Digest: Organic rules changed, irradiation renamed, feed the tank and starve the poor

Bye-bye, organic coffee, sugar, chocolate?: Sam Fromartz reports on a new ruling by the USDA that dramatically changes how non-U.S. farms are certified organic. Previously, only a small percentage of farms in "grower groups" would be randomly inspected, and the group would then police the remainder's practices. Writes Fromartz: "The staggered inspection method has been crucial for, say, coffee grower unions in Ethiopia, which have upward of 80,000 members. It was used by organic tea and spice farmers in India, organic sugar co-ops in Brazil, and organic cocoa farmers in Costa Rica, who would otherwise not be able to ship certified organic products to wealthier countries in the Northern Hemisphere." Critics are calling the move an overreaction — one that unfortunately will favor large, plantation-type farms. Salon

Nuked by any other name: The FDA is proposing to allow irradiated foods to be labeled as "pasteurized" saying both processes kill pathogens. Ionizing radiation affects matter differently than heat does, and therefore deserves a different label. AP (via Forbes)

Food 0, Fuel 1: This is pretty much the most definitive article on the biofuels vs. food debate that we've read. The short version: Thanks to high oil prices and hefty subsidies, corn-based ethanol is now all the rage in the United States. But it takes so much supply to keep ethanol production going that the price of corn — and those of other food staples — is shooting up around the world and could likely starve the poor. Fun fact: Filling the 25-gallon tank of an SUV with pure ethanol requires over 450 pounds of corn — enough calories to feed one person for a year. Foreign Affairs

Organic findings confirmed: Scientists in Britain, France and Poland examined organic carrots, apples, peaches and potatoes and discovered that they have greater concentrations of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and flavonoids than non-organic produce.(Reported earlier this week in the Daily Mail, but we were skeptical.) Independent (UK)

The rBST defense is a strong offense: Monsanto has taken to writing to government agencies to protest that "rBST-free" advertising by organic and other dairies is misleading. "Consumers, many of whom are misled by the deceptive advertising, pay higher prices for milk and get nothing in return," said the letters from Monsanto (which were cosigned by hundreds of dairy farmers). To which we say: Thanks for your concern, guys! It's great that you have consumers' best interests at heart. Here are some other advertising campaigns that could use your attention. Boston Globe

Therapy should help: What do pork producers feel about Burger King and others' announcement regarding cage-free sows? "Angst." Brownfield Network

Latté-breaking news: Starbucks is in trouble over actions to prevent its workers from unionizing. (New York Times) The Motley Fool defends Starbucks' and Whole Foods' anti-union stances.

We (heart) Umbra: Grist's advice columnist advises on picking the safest plastic sippy-cups for your kids. She closes with links to two important research documents on the effects of certain plastics: "I find them quite motivating, almost terrifying, definitely depressing; we have poisoned our entire world, and I am unable to summon a closing quip." Grist

Skyscraper farms?: Columbia University professor Dickson Despommier believes that “vertical farm” skyscrapers could help fight global warming. He says a 150-tower cluster on Governors Island or in Hudson Yards could grow enough fruit, vegetables, and grains organically to feed New York City for a year. Now we just need a billionaire to build a few prototypes. New York Magazine (via Treehugger)

Seal the borders: The FDA has told import inspectors to detain wheat gluten shipments from the Chinese supplier involved in the pet food recall. Reuters

Gluten tag: Why do we need to import gluten from China when we're the world's largest wheat exporter? The Explainers will tell you. Slate

Stand tall, proud yolk: How to tell if your egg is fresh. New York Magazine (via the Food Section)

Holding the line on GMOs in organic food: The European Parliament voted to preserve a very low limit for GMOs in organic food, 0.1%, after the U.K. proposed a 0.9% limit. Food Navigator

Anheuser-Busch is introducing organic beers in test markets in the U.S. (OMI)

A review says the new book "Twinkie, Deconstructed" will leave you craving something more substantial to read (Plenty)

50 foods to try before you die (NPR)

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