The corn supremacy

A new piece on the insanity that is U.S. ethanol policy

I have an article in Salon on the insanity that is America's ethanol policy. The new energy bill sets this country on a path to finish the assault on the world food supply begun by the (even lamer) 2005 energy bill. As I explain, our ethanol policy does not help fight global warming, but it does threaten food supplies: In just the past two years, food prices have jumped 75 percent in real terms ... The Economist points out the amazing statistic that "the demands of America's ethanol program alone account for over half the world's unmet need for cereals." By law (the 2005 energy bill) we are going to increase corn ethanol production at least 50% over the next few years. And the new energy bill will probably require corn ethanol to triple from current levels! But current levels are already bringing havoc down on the global food market.


The GM seed giants lumber into the veggie patch

In 2005, Monsanto bought Seminis, the world’s largest vegetable-seed company. At the time, Monsanto — which enjoys a dominant position in the global market for GM soy, corn, and cotton traits — claimed it had …

Leafy green problem

The E. coli outbreak’s continuing negative effect on wildlife

Farming is often seen as in conflict with wildlife, but it needn't be. The Wild Farm Alliance is a grassroots group that's trying to chart a new direction. They don't just talk about how agriculture can coexist with cougars and wolves, though. It's also about the little guys -- the birds and rodents that live in the wild margins between fields. That's why the USDA's proposed Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (a national version of the California program of the same name, which came about after last year's E. coli outbreak) has them riled, and rightly so.

Notable quotable

“I really would like to vote for this bill because we desperately need an energy bill. The world and particularly the United States faces a real challenge on energy in the future. But I cannot …

Now entering the dead zone

The ethanol boom could trigger a ‘tipping point’ in the Gulf

Days after Congress voted to ramp up the government mandate for corn ethanol, bringing it to fully three times current production levels within a decade, we get bracing news from the Gulf of Mexico. Here …

China drafting rules for humane slaughter of livestock

Under pressure from international animal-rights advocates and food-safety organizations, China has announced it’s drafting rules for the “humane” treatment and slaughter of livestock. The proposal recommends stunning animals before slaughter, ensuring as little time as …

Pollan connects the dots

Why bees and pigs are not machines

In yesterday's New York Times Magazine, Michael Pollan writes, "Two stories in the news this year, stories that on their faces would seem to have nothing to do with each other let alone with agriculture, may point to an imminent breakdown in the way we're growing food today." Can you guess what they are? Answer here.

House of Representatives’ food service goes sustainable

Cafeterias in the House of Representatives are getting a makeover today: out with the high-fructose corn syrup, in with the free-roaming hens. (Well, there won’t actually be hens roaming in the cafeterias — you get …

Senate farm bill post-mortem

The Sustainable Ag Coalition delivers its assessment

Ferd Hoefner of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has been involved in farm bills since the mid-1970s, working behind the scenes to try to snatch farm legislation from the paws of agribusiness. So when he delivers …

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