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“More fish in the sea” is not a reason to keep overfishing

NOAAYum, elongated bristlemouth. Bristlemouth à la beurre. Miso-seared mola mola. Lanternfish tartare. If you’ve never seen these things on a menu, that’s probably because humans don’t generally catch or eat the denizens of the mesopelagic zone, that slice of sea about 656 to 3,280 feet below the ocean surface (also known as 200 to 1000 meters, which is much easier to remember). Lying just below the pelagic, the top layer of the open sea where most of the fish we’re familiar with live, the mesopelagic is apparently much more lively than we thought. A paper published last month in the journal Nature Communications revised …

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Wish you could fertilize crops with pee? Urine luck

Seth True of Best Septic Service, LLC, pumps urine from a 275-gallon tank for transfer to the farm. A family of three can produce this much urine in eight months.
Abe Noe-Hays, Rich Earth Institute

“When are you going to start bringing pee out to the farm?” Jay Bailey, a local farmer, asked Abe Noe-Hays when they ran into each other at the hardware store in Battleboro, Vt. “Um, how about now? Noe-Hays had just teamed up with Kim Nace to form the Rich Earth Institute, an organization that separates out pee to use as fertilizer for local farms --  "peecycling" to those in the know. All they needed was a test field. “[Using urine as fertilizer] is such low-hanging fruit in terms of sustainability,” Nace says. ”There’s so much energy wasted at fertilizer plants …

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This invasive worm could wipe out escargot

Hold on for one more day.
Philippe Gillotte
Hold on for one more day.

A slimy worm has invaded France from Southeast Asia, and it has a taste for snails. Merde! Experts are warning that if the invasive New Guinea flatworm (Platydemus manokwari) isn’t stopped, escargot could go extinct pretty quickly. This sucker is so lethal, it’s basically on the animal version of America’s Most Wanted, making the top 100 most dangerous invasive species worldwide. The fate of hoity-toity appetizers is at stake here, people!

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This depressing animated map shows Walmart taking over America

Here’s an unsettling look at the Walmart-ification of the U.S., starting in Arkansas in 1962 and ending with total domination more than 3,000 stores across the country. First the chain spreads throughout the state, then the Southeast. Then Walmart crawls north and west, looking for all the world like an invasive species:

walmart-growth-america
Daniel Ferry
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Photo crop: Iowa high schoolers explain where your food comes from

Click to embiggen. See more photos at the bottom of the story.
The Lexicon of Sustainability
Click to embiggen. See more photos at the bottom of the story.

You’ll recognize the Lexicon of Sustainability images if you’ve seen them around (perhaps here at Grist). The work of Douglas Gayeton and Laura Howard-Gayeton, they each compress a sustainable-food lesson down to a few phrases scrawled on a mosaic of photos. They’re also showing up in a book, in pop-up shows, and in the form of short movies airing on PBS.

But there’s something different in the latest crop of images in the works: They’re all made by high school students. The result is a set of intensely local artworks that manage to avoid the pitfalls of other awareness-raising projects, and could just make an actual difference.

It all started when the Lexicon team noticed that a high school in Ames, Iowa, had organized an unusual number of shows around the Lexicon project. Typically, they'll mail prints to a group that agrees to do five shows; this high school had done nearly 20. “Who are these guys?” Gayeton remembers thinking.

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Oreos were just the subject of international espionage

oreo-cookies-flickr-virany
Chupacabra Viranesque

First things first: DuPont's chloride-route titanium dioxide, or TiO2 -- the chemical that makes paper and paint so white -- is NOT used in food. DEFINITELY not. Don’t even think that it might be what makes the filling in Oreos so white, because DuPont says that is NOT true. Nope nope nope! (Mondelez International, the company that makes Oreos, is just like "ummmmm we're not saying either way.")

Now that we’ve established that TiO2 ISN’T the key to Oreo filling -- it must be something naturally white, like fluffy clouds! -- here’s the dish. Two guys were just convicted for trying to sell the recipe for TiO2 to a Chinese company for a cool $20 million. (TiO2 earns DuPont $17 billion annually, according to the Consumerist.)

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It takes HOW much water to make Greek yogurt?!

greek yogurt
anali02170

California is experiencing one of its driest years in the past half millennium. It also happens to also be the country's leading dairy supplier. With profits surpassing $7 billion in 2012, the California dairy industry is far and away the most valuable sector of the state's enormous agricultural bounty. Unfortunately, as the chart below shows, dairy products use a whole lot of water.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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Grainspotting: Farmers get desperate as coal and oil take over the rails

coal_oil_grain_trains
Shutterstock

The U.S. agriculture and energy sectors might be facing a Jets and Sharks situation: Our railroad system just ain’t big enough for the two of them! Unfortunately, this scenario is unlikely to involve a highly choreographed mambo dance-off, not that we wouldn’t love to see Rex Tillerson’s moves. He’d make a great Bernardo.

American farmers are becoming concerned that coal and oil companies’ increased use of railroad shipping will crowd out grain trains. The Western Organization of Resource Councils warns in a recent report that railway congestion will only increase in coming years, especially as coal export facilities are built up in the Pacific Northwest. The report largely focuses on traffic between the coal-rich Powder River Basin region of southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming, and port cities such as Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver, Wash.

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Alpha & Omega-3s: Salmon farmers’ quest for the ultimate green feed

shutterstock_153505853
Shutterstock

Fish farming gets a lot of flack, and salmon often bears the brunt of it. Much of this has to do with the fish food -- namely, the old saw that it takes an average of three pounds of wild fish to make one pound of domesticated salmon. But then why is the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s vaunted Seafood Watch program, for the first time ever, giving ocean-farmed salmon its seal of semi-approval as a “good alternative”? What’s more, these salmon, from Verlasso, were spawned by agri- and aquacultural behemoths, DuPont and AquaChile, and fattened with the help of genetically modified organisms. …

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Dairy tale: New tech could turn small farms into the land of milk and money

dairy-cows-hp.jpg
Shutterstock

It was after 6 p.m. and approaching 0 degrees Fahrenheit on a March evening when Doug Turner started the second milking of the day of his 42 cows at the family farm in Waitsfield, Vt. In a work-worn orange hoodie and flannel-lined jeans, the third-generation farmer started from the southeast corner of the barn, attaching one of his three milking machines to the swollen udder of a black and white cow.

“This one’s my oldest,” Turner told me, patting Bianca, a Holstein approaching her 13th birthday.

The milk flowed out of the barn, through a steel hose, to the tank in Turner’s cramped, old-fashioned milk house. Every other day, a milk truck from Organic Valley picks up this dairy and brings it to a processing facility -- the closest ones are in Connecticut or New York -- where it is pasteurized, homogenized, packaged, and dispatched to the grocery shelf.

All told, the average American gallon of milk travels 320 miles from udder to grocery store shelf, a journey that often crosses state borders. That seems like a long way to go, given that milk is produced in all 50 states.  

But farmers don’t have much control over where their milk goes, or how much they get for it. If Turner can’t get by on what Organic Valley will pay him, he’s short on options. Striking out on his own, and setting his own price, would mean massive costs of starting his own processing plant. Now, new developments in micro-pasteurization from a Vermont company could change that.

Many of the farms that were here when I grew up in central Vermont have closed now, and much of the milk produced by the remaining few goes straight out of state. I set out to look at this technology to see if it could be the key to cutting down on dairy miles and saving small farms.