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DocWatch
food crisis
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News stories about "food crisis," with punchlines: http://apocadocs.com/d.pl?food+crisis
Related Scary Tags:
climate impacts  ~ drought  ~ weather extremes  ~ global warming  ~ corporate farming  ~ water issues  ~ anthropogenic change  ~ health impacts  ~ overpopulation  ~ overfishing  ~ holyshit  



Fri, Jan 8, 2016
from Mother Jones:
The EPA Finally Admitted That the World's Most Popular Pesticide Kills Bees--20 Years Too Late
For more than a decade, the Environmental Protection Agency has been under pressure from environmentalists and beekeepers to reconsider its approval of a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, based on a mounting body of research suggesting they harm bees and other pollinators at tiny doses. In a report released Wednesday, the EPA basically conceded the case. ...


Let the beestrictions, beenalties, and beecotts beegin.

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Jan 5, 2016
from The Guardian:
French MPs vote to force supermarkets to give away unsold food
French MPs have voted unanimously to force supermarkets to give away unsold food that has reached its sell-by date. Shops will also be banned from destroying food products, as they have in the past - sometimes by soaking them in bleach - to prevent them being distributed. ...


Let them eat (bleached) cake.

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Aug 10, 2015
from Dahr Jamail, via TruthOut:
The New Climate "Normal": Abrupt Sea Level Rise and Predictions of Civilization Collapse
... As if that's not enough, Hansen's study comes on the heels of another study published in Science, which shows that global sea levels could rise by at least 20 feet, even if governments manage to keep global temperature increases to within the agreed upon "safe" limit of 2 degrees Celsius.... Disconcertingly, another new "normal" this month comes in the form of huge plumes of wildfire smoke over the Arctic. At the time of this writing, well over 12 million acres of forest and tundra in Canada and Alaska have burned in wildfires, and the smoke covering the Arctic sea ice is yet another anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) amplifying feedback loop that will accelerate melting there. The additional smoke further warms the atmosphere that quickens the melting of the Arctic ice pack.... "The results show that based on plausible climate trends, and a total failure to change course, the global food supply system would face catastrophic losses, and an unprecedented epidemic of food riots," the Institute's director, Dr. Aled Jones, told Insurge Intelligence. "In this scenario, global society essentially collapses as food production falls permanently short of consumption."... ...


Well, as long as the American Way of Life™ isn't threatened!

ApocaDoc
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Sat, Jul 4, 2015
from Desdemona:
World arable land per capita, 1961-2012
... Add these numbers, and there are at least 14.5 million hectares per year of wildlands being converted to human uses, probably mostly for agriculture.... Humans are destroying soil at a rate of 12 million hectares per year, and we’re making up for it by destroying forest and wetlands at a comparable rate. But is all of this destruction of the natural world enabling us to keep up with the ever-growing human population? ...


I am still hungry.

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Jun 29, 2015
from Times of London:
GM 'whiffy wheat' fails to deter aphids
A Ł3 million publicly funded field trial of genetically modified wheat has failed after the crop was shown to be no better at repelling pests than conventional wheat. The "whiffy wheat" project involved plants modified to produce a pheromone that aphids release when under attack from predators. Scientists thought that the scent would cause the aphids to flee and also attract wasps, which prey on them. However, the trial found no significant reduction in aphids, possibly because they learnt to ignore the continuous alarm scent. ...


Swing and a miss.

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Jun 29, 2015
from London Independent:
Society will collapse by 2040 due to catastrophic food shortages, says study
A scientific model has suggested that society will collapse in less than three decades due to catastrophic food shortages if policies do not change... "In this scenario, global society essentially collapses as food production falls permanently short of consumption." ...


But will I still be able to have it my way?

ApocaDoc
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Wed, May 20, 2015
from London Guardian:
White House makes bid to save honeybees but ignores toxic pesticides
The White House has announced an ambitious plan to "promote the health of honeybees and other pollinators" in the United States in a bid to help reverse a worrying trend that has seen the honeybee population fall by half over the last seven decades. It includes making millions of acres of federal land more bee-friendly, an explicit ambition to increase the population of the monarch butterfly, and the provision of millions of dollars to be spent on research. But the plan announced on Tuesday falls short in one capacity that has environmental groups up in arms. It does not ban the use of any form of toxic pesticides, despite a large body of scientific research showing many of them - specifically neonicotinoids, or "neonics" - to be closely linked to widespread bee life loss. ...


Always racing for the cure, instead of the cause.

