MoJo Author Feeds: Tom Philpott | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/rss/authors/116126 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Trump Just Wrapped Up a Nice Double Gift to the Meat Industry http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/12/trump-just-wrapped-nice-double-gift-meat-industry <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>During the campaign, President-elect Donald Trump's agriculture advisers had a tough row to hoe: They had to assure farm state Republicans that Trump's constant tirades against trade wouldn't hurt a farm economy that relies increasingly on exports, by <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/08/meet-other-colorful-character-advising-donald-trump-ag-policy" target="_blank">mouthing</a> <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2016/07/meet-man-advising-donald-trump-ag-policy" target="_blank">vague platitudes</a> about the great "deals" the candidate would cut with key trading partners like China. They also stressed Trump's disdain for the regulation of farming practices, vowing he'd bring the Environmental Protection Agency to heel.</p> <p>On Wednesday, the incoming chief executive showed his willingness to make good on his promises to keep ag exports booming and gut environmental regulations on farms. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Trump's pick to serve as ambassador to China, has been promoting trade between his state's massive hog and soybean farms and China since the 1980s, when Branstad served the first of his two stints as governor. Then there's Scott Pruitt, Trump's choice to run the EPA. The Oklahoma attorney general is most famous for his <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/article/435470/climate-change-attorneys-general" target="_blank">climate change skepticism</a> and <a href="http://www.audubon.org/magazine/march-april-2015/big-oils-best-kept-secret" target="_blank">ties to the oil industry</a>, but he's also tightly aligned with his state's farm interests.</p> <p>Here's a quick rundown of why Trump's big Wednesday personnel choices amount to twin gifts to Big Ag.&nbsp;</p> <p>&bull; Branstad is enmeshed with Iowa's agribusiness interests. His chief patron is Bruce Rastetter,&nbsp;CEO of the sprawling Summit Agriculture Group, a major Iowa <a href="http://summitag.com/farms/pork-production/" target="_blank">pork</a> and ethanol producer with <a href="http://summitag.com/investors/brazil-funds/" target="_blank">interests in Brazil</a>. <em>Politico</em> <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/bruce-rastetter-iowa-2016-election-115677" target="_blank">describes</a> Rastetter as an "agribusiness mogul who's made a fortune in pork, ethanol and farm real estate." Branstad <a href="http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2015/02/28/rastetter-agriculture-summit-politics/24196387/" target="_blank">credits</a> Rastetter with convincing him to run for Iowa governorship in 2010. (Branstad had previously served as governor from 1983 to 1999.) Rastetter then backed up the idea by plying the candidate with <a href="http://theiowarepublican.com/2010/the-money-behind-branstad%E2%80%99s-comeback/" target="_blank">$164,875 in donations in 2010</a>&mdash;Branstad's biggest contributor that year. (His second-biggest contribution, at $152,000, was from Eldon and Regina Roth&mdash;Eldon Rothi is CEO of Beef Products International, maker of "lean finely textured beef," known in some quarters as "<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/03/pink-slime-school-lunch" target="_blank">pink slime</a>.")</p> <p>Once elected, Branstad quickly raised hackles by <a href="http://www.dailyiowan.com/2011/07/13/Metro/24115.html" target="_blank">appointing his patron to the University of Iowa's board of regents</a>. Rastetter now serves as <a href="http://www.iowaregents.edu/the-board/member-bios/bruce-rastetter/" target="_blank">president of the university's board</a>, and his tenure has been marked by steady controversy (see <a href="http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/readers-watchdog/2016/07/08/regents-firm-sold-land-isu-president-leath/86815250/" target="_blank">here</a>, and <a href="http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/education/college/2016/08/22/how-friendly-too-friendly-regents-presidents/88973812/" target="_blank">here</a>). His business, Summit, was "awarded $480,000 in no-interest loans from an Iowa State University center a few months after he joined the school's governing board," the<em> Des Moines Register</em> <a href="http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2014/08/30/board-regents-president-bruce-rastetter-awarded-interest-loans-iowa-state-university-center/14848175/" target="_blank">reports</a>. He also "pursued a deal with the Tanzanian government that would have used Iowa State University's expertise to develop farmland there and, in the original proposal, would have displaced refugees," the <em>Register</em> <a href="http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2015/02/28/rastetter-agriculture-summit-politics/24196387/" target="_blank">adds</a>. The university ended up backing away from the plan after <a href="http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2015/02/28/rastetter-agriculture-summit-politics/24196387/" target="_blank">controversy around the refugees</a> erupted. Through it all, Branstad <a href="http://iowacci.org/in-the-news/branstad-pushed-on-rastetter-at-the-fair/" target="_blank">resisted activist calls</a> to "fire Rastetter" from his perch on the regents board.</p> <p>Branstad wasn't satisfied just to appoint one generous Rastetter to a powerful state board. Back in 2011, the governor also <a href="http://www.bleedingheartland.com/2011/03/03/branstad-stacks-environmental-commission-with-agribusiness-advocates/" target="_blank">tapped</a> Rastetter's brother Brent, who then ran a business constructing industrial-scale hog-rearing facilities and who also contributed to Branstad's campaign, to the state's Environmental Protection Commission. Branstad also signed into law one of <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/03/will-agribiz-tied-governor-keep-iowas-factory-farms-shielded-view" target="_blank">those infamous "ag gag" bills</a>, championed by Big Ag, that <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/06/ag-gag-laws-mowmar-farms?page=2" target="_blank">make it a crime to secretly document conditions inside livestock farms</a>.</p> <p>When Branstad is installed as ambassador to China, Iowa's ag interests will have a strong advocate pushing to keep exports flowing east. Just last month, the governor <a href="http://www.iowaeconomicdevelopment.com/newsdetails/6444" target="_blank">led a trade mission there</a>, traveling with the heads of the Iowa Pork Producers Association and the Iowa Beef Industry Council. And that's crucial&mdash;with US meat consumption growing slowly, China has emerged as a key market for the handful of companies that dominate US meat production, as I show <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/05/chinas-biggest-meat-c-swallows-us-pork-giant-smithfield" target="_blank">here</a>. Indeed, the biggest US pork producer, Smithfield, is now a <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-08-25/smithfield-cfo-says-china-pork-exports-rise-45-in-first-half" target="_blank">Chinese-owned company</a>.</p> <p>&bull; Oklahoma's Pruitt, soon to take responsibility for executing US environmental policy, is also quite a piece of work. The EPA is already under<a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/22112016/epa-regulate-factory-farm-emissions-pollution" target="_blank"> heavy criticism</a> for <a href="http://www.circleofblue.org/2016/world/67739/" target="_blank">weak regulation</a> of pollution from the very kind of large-scale, concentrated livestock favored by Branstad and his patron Rastetter in Iowa. Like Iowa, Oklahoma has a heavy concentration of large-scale, confined animal operations&mdash;see Food and Water Watch's <a href="http://www.factoryfarmmap.org/#animal:all;location:OK;year:2012" target="_blank">"Factory Farm Map" for the state.</a> Pruitt, too, enjoys strong support from his state's agriculture interests, and has <a href="http://oklahomafarmreport.com/wire/news/2016/03/00078_ScottPruittOKFBConference03072016_201110.php#.WEitZqIrLwd" target="_blank">thundered against EPA farm regulations</a>.</p> <p>To be fair, Pruitt is hostile to the EPA in its entirety, not just in its capacity as a watchdog of farm pollution. On his <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/e-scott-pruitt-3b771653" target="_blank">LinkedIn page</a>, Pruitt boasts that he's a "leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda." But while his ties to the fossil fuel industry are well known, his chumminess with his state's ag interests are also worth noting. This year, he hotly supported <a href="http://www.normantranscript.com/news/questions-and-answers-on-right-to-farm-sq/article_5c5e9a9d-6faa-5f82-85ee-0d375b154cd9.html" target="_blank">State Question 777,</a>&nbsp; informally known as a "right to farm" law, which would have restricted efforts by the state or localities to regulate farms&mdash;a blatant attempt to protect large-scale operations. The initiatives's supporters, led by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. and the Oklahoma Pork Council, <a href="http://oklahomawatch.org/2016/11/01/records-show-top-donors-to-state-question-campaigns/" target="_blank">spent</a> about $1 million promoting it. Opponents, led by the Humane Society of the US, also spent around $1 million.