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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).
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.
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.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) hopes to use blockchain technology to make the entire seafood supply chain traceable. Working with tech startup TraSeable, fishing company Sea Quest and blockchain company Viant, WWF is running a pilot project to trace tuna through the supply chain by tagging catches with radio-frequency identification chips and QR codes - which can be scanned by a mobile phone.
Consumers prefer the term “100% plant-based” to “vegan”, according to a survey of US adults. When asked a series of questions including “Which tastes better?” and “Which is healthier?”, more than two-thirds of respondents selected “100% plant-based” over “vegan” (no other answers were available). According to Bark Stuckey (President and Chief Innovation Officer of Mattson, the organisation that conducted the survey), the preference might be because “plant-based” is seen as a positive dietary change, whereas “vegan” is seen as a whole lifestyle associated with deprivation and activism.
In a feature in Civil Eats, agricultural attorney Jillian Hishaw describes some of the difficulties that black farmers have faced in the US, including systematic denial of loans, exclusion from disaster payments, and lack of official paperwork for land that was passed on from slave owners. Hishaw founded the Family Agriculture Resource Management Services (FARMS) to help farmers who are black or from other historically disadvantaged groups to keep their land.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set out a strategy for removing industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply. WHO estimates that half a million people die each year because of cardiovascular disease caused by trans fat consumption. Artificial trans fat are found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (a process that gives liquid vegetable oils a higher melting point), while some natural trans fats are found in meat and dairy.
Last year, members of the European Parliament voted to ban palm oil in biofuels in Europe by 2020, citing concerns over deforestation (read more about the environmental impacts of palm oil production here). The Guardian spoke to palm oil farmers in Malaysia who are worried they will lose their livelihood. Some of the farmers were given land by the government in the 1980s and do not use recently deforested land. “Our whole community here totally depends on palm oil… everybody is scared of what is going to happen to us in two years time,” said farmer Hussain Mohamed.
Creating realistic 3D structure for laboratory-grown meat has been a technical challenge, partly because of the difficulty in getting oxygen to the cells in the middle of a piece of cultured tissue. However, Israeli startup Aleph Farms says it may have the solution.