Bush's bread man

Baltimore baker takes on great quacking menace

Last week, The New York Times' David Streitfeld told the story of one J.R. Paterakis, a Baltimore "baker" who opposes the Conservation Reserve Program, which provides incentives to farmers to set aside their land for wildlife, clean water, and (incidentally) massive carbon sequestration. Seemed like an opportunity to deploy my rye wit. The program has been a huge success -- protecting 35 million acres of land and partially restoring the "duck factory" of the upper Midwest that fills the skies of North America with quacks and hunting opportunities -- so why has Mr. Paterakis put this great environmental success story in his sights?

Slurps of joy

Nalgene dumps estrogenic ingredient

Have you been fretting over the reports of gender-bending pollutants leaching from reusable water bottles? Finally, some good news: Nalgene is dumping polycarbonate plastic, according to a report in The New York Times today. Nalgene made its decision in response to Health Canada's announcement earlier this week that it would list bisphenol A as a toxicant. BPA is the estrogenic plastic additive that makes polycarbonate a dubious choice for food and beverage containers. Grist reported earlier this week that the National Institutes of Health is also expressing increased concern about the chemical, which has been at the center of a battle over industry influence over consumer safety standards. Next stop on the BPA express: Wal-Mart says it will be dumping BPA from baby bottles later this year. The chemical is still widely used in baby bottles, the linings of steel cans used for canned food, water coolers, compact discs, and plenty of other consumer products. At least the campers can gulp freely.

Nalgene, Wal-Mart back away from BPA

Bottle manufacturer Nalgene will stop using plastic containing bisphenol A in response to concerns from the National Toxicology Program and the Canadian health department that the chemical probably shouldn’t be sucked on by kids. Nalgene says it still believes its clear, hard plastic bottles “are safe for their intended use” but says it’s responding to customers who “indicated they preferred BPA-free alternatives.” Wal-Mart also announced it would pull all baby bottles made with BPA from its shelves by early next year.

What the world needs now

Three million more acres of industrial corn?

According to USDA projections, U.S. farmers will plant 86 million acres of corn in 2008. At any time in the last 50 years, that would be plenty. Since 1958, USDA figures tell us, farmers have broken 80 million acres only ten times. In fact, if farmers meet expectations, 2008 will rank as the second-largest planting of corn since 1949. If you own shares in a fertilizer company — corn being an extremely fertilizer-intensive crop — you’re celebrating. Indeed, shares of Mosaic, a fertilizer giant two-thirds owned by Cargill, have more than doubled in value over the past six months. And …

Who's cashing in on the high price of food?

With food riots raging, let’s open the books on the finances of Big Ag

When we talk about the crisis in food prices, we should scrape below the surface to explore who's actually benefiting from the crisis. Unless you've had your head stuck in the freezer at Dean & Deluca, you've heard about the food crisis across the planet. A recent Financial Times displayed this staggering map of the globe: Black dots marked each of the countries were food riots have been sparked in outrage against the rising prices of food. Thirty dots in all. A recent CNN report noted that "Riots, instability spread as food prices skyrocket." These surging costs, warns World Bank President Robert Zoellick, "could mean 'seven lost years' in the fight against worldwide poverty." With the food crisis as front page news, I couldn't help but notice which agribusiness company has just reported an 86 percent jump in its quarterly earnings.

How does <em>your</em> garden grow?

A bright trend for dark times: kitchen gardening

Last week, we ran a guest post about a topic dear to my heart: serious home vegetable gardening. In that piece, Bill Duesing argued that the USDA should take home food production seriously, by providing research and extension services to gardeners. Now Anne Raver, the veteran New York Times garden writer, has come out with a great column on what’s looking like a nascent revival in home veggie gardening. The venerable Raver describes the pleasure of tending one’s little patch: It’s hard to describe the flavor of something so alive, hardly 10 seconds out of the earth. I want to …

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