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Archive for 'Farming & Agriculture'

India’s Miracle Crops

When the words ‘miracle’ and ‘crops’ show up in the same sentence, some type of genetic modification is typically involved. However, when it comes to the story of Sumant Kumar and his rice crop, only all-natural, non-genetically modified processes were used. By applying only manure and no herbicides, Kumar was able to produce the largest amount of rice on one hectare of land in history.

A modest farmer in the village of Darveshpura, Sumant Kumar never expected to create world records with his rice crop. He anticipated a good season due to the heavy rains his village had experienced, but he never could have imagined producing the amount of rice that he yielded. Through all-natural means, Kumar grew 22.4 tons of rice on just one hectare of land. To prove just how wild this amount is, this farmer typically yielded 4 to 5 tons of rice per hectare previously.
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Troy Roush agrees with the majority of Californians who believe consumers have the right to know what’s in their food. He is in favor of Prop 37 and supports required labeling of genetically modified foods (GMOs). None of this is moving until you find out that Troy is a farmer who grows GMO corn and soybeans. Surprised? I definitely was. Here is Troy’s quote from this 90 second video everyone should see:

“As a farmer, I invite labeling, I encourage labeling, I’d love to see labeling. Labeling is a win for farmers and a win for consumers.”

Feeling warm and fuzzy yet? I love his practical and direct way of looking at this complex issue. Please share and make sure all your California friends, family and colleagues vote YES on Prop 37 in November.

For more information on California Prop 37, visit http://www.carighttoknow.org/.

When I woke up yesterday and saw the headline, “Organic produce is no healthier or nutritious, finds study,” I was very curious. What exactly did this study look at and how did they come up with their conclusion? Turns out I wasn’t the only one who was interested. Our twitter page blew up with comments and articles on what the study missed. Mark Bittman showed a wee bit of frustration in his tweet:

Ridiculous Study Claims Organic Same as Conventional, irritates anyone capable of thought: http://buff.ly/NaNeKI

The Standford Study, as it is being referred, is a “meta-analysis” of a few hundred previously published research papers on the topic. The researchers reviewed the studies and and summarized the results in the journal, The Annals of Internal Medicine.

The Purpose: To review evidence comparing the health effects of organic and conventional foods.

The Conclusion: The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

While this sounds compelling, there was a whole lot left out. For example, two glasses of milk might be identical when it comes to the amount of vitamin D or calcium, but vastly difference when you start comparing added hormone or antibiotic levels. Also, nutrition is not the only reason why people choose organic. In the last day, I’ve read numerous articles about the Standford Study. To further understand what the study actually did and did not include, I urge you to read these three compelling articles.

5 Ways the Stanford Study Sells Organics Short
by Tom Philpott of Mother Jones

As an investigative journalist, Tom takes a deep dive on the study and points out the multitude of risks that pesticides both
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The Union of Concerned Scientists released a new infographic, Plant the Plate, this month. Their goal was to create a visual tool to help us understand what Americans are eating today and what we should be eating according to the USDA’s My Plate recommendations. Did you notice the very large section labeled, “Refined Grains?”

This is an interesting look at how much cropland is dedicated to fruits and veggies (which signify half of “My Plate”) and in contrast, how much money is spent on other crop subsidies. It’s a simple graphic that is easy to understand, yet begins to show the disparities of what is happening now and what needs to be done. Will anything change with the new 2012 Farm Bill? That is the question that we should all be pondering right now. Learn more about Farm Bill Basics in this paper by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

From the Union of Concerned Scientists:

We should eat more fruits and vegetables. Yet billions of taxpayer dollars are used to subsidize unhealthy, processed foods while fruit and vegetable farmers get little to no support. American farmers could grow the fruits and vegetables we need for a healthy diet but local food systems need increased public support to help make it happen. Our infographic, Plant the Plate, breaks it down.

Click on the image to see the full Infographic

This week we are showcasing films shown at the 2012 Edible Institute (“EI”).

