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Unbridled industrialization with almost no environmental regulation has resulted in the toxic contamination of one-fifth of China’s farmland, the Communist Party has acknowledged for the first time.

The report, issued by the ministries of Environmental Protection and Land Resources, says 19.4 percent of the country’s soil is polluted with toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, nickel and arsenic. It was based on a soil survey of more than 2.4 million square miles of land across China, spanning a period from April 2005 until December. It excluded special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau.

In a dire assessment, the report says: “The overall condition of the Chinese soil allows no optimism.”

The NPR Report

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Seeds

This week, scientists, farmers and sustainable food systems advocates will gather on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to celebrate an unusual group of honored guests: 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains that are being publicly released using a novel form of ownership agreement known as the Open Source Seed Pledge.

The University of Wisconsin Article

The NPR Report

Rapid population growth — combined with our highly unbalanced distribution of wealth — and its obvious need for more resources (water, energy, food) may lead to a breaking point beyond which civilization becomes unsustainable.

Simply put, if you don’t have any water to drink or food to eat but your neighbors do and won’t share, you and your buddies are going to yank it away from them. Social unrest is not a joke.

The NPR Report with links to the Study

EVERYTHING around me indicates humanity needs to make rapid changes in their cultural and economic values.

By most measures, David Kesten’s hens are living the good life.

“They can act like chickens, they can run around,” says Kesten, who’s raising hens in an old wooden shed in the open countryside near Concordia, Mo. “They can go out and catch bugs, they can dig in the ground.”

But most U.S. hens live crammed into very close quarters, according to Joe Maxwell, with the Humane Society of the U.S. And he says that’s just wrong.

“There are some things we should not do to animals,” says Maxwell.

California voters felt the same way, and six years ago they passed Proposition 2, requiring California producers to provide cages that are almost twice as large as most chickens have now. The Legislature followed that with a law requiring that all eggs sold in California be raised under those conditions.

The NPR Report

Globalized Diet

An NPR article on what they call the new ‘globalized diet’…yikes!…we’re in trouble.

These days you can fly to far corners of the world and eat the pretty much the same food as you could back home. There’s pizza in China and sushi in Ethiopia.

A new scientific study shows that something similar is true of the crops that farmers grow. Increasingly, there’s a standard global diet, and the human race is depending more and more on a handful of major crops for much of its food.

Cottage Food Laws

Not only can cottage food laws free entrepreneurs from Kafkaesque government inspections, using their own kitchens to bake means they no longer have to rent out commercial kitchens, which can be expensive and not available in every city.

Take Patricia Kline of ipies.

“The biggest barrier to starting a food business is finding and keeping a commercial kitchen,” she remarked.  “And once you do have a kitchen, you have to compete with other food producers who also want to use the space.”  In the middle of her busiest season, Kline once lost her spot at four different commercial kitchens.

But thanks to the cottage food law, she can instead use her own kitchen at her apartment in San Francisco, slashing her costs.  She’s also gained “flexibility in baking:”  “The law has enabled me to take advantage of last minute orders.”

The Forbes Article

Sounds like with some sensible health safeguards home food enterprises can be safe, and very low cost economic development.

Nutrition Labels

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Choosing healthier foods at the grocery store may soon be a little easier.

The Food and Drug Administration is proposing several changes to the nutrition labels you see on packaged foods and beverages. If approved, the new labels would place a bigger emphasis on total calories, added sugars and certain nutrients, such as Vitamin D and potassium.

The FDA is also proposing changes to serving size requirements in an effort to more accurately reflect what people usually eat or drink. For example, if you buy a 20-ounce soda, you’re probably not going to stop drinking at the 8-ounce mark. The new rules would require that entire soda bottle to be one serving size — making calorie counting simpler.

The CNN Article