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Mar 3, 2015
from Mashable:
Seeds of war
Manmade global warming helped spark the brutal civil war in Syria by doubling to tripling the odds that a crippling drought in the Fertile Crescent would occur shortly before the fighting broke out, according to a groundbreaking new study published on March 2. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to attribute the drought in Syria in large part to global warming. In doing so, it provides powerful evidence backing up the Pentagon and intelligence community's assessments that climate change is likely to play the role of a "threat multiplier" in coming decades, pushing countries that are already vulnerable to upheaval over the edge and into open conflict. ...


Peace out

ApocaDoc
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Sun, Feb 15, 2015
from InsideClimate News:
Droughts Will Hammer U.S. West as 21st Century Unfolds
As harsh as the current long-running California drought has been, conditions in the American West will substantially worsen in coming years, according to new research... According to the new research, droughts in the Southwest and Central Plains will only worsen during the second half of this century. The closest comparison is to the 1930s Dust Bowl or 1950s drought, but lasting 35 years instead of just a few. ...


From Dust Bowl to Dust Pit.

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Jan 14, 2015
from Reuters:
China sets 2020 "artificial weather" target to combat water shortages
China aims to induce more than 60 billion cubic metres of additional rain each year by 2020, using an "artificial weather" programme to fight chronic water shortages, the government said on Monday. China's water resources are among the world's lowest, standing at 2,100 cubic metres per person, or just 28 percent of the world average.... Artificial rain is created by rocket-launching chemicals, such as silver iodide, into clouds to boost rain. China used the technology, known as cloud seeding, to scatter clouds ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.... Around 70 percent of China's rivers and lakes have become too polluted to use. ...


I've looked at clouds from both seeds now.

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Dec 10, 2014
from London Independent:
Organic farming can feed the world if done right, scientists claim
Organic farming is much more productive than previously thought, according to a new analysis of agricultural studies that challenges the conventional "biased" view that pesticide-free agriculture cannot feed the world. The study says that organic yields were only 19.2 per cent lower, on average, than those from conventional crops and that this gap could be reduced to just eight per cent if the pesticide-free crops were rotated more frequently. Furthermore, in some crops - especially leguminous plants such as beans, peas and lentils - there were no significant differences in yields, the researchers from the University of California, Berkeley found. ...


I don't need any Berkeley eggheads stating the obvious.

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Nov 24, 2014
from Newsweek:
Can We Overcome Our Disgust Long Enough to Eat Bugs?
...Along with tasting good, insects are full of health benefits. Studies have shown that bugs are high in protein, calcium, zinc, iron and vitamin A. They are also easier to farm than livestock, use less water and emit fewer greenhouse gases. A 2013 report by the United Nations's Food and Agriculture Organization touted the benefits of eating bugs to fight world hunger and reduce pollution. Getting insects on Westerners' plates, though, is no easy task, requiring innovative strategies to overcome a deeply embedded cultural aversion to insects. ...


Should I get my praying mantis burger with or without flies?

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Nov 12, 2014
from Nature:
Climate change curbs crops
Farmers have produced less food during the past three decades than they would have done were climate change not happening, according to a study published today1. Global maize (corn) production, for example, is estimated to be about 3.8 percent lower than it would have been in a non-warmed world -- the equivalent of Mexico not contributing to the maize market. ...


Amaizing!

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Nov 12, 2014
from NPR:
Regulators Ban Cod Fishing In New England As Stocks Dwindle
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is shutting down cod fishing, from Provincetown, Mass., up to the Canadian border, in an effort to reverse plummeting numbers of the iconic fish in the Gulf of Maine. Starting Thursday, no fishermen -- commercial or recreational -- may trawl or use certain large nets that might catch cod for the next six months. Local cod fishermen, who now face an uncertain future, say the government hasn't done enough to maintain cod populations, and they challenge NOAA's cod counts. "This is uncalled for," says Joseph Orlando, a fishermen who trawls for cod off the coast of Gloucester, Mass., just north of Boston. Orlando and a friend had had been looking forward to fishing heavily for cod for the next two months, when holiday demand boosts prices. Now, that's off the table. "There's more codfish out there. There's always been," he says. " I mean, their science is just absurd." ...


Fish cod more? Is that what you're saying?

ApocaDoc
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Thu, Oct 23, 2014
from The Independent (UK):
Small ocean fish are thriving while humans eat up all their predators
Little fish have never had it so good, according to research showing how mankind's taste for big fish such as tuna and shark is allowing the anchovy and sardine to flourish.... Industrialised fishing practices are causing a revolution in the world's oceans, with numbers of predator fish - which also include swordfish, grouper, North Atlantic cod and salmon - tumbling by 54 per cent in the past four decades. These fish sit at the top of the food chain and are more popular with humans than the smaller species because people find them tastier. Their volume - by weight - has fallen by 67 per cent in the past century, a University of British Columbia study has found.... The volume by weight of smaller fish has more than doubled in the past century. The biggest increases are to be found in those fish that are less popular with humans, such as sticklebacks and Gobies, the research found. Over the same period, the volume of predators fell by 67 per cent.... The meteoric rise of herbivorous sea urchins as their predators such as sea otters have declined is one example of how the changes are undermining ecosystems. The sea urchins destroy the forests of kelp seaweed that host numerous species such as crabs and jellyfish. ...


