Antibiotics have transformed human health and saved millions of lives. Now, as a result of overuse, they are no longer working. The golden age of medicine has come to an end. ...
A decision is expected shortly on Midland Pig’s so-called Foston Mega Farm, which will house 25,000 intensively reared indoor pigs, making it one of the largest in Europe. The proposal has attracted huge opposition, with more than 20,000 letters from across the world. Pig welfare is, of course, an emotive issue. But campaigners insist that something greater is at stake here - something that the Chief Medical Officer has referred to as one of the greatest threats of the 21st century, alongside terrorism and climate change, and which this spring, is expected to be placed on the national risk register. Such farms rely on the use of antibiotics for sick animals, but as we rush to produce industrial quantities of ever cheaper food, we have sleepwalked into a human health crisis.
While peat is regarded as an excellent compost for growing, British farmers and gardeners are using it 200 times faster than it is being formed, through the gradual decay of vegetation in moorland, according to the Soil Association. Peat mining contributes to the equivalent carbon emissions of 100,000 households a year.
Peat is discouraged as a growing medium by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, while the Royal Horticultural Society and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs both recommend that gardeners use peat-free alternatives, making the Which? recommendations all the more controversial. This weekend marks the start of the sowing season under cover for many gardeners.
WITH a five megawatt solar farm in operation on his land - enough to meet the electricity needs of 1,500 homes – Clive Sage is one of a new generation of renewable energy farmers who have made the most of recent commercial interest in leasing farmland to generate solar power.
Not that Mr Sage, who farms 100 hectares (250 acres), with about 550 ewes and 60 cattle, would want to be known as a solar farmer. Twenty-five years ago he owned little or no land of his own and was shearing sheep.
In London last Friday, research scientists, chemical industry representatives, and journalists gathered for an open discussion session that concluded a three-day summit about the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on honeybees. The result was a rich debate about the future use of these chemicals in agriculture, and implications for food production. But the efforts by some industry representatives to oversimplify the issue gave an otherwise intricate discussion the aura of a highly polarised one.
Neonicotinoids, which are widely used in Europe and America, are applied as a coating on seeds of crops like oilseed rape, maize, and sunflowers before they are planted, in this way protecting the plant from the start. But since this class of chemicals was linked with a decline in honey- and bumblebee health in 2012, followed by The European Commission's imposed restrictions on specific uses of neonicontinoids soon after, they have been recognised more for the controversy they are associated with than anything else.
Delegates gathered for the Green Week agricultural show and policy event in Berlin have clashed over whether genetically modified crops have a part to play in reducing hunger and farming's environmental impacts. Meanwhile, the UK's embattled environment secretary has made a controversial speech about GM in Brussels, continuing on his resolutely pro-GM message.
As California braces for record drought, ranchers are among the most immediately impacted, and most say they are not ready for the severe water shortages and lack of forage that drought would bring,
In 2013, California experienced its driest year on record, and the state’s current snowpack is just 17 percent of average. As a result, the state government and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have declared drought emergencies for California.
A statewide drought, such as the one that occurred from 1976 to 1977, would today exacerbate the effects of earlier regional droughts, according to many of the ranchers who responded to the UC Davis survey. With already conservative numbers of cattle in their herds, ranchers must now consider culling their herds to stay afloat as production costs rise.
Sustainable, agriculture must be low-input - and this can only achieved in diverse, tightly integrated agro-ecological systems. The real future of farming lies in complex polycultures ... in short, mixed farming.
To work its wonders nature employs three main tricks. It is extremely diverse, tightly integrated, and makes do on low inputs - basically on what is around.
Certainly, it makes no use of fossil fuels. The sun and geothermal heat (with tidal power around the edges) provide all the energy that's needed.
Meat producers are reporting a significant increase in sales over the last year as consumers continue to buy locally, one year on from the horsemeat scandal in the UK.
Members of the New Forest Marque have seen sales rise by up to 30 per cent since last January, with many local meat producers saying the desire of consumers to know where their food comes from is the decisive factor behind the increase.
ORGANISED criminal gangs are pocketing billions of pounds each year selling bogus pesticides into Europe.
Speaking at the launch of Watch Out, a new campaign to raise awareness of illegal pesticides, European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) counterfeit expert David Stuart said criminals were mainly producing the products in China and shipping materials to Russia where they are packaged and distributed.
Patrick Goldsworthy of the Voluntary Initiative (VI) which is spearheading the campaign with support from the NFU, CPA, AIC, Red Tractor and Thames Valley Police, said 7 to 10 per cent of products sold in Europe are illegal.
A Lincolnshire arable farmer has undertaken a cost analysis of the newly introduced EU restrictions on neonicotinoid seed treatments.
A 'partial ban' on neonicotinoid seed treatments was introduced last year by the European Commission in response to mounting evidence suggesting certain neonicotinoid pesticides pose a threat to bees. The new measures came into force in December.
Pesticide manufacturers, who are currently challenging the restrictions in court, claim the commission's partial ban will cost farmers in Europe dearly, though evidence from France and Italy, where the products have been subject to tighter restrictions for years, suggests otherwise.
ORGANIC farms support more plant, animal and insect species than conventional farms, scientists from Oxford University have found.
