Friday Food Links for 02.22.2013

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food – Pulitzer-prize winning investigative reporter Michael Moss goes inside the boardrooms of Big Food. It’s a fascinating look at how America got hooked — and heavy — on substances resembling real food.

Happy Birthday, GMO’s!! – This month marks the 40th anniversary of transgenic organisms. UC Berkeley Professor Ignacio Chapela takes a look at their legacy in this  Op-Ed in the Mexican paper, La Jornada. Original is in Spanish, but here is a Google Translated version.

New Report on Farmers Markets and Low-Income Communities – In 2009, The Project for Public places, in partnership with Columbia University, launched a study to look at what kinds of food markets attract low-income shoppers, what are the obstacles that prevent low income families from shopping at farmers markets, and how youth-oriented market programming affects healthy eating habits among kids and teens. The results of their study, alongside specific recommendations, were published this week.

Recovering Wasted Food in the UK (video) – Supermarkets around the world insist on having the very best products on their shelves – so much so that they’re willing to throw away perfectly edible food, because it doesn’t fit their size and cosmetic standards. Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee reports from Kent in the UK on how campaigners are trying to save that waste.

Front to Backyard Urban Farms & Gardens -  A crack team of landscapers wants to help city folk plant their own gardens and start urban farms. As they explain on their website, Front to Backyard “will install raised beds, container gardens, herb gardens, and vegetable and kitchen gardens in your front or backyard, or anywhere you have available land.” After a free site visit and consultation, prices range from roughly $1,000 for a full kitchen garden to $125 for a worm composting setup. Beekeeping and Chicken raising….coming soon!

The Gaza Kitchen – A new cookbook captures lost history of the Palestinian peoples through food.

Pictures Don’t Lie: Corn And Soybeans Are Conquering U.S. Grasslands -  This week, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows actual pictures — derived from satellite data — of a transforming Midwest landscape. The images show that farmers in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska converted 1.3 million acres of grassland into soybean and corn production between 2006 and 2011.

Landowners or Laborers? -  Watch the video from “State of Rights and Resources 2012-2013: a panel on the rural development choices facing leaders of developing countries.” Posted February 5, 2013.

Saving Seeds, Saving Farmers - The team from Perennial Plate has just returned from 6 weeks of filming in India. In these videos, they sit down with Vandana Shiva to talk about farmer suicides, GMOs, and why preserving agrobiodiversity is so pivotal.


Friday Food Links for 02.15.2013

Buffet and 3G Capital Gobble Up Heinz - On Thursday, Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway joined with 3G Capital of Brazil in announcing a $23 billion takeover of Heinz. According to the Times’ Dealbook, the deal also signals the rising power of investors from once-emerging markets. Brazilian entities have become prominent buyers of American companies like Pilgrim’s Pride, the chicken producer. Two years ago 3G itself bought control of Burger King, a fitting companion to the American ketchup icon.

America’s Farmers: The Blog – “Farmers have one of the most important roles in the world.” “We’re doing the best we can to take of the land.” “We have an extreme passion and love for what we do.” “Just like a city mom, only she farms.” If you are a farmer with a story to tell, Monsanto’s new farmer blog wants you to share it with the world. Country music and heart-warming titles complimentary of the host.

There’s Horse in My Hamburger – As the horsemeat scandal that started in the UK blows up into a Europe-wide meat crisis, the safety and veracity of a massively complex industrial food supply chain comes under intense spotlight. Journalists, of course, can’t help but indulge in the headline possibilities.

Taste the Waste of Water – This video just published by the FAO calls attention to the water embedded in food waste. If roughly 30% of food goes to waste, all the water that went into producing that food is also wasted, or, in some cases, contaminated.

