A doorstop of a report arrived in inboxes this morning. Not so subtly called: “Wake up Before It Is Too Late,” the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development new report is a rallying cry for action to move toward greater sustainability in food and farming—to ensure food security in a changing climate. Read more
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Rainforest Action Network’s (RAN) ambitious new campaign, The Last Stand of the Orangutan, aims to save some of the world’s most important rainforests and the last remaining wild orangutans from “Conflict Palm Oil.” It’s one of the biggest campaigns we’ve ever launched. Read more
TCHO (pronounced “choh”—the “t” is silent), a phonetic spelling for the first syllable of chocolate, masterly mixes alchemy and artistry to produce award-winning organic, beyond fair trade chocolate from its Pier 17 headquarters along the San Francisco bay. Read more
Food is one of the greatest gifts Mother Earth gives to us (probably a very close second behind the oxygen we need to breath). It is amazing how you can place a tiny seed in the soil and weeks to months later a plant emerges with edible fruits or vegetables. Despite what the seed and fertilizer companies tell us, all the planet needs to grow food is healthy soil, water, and sunshine. Lend some love and a helping hand, and you have a full-fledged garden or small farm. Read more
Last week, National Geographic took on the explosive impact that the widespread use of chemical nitrogen fertilizer to boost crop production has on human health and the environment. Scientists have been leading a clarion call about the impacts of excess nitrogen for decades, but the issue remains little known, even though the impacts touch every part of our lives. Read more
Twitter-land was abuzz last week with news that a formerly ardent critic of genetic engineering (GE) has recanted his position. Mark Lynas gave a long mea culpa speech at the Oxford Farming Conference, in which he apologized to the world for tearing up GE crops back in the day, and for what he described as his “anti-science environmentalism.”
Unfortunately, Lynas then went on to ignore the weight of scientific evidence (more on that below). He claimed that GE crop production is good for biodiversity and necessary to feed the world, that organic farming is bad, and that “there is no reason at all why avoiding chemicals should be better for the environment.” He then quickly slammed the door shut on public debate, pronouncing “discussion over.” Many of us in the global scientific community were left shaking our heads, bemused if disappointed in Lynas’ anti-science rhetorical flourishes. Read more
With the droughts, heat waves, wildfires and hurricanes of 2012 fresh on our mind, it may be an opportune moment to examine the connection between these extreme weather episodes and our warming planet. One aspect that is often overlooked is the surprising relationship between the foods we eat and climate change.
A new public radio project, called “The Diet-Climate Connection” examines how the environment is affected by the foods we eat and the food system that produces them, in some cases emitting substantial greenhouse gases. Why this is so and choices individuals can make to lower their “food footprint” is explored in depth in audio documentary segments with climate scientists, citizen activists, public health experts, and others. Read more
It happens like clockwork; every few months, a rant against local and/or organic food appears in one of the papers of record. The author is nearly always an educated man who uses the words “elite” and “elitist” at least 175 times while defending today’s corporate food system and implying directly or indirectly that changes to the status quo—which often inherently begin with those who can afford to make them—should be seen as suspect at best, and downright damaging at worst.
A comprehensive paper on the nutritional quality and safety of conventional versus organic food was published in the September 4, 2012 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine (Smith-Spangler et al., Vol. 157, Number 5: pages 349–369). The Stanford University Medical School team concluded that:
“The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.”
“Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
Their analysis loosely supports these conclusions, but many devils lurk in the statistical details underlying this study’s findings. Read more