Put a big smiley face on March 21 in your calendars, oh enlightened foodies. Today in Food, the Chron announces a momentous decision: In an ongoing series of features, the Bay's biggest daily will dig into the complex tangle of environmental and ethical issues that surround eating. Awesome, you say. But it's the hint of the Chron's internal debate embedded in the announcement that offers an interesting little peek into why it's taken so long for the paper to fully embrace the topically relevant. Called "Food Conscious," the occasional features will, in the words of staffer Carol Ness, "cover topics like the treatment of farm animals, and California dairy and cattle farms' growing piles of manure . . . Some stories will have a wonky bent, like ones about the farm bill pending in Washington DC." Ness herself kicked it off today with a piece about the movement among restaurants like Chez Panisse to banish bottled water in favor of filtered tap. Clearly, there's been an internal debate at the Chron that has to do with the traditional role of Wednesday food sections as a source of relatively weightless recipe pieces. Here's Ness addressing the negative side of the debate: "Some of the subjects might seem off-putting in a Food section. Readers let us know when we write about issues they don't want to think about - like slaughter, for instance." For those of us steeped in Pollan, it's inconceivable that any readers would object. But hey, right on to Ness and those at the Chron who won the argument to inject more substance into Wednesdays.