Top Billing for Nutrition and Food Security – With the Millennium Development Goals set to expire in just two years, the UN, FAO and other multilateral organizations are urgently vetting ideas and roadmaps for future global development. Last week in Rome, a one-day consultation event held by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) convened some 180 stakeholders from government, international organization, civil society, and the private sector. Their consensus? That food security and nutrition should be at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda, tightly coupled as they are with eradicating poverty.

Calorie Detective (video) – In New York City, most chain restaurants are required to post calorie information on their menus, and soon the Obama Administration will require all restaurants with more than 20 locations to post calorie counts. But just how reliable are those numbers? In this Op-Doc video, one curious reporter gathers a day’s worth of fast food, some bomb calorimeters, and some good-natured nutrition scientists to find out.

The US Drought is a ‘Perfect Storm’ for Beef – “In writing about climate change it’s hard to avoid the use of catch phrases and clichéd metaphors, as much we try to stop shooting silver bullets and keep all those pesky canaries out of our coal mines,” writes Doug Boucher of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “At times, though, such oft-repeated words are used in paradoxical ways, jarring you into thinking about them a bit more deeply. This happened to me a few days ago when, in response to new Department of Agriculture data on the U.S. livestock industry, a beef producer referred to the impacts of the persistent drought as ‘a perfect storm.’”

35 Water Conservation Methods for Agriculture – K. McDonald of Big Picture Agriculture kicks off the first of a 4-part series on innovative practices to save water when growing our food. While drought-tolerant crops and seeds aren’t all that surprising, Zai pits (hand-dug holes to trap water and increase soil fertility) and Olla irrigation (buried porous clay pots) are rarer findings. See parts Parts 2 and Part 3 here.

Antibiotics And Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria In Meat: Not Getting Better – A few days ago, the Food and Drug Administration released two important documents related to antibiotic use in livestock raising, and what the results of that antibiotic use are. Unaccompanied by the usual FDA press outreach, the documents’ sobering revelations — indicating vastly expanding pharma in our food supply — have mostly flown beneath the media radar. A few exceptions are Tom Philpott of Mother Jones, the folks at Civil Eats,and the blog team at the Natural Resource Defense Council.

What You Need to Know About Genetically Engineered Food – Craig Jaffe of the Center for Science in the Public Interest dishes the “facts” about GE food –  just as you might imagine a director of biotechnology would see them. Yet even Jaffe underscores that current GE crops are unsustainable and that more food won’t by itself make a dent in global hunger.

Plan Puts Garden on Capitol’s Roof in Honolulu – In part of an ambitious “New Day” project to increase local food security in the Aloha state, Governor Neil Abercrombie makes plans to ring his 5th floor offices with an edible garden. Despite some concerns about heavy soils on the historical capitol roof, the idea appears to be a legislative shoo-in: House Bill 1365, which lays out the plan, won  9-0 support from the Agriculture committee last week. If 1365 passes into law, the new capitol farm will be linked to either a farmers market or a community supported agriculture program.


JOB: Executive Director, Berkeley Sustainable Food Systems Institute

Job Description

Executive Director, Berkeley Sustainable Food Systems Institute


Executive Director, Berkeley Sustainable Food Systems Institute

Salary commensurate with experience

Salary range: $89,800 - $133,200, commensurate with experience

Job #15211

Applications Due: No later than Friday, March 1, 2013



The University of California, Berkeley is the preeminent public university in the country. We are also one of the leading employers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Berkeley Sustainable Food Systems Institute is an exciting new program that connects the College of Natural Resources (CNR), the Graduate School of Journalism (J-School), Berkeley Law (Boalt) and the Goldman School of Public Policy (GSPP). These academic units on the campus are partnering to create an interdisciplinary/cross-campus institute that will conduct research and develop policy recommendations and public outreach campaigns designed to transform the current US and global food system to one that is sustainable and affordable for future generations, here and abroad.

The Institute is in the early stages of development, with start-up funding from a small group of individual and foundation donors who are committed to the project long term. The Executive Director (ED) will have the opportunity to shape the direction of the Institute, in collaboration with a governing Executive Committee. It is assumed that the Institute will be well established in 2013 and continue to grow over the next several years, incorporating more colleges and programs/ departments on campus and expanding research and community outreach programs.

