If human rights abuses take place where neither laws nor media exist, do they provoke an outcry? Thanks to some intrepid reporting by Ian Urbina for the New York Times, yes, they do. His piece “Sea Slaves: The Human Misery that Feeds Pets and Livestock“, part of his series “The Outlaw Ocean” on crime on the … Continue reading Fishing Slaves: Hidden Ordeals on the High Sea
Coffee is known to have some of the most volatile prices of any agricultural commodity. The crux of agricultural markets is this: There is always an imbalance of supply and demand. If supply is smaller than demand, prices soar. This animates more producers to plant the crop in the following year to reap high earnings. … Continue reading Hey Mon, What’s Up with Jamaican Coffee?
When we visited the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), they received us with smiles full of passion, but also visibly exhausted. In this country, trying to ensure the protection of political, economic and social rights with a staff of six and a minuscule budget could seem like a quixotic battle. … Continue reading Flashback to Cambodia: Of Land Titling and Land Grabbing
Whenever food policy analysts talk about meat consumption in the future and the environmental impact associated with it, the most fearful projections circle around China. While meat consumption is plateauing in many of the developed countries (though at unsustainably high levels), per capita consumption in emerging economies is rising, as it is associated with higher … Continue reading “In China, Every Year is the Year of the Pig”…
Hi y’all, welcome to a new ‘what I’ve been reading!’ So much good information out on the internet these days… First up, National Geographic (my love) has an awesome article on The Evolution of Diet. It talks about scientists trying to analyze what the last hunter-gatherer societies on the planet are eating, in order to … Continue reading Of Water and of Meat
(this one)… Apparently McDonald’s is looking into more non-meat alternatives with Tofu McNuggets debuting in Japan this week! Not quite lab-grown meat, but a step into the right direction for sure. Sadly they do contain fish though, so not a truly veggie option, alas. According to Take Part, Tofu Shinjo Nuggets strongly resemble the bits of breaded … Continue reading Funny Follow-Up to our McDonald’s Post…
Relying on the internet as your main source of information is great for the wealth of knowledge at your fingertips, but can in some cases lead you astray. Let’s play a game, right? I will present two news items related to fast food giant McDonald’s, both with quotes and links, that came to my attention in the last weeks. However, only one seems to be true once you trace the articles back to the original source. Let’s see whether you can figure it out!
In China, McDonald’s afficionados are having a hard time: last week, “video footage of a U.S.-owned meat processing plant in Shanghai showed workers reprocessing expired beef and chicken, picking meat up off the floor, and throwing it right back on the line.” In the wake of the scandal, a massive recall of the meat provided by the processing plant (that also supplied KFC and Pizza Hut in the country), many McDonald’s in the country, including in Beijing and Shanghai, cannot offer any products that include beef or chicken. I guess now they are realizing they have a pretty pithy vegetarian selection, since, as this picture below (that was tweeted on July 25) shows, the only thing they are currently able to supply in their menus are fries and drinks. Though the Wall Street Journal reports (hilariously) that they seem to be aggressively pushing fish burgers, the only protein they have on offer. According to a spokesperson, a full menu “is not expected in restaurants until early August, while some outlets may need more time.”
However, this precariousness could soon be a thing of the past, as McDonald’s has recently committed to researching and developing lab-grown meats to its menu in the form of ‘chicken’ McNuggets. In May, it announced that they will ‘grow’ their own chicken McNuggets in special laboratories across New Jersey. This step forward is expected to significantly reduce its need for real chickens across its 35,000 outlets worldwide, and is seen by environmentalists as an impressive innovation in terms of its corporate responsibility toward the climate and animal welfare. The company’s CEO Don Thompson is quoted as saying that “with climate change raging out of control, we decided that it doesn’t make sense to use water and feed to keep real chickens alive anymore. Plus, animal rights activists have been on our case for a long time about how chickens are treated. This should put their concerns to rest.” However, PETA, though welcoming this first step, feel that more could be done, as explained by its president Ingrid Newkirk: “Although we think it’s bizarre that future McNuggets will be grown in a lab, we’re relieved to know that chickens no longer have to be sacrificed to feed McDonald’s customers,” Newkirk said. “But we won’t truly be happy until the company stops selling real beef burgers too, since cows suffer in disgusting feedlots across the United States.” Well, one step at a time, right?
So, what do you think? Which one is true, which one is fake? Is it obvious or not? The revelation is after the jump!
