All posts by Ken Billings

This web site was founded in 2014 by Dr. Shiv Chopra and Marilyn Cosway and called, The Canadian Council on Food Sovereignty & Health. In 2017, the name was changed to Canadian Council on Food Safety and Health. On Sept 7th, 2017, after 14 years in the Federal courts, and over $10 million dollars spent by the Federal government, Dr. Shiv Chopra was found guilty by 3 judges of 'Insubordination' for speaking out on food safety. Three months later, on Jan 7th, 2018, Dr. Shiv Chopra died. CCFSH honours Whistleblower Dr. Shiv Chopra and his tireless efforts to make Health Canada more accountable and educate Canadians on how Canadians can have the healthiest food in the world if we adhere to the Five Pillars of Food Safety. Join the movement in honouring whistleblower Dr. Shiv Chopra and help these goals to come through by sharing our web site and getting involved by signing up for 'FOOD Justice NEWS' or one of our 3 Activism Groups called 'Shivista Collectives'. Thank you. Ken Billings Executive Director

Agroecology: A Systems Approach

Medium – Environment – March 2019 – Louisa Chalmer

How scientists propose that we feed the future… and solve a host of other problems at the same time.

Photo by thomas scott on Unsplash.

Do you care about gender equality? Human rights? Food security? Closing the pay gap? Nutrition? Climate change? The global economy? Biodiversity? Cultural heritage? Water availability? Ending world hunger?

Whether or not you answered yes to any of the above, this article is for you.

Agroecology is a little-known field of science that is trying very hard to solve these problems (and more) through farming. Before we get into how it’s doing that, let me first give you a little bit of background information.

“Agro” is derived from latin, and means soil or land. “Ecology”, of course, is the scientific discipline that deals with organisms’ relationships with one another and their physical surroundings. So it involves agriculture, but rather than the emphasis on human systems — “culture” — it emphasises all living organisms that interact with the land, including but not limited to, humans.

Agroecology is deeply rooted in systems theory, the idea that many constituent parts make up a greater whole. If one piece is damaged or broken, then the whole system suffers. If a piece is manipulated or moved, then it will affect other parts in the system. Thus, while it is important to form an understanding of each of the parts, a more holistic understanding is required for true mastery of the system.

Systems can work on multiple scales. When we talk about agroecological systems, we might be referring to something on a micro-scale, such as a plant — it’s microclimate, growth cycle, interaction with soil and soil microorganisms, readiness for harvest etc — or something on a meso-scale, such as the global economy. Each smaller system feeds into the larger systems that it inhabits and vice versa.

Every action, at every scale, has an impact on the systems that it interacts with, both large and small, via feedback loops.

Systems are also in a constant state of flux — they may reach steady states where they appear to be in equilibrium but sooner or later, their state will change, producing new outcomes as they evolve.

Understanding systems requires a mental leap for many of us. Classical science has long been dominated by the reductionist paradigm, the idea that phenomena must be separated and simplified in order to understand action and reaction. These ideas have pervaded into general society to the point where we’re barely aware of its influence. In agriculture, its influence has been most apparent in the rise of the productivity approach, chasing revenue through ever-increasing production while the more subtle components of agricultural systems are neglected. In economics, the idea of an “externality” comes from reductivism. In medicine, our doctors treat symptoms, not the component of the system that caused the initial disturbance. We think of mitigating environmental issues as taking direct, specific actions. The introduction of cane toads to Australia, for example — no one foresaw the devastation to ecosystems far beyond the one they were introduced into that would come as a result of their spread.

It’s not that the reductionist paradigm hasn’t led us towards unique and important discoveries. Our knowledge of the constituent parts of the human mind and body, for example, would be nowhere near what they are today without it. Systems thinking, however, allows us to calculate and predict what consequences may arise in other parts of a system when we take a particular action, enabling us to to a) avoid unintended consequences and b) create multiple desirable impacts through minimum effort.

