New Food Economy: What happens if we eliminate crop insurance altogether?

Imagine for a moment, a possible future, some years ahead: Across the plains, acres that were once plowed up and planted to corn or wheat go back to native grass. Marginal, flood-prone land is left to return to wetlands, improving water quality downstream. Farmers diversify their operations in order to effectively manage risk in a changing climate. Monocropping is a thing of the past.

Or this scenario, not so long from now: Growers adopt practices like no-till and cover cropping, which helps lower their inputs—the money spent on fertilizer, pesticides, seed, and anything else they need to get a crop in the ground. They turn a profit with ease. They may even switch to cheaper, non-GMO seeds and see profit margins swell.

In this future tableau, cattle are turned out to pasture on land that was once intensively farmed. Land managers plant low-cost grasses and other silage, and graze livestock on a portion of the land while the remaining acres are allowed to rest and regenerate. There’s always something growing in the soil, anchoring nitrogen, helping retain rainwater, and sequestering carbon.

This is what American agriculture could one day look like, according to farmers, environmentalists, and economists. But first we’d have to get rid of federally subsidized crop insurance.

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New Food Economy: Are plant-based milks causing harmful nutritional deficiencies in children?

While researching the debate over labeling plant-based milks “milk” I came across an interesting tidbit: a letter to the FDA from the American Academy of Pediatrics claiming that children were suffering from “harmful nutritional deficiencies” because their parents were giving them plant-based milk thinking it was nutritionally equivalent to cow. So I looked into those claims for The New Food Economy.

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Tenderly: My Quest for Vegan Soup Dumplings

I dreamed about meatless soup dumplings for years. I even fantasized about opening a food truck dedicated to the delicacy. I’d perfect a version of the classic xiaolongbao, of course, but I also imagined little sacs of salty miso soup, filled with scallion, tofu, and seaweed, and pockets of sweet, luxurious onion soup. Last winter I finally purchased a little bamboo steamer at a kitchen supply store in Chinatown. I brought it home and installed it in the cabinet next to the bowls, where it sat untouched for months, a monument to my dormant culinary ambitions.

This summer I decided to actually follow through: First, to finally recreate the gush of salty, fatty broth when you bite into a soup dumpling, and the exquisite burst of black vinegar and ginger on the palate; and second, to test my reckless and thoroughly unfounded theory that agar agar, like a magic incantation, will transform most any soup into a dumpling filling. Read more…

New Food Economy: Scientists say many UTIs are caused by E. coli in food—when will the government believe them?

The women may have lived more than 2,500 miles apart, but somehow they had a unique strain of multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli bacteria in common.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found the E. coli bacteria in 48 urine samples from college students who visited health centers at UC Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and the University of Minnesota with urinary tract infections (UTIs). Between 38 and 51 percent of the Berkeley, Minnesota, and Michigan students with UTIs resistant to the first-line antibiotic trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, often marketed as Bactrim, were infected with the same strain. Read more…

New Food Economy: Soon we’ll use smartphones to trace our food on the blockchain. But there’s a catch: We’ll be traced, too.

Foodies interested in the provenance of their groceries may have to give up something in return: their privacy.

The “internet of everything” (IoE) is coming to a grocery store near you. With a tap of your phone, you’ll be able to find out where your heritage pork was raised and your bluefin tuna caught—in theory. Read more…