'Oh, crap ...' says the industrial agrodiesel investor

Small protest may be start of agrodiesel’s biggest nightmare

A link to John Cook's Venture Blog in the Seattle P-I via a post by Glenn Hurowitz brought my attention to a guy named Duff Badgley (not to be confused with Duffman or Ed Begley). Duff is an old-school, grassroots, car-free, long-haired, bleeding-heart, dirty hippie environmentalist. His protests may very well turn out to be Imperium's worst nightmare. From an article about the filing of Imperium Renewables' IPO (initial public offering) where they must, by law, warn potential investors of known potential risks: In its filing, the company said that palm oil is the cheapest feedstock available and noted that shifting public opinion about the use of palm oil could hurt its business. "Unfavorable public opinions concerning the use of palm oil, soybeans and other feedstock, or negative publicity arising from such use, could reduce the global supply of such feedstock, increase our production costs and reduce the global demand for biodiesel, any of which could harm our business and adversely affect our financial condition," the company wrote. An all-important goal in any power struggle is to gain and then hold the moral high ground.

Grass Backwards

Carbon dioxide contributing to un-grassing of grassland, says new study Thanks in part to rising levels of carbon dioxide, the world’s grasslands are turning into woody shrublands, says a new study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. When researchers artificially doubled CO2 levels over sections of the Colorado plains, they observed a fortyfold increase in the growth of fringed sage, which takes over the prairie flora that serves a crucial purpose as a livestock buffet. Grasslands, which are also in danger from overgrazing and wildfire suppression, cover 40 percent of the earth’s land surface; some projections hold that current CO2 …

More cleverness from Free Range Studios

A short video called ‘The Farm Bill Food Battle’

Funny and smart.

Umbra on singles and CSAs

Hi Umbra! I’ve held back from joining a CSA because 1) I live alone and am worried about wasting food, and 2) I’m worried I’ll get so much oddball stuff, especially in the winter, that I won’t know what to do with it. I figure I can overcome No. 1 by seeking out some sufficiently hip neighbors and seeing if they want to share (although someone cautioned me that it gets hard to split the choice stuff — she mentioned an incident with six strawberries). But I’m more concerned about the second. I work a lot, and don’t have a …

Radiation breeding of plants is way better than it sounds

Think two wrongs don’t make a right? Meet radiation breeding, a method of modifying crops by zapping them with gamma rays. While “radiation” and “modify” are unpleasant words to many, “I’m not doing anything different from what nature does. I’m not using anything that was not in the genetic material itself,” says plant breeder Pierre Lagoda. The practice — which is to be thanked for red grapefruit, black currants, and whiskey-bound premium barley — leaves no residual radiation and is an entirely different process than genetic modification, which splices foreign genetic material into plants. Radiation breeding is widely used in …

I scream against ice cream consolidation

How to stick it to the ice-cream Man

I’ve written a lot about the consolidation of U.S. food markets, and have become jaded to facts such as: just four firms slaughter 83.5 percent of cows, and so on. But I actually gagged on my ice cream when I read this bit in BusinessWeek: The days of mom-and-pop parlors and local brands are fading fast. Today, the $59 billion ice cream industry is dominated by two global giants: Switzerland’s Nestlé (NESN.DE) and Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever (UN). Together, they control more than one-third of the worldwide market — and half of ice cream sales in the U.S. — and they’re …

Gardens in the hood

Urban agriculture does more than provide healthy food for those who need it

Phoebe Connelly and Chelsea Ross have a detailed and incredibly heartening story on urban agriculture in In These Times. It focuses on urban ag projects that target inner city "food deserts," where liquor stores outnumber groceries 20-to-1 and the most easily available food is fried. It’s not just about food, though: “We are what most folks would consider organic, but we’re not certified,” the Food Project’s Burns says. “That’s not as important to us. We’re in the community; folks can just come by and see our practices. It’s about transparency.” Accessibility is at the heart of what these groups call …

Udderly awesome

Starbucks vows to make 100 percent of its milk rBGH-free

If you haven't been ordering that double whipped Frappuccino at your local Starbucks with soy milk, you've likely been gulping down Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). It makes cows produce more milk, but it's thought to increase the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancer in humans (if only they could come up with something to make cows squirt machiatto directly from their udders). But now, after two years of pressure from the organization Food and Water Watch, Starbucks has announced that it's going to go rBGH free by December 31, 2007. Moo-chas gracias, Starbucks! (photo: Tami Witschger) Whew! Now you can guzzle that cinnamon dulce de leche latte with abandon (so long as you don't mind that growing coffee generally requires cutting down the rainforest, or that Starbucks busts unions). Starbucks spokesman Brandon Borrman says the campaign had nothing to do with the decision. "This decision was purely driven by our customers," Borrman said. "Increasing numbers of our customers were calling and asking us to do it, and the number of customers ordering organic milk was increasing, and we wanted to meet that demand." Food and Water Watch spokesperson Jennifer Mueller noted that much of that activity (including 33,000 emails) was generated from call-in days conducted by her organization. If you want to thank Starbucks CEO Jim Donald for not poisoning you with milk (or ask what "doppio" really means), you can reach the company at 1-800-235-2883.

Your food mileage may vary

A small grocery chain uses food mileage as an advertising tactic

Roth's, a tiny (11 store) grocery chain in Oregon's mid-Willamette Valley, is promoting a "Go Local" campaign that's interesting in many respects, including its "Support our Northwest food system" slogan and ads: "Go Local" products are grown, caught, or produced in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, or Northern California. Look for the "Go Local" icon on products in your weekly Roth's ad. Buying these products will help build a regional food economy, ensuring farms in our community [sic] and protecting our food security for years to come. Where does your food come from? If it's a "Go Local" product from Roth's, then it comes from right here in the Northwest. If you think about the average distance food has to travel from farm to plate (around 1,500 miles), and think about how it got there (fossil fuels), you might be left wondering about the negative impact it will have on the environment. "Go Local" products are produced locally which in turn helps the environment and helps to support our local food system. Perhaps even more interesting is that it gives the number of miles the featured foods traveled to reach the Roth's stores in Salem. A few items of note:

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