The modern agroecological movement rose in part as a form of resistance to the reductionist approach that underpinned the Green Revolution of the 1970s, with origins in Mexico. At the time, a complex interplay was being developed within agricultural systems that utilised both indigenous landholders’ knowledge and technological advancements of western science. The resulting agro-ecosystems and the benefit that they brought to ecological systems, as well as an array of positive socio-economic outcomes were documented by local researchers. Since then, the movement has spread slowly across the globe but has not pervaded the mainstream scientific literature until much more recently.

In 2014, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) held a conference in Rome to discuss agroecology and came to the conclusion that it holds enormous potential not only to mitigate many of the world’s environmental and socio-economic issues, but to take us on a more sustainable development path more generally.

Agroecology is also the specific strategy that the FAO has chosen to pursue to feed our future generations.

It makes sense when you think about it — agriculture is one of the pillars of society. The widespread establishment of sedentary human settlements coincided with the rise of cropping and animal husbandry 10 000 years ago. Agriculture is thus rooted deep in our culture. It also uses 40% of Earth’s land, three-quarters of fresh water and provides employment and income to almost half of the world’s labour force and food and fibre for all. Though we may be disconnected from agriculture in many ways, it remains of the utmost importance to us.

There is no way to definitively describe what an agroecological system looks like — each one is unique due to the specific environmental, social, cultural a economic circumstances that govern its potential. Thus a more intuitive, reflexive approach is required, rather than the prescriptive one commonly undertaken in today’s industrial productivist paradigm. The emphasis is on creating self-perpetuating feedback loops that contribute to healthy, resilient, functioning agro-ecosystems through a bottom-up approach i.e. beginning at the farm level.

For the most part, this is enabled through smallholders, though examples of larger landholders partaking in farming practices rooted in agroecological principles are now emerging. Commercial output is a product of agricultural systems, but it is not the only recognised desirable product. Externalities do not exist; they are recognised as problems that arise as a consequence of actions taken at the local or wider level, which the system itself must find a solution to. The relationship between environmental and socio-cultural factors and an agricultural system’s ability to be commercially viable long-term is not underemphasised.

Scientists recognise that the implementation of agro-ecosystems is no simple matter; it requires a complexification and diversification of agricultural systems, facilitated by inter-cultural relationships. Planning, management, communication and coordination at local and global scales — and everywhere in between — must be achieved. An honest dialogue between producers and consumers must be undertaken. There must be a willingness on the behalf of the farmer to engage in innovative farming practices to make the most effective use of resources. And,there must also be a willingness on the behalf of the consumer to support them in that.

There are several examples where tremendous feats have been achieved through smart, original agro-ecosystem design.

In Brazil, the Zero Hunger program eradicated extreme poverty from dangerous levels at 17.5% between 2003 and 2013. It did this through the implementation of specific, tailored regional policy and development instruments. One of them placed a stipulation that all school meals must be comprised of at least 30% produce from family farmers, with organic farmers receiving a 30% price surplus. This might sound drastic but the program’s results were profound. As well as creating a market for smallholder farmers, the direct buying and selling relationship reduced transaction and transportation costs, bringing the price of food down whilst incentivising farmers to produce a wider array of foods to meet the demand of school kitchens, while farming families also enjoyed the nutritional benefits of more diverse diets. It stimulated the formation of new forms of farmer organisations to collate and distribute produce whilst ensuring traceability, quality and fair pricing. And the Brazilian government established the Ministry of Agrarian Development, which instigated the National Agroecology Plan, placing an emphasis on regional development and facilitating training in agroecology.

Globally, women make up 43% of the global agricultural labour force. Yet many of those women remain oppressed, unrecognised and unrewarded for their contribution to the global food economy. Case studies from India, however, show how agroecology is enabling gender equality, where some of the world’s most oppressed women are “gaining access to land, acquiring food autonomy, and turning into leaders…” Perhaps most importantly, though, is the role that agroecology is playing in challenging traditional male/female roles, providing a catalyst for the societal shift that is needed for further female empowerment and lasting change.