</p> <p>Oklahoma voters <a href="https://ballotpedia.org/Oklahoma_Right_to_Farm_Amendment,_State_Question_777_(2016)" target="_blank">shot down the measure by a 60-40 margin</a>, but it didn't lose for lack of effort by Pruitt. Back in 2014, Pruitt l<a href="https://www.humanewatch.org/oklahoma-to-investigate-hsus/" target="_blank">aunched </a>an <a href="https://www.humanewatch.org/oklahoma-attorney-general-subpoenas-hsus/" target="_blank">investigation</a> of of the Humane Society, which was organizing opposition to the Right to Farm proposal. In 2015, HSUS hit back, <a href="http://www.humanesociety.org/news/press_releases/2015/01/ok-ag-lawsuit-abuse-of-power.html" target="_blank">suing</a> Pruitt for what it called a "nearly yearlong campaign of political harassment and public vilification" against the animal welfare group. HSUS ultimately dropped the suit after the attorney general's office announced it was no longer investigating HSUS.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Pruitt's relations with meat industry interests flourished. In August 2015, the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association <a href="http://www.hpj.com/livestock__general/attorney-general-scott-pruitt-honored-by-oklahoma-cattlemen/article_daefc113-5c4e-5b07-b04f-e08ff3498ac3.html" target="_blank">honored</a> him with its Distinguished Service Award, given to "individuals who have contributed to the success of the OCA and the Oklahoma beef cattle industry."</p> <p>And just last month, days before the presidential election, he <a href="http://www.okfarmbureau.org/index.php?action=news.newsdetail&amp;rowid=804" target="_blank">keynoted</a> the Oklahoma Farm Bureau's annual convention. In his <a href="http://www.okfarmbureau.org/index.php?action=news.radiodetail&amp;rowid=4702" target="_blank">speech</a>, he lambasted EPA overreach, complaining that the agency is "affecting farmers and ranchers, it's affecting oil and gas."</p> <p>About that: Farmers and ranchers are indeed suffering&mdash;but government overreach is <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/12/paul-ryan-just-talked-some-real-nonsense-about-whats-crushing-us-farms" target="_blank">the least of their problems</a>.</p></body></html> Environment Food Thu, 08 Dec 2016 11:00:15 +0000 Tom Philpott 320966 at http://www.motherjones.com A Terrifying Superbug Just Showed Up on a US Farm for the First Time http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/12/another-novel-superbug-shows-us-hog-farm <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2015/12/meat-industry-still-cant-get-enough-antibiotics" target="_blank">More than 70 percent of the antibiotics consumed in the United States go to livestock farms</a>, one of the main triggers driving a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/09/united-nations-antibiotic-resistance" target="_blank">rising crisis of antibiotic resistance in human medicine</a>.</p> <p>On Tuesday, researchers from Ohio State University <a href="http://aac.asm.org/content/early/2016/11/15/AAC.01298-16.full.pdf+html?sid=f2e0d08d-dbe9-4412-8230-84c3d2b733ab" target="_blank">published an alarming finding</a> in a peer-reviewed journal: On a US hog farm, they found bacteria that can withstand a crucial family of antibiotics. Carbapenems, as they are known, are a "last line of defense" against bacterial pathogens that can resist other antibiotics, the paper notes. Worse still, the gene that allowed the bacteria to resist carbapenems turned up in a plasmid&mdash;small chunks of DNA found in bacterial cells. Plasmid-carried genes bounce easily from one bacterial strain to another, meaning that carbapenem resistance is highly mobile<strong>&mdash;</strong>making it more likely to find its way into bacterial pathogens that infect people.</p> <p>If this news sounds depressingly familiar, it's because something very similar happened with another last-ditch antibiotic, colostin. About a year ago, Chinese researchers alarmed global public health authorities when they <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2015/11/what-uou-need-know-about-superbug-now-breeding-chinas-hog-farms" target="_blank">found a "plasmid-mediated" strain of colistin-resistant <em>E. coli</em></a> on a Chinese hog farm. As predicted, it quickly went global, and it <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/05/worlds-scariest-superbug-has-landed-us" target="_blank">turned up in the United States</a> in a patient in May, as well as in a pig intestine <a href="http://blogs.usda.gov/2016/05/26/proactive-efforts-by-u-s-federal-agencies-enable-early-detection-of-new-antibiotic-resistance/" target="_blank">identified by US Department of Agriculture researchers</a>. In September, Rutgers and Columbia University researchers <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/09/utis-are-about-get-lot-harder-treat" target="_blank">found a strain of <em>E. coli</em></a><em> </em>with plasmid-carried resistance to colostin <em>and</em> carbapenems. The new Ohio State study marks the first time plasmid-borne carbapenem resistance has been found on a US farm, though it has turned up in livestock operations in Asia and Europe, the researchers write.</p> <p>To see whether carbapenem resistance is taking hold on US hog farms, the researchers settled on a 1,500-sow confined operation that follows "typical US production practices," which include giving newborn pigs a dose of an antibiotic called ceftiofur at birth, with the males getting a second dose when they're castrated at six days. Interestingly, carbapenems are banned from use in US farms. But ceftiofur is a member of the&nbsp;cephalosporin family of antibiotics, which kills bacteria in a similar way to carbapenems, and the authors speculate that those&nbsp;ceftiofur doses "may provide significant selection pressure" for the emergence of carbapenem resistance. They found it in swabs taken from the the surfaces of the farrowing and nursery pens.</p> <p>Interestingly, the pigs don't get ceftiofur after those initial doses at birth, except to treat sickness. And at later stages of the pig-raising process, such as the finishing barns where pigs are fattened to slaughter weight, no carbapenem-resistant bacteria turned up. That's likely because the absence of ceftiofur "likely removed antimicrobial selection pressure" for the resistant gene, causing it to lose its niche. That absence of carbapenem-resistant bacteria in the late-stage pigs is good news&mdash;it means the superbug is "unlikely to have entered the food supply through contamination of fresh pork products."</p> <p>But given how quickly the gene can jump from one bacterial strain to another, the study identified a ticking time bomb. Cephalosporins, the class of antibiotics that may have triggered the carbapenem-resistant bacteria&nbsp;<strong> </strong>on this particular farm, aren't administered nearly as much as other antibiotics on US farms, but alarmingly their use jumped 57 percent between 2009 and 2014, according to the <a href="http://according%20to%20the%20latest%20Food%20and%20Drug%20Administration%20numbers" target="_blank">latest Food and Drug Administration numbers</a>. And the Ohio State study settled on one typical US hog operation. Who knows what's going on with the&nbsp;<a href="http://https://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2012/Online_Resources/Highlights/Hog_and_Pig_Farming/" target="_blank">21,000-plus others</a>.</p> <p>Over on the Natural Resources Defense Council blog, antibiotic-resistance expert David Wallinga <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/experts/david-wallinga-md/long-dreaded-superbug-discovered-us-pig-farms" target="_blank">notes</a> that the bacteria that turned up in the Ohio State study is carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, "one of the nastier superbugs." He continues:</p> <blockquote> <p>Infections with these germs are very difficult to treat, and can be deadly&mdash;the death rate from patients with CRE bloodstream infections is up to 50 percent. The <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/drugresistance/pdf/ar-threats-2013-508.pdf">CDC says</a> these bacteria already cause 9,300 infections, and 600 deaths each year. To date, CRE infections occur mostly among patients in hospitals and nursing homes; people&nbsp;on breathing machines, or with tubing inserted into their veins or bladders are at higher risk, as are people taking long courses of certain antibiotics. But newer, more resistant kinds of CRE seem to be causing&nbsp; more problems outside hospitals, in communities and among healthier people.