Organic News Today – In The Press 23rd Jan 2014

Monsanto is going organic in a quest for the perfect veggie
As Monsanto is moving to using marker assisted selection and other non GM breeding techniques to produce crops, this only highlights how GM is not working for them. Journalist Ben Paynter finds out more, he writes: Frescada lettuce, BellaFina peppers, and Bene­forté broccoli — cheery brand names trademarked to an all-but-anonymous Monsanto subsidiary called Seminis — are rolling out at supermarkets across the US. But here’s the twist: The lettuce, peppers, and broccoli — plus a melon and an onion, with a watermelon soon to follow — aren’t genetically modified at all. Monsanto created all these veggies using good old-fashioned crossbreeding, the same technology that farmers have been using to optimize crops for millennia. Considering in the US a push for GM labelling of products and consumers have shown a marked resistance to purchasing GM produce, Monsanto’s super veggies won’t require labelling. They may be born in a lab, but technically they’re every bit as natural as what you’d get at a farmers’ market. Keep them away from pesticides and transport them less than 100 miles and you could call them organic and locavore too.
Wired (21 January 2014)


Low input farming – diversity is the key
Colin Tudge is a biologist with special interests in natural history, evolution and genetics, food and agriculture, and Graham Harvey is the author of The Carbon Fields and We Want Real Food. They write about how sustainable, agriculture must be low-input – and this can only achieved in diverse, tightly integrated agro-ecological systems: When there are many different species side by side and each is genetically diverse, parasites and pathogens can’t find a foothold in the way they can with today’s monocultures. Demonstrably, diverse organisms interacting make far better use of available nutrients. Diversity in farming translates into polyculture – mixed farming with genetically varied crops and animals, all raised synergistically. Low-input translates into organic, or something pretty close. Diverse, organic or low-input farms when well managed can be among the most productive of all, per unit area of land. They are also among the most wildlife friendly. Clearly they are what the world needs.
The Ecologist (22 January 2014)

Probe reveals Animal Health and Laboratories Agency spending cut concerns
In December, the Animal Health and Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) announced it was downsizing its network of 14 animal disease surveillance centres to seven. The move will also see cuts in the number of vets employed by the government for disease surveillance from 44 to 35 and support staff will be reduced from 45 to 30.The Animal Health and Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), the government agency that manages animal disease surveillance, insisted the changes would strengthen the ability to detect disease by placing “greater emphasis” on surveillance intelligence from private vets, universities and the livestock industry and less emphasis on government post-mortem examinations.
Farmers Weekly (23 January 2014) 

Agriculture and nutrition: you are what you sow
Jeff Waage is the director of the London International Development Centre and technical adviser to the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, discusses food security. He writes: The world today faces a complex challenge – improving nutrition for all. Contrary to how malnutrition is often portrayed in western media, it is not a separate problem for the poor (under-nutrition) and for the rich (over-nutrition). Most agriculture interventions for nutrition have focused on specific foods and communities. But there is another way; this approach involves understanding how existing national agricultural and food policies affect nutrition and how they might be changed. Not all policies are nutrition-enhancing. World Food Prize winner Per Pinstrup-Andersen once said: “It matters for health and nutrition how the increasing food supply is brought about, what it consists of and what happens to it in the food system.”
The Guardian (22 January 2014)

Farming Today
This week academics, beekeepers and environmentalists are holding a bee health summit in London to examine the latest research and try to reach an agreement on how to deal with declining populations. Meanwhile, leading figures from the farming and agri-chemical industries have held their own summit at National Farmers Union headquarters in Warwickshire to discuss pesticide regulation. The two summits come after one of the biggest battles of 2013 – the decision to ban neonicotinoid pesticides. It divided farmers, who use the seed treatment on crops such as oilseed rape, and conservationists, who believe the chemicals have contributed to a decline in the number of bees.
BBC Radio 4 (23 January 2014)


New Action on Sugar campaign spices up politics
Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, discusses how sugar has long been a hot political issue. He writes: The Action on Sugar campaign launched last week was about its impact on public health. The evidence is pretty clear: the reduction of UK sugar consumption by 30% would give real public health gains. People might like sweet tastes, but hidden sweetening of everything has surely gone too far. Sweetening foods on such a mass scale symbolises the ‘infantilisation’ of diets that has happened, alongside counter trends that are about making diets more sophisticated. It’s time we Brits grew up and started celebrating diversity of taste.
The Grocer (21 January 2014)


EU to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2030
Europe will cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, the toughest climate change target of any region in the world, and will produce 27% of its energy from renewable sources by the same date. The landmark deal was reached after grinding negotiations dragged on to the deadline of 11am on Wednesday 22nd January 2014, as warring factions within the European Commission and member states fought over whether to water down the proposals.
The Guardian (22 January 2014)

Spare Africa the ravages of its native oil palm
Curtis Abraham is a journalist based in Kampala, Uganda, discusses the problems of Oil-palm cultivation in Africa which could cause wreckage to habitats. He writes: It’s beginning to feel like déjà vu. With global demand for cosmetics, soap, biodiesel and vegetable cooking oil ever on the rise, the African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) has been a boon, providing the essential ingredient for all these.

So much so, this is now widely cultivated beyond its native range, notably in South-East Asia, where the creation of vast estates has caused massive deforestation and the local extinction of some.

The increasing use of palm oil in food and cooking is now causing a noticeable shift in the causes of deforestation in Africa. Large-scale forest clearing for oil palm will be accompanied by a surge in bushmeat hunting as the influx of plantation workers seek to feed themselves and supplement their incomes. That could be a disaster for Africa’s lowland primates and for conservation generally.
New Scientist (20 January 2014) 

And finally…macro photographs of bees
The Guardian (11 January 2014)

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