Daily Essentials | 29 May 2015

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OUTSIDE | The Piscavore’s Dilemma

“Just tell me what fish I can eat,” my mother pleaded. So I set out to produce a better answer, and what I learned surprised me. Not only might fish offer the best, and least ecologically damaging, solution to global food insecurity in a flesh-eating world, but some seafood is now produced so efficiently that even a vegan might be tempted to rethink his absolutist vows.

THE NEW YORK TIMES | A Proposal to Modify Plants Gives G.M.O. Debate New Life

What’s in a name?

A lot, if the name is genetically modified organism, or G.M.O., which many people are dead set against. But what if scientists used the precise techniques of today’s molecular biology to give back to plants genes that had long ago been bred out of them? And what if that process were called “rewilding?”

That is the idea being floated by a group at the University of Copenhagen, which is proposing the name for the process that would result if scientists took a gene or two from an ancient plant variety and melded it with more modern species to promote greater resistant to drought, for example.

MINNESOTA FARM LIVING | When our animals get sick and die

One of the hardest things about farming is when our animals are sick.

We hate it.

And the only thing worst than sick animals are dead animals. We just can’t get around the feeling that we have failed them.

SOIL SCIENCE SOCIETY OF AMERICA | Food or fuel? How about both?

In the United States, federal mandates to produce more renewable fuels, especially biofuels, have led to a growing debate: Should fuel or food grow on arable land? Recent research shows farmers can successfully, and sustainably, grow both. Russ Gesch, a plant physiologist with the USDA Soil Conservation Research Lab in Morris, Minnesota, found encouraging results when growing Camelina sativa with soybean in the Midwest.

…First, researchers planted camelina at the end of September. From there growing methods differed. In double-cropping, soybean enters the field after the camelina harvest in June or July. Relay-cropping, however, overlaps the crops’ time. Soybeans grow between rows of camelina in April or May before the camelina plants mature and flower.

First, researchers planted camelina at the end of September. From there growing methods differed. In double-cropping, soybean enters the field after the camelina harvest in June or July. Relay-cropping, however, overlaps the crops’ time. Soybeans grow between rows of camelina in April or May before the camelina plants mature and flower.

The benefits were numerous. Relay-cropping actually used less water than double-cropping the two plants. Camelina plants have shallow roots and a short growing season, which means they don’t use much water. “Other cover crops, like rye, use a lot more water than does camelina,” says Gesch.

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COLOSSAL | A Variety of Unprocessed Foods Cut into Uncannily Precise 2.5cm Cubes by Lernert & Sander

In 2014, Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant contacted conceptual design studio Lernert & Sander to create a piece for a special documentary photography issue about food. Lernert & Sander responded with this somewhat miraculous photo of 98 unprocessed foods cut into extremely precise 2.5cm cubes aligned on a staggered grid. Looking at the shot it seems practically impossible, but the studio confirms it is indeed the real thing. The photo is available as a limited edition print of 50 copies printed on 40 x 50cm baryta paper signed by the artists for about €500. You can learn more on their website. (via iGNANT)

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REAL AGRICULTURE | Canadian Senate Committee Releases Bee Health Report; Highlights Nine Recommendations for Preserving Bee Health

The Senate’s Standing Committee on Agriculture released its much-anticipated report on bee health today. Entitled The Importance of Bee Health to Sustainable Food Production in Canada, the document highlights the complexity of bee health, and the many factors influencing it, while providing a list of recommendations the committee believes are necessary for improving bee health. The recommendations include continued bee health surveillance and changes to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency’s (PMRA) registration process.

CIVIL EATS | Will North Carolina Make Documenting Abuse on Factory Farms Illegal?

Last week, the North Carolina senate approved a bill with a relatively unassuming name—the Property Protection Act. If the bill becomes a law, however, the state’s large animal farms, and a number of other businesses, will benefit from a new level of legal protection against workers looking to shed light on animal abuse or criminal activity.

As Paul Shapiro, Vice President of Farm Animal Protection at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), pointed out in recent op-ed in the National Review, “Ag-gag bills have become a public-relations nightmare for animal agriculture.” In 2013 the New York Times editorial board came out strongly against the bills, as has the Los Angeles Times, and a number of other newspapers around the nation. Shapiro quotes the National Pork Producers Council as saying: “We did a study of coverage of ‘ag-gag’ laws that found that 99 percent of the stories about it were negative.”

Matthew Dominguez, Public Policy Director of Farm Animal Protection at HSUS, says years of bad press led the industry to think creatively about expanding the terms of the legislation. “The ag folks know that if they only give themselves this protection from being exposed, it further proves they have something to hide. So, in recent years, they’ve intentionally expanded the reach very broadly to cover all business to cover their tracks,” he told Civil Eats. Even Smithfield Foods, the nation’s largest pork producer, now owned by a Chinese company, “has told HSUS that they do not support ag-gag laws,” Dominguez added.

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