</p> </blockquote> <p>Way back in 2012, the Obama administration <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/04/fda-factory-farms-antibiotics" target="_blank">introduced a new set of guidelines</a>&mdash;that will finally go into full effect on January 1&mdash;designed to preserve antibiotics as a bulwark against dangerous infections by curbing their use on farms. As I show <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2015/12/meat-industry-still-cant-get-enough-antibiotics" target="_blank">here</a>, meat farms use about three times as much of these vital drugs as does human medicine. Yet the Obama guidelines are both voluntary and contain a huge loophole, which I tease out <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/05/perdue-antibiotic-free-chicken-meat-resistance" target="_blank">here</a>. And now, even as terrifying superbugs continue appearing in the United States, we have a new president whose agriculture advisers have expressed <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2016/07/meet-man-advising-donald-trump-ag-policy" target="_blank">nothing but hostility</a> toward regulating food production.</p></body></html> Environment Food Wed, 07 Dec 2016 11:00:13 +0000 Tom Philpott 320786 at http://www.motherjones.com Big Ag Just Got A Big, Wet Kiss From Paul Ryan http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/12/paul-ryan-just-talked-some-real-nonsense-about-whats-crushing-us-farms <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" background="#000000" flashvars="pType=embed&amp;si=254&amp;pid=GfBwyu50Q0n9&amp;uuid=71250552-6fae-40fd-a1aa-128270741563&amp;url=http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/the-speaker-of-the-house-2" height="387" salign="lt" scale="noscale" src="http://www.cbsnews.com/common/video/cbsnews_video.swf" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="620"></embed></p> <p><a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-paul-ryan-on-partnership-with-donald-trump/" target="_blank">Asked by <em>60 Minutes</em>' Scott Pelley</a> what he expected to "get through the Congress" in 2017, US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R.-Wisc.) echoed a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2016/07/meet-man-advising-donald-trump-ag-policy" target="_blank">theme articulated by Donald Trump's agricultural advisers</a> during the campaign: that an unnamed but onerous set of regulations is somehow strangling the nation's farmers.</p> <p>Here's Ryan (emphasis added; starts about 4:25 in the video above):</p> <blockquote> <p>We really want to focus on economic growth and growing the economy. There are a lot of regulations that are really just crushing jobs. Look at the coal miners in the Rust Belt that are getting out of work. Look at the&mdash; look at the loggers and the timber workers and the paper mills in the West Coast.<strong> </strong><em>Look at the ranchers or farmers in the Midwest with regulations.</em></p> </blockquote> <p>It's unclear exactly what legislative remedy Ryan foresees to this allegedly crushing regulatory burden. The farm-state politician has his finger on a real problem: cattle ranchers and Midwest fcrop armers are indeed suffering hard times. But it's not the cruel regulatory hand of the nanny state that's causing the farm crisis.</p> <p>Let's look at ranchers first. Cattle prices have <a href="http://futures.tradingcharts.com/chart/LE/M?anticache=1480969670" target="_blank">dropped steadily</a> since the beginning of 2015. According to the l<a href="https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-economy/farm-sector-income-finances/2016-farm-sector-income-forecast/" target="_blank">atest US Department of Agriculture forecast</a>, US cattle farmers will bring home 14.8 percent less in income this year than they did in 2015, pinched by lower prices. But if Ryan and Trump actually listen to ranchers, they won't likely hear many complaints about how over-regulation is pinching their bottom lines. As I <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2016/01/malheur-militants-are-picking-wrong-beef-feds" target="_blank">showed back in January</a>, the real problem haunting ranchers is highly concentrated corporate power, not state power: just four companies slaughter and pack more than 80 percent of the cows raised in the United States, giving them massive leverage over prices paid to ranchers.</p> <p>The group <a href="http://www.r-calfusa.com/about-us/" target="_blank">R-CALF USA,</a> which represents independent ranchers, recently released its "<a href="http://www.r-calfusa.com/r-calf-usa-shares-100-day-strategy-1200-ranchers-dakotas/" target="_blank">five urgent tasks for the new administration.</a>" Not one of them involves over-regulation. Indeed, the group calls for <em>more</em> regulation&mdash;mainly to constrain the power of the big beef packers. The group exhorts Trump to "enforce antitrust laws to stop packers from using their tremendous market power to exploit cattle producers on one end of the supply chain and consumers on the other," as well as forbid those mega-meat packers from maintaining their own cattle herds, which they can use to drive down prices paid to independent ranchers.</p> <p>R-CALF<strong> </strong>also wants Trump to reinstate a federal rule known as COOL, which requires that retail meat be labeled according to its country of origin. In 2015, <a href="https://www.meatinstitute.org/index.php?ht=display/ReleaseDetails/i/117833/pid/287" target="_blank">cheered on by the meat industry</a>, the US House snuck a <a href="http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/12/usda-ends-cool-enforcement-with-presidents-signature-on-omnibus-bill/#.WEXvcKIrLwc" target="_blank">provision repealing COOL into a unrelated budget bill</a>, which President Obama had little choice but to sign. R-CALF wants COOL back, so "US ranchers can compete against the growing tide of undifferentiated foreign beef imported into their domestic market."</p> <p>Ryan also mentioned farmers in the Midwest. If he's talking about the people who grow the nation's corn and soybeans, by far the region's top crops, they are indeed hurting. After years of overproduction, corn and soybean prices are in a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/10/farmers-are-losing-225-each-acre-corn" target="_blank">prolonged slump</a>&mdash;so low that they don't cover the full costs of production, notes a recent <a href="https://research.rabobank.com/far/en/sectors/farm-inputs/field-crop-margin-outlook-2017.html" target="_blank">report</a> from the Dutch global agribusiness bank Rabobank. What's keeping farmers afloat is exactly what Ryan and Trump deplore: government action. According to the <a href="https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-economy/farm-sector-income-finances/2016-farm-sector-income-forecast/" target="_blank">USDA</a>, low prices are expected to trigger $12.9 billion in federal payment to farmers for the 2016 growing season&mdash;a 19.1 percent jump over last years.</p> <p>And Midwestern farms' woes aren't due to over-regulation, either. Again, corporate power plays a role. In short, as I have shown before (see <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2014/10/farmers-are-losing-225-each-acre-corn" target="_blank">here</a> and <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/09/tragedy-industrial-farming-charts" target="_blank">here</a>), the Midwest's growers are wedged between a small cadre of commodity buyers (Archers Daniels Midland, Cargill, Bunge) that are always looking to drive crop prices down, and an ever-smaller group of seed and pesticide suppliers&mdash;Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, DuPont, Syngenta&mdash;always looking to push up the price of seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides.</p> <p>All five of those companies <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/09/whoa-monsanto-about-get-swallowed-german-giant-bayer" target="_blank">are currently involved in merger deals </a>that will be vetted by the incoming Trump Administration. With a laissez faire zealot like Ryan acting as one of the few checks on Trump's power, it's hard to imagine the new president making an antitrust stand.</p></body></html> Politics Food Tue, 06 Dec 2016 01:51:47 +0000 Tom Philpott 320711 at http://www.motherjones.com 5 Cookbooks That Wowed Us in 2016 http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/11/five-best-cookbooks-2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This year has been a rough one, characterized by political catastrophe and the deaths of great musicians: Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones, and more. One way I've coped is by cooking while listening to favorite songs from these fallen geniuses&mdash;and a bumper crop of great cookbooks has been a great comfort. I began 2016 in a kitchen rut. For years, I've been focused on getting great seasonal ingredients and doing as little to them as possible&mdash;and most of the cookbooks I've leaned on in recent years follow that solid but ultimately limiting strategy. My favorite cookbooks of 2016 are ones that shook me up, pushed me into new flavor palates and kitchen strategies. You can listen to me review my five favorites in this week's episode of <em>Bite</em> podcast and read about them below.