Skip to content Skip to site navigation

Food

Comments

Let a Thousand Species Bloom

Organic farming increases biodiversity, research indicates According to the largest review yet done of studies comparing organic to conventional agriculture, organic farming increases biodiversity at every level, from bacteria to birds to mammals. The two groups that conducted the reviews -- English Nature, a government group, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds -- had no vested interest in organic farming. They concluded that organic farming fosters biodiversity by using fewer inorganic fertilizers and pesticides and by adopting critter-friendly practices like mixing arable and livestock farming. Of particular note to the Royal birders was the flourishing on organic …

Read more: Food

Comments

Umbra on the mysteries of produce code numbers

Dear Umbra, I recently learned that the UPC numbers on produce indicate whether the item is conventionally grown (beginning with a 4), organically grown (beginning with a 9), or genetically modified (beginning with an 8). I like to buy organic, locally grown produce at my local health food store whenever possible, but recently at a large grocery story I noticed some tomatoes with a UPC number that began with a 3. What does a 3 indicate? RobinLouisville, Ky. Dearest Robin, Sounds like you are thinking of the PLU code, the four or five digits on the super-sticky little sticker stuck …

Read more: Food, Living

Comments

Umbra on the eco-relevance of health concerns

Dear Umbra, As a practicing vegan for quite some time now, I take pride in my knowledge of nutrition and my ability to enrich my body through a varied diet with all the essentials. For the past five years or so, I have heavily relied on soy products for protein and other nutrients. Recently, however, I have heard that soy products increase estrogen levels, which in turn increase the risk of cancer (specifically breast cancer). I also have been told to stay away from soy because so many people are allergic to it. I always thought soy was great and …

Read more: Food

Comments

Indelicacies

Chinese appetite for exotic foods driving trade in endangered species Many Chinese believe that wild game improves health. Whether or not that's true, the country's enormous market for rare and exotic "delicacies" is not improving the health of endangered species. "Just in the last two years, 12 to 13 species have had to be CITES-listed because of China's food trade," said Gail Cochrane of Animals Asia Foundation, referring to the list maintained under the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. But such listing has done little to slow the trade in leopard cat, porcupine, box terrapin, and pangolins, …

Read more: Food

Comments

Umbra on hemp fabric

Dear Umbra, You didn't mention hemp as a fabric alternative. JordanMarquette, Mich. Dearest Jordan, No, I didn't. Thank you for writing such a concise letter; it stood out among the 4 million other hemp letters and cut straight to the point. I apologize for the omission. Hemp is currently a narrowly available fabric with a prohibitively high cost and a limited fashion palette. That said, it holds a lot of promise as a high-yield crop with a boggling array of uses -- rope, carpets, shoes, cars, food, fuel, oil -- that suggest it could one day save the world. Daydreaming …

Read more: Food, Living

Comments

Schoolhouse Rocks

Public Schools Starting to Offer Organic Lunches Healthy, organic food is increasingly popping up in, of all strange places, school lunches. The Seattle school district recently banned junk food and exclusive soda contracts (despite the big dollars dangled by soda companies) and started urging schools to offer "fresh, local, organic, non-genetically-modified, non-irradiated, unprocessed food, whenever feasible." A handful of California school districts also have organic lunch programs, and schools in six states are installing vending machines stocked with all-organic snacks, thanks to a program sponsored by organic yogurt company Stonyfield Farm. Lincoln Elementary in Olympia, Wash., put in an all-organic …

Read more: Food

Comments

Cornographic

European Union Gives Go-Ahead to GM Corn In a highly symbolic move, the European Union yesterday approved the first genetically modified seeds for planting and sale across E.U. territory, outraging greens and defying public opinion (70 percent of E.U. citizens oppose GM food). The European Commission approved 17 varieties of GM corn developed by U.S. biotech behemoth Monsanto, marking a decisive end to a de facto biotech ban that's been in effect in the E.U. since 1998. Enviros expressed dismay that the commission did not issue E.U.-wide guidelines for keeping GM, conventional, and organic crops separated. "[T]he widespread contamination of …

Read more: Food

Comments

A Bunch of Debunk

Debate Over Benefits of Organic Food Heats Up The market for organic food is exploding, and as any star of teen movies can tell you, with success comes backlash. Some of the organic-food industry's more enthusiastic backers have made lofty claims about the health benefits the foods confer, and now some scientists (and some industry-backed "scientists") are tossing cold water on the love-fest. On two key claims -- that organic food is intrinsically healthier (more vitamins, you see) and that it has lower levels of pesticide residue -- skeptics point to a lack of peer-reviewed studies. Skeptics also point out …

Read more: Food

Comments

If We Weren’t Already Fireproof, This Would Burn Us Up

Flame Retardants Found in Many Grocery-Store Foods A new study of grocery items like fish, meat, and dairy products revealed that virtually all of them contain detectable levels of PBDEs, human-made chemical fire retardants used in carpeting, electronics, and furniture that may or may not cause cancer. (We'll get to the "may or may not" part in a second.) PBDEs were found in "all food containing animal fats," said Arnold Schecter, coauthor of the study, which appears in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. "Although these findings are preliminary, they suggest that food is a major route of intake for …

Read more: Food

Comments

Yes, We Have Mo’ Bananas

Australians Kick Some Renewable-Energy Butt Those Australians are busy bees these days! One team of Aussie researchers has announced that within seven years it will be able to produce hydrogen fuel from sunlight and water, in a process that has no moving parts and produces no pollutants. "This is potentially huge, with a market the size of all the existing markets for coal, oil, and gas combined," said project leader Janusz Nowotny. But enough about revolutionary, world-changing energy developments. Let's talk about bananas! Aussie researchers have come up with a plan for a power plant fueled entirely by the modest …

Read more: Food