The creation of bio-districts in Italy is facilitating relationships between farmers, local inhabitants, tourism operators, associations and government in order to collaboratively plan and manage local resources sustainably through agroecological methods. Cilento, Italy’s first bio-region, was established in 2009. Participating farmers have already seen a shortening of the value chain — 75% of participating farmers’ sales were direct in 2016, leading to greater profitability coupled with lower food prices, strong and loyal relationships between producer and consumer. Moreover, the program has had the added effect of inspiring more farmers to diversify their production and shift to organic farming practices. The experience of belonging to a network has its own inherent social value and provides a support system that is sorely lacking in many rural communities. The program’s broad reach has also provided a link between different bio-regions, which has been essential for tourism growth to the regions. Meanwhile, community members who share similar values are now linked and are able to act in unison to solve problems at multiple levels and scales, whilst also accessing knowledge and resources from the various stakeholders taking part in the program. In 2016, there were 27 bio-districts in Italy, another 18 in the process of being established, while a further 10 had been established in countries across Europe and Africa, showing promise of a more widespread adoption.

These are just a few examples of many where agroecology is enjoying favourable outcomes across a range of issues.

But what does any of it have to do with you? If you eat food (and I’m assuming you do) then you’re already part of at least one agricultural system, perhaps multiple. That means that you are one of the many small, but no less important, components of a greater whole. As such, you wield enormous power to affect change at a wider level on a day-to-day basis.

Perhaps you’re aware of this and you’ve already taken matters into your own hands. If not, let me assure you, it isn’t difficult. The first step is to decide to care enough to.

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The 9% lie: industrial food and climate change

Local Futures – Jul 26, 2019 – Ronnie Cummins

The Climate Emergency is finally getting the attention of the media and the U.S. (and world) body politic, as well as a growing number of politicians, activists and even U.S. farmers.

This great awakening has arrived just in time, given the record-breaking temperatures, violent weather, crop failures and massive waves of forced migration that are quickly becoming the norm. Global scientists have dropped their customary caution. They now warn us that we have to drastically reduce global emissions – by at least 45 percent – over the next decade. Otherwise, we’ll pass the point of no return – defined as reaching 450 ppm or more of CO2 in the atmosphere sometime between 2030 and 2050 – when our climate crisis will morph into a climate catastrophe. That’s when the melting polar ice and Arctic permafrost will trigger catastrophic sea rise, fueling deadly forest fires, climate chaos, crop failures, famine and the widespread disintegration of society as we know it.

Most people now understand that we must quickly move to renewable forms of energy, such as wind and solar, and reduce our fossil fuel emissions as much as possible. But it’s far less widely understood that energy conservation and renewables can’t do the job alone.

Alongside the massive political and economic campaign to move to 100% (or nearly 100%) renewable energy as soon as possible, we must put an end to the massive emissions of our corporate-dominated food and farming system and start drawing down and sequestering in our soils and forests billions of tons of “legacy” CO2 from the atmosphere, utilizing the enhanced photosynthesis of regenerative farming, reforestation and land restoration.

Regenerative Agriculture” refers to farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity. This results in both carbon drawdown and improved water infiltration and storage in soils. Regenerative practices include:

• Reduction/elimination of tillage and use of synthetic chemicals.

• The use of cover crops, crop rotations, compost, and animal manures.

• Integrating animals with perennial and annual plants to create a biologically diverse ecosystem on the farm.

• Grazing and pasturing animals on grass, and more specifically using a planned multi-paddock rotation system.

• Raising animals in conditions that mimic their natural habitat.

If regenerative food, farming and land use – which is essentially moving to the next stage of organic farming, free-range livestock grazing and eco-system restoration – are just as essential to our survival as moving beyond fossil fuels, why aren’t more people talking about this? Why is it that moving beyond industrial agriculture, factory farms, agro-exports and highly-processed junk food to regenerating soils and forests and drawing down enough excess carbon from the atmosphere to re-stabilize our climate is getting so little attention from the media, politicians and the general public?

The International Food Information Council Foundation released a poll on May 22, 2019, that found that “22 percent [of Americans] had heard of regenerative agriculture and 55 percent said they had not heard of it but were interested in learning more.”