</p> <div class="art19-web-player awp-medium awp-theme-dark-orange" data-episode-id="b7ce8900-bc89-4a7e-a466-03bf04797d83">&nbsp;</div> <script src="https://d2nx6ydw3e5y5d.cloudfront.net/assets/current.js" type="text/javascript"></script><p>&bull; <strong><em>Taste of Persia: A Cook's Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan, </em>by </strong><strong>Naomi Duguid </strong></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/persia_0.jpg"></div> <p>The intrepid Naomi Duguid has written a fantastic guide to a grand cuisine that is little known to US eaters, mainly because of the <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-24316661" target="_blank">tortured history of the the US-Iran relationship</a>. This one is personal for me, because way back in my college years, I lived for a while with Iranian housemates. The only way they could get a taste of home was to cook for themselves. The main thing I remember was their distinctive way with rice, which they intentionally overcooked to the point that it developed a golden-brown crust along the edges. They'd use this crisp outer layer like a flatbread, dipping it into spicy lamb or beef stews. Duguid's book takes me straight back to that time&mdash;she delivers a foolproof recipe for that crusty rice, called <em>chelo.</em> And she also opens whole new vistas on a grand but neglected cuisine that sparkles with mint, parsley, pomegranate, rose petals, and spices like cinnamon and cardamom. On Thanksgiving, I cooked a dish&mdash;recipe <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/11/year-im-giving-thanks-immigrants" target="_blank">here</a>&mdash;that combined many of those elements into a gorgeous and delectable soup.</p> <p><strong>Great gift for: </strong> The committed home cook who has hit a rut; anyone interested in learning more about Iran and its foodways<br><strong>Killer dish:</strong> Pomegranate ash (soup) with lamb meatballs; crusty Persian rice<br><strong>Dish I'm dying to try: </strong>Purlsane soup</p> <p><strong><em>&bull; All Under Heaven: Recipes From the 36 Cuisines of China, </em>by Carolyn Phillips</strong></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/all-under-heaven.jpg"></div> <p>Here is an ambitious take on a country whose cuisine is both ubiquitous and brutalized here in the United States. Carolyn Phillips is a veteran expert on Chinese cooking and creator of the blog <em><a href="http://carolynjphillips.blogspot.com/" target="_blank">Madame Huang's Kitchen</a></em>, which takes the last name of her husband, a Chinese national. This doorstop of a book divides the country into five regions. Each section obliterates the idea of a monolithic cuisine that draws its flavor from MSG and whose idea of a vegetable is a canned water chestnut. Many of the recipes are dead simple: "fried green onion noodles" could be whipped up on a Tuesday night without any special ingredients. Others, like Hangzou-style noodle soup, require a bit more prep&mdash;and bamboo pith fungus. Generally, you'll need access to a decent Chinese grocery, but mostly you'll just have to seek out quality produce, meat, and fish. Despite its reputation here, Chinese cooking does not hide food under a cloak of heavy and cloying condiments. I've never been to China, but for me, <em>All Under Heaven</em> brings home the vibrant, vegetable-forward, umami-laced restaurant cooking I've found in places with large Chinese enclaves, like Manhattan's Chinatown. For a deep dive into that storied area, check out <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/10/chinatown" target="_blank">this episode of <em>Bite</em> podcast</a>.</p> <p><strong>Great gift for:</strong> Adventurous cooks looking for a deep deep into the vast universe of Chinese cookery<br><strong>Killer dish:</strong> Fried green onion noodles<br><strong>Dish I'm dying to try:</strong> Oyster/pork belly spring rolls</p> <p>&bull; <strong><em>A New Way to Dinner: A Playbook of Recipes and Strategies for the Week Ahead, </em>by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs</strong></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/newway.jpeg"></div> <p>This is the magnum opus of the kitchen wizards behind the venerable website <a href="https://food52.com/" target="_blank">Food 52</a><strong><em>. </em></strong>It's really two cookbooks: one chock-full of the kind of straight-ahead, irresistible stuff you find on Food 52, like fish filets coated with herbed mayo, gently roasted, and then broiled to develop a burnished top. Yum, right? But it's also a kind of meta-cookbook offering a strategy that will be appreciated by many food-obsessed people (like me) who are tired of eating dinner at 10 p.m., and then facing a sink-full of dishes as midnight creeps in on a work night. In their scheme, you do all the menu planning, shopping, and most of the prepping over the weekend. You devote about three hours to the complicated, time-consuming stuff then, and whip out marvelous dinners during the week without much fuss or cleanup. No one who's not already obsessed with regularly cooking top-notch home-cooked meals will ever do this&mdash;it's hard to compete with takeout and meal kits&mdash;but I love it. No more rushing to the grocery on Wednesday night to throw together an ultimately stress-inducing, messy meal.</p> <p><strong>Great gift for:</strong> Overcommitted people who refuse to compromise on great home-cooked meals<br><strong>Killer dish: </strong>Low-maintenance fish tacos<br><strong>Dish I'm dying to try:</strong> Chicken cutlets with chermoula and preserved lemon</p> <p>&bull; <strong><em>Home Cooked: Essential Recipes for a New Way to Cook, </em>by Anya Fernald</strong></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/anya.jpg"></div> <p>Anya Fernald is a longtime expert on the flavors and culinary techniques of Italy, and runs a California pasture-based meat empire called <a href="http://www.belcampo.com/" target="_blank">Bel Campo</a>. I opened the book half-expecting to be put off by Northern California sanctimony, but in the end I got sucked in by the sometimes-complicated and potently flavored dishes on offer. Like the Food 52 authors, Fernald urges readers to take a long view of cooking. Many of her dishes rely on what she calls "long cuts"&mdash;"time-consuming base ingredients made when time and ingredients are abundant, then preserved to be used when they are needed." She offers an impossibly rich, glorious, and relatively quick ragu&mdash;quick, that is, for those who have bone broth, preserved tomatoes, and sofrito already on hand, all of which Frenald tells you how to do. That sofrito is the base of many dishes&mdash;it's just onions, carrots, and celery slow cooked in olive oil and blended into a burnt-orange paste with a flavor as deep as the roots of an old-growth tree. Fernald suggests making a big batch and then freezing it in ice cube trays, ready when you need it. A mere dollop makes her eggs poached in a quick sauce of grated fresh tomatoes into an easy weeknight triumph.</p> <p><strong>Great gift for:</strong> Overcommitted people who refuse to compromise on great home-cooked meals&mdash;and dream of Italy<br><strong>Killer dish: </strong>Eggs poached in tomato sauce<br><strong>Dish I'm dying to try:</strong> <em>Torta di verdure </em>(a kind of savory pie stuffed with greens); beef cruda (an enticing, Italian take on tartare)</p> <p>&bull; <strong><em>Around the Fire: Recipes for Inspired Grilling and Seasonal Feasting From Ox Restaurant, </em>by</strong> <strong>Greg Denton and Gabrielle Qui&ntilde;&oacute;nez Denton</strong></p> <div class="inline inline-right" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/fire_2.jpg"></div> <p>I'm normally allergic to cookbooks based on a single method of cooking. I'm also skeptical of chef-authored books, because they tend to presume limitless time and labor. So when I picked up this pretty tome, by the chef-owners of the famed open-fire restaurant Ox in Portland, I didn't expect to be drawn in. I thought it might start with a recipe for constructing a vast restaurant-grade fire pit topped with a cast-iron grate&mdash;and then harangue me to spend hours hunting down fancy cuts of firewood. But it turns out to have plenty of great ideas even for a backyard Weber-and-charcoal fellow like me. I never saw the point of grilled fish&mdash;saut&eacute;ing works so well&mdash;but their mackerel made a believer out of me. Along with flame-kissed mackerel steaks, you grill <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poblano" target="_blank">poblano chilies</a> till they're charred and then use them to make a smoky version of that great Spanish sauce, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romesco" target="_blank">Romesco</a>. Their meat preparations&mdash;think onion-marinated skirt steak with the delectable Argentine green sauce chimichurri&mdash;are also top-notch. And since Ox is inspired by South American cooking, they also deliver great recipes for empanadas, as well as delectable and dead-easy ceviches that never touch a grill.</p> <p><strong>Great gift for:</strong> The grill obsessed, and the kitchen-bound cook who needs reminding of the glories of outdoor cooking<br><strong>Killer dish: </strong>Onion-marinated skirt steak with the chimichurri<br><strong>Dish I'm dying to try</strong>: Grilled artichokes with espelette mayo</p> <p><em>Honorable mention: </em>The veteran food writer Ronni Lundy has written a gorgeous ode to the cooking of Appalachia, called <em>Victuals</em>. Pronounced "vittles," as the book's cover makes clear,&nbsp;<em>Victuals</em> is equal parts cookbook and travelogue. It demonstrates that this stunningly beautiful, long-beleaguered region boasts a proud culinary heritage and an even richer food future. A traditional mountain dish called "killed lettuce"&mdash;lettuce leaves tossed with chopped green onions and vinegar and then wilted with hot bacon grease&mdash;exemplifies the hearty, resourceful cooking of the region.