At first glance, our cover image looks as though a bomb went off in a compost bin. But all those peels and rinds represent food’s complete cycle—from cradle to grave and all over again. The stories inside run the gamut, too, starting with an update on the organic food business, set on Joseph Fields’s prosperous farm in South Carolina (“Fork in the Road”). As Barry Yeoman reports, the booming, $24.8 billion organic food industry spells good news for both consumers and birds threatened by insecticides. On the flip side of natural farms is the life-saving potential of genetically modified agriculture (“Food Culture”). Despite the acknowledged downside of genetically engineered crops, these miracles of modern science, writes articles editor Alisa Opar, also hold significant promise: drought- and virus-resistant crops, reduced water pollution from pig farms, even the protection of wild salmon.
Such conundrums tend to crop up with food because we’ve been playing God with the cosmos for so long. Don Stap takes us to California’s Central Valley, where farm fields have replaced 94 percent of freshwater marshes (“Grains of Change”). However paradoxical it might seem, though, this may not be an entirely bad thing, because a new generation of rice growers, teaming up with Audubon California and other conservationists, are flooding their fields to sustain embattled long-billed curlews and 186 other bird species, 28 of which are threatened. One farmer, Jack DeWit, boasts to Stap that his crop rotation is “wild rice, regular rice, and shorebirds.”
DeWit’s premium rice is used in sushi rolls nationwide. If that doesn’t sharpen your appetite or feed your soul, how about sampling some of the tasty fare featured in this issue? There’s bird-friendly, organic Theo chocolate from Seattle, and Dancing Cow cheese from Vermont—the latter “known for a piquancy that evokes grassy pastures,” writes features editor Rene Ebersole (“Food Cycle”). After photographer Kang Kim shot the chocolate and cheese, design director Kevin Fisher and our new photo editor, Lila Garnett, brought it back to the office, much to the staff’s delight. We would have washed it down with a wine made from grapes grown without chemicals and highly rated by the Wine Spectator (“Message in a Bottle”), but deadlines loomed.
Ecologically correct cuisine has certainly come a long way since 1998, when Audubon and noted marine scientist and author Carl Safina launched the world’s first independent and comprehensive seafood guide, writes Ted Williams, “thereby setting a standard and trend that would save all manner of marine life around the globe and change how people perceive fish” (“Gone Fish”). At the same time, Ted’s warnings about overfishing and the haunting photos of bulging fish nets by photographer (and former commercial fisherman) Corey Arnold show how far we still have to go to be eating what we’re preaching.
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