Stories tagged food

A list of the 11 healthy foods you’re probably not eating. Me, I love me some pumpkin seeds. And the better half puts chard in most everything. And turmeric and cinnamon? Yum. The rest, I could certainly do without.

Popular Mechanics has a new regular feature on the science of cooking, called Kitchen Alchemy.

Researchers at the University of Missouri have found that dried tomato powder helps protect against prostate cancer. If this pans out and leads to a viable treatment, that will be good news – recently the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reviewed a variety of treatments, and found that none of them stood out as superior.

As Midwest flooding and rising demand for ethanol pushes the price of corn ever higher, Cornell researcher Norman Uphoff is developing a new way to grow rice. His method produces more grain to feed more people; uses less water; and releases less greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

Eat a bug

by Gene on Jun. 05th, 2008

Forget all that noise about eating dirt. The UN Food and Agriculture Association is apparently encouraging people to eat insects. They are a good source of protein, and, since they grow naturally, do not require large farms changing the environment. All together now: ewwwww!


The law of unintended consequences: Making ethanol to reduce carbon in the atmosphere is playing havoc with food prices.
The law of unintended consequences: Making ethanol to reduce carbon in the atmosphere is playing havoc with food prices.Courtesy swankslot

Well, probably neither. But ethanol – a type of fuel made from plants – has been causing a lot of controversy lately. We’ve talked about this here before.

Many people like ethanol. As the price of gasoline rises, ethanol becomes an economical alternative. We can grow it at home, and not have to buy it from foreign countries who may or may not be our friends. And using it as fuel does not add any extra carbon into the atmosphere.

The problem is, most ethanol today is made from food crops, like corn. The more food we turn into ethanol, the less there is to eat. This puts pressure on food prices, as do droughts and growing populations. Food riots have broken out in several countries, and some people are beginning to rethink the push toward ethanol.

(A rather more bleak assessment of the same phenomenon.)

However, not everybody sees this as gloom-and-doom. Here's a spirited defense of biofuels.

Dennis Avery, Director of the Center for Global Food Issues, argues that the push for ethanol is hurting the movement toward sustainable farming.

However, blogger Austin Bay argues that, while rising demand for ethanol is a factor in food prices, it is far from the only one, or even the most important.

A scientific convention right here in Minneapolis agrees, noting that the problem isn’t biofuel per se, but the use of food crops to make biofuel. If we used non-food crops, we would relieve some pressure on food prices. Furthermore, non-food crops like native prairie grass actually make better ethanol than corn does!

Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for Reason magazine, notes the effect of ethanol on food prices, and makes some suggestions for reversing the trend.

Scientists in Tennessee are working on just that, using switchgrass to make ethanol. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Massachusetts are making progress towards turning switchgrass straight into “green gasoline” – a substance chemically identical to gasoline (unlike ethanol, which has some important differences.)

(We’ve discussed switchgrass on Science Buzz before.)

Researchers in Texas are working to make ethanol from sweet sorghum. This would reduce the need to use corn, but sorghum is used in syrup and other sweeteners, so it really wouldn’t solve the food-into-fuel problem.


Mmmm...that's good eatin': It takes less energy to harvest seafood, including whale, than to raise animals on a farm.
Mmmm...that's good eatin': It takes less energy to harvest seafood, including whale, than to raise animals on a farm.Courtesy Sparky Leigh

The Norwegian whaling lobby has released a study, comparing how much energy is required to produce a pound of whale meat vs. a pound of beef, chicken, or other livestock. The results: one pound of chicken produces 2.4 times as much greenhouse gas as one pound of whale meat; pork produces 3.4 times as much; and beef 8.3 times as much.

Greenpeace quickly pointed out that this has nothing to do with whales themselves; all farm-raised meat requires a lot of energy. Catching fish and other seafood produce similar amounts of gas. Many whale species are threatened or endangered, and protected by international treaties. Nations that do a lot of whaling object to these restrictions.


CarrotsCourtesy niznoz
Researchers at Texas A&M and Baylor College of Medicine have genetically engineered a carrot that could deliver up to 40% more calcium. These scientists hope to start genetically modifying foods to increase their nutritional value. The genetic engineering of food so far has focused mostly on keeping crops healthy, making them resistant to pests and disease, and increasing their size and productivity. This is all great for farmers but doesn't specifically help you when you eat the food.

Would you be more likely to eat genetically modified foods if they were actually healthier for you? Take the poll.

Researchers in Honduras have uncovered evidence of the earliest known use of chocolate. Residues in pottery indicate that some American Indians were fermenting chocolate fruit into an alcoholic drink as much as 2,400 years ago.

Evidence of the most recent use of chocolate can be found in my garbage can pretty much any day of the week.