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Food & agriculture - Feb 7

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A Food Manifesto for the Future

Mark Bittman, New York Times
For decades, Americans believed that we had the world’s healthiest and safest diet. We worried little about this diet’s effect on the environment or on the lives of the animals (or even the workers) it relies upon. Nor did we worry about its ability to endure — that is, its sustainability.

That didn’t mean all was well. And we’ve come to recognize that our diet is unhealthful and unsafe. Many food production workers labor in difficult, even deplorable, conditions, and animals are produced as if they were widgets. It would be hard to devise a more wasteful, damaging, unsustainable system.

Here are some ideas — frequently discussed, but sadly not yet implemented — that would make the growing, preparation and consumption of food healthier, saner, more productive, less damaging and more enduring. In no particular order:

  • End government subsidies to processed food. ...

  • Begin subsidies to those who produce and sell actual food for direct consumption. Small farmers and their employees need to make living wages. ...
  • Break up the U.S. Department of Agriculture and empower the Food and Drug Administration. Currently, the U.S.D.A. counts among its missions both expanding markets for agricultural products (like corn and soy!) and providing nutrition education. These goals are at odds with each other; you can’t sell garbage while telling people not to eat it ...
  • Outlaw concentrated animal feeding operations and encourage the development of sustainable animal husbandry. ...
  • Encourage and subsidize home cooking. (Someday soon, I’ll write about my idea for a new Civilian Cooking Corps.) When people cook their own food, they make better choices. ...
  • Tax the marketing and sale of unhealthful foods. ...
  • Reduce waste and encourage recycling. The environmental stress incurred by unabsorbed fertilizer cannot be overestimated ...

(1 February 2011)



'The Soil Solution' Film Preview

Jill Cloutier and Carol Hirashima, GreenBridge Media
What if a solution to climate change was just beneath your feet? Greenbridge Media visits with farmers, scientists, and educators who are exploring the connection of soil fertility and carbon sequestration.

GreenBridge Media is a collaboration between Jill Cloutier and Carol Hirashima. Our mission is to support sustainable and environmental education through all forms of current media. GreenBridge is a vehicle for sharing, educating and delivering change.

‘The Soil Solution’, a Film by GreenBridge Media is currently in production.
(19 January 2011)
Recommended by Holger Hieronimi.



Global Food Prices Hit New Record High

Harry Wallop, Telegraph/UK
Global food prices have hit a new record high, amid fears that the escalating cost of bread and meat is adding to the turmoil in the Middle East.
---
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) gave warning that the high prices, already above levels in 2008 which sparked riots, were likely to rise further.

The FAO measures food prices from an index made up of a basket of key commodities such as wheat, milk, oil and sugar, and is widely watched by economists and politicians around the world as the first indicator of whether prices will end up higher on shop shelves.

The index hit averaged 230.7 points in January, up from 223.1 points in December and 206 in November. The index highlights how food prices, which throughout most of the last two decades have been stable, have taken off in alarming fashion in the last three years.
(3 February 2011)



Obesity Has Nearly Doubled Worldwide Since 1980: Report

HealthDay News, Business Week
The United States reached the highest level among wealthy countries with an average BMI of 28, putting its residents in the overweight range. New Zealand and Australia also had notably overweight people on average, while women in Turkey and men in the Czech Republic had the highest average BMIs in Europe.

... In 2008, almost 10 percent of men and 14 percent of women in the world were estimated to be obese. That's up from 5 percent and 8 percent, respectively, in 1980.

... The United States reached the highest level among wealthy countries with an average BMI of 28, putting its residents in the overweight range. New Zealand and Australia also had notably overweight people on average, while women in Turkey and men in the Czech Republic had the highest average BMIs in Europ
(4 February 2011)



Oysters disappearing worldwide: study

AFP
A survey of oyster habitats around the world has found that the succulent mollusks are disappearing fast and 85 percent of their reefs have been lost due to disease and over-harvesting.

Most of the remaining wild oysters in the world, or about 75 percent, can be found in five locations in North America, said the study published in BioScience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.
(3 February 2011)



Cocoa Shortage Will Prove Sweet News for Top Makers

Anthony Alfidi, Wall Street Pit
Resource investors worry about Peak Oil and Peak Gold. Now they can start worrying about Peak Chocolate. Certified fair-trade cocoa growers are abandoning the business:

Political unrest in the Ivory Coast, where 40 per cent of the world’s cocoa beans are grown, has ‘significantly’ depleted the number of certified fair trade cocoa farmers.

Cocoa beans, unlike minerals or hydrocarbon deposits, are a renewable resource but the ideal conditions for their growth are limited. Like the best wine-growing regions, cocoa harvesting is a special source of supply subject to localized disruptions.
(28 January 2011)

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