 

The Dark Side of Chocolate Title

“In your lifetime, you have eating something produced by child labor” – U Robert Romano

 

U Roberto Romano does not shy away from a challenge. On the contrary, he takes subjects that no one wants to talk about and makes them into story-telling art. This award-winning photographer and producer, was at the EI 2012 to show two films, both of which center on the grim issue of child labor. Romano is a champion for children’s rights and I feel so fortunate to have heard his passion in person.

The biggest tragedy surrounding child labor in other countries is that it isn’t news anymore. What does it say about humanity when we’ve almost come to expect that miniature hands from Indonesia, India and Cambodia sew our clothes? It is estimated that there are 215 million child laborers in the world and, just so you can understand the magnitude of this number, the entire population of the Untied States is 313 million people. This is an epic, worldwide issue that affects not only children abroad, but also American children in our own back yards.
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This week we are showcasing films shown at the 2012 Edible Institute (“EI”).

 

The first time I saw Back to the Start, I almost started crying. I couldn’t believe that a mainstream company, even one as progressive as Chipotle, would release something like this. Sometimes I get lost in my little bubble of foodie-Santa Barbara where people discuss GMOs, CAFOs, Monstanto, and the Farm Bill at dinner parties. Then, I’ll visit friends out of town and realize that the American food norm is far, far away from my little world. A corporate company making a video about factory farming is abnormal.

I honestly thought that everyone had seen it (make sure to scroll down to the bottom for the making-of video too!). Except, when I asked my dad, brother and best friend, they hadn’t heard about it. Perhaps airing the video during the Grammys wasn’t enough?

I want all eaters to see this movie! Why? Because in 2 minutes and 20 seconds, Chipotle manages to tell a simple story of a farmer who moves from a sustainable family farm to an industrial animal factory and then realizes he needs to go back to where he started. I believe in baby steps. I believe that everyone needs to understand where their food comes from and how it’s made. That’s why my brother and I started Be Food Smart in the first place. In the food movement, there is so much talk about reaching those beyond “the choir.” The beauty of this mini movie is its simplicity and ability to reach the mainstream with a message they are not hearing right now. While Chipotle is certainly not perfect, they are a tiny stride in the right direction and, quite frankly, the food movement needs all the help it can get.

Watch now:
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Photo from WhiteOakPastures.com

 

It should be a rule never to have a Spring-forward, daylight savings time change in the middle of a two-day conference. I was exhausted from both the information packed day on Saturday and the evening gala, and didn’t expect 9:45am to feel so early. I was determined to ignore the tiredness and focus as it was day two of the Edible Institute (“EI” – click here to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this three-part series).

Note: The second day of EI, included several video and film viewings. Rather than include them all in this already too long blog post, we’ll be devoting next week to videos. Visit each day to watch these fabulous food-related video clips.

Telling Sustainable Meat Stories

I have to admit that the title of the first panel, wasn’t rocking my world. I was, however, impressed that the EI staff had managed to secure Chris Arnold, the Director of Communications for Chipotle. Also gracing the panel was Jeff Tripican, CMO & EVP of Sales for Niman Ranch, Will Harris who is president of White Oak Pastures and finally, Whole Foods Markets’ Meat Coordinator, Dave Ruedlinger. Boy was I in for a meaty treat.

The Chipotle story is truly fascinating. Founder Steve Ells essentially threw out the fast food restaurant model and started from scratch when he opened the first Chipotle restaurant in 1993. Over the years, the chain has grown and evolved to include: organic black beans, no dairy (sour cream and cheese) from cows treated with rBGH growth hormones, only antibiotic-free chicken, and are working towards a higher percentage of naturally raised beef and local suppliers. Arnold notes that, “We have the highest food cost of any restaurant [chain] in the industry and the highest profits…while we’re far from perfect, it’s surprising that more restaurant companies haven’t followed our model.” In 2000, Chipotle decided to move to all sustainably-raised pork and this meant a $1 increase to the carnitas for the customers. Arnold explains that many of their customers eat at Chipotle because they like the food, not because of any social message.
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