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Food & agriculture - Feb 19

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Peak oil and food security talk by Patrick Holden of UK Soil Assn
ForaRadio, ABC (Australia)
There are many who are extremely concerned by the threat posed to agriculture by climate change and a world running low on fossil fuels. But when Patrick Holden first started to consider the implications of trying to run his organic farm without fuel or even electricity, he became so alarmed he re-thought his entire philosophical approach to organic farming.

He explains why we need to fundamentally change the way we produce our food and how this shift can be achieved.
(18 February 2009)
Recommended by Stuart McCarthy of ASPO Australia/NZ. Patrick Holden has been director of the UK Soil Association since 1995 (article).

Hamburgers are the Hummers of food in global warming: scientists

Agence France Presse (AFP)
When it comes to global warming, hamburgers are the Hummers of food, scientists say.

Simply switching from steak to salad could cut as much carbon as leaving the car at home a couple days a week.

That's because beef is such an incredibly inefficient food to produce and cows release so much harmful methane into the atmosphere, said Nathan Pelletier of Dalhousie University in Canada.

Pelletier is one of a growing number of scientists studying the environmental costs of food from field to plate.

By looking at everything from how much grain a cow eats before it is ready for slaughter to the emissions released by manure, they are getting a clearer idea of the true costs of food.

The livestock sector is estimated to account for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and beef is the biggest culprit.
(16 February 2009)

How African Farmers are Dealing with Climate Change

Ochieng' Ogodo (Kenya), IslamOnline
... As climate change intensifies through increased temperatures and precipitation, most smallholder farmers in Africa, with the majority living in rural areas, are not adapting to global warming.

Low levels of technology and the scarcity of information on climate change are some of the major obstacles for the vast majority of African farmers in adapting to global warming.

Claudia Ringler, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), says global change, including increased population, urbanization, international trade and climate change, will have significant effect on food and water security in Africa in the coming decades.

Speaking at a meeting titled " How Can African Agriculture Adapt to Climate Change? Results and Conclusions for Ethiopia and Beyond" held on December 11-14, 2008 in Nazareth, Ethiopia, Ringler said rural areas in developing countries, especially Africa, will be least able to adapt to these changes, in particular climate change, as incomes and employment in rural areas are largely dependent on agriculture.

"Ethiopians will find it particularly difficult to adapt because of high dependence on rainfed agriculture, very low incomes, widespread poverty and food insecurity, low levels of human and physical capital and poor infrastructure," she told (IOL).
(16 February 2009)

U.N. says food production may fall 25 percent by 2050

Daniel Wallis, Reuters
Up to a quarter of global food production could be lost by 2050 due to the combined impact of climate change, land degradation and loss, water scarcity and species infestation, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The fall-off will strike just as 2 billion more people are added to the world's population, according to the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP), which says cereal yields have stagnated worldwide and fish catches are declining.

In a new report, it said a 100-year trend of falling food costs could be at an end and that last year's sharp price rises had driven 110 million people into poverty.
(17 February 2009)

Massive effort underway to save endangered seeds

Julie Steenhuysen, Reuters
Farmers and plant breeders around the globe are planting thousands of endangered seeds as part of an effort to save 100,000 varieties of food crops from extinction.

In many cases, only a handful of seeds remain from rare varieties of barley, rice and wheat whose history can be traced back to the Neolithic era, said Carey Fowler of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, who is speaking on Sunday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

"If we don't do the job right, they are gone," he said in an interview.

The effort, which Fowler thinks is the biggest biological rescue effort ever undertaken, is aimed at rescuing seeds stored under less-than-optimal conditions in underfunded seed banks as well as those threatened by human and natural disasters.
(15 February 2009)

Fresh ideas for waste food

Tony Naylor, Guardian
It might be time for us all to start thinking more seriously about the food we waste. What should have been done with this lot? And what's in your bin, that shouldn't be?
We live in parsimonious times. Where once Britain's top chefs kept their money-saving habits hush hush, suddenly, with the credit crunch biting hard, the "no waste" ethos of the average professional kitchen has become a pertinent matter of pride.

In January's Restaurant Magazine, and subsequently in G2, Anthony Demetre cast the traditional caution - about the reaction of ultra-squeamish diners, presumably - to the wind, and explained how, at his Michelin-star restaurant, Arbutus, uneaten bread is used to make breadcrumbs, and wine dregs are recycled in stocks, sauces and vinegars.

... It's a matter of saving money, but also a growing sense that we are all obliged to tread as lightly as we can on this planet, and that wasting food, of all things, is morally indefensible.

... That's the rhetoric, anyway. But what of the reality? To find out how well or not I'm really doing, I spent Thursday afternoon sifting through my kitchen bin, to see what shameful waste it might reveal.
(3 February 2009)

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