Food & agriculture - Nov 8
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Rising food prices to hit consumption
Javier Blas, Financial Times
Poor developing countries will be forced to cut food consumption and risk an increase in malnutrition after an “alarming” increase in their agricultural commodities bills, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation warned on Wednesday.
In its biannual Food Outlook report the FAO predicted that food prices, particularly cereals, would remain high in 2008 having hit record levels this year.
“Given the firmness of food prices in the international markets, the situation could deteriorate further in the coming months, leading to a reduction in imports and consumption in many low-income food-deficit countries,” the report said.
Ali Arslan Gurkan, chief of commodity markets and policy analysis at the FAO in Rome, said that subSaharan countries were most at risk and added that high food prices meant it was increasingly difficult to meet the UN goals of hunger reduction.
“We are lagging well behind our targets [of hunger reduction] and we are not likely to meet them,” Mr Gurkan said. “The outlook for food and, at the same time, crude-oil importing countries is bleak.”
(7 November 2007)
Why Our Farm Policy Is Failing
Michael Grunwald, TIME Magazine Agricultural policy is not sexy. You probably don't know the intricacies of "loan deficiency payments" or "base acreage," and you probably don't care. This was once an agrarian nation, but now there's a less than 1% chance that you're a farmer, and if you are, you're probably part time; the average farm family gets 82% of its income from nonfarm sources. We're not a people of the soil anymore, and for most of us, our eyes glaze over when we see farm statistics like the ones in that last sentence.
But farms still cover most of our land, consume most of our water and produce most of our food. If you eat, drink or pay taxes--or care about the economy, the environment or our global reputation -- U.S. agricultural policy is a big deal.
It's also a horrible deal. It redistributes our taxes to millionaire farmers as well as to millionaire "farmers" like David Letterman, David Rockefeller and the owners of the Utah Jazz. It contributes to our obesity and illegal-immigration epidemics and to our water and energy shortages. It helps degrade rivers, deplete aquifers, eliminate grasslands, concentrate food-processing conglomerates and inundate our fast-food nation with high-fructose corn syrup. Our farm policy is supposed to save small farmers and small towns. Instead it fuels the expansion of industrial megafarms and the depopulation of rural America. It hurts Third World farmers, violates international trade deals and paralyzes our efforts to open foreign markets to the nonagricultural goods and services that make up the remaining 99% of our economy.
(2 November 2007)
Restaurants becoming environmentally friendly
Original: At these restaurants, 'eating green' doesn't necessarily mean ordering a salad
Chris Gaylord, Christian Science Monitor
With the average eatery producing 275 pounds of waste a day, some are adopting environmentally friendly approaches.
Rachel Pelkey has seen it many times before. Working behind the counter at Grille Zone in Boston, she'll watch diners finish their meal, gather their rubbish, march it to the front of the restaurant, and then look confused.
"The biggest question I get is 'Where's the garbage?' " she says with the kind of grin a mother gives her questioning child. "I explain that we don't have a garbage can, only compost and recycling."
That often sparks a chain of follow-up questions: Why only compost? What do you mean it's a near zero-waste restaurant? Everything is biodegradable? Even the plates and knives?
Once customers catch on, they get kind of excited, she says. "They like being a part of something so green," says Ms. Pelkey. "Yeah, we serve burgers and fries, but we're also as environmentally friendly as they come."
As more Americans seek out products with green credentials, more quick and casual restaurants are ready to serve them. Eating green no longer means just ordering from a vegetarian menu. In fact, it doesn't even have to mean eating healthy.
"For a restaurant to be truly green, they have to think about the lighting, the napkins, the cleaning products, the waste, the grill – everything," says Michael Oshman, founder of the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), a national, nonprofit consultancy in Boston that helps eateries become more environmentally friendly. "But what a lot of restaurateurs don't realize is that taking the necessary steps is not only good for the environment and good for their image, it's also a way to lower costs."
(7 November 2007)
Growing Local, Eating Local
NOW, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
When the federal government ended its 60-plus years of price support to tobacco farmers in 2004, Virginians were hit particularly hard. This week, NOW travels to the mountainous farmlands of Appalachia to meet farmers who've attempted the difficult switch from tobacco to increasingly popular organic produce. Among those profiled is restaurant owner Steven Hopp who, along with his wife—acclaimed author Barbara Kingsolver—spent a year living off the land.
Social entrepreneur Anthony Flaccavento founded an Enterprising Idea called "Appalachian Sustainable Development" to help local farmers and markets make the transition not just to organic, but to local organic. Can local farmers change course and crops and still survive in a shifting economy?
nterview: Bill McKibben
Bill McKibben Also on the show, David Brancaccio interviews prominent environmentalist Bill McKibben about his "National Day of Climate Action" on November 3, and what we can all do to fight global warming. McKibben is also a bestselling author who frequently writes about global warming and alternative energy. Beginning in the summer of 2006, McKibben led the organization of the largest demonstrations against global warming in American history.
(2 November 2007)
Sowing the seeds of uncertainty
Jonathon Porritt, BBC
...A quarter of the world's flowering plants, for instance, are now threatened with extinction over the next 50 years. There was some reasonable coverage on the day itself (especially in the Independent), but then silence. Environment going to hell in a handcart - heard it all before; so what? Or words to that effect.
The number of people out there today seriously worried about the health of all the plants and seeds on which modern agriculture depends must be very limited, and the number of people actively campaigning to protect them vanishingly few.
Making these two Radio 4 programmes called Save Our Seeds forcefully reminded me just how crazy that is. Of the Earth's 250,000 plant species, only 200 are cultivated for food on any serious scale.
Even more extraordinary, the vast majority of the world's food comes from just 20 crops, in just eight plant families. Most of these monocultures are dangerously vulnerable to diseases (both old and new), pest infestations, and a rapidly changing climate.
Yet the "genetic pool" on which plant breeders might need to draw to build resistance and adaptability is being constantly eroded as older, non-commercial varieties disappear
Jonathon Porritt is founder director of Forum for the Future.
(7 November 2007)