Digest – Features: Rats prefer organic, horse exposé, toothpaste hero

starThe rat's nose knows quality: Given a choice of biscuits made from organic or conventional wheat, 40 Swiss rats ate significantly more of the former. While organic advocates everywhere start jigging, writer and food scientist Harold McGee blows right past this revelation, explaining that it could be because organic produce generally packs "more antioxidants and other potentially healthful — and potentially flavorful — phytochemicals." And then he goes on to tell you how you can get the same result from your own plants, whether you're using organic methods or conventional. (New York Times)

starThey stab horses, do they?: Happy that court rulings closed U.S. horse slaughterhouses? Here's a deeply disturbing look at what's happening to the 30,000 U.S. horses shipped over the border to be killed instead in Mexico. Warning: Grab a hanky first, maybe a vomit bag too. It's accompanied by a slideshow (we couldn't watch it) and an editorial (worth reading). (San Antonio Express News; hat tip to GOAT)

And now, to cheer you up: The Times tracks down the Everyman who exposed tainted toothpaste — a 51-year-old Kuna Indian in Panama City. (New York Times)

starLearning from Gramps: An extremely funny, and surprisingly wise look at how those who came of age during the Great Depression might have a thing or two to teach us about being green. Sample: "The magic act that is consumerism depends upon a certain sleight of hand to convince us that it is always better to outsource to others those things that we once did for ourselves. Now, we find ourselves subject to the magician's greatest trick -- in the curious position of having to buy, from total strangers who live many thousands of kilometers away, one of the few key things that we actually require to survive. [Food.] It makes about as much sense as paying to have somebody blow air into your lungs through an extremely long tube. Only, the air has kind of a stale, farty taste after travelling so far, and the mechanical pump that is doing all of the work is a real bitch of a gas-guzzler." (AlterNet, via Adbusters)

A farm grows in Sydney: Where today you'd see four hectares of old buildings and other urban blight, the Sydney City Farm Group sees a farm, classrooms, and other sustainability-themed facilities. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Alton needs to get out more: "Good Eats" host Alton Brown, perhaps our favorite TV chef, is "excited about the fact that people are finally starting to put aside useless terms like 'organic' and 'sustainable,' and concentrating on words like 'local' — words that actually have meaning and have relation to our lives." But then he takes a swipe at the "hotbeds of culinary spokesmanship … New York and Berkeley are not like Kansas." Nope, they're not — but if you read us, the Eat Local Challenge, and any of these great non-Bay-Area-or-NY blogs, you'd know the same revolution is occurring around the country, too. (am-ny.com)

MaggieQPETA loves nekkid chicks: Asian actor and fashion icon Maggie Q is the latest to star in a pro-vegetarian ad for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. (Manila Times)

Who's the fairest of them all?: The fair-trade market is still small, but fast-growing, and has had a pronounced beneficial effect in small South American towns. However, not all farmers benefit equally. (New York Times)

We're still looking for the "ethical" part: Toronto-area supermarkets have debuted a Local Food Plus label for groceries grown locally, with an "eye on animal, workers rights." To be certified, they can't use "heavy chemicals [???], hormones or non-therapeutic antibiotics." We hope there are more stringent animal-raising specifics, as the newspaper doesn't mention any. (The Star)

The answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind: Percy and Louise Schmeiser are winners of the 2007 Right Livelihood Award, an "alternative Nobel prize" that recognizes those who promote peace, biodiversity and renewable energy. Monsanto sued the Canadian farming couple over their use of Monsanto seeds without a license. The Schmeisers claimed that the seeds blew onto their farm from another plot. While this may be true, here's the murky part of the case: the court documents indicate that the Schmeisers did knowingly isolate, save, and plant the transgenic variety. Regardless, we side with the Schmeisers that no entity should be able to patent a life form, and certainly not one whose movement it can't control. (The Canadian Press)

Checking out Prince Charles's new book about organic gardening (Christian Science Monitor)

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