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The UK government has proposed a new law that would require large businesses to prove that their supply chains for commodities (including beef, cocoa, palm oil and soya) do not contain products that have been produced on illegally deforested land. The proposals would cover commodities embedded within other products, such as animals fed on soy or palm oil used as an ingredient.
According to this article from POLITICO, dairy farmers in West Africa are being undercut by exports of “fat-filled milk powder” from the European Union. This product is a blend of dairy whey left over from processes such as butter manufacture and vegetable fats such as palm oil.
UK cultured meat startup Higher Steaks has created one of the world’s first lab-grown pork products (Mission Barns claims to have created, but not publicised, a lab-grown bacon prototype in May 2020). The Higher Steaks pork belly is made of 50% cultivated cells, and the bacon product contains 70% cultivated cells, with the remaining material being plant-based.
FCRN member Allison Gacad has written this article on how epigenetic modification of plants could enhance food security by enabling crops to activate or deactivate certain genes depending on environmental conditions.
This article by FoodPrint discusses the tension between the purported environmental benefits of kelp farming and consumers’ lack of familiarity with kelp as a food, and describes “regenerative” kelp farming systems that also produce oysters, clams and mussels. It sets out several ways in which kelp can be used, including in foods such as pesto or lasagne, as well as other uses such as bioplastics, fertiliser, biofuel and animal feed.
This BBC story looks at a new initiative to heat greenhouses in East Anglia using waste heat from nearby water treatment plants. According to the story, the technology could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from heating greenhouses as well as reduce reliance on imported produce.
Local authorities in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the COVID-19 virus is thought to have originally started spreading to humans, have announced a ban on eating wild animals along with a ban on hunting wild animals except for scientific research or population regulation. The city will also buy out wild animal breeders.
An amendment to guarantee that post-Brexit food imports meet the same standards required of British food producers has been dropped from the UK’s agriculture bill, to the dismay of several food, farming and nature organisations.
According to this article in the Guardian, slaughterhouses in several countries are being badly affected by COVID-19 outbreaks, with the US being particularly affected. The factors behind the outbreaks are thought to include crowded working conditions, a workforce who often live in shared houses, people working despite being ill because of economic insecurity, and the slaughterhouses not being shut down during the pandemic.
According to this article by Civil Eats, some farmers in the Great Plains of the United States are sowing “chaos gardens” - fields of mixed fruit and vegetable plants such as peas, squash, radish, okra, melons and sweet corn - as cover crops between the soy and corn that are the dominant crops in the area. The produce is harvested by volunteers and donated to food banks or other community groups.
This piece from nonprofit food media outlet The Counter explains why some farmers in the US have been dumping surplus food during the COVID-19 pandemic, at the same time that food banks are struggling to source enough food.
This opinion piece by Liz Specht of the US Good Food Institute argues that taking animals out of the global food system - for example by replacing animal products with plant-based or cultivated meat products - can reduce the risk of future pandemics. Specht notes that zoonotic diseases usually pass to humans during the hunting or slaughter of wild animals or livestock.
According to this article in Quartz Africa, a new wave of desert locust swarms is forming in East Africa (including Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia). Wet conditions mean that the locusts are likely to continue to breed. It is feared that many farmers could lose their newly planted crops. Efforts to control the swarms through aerial spraying have been slowed by the coronavirus crisis.
This article in the Guardian explores the links between food production and COVID-19. It points out that, while the virus is likely to have been transmitted to humans via a pangolin at a “wet” market in Wuhan, China, the virus may have come to pangolins from wild bats. Some smallholder farmers, the article suggests, began to rear “wild” animals (such as pangolins) for income when their previous livestock farming was undercut economically by industrial farming methods, and may also have been pushed onto marginal land (nearer to forests, bats and the viruses hosted by bats) by industrial agriculture’s expansion.
This piece in the UK’s Independent newspaper, by several researchers from the University of Oxford, sets out five questions that (they argue) should be considered by any policymaker or business setting a “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions target.
In this piece in The Conversation, Tim Lang (Professor of Food Policy at City, University of London) argues that the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis exposes the fragility of the UK’s food supply chain, with limited storage, a just-in-time supply model, and nearly half of the UK’s food being imported. Lang calls for a food rationing system to be introduced to ensure everyone has access to food (read Lang’s letter to the UK Prime Minister here).
This piece from Foodservice Footprint draws together the information available so far (as of mid-March 2020) about how the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is affecting the UK's foodservice sector. The information covers impacts on restaurant staffing and operations, the food supply chain (one distributor told Footprint that "Everyone seems to be being relatively sensible at the moment"), new hygiene standards, and issues in supporting people at risk of hunger.