</p></body></html> Environment Food Fri, 02 Dec 2016 11:00:12 +0000 Tom Philpott 320421 at http://www.motherjones.com Science Says Magic Mushrooms Can Help Ease the Horror of Late-Stage Cancer http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/12/psilocybin-magic-mushrooms-psychedelics-cancer-new-york-university-johns-hopkins-michael-pollan <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Cancer doesn't just ravage bodies. People stricken with life-threatening cancers are also prone to depression and anxiety, which can in turn make them more vulnerable to succumbing to the disease. So any treatment that can ease the psychological toll of cancer not only reduces suffering; it can also prolong lives. Two separate research teams&mdash;one at <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-12/nlmc-sdo112816.php" target="_blank">New York University</a>, one at <a href="http://hub.jhu.edu/2016/12/01/hallucinogen-treats-cancer-depression-anxiety/" target="_blank">Johns Hopkins</a>&mdash;published studies Thursday identifying such a remedy: a single magic-mushroom trip, experienced under controlled conditions with a therapist.</p> <p>Even though these results are promising, they likely won't lead to a treatment your doctor can prescribe anytime soon. In a June episode of <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/06/michael-pollan-psychedelic-magic-mushrooms-cancer-psilocybin" target="_blank"><em>Bite</em> podcast</a>, author Michael Pollan gave us a brilliant rundown on the history and science of hallucinogenic compounds like LSD and magic mushrooms (which contain psilocybin). Pollan explains how their ability to generate altered mental states has shrouded them in taboo&mdash;and made us turn away from their potential as medicines. As the NYU team notes, hallucinogens&mdash;including psilocybin&mdash;have shown promise for treating cancer stress for decades. But research on them halted in the mid-1970s, after the passage of Controlled Substance Act, which deemed LSD and magic mushrooms illegal substances.</p> <div class="art19-web-player awp-medium awp-theme-dark-orange" data-episode-id="13939690-0184-4a1c-ab13-5d4df344ce02">&nbsp;</div> <script src="https://d2nx6ydw3e5y5d.cloudfront.net/assets/current.js" type="text/javascript"></script><p>As Pollan explained in a 2015 <em>New Yorker</em> <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/09/trip-treatment" target="_blank">piece</a>, the gradual easing of the federal government's "war on drugs" has opened space for a small renaissance of research. These two new studies are some of the earliest fruit of that effort. Both the NYU and the Johns Hopkins study focused on a group of cancer patients suffering from anxiety and depression, and used the "double-blind" method, meaning neither the subjects nor their therapists knew who got the real drug and who got the placebo.</p> <p>The NYU team divided 29 patients into two groups, half of whom got a "single moderate dose" of psilocybin, the compound that brings the magic to psychedelic mushrooms; the other half got a dose of niacin, a common B vitamin. After seven weeks, the groups crossed over&mdash;the psilocybin-dosed patients got niacin, and vice-versa. Both also received psychotherapy.</p> <p>The results were stark:&nbsp;A single dose of psilocybin "produced immediate, substantial, and sustained improvements in anxiety and depression and led to decreases in cancer-related demoralization and hopelessness, improved spiritual well-being, and increased quality of life." After about six months, these benefits persisted for most of the participants.</p> <p>The Johns Hopkins study also involved two groups of cancer patients. Instead of niacin, half of them initially got a tiny, "placebo-like" dose of psilocybin, while the other half got doses similar to the ones in the NYU study. After five weeks, they crossed over. "Drug sessions were conducted in an aesthetic living-room-like environment with two monitors present," the researchers write. They continue:</p> <blockquote> <p>For most of the time during the session, participants were encouraged to lie down on the couch, use an eye mask to block external visual distraction, and use headphones through which a music program was played. The same music program was played for all participants in both sessions. Participants were encouraged to focus their attention on their inner experiences throughout the session.</p> </blockquote> <p>And the results were similar to those of the NYU study: After getting a dose of magic mushrooms, patients quickly showed "large decreases" in depression and anxiety, "along with increases in quality of life, life meaning, and optimism, and decreases in death anxiety," effects that persisted for a majority of the patients six months later.</p> <p>The decidedly positive results are a big deal, because as the NYU team notes in its study, cancer patients are often treated with conventional pharmaceuticals to treat depression and anxiety, but these drugs don't take effect very rapidly or last very long, and carry "significant side effects" that make them unpleasant to use. By contrast, a single dose of psilocybin usually produced what might be described in layman's terms as a "good trip"&mdash;what the authors call a "psilocybin-induced mystical experience." As for unpleasant side effects, the NYU researchers found none. Some of the Johns Hopkins patients did experience elements of what might be called bad trips after their dose&mdash;15 percent endured nausea or vomiting, for example, and 32 percent reported some form of "psychological discomfort"&mdash;but none of these adverse episodes were deemed serious.</p> <p>And there were positive side effects. In a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-12/nlmc-sdo112816.php" target="_blank">press release</a>, Anthony Bossis, one of the NYU researchers, noted study participants reported "going out more, greater energy, getting along better with family members, and doing well at work," as well as "unusual peacefulness and increased feelings of altruism." Bossis stressed, though, that no one, including cancer patients, should take psilocybin on their own or "without supervision by a physician and a trained counselor."</p> <p>Of course, bringing psilocybin to market as an approved pharmaceutical will likely require years of research and regulatory maneuvering.<strong> </strong>As Pollan argued <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/06/michael-pollan-psychedelic-magic-mushrooms-cancer-psilocybin" target="_blank">on <em>Bite</em></a>, the paranoia psychedelics can generate is not confined to people on a bad trip. "They're very threatening substances to institutional power, whether it's religious institutions or the state," Pollan said.</p></body></html> Environment Food Health Health Care Pharma Science Thu, 01 Dec 2016 21:55:55 +0000 Tom Philpott 320486 at http://www.motherjones.com Canada Just Took a Big Step Toward Banning a Nasty Pesticide http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/11/while-trump-mulls-gutting-epa-canada-about-ban-major-pesticide <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>While President-elect Donald Trump <a href="http://www.politico.com/tipsheets/morning-agriculture/2016/11/could-trumps-epa-pick-be-coming-soon-217602" target="_blank">ponders which anti-regulation stalwart to place at the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency</a>, Health Canada&mdash;our northern neighbor's version of the EPA&mdash;just took a bold step toward protecting the environment. Last week, the Canadian agency <a href="http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pest/part/consultations/_prvd2016-20/prvd2016-20-eng.php" target="_blank">declared</a> in a preliminary assessment that a high-profile insecticide should be banned within five years, because it's turning up in waterways "at levels that are harmful to aquatic insects"&mdash;the base of the food chain for fish, birds, and other animals.&nbsp;</p> <p>Health Canada is soliciting public comment on its assessment through late February, after which it will decide whether to proceed with a phased-in ban. The chemical is imidacloprid, widely marketed by Bayer, the German chemical giant that recently bought US seed/agrichemical titan Monsanto in a deal pending approval by US and European antitrust authorities. Bayer was not amused by the finding, <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/health-canada-imidacloprid-neonicotinoid-1.3864450" target="_blank">declaring</a> itself "extremely disappointed."</p> <p>Imidacloprid is part of a class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids, the globe's most-used insecticides&mdash;and one that has been linked by a growing body of research with the declining health of honeybees and other pollinators.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Canadian assessment has nothing to do with pollinators, though. The agency is conducting a separate evaluation of how the chemical affects them. It's striking that the agency decided that the risk imidacloprid poses to waterborne insects is so great that the chemical should be banned. Mark Winston, a professor of apiculture at Simon Fraser University and senior fellow at the university's Centre for Dialogue, <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/health-canada-imidacloprid-neonicotinoid-1.3864450" target="_blank">told</a> CBC News that the recommendation "really surprised" him, because "to take an action to phase out a chemical that is so ubiquitous, and for which there is so much lobbying pressure from industry&hellip;that's a really bold move."