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Bottled water’s energy budget

In a short research paper, two staff members from the Pacific Institute examine how energy is used in the production and distribution of bottled water. Bottle production and transportation are by far the largest energy users, with pre-bottling water processing (filtration and disinfection), filling and...

Strengthening the “weakest link” in the local meat infrastructure

Friend of the Ethicurean Sam Fromartz looks at a new wave of small slaughterhouses that are appearing in Virginia. He focuses on True & Essential Meats of Harrisonburg, a new partnership of former landscape architect Joe Cloud, his mother, and Joel Salatin (of Polyface Inc., who was profiled in...

Research shows possible connection between pesticide use and skin cancer

Health researchers have been unable to explain why several studies have found an excess risk of melanoma and other skin cancer for farmers. Farmers spend time in the sun — which is a major risk factor — but could it be something else? New research suggests that exposure to certain pesticides could be one of...

Great food with “a side of sustainability” in L.A.

City of angelic eateries: Some prominent restaurants in metro Los Angeles are striving to become more "sustainable" — a term without a legal definition at this moment and all too often used as a meaningless marketing term — through all sorts of new programs. The relocated Grace, for example, will feature a...

Tracking the co-evolution of grass and humanity

High on grass: "We live in the age of grass," writes Olivia Judson, a research fellow in biology at Imperial College London, on the New York Times' Opinionator blog. Indeed, some of the crops that helped make humans an agricultural creature and create our complex civilization are grasses: wheat, rice, sugar...

The manurification of America

A perfect shitstorm: On some farms, animal manure can be a valuable asset, a way to improve the soil in the fields. But for today's massive factory farms — and, increasingly, the nation's air and waterways — manure is a huge liability, reports the Post's David A. Fahrenthold. Decomposing manure from factory...

Manure digesters clash with air quality requirements

Cracking down on methane labs: When animal manure decomposes, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide (on a mass basis). To avoid these emissions, some are installing manure digesters, in which bacteria convert the waste to methane gas. The methane is then burned in an...

Victory for Florida tomato pickers, or a sneaky worker-around?

Many months ago, thanks to a vigorous, multi-level campaign, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) secured pledges from big buyers like Burger King, Subway, McDonald's and Whole Foods to pay an extra penny a pound to Florida's tomato harvesters, bringing the per-bucket wage from 50 to 82 cents. (Workers...

Fertilizer overuse can acidify soil

Another reason to dislike the N-word: Fertilizer overuse creates many problems, like aquatic dead zones, resource depletion and blue-baby syndrome. One impact that has been mostly out of sight is soil acidification. A group of scientists from China, the UK and the US has been examining soil in China, where...

GMO wheat could be the next big thing—or maybe not

Sheave ho! Of the top three grains produced in the U.S., only No. 3  wheat (after corn and soybeans) is not overwhelmingly dominated by genetically modified varieties. In fact, you won’t find GM wheat in the United States at all. Henry Miller of the conservative Hoover Institution (and author of "The...

Animal welfare hot topic at Kansas Livestock Association convention

Moan on the range: Multiple speakers at the Kansas Livestock Association convention recently addressed public relations injuries to the livestock industry, thanks to animal welfare groups and others. The good news is that speakers acknowledged that the industry would fair better in the public eye if it did...

Voluntary effort to shift children’s advertising deemed unsuccessful

Ad news bears: Three years ago, a group of large food and beverage companies launched a voluntary initiative to change their advertising during TV programs favored by children. They were supposed to advertise more healthy foods and drinks, and fewer nutritionally deficient ones. Not surprisingly, the...

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