Why don’t more people know about the incredible potential of regenerative agriculture, or more precisely regenerative food, farming and land-use practices, to fix our climate, restore the environment, improve the livelihoods of farmers and rural communities and produce more nutritious food? Why is it that the U.S. and global climate movement until recently has focused almost exclusively on reducing emissions through renewable energy?

Our collective ignorance on this crucial topic may have something to do with the fact that we never learned about these things in school, or even college, and until recently there was very little discussion of regeneration in the mass media, or even the alternative media.

But there’s another reason regeneration as a climate solution doesn’t get its due in Congress or in the media: powerful corporations in the food, farming and forestry sector, along with their indentured politicians, don’t want to admit that their current degenerate, climate-destabilizing, “profit-at-any-cost” production practices and business priorities are threatening our very survival.

And government agencies are right there, helping corporate agribusiness and Big Food bury the evidence that these industries’ energy-intensive, chemical-intensive industrial agricultural and food production practices contribute more to global warming than the fossil fuel industry.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)repeatedly claim that industrial agriculture is responsible for a mere 9 percent of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. As the EPA explains, GHG “emissions from agriculture come from livestock such as cows, agricultural soils and rice production.”

After hearing this 9-percent figure regurgitated over and over again in the media, most people draw the conclusion that food and farming aren’t that important of a factor in global warming, especially when compared with transportation, electricity generation, manufacturing and heating and cooling our buildings.

What the EPA, USDA, Big Ag, chemical, and food corporations are conveniently hiding from the public is that there’s no way to separate “U.S. agriculture” from our “food system” as a whole. Their faulty math (i.e. concealing food and farming emissions under the categories of transportation, manufacturing, etc.) is nothing but a smokescreen to hide the massive fossil fuel use and emissions currently belched out by our enormously wasteful, environmentally destructive, climate-destabilizing (and globalized) food system.

USDA and EPA’s nine-percent figure is ridiculous. What about the massive use of petroleum products and fossil fuels to power U.S. tractors and farm equipment, and to manufacture the billions of pounds of pesticides and chemical fertilizers that are dumped and sprayed on farmlands?

What about the ethanol industry that eats up 40 percent of our chemical- and energy-intensive GMO corn production? Among other environmental crimes, the ethanol industry incentivizes farmers to drain wetlands and damage fragile lands. Taking the entire process into account, corn production for ethanol produces more emissions than it supposedly saves when burned in our cars and trucks.

What about the massive release of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide from factory farms and the GMO, monocrop industrial grain farms that supply these feedlots and CAFOs with animal feed?

What about the methane emissions from the fracking wells that produce the natural gas that is used in prodigious amounts to manufacture the nitrogen fertilizer dumped on farmlands – fertilizer that then pollutes our waterways and creates oceanic dead zones as well as releasing massive amounts of nitrous oxide (300 percent more damaging than even CO2) into our already oversaturated atmosphere?

What about the 15-20 percent of global fossil fuel emissions that come from processing, packaging (most often non-recycled plastic), refrigerating and transporting our highly processed (mainly junk) food and agricultural commodities on the average 1,500 miles before they reach the consumer?

What about the enormous amounts of GHG emissions, deforestation and ecosystem destruction in the international supply chain enabling Big Box stores, supermarket chains and junk food purveyors to sell imported cheap food, in many cases “food-like substances” from China and overseas to undernourished and supersized U.S. consumers?

What about the enormous emissions from U.S. landfills where wasted food (30-50 percent of our entire production) rots and releases methane, when it could be used to produce compost to replace synthetic fertilizers?

A more accurate estimate of GHG emissions from U.S. and international food, farming and land use is 44-57 percent, not the 9 percent, as the EPA and USDA suggest.

We’re never going to reach net zero emissions in the U.S. by 2030, as the Green New Deal calls for, without a profound change, in fact a revolution, in our food, farming, and land use practices.

This essay is part of The Organic Consumers Association’s Regenerative Agriculture campaign. To sign their petition in support of a Green New Deal that puts regenerative food, farming, and land use front and center, sign here if you’re a farmer, and here if you’re an activist or a green consumer.

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Tell the USDA to Do Its Job: Protect Consumers, Not the Biotech Industry!

