The UC Food Observer chooses some important stories for you to read each work day.
On today’s menu, in no particular order:
1. In defense of carbs: The Paleo diet philosophy is that we should eat like our ancestors did, focusing on meat, vegetables and fruit while limiting grains, legumes and dairy. The theory is that these foods are what helped humans evolve — even though our Paleolithic ancestors were hunting and gathering for real, not at Whole Foods. Bad news for the high-protein/low-carb set: It looks like there has been starchy goodness in the mix all along. According to a new study published in the journal Quarterly Review of Biology, not only were carbs readily available, they’re a better explanation than the Paleo diet theory for the dramatic increase in brain size that happened over the last 800,000 years. Read coverage by Susan Rinkunas (@sueonthetown) for New York Magazine, Carl Zimmer for The New York Times, Saffron Alexander for The Telegraph, Willy Blackmore (@willyblackmore) for Take Part and Deena Shanker (@deenashanker) for Quartz. For more on protein, read coverage by Julie Revelant (@JulieRevelant) for Fox News and Dana McMahan (@danamac) for NBC News.
2. Can the Earth feed 11 billion people? The world’s population is expected to top 11 billion by 2100, according to the latest projections from the United Nations. James Dyke (@JamesGDyke) explores the challenges of feeding another four billion people in a piece for The Conversation.
3. Ebola’s impact on West African agriculture: The deadly Ebola virus overwhelmed Sierra Leone’s key agricultural district, leaving thousands of farms, and their farmers, abandoned. The impact of that lost harvest has shaken the economy — and its food supply, Ryan Lenora Brown reports for the Christian Science Monitor.
4. Somalis taking root in America: Ethnic Bantus who fled a brutal civil war more than a decade ago in Somalia have found their way to an unlikely home in Lewiston, Maine. They clung together in tenements, strangers in a wary city where their reception ranged between chilly and hostile. But now, after years of gradual acceptance, they are emerging to rediscover the joys of an agrarian past, Brian MacQuarrie (@GlobeMacQuarrie) reports for The Boston Globe. Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, the city has approved funding to hold Somali food safety training classes to help Somali-owned restaurants overcome the hurdle of passing a food safety exam, Doualy Xaykaothao (@DoualyX) reports for Minnesota Public Radio.
5. Under the sea: Scuba divers and agricultural experts develop a project to work out if growing plants in pods on the seabed could be a viable solution to future food security. Beneath the blue waters off the coast of Noli in northwest Italy lies a cluster of balloon-like pods pegged to the seabed by ropes. Inside a range of produce is being grown, including red cabbage, lettuce, beans, basil and strawberries. It may sound like something you’d find in a science fiction novel, but this is the work of Ocean Reef Group. Rich McEachran (@richmceachran) reports on the Nemo’s Garden project for The Guardian. See additional coverage by Robert Gebelhoff (@RobertGebelhoff) for The Washington Post and Aarian Marshall (@AarianMarshall) for Good magazine.
6. Why Starbucks prices went up as coffee beans got cheaper: Starbucks isn’t the place to go for cheap coffee. It is selling an experience, not a commodity, reports Jeff Sommer (@jeffsommer) for The New York Times. Despite falling coffee commodity prices, Sommer explains why Starbucks said last month that its costs were rising and that it wasraising the priceof much of its brewed coffee by 5 to 20 cents a cup.
7. Millennials’ food obsession: In her recent book A Taste of Generation Yum: How the Millennial Generation’s Love for Organic Fare, Celebrity Chefs, and Microbrews Will Make or Break the Future of Food, Eve Turow (@EveTurow), who has written about food for NPR’s website and has worked as an assistant to Mark Bittman (@Bittman), tries to figure out why food came to be something she and her generation obsesses over. Turow’s theory is that in a digital-first era, many people latch onto food as something that engages all of the senses and brings people together in physical space. Read Joe Pinsker’s (@jpinsk) Q&A with Turow for The Atlantic. See additional coverage by Julia Bainbridge (@juliabainbridge) for Bon Appétit.
8. The power of pollinators: A combination of diseases, stress, parasites, pesticides and colony collapse disorder — a mysterious phenomenon that scientists still don’t understand — has taken its toll on honeybees. And that could put our own species in a tight spot. Honeybees pollinate about a third of the crops in the U.S. So is it time to panic? Not necessarily. Researchers at Penn State are now investigating whether other bees — unsung bees — could start picking up some of the slack, Lou Blouin reports for NPR. For more on pollinators, see this video featuring UC Berkeley conservation biologist Claire Kremen (@clairekremen) in the California Matters video series from Mark Bittman (@Bittman), via UC’s Global Food Initiative and the Berkeley Food Institute, and a related story in The New York Times.
9. Drought, from desert to Wine Country: In the desert of California, where the Colorado River for decades has turned barren ground into an agricultural bounty, farmers are being paid not to grow crops on a portion of their land so that water can be shipped to thirsty cities on the coast. In the Imperial Valley, so-called fallowing agreements have caused political upheaval, recriminations and litigation. But just to the north, in the smaller Palo Verde Valley, a 35-year agreement signed in 2005 with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has enjoyed public acceptance by farmers and local officials. Tony Perry (@LATsandiego) reports for the Los Angeles Times. Meanwhile, in California’s Wine Country, years of drought are causing an early winegrape harvest. Winemakers are scrambling to keep pace, and many worry about the financial implications of a low-yielding crop, reports Esther Mobley (@Esther_mobley) for the San Francisco Chronicle. For the bigger picture on California’s drought, read these perspective pieces by Peter H. King (@peterhking) for the Los Angeles Times and Charles Fishman (@cfishman) for The New York Times.
10. Oyster farmers worried as climate change lowers ocean pH: Long before scientists and shellfish companies were aware of what was happening, a silent killer began devastating California’s oyster industry. Farms along the West Coast lost more than half of their bivalves before they reached maturity, creating a shortage of seed. That deficit hit Hog Island Oyster Co. in Marshall especially hard. So owners Terry Sawyer and John Finger began collaborating with UC Davis’ Bodega Marine Laboratory and associate professor of geography Tessa Hill (@Tessa_M_Hill) to figure out what was plaguing the water in Tomales Bay, their backyard. After more than two years of tests, they have a better understanding of the condition afflicting West Coast oysters, mussels and clams, reports Lizzie Johnson (@lizziejohnsonnn) for the San Francisco Chronicle. For more on oysters and ocean acidification, see this video (below) in the California Matters video series from Mark Bittman (@Bittman), via UC’s Global Food Initiative and the Berkeley Food Institute, and a related story for The New York Times, with additional coverage by KCET.