Quinoa–a resilient and highly nutritious grain–is increasingly popular worldwide and could be a solution to hunger. But the seeds are not free to adapt to other climates. Lisa Hamilton reports from Bolivia for the May issue of Harper's.

Native Lands: The Birthplace of Quinoa

Many people consider quinoa to be a vital tool for food security in the era of climate change. But in order to be grown outside its native climate, this crop must be adapted by plant breeders. The challenge is that quinoa’s seed is tightly controlled by Bolivia and other Andean nations. FERN reporter and photographer […]

Plowed Under

Across the Western Plains, native grassland is being turned into farmland at a rate not seen since the 1920s. The environmental consequences could be disastrous. On a rainy Monday in mid-October, six middle-aged men in denim and camouflage sat bent over coffee mugs at the Java River Café, in Montevideo, Minnesota. With its home-baked muffins […]

Palau’s Plans to Ban Commercial Fishing Could Set Precedent for Tuna Industry

The Pacific nation wants to conserve fish for its economy and marine reserves. How will this impact the fishing industry? The Pacific island-nation of Palau is close to kicking all commercial fishingvessels out of its tropical waters. The move will single-handedly section off more than 230,000 sq miles of ocean, an area slightly smaller than France, […]

Nervous Energy

Billions of barrels of oil lie in the Monterey Shale. The windfall from tapping into that deeply buried cache could be mind-blowing. So could the damage—to California’s water, air, and land. AS PAULA GETZELMAN AND I stroll among her Syrah and Grenache vines, she points out how the freestanding plants were “head-trained,” or cultivated to […]

Warning Signs: How Pesticides Harm the Young Brain

The path-breaking CHAMACOS study has detected developmental problems in children born to mothers who toiled in California’s treated fields—but will anything be done? Driving along highway 101 through California’s Salinas Valley, it’s hard to miss the fact that you are traveling through one of the most bountiful farm belts in the country. No matter the […]

Organic Dairy Farmers Hit by California Drought

Organic farmers in California face unique issues in this devastating drought, leading some to bow out … or sell cows for hamburger meat San Joaquin Valley organic dairy farmer Tony Azevedo’s business has dried up—literally. Because of the record-breaking California drought, he has nothing to feed his cows except what he has stored, and he […]

Shark finning proves tough to eradicate, even in ‘green’ Costa Rica

If you want to learn how to smuggle shark fins into Costa Rica, ask Captain Jose Calderon in the Pacific port of Puntarenas. “When the inspector came to check the freezers,” Calderon says with a chuckle, “they’d never check the engine room. So we’d hide all the fins in the engine room.” Shark finning — […]

The Post-GMO Economy

One mainstream farmer is returning to conventional seed — and he’s not alone As an invulnerable tween, Chris Huegerich, the child of a prosperous farming family, wiped out on his motorcycle in tiny Breda, Iowa. Forty years on, folks still call Huegerich “Crash.” And though he eventually went down a conventional path (married, divorced) and […]

school of hammerhead sharks

A Daring Dive Into the Wild Blue off Costa Rica

Cocos Island lures adventurous divers and ruthless shark poachers

The scent of diesel, rusting anchors and fish slurry hung in the humid air of the harbor. I was in Puntarenas on the western shore of Costa Rica, waiting to leave on a scuba-diving trip to Cocos Island – often called an “underwater Serengeti” because of the many species found there, especially the schools of […]

Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future

After 85 years, antibiotics are growing impotent. So what will medicine, agriculture and everyday life look like if we lose these drugs entirely? A few years ago, I started looking online to fill in chapters of my family history that no one had ever spoken of. I registered on Ancestry.com, plugged in the little I knew, […]

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