News

2014-04-02 |

Roundtable Calls for SDG on Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition

Hans Herren Right Livelihood Award Laureate Hans Herren at the meeting (Photo: Dirk Verdonk)

A High-level Roundtable, which brought together representatives from governments, UN agencies, civil society, farmers, and the private sector on 27-28 March in New York, has called for a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on “Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition.” Such a goal and the broader post-2015 agenda should address five SHIFT elements: Small-scale food producers are empowered; Hunger and malnutrition are addressed in all forms; Inclusiveness in decision-making is achieved; Food systems are sustainable and productive; and Trade policies are reshaped and food price volatility is mitigated. The message from the High Level Roundtable also includes seven proposed targets to be achieved by 2030, as well as a list of further issues which should be included in other focus areas of the post- 2015 agenda, such as climate, biodiversity, and gender equality. Participants agreed that the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) can best provide guiding and monitoring of the implementation of the post-2015 agenda in the field of food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture and food systems. The event was hosted by the Government of Benin, Biovision Foundation, and the Millennium Institute. The agreed recommendations from the meeting will be streamlined and then submitted to the co-chairs of the UN General Assembly's Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals.

2013-11-29 |

Argentina: Brutal attack on anti-Monsanto activists

Sofia 20 people were injured in the attack (Photo: Ecos Córdoba)

In Argentina, a camp protesting the construction of a Monsanto seed plant in Cordoba province was violently attacked and at least 20 people were injured. On Thursday morning, a gang of 60 people arrived in a bus at the campsite in Malvinas Argentianas, destroyed tents, set fire to parts of the camp and attacked anti-GMO activists with sticks and stones. Several people were injured, among them Goldman Environmental Prize winner Sofia Gatica, who spearheads the protests and was sent to hospital with serious head injuries. On Monday, she had already been beaten up in broad daylight, just a few days after receiving a death threat on a bus. A man had a gun pointed at her and said: “There are several ways of dying. Stop with Monsanto or I’m going to end your life and spill your brains all over Malvinas Argentina.” The activists have been camping opposite the Monsanto grounds since September to prevent the construction of a corn processing plant by blocking the entry of building material and fuel. The attackers are allegedly linked to the Construction Workers Union (UOCRA) since workers are not able to continue their work due to the protests. Monsanto executives condemned the violence but accused the protesters of destroying workers’ cars. The activists denied these claims and accused the police of doing nothing to stop the violent attack.

2013-11-18 |

Report calls for Reduction in the Use of Antibiotics in Farming

Chicken Improving conditions under which animals are kept could reduce the need for antibiotics (Photo: Farm Sanctuary)

A new study has linked the growing crisis of antibiotic-resistance to the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture. The paper, published ahead of the European Antibiotics Awareness Day on 18 November in the medical journal The Lancet, calls for immediate action in human and veterinary medicine. The report reveals that in some countries huge amounts of antibiotics are used in agriculture, aquaculture, and intensive farming - up to four times the amount used in human medicine. The scientists claim that any increase in antibiotic resistance in farm animals is likely to spread to humans since there is little separation of the types of antibiotic used in human beings and animals. The report recommends a worldwide ban on the use of antibiotics in healthy animals to promote growth or prevent disease. “The common goal should be to preserve the effect of antimicrobials for future generations of human beings, but also for animals. Antimicrobials should only be used when needed”, the report says. To this end, “health-orientated systems for rearing of animals” should be developed which do not rely on high levels of antibiotic use. The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, a campaign by the Soil Association, Compassion in World Farming and Sustain, welcomed the report. Tom MacMillan, director of innovation at the Soil Association, said: “This startling new report shows that the routine use of preventative antibiotics in farm animals is something that needs to be phased out for the good of both animals and humans.”

2013-11-07 |

UK Food waste down 21% - but six meals a week thrown away

waste Beans in the bin (Photo: SarahCFrey/flickr)