</p> <p>Based on similar concerns, Health Canada has initiated <a href="http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/pest/_decisions/rev2016-17/index-eng.php" target="_blank">reviews</a> of two other prominent neonics, clothianidin and thiamethoxam. They, too, have potent corporate interests behind them&mdash;Bayer is a major producer of clothianidin, while the Chinese agrichemical giant Syngenta is the sole maker of thiamethoxam products on the Canadian market, according to <a href="http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/cps-spc/pubs/pest/_decisions/rev2016-17/index-eng.php" target="_blank">Health Canada</a>.</p> <p>Meanwhile, south of the border, imidacloprid has also generated serious concern among regulatory agencies. Back in January, the EPA released a <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/files/epa-hq-opp-2008-0844-0140.pdf" target="_blank">preliminary assessment</a> finding that in two crops where it's commonly used, cotton and citrus, imidacloprid harms bees and lowers honey production. As for the most prominent crop for imidacloprid, soybeans, the EPA noted that they're "attractive to bees via pollen and nectar,"&nbsp;meaning they could expose bees to dangerous levels of imidacloprid. But the agency revealed that it doesn't know whether it causes harm, because data on how much of the pesticide shows up in soybeans' pollen and nectar are "unavailable" both from Bayer and independent researchers&mdash;even though it's been on the market for 20 years.</p> <p>Overall, the assessment was so dire that an EPA spokeswoman told me at the time that the agency "could potentially take action" to "restrict or limit the use" of the chemical by the end of this year. Such a move has yet to happen.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Hurricane Trump has descended upon Washington. His main ag adviser during the campaign, Charles Herbster, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2016/07/meet-man-advising-donald-trump-ag-policy" target="_blank">regularly denounced</a> regulation of agriculture. The man leading Trump's EPA transition is an <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/11/trump-epa-pesticides" target="_blank">anti-regulation zealot</a>, and according to <a href="http://www.politico.com/tipsheets/morning-agriculture/2016/11/could-trumps-epa-pick-be-coming-soon-217602" target="_blank"><em>Politico</em></a>, the president-elect is mulling candidates of that ilk to head the agency. Soon, it may not just be disappointed Democrats who fantasize about emigrating north. Bees and aquatic insects may join them.</p></body></html> Environment Food Wed, 30 Nov 2016 18:53:24 +0000 Tom Philpott 320361 at http://www.motherjones.com Robots Are Growing Tons of Our Food. Here's the Creepy Part. http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/09/monsanto-farming-precision-agriculture <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/FOOD_Data_A.jpg"><div class="caption">Armando Veve</div> </div> <p><span class="section-lead">You don't see</span> self-driving cars taking over American cities <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/will-the-tesla-model-3-be-the-first-truly-self-driving-car" target="_blank">yet</a>, but robotic tractors already roar through our corn and soybean farms, helping to plant and spray crops. They also gather huge troves of data, measuring moisture levels in the soil and tracking unruly weeds. Combine that with customized weather forecasts and satellite imagery, and farmers can now make complex decisions like when to harvest&mdash;<a href="http://a.%09https://www.precisionfarmingdealer.com/articles/943-precision-drone-adds-j-d-equipment-to-dealer-network" target="_blank">without ever stepping outside</a>.</p> <p>These tools are part of a new trend, known as "<a href="http://www.gps.gov/applications/agriculture/" target="_blank">precision agriculture</a>," that is transforming how we grow crops. Using everything from sensors on combines to drones equipped with infrared cameras that monitor plant health, service providers&mdash;ranging from Monsanto and DuPont to startups&mdash;take data from the fields, upload it to the cloud, crunch it, and provide farmers with advice on how to run their operations.</p> <p>Precision agriculture has been around since the '90s, but it really took off when GPS technology <a href="http://www.pcworld.com/article/2000276/a-brief-history-of-gps.html" target="_blank">became cheap and ubiquitous</a> in the mid-2000s. It got another major boost in 2013, when Monsanto, a top producer of genetically modified seeds and pesticides, bought a Silicon Valley weather prediction startup called the Climate Corporation for <a href="http://news.monsanto.com/press-release/corporate/monsanto-acquire-climate-corporation-combination-provide-farmers-broad-suite" target="_blank">$930 million</a>. Monsanto now claims its digital-ag platform is used on nearly <a href="http://a.%09https://www.climate.com/static/cms/company/press-releases/digital-agronomic-services-platform/" target="_blank">45 percent of US corn and soybean acres</a>. Even as seed and pesticide sales stagnate across the industry, revenue from farm data services reached $2.76 billion in 2015, and one market research firm estimates it'll grow to<a href="http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/q8skbm/precision_farming" target="_blank"> $4.8 billion by 2020</a>.</p> <p>Last year, Monsanto <a href="https://www.deere.com/en_US/corporate/our_company/news_and_media/press_releases/2015/corporate/2015nov03-corporaterelease.page" target="_blank">cut a deal with John Deere</a>, owner of most of the US tractor market. Data pulled from Deere tractors will feed the Climate Corp.'s data-crunching services. As a result of these collaborations, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant <a href="http://a.%09http://finance.yahoo.com/news/edited-transcript-mon-earnings-conference-193549448.html" target="_blank">recently told investors</a>, Monsanto aims to become the "integrating hub" for seeds, traits, and pesticides, delivering "data insights" straight to farmers.</p> <p>And now, of course, Monsanto is in the process of being bought by German chemical giant Bayer, itself a large purveyor of pesticides and (to a lesser extent) seeds. If the Monsanto-Bayer deal passes regulatory muster in the United States and the European Union, the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/09/whoa-monsanto-about-get-swallowed-german-giant-bayer" target="_blank">combined company will own a quarter of the globe's seed and pesticide markets</a>. In the run-up to the deal, Bayer cited <a href="http://www.monsanto.com/investors/pages/sec_html.aspx?xid=10959266&amp;vid=aHR0cDovL2FwaS50ZW5rd2l6YXJkLmNvbS9maWxpbmcueG1sP2lwYWdlPTEwOTU5MjY2JkRTRVE9MiZTRVE9JlNRREVTQz1TRUNUSU9OX0VYSElCSVQmZXhwPSZzdWJzaWQ9NTc=&amp;compId=122069" target="_blank">Monsanto's heft in the data market</a> as one of its main motivations for subsuming its smaller US rival.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Bayer and Monsanto's handful of <a href="http://b.%09http://www.etcgroup.org/sites/www.etcgroup.org/files/files/etc_breakbad_final_dec_15_15_0.pdf" target="_blank">competitors have jumped in</a>. Dow and DuPont, also in the process of <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2015/12/dupont-dow-merger-spwans-new-pesticidegmo-seed-behemoth" target="_blank">combining into one massive seed-and-agrichemical giant</a>, have <a href="http://www.dowagro.com/en-us/usag/news-and-resources/newsroom/2016/march/03/dow-agrosciences-puts-growers-at-the-center-of-a-new-precision-agronomy-program" target="_blank">both</a> <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-farming-data-idUSBREA130T120140204" target="_blank">launched</a> precision-ag arms. Syngenta offers AgriEdge Excelsior, a "whole farm program&hellip;across digital platforms." In short, these globe-spanning companies are vying to become one-stop farm shops, selling seeds (often genetically modified), pesticides, data analysis, and ultimately advice on <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2016/04/what-i-learned-my-five-hour-tour-monsanto-hq" target="_blank">how to knit it all together</a>.</p> <p>These massive corporations can be trusted to steer their data clients toward smart farming decisions&hellip;right? Matt Liebman, an agronomist at Iowa State University, is optimistic that on-farm tools can reduce the need for chemicals. Consider an independent Iowa-based company called AgSolver. Using data from a tractor's GPS technology and harvest sensors, AgSolver's software generates a precise map of the most productive parts of a farmer's field and then overlays profit-and-loss information.