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Farmers in Britain and other European countries have been affected by the ongoing heatwave and dry weather. Oxfordshire farmer Lesley Chandler told the Guardian, “It’s like a tinderbox out here… Just a spark could set it all alight” (read more here). Combine harvesters can create sparks if their blades hit a stone.
An Israeli startup has raised $3 million to create a mechanical system for pollinating plants, as an alternative to relying on bees. Wild bee numbers are declining, while bees used by farmers can suffer from Colony Collapse Disorder. Edete Precision Technologies for Agriculture hopes to build two separate systems: one to collect and store pollen, and another to autonomously apply the pollen to plants.
The US divisions of Danone, Mars, Nestle and Unilever have established the new Sustainable Food Policy Alliance, hoping to influence policymakers and regulators in five key areas: product transparency, nutrition, the environment, food safety and a positive workplace for food and agriculture workers. According to the Washington Post, the new alliance supports the reduction of salt in packaged foods and the introduction of “nutrition facts panels” to highlight sugar and calorie information (read more here).
In a guest post for Carbon Brief, Professor Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen discusses recent research on how climate mitigation through negative emissions could affect biodiversity, through changes in land use. He argues that bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) should be implemented sooner rather than later, because of the risk of not meeting climate mitigation targets if BECCS is left until later in the century and because a study estimated that natural land loss could be lower if BECCS is deployed earlier in the century.
UK charity Oxfam has launched a new campaign, Behind the Barcodes, to highlight human suffering in the food supply chain. Oxfam has scored the major UK supermarkets on their human rights policies in the categories of transparency, workers, farmers and women, and is encouraging shoppers to contact supermarkets to voice their concerns.
Disruptions to supplies of food-grade CO2 in Europe are causing shortages of carbonated drinks, meat and crumpets, and could threaten animal welfare. Gasworld explains that several European CO2 plants have prolonged their periods of maintenance downtime due to low CO2 prices (read more here).
US media organisation NPR discusses the tensions between housing developers and people who use vacant city plots for food production. Around 15% of land in US cities is classed as “vacant”. Urban farms on vacant land can be an important source of fresh food in some low-income neighbourhoods, but this can clash with the need for more housing. New York City council has passed an urban agriculture bill in an attempt to give urban farmers some control over how land is used.
Rob Bailey and Bernice Lee of UK think tank Chatham House have written a piece exploring food system trends, including rising food demand, plateauing yields in key crop production regions, global convergence on a diet dependent on calorie-dense but nutrient-poor crops and a lack of genetic diversity in staple crops. The authors conclude that current food system trends are unsustainable, saying, “The continued intensification and expansion of agriculture is a short-term coping strategy that will eventually lead to food-system collapse.” They call for interventions at key leverage points in the food system.
FCRN member Eric Toensmeier, of Yale University, has written an op-ed for the Washington Post in which he discusses the potential of silvopasture - including trees on grazing land - to reduce agricultural emissions. Trees increase production by providing shade to livestock, according to the op-ed.
Bayer, the German pharmaceutical and life sciences multinational, has bought US agribusiness Monsanto in a $63 billion deal after receiving approval from antitrust regulatory authorities. The US Department of Justice required Bayer to sell some of its crop science assets to BASF as a condition of approving the merger.
The FCRN’s Tara Garnett is featured in this video by UK climate website Carbon Brief, which discusses how farmers could reduce the carbon footprint of beef production. Tara points out that production-side measures only go so far, and that consumption changes are needed as well.
A new edible and almost invisible coating could extend the shelf life of fruit and vegetables and help farmers sell more of their crops, reports Civil Eats. The maker of the coating, Apeel Sciences, says that the coating is made from fats that can be derived from the peel, seeds and pulp of “any kind of fruit or vegetable”. Apeel Sciences claims that the coating can double the lifespan of produce, even without refrigeration.
Some avocado plantation owners in Chile are illegally diverting water from rivers and leaving local villagers without enough water, according to a feature in the Guardian. Demand for avocados has increased by 27% in the UK in the last year. Activist Veronica Vilches claimed that local people are getting sick because of the lack of water, while activist Rodrigo Mundaca says that the water provided to resident by trucks is of poor quality.
France recently amended its agriculture bill to ban non-animal foods from being labelled similarly to animal products, e.g. “soy sausage”, on the basis that such labelling could be misleading to consumers.