Offering asides, recommended links, blogworthy quotations, and more, In Brief is the Northwest Progressive Institute's microblog of world, national, and local politics.

Tag Archives: Sustainable Farms

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America has a flooding problem it can’t manage. Vermont’s experience shows a possible way forward.

Nearly ten years ago, Ryan Blitstein wrote an excellent article for Miller-McCune (now The Pacific Standard) looking at America’s problem with flooding. For decades, government at every level has tried to keep floodwaters at bay with levees, but the result has been even worse floods. However, as Blitstein explains, Vermont has come up with some unconventional ideas that have the potential to work a lot better, including designating areas near rivers as floodways where construction is restricted and purchasing river channel management rights from farmers.

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‘If we’re attacked, we’ll die together,’ a teenage anti-mining activist told her family. But when the bullets came, they killed only her.

The Los Angeles Times tells the story of Topacio Reynoso, a farmer’s daughter from a remote village in Guatemala who, at fourteen, “devoted herself to opposing construction of a large silver mine planned for a town nearby”.


There will be no food in Puerto Rico… There is no more agriculture in Puerto Rico. And there won’t be any for a year or longer.

— José A. Rivera, a farmer on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico (The New York Times: Puerto Rico’s farms wiped out by Hurricane Maria)

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FDA sued over genetically engineered salmon

“Less than six months after the FDA approved the first genetically altered animal, it has its first legal challenge,” KING 5 reports.

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Makers of unhealthy, processed food starting to change their ways

The New York Times recaps a string of developments that are poised to have a big impact on what’s in the food in Americans eat, beginning with Panera Bread’s decision to embrace the mantra “less is more” by eliminating artificial preservatives, flavor enhancers, and other junk ingredients from its recipes.

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Washington (stupidly) turns to neurotoxins to save its non-native oysters

In one of the finest pieces that Bloomberg has ever published, journalist Bill Donahue explains how Washington State’s oyster industry got approval from the Washington State Department of Ecology to spray a toxic chemical that isn’t supposed to be used in aquatic environments all over Willapa Bay, with the aim of killing off a native burrowing shrimp species, so that non-native oysters can continue to be harvested for profit in large numbers.


Egg producers have had six years to come into compliance with Proposition 2, and instead of using that time to convert to cage-free systems, they’ve simply sued and sued and lost every suit they filed while sitting on their hands.

— Paul Shapiro, vice president for farm animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States, condemning the six Midwest and Appalachian states that have taken California to court over its laws requiring more spacious henhouses for egg-laying chickens (Reporting by the Los Angeles Times).

California Drying

The above images are not satellite photographs. They show how much groundwater has been lost from central and southern California over the past decade, mostly due to agriculture. (Image: NASA, via the Los Angeles Times)

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The real price of cheap food: Slavery

The Guardian reports that U.S. stores such as Costco and Walmart are selling shrimp from Thailand produced using slave labor. Asian men are bought, held against their will and forced to work under the threat of violence.


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New apple variety, Cosmic Crisp, ready for production

Apple breeders at Washington State University have developed a new kind of apple that will be landing on supermarket shelves by the end of the decade, the Columbia Basin Herald reports. The new variety has been nicknamed Cosmic Crisp. It’s a juicy apple with a sweet, tangy flavor. What makes Cosmic Crisp unique is that it was developed in Washington specifically for Washington orchards. Washington is the nation’s leading producer of apples.

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Monsanto develops hardier strain of corn that yields four times normal litigation

The Onion is on a roll this week. The satirical publication’s latest home run takes direct aim at Monsanto, explaining that the agribiz giant has developed a new strain of genetically modified corn that yields “four hundred percent more litigation against small independent farms” than the company’s older GMO offerings.