</p> <p>Some swaths of land produce so little that farmers spend more on seeds and chemicals than they're making selling crops, Liebman says. By fallowing those particular areas, they can boost overall profits. And since such tracts often owe their paltry output to erosion, which leaches chemicals into groundwater through runoff, fallowing those fields could improve water quality. Liebman has also shown that adding a forage crop like clover or alfalfa to the typical corn-soybean rotation in the Midwest can drastically slash the need for herbicides to control weeds, and it can even<a href="http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0047149" target="_blank"> improve overall yields.</a></p> <p>Scott Marlow, executive director of farmer advocacy group Rural Advancement Foundation International, says it's hard to imagine the Monsantos of the world nudging farmers toward systems that barely rely on chemicals. Many of the "yield-limiting" factors that the Climate Corp.'s services highlight can conveniently be addressed with pesticides its parent company sells, Marlow notes.</p> <p>"Growers are pretty sharp," says Michael Stern, a Monsanto vice president who leads the company's Climate Corp. division. "We can provide a recommendation, but we also provide growers the ability to modify that recommendation."</p> <p>Sure, Marlow says, but the built-in bias does make a difference. He likens the situation to seeking financial advice from a Wall Street firm that profits from selling its own mutual funds. Farmers have to ask a question about the seed-and-chemical companies advising them: "How do I know if this is the best thing for me&mdash;or the best thing that makes them money?"</p></body></html> Environment Food Tech Wed, 30 Nov 2016 11:00:11 +0000 Tom Philpott 310931 at http://www.motherjones.com Our Food System Relies on Immigrants. Here's How One Waiter Is Coping With Trump's Election. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/what-its-feed-america-while-living-trumps-cross-hairs <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><div class="art19-web-player awp-medium awp-theme-dark-orange" data-episode-id="a8134c82-33d8-44db-836b-351bcb4807cf">&nbsp;</div> <script src="https://d2nx6ydw3e5y5d.cloudfront.net/assets/current.js" type="text/javascript"></script><p>Enrique Diaz, 24, leads a busy life. He works 50 to 60 hours per week as a waiter at a restaurant in Lower Manhattan and takes classes at John Jay College for Criminal Justice, where he's close to earning a bachelor's degree in forensic psychology. On November 8, Diaz suddenly got a new challenge: contending with an incoming president who wants to purge him&mdash;and his family&mdash;from the country.</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" height="313" src="/files/enriquediaz-for-web_0.gif" width="314"><div class="caption"><strong>Enrique Diaz </strong></div> </div> <p>President-elect Donald Trump ran on a platform of bare-knuckled xenophobia, insulting Muslims and Mexicans and vowing to expel 11 million undocumented immigrants. Since the election, he has reiterated those sentiments, declaring he would assemble a <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/11/politics/donald-trump-deportation-force-debate-immigration/" target="_blank">"deportation force,"</a> appointing&nbsp; a champion of anti-Muslim extremists, Steve Bannon, as his chief White House strategist, and tapping a notorious immigrant-basher, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), as attorney general.</p> <p>As I noted in this pre-election <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/11/looking-miracle-weight-loss-try-alt-right-diet" target="_blank">post</a>, the Trump program amounts to a direct attack on the very people who feed us. The entire food system, from farm fields to meat-packing floors to restaurants, is shot through with immigrants, large numbers of whom are undocumented.</p> <p>To get an idea of what it feels like to work in the food system while being targeted by the incoming administration, I interviewed Diaz for <em>Bite</em> podcast.</p> <p>He moved to Brooklyn at eight years old, when his parents migrated from Mexico City without papers. Still living in Brooklyn, he currently has a two-year work permit under a program called <a href="https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca" target="_blank">Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals</a> (DACA), a policy created by a 2012 Obama administration executive order. DACA is intended to protect the <a href="http://www.pewhispanic.org/2012/08/14/up-to-1-7-million-unauthorized-immigrant-youth-may-benefit-from-new-deportation-rules/" target="_blank">approximately 1.7 million people in Diaz' circumstances</a>: undocumented young adults who migrated to the United States before their 16th birthday. DACA doesn't offer a path to citizenship; it allows people who quality to apply for work permits and gain temporary protection against deportation.</p> <p>Trump has vowed repeatedly, including on his <a href="https://www.donaldjtrump.com/policies/immigration" target="_blank">campaign website</a>, to rescind DACA "immediately." So in addition to juggling 12-hour restaurant shifts and college classes, Diaz&mdash;whose brother also has DACA status &mdash;now has to contend with a promised immigration crackdown.</p> <p>I talked to Diaz about his experience on Election Day, which started with a stint volunteering as a translator at a Brooklyn polling booth, and also about how the Trump victory went over with his fellow immigrants at work and at home with his family. <strong>"</strong>I'm afraid, I'm terrified," Enrique said. "But I can't show it at home"&mdash;he feels like he should maintain a calm face for his parents. Such stress reverberates through the food system.</p> <p>Bite<em> is </em>Mother Jones<em>' podcast for people who think hard about their food. Listen to <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/category/secondary-tags/bite" target="_blank">all our episodes here</a>, or subscribe in <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/bite/id1090260338?mt=2" target="_blank">iTunes</a>, <a href="http://app.stitcher.com/browse/feed/86694/details" target="_blank">Stitcher</a>, or via <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/bite-podcast" target="_blank">RSS</a>.</em></p></body></html> Politics Food Bite Fri, 25 Nov 2016 11:00:17 +0000 Tom Philpott 319661 at http://www.motherjones.com The Secret Ingredient Behind This Year's Truly All-American Thanksgiving Meal http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/11/year-im-giving-thanks-immigrants <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>For the past several Novembers, I've cooked variations of the standard US Thanksgiving meal: roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc. This year, I have no taste for it. A feast celebrating harmony between European settlers and indigenous Americans, it swaddles a history of <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Ethnic-Cleansing-Indian-Should-America/dp/0806151749" target="_blank">ethnic cleansing</a> and <a href="http://www.historytoday.com/reviews/empire-cotton" target="_blank">landgrabs</a> in apple pie nostalgia&mdash;at a time when a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/09/stephen-bannon-donald-trump-muslims-fear-loathing" target="_blank">champion of anti-Muslim extremists</a> is our incoming president's chief strategic adviser and a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/anti-immigrant-influence-jeff-sessions-trump" target="_blank">racist xenophobe</a> has been appointed to enforce the nation's laws.</p> <p>But that doesn't mean I'm not into giving thanks this year, or staging a feast. Rather than concocting a meal that nods to a pretend vision of history, I want to celebrate something real and genuinely excellent about the United States: that we are and always have been an immigrant nation. And our food system, more than any other sector of the economy, <a href="http://If%20you're%20looking%20to%20skip%20meat,%20consider%20the%20work%20of%20Oakland%20chef%20Bryant%20Terry,%20who%20takes%20the%20culinary%20traditions%20of%20the%20African%20diaspora%20in%20a%20vegan%20direction.%20His%20couscous%20with%20butternut%20squash,%20pecans,%20and%20currants%20could%20anchor%20a%20holiday%20table." target="_blank">remains and has long been completely reliant on the labor of newcomers</a>.</p> <p>Also, what national food culture we have&mdash;the part that's not dominated by huge corporate chains mass-producing flavorless beef patties&mdash;comes largely from the historic migrations. "Southern food," the latest trendy cuisine, would not exist if millions of Africans had not been forcibly brought here as slaves. I do not know what I'd eat on a daily basis if people from Italy, Mexico, Central America, the Middle East, and Asia had not streamed into the United States over the past century.&nbsp;</p> <p>So if you end up cooking a turkey this year, consider swathing it in <em>mole </em>(recipe <a href="http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Turkey-in-Mole-Poblano" target="_blank">here</a>), the way they've been preparing this North America-native bird for centuries in Puebla, Mexico. A complex and not overly spicy mix of various dried chili peppers, nuts, herbs, spices, and fruit, <em>pavo en mole poblano </em>will pack many times the flavor of even the best-done standard roast turkey and gravy preparation.</p> <p>If you're looking to skip meat, consider the work of Oakland, California, chef and cookbook writer Bryant Terry, who takes the culinary traditions of the African diaspora in a vegan direction. His <a href="http://www.lionsroar.com/dig-into-3-recipes-from-vegan-chef-bryant-terry/" target="_blank">couscous with butternut squash, pecans, and currants</a> could anchor a holiday feast.