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Articles by Julia Olmstead

Julia Olmstead is a graduate student in plant breeding and sustainable agriculture at Iowa State University and a graduate fellow with the Land Institute in Salina, Kan., and a freelance writer on agricultural and environmental issues.

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As reported by the BBC, a University of Rochester study found recently that men whose mothers ate lots of beef during their pregnancies had lower sperm counts than the sons of women who ate little or no beef while pregnant:

Among sons of mothers who ate a lot of beef, 17.7 percent had a sperm concentration below the World Health Organization sub-fertility threshold of 20 million sperm per millilitre of seminal fluid. The figure for the sons of lower beef consumers was 5.7 percent.

Lead researcher Professor Shanna Swan said the findings suggested that exposure to growth promoters contained in the beef eaten by the boys’ mothers was to blame.

The researchers admit that they cannot pinpoint what chemical specifically caused the sperm damage. Europe banned growth promoters in beef in 1988 (they’re so civilized over there), so a study of sperm levels in sons born after 1988 to beef-eating mothers could more conclusively pin this on growth promoters.

In the meantime, it’s yet another reason to choose grass-fed, hormone-free beef. Or, hey, just skip the beef entirely (although when I was pregnant, after 14 years of vegetarianism,... Read more

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  • ‘Cause what else can we feed our cattle?

    According to a recent story in the Corn and Soybean Digest, a group of 30 state and national agribusiness groups are asking the USDA to let farmers plant corn on land currently set aside for conservation through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

  • It’s only natural

    grass fed beef

    About twice a day, an email from a mystery man/unflagging anti-ethanol crusader named Ray Wallace appears in my inbox, chock full of excerpts from the latest ethanol slams and, on lucky days, choice quotes from politicos and the like sounding less-than-smart about the whole business. I'm not sure how I got on his listserv, and I can't quite say how you can (but if you'd really like to, let me know and we can probably work something out).

    Anyhow (I'm getting to my point), I mention Ray so as to credit him for alerting me to this quote, contained in today's edition:

  • Season Shot: Ammo with flavor

    Here's something for Mr. Khosla to throw some money at: Season Shot, ammunition that dissolves upon baking, leaving behind only the delicious flavor of your choice -- Cajun, Lemon Pepper, Garlic, Teriyaki, or Honey Mustard.

    Think this doesn't belong on an environmental blog? Think again. According to Season Shot's creators:

  • Carbon offsets and human rights

    More evidence was released today demonstrating the complexity and oxymoronic nature of "ethical capitalism." This time it has to do with carbon offsets.

    According to "A funny place to store carbon," a report issued today by the World Rainforest Movement, villagers living along the edges of Mount Elgon National Park in east Uganda, the site of a Dutch-owned carbon offset project, have been beaten, shot at, and repeatedly denied access to their land by armed park rangers guarding the "carbon trees" inside the park.