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Food & agriculture - Oct 30

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Official: organic really is better

Jon Ungoed-Thomas, UK Times
THE biggest study into organic food has found that it is more nutritious than ordinary produce and may help to lengthen people's lives.

The evidence from the £12m four-year project will end years of debate and is likely to overturn government advice that eating organic food is no more than a lifestyle choice.

The study found that organic fruit and vegetables contained as much as 40% more antioxidants, which scientists believe can cut the risk of cancer and heart disease, Britain’s biggest killers. They also had higher levels of beneficial minerals such as iron and zinc.

Professor Carlo Leifert, the co-ordinator of the European Union-funded project, said the differences were so marked that organic produce would help to increase the nutrient intake of people not eating the recommended five portions a day of fruit and vegetables. “If you have just 20% more antioxidants and you can’t get your kids to do five a day, then you might just be okay with four a day,” he said.
(28 October 2007)
Related from Peter Melchett (policy director of the Soil Association): Organic's better. Admit it (Guardian).


Poor outlook for grain stokes fight over biofuels

Daniel Lewis, Sydney Morning Herald
FOOD producers who rely on feed grain stepped up their attack on biofuels yesterday as the forecast for Australia's grain harvest was slashed by another 4.5 million tonnes after two more months of exceptionally warm, dry weather.

The dairy, pork, egg and feedlot beef sectors said the global demand for grain to produce ethanol was causing record grain prices, food inflation and job losses.

With Australia so prone to drought, and climate change likely to lead to even more extremes of temperature and rainfall that would affect grain production, the groups demanded governments abandon any plans to mandate the use of biofuel.
(31 October 2007)


Uganda 'averts tragedy' with reversal of decision to clear virgin forest for biofuel

Xan Rice, The Guardian
Conservationists have hailed a decision by the Ugandan government to drop plans that would have allowed a private company to grow sugar cane for biofuel production on a protected forest reserve.

The controversial proposal, which would have turned over 17,500 acres of the 74,000-acre Mabira forest to the Indian-owned Mehta Group, had caused alarm in environmental circles and stirred up racial tensions. Protected since 1932, the Mabira reserve acts as a vital catchment area for Lake Victoria, just eight miles south of the forest, and is home to more than 300 species of birds, 200 types of trees and nine different primates.

Besides the biodiversity loss, local and international conservation groups claimed the forest's value in storing carbon dioxide and mitigating global warming far exceeded any commercial gains from sugar cane production.

"This is a tragedy averted," said Paul Buckley, head of the Africa programme at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. "There are plenty of places to grow sugar cane, but not many tracts of virgin forest left in Uganda."
(29 October 2007)

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