Masala …

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On moving to New Orleans, a city defined by water

Wayne Curtis is a freelance writer who's written for The New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, American Scholar, Preservation, and American Heritage, and is the author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails. He recently traded Maine winters for New Orleans summers. Thursday, 24 May 2007 NEW ORLEANS, La Someone once wrote that eating a tomato grown on a fire escape demonstrated the highest order of faith in civilization and technology. To hell with the tomato. If you really want to show your faith, move to New Orleans. The city that always seeps. …

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News from the Farm Bill front

Democracy in jeopardy

In a recent post about the timing of the Farm Bill, I talked about when things related to farm and food policy are likely to move in Congress. There is new information available now, and it's becoming increasingly clear that we all could be in serious trouble if we don't act now to voice our opinion about the state of our food system. Though pressure to consider major reforms in the bill is as strong as ever, events of this week are leaving me with much less hope that new leadership will lead to any positive change without a fierce …

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Mongabay highlights for May '07

Good reading on Mongabay

There is so much good stuff over there I hardly know where to start. You might consider subscribing to the weekly email. Top of the list is an interview with Luke Hunter (the same biologist I pissed off with my pincushion post). Coincidentally, roughly a fifth of the interview dealt with that topic: ... does conservation of the species require radio-tagging? There are many, many cases where it does not. I often read proposals by graduate students who are wishing to radio-collar cats to address a conservation issue when they could far better achieve their goal by some other means. …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food