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This feature in the Guardian explores the reasons for the rapid growth of the anti-plastic movement. It also describes historical lobbying campaigns that painted plastic packaging as being the responsibility of the consumer rather than manufacturers, and outlines some of the issues associated with recycling plastic (in comparison to recycling, say, glass or metals).
Chicken processing plants in the United States will be allowed to apply for a waiver to increase their processing speed from 140 to 175 birds per minute, in response to a petition from the National Chicken Council. Civil Eats reports that workers in meat processing plants are already injured five times more frequently than all other private workers, and that both animal welfare and labour welfare advocates have previously sought to block increases in processing speed.
UK supermarket Tesco and wildlife NGO WWF have set up a four-year partnership to work on reducing the environmental impacts of food. They aim to halve the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket, according to a metric that they will develop.
UK supermarket Sainsbury’s has started selling edible insects in 250 of its stores, becoming the first UK supermarket to do so. The barbecue-flavour roasted crickets are made by Eat Grub and contain 68 grams of protein per 100 grams of dried crickets. Eat Grub founder Shami Radia told Sky News, “We're on a mission to show the West that as well as having very strong sustainability and environmental credentials, they are also seriously tasty and shouldn't be overlooked as a great snack or recipe ingredient.”
This piece in the New Food Economy explores why the US cranberry industry has collectively agreed to destroy one quarter of its harvest, but will not ask any farmers to scale back production. A surplus of cranberries on the market means that prices are being driven below the cost of production. The agreement to destroy a portion of the harvest means that prices will rise again. Unlike other industries, which are regulated by antitrust laws, farmers are allowed to make collective agreements such as this under the Capper–Volstead Act.
Israeli startup Taranis has raised $20 million in funding for its aerial imaging technology, which uses multispectral images from satellites, planes and drones to scan fields. Artificial intelligence then identifies threats such as insects, crop disease, weeds and nutrient deficiencies. The company claims its technology can increase crop yields by up to 7.5%.
In a column for the Guardian, George Monbiot writes about the potential to create food without plants, animals or soil, using instead bacteria that feed on hydrogen (generated by solar-powered electrolysis of water) and carbon dioxide from the air. Monbiot argues that this form of food production could eventually drastically reduce the amount of land needed for the global food supply chain, and suggests that the new foodstuff could be used as an ingredient in processed foods.
The UK government is not preparing well enough for the impacts of Brexit on the food sector, argues Tony Lewis, Head of Policy at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health in a piece for the Food Research Collaboration. Lewis points out that, among other issues, introducing necessary food safety checks on imports could cause 17 miles of tailbacks along the Dover-Calais route, the resources needed to operate the border may not be ready by March 2019 (when the UK will leave the European Union), and businesses do not have enough time to adapt in the event of no deal being reached between the UK and the EU.
In this piece for The Conversation, researcher Elise Wach discusses the consolidation of farmland in the UK and rising farmland prices. According to Wach, there were nine times more small farms in England 15 years ago than there are today, and the number of high-intensity large farms is rising swiftly.
A case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as “mad cow disease”, has been confirmed on a farm in Aberdeenshire. The case was discovered before entering the human food chain, and Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon has said that all necessary measures have been taken to protect consumers.
Two commentary pieces question the findings of the study “Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer Risk”, which claims that higher organic food consumption is associated with a lower risk of cancer. The pieces point out that only two cancer types showed a statistically significant reduction in risk, and that the reduction in cancer risk only appeared to hold true for older women, not men, younger adults or people with a high overall quality of diet.
The UK government has announced £15 million of funding for a pilot project to subsidise the redistribution of surplus food from retailers and manufacturers. The project will focus on fresh food. The decision follows a campaign led by The Grocer magazine.
A feature in the New Food Economy explores how the difficulty of finding farmland at an affordable price presents a barrier to new farmers in the United States. Two online tools have been developed to help farmers find land: Farm to Farmer, which matches farm owners to land seekers, and the Finding Farmland Calculator, which aims to demystify the costs of owning farmland.
The current front-runner for Brazil’s presidency, Jair Bolsonaro, member of the right-wing Social Liberal Party, proposes to abolish Brazil’s ministry of environment, hand control of agricultural policies to politicians who advocate reducing land conservation and expanding agricultural lands, withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement on climate change, and open indigenous lands to mining.
California agritech startup Iron Ox has unveiled an “autonomous farm”, where robots move plants and transplant them from one stage to the next. Artificial intelligence controls pests and diseases and adjusts growing conditions. The farm is not entirely automated, as humans still sow seedlings and package the harvested crops. The farm produces leafy greens and herbs.
A new law requires that state institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes and prisons in California must provide a vegan menu option. The move has been welcomed by health and animal welfare campaigners.
The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council has passed a resolution concluding the UN Declaration for the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. The Declaration will be used to influence national policies on food, agriculture, seeds and land, while keeping in mind the interests of rural food producers - if, that is, the Declaration is adopted by all UN Member States after a vote in November.
A new lab-grown meat startup, Meatable, claims that it has overcome a key technical barrier - the use of serum from unborn animals to grow cells. Meatable’s meat-growing process allegedly does not need serum, because it uses pluripotent stem cells (avoided by other startups because they are hard to control). Meatable also claims their process only needs to take one cell from an animal (as opposed to a larger piece of tissue).