Researchers who looked at data spanning 30 years said the number of different pollinator species such as bees were 50 per cent higher on organic farms.
“Our study has shown that organic farming, as an alternative to conventional farming, can yield significant long-term benefits for biodiversity,” said Sean Tuck of Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences, lead author of the study.
The fashion for having boxes of organic fruit and vegetables delivered to your door has bounced back, according to food campaigners, but the recession pushed smaller firms to the brink.
Organic food group The Soil Association said a third year of strong growth in the sector was dominated by two firms that deliver nationwide – Abel & Cole and Riverford – while more local businesses are seeing sales fall.
Abel & Cole, which came close to collapse when recession struck its food-conscious customers, has released results showing it has emerged from huge debts to record a rise in turnover.
MEPs have voted against a proposed EU sed regulation that would further concentrate the seed market and discriminate against genetically diverse traditional seeds
"EU seed policies must be based on the principle of diversity, not corporate uniformity and tailoring seed to be dependent on agro-chemical inputs."
The European Parliament's Environment Committee has voted for the Commission to withdraw its proposal for a Regulation on agricultural seeds and other plant reproductive material.
They rejected the Regulation - with a decisive 46-4 vote - because it would concentrate power among just five companies that dominate the seed market, and discriminate against non-industrial traditional plant varieties rich in genetic diversity.
Should Australia aim to become Asia’s “food bowl”? How can we help farmers earn more for what they produce? And how can Australia best contribute to global food security?
Those are some of the crucial questions now being considered in the federal government’slong-term agriculture policy, which is expected to be released towards the end of this year.
I believe our future lies in playing to our strengths. The Australian agricultural business model should not be to produce cheap food for the world’s poor, but rather expensive food for rich, largely Asian, consumers.
That doesn’t mean neglecting our responsibilities to help poorer nations or to support global food security. However, this is best done through trade - such as providing technical advice and assistance - to help improve food self-sufficiency in developing countries.
A radical experiment in community supported agriculture is attempting to break farming's reliance on fossil fuels and unsustainable practices. Andrew Wasley met green farmer Ed Hamer for this exclusive extract from The Ecologist Guide To Food.
Millions of hectares of agricultural land in China could be withdrawn from production because of severe heavy-metal pollution, according to a Chinese agriculture official.
Chex Xiwen, the deputy director of China’s top agricultural authority said that farmland near rivers, especially which are sources of drinking water, will also be taken out of production if there is a risk of pollution from the use of fertilisers and pesticides.
The warning follows comments by the vice minister of land and resources in December, who said that an estimated 3.3 million hectares of land is polluted, most of which is in regions that produce grain.
LONDON, Jan 24 (Reuters) - British scientists have applied for permission to run an open-air field trial of a genetically modified (GM) crop they hope may one day become a sustainable and environmentally friendly source of healthy Omega-3 fats.
The proposed trial - likely to generate controversy in a nation where GM foods have little public support - could start as early as May and will use Camelina plants engineered to produce seeds high in Omega-3 long chain fatty acids.
No GM crops are currently grown commercially in Britain and only two - a pest-resistant type of maize and a potato with enhanced starch content - are licensed for cultivation in the European Union (EU).
Reviews have found vast problems with the agency's oversight of conditional registration, which allows pesticides to be sold before all required safety studies are in.
Tiny particles of silver could appear soon in children’s toys and clothing, embedded inside plastics and fabrics to fight stains and odors.
No one knows how the germ-killing particles, part of a new pesticide called Nanosilva, affect human health or the environment in the long run. But regulators have proposed letting Nanosilva on the market for up to four years before the manufacturer has to submit studies on whether the particles pose certain dangers.
That’s because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has backed approving Nanosilva through conditional registration, a fast-track process that recently has drawn criticism for oversight problems. Unlike regular registration, it allows a pesticide to be sold before all required safety studies are in. In this case, manufacturer Nanosilva LLC can move ahead even though it hasn’t explored fully the potential health risks if the product were to seep out of plastic or be inhaled.
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.
DENMARK - The use of antibiotics in Danish farming has fallen by 11 per cent since 2009.
The reduction is shown by data from October 2013. In this way, Danish farmers have reached the policy objective to reduce the use of antibiotics by 10 per cent compared to the level in 2009.
Success of Fellow-card Scheme
Reduced use of antibiotics has been registered since the introduction of the so-called yellow card scheme. The scheme is combined with surveillance of the use of antibiotics. When a farmer exceeds a certain limit, he or she will get an injunction to lower the use of antibiotics. If the farmer does not succeed, he or she gets extraordinary veterinarian assistance and inspection. Ultimately, the number of animals that the farmer may hold legally will be reduced.
SYDNEY, Jan 20 (Reuters) -Australia's government said on Monday it would sell back water allocations to drought-hit farmers along the Murray-Darling river system for the first time, prompting accusations that it is abandoning the vital waterway's environmental restoration.
The Murray-Darling basin is a key agricultural region as well as the largest river system in Australia and one of the biggest and most diverse on the planet.
Huge farms and ranches are spread across more than one million sq km (400,000 sq miles) in the country's southeast, sharing the environment with hundreds of unique species.