It's just smaller fish, all the way down.

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Oct 13, 2014
from National Geographic:
As Dwindling Monarch Butterflies Make Their Migration, Feds Try to Save Them
... The North American monarch population has declined by 90 percent over the past two decades. At its high in the winter of 1996-1997, there were a billion monarchs. Today, there are only about 35 million, according to a petition filed in August by scientists from several environmental organizations asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to classify the monarch as "threatened" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The classification provides various protections including the authority for the agency to purchase habitat, and prohibitions on killing or injuring an animal or destroying its habitat without a permit, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. ...


I bet the Feds contract this out to Halliburton.

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Oct 8, 2014
from Canadian Press:
Pesticides linked to bee deaths pose 'massive' ecological threat, watchdog warns
The widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides by Ontario farmers, which has been linked to the deaths of bees, could have a "massive impact" on our ecological system, the province's environment watchdog warned Tuesday. "All the science is not done, but everything that I have before me ... suggests to me that this is the biggest threat to the structure and ecological integrity of the ecosystem that I have ever encountered in my life, bigger than DDT, " said Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller as he released his annual report. Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane was banned in Canada in 1972 because of environmental and safety concerns, and even Environment Minister Glen Murray admitted the neonicotinoid class of pesticides is "much more toxic" than DDT. ...


So much for equivocation.

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Oct 7, 2014
from Huffington Post:
Save the Humans
...Each year, the U.S. grows and kills about 10 billion livestock animals. Globally, we're raising and slaughtering about 56 billion animals animal agriculture each year. If you do the math, that means we're killing 1,776 animals for food every second of every day. That doesn't even include fish and other seafood. But even though I'm a vegan for ethical reasons, I don't want to write about the animal ethics of animal agriculture. I want to write about the ways in which animal agriculture is killing us and ruining our planet.... The U.N. released a conservative report wherein they stated that animal agriculture causes about 18 percent of current greenhouse gas emissions. ...


If we don't eat them they'll eat us!

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Sep 30, 2014
from Lincoln Journal-World:
Ogallala water continues to pour onto farm fields despite decades of dire forecasts
...The aquifer, a shallow, underground sea under parts of eight states and spanning 174,000 square miles, is the main source of water in the western third of Kansas. Counties on top of the aquifer account for roughly two-thirds of the state's agricultural economic value. Without Ogallala water, significant portions of the region's agriculture and its related businesses could not be sustained, manufacturing could not continue, recreational opportunities would diminish and towns could vanish, state officials say. ...


How brown will the earth / turn in a state run by a / climate denier?

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Sep 30, 2014
from Cedar Rapids Gazette:
Iowa farmers criticize Ernst on climate change, RFS
A super PAC backing Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Braley enlisted a pair of central Iowa farmers to criticize his Republican opponent, Joni Ernst, for a lack of leadership on renewable fuels and climate change -- issues they said hit home with Iowa ag producers. Bill Gannon, who has been farming for six decades, said flooding was rarely a problem until 1993. Since then, the Mingo farmer has seen crop damage and soil loss nearly every year due to flooding. "Serious rain events cause great losses for farmers who are trying to make ends meet," Gannon said on a conference call sponsored by NextGen Climate. The group is working to elect Braley of Waterloo, who has served eight years in the U.S. House. Gannon believes "climate change is a given." ...


The unimportance of being ernst.

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Tue, Sep 2, 2014
from BBC:
Icelandic business plans energy bar made of insects
Insects are a staple food in parts of the developing world, but two businessmen from the unlikely location of Iceland are proposing to use them to make energy bars. Bui Adalsteinsson and Stefan Thoroddsen say on their website they got the idea from a UN report suggesting the western world could benefit from using this abundant source of protein, and formed a company to make bars with ground-up bugs. ...


I wonder if they come in three sections?

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Aug 27, 2014
from Sydney Morning Herald:
Climate change may disrupt global food system within a decade, World Bank says
"The challenges from waste to warming, spurred on by a growing population with a rising middle-class hunger for meat, are leading us down a dangerous path," Professor Kyte told the Crawford Fund 2014 annual conference in Canberra on Wednesday. "Unless we chart a new course, we will find ourselves staring volatility and disruption in the food system in the face, not in 2050, not in 2040, but potentially within the next decade," she said, according to her prepared speech. ...


