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My address to the Southern Appalachian Youth on Food conference

One crop to rule them all. Photo: USDA Tucked into the rolling hills of North Carolina's Swannanoa Valley, Warren Wilson College is essentially surrounded by a farm. The school's 800 students not only tend the 275-acre farm -- which includes pastured livestock and vegetables -- they also provide the labor to run the campus. They do everything from accounting to plumbing to cooking in the cafeteria. I've had the privilege of hosting several Warren Wilson kids at Maverick Farms, and I've been amazed at how well those kids know how to work, and have plenty of fun while doing it. …

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Now If Only They’d Stop Serving Meat

Restaurant biz hops onto the green bandwagon Green ain't just the color of the broccoli anymore in the restaurant biz. And a good thing too: the average restaurant generates 50,000 pounds of waste (half of it food) and uses 300,000 gallons of water every year. Enter the Green Restaurant Association, which provides environmental assessments and "certifies" restaurants for using eco-friendly measures like efficient light bulbs, unbleached napkins, and Styrofoam alternatives. But only a tiny percentage of the nation's 1 million restaurants have gone the GRA way; sustainability in the $500 billion U.S. restaurant industry -- which is larger than many …

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Diet Coke + vitamins = healthy beverage!

Uh, no it doesn’t

News flash: Coca-Cola has responded to consumer demand and is now producing "healthy" beverages. "Diet and light brands are actually health and wellness brands," Coke's CEO E. Neville Isdell told The New York Times. He was referring to a new product called Diet Coke Plus, which is Diet Coke plus a few vitamins. Where do I start? Diet Coke consists of artificially blackened water tinged with synthetic chemicals. Here are its ingredients, from most prevalent to least: carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate (to protect taste), natural flavors, citric acid; and caffeine [emphasis added]. To protect taste? …

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What's the deal with soy sauce? [Seinfeld voice]

Seriously, isn’t it just gross?

Having adopted a quasi-vegetarian lifestyle, I can finally join in: man, you meat eaters suck! Ahem. Speaking of my quasi-vegetarianism ... what's the deal with soy sauce? I've found that eating vegetarian in practice means eating lots and lots of Mexican (rice and beans) and Chinese (rice and veggies) food. When it comes to the latter, the standard practice seems to be frying some veggies in a wok, dumping them over rice, and dousing the whole mess with soy sauce. Am I the only one, though, who's vaguely grossed out by soy sauce? Isn't it basically salty water? Yet it's …

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Carry On My Wayward Gene

Kansas could see first commercial crop of human-gene-containing rice A California company is one step closer to growing rice that contains human genes on a commercial scale. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has given a preliminary OK to a plan to sow 450 Kansas acres with the stuff this spring, with 2,750 more acres to come. Ventria Bioscience's three Frankenrice varieties produce human immune-system proteins -- and in case this story hasn't turned your stomach yet, we give you CEO Scott E. Deeter: "We can really help children with diarrhea get better faster." This big-ag altruism has been rejected by …

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Reviving a much-cited, little-read sustainable-ag masterpiece

The real Arsenal of Democracy is a fertile soil, the fresh produce of which is the birthright of nations.-- Sir Albert Howard, The Soil and Health Sir Albert Howard. Around 1900, a 27-year-old British scientist named Albert Howard, a specialist in plant diseases, arrived in Barbados, then a province of the British Empire. His charge was to find cutting-edge cures for diseases that attacked tropical crops like sugar cane, cocoa, bananas, and limes. To use the terms of the day, his task was to teach natives of the tropics how to grow cash crops for the Mother Country. The method …

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Fair trade for a fortnight

Could you do it?

Could you limit your food and bev choices to all organic or all fair trade? Or both? What would be left on your plate and (eek!) in your wallet? Two men (one a Seattle-based reporter and one a U.K.-based nonprofit organizer) recently took on food-related challenges to answer those very questions and bring attention to the (un)availability of organic and fair-trade options. Michael Stusser's month-long organic binge started as a Supersize Me-style experiment; in the process, he lost three pounds and gained a healthy knowledge of what organic means and how the system works (hint: organic isn't always the best …

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Edible media: Bee here, now

Please?

Edible Media takes an occasional look at interesting or deplorable food journalism on the web. Of mites and men (and bees) [Insert perfunctory "buzz" reference into lead:] Buzz about the collapse of domesticated honeybee populations hit the front page of the New York Times yesterday. The steep drop in bee numbers is alarming: A bee laid its little tentacles on the flower that produced every fruit, vegetable, and nut you've ever eaten. And that means you, too, vegans: these little animals are a critical, inevitable part of the food chain. Plus, raw honey is really good stuff, and I don't …

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Eat local foods, import biofuels

A message from Kenya and Biopact

Over on the Biopact website -- probably the best website for up-to-date international news on bio-energy science and markets -- they have posted an interesting commentary, based on a BBC interview, on how small Kenyan farmers, Mr. Peter Ndivo and Mr. Samuel Mauthike, are affected by the confusion engendered by concepts such as "carbon footprints," "fair trade," and "food miles." Biopact's message? Buy your vegetables and fruits locally, if you must, but please allow developing countries to supply your biofuels. Here is the crux of their argument: If the consumer in Europe and America really wants to start buying local …

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How Archer Daniels Midland cashes in on Mexico’s tortilla woes

Much has been made in the U.S. press about Mexico's "tortilla crisis" -- the recent spike in the price of its definitive corn-based flatbread. Media reports tend to focus blame on U.S. ethanol production, which has surged over the past year, causing the global price of corn to double. The situation stoked the food vs. fuel debate, showing that even marginally offsetting gasoline with corn-based ethanol can have dire consequences for eaters -- especially ones on a budget. Traditionally made tortillas are a masa-have commodity in Mexico. Photo: Dayna Bateman But while our ravenous -- and dubious -- appetite for …

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