Good News: Since 2007, avoidable household food waste in the United Kingdom has been cut by 21%. According to a new report published today by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), avoidable food waste has been reduced to 4.2 million tonnes, saving consumers £13 billion a year. “The UK is leading the way in tackling food waste and the 21% cut is a terrific achievement by millions of people who have taken action, saved money and helped safeguard our natural resources. However, there is so much more to go for and I believe we should be going for it“, said Dr Liz Goodwin, WRAP Chief Executive Officer. The average UK household still throws away the equivalent of more than 300 meals per year, almost half of this is going straight from the fridge into the bin. The top three foods the Britons are throwing away uneaten are bread, potatoes and milk. The equivalent of 24 million slices of bread, 5.8 million potatoes and 5.9 million glasses of milk are wasted daily. Every year, almost 86 millionen chickens end up in the bin. Wrap attributes the reduction in food waste to campaigns and changes to packaging, including clearer date labels by retailers. Consumers are better aware of how to store their food and many households WRAP interviewed earlier this year said they were now making better use of their leftovers. Another reason is the increase in food prices. Retailers are also becoming aware of the problem: In October, the supermarket chain Tesco announced to remove “display until“ dates from fresh fruit and vegetables and to use smaller cases to help customers reduce the amount they are wasting.

2013-11-04 |

Leaked IPCC report: Climate Change to threaten Food Supply

DroughtMaize Ongoing drought has affected maize crops in Mauritania (Photo: Oxfam International)

Climate change will pose sharp risks to the world’s food supply in coming decades, according to a leaked draft of a forthcoming IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, writes the New York Times. The scientists found that climate change could reduce agricultural production by as much as 2 per cent each decade for the rest of this century, while global population is expected to grow to over 9 billion in 2050 and crop demand could rise as much as 14 per cent each decade. Climate change will most severely impact yields for wheat, rice and maize in tropical regions. With temperature increases of about 2 degrees above preindustrial level, “differences between crop production and population-driven demand will become increasingly large in many regions, posing significant risks to food security even with adaptation”, the draft report finds. According to the New York Times, “the warning on food supply is the sharpest in tone the panel has issued”. While its previous report, in 2007, warned of potential losses, scientists were still optimistic that gains in production at higher latitudes could make up for the losses in agricultural output in tropical regions. The IPCC draft also predicts negative impacts on water supply, food security and agricultural incomes in rural areas. Rising food prices will severely hit the rural poor, such as female-headed households and those with limited access to education. The leaked draft is part of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment due to be published in March. An IPCC spokesman described it as “work in progress” which is “likely to change”.

2013-10-31 |

Brazil: Land Grab in Pernambuco under scrutiny

Sugarcane Sugar cane field in the State of Pernambuco (Photo: Johnmcq)

In Brazil, a case of land grabbing in the state of Pernambuco will come under scrutiny by the Federal Public Ministry in reaction to an Oxfam report published earlier this month. The Brazilian State prosecutor for the State of Pernambuco, Silvia Regina, announced last week that the Federal Public Ministry will launch an investigation. The Oxfam report “Nothing sweet about it” describes the growing threat of land grabs in the sugar industry, highlighting the case of a fishing community on the Sirinhaem estuary in Brazil. In 1998, they were violently evicted from their land to make way for the Usina Trapiche sugar mill which, according to the report, provides sugar to Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. The prosecutor convened a public hearing to assess delays since 2009 in the creation of an Extractive Reserve on the land that would enable the community to return to the mangroves where they fished and grew food. “Action to restore local people’s access to their land is long overdue,” said Gabrielle Watson, campaign manager in Brazil for Oxfam’s Behind the Brands initiative. The report also shed light on the case of the Guarani-Kaiowá indigenous community in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul whose land was occupied by a sugar plantation supplying a mill owned by Bunge. Much of the Guarani-Kaiowá’s land in the south-western state has been converted to soy, cattle and sugar cane farms due to the expansion of agribusiness, with sugar cane cultivation tripling between 2007 and 2012. Indigenous peoples are among the groups most severely affected by agro-industry. This is confirmed by a report published on Tuesday by a United Nations expert body which calls for action to prevent the violation of indigenous peoples’ rights as a result of business-related activities.

2013-10-21 |

Tesco: 68% of bagged salads are wasted

Salad Most bagged salad ends up in the bin (Photo: Globalism Pictures)

Britain's biggest food retailer Tesco estimated that, in the first six months of this year, almost 30,000 tonnes of food were wasted in its stores and distribution centres across the UK. Using the latest figures published by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), Tesco calculated the food waste footprint for 25 of the supermarket’s best-selling products. The research found that 68% of salad sold in bags does not make it from farm to fork, with 35% being thrown away by consumers. Tesco announced to end multi-buys on large bags of salad and offer smaller bags. Bakery produce makes up the largest part of food wasted in Tesco stores and 47% of bakery items were wasted in the UK. Tesco said it will rearrange its 600 in-store bakeries to reduce the amount of bread on display. Tesco also estimated that 40% of apples, 24% of grapes and 20% of bananas were wasted along the food chain. One in ten bananas is thrown in the bin by consumers. The retailer announced to remove “display until“ dates from fresh fruit and vegetables and to use smaller cases to help customers reduce the amount they are wasting.