Wowowow I saw and bookmarked so many articles recently that I wanted to write about in more detail – but first, many of these articles already perfectly describe the issue, and I trust in your ability to read them too, if you want, and second I fear they will be out of date by the time I get round to looking closer into all of them, so let’s just get started with a little mid-week round up!
1. The IPCC finally released their next report on climate change, and Oxfam masterfully summarized the conclusions regarding agriculture. Pretty scary stuff. IFAD and some other organizations are hosting a webinar on what actions should be taken next – tomorrow, at 10 BST (11 CEST). Tune in – I know I will!
2. Experts from a coalition of NGOs warn that the World Bank’s new pilot project, “Benchmarking the Business of Agriculture”, could backfire and lead to more food insecurity as it ranks countries according to their ease of doing business and of accommodating foreign investors – which could lead to land-grabbing and disregard for the rights of smallholder farmers.
“It is time that the World Bank ceases to ignore that smallholders are the only future of an agriculture that can guarantee food security, ensure a sustainable use of natural resources and bring human development,” their statement concludes. “We know far too well how damaging large-scale industrial farming is to the environment and the people. This model shall not be expanded to the developing world.”
Think of “food” and “North Korea” and chances are you will be reminded of the near-yearly news items speaking of hunger, starvation, and malnutrition in the country. However, times might be changing, at least if you believe Andrei Lankov, professor of Korean Studies at Seoul University. In this Al Jazeera piece, he argues that the “myth of starvation” is over due to the moderate economic growth in the country driven by semi-legal private enterprises starting to bloom. Yet, the situation of the current food system is still dire and stuck between the bizarre and the fascinating in this neo-Stalinist state. Inspired by Lankov’s article, here are 10 facts about food (shortages) in North Korea you might not know:
1. According to Lankov, “this year, North Korea enjoyed an exceptionally good harvest, which for the first time in more than two decades will be sufficient to feed the country’s entire population. Indeed, according to the recent documents of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations), North Korea’s harvest totaled 5.03 million tonnes of grain this year, if converted to the cereal equivalent. To put things in perspective, in the famine years of the late 1990s, the average annual harvest was estimated (by the same FAO) to be below the 3 million tonne level.“
2. However, the WFP and FAO estimate that despite the 3-year improvements in food production, there are still shortages particularly for protein-rich foods, and child malnutrition remains widespread, said the Wall Street Journal in November of last year. 84% of the population’s households were estimated to have borderline or poor food consumption.
3. One of the main reasons for the ongoing problems is a combination of outdated farming practices and a lack of access to agricultural inputs such as fertilizers due to international trade sanctions. This account of a North Korean farmer-turned-emigrant is fascinating (though sad) in describing farming conditions reminiscent of the early 20th century: “As North Koreans do not have good equipment or much fertilizer, we got used to doing most of the work by hand rather than with the help of machinery. In spring when weeds bagan to sprout it would be time to plough the fields and this could be done by ox or with tractors. But in North Korea, in addition to fuel being too expensive, there aren’t many tractors for the farmers to use, so most of the ploughing is done by oxen. As you can probably guess, the oxen were therefore very valuable animals, and we needed to keep them healthy for the entire year’s farming work. While oxen could help plough the fields, they were useless at dealing with weeds. So when new weeds appeared in the fields again, they had to be removed by hand because the chemicals we had were not sufficient. Between spring and autumn, we did back breaking work, weeding the field about four times with a hoe. Not wanting to waste even the weeds, we also used a sickle to cut them down to make compost with them. This compost helped make the soil better, so every summer or autumn we made compost after doing the weeding.” It also serves as a good reminder that the mechanization of agriculture has, indeed, had a massively beneficial impact on farmers’ lives, despite the calls to go back towards a more natural way of farming…
Every year, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) presents a report on what happened in the previous 12 months in the global food policy arena. Of course, it is nearly impossible to shed light on every development, but the full report, spanning more than 120 pages, does a great job at attempting it! You can download it for free here if you are interested.
If, however, you don’t have the luxury of a free weekend or two at your disposal to catch up on everything that happened in 2013, the first chapter of the report (available here) gives a pretty comprehensive global overview, focusing both on regional policy issues as well as the overarching theme of nutrition security making a come-back on the political world stage. And if you just want the quick and dirty facts, look no further – I read through the chapter for explicitly that purpose and am here to give you a quick and dirty summary!