Role and Responsibilities

The ED will have a leadership role in independently managing and developing a large, complex academic program of high visibility. In consultation with the Faculty Directors of the Berkeley Sustainable Food Systems Institute, the ED is charged with the development, administration and management of a cross-college research Institute and is responsible for developing and managing resources that maximize contributions to the missions of the Institute and to the University of California. Specifically, the ED will:


  • Establish the vision and long term strategies for the Institute in collaboration with Faculty Directors and Executive Committee; and  develop, implement and manage programs, partnerships and research projects that generate external support sufficient to ensure the Institute’s growth over the next five years;
  • Manage all day-to-day operations of the Institute;
  • Develop broad-based, university-wide participation in the Institute activities;
  •  Design and implement an effective communications program to  brand and market the Institute effectively across campus, and in the policy arena in sustainable agriculture and food issues outside of academia;
  •  Fundraise effectively to meet or exceed the annual operating budget; and
  •  Manage a small staff and the Executive Committee and develop and manage an advisory board.



The Executive Director will report to the Faculty Directors of the Institute and the Executive Committee.


Requirements and Qualifications

  • Extensive management experience in a non-profit agency or academic institution. Excellent leadership abilities to oversee multiple functions and manage a team.
  • Demonstrated ability to build effective programs and engage the public.
  • Extensive knowledge of food and agriculture issues, food policy, and economic, environmental, social and cultural impacts of the food system.
  • Ability to communicate and interact effectively with a broad constituency, including faculty, researchers, scientists, program/center managers, staff, students, funding agencies, community members, NGOs and government agencies, individual donors and media in a multicultural setting.
  • Expert oral and written communication skills.
  • Experience in developing effective external communications, PR and marketing strategies, including web, social media, and media relationships, and development of marketing/fundraising materials.
  • Expertise in developing internal communications, including coordinating and facilitating effective meetings, establishing communications protocols and ensuring key stake holders are well informed of program development at all times
  • Experience in managing an annual operating budget of $500,000 – 1.5 million
  • Expert fundraising experience, including identifying, cultivating and soliciting major gifts, producing events, and writing grants to foundations and government agencies.
  • Ability to manage productive collaborations between multiple agencies; demonstrated ability to develop and implement innovative program and research agendas.
  • Professional demeanor, attention to detail, ability to act decisively.



Preferred qualifications

  • Advanced degree (i.e., MBA, JD, PhD, or related).
  • Senior-level management experience is preferred.
  • Extensive knowledge of food and agriculture issues, food policy, and economic, environmental, social and cultural impacts of the food system.


For more information about the College of Natural Resources, the Goldman School of Public Policy, the Graduate School of Journalism and Berkeley Law please visit our websites


If you have questions about this position please contact Kathryn Moriarty Baldwin @


The University offers excellent health and retirement benefits which can be viewed online at


Application Procedure:

To apply please go to the following link:

Applications should include in pdf format a cover letter, resume, 3 writing samples and a list of 3 reference names with phone numbers and email addresses.

Early applications are encouraged. The University of California is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.



Friday Food Links for 02.08.2013

The Complications of Quinoa - In a nod to the traditional knowledge of Andean farmers, the UN declares 2013 the International Year of Quinoa. Under the care of campesinos in a complex agroecosystem, quinoa has evolved into the protein-rich, low-gluten, vitamin-fortified seed that nutritionists now tout as the near-perfect food. But as health-minded folk and crunchy types across the US and Europe clamor for more quinoa, heightened demand is raising all sorts of trouble for the Bolivian people, underscoring the sticky contradictions of a globalized food system.

