Digest: Serious shellfish invasion, butter banned, Monsanto exec fined, slaughter up close

Genghis Clam and his mussel men: After you’ve watched “The BioDaVersity Code,” settle down for an hour or so and read this award-worthy, novella-length feature about how lowly bivalves are invading and conquering lakes in Michigan, Arizona, and the San Francisco Bay, choking out all other life. The real problem, of course, is not these species themselves but modern human behavior, which makes it possible for mussels and shrimp to move around the planet as never before. High Country News

Trans-fat ban overreaction: Kim Severson explores how anti-trans-fat hysteria is leading to the elimination of milk and butter as ingredients in baked goods — both have small amounts of naturally occurring trans fats. Although ones derived from animals may actually be beneficial, the FDA does not recognize the difference. Says a Northwest baker: “The hardest one for us was the croissant. We replaced butter with palm oil. From my perspective it’s not a croissant any more. It’s lost all its lamination and flavor.” This is progress? This is madness! And beef, which also has naturally occurring trans fats, might be next. New York Times

Feeding the world’s poor, one bribe at a time: The SEC has fined a Monsanto executive personally for trying to bribe an Indonesian official to repeal a rule requiring an environmental impact assessment before planting genetically modified cottonseed. The company has already paid hefty fines for other improper gifts and payments to officials. Bloomberg

“Death on the range”: A first-person essay about the day the writer watched the on-farm slaughter of one of her family’s steers, after her father told her that “if you’re going to eat beef, you should have the stomach to watch how it gets to the table.” Culinate

Labor pains: The January freeze that ruined California’s oranges also killed jobs and chilled the economy in the citrus belt. As many as 12,500 workers — 7,500 in California packing houses and 5,000 harvesters — are out of work or soon will be. While the state and county governments have offered loans and some aid, it’s simply not enough. If the state is going to rely on the poorest people to plant and pick its food, a better safety net is needed to protect them from bad weather. San Francisco Chronicle

The slime is fast approaching: A California venture-capitalist couple bet their careers and personal fortunes that they can grow masses of algae and use its natural photosynthesis process to produce a plentiful supply of biofuel, going “from pond to pump.” And farmed catfish could prove useful in this endeavor. New York Times

Organic lobbyists: Organic farmers are making rounds among the congressional offices responsible for writing agricultural legislation. They want money for research, to stop paying a 5% surcharge on their crop insurance rates, and to be able to recoup their losses from manufacturers of genetically engineered seeds in the event of crop contamination. Modesto Bee

We’re out of cloning puns: A summary of the major efforts to block clones from entering the food supply. BusinessWeek

Just how dumb do they think consumers are?: Coca-Cola and PepsiCo will introduce new carbonated drinks they’re calling “sparkling beverages,” vs. soft drinks, that are fortified with vitamins and minerals. Hey guys, remember how well “100 percent natural” 7-Up went over? New York Times Our buddy Jack reminds us that Coke’s idea of a “healthy tip” is to stay hydrated by drinking caffeinated diet drinks.

That’s radicchio: Some enticing dishes that Bay Area chefs like to make with winter’s bitter greens from local farms. San Francisco Chronicle The Vegetarian Times has a good primer this month on the types of winter greens.

Starbucks with hamburgers: McDonald’s is quietly revamping thousands of its franchises — adding dark wood, flat-screen TVs, comfortable chairs — to encourage people to hang out, have a latté . Orlando Sentinel

Save the children: The Malaysian Health Ministry plans to ban fast-food ads during kids’ TV shows. The Star (Malaysia)

It’s about sustainability, stupid: A cogent op-ed from a conventional-ag proponent takes issue with Environmental Defense’s statement that “Farm and food policies should help farmers make the transition to organic food and fiber production to boost farm profitability, provide healthier food choices and help the environment.” While he notice he doesn’t mention pesticide residues (in food or the environment), he does have a point about organic prices and supply and demand. Delta Farm Press

Learnin’ their “peas and Qs”: Students at a high school in British Columbia will soon be learning about sustainable agriculture, thanks to a 4-hectare plot of land donated to a Vancouver area non-profit organization called the Earthwise Society. The land is owned by the Century Group, a British Columbia real-estate company dedicated to sustainability. Vancouver Province

Hershey kiss-off: The headline of this article makes it look like dairy farmers will suffer from the closing of a Hershey plant (the same one that closed temporarily due to a salmonella scare earlier this winter), but some farmers admit that it won’t be so bad — Hershey was practically forcing them to sell their milk at about half the normal value. Ottawa Citizen

Non-GMOooo: Straus Family Creamery of California has already pledged never to use cloned animals to produce its milk, and now it’s vowing never to feed its cows genetically modified plants. Press release

We (Heart) Umbra: Disposing of Ajax and other toxic household cleaners now that you’ve resolved to clean green, and whether it’s better to dump or incinerate.

3 Responsesto “Digest: Serious shellfish invasion, butter banned, Monsanto exec fined, slaughter up close”

  1. Man of La Muncha says:

    Butter ban? Hell no!

    I spotted a sign that sums my cooking philosophy nicely:

    Food should be made with butter and love.

  2. On-farm slaughter is something we’re fighting for here in Vermont and I hope that other farmers and consumers will push for across the nation. On-farm slaughter means less stress for the animals and farmers. It means better quality meat for the consumer. The offal can then be composted on the farm and returned to the soil where it belongs. This is a direction to take for sustainable agriculture.

  3. Corn Maven says:

    I look forward to that day, too, Walter. The automation and mindlessness of industrial slaughter is so wrong to me, on so many levels.