Aug 1, 2019 – Organic Consumers Association

DEADLINE AUGUST 5: Tell the USDA to do its job: protect-consumers, not the biotech industry!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants to let companies like #Monsanto-Bayer#Dow #Dupont and #Syngenta (now owned by #ChemChina) “ #regulate” their own genetically engineered products—under a proposed rule the #USDA euphemistically calls the “ #Sustainable#Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient,” or “SECURE” for short.
Please feel free to cut and paste to share with friends
https://advocacy.organicconsumers.org/page/12118/petition/1

Now, under the Trump administration’s “free-for-all” approach to regulation, the USDA wants to let companies like Monsanto-Bayer, DowDupont and Syngenta (now owned by ChemChina) “regulate” their own genetically engineered products.

TAKE ACTION: Tell the USDA to do its job: protect consumers, not the biotech industry!

From the department of “you can’t make this stuff up,” the USDA calls its new proposed rule for reviewing and approving GMOs “Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient,” or “SECURE” for short.

If this new rule is allowed to take effect, biotech companies will for sure be more secure—secure in the fact that they will be allowed to unleash any genetically engineered organism into the environment or into the food system—with no oversight, no independent testing and no accountability.

The USDA’s proposed rule follows Trump’s executive order, issued in June, calling for “modernizing the regulatory framework for agricultural biotechnology products.” Which is just shorthand for protecting corporate profits at the expense of human health and the environment.

If passed, “SECURE” will also be a disaster for organic farmers, whose organic certification—and livelihoods—will bethreatened even further by contamination of their non-GMO, organic crops when GMO seeds “drift” into their fields.

Under USDA’s proposed “no-regulation rule,” almost every GMO would be exempt from regulation. And biotech companies would be the ones to decide whether or not their frankenfoods are “safe.”

As Dr. Allison A. Snow, professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University, wrote to the New York Times in 2015:

Asserting that biotech is safe is like saying that electricity is safe. Genetic engineering can be used safely or stupidly. Scientists, corporations and government agencies try to avoid the latter, and regulators need strong scientific data to evaluate risks.

Snow had this to say to a National Geographic reporter:

“Every transgenic organism brings with it a different set of potential risks and benefits,” says Snow. “Each needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. But right now only one percent of USDA biotech research money goes to risk assessment.”

In other words, we need more—not less—regulation of GMOs, especially in the rapidly changing era of new “gene-editing” technologies such as CRISPR and RNA interference (RNAi).

As Snow said, even before the USDA’s new proposed plan to hand over the regulation of GMOs to biotech corporations:

“We’ve let the cat out of the bag before we have real data, and there’s no calling it back.” 

Given the coordinated effort and relentless push by the biotech industry and the USDA to deregulate, it may also be too late to “call back” this latest proposed rule. But try we must.

PETITION and SOURCE FOR ARTICLE

USDA Reveals Germany GMO-Free Labeling Program Erodes Demand for US GMO Soybeans

Sustainable Pulse – July 18, 2019

Germany’s voluntary GMO-free labeling program is gaining momentum, generating $11 billion in sales in the country in 2018, according to a report by the US Dept of Agriculture’s (USDA) Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) service.

According to the report, German consumers’ increasing awareness of and preference for Ohne Gentechnik (“without genetic engineering”) labelled foods “is also driving demand in the market for GMO-free animal feed, leading to marketing opportunities for growers and producers of non-GMO feed ingredients and additives, while eroding demand for US exports of genetically engineered soy”.

The USDA’s report is a revealing admission from a body that has long been dedicated to promoting the US’s GM crop exports.

GMO labelling in the EU

Since 2004, the EU has required on-label disclosure for foods and animal feed products that contain GM ingredients. However, there is no mandatory EU labelling requirement for non-GMO food products or for foods derived from animals fed GMO feed.

In 2008, Germany enacted its own legislation establishing a voluntary GMO-free labelling program. The law set standards for the voluntary labelling of non-GMO plant-based foods and for products derived from livestock fed with non-GMO feed. In 2010, the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture delegated authority to administer the voluntary GMO-free labelling standard to the Verband Lebensmittel ohne Gentechnik (Association for Food without Genetic Engineering), commonly known by its German acronym, VLOG.