Tom Philpott provides a great rundown here, explaining how a variety of “do-gooder US importers” in the 1990s helped keep traditional quinoa farming alive, by re-establishing its production for export markets. But the effects of that gambit have been double-edged: higher global quinoa prices now mean that fewer Bolivian consumers can afford to purchase it. Even quinoa farmers, now marginally wealthier due to export sales, aren’t eating much of their crop, as it’s become “a product that’s too valuable to eat.” Instead, Bolivians are increasingly buying and eating cheaper foods like packaged pastas, white rice, and white bread — exactly the stuff that Northern consumers toss from their cupboards to replace with the Andean wonder-grain.

Some say local farming of quinoa on a worldwide scale is the solution: It could winch prices down to the level where it’s affordable for Andean consumers, and still profitable for Andean farmers. As we’ve noted before, in the Pacific Northwest and the Colorado Rockies, a few farmers are already piloting this approach. Of course, amped-up regional production could also create a global quinoa glut, setting the stage for massive price collapse. If that were to occur, Philpott worries, “Andean farmers’ investments in land and processing infrastructure would be wiped out.”


To buy, or not to buy, quinoa then? That is the question…


No simpler is what kind of coffee you might sip after your hearty quinoa dinner, as Brie Mazurek of the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture writes in Coffee and Sustainability: A Complex Cup.

If you are on a budget, D.C.-based MicroGreens illustrates how anyone can enjoy a healthy meal based on a total budget of $3.50 per meal per family of four. An innovative program that works with schools and non-profit organizations, MicroGreens is educating children and low-income families about how to make healthy choices based on a government-supplemented food budget. (Check out their sweet video channel).

Probing the Impact of Warming on the World’s Food Supply
- One of the few potential advantages attributed to soaring carbon dioxide levels has been enhanced crop growth. But in an interview with Yale Environment 360, botanist Stephen Long talks about his research showing why rising temperatures and an increase in agricultural pests may offset any future productivity gains.

City Slicker Farms Breaks New Ground -  A project of City Slicker Farms, the West Oakland Park and Urban Farm officially opened on January 31. The 1.4-acre site, once a vacant industrial lot at 28th and Peralta streets, will include lawn space for running and playing, a vegetable growing area, a community garden, a fruit orchard, a chicken coop, a beehive, and a dog run.

Introducing “Ensia” - Nope, it’s not a magic weight-loss pill, nor a new sugar substitute. Ensia is a new multimedia platform just launched by the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. Designed to cut “across disciplines, ideologies, sectors and continents” and “showcase solutions to Earth’s biggest environmental challenges, director Jonathan Foley says it’s “out change the world.


One for the Bookshelf:
Rebuilding the Food-Shed by Philip Ackerman-Leist
- Marion Nestle writes “Rebuilding the Foodshed introduces readers to local food systems in all their complexities.  In moving from industrial to regional food systems, communities must consider an enormous range of factors, from geographic to socioeconomic.  Difficult as doing this may be, this book makes it clear that the results are well worth the effort in their benefits to farmers and farm workers, as well as to eaters. This book is on the reading list for my food advocacy class at NYU this summer.”


Some Book Reviews, from the Academic Press:

What is Land For? The Food, Fuel, and Climate Change Debate, by Doug Boucher

The Agrarian Question in the Neoliberal Era: Primitive Accumulation and the Peasantry, by Michael Levien

Food Sovereignty: Reconnecting Food, Nature, and Community, by Guntra Aistara


Friday Food Links 2.01.2013

GM Food May Get Stamped – Instead of quelling the demand for labeling, the defeat of the California’s Prop 37 has spawned a ballot initiative in Washington State and legislative proposals in Connecticut, Vermont, New Mexico and Missouri. As Washington gets set to vote,  the very companies that defeated Prop 37, including Wal-Mart, PepsiCo, ConAgra, and 20 others, are beginning to press for labeling too.

