Organic Coffee in Costa Rica: A Battle of David vs. Goliath?

“To be honest, organic coffee could become a dying breed in Costa Rica.” Leland Westie and I stare at each other, neither of us quite sure how to continue the conversation. Westie seems startled by his own frankness. After a long pause, he qualifies his statement with an apologetic smile: “I mean, I hope it will … Continue reading Organic Coffee in Costa Rica: A Battle of David vs. Goliath?

The USA Have A Farm Bill! Halle … Well … Yeah.

The USDA will begin to implement the Bill soon, provided it passes the Senate floor.

On Wednesday, as anticipated, the House of Representatives passed the Farm Bill after a 2 year impasse with 251 to 166 votes. The Democratic leadership of the Senate has already endorsed it, making it likely that it will pass the Senate floor as well in the coming week and be on President Obama’s desk soon. Media and lobby group reactions, as well as politicians’ own levels of satisfaction, were an extremely mixed bag. One frequently cited commentary came from Rep. Tim Walz (a Democrat from Minnesota):

“Of course it’s not perfect. If you want perfect, you’ll get that in heaven. This place is closer to hell, so this is a pretty good compromise that we have come up with.”

Let’s go through the main features, shall we?

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Organic Milk – The Healthier Option?

Many times, hailing the health benefits of organic foods, for example fruits and vegetables, has been criticized, and with good reason – while there may be less pesticide residues on the produce, the organic production method is mainly healthy for the planet, and there is little reason why an organic apple should have more vitamins than a conventional one. However, this same insight has been toppled for milk, as a new study finds that organic whole-fat milk has much higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids – those also found in seafood and flaxseed for example- and lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids – those normally associated with vegetable oils and fried foods – compared to conventional milk.

Yum – being pastured is good for the cow and for the resulting milk!

This can be explained by the fact that organic cows are required to spend at least part of their lives on pasture and eat grass, high in omega-3, whereas conventional cows are mainly fed with corn that is richer in omega-6 – and apparently, this difference will be directly visible in the milk they give.

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Switzerland Hosts a Cow Marathon – and other Fun Facts about Swiss Agriculture

“We prefer to work with nature. And you can taste that.”

That’s the motto of Swiss organic farmers, and the reason they are hosting a cow marathon as of May 27th. Its purpose: to show that cows from organic farms in Switzerland get to walk around in nature a ton. Thus, 10 contenders will be given GPS systems and the winning cow will be the one that first reaches the marathon distance of 42.195 km. You can bet on your favorite cow and win a 3 day vacation on an organic farm if you are right, so head on over if you are in the area!

Which cow is your favorite? I think I would go for Maureen, she is so pretty… Though Bella also has a place in my heart.

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What’s Happening to EU Seed Diversity?!

In a way it’s almost funny – all this time a lot of the food policy community’s attention is drawn to seed laws in the US, dissecting Supreme Court cases and hidden Congressional amendments, while at the same time the European Commission is drafting what seems to be at least equally harsh legislation with a much smaller public outcry. Or maybe I have just been oblivious?

If planned EU legislation goes through, vegetables might soon look much more uniform than this bounty of heirloom carrots.
Image by Flickr-user brotherlywalks, via Flickr CC.

Either way, come May 6th, the European Commission is going to vote on a draft directive that bodes poorly for seed diversity, and there seems little the public can do other than petition their EU Commissioners vote against it. The Arche Noah petition has 170,000 signatures so far.

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