VLOG is a non-profit company with the exclusive authority to license food manufacturers’ and retailers’ use of the standard Ohne Gentechnik (GMO-free) label and animal feed producers’ use of the VLOG Geprüft (VLOG Approved) label. VLOG is a membership-based organization open to any consumer or business; however, most members are farmers, processors, retailers, marketers, food producers, and trade associations.

A company does not have to obtain VLOG membership to secure a license to use the Ohne Gentechnik label on its products, but many licensees are also VLOG members. VLOG has over 700 members and licensees that represent nearly every food and agribusiness product sector, from dairy, eggs, and vegetables to cereals, meats, and beverages.

Continuing market growth

Sales of GMO-free foods in Germany, labeled as Ohne Gentechnik (without genetic engineering), are steadily rising, the USDA report says. In 2018, 10 years after Germany passed legislation establishing the Ohne Gentechnik standard, German consumers spent $11 billion on foods bearing the Ohne Gentechnik label — a 41 percent increase from 2017. Milk and dairy products comprised the bulk of those sales (66 percent), with poultry and eggs making up 18 percent and 12 percent of Ohne Gentechnik sales, respectively.

Germany’s market for Ohne Gentechnik products is now almost as large as the country’s organic food market, which was valued at more than $12 billion in 2018. VLOG projects that Ohne Gentechnik food sales will continue to grow in 2019, increasing by at least 11 percent. In response to this growth in demand, food retailers continue to expand the amount of shelf space devoted to Ohne Gentechnik products.

The major German grocers — Edeka, Rewe, Schwarz Group (Lidl), and Aldi — have all adopted the Ohne Gentechnik label on many of their own brand products, particularly meat, dairy, eggs, and poultry. In early 2019, spurred by the growing popularity of the Ohne Gentechnik label, the Schwarz Group-owned grocery chain Kaufland began marketing a line of Ohne Gentechnik pork products. Kaufland, which operates around 600 stores in Germany, currently offers at least 700 Ohne Gentechnik products and plans to expand those GMO-free offerings in the future.

The growing popularity of Ohne Gentechnik products reflects German consumers’ food perceptions and preferences. In a study commissioned by Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, 93 percent of respondents said they wanted to know when their food came from animals fed genetically modified feed. Up to 63 percent of German consumers check food labels for GMO-free claims, which they cite as an important influence on their purchasing decisions. Of German consumers who purchase organic food, 58 percent claim to purchase organic products because they are GMO-free.

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10 SUSTAINABLE FOOD TRENDS AND INSIGHTS: FROM ETHICAL LABELLING OVERLOAD TO ZERO FOOD WASTE

Natural Products – July 27, 2019 – Jim Manson

LAST MONTH, INTERNATIONAL STAKEHOLDERS FROM THE SUSTAINABILITY SECTOR GATHERED IN AMSTERDAM FOR THE ELEVENTH EUROPEAN SUSTAINABLE FOODS SUMMIT. ORGANISER, ECOVIA INTELLIGENCE, HAS JUST COMPILED THIS SUMMARY OF KEY TRENDS AND INSIGHTS FROM THE 2019 EVENT. 

Rising market share of sustainable foods. Adoption rates of ethical labelling schemes continue to rise, with over a quarter of all coffee and cocoa now produced according to third party sustainability schemes. Amarjit Sahota, founder of Ecovia Intelligence, showed that organic is the dominant ethical label, with sales surpassing USD 100 billion in 2018. A concern is the proliferating number of ethical labelling schemes could dampen consumer demand. 

Economic risks of climate change. Tobias Bandel from Soil & More explained how climate change is affecting soil fertility and crop yields. He called for farmers to reduce economic risks by building farm-system resilience via crop rotation and diversity, green manure and crops, and biomass recycling. 

Re-directing food waste. Food waste is a major sustainability issue, with an estimated one third of all food produced going to waste. Al Overton from Planet Organic showed how the retail chain has attained zero waste (edible food) status. It donates surplus food to the Olio Food Waste Heroes programme. In 2018, Planet Organic donated 11 tonnes of food from its London-based seven stores, helping to provide 55,000 meals to people in need. 

