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Food, agriculture and health - Oct 20

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Wal-Mart's Plan for Small Farmers Expands Private-Sector Climate Agenda

Joel Kirkland, ClimateWire, New York Times
Wal-Mart Stores is launching a program to sell $1 billion worth of food from small and mid-sized farms in emerging markets such as China and double its sale of locally sourced fruits and vegetables in the United States.

The plan announced yesterday expands a broader initiative by the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail behemoth to boost energy efficiency, cut waste, use more renewable energy to power its stores and force suppliers to adopt sustainable practices. Extending the five-year-old sustainability project to agriculture responds to concerns that Wal-Mart's reliance on industrial farms displaces local farmers and contributes to unsustainable global food production.

Wal-Mart also aims to take another slice out of costs and energy use tied to shipping products across borders.
(15 October 2010)



UN Says Global Farm Methods 'Recipe for Disaster'

Agence France Presse
The United Nations top official on the right to food has called for wholesale changes in farming methods to safeguard the environment and ensure everyone has enough to eat.

[A farmer holds a bunch of cassava roots dug up from his farm in Oshogbo, in Nigeria's Osun State in August. The United Nations top official on the right to food has called for wholesale changes in farming methods to safeguard the environment and ensure everyone has enough to eat. (AFP/Pius Utomi Ekpei) ]A farmer holds a bunch of cassava roots dug up from his farm in Oshogbo, in Nigeria's Osun State in August. The United Nations top official on the right to food has called for wholesale changes in farming methods to safeguard the environment and ensure everyone has enough to eat. (AFP/Pius Utomi Ekpei)
Olivier De Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said in a statement to mark World Food Day that there is currently "little to rejoice about," and "worse may still be ahead."

"As a result of climate change, the yields in certain regions of sub-Saharan Africa are expected to fall by 50 percent by 2020 in comparison to 2000 levels. And growing frequency and intensity of floods and droughts contribute to volatility in agricultural markets."

"Current agricultural developments are ... threatening the ability for our children's children to feed themselves," he said.
(16 October 2010)




Big Food's Blame Game

Leslie Samuelrich, Other Words
To distract us from the facts, the fast food industry and its defenders blame parents for the rising child obesity rate.
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Corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year marketing a dangerous product to America's children.

No one disputes the danger of the product. No one disputes that the marketing successfully convinces millions of kids to use the product.

Yet these same corporations deny that they're endangering our children. Instead, they're blaming parents. It's mom's fault. Or dad's.

How could this be? If the product were a gun, or drugs, or even a poorly designed toy that could injure a child, the corporation responsible for making it and then marketing it to the most vulnerable among us would be on the hook.

Yet since the product I'm talking about is unhealthy food, corporations expect us to apply a different standard. They want us to blame the victim, or at least the people who love the victim the most.

In the past 30 years, U.S. obesity rates have tripled among children between 12 and 19 years old. A third of children today are now officially overweight or obese. Consequently, these children are more likely to suffer from diseases once limited to grownups, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type II diabetes.

Sick children often grow up to be sick adults--and we all pay. Obesity is costing our country $147 billion per year, according to government-sponsored research. As a group of retired military leaders pointed out earlier this year, the crisis even undermines our national security: Being overweight is the top reason military recruits are rejected.

In this context, calls for limiting fast food marketing to children are modest. Such initiatives don't call for banning fast food; they're simply an effort to level the playing field. Each year, McDonald's and its competitors move more than a billion unhealthy meals to kids under the age of 12, primarily on the wings of toy giveaways in its Happy Meals.

As it stands now, the fight is hardly fair. Messages from nonprofits and government agencies to promote healthy eating habits for kids are overwhelmed by the flood of advertising for Chicken McNuggets, Coke, Cocoa Puffs, and other things they shouldn't eat or drink.

Leslie Samuelrich is the chief of staff of Corporate Accountability International. www.stopcorporateabuse.org
(18 October 2010)



Eating Less Meat Could Save 45,000 Lives a Year, Experts Claim

Denis Campbell, The Guardian/UK
More than 45,000 lives a year could be saved if everyone began eating meat no more than two or three times a week, health experts and Friends of the Earth claim today.

Widespread switching to low-meat diets would stop 31,000 people dying early from heart disease, 9,000 from cancer and 5,000 from strokes, according to new analysis of British eating habits by public health expert Dr Mike Rayner contained in an FoE report.

Dramatically reduced meat consumption would also save the NHS £1.2bn and help reduce climate change and deforestation in South America, where rainforests are being chopped down to grow animal feed and graze cows which are exported to Europe, the report states.
(19 October 2010)

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