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‘Honey, they shrunk the groceries’; Prices go up, sizes go down

Tri-County Times (Fenton, Michigan)
Holy Mackerel! Have you noticed that your can of tuna has shrunk from 6 ounces to 5 ounces?

What about your favorite ice cream? Many well-known ice-cream manufacturers are charging the same price for a “shrunken” container now weighing in between 1.5 and 1.75 quarts.

Have you found yourself buying two 11-ounce bags of potato chips, since the former 1-pound bag of chips is no longer on the shelves?

It’s not your eyesight or your memory that’s going.

It’s a national phenomenon of “shrinking” sizes of food and household products that’s as difficult on the storeowner as it is on the consumer. As quickly as fast-food restaurants have “super-sized” all their offerings, the grocery manufacturers have “shrunk” theirs.

“Prices have been going up and sizes have been going down for as long as I’ve been in the grocery business,” said Holly Foods Store Director Marty Lorenz. But lately, it has been a nightmare, he said
(28 January 2009)

Rainforest razed so cattle can graze

Michael McCarthy, Independent (UK)
Scenes like this, with vast tracts of Amazonian rainforest razed to make way for cattle, are to become more common in Brazil as it continues its drive to expand its beef export industry, according to environmentalists.

Green activists say that country’s determination to double its share of the world beef market is likely to undermine its new targets for halting Amazon rainforest destruction and reducing carbon emissions.

The South American country has the world’s largest cattle herd and is already the biggest beef exporter on the planet. Now the Brazilian government is seeking to boost its share of the world beef market from 30 per cent to 60 per cent in the next decade.

Most of this growth will come in Amazonia, on pastureland created by cutting down rainforest, according to a report released today by Greenpeace. The cattle industry will be the main driver of deforestation, it argues.
(31 January 2009)

Landless Worker’s Movement (MST) turns 25

Michael Fox , ZNet
In the dying days of Brazil’s military dictatorship, in late January 1984, a group of nearly a hundred “landless” farmers from across Brazil met in Cascavel, Paran· to debate the founding of a movement for agrarian reform which would unite landless campesinos and farm workers from around the country. It was an unlikely challenge in the world’s fifth largest nation, where even today less than two percent of landowners control nearly half of the total territory.

Two and a half decades later, the tiny Landless Worker’s Movement (MST) has grown in to a formidable force. According to MST co-founder Jo„o Pedro StÈdile, the movement has forced the expropriation of 35 million acres of land- larger than the country of Uruguay. MST numbers show that in the last 25 years, 370,000 families have acquired their own land, and 100,000 families are currently in encampments waiting for land. The movement has built hundreds of public schools and taught tens of thousands of its members to read and write. MST members have formed 400 association and cooperatives to collectively produce their food.
(31 January 2009)

Wealthy countries short of fertile land gaze hungrily at Canada’s prairies

Eric Reguly, Globe & Mail
… The Saudis are not alone in the global land grab. Any country that worries about long-term food security because of a shortage of fertile land, and has the wealth to do something about it, is on the hunt: United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Libya, India, China, Japan, plus a number of investment and private-equity funds. A report published in the autumn by the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development said that “public and private corporations and industrial groups are buying millions of hectares of land in Africa, Asia and Latin America to produce food or agrofuels.”

At first, the UN and the World Bank either ignored or cautiously supported the trend. Food prices were rising and foreign investment in raising crop productivity in poor countries seemed like a fine idea. They changed their minds when they realized offshore farms were all about locking up food supplies, not boosting them for the markets. Bizarrely, one of the countries apparently most eager to welcome farmland seekers is Sudan, where 5.6 million people are being fed by the UN’s World Food Program.
(30 January 2009)