Adding social value in supply chains. Sustainability schemes like Fairtrade and UTZ Certified have improved farmer conditions, but have done little to improve poverty levels, according to Julia Gause from FairAfric. The company is ‘de-colonising’ supply chains for chocolate by producing in Ghana. The company says making organic chocolate in the West African country generates five times higher income for producers than sourcing cocoa alone. 

Getting a flavour for plant-based foods. The global market for plant-based foods is projected to reach USD 5.2 billion in 2020. Givaudan research shows that 52% of consumers stay in the plant-based category because of taste. The flavourings firm calls for companies to take a targeted approach when developing products for the diverse consumer groups that now consume plant-based food.

Power of plant proteins. Heather Mills, public figure and founder of V-Bites, believes the food industry is at the cusp of a plant-based revolution. In her closing keynote, she said such foods provided many solutions to sustainability problems facing the food industry. Her company is ramping up production in order to meet surging demand. 

New technologies changing the face of retail. Toby Pickard from IGD outlined the implications of digital trends on the grocery industry. Giving examples, he showed how retailers are having to adapt their physical stores and provide new delivery mechanisms. The future maybe with staff-less stores (Amazon Go), drone deliveries (JD.com), and direct-to-fridge deliveries (Walmart). 

Ethical egg labelling scheme takes off. It is estimated that up to 6 billion male chicks are culled each year because they are the wrong gender. Martijn Haarman from Seleggt gave details of its new identification technique that prevents the hatching of male eggs. Eggs that remain after using the technique are labelled ‘Respeggt’ and are currently available in Rewe and Penny retailers in Germany. In June, the German Federal Administrative Court supported the new technique to prevent the death of male chicks. 

Array of green packaging materials. There is growing investment into sustainable packaging materials, with some new plastic alternatives presented at the summit. Agrana is creating thermoplastic starch from plant sugars; the material is used to make compostable packaging for fruits & vegetables. 

Markus Kainer, CEO of the Austrian firm VPZ, showed how it is taking cellulose from wood to make PackNatur, which is used in net packaging. Futamura is also making cellulose-based biopolymers to make compostable packaging. Its NatureFlex material is now used in a range of food and beverage products. 

Going plastic-free. There was a call to go plastic-free by Frankie Gillard from A Plastic Planet. According to her organisation, over 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste has been produced since the 1950s and only 9% has been recycled. It is encouraging more retailers to follow EkoPlaza and Thornton Budgens and develop plastic-free aisles. Its new Plastic Free Trust mark is given to products and packaging that meet its criteria. 

SOURCE

The Eco-Rebels of the Himalayas – Video 25 min

DW Documentary – Jul 24, 2019 – 25 min

An Indian state in the Himalayas has completely transformed its agriculture and switched to organic farming. Sikkim has become a model for the rest of the world, because its farmers only cultivate their fields and plantations in a sustainable way.

In 2010, the Prime Minister of Sikkim launched the so-called “Organic Mission,” developing the state into a model of sustainable farming. To protect its own organic farmers and consumers, the Sikkim government has even imposed an import ban on conventionally produced fruit and vegetables. This means that the authorities have the power to bury or destroy vegetables and fruit contaminated with pesticides and agrochemical giants such as Bayer or BASF are not welcome in Sikkim.

Would that approach also work in Germany? The growing demand for organic food in this country offers farmers an opportunity to switch to sustainable farming. But in Germany the percentage of land under plough conforming to sustainable methods remains very low. Although the government has set a target of 20 percent organic by 2030, this figure had already been proposed by Gerhard Schröder’s red-green coalition back in 1998. Germany is still far from meeting its demand for organic food. That means fruit, vegetables and cereals have to be imported from Spain, Italy, Turkey or even further afield. Critics accuse the government of a lack of commitment and an excessive dependence on lobbyists from the agrochemical industry and farmers’ associations. The incentives for organic farming are extremely poor. Can Germany now learn from far-off Sikkim?

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