Digest – News & Commentary: Bee breakthrough, popcorn lung, progressive grocers

Duck! Six days' worth of links coming at you. Yeah, we're playing catch-up on some big news, and it really is 2:15 a.m.

NEWS

Unraveling the bee mystery: Genetic research on bees has indicated that Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) may be the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in American bees. (BBC NEWS) The always-excellent Andrew Martin reporting for the New York Times quotes experts saying that even if the virus was involved, it was likely that more than one factor had to align for a hive to collapse, with another possible influence being poor nutrition.

We always hated that smell at the office: Consumers, not just factory workers, may be in danger from fumes from fake butter flavoring used in microwave popcorn, reports the Washington Post and well, everybody. The evidence? One sad dude who's eaten several bags a day for years. Tom Philpott is poppin' with outrage at Gristmill over the feds' withholding safety studies.

Cutting out the middleman: Grocery chain Wegmans has started an organic research farm on 50 acres in upstate New York, to provide locally grown fruits, vegetables and honey to its nearby stores; save and test seeds; and, eventually, to serve as an educational model for local growers, employees and consumers. (Democrat & Chronicle; via Chews Wise)

starNutrition for dummies: Hannaford grocery store in Maine concluded a year-long experiment in using a rating system of one to three stars to nudge customers toward healthier food items. Too bad "healthier" was defined in terms of low fat: sales of whole milk, which received no stars, declined by 4 percent, while sales of fat-free milk (three stars) increased 1 percent. (New York Times)

Offshoring our okra: An increasing number of U.S. farmers have been testing the alternative of growing crops across the Mexico border where there is a stable labor supply. (New York Times)

Wiring up the farmers: A new website is trying to connect farmers around Charlotte, North Carolina, with restaurateurs in the city and suburbs. It may even lure back some who gave it up. Meanwhile, a new website in Wisconsin will allow farmers to take orders for their products from online shoppers, who then pick them up at local farmers markets.

Honey in the Holy Land: Archaeologists digging in northern Israel have discovered evidence of a 3,000-year-old beekeeping industry (San Francisco Chronicle)

Goats murdered: Someone or something attacked and killed several goats at a Corpus Christi high school's barn, used for its agriculture classes. (KRISTV)

You can be too green: Green tea is purported to have many health benefits. But green tea extracts taken in capsule form can deliver hundreds of times more of the green tea chemicals, leading to health problems. (Environmental Health Perspectives)

Politically correct: Comedian Bill Maher is writing Sen. Tom Harkin about the Farm Bill! (DesMoinesRegister.com Blogs)

Malaysian farmers ordered to get rid of 105,000 pigs to appease Muslim neighbors (Int'l Herald Tribune)

Gold vs. wild salmon in Alaska (Los Angeles Times)

California Milk Advisory Board to introduce a Real California Milk seal (USAgNet.com)

Montana Senator Jon Tester trying to get more Americans to switch to organic farming. (Montana's News Station)

COMMENTARY

starWhat he said: Well, we started a long critique of the New Yorker's disappointing food issue, of which Adam Gopnik's piece on eating locally in New York City was to be the main dish: a roast. Its smug condescension really stuck in our craw. Tom Philpott shares our sentiments, and his post eloquently renders ours moot: "In all, a disappointing performance — an exercise in glibness over depth — by a prominent writer in what's probably our most influential magazine." (Gristmill)

Creepy crawly composters: A paean to the worm bin, that "chest of garden treasure, a microbial engine room, a guilt extinguisher and a bank for small deposits of virtue." (New York Times)

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