If we "chart a new course" then... what happens to the "old course"?

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Aug 18, 2014
from Washington Post:
West's historic drought stokes fears of water crisis
When the winter rains failed to arrive in this Sacramento Valley town for the third straight year, farmers tightened their belts and looked to the reservoirs in the nearby hills to keep them in water through the growing season. When those faltered, some switched on their well pumps, drawing up thousands of gallons from underground aquifers to prevent their walnut trees and alfalfa crops from drying up. Until the wells, too, began to fail. Now, across California's vital agricultural belt, nervousness over the state's epic drought has given way to alarm. Streams and lakes have long since shriveled up in many parts of the state, and now the aquifers -- always a backup source during the region's periodic droughts -- are being pumped away at rates that scientists say are both historic and unsustainable. ...


Waiter, there's fur in my aquifer!

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Aug 11, 2014
from Associated Press:
Codfish numbers at key fishery hits all-time low
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- The level of codfish spawning in one of the most critical fisheries in the Northeast U.S. is at an all-time low, putting more pressure on a fishery already dealing with declining catch and dramatic quota cuts. National Marine Fisheries Service scientists say the amount of cod spawning in the Gulf of Maine is estimated to be 3 to 4 percent of its target level. That number declined from 13 to 18 percent three years ago. ...


Is there a God for cod?

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Aug 5, 2014
from Cliff Mass Weather Blog:
Will the Pacific Northwest be a Climate Refuge Under Global Warming?
As global warming takes hold later in the century, where will be the best place in the lower 48 states to escape its worst effects? A compelling case can be made that the Pacific Northwest will be one of the best places to live as the earth warms. A potential climate refuge. ...


Don't tell anyone.

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Jul 28, 2014
from National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR):
Climate Change Increases Risk of Crop Slowdown in Next 20 Years
The world faces a small but substantially increased risk over the next two decades of a major slowdown in the growth of global corn and wheat yields because of climate change, according to new research. Such a slowdown would occur as global demand for crops rapidly increases.... the risk is about 20 times more significant than it would be without global warming, and it may require planning by organizations that are affected by international food availability and price. ...


A perfect storm of horror.

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You're still reading! Good for you!
You really should read our short, funny, frightening book FREE online (or buy a print copy):
Humoring the Horror of the Converging Emergencies!
We've been quipping this stuff for more than 30 months! Every day!
Which might explain why we don't get invited to parties anymore.
Tue, May 27, 2014
from London Guardian:
Wanted: a breed of chicken that can survive crippling heatwaves
American scientists are racing to develop chickens that can cope with scorching heat as part of a series of government-funded programmes looking to adapt to or mitigate the effects of extreme weather patterns on the food supply. A University of Delaware project is developing ways to introduce climate hardiness to the US domestic breed stock before summer heatwaves predicted under climate change models kill or spoil the meat of billions of birds. ...


These chickens are pre-broiled.

ApocaDoc
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Wed, May 14, 2014
from ThinkProgress:
The Impact Of Climate Change On The Midwest: More Heat, More Droughts, More Floods, Fewer Crops
The 2014 National Climate Assessment, the single largest attempt to compile the science and data concerning climate change's impact on the United States, was released on Tuesday. For the American Midwest, the report comes with some stark projections: more extreme heat, along with heavier downpours and flooding, and serious consequences for the ecosystems of the Great Lakes and for large portions of the region's economy. ...


What was the score of the game last night?

ApocaDoc
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Wed, May 7, 2014
from Associated Press:
Climate report predicts more extremes in Midwest
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- A report by the National Climate Assessment says a warming planet will worsen a series of weather trends already showing up across the Midwest. Look for more extremes: searing heat, late-spring freezes, floods and droughts across a region that includes Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri.... FARMS AND FORESTS: The growing season, already two weeks longer than in 1950, will continue lengthening. But the gains will be offset by smaller yields for some crops, including corn. ...


Amber waves of pain.

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Apr 29, 2014
from Huffington Post:
Killer Pig Virus Wipes Out More Than 10 Percent Of Nation's Hogs, Causing Spike In Pork Prices
John Goihl, a hog nutritionist in Shakopee, Minnesota, knows a farmer in his state who lost 7,500 piglets just after they were born. In Sampson County, North Carolina, 12,000 of Henry Moore's piglets died in three weeks. Some 30,000 piglets perished at John Prestage's Oklahoma operation in the fall of 2013. The killer stalking U.S. hog farms is known as PEDv, a malady that in less than a year has wiped out more than 10 percent of the nation's pig population and helped send retail pork prices to record highs. The highly contagious Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus is puzzling scientists searching for its origins and its cure and leaving farmers devastated in ways that go beyond financial losses... Since June 2013 as many as 7 million pigs have died in the United States due to the virus... ...


