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AZM Grace

EPA will phase out highly toxic pesticide If you've been avoiding Brussels sprouts because of pesticide contamination -- as opposed to the grossness -- you're in luck: by next year, the U.S. EPA plans to phase out organophosphate azinphos-methyl (AZM) on the odiferous buds, as well as on nuts and nursery stocks. By 2010, AZM would be banned completely, affecting growers of apples, blueberries, cherries, pears, and parsley. AZM, known by the trade name Guthion and used to kill codling moths, has been applied widely to crops since the late 1950s. In 2001, EPA research determined that apple pickers could …

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Could the battle for South Central Farm be coming to a close?

The scene at South Central Farm would look familiar to anyone who's ever attended a multi-day protest: there's a makeshift kitchen to feed the masses, a small sound stage, a tent for banner-making. But the kitchen is preparing nopales quesadillas instead of vegan stew, the stage features a Norteño band replete with cowboy hats, and the banner-makers are nine-year-old Latina girls. Que Dios bendiga esta jardin, reads one sign: God bless this garden. Situated among the warehouses, railroad tracks, and truck depots of industrial Los Angeles, South Central Farm is something of an oasis, and it's become a vital food …

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Readers Digest

Time series points out eco-benefits of eating smart Time's latest issue features a series called "Eating Smart," which includes a handful of enviro-tastic articles. One offers the revelation that grass-fed beef is better than its factory-farmed counterpart, both for you and for the planet. It makes a case for grass-fed as the new organic: sales of grass-fed beef are expected to increase more than 20 percent a year for the next decade. Another article describes an eco-trend taking off more slowly, namely, people pledging to be "locavores," eating only food produced within 100 miles of their homes. (Usually for a …

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Champagne vineyards threatened by radioactive contamination

Global warming isn't the only thing threatening wine. In France, groundwater less than 10 km from the famous Champagne vineyards has tested positive for radioactive contamination, caused by a nearby leaking nuclear waste dump: "We have been told for decades that nuclear dumpsites will not leak and that the best standards are being applied. In reality the dumpsite in Normandy is a disaster, and radioactivity is already leaking from the dumpsite in Champagne," said Shaun Burnie nuclear campaigner at Greenpeace International. "The authorities know they have a problem in Champagne already, with mistakes in the design. This is only the …

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Wining and Declining

Global warming screwing up wine country Bad news for oenophiles: Global warming is messing with wine country. Wine grapes are highly temperature-sensitive, and if the globe gets much hotter (which smart folks say it will), famed wine-producing regions like France's Burgundy and California's Napa Valley may lose optimum climate for their grape varieties. Already, warmer temperatures in southern Spain are driving grape growers to shade vineyards, develop heat-resistant grapes, and in some cases, move to the mountains. Climate change could reduce the world's viable grape-growing regions by nearly 80 percent by the end of the century. Of course, other regions …

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Umbra on ethanol

Dear Umbra, I'm a little amazed by all the bandwagon-jumping going on over E85 ethanol. I wonder if a corn-based fuel can be sustainable over the long term, given the general risks of farming and the disappearance of American farms in the last 20 years. And doesn't anybody remember the great potato famine and the danger of relying on one crop? Before the unsuspecting public spends zillions of dollars buying into the idea of an ethanol-based economy, shouldn't somebody look into whether it's really a sustainable alternative? Perhaps we should spread the message to stop driving, instead. Heidi Werner Cheyenne, …

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An interview with foodie author Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan has built a reputation as a sleuthing agro-journalist. In his writing for The New York Times Magazine and a quartet of books, he's trailed a steer from birth to dinner plate, traced America's obesity epidemic to corn subsidies, and narrowly, fumblingly outwitted a small-town cop who came uncomfortably close to his marijuana patch. His writing -- an engaging mélange of travelogue, economic analysis, and sheer, tactile joy in the pleasures of food -- has made him a favorite among the foodie and enviro crowds alike. Michael Pollan. In his latest book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, he brings his investigative …

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Whose ‘Cide Are They On?

California regulating pesticide air pollution and fish farming California is trailblazing again: It aims to be the first state in the U.S. to tackle air pollution from pesticide use. State officials hope to eliminate tons (literally) of smog-forming gases that waft from pesticide-treated agricultural regions. California's Department of Pesticide Regulation -- long accused of doing very little regulating -- is finally getting on the ball, asking manufacturers to reformulate more than 700 pesticides to reduce smog-contributing volatile organic compounds. Next year, the DPR plans to impose stricter rules on soil fumigants, which by weight account for about 25 percent of …

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Pollan blogs on corn ethanol and local-food resources

Did you know that foodie writer Michael Pollan (look for my interview on Tuesday!) has a blog? Probably not, because it's hidden behind the cursed NYT Select subscription wall. Too bad -- it's a great blog, and deserves wider readership. The latest entry reviews arguments against corn ethanol that will be familiar to readers of this blog, and concludes with this: So why the stampede to make ethanol from corn? Because we have so much of it, and such a powerful lobby promoting its consumption. Ethanol is just the latest chapter in a long, sorry history of clever and profitable …

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South Central Community Farm update

If you haven't been keeping up: The situation at the South Central Community Farm has gotten even more grim. The farmers have received an eviction order. A variety of celebs and quasi-celebs and hippie ex-celebs have taken up direct action, camping out on the farm. Julia Butterfly Hill is even sitting up in a tree. It's not looking good. Go give them some money. (Meanwhile, the same city that can't cough up $10 million for this community farm is contemplating spending $800 million renovating a sports stadium to attract an NFL team. Awesome.)

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