2013-10-16 |

World Food Prize Goes to Monsanto and Syngenta

2013 World Food Prize Laureates 2013 World Food Prize Laureates Van Montagu, Chilton and Fraley (Photo: World Food Prize Foundation)

On October 17, this year’s World Food Prize will be awarded to executives at chemical-biotechnology companies Monsanto and Syngenta for developing genetically modified organisms. The three laureates sharing the 250,000 dollar prize are Robert Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Monsanto; Mary-Dell Chilton, founder of Syngenta Biotechnology, and Marc Van Montagu, a Belgian biotech pioneer. According to the World Food Prize Foundation, they “each conducted groundbreaking molecular research on how a plant bacterium could be adapted as a tool to insert genes from another organism into plant cells.” The scientists receive the prize for “making it possible for farmers to grow crops with: improved yields; resistance to insects and disease; and the ability to tolerate extreme variations in climate”, the Statement of Achievement says. The decision was heavily criticized when the winners were announced in June. In an open letter, 81 recipients of the Right Livelihood Award, known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, condemned the selection of GMO scientists as “a terribly wrong signal for the future of food security and agriculture”. Indian food expert Vandana Shiva said: “Not only are GMOs unsafe, they are destroying biodiversity, increasing farmers' dependency on seed and chemicals and leading to the emergence of super pests and super weeds.” Monsanto and Syngenta are both major sponsors of the World Food Prize Foundation, which accepted a 5 million dollar donation from Monsanto in 2008.

2013-10-09 |

Open Letter: Promotion of Biofuels is Undermining Right to Food

Round Round Table on Biofuels and Food Security (Photo: FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto)

“The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) must not allow itself to be captured by biofuels interest groups”, 80 civil society organizations, including Save Our Seeds, warn in an open letter issued on the occasion of the 40th annual plenary meeting of the UN-sponsored Committee, held this week in Rome. The CFS is discussing recommendations (a so-called Decision Box) on biofuels. On Monday and Tuesday afternoon, a round table with the topic ‘Biofuels and Food Security” was held. The signatories expressed concern that the recommendations in the current CFS draft Decision Box would not protect the right to food from existing biofuels policies and the growing demand for biofuels. “This should be an important opportunity for the CFS to respond to the overwhelming evidence that the artificial demand for biofuels is undermining the right to food, causing significant increases in food insecurity, malnutrition, and land grabbing”, they warned. As a recent report on Biofuels and Food Security published by the the Committee’s High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) showed, biofuels have been an important driver behind food price rises and food price volatility in recent years. This means, the letter goes on, that the CFS must call on governments to eliminate direct and indirect subsidies for biofuels, including blending quotas, acknowledge the conflict between biofuels and food and ensure that the objective to eliminate hunger and food insecurity is paramount.

2013-10-01 |

New FAO Report: 842 Million Suffering from Hunger

Undernourished girl Undernourished girl in Niger (Photo: ILRI/Stevie Mann)

According to a new report published today by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 842 million people are chronically undernourished worldwide. This means that in the period 2011-13 one in every eight was suffering from hunger. The majority of the hungry live in developing countries, most of them in Southern Asia (295 million), followed by sub-Saharan Africa (223 million), the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with one in four going hungry. The new figure is somewhat lower than the 868 million hungry reported last year. The FAO said the main reasons were continued economic growth, renewed interest of private investors in agriculture, as well as remittances from migrants to their home countries which helped reduce poverty. The report is optimistic that the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the proportion of the world’s hungry by 2015 could just be reached if the average rate of decline continues. According to revised estimates, in the base period 1990-92, about 23.6% of people in developing countries were undernourished while the current figure is at 14.3% - still above the goal of 11.8%. The more ambitious target of the 1996 World Food Summit to halve the number of hungry people in developing countries is out of reach: The number would have to drop to 498 million people from the 995 million in 1990-92. The report defends the FAO's revised methodology which has earned criticism for underestimating undernourishment by assuming energy requirements for a minimum level of physical activity while poor people often face hard manual labour. The indicators used to measure undernourishment were also criticised for only capturing hunger lasting more than a year and neglecting micronutrient deficiencies. The report wants to address these limitations with a “new suite of indicators that aim to capture the multiple dimensions of food insecurity”.

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