Resolving the Food Crisis: the Need for Decisive Action - Timothy Wise of the Tufts Global Development and Environment Institute and Sonia Murphy of IATP review the progress — or lack thereof — made in 2012 towards a more secure and sustainable food system.

Googling Urban Food Growth - Using Google Earth, a doctoral candidate in Chicago mapped the city’s official community gardens and found that only 160, or 13 percent, were actually producing food. But he suspected more farming going on in unofficial spaces. He was right: tiny backyard gardens and single-plot farms on vacant lots accounted for almost three-fourths of the urban ag total. By neighborhood, Chinatown was a hot spot in terms of garden density, as were neighborhoods with large numbers of Polish and Eastern and Southern European immigrants.

Input Costs Are Going Up — and So Is Farmer Debt – Last year’s drought caused higher commodity prices which in turn helped make up for decreased crop yields for the farmer’s bottom line. But, inputs are headed up, and so is farmer borrowing to cover them, from a new report out by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

Seed Saving: An Alternative to Industrial Ag in India (radio) – the Perennial Plate team has just returned from India, where they caught up with Vandana Shiva and learned about her long running-efforts to restore saving seed to a suffering countryside. In a place where purchased inputs, farmer debt, and farmer suicides are closely entwined, seed saving offers one way to sever farmers’ reliance on agribusiness, increase crop genetic diversity, and keep a rich agroecological knowledge alive.

Will IF Make a Difference? - The UK’s bold new anti-hunger campaign ‘If’ launches with call for G8 to act on land deals and corporate tax loopholes — loopholes that, according to a new Oxfam report, could raise some $189 billion annually to fight hunger. But whether If will stand out in the pack of food security campaigns is anybody’s guess. Two British geographers are guessing “no.”

Certified Organic Farming Still Lags Worldwide - A Worldwatch article attempts to quantify hectares devoted to organic farming around the world and includes a graph showing those area amounts by geographic region.

Indigenous Food & Agriculture Initiative – On January 15, the University of Arkansas School of Law launched the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative . This program will be the nation’s first law school initiative focusing on tribal food systems, agriculture and community sustainability.

Big Food’s Ties to Registered Dietitians – Michele Simon, president of Eat, Drink, Politics, an industry watchdog consulting group, has just published an exposé of the close financial relationships between food and beverage companies and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Common pesticides ‘can kill frogs within an hour’ - New research suggests that farm chemicals are playing a significant and previously unknown role in the global decline of amphibians.

The Fierce Rivalry Over Allotments - Across the pond, UK-ers are lining up in droves for allotments, small plots of public land for individual, non-commercial gardening. But with demand high and land in short supply, some would-be growers are turning against one another: from stolen cabbage to suspected arson, a BBC One documentary covers the tumult as Britons clamor to grow their own food.

“Starved By Lack of Plant Food” – In this 1942 photo of a fertilizer test plot, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) proudly proclaims the magic of modern farming.

The first Food Security Futures Conference will bring together senior researchers from CGIAR and FAO to present their perspectives on research priorities for the 21st century. The conference is being held in Dublin, Ireland, the week before the EU Presidency meeting on ‘Hunger – Nutrition – Climate Justice: Making Connections for a More Sustainable World’, 15-16 April 2013.

The Diet Climate Connection - a new public radio project about how the foods we eat affect the planet.


Finally, via Big Picture Agriculture, a nice roundup of recent biofuels news:

Two more make five corn ethanol plants shut down temporarily in Nebraska in this unfavorable market. This Arizona Daily Star opinion piece calls for an end to ethanol mandate. Ethanol exports were down following the drought this year.

Front Range Energy has reached a deal valued at more than $100 million with Rochester, N.Y.-based Sweetwater Energy to generate ethanol at Front Range’s facility. Sweetwater Energy will convert crop residues and wood biomass into sugar, which Front Range will ferment into ethanol.

The company, Vinema, is investing $354 million in Brazil to build ethanol plants that will use sorghum, rice, and oats for feedstock.