</p> <p>As for me, President-elect Donald Trump's anti-Muslim bigotry and <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/donald-trump-iran-nuclear-deal-231419" target="_blank">reckless attacks on the Iran nuclear arms deal</a> has me craving Middle Eastern food. The website <a href="http://www.helpforsyria.org.uk/" target="_blank">Help for Syria</a> features <a href="http://www.helpforsyria.org.uk/9-syrian-recipes-to-excite-your-taste-buds/" target="_blank">nine recipes</a> that would make for a delectable Thanksgiving spread, including <a href="http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/freekeh-chicken" target="_blank">freekeh (young green wheat) with chicken</a> and <a href="http://http://www.food.com/recipe/syrian-manoushi-bread-488968" target="_blank">manoushi</a>, a glorious flatbread. As for Iran, the great Canadian cookbook writer Naomi Duguid has an excellent new cookbook encompassing that region called&nbsp;<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Taste-Persia-Travels-Azerbaijan-Kurdistan/dp/1579655483" target="_blank">Taste of Persia: A Cook's Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan.</a></em> Below is a recipe from her book that's perfect for an autumn celebration meal.</p> <p>Like some tangerine-colored Grinch, the specter of Trump quite nearly spoiled Thanksgiving for me this year. Then I remembered the vast and glorious food traditions I have to be thankful for, gifted to us by the very people targeted by the new regime. <em>&iexcl;Salud!</em></p> <p><strong>Pomegranate Ash (Soup) with Lamb Meatballs</strong><br><em>Serves 6</em></p> <p>Excerpted from <em>Taste of Persia</em>, by Naomi Duguid (Artisan Books)</p> <p>Ash is at the heart of Persian home cooking, a category of slow-cooked sustaining soups that are welcoming, subtle, and rewarding for cooks and eaters alike. The soups are also flexible: You can make substitutions, as long as they stay within the feel of the original. This ash is an inviting blend of legumes and rice, flavored with little lamb meatballs. A crowd-pleaser. Like most ash recipes, this one looks long, but please don't be dismayed. Yes, it takes some time to cook, but it's a carefree kind of thing to make: Start it on a weekend afternoon and then set it aside until shortly before you want to serve it. Or make it a day ahead, and reheat it to serve. Just make sure it comes to the table hot.</p> <p><em>Serves 6</em></p> <p>&frac14; cup sunflower or extra-virgin olive oil<br> 1 onion, sliced<br> &frac12; teaspoon ground cassia (cinnamon)<br> &frac12; teaspoon turmeric<br> &frac34; cup short-grain rice or broken jasmine or basmati rice (see Note), washed and drained<br> &frac34; cup dried split peas, soaked in water for an hour (or as long as 12 hours) and drained<br> 8 to 10 cups water, or as needed<br> &frac14; pound scallions, trimmed and finely chopped<br> 2 bunches flat-leaf parsley, leaves and tender stems, finely chopped (about 2 cups)<br> 2 bunches coriander, leaves and stems, finely chopped (about 2 cups)<br> 1 bunch mint, leaves finely chopped (about 1 cup)<br> 1&frac12; tablespoons sea salt, or to taste<br> 4 to 6 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, to taste</p> <p><em>Meatballs</em></p> <p>1 onion, grated<br> &frac12; pound ground lamb<br> 1 teaspoon sea salt<br> &frac14; teaspoon freshly ground black pepper</p> <p><em>Toppings</em></p> <p>About &frac14; cup sunflower or extra-virgin olive oil<br> 2 tablespoons dried mint<br> 1 cup thinly sliced onion</p> <p>To make the soup, place the oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat, toss in the onion, cassia, and turmeric, and cook until the onion is translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the rice, drained split peas, and 8 cups water, raise the heat, and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to maintain a strong simmer and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the split peas are tender.</p> <p>While the soup is cooking, make the meatball mixture: Mix the onion thoroughly with the lamb. Mix in the salt and pepper. Set aside, covered, in the refrigerator.</p> <p>Add the scallions, parsley, coriander, and mint to the soup and simmer for 30&nbsp;minutes. Add another cup or two of water to thin it, as you wish, and bring back to a strong simmer. Add the salt and 4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses and stir. Taste and add a little more pomegranate molasses if you like.</p> <p>Make the meatballs about 15 minutes before you want to serve: Scoop up about a heaped teaspoon of the meat mixture for each and roll it into a ball between your wet palms, then drop it into the soup. Let the soup continue to simmer while you make the toppings.</p> <p>Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil into a small skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Toss in the dried mint and immediately remove from the heat; it will fizz up a little. Set aside in a small bowl.</p> <p>Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet over high or medium-high heat, add the sliced onion, and fry until starting to brown and crisp, about 6 minutes. Set aside on a plate. Ladle the hot soup into individual bowls, making sure to serve several meatballs in each, and top with a drizzle of mint oil, and with a sprinkling of fried onions if you wish.</p> <p>Note: Short-grain rice or broken rice will break down more easily than long-grain rice as it cooks, and the starch from the rice helps thicken the soup.</p></body></html> Environment Food Race and Ethnicity Wed, 23 Nov 2016 11:00:09 +0000 Tom Philpott 319731 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump's Top Food Guy Just Abruptly Quit http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/trumps-top-ag-adviser-just-quit-so-he-could-spend-more-time-his-lobbying-business <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>To manage the transition of the US Department of Agriculture, President-elect Donald Trump <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/meet-soda-lobbyist-leading-trumps-food-policy-team" target="_blank">settled on a lobbyist who represents Big Soda, Big Pizza, and Big Ag</a>. On Wednesday, in a classic Trumpian lurch, the incoming chief executive <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/donald-trump-lobbying-ban-231534" target="_blank">announced a ban</a>&hellip;on lobbyists serving in the transition.</p> <p>And so the ag lobbyist, Michael Torrey, had to choose between maintaining his business or his position on the transition team. In a Friday press release, Torrey revealed his choice:</p> <blockquote> <p>When asked recently to terminate lobbying registration for clients whom I serve in order to continue my role with the transition, I respectfully resigned from my role.</p> </blockquote> <p>The Trump team has not announced a replacement or responded to my request for comment. One place to look for Torrey's successor might be the motley crew of right-wing pols and agribiz execs who made up the Trump campaign's <a href="https://www.donaldjtrump.com/press-releases/trump-campaign-announces-agricultural-advisory-committee" target="_blank">Agricultural Advisory Committee</a>.</p> <p>Its chair, Charles Herbster, is a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2016/07/meet-man-advising-donald-trump-ag-policy" target="_blank">Trump loyalist</a> who runs a <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/08/trumps-ag-czar-running-MLM" target="_blank">multilevel marketing firm</a>. One of the committee's most high-profile members, Texas Agriculture Commissioner <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/08/meet-other-colorful-character-advising-donald-trump-ag-policy" target="_blank">Sid Miller</a>, is on the short list to be named USDA chief, according to the <em>New York Times. </em>Miller is most famous for trying to bill Texas taxpayers for a <a href="http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Oklahoma-lawmakers-deny-inviting-Sid-Miller-on-6920385.php" target="_blank">trip to Oklahoma</a> to receive a medical procedure known as "the Jesus shot," <a href="http://www.news9.com/story/24886352/convicted-felon-doctor-injects-oklahomans-with-jesus-shot" target="_blank">administered by a convicted felon known as Dr. Mike</a>, and for <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/11/01/texas_official_trump_supporter_describes_clinton_as_cunt.html" target="_blank">calling Hillary Clinton a "cunt" in a tweet</a> he has since deleted. He has also <a href="http://www.mystatesman.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/agriculture-appointees-connected-to-waived-politic/nknMc/" target="_blank">handed plum state jobs to campaign contributors</a>, <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2015/11/19/miller-facebook-post-compares-refugees-rattlesnake/" target="_blank">compared Syrian refugees to rattlesnakes, </a>and suggested <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2015/08/17/miller-consultant-no-apologies-anti-muslim-post/" target="_blank">nuclear bombs be dropped on Muslim countries</a>.</p></body></html> Politics Food Sat, 19 Nov 2016 00:25:40 +0000 Tom Philpott 319666 at http://www.motherjones.com