RIP, PIG.

ApocaDoc
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Thu, Apr 17, 2014
from NPR:
Plant Breeders Release First 'Open Source Seeds'
A group of scientists and food activists is launching a Thursday to change the rules that govern seeds. They're releasing 29 new varieties of crops under a new "open source pledge" that's intended to safeguard the ability of farmers, gardeners and plant breeders to share those seeds freely. It's inspired by the example of open source software, which is freely available for anyone to use but cannot legally be converted into anyone's proprietary product... , director of intellectual property for the seed company HM Clause and the incoming president of the American Seed Trade Association, says his company may avoid using open source seed to breed new commercial varieties "because then we'd ... have limited potential to recoup the investment." That's because the offspring of open source seeds would have to be shared as well, and any other seed company could immediately sell the same variety. ...


This will make Big Ag gag!

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Apr 14, 2014
from Des Moines Register:
Rare partnership in Fairfield delivers veggies to kids
...there, tucked behind a nondescript factory, is a new greenhouse, sprouting spinach, radishes, pea shoots, greens and lettuce on a cold April day, thanks to its industrial partner next door. In a unique experiment, Swinton is growing veggies by tapping unused heat from her neighbor, Schaus-Vorhies Kleaning, a company that uses heat up to 1,600 degrees to clean and sometimes strengthen metals. Swinton said the greenhouse is the first of its kind in Iowa, possibly the nation, and could become a demonstration project for others wanting to bring more locally grown fruits and vegetables to U.S. schoolchildren, especially in cold-weather locations like Iowa. "It's pioneering. The concept of taking unused industrial heat for greenhouse production has been talked about, but few have developed it," said Matt Russell, a state food policy project coordinator at Drake University's Agricultural Law Center. ...


That house is green in more ways than one.

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Apr 11, 2014
from Los Angeles Times:
Beef prices hit all-time high in U.S.
Come grilling season, expect your sirloin steak to come with a hearty side of sticker shock. Beef prices have reached all-time highs in the U.S. and aren't expected to come down any time soon. Extreme weather has thinned the nation's beef cattle herds to levels last seen in 1951, when there were about half as many mouths to feed in America.... Soaring beef prices are being blamed on years of drought throughout the western and southern U.S. The dry weather has driven up the price of feed such as corn and hay to record highs, forcing many ranchers to sell off their cattle. That briefly created a glut of beef cows for slaughter that has now run dry.... ...


Welcome to the new world of fa$t food.

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Apr 7, 2014
from UC Davis, via EurekAlert:
Field study shows why food quality will suffer with rising CO2
For the first time, a field test has demonstrated that elevated levels of carbon dioxide inhibit plants' assimilation of nitrate into proteins, indicating that the nutritional quality of food crops is at risk as climate change intensifies.... "[T]his is the first study to demonstrate that elevated carbon dioxide inhibits the conversion of nitrate into protein in a field-grown crop," he said. The assimilation, or processing, of nitrogen plays a key role in the plant's growth and productivity. In food crops, it is especially important because plants use nitrogen to produce the proteins that are vital for human nutrition. Wheat, in particular, provides nearly one-fourth of all protein in the global human diet. ...


I'm thinkin' we'll just engineer that out.

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Fri, Apr 4, 2014
from Reuters:
A quarter of Europe's bumblebees, vital to crops, face extinction: study
Almost a quarter of Europe's bumblebees are at risk of extinction due to loss of habitats and climate change, threatening pollination of crops worth billions of dollars, a study showed on Wednesday. Sixteen of 68 bumblebee species in Europe are at risk, the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said. It is preparing a global study of the bees, whose honeybee cousins are in steep decline because of disease. ...


Beetastrophe!

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Mon, Mar 31, 2014
from New York Times:
Panel's Warning on Climate Risk: Worst Is Yet to Come
Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world's oceans, scientists reported on Monday, and they warned that the problem was likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control... "Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change," Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the intergovernmental panel, said at a news conference here on Monday presenting the report. The report was among the most sobering yet issued by the scientific panel. ...


I'll drink to that!

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Wed, Mar 26, 2014
from Reuters:
World unprepared for climate damage to food security - Oxfam
A key U.N. report on climate change, due out early next week, will show that the impacts of rising temperatures on food security will be more serious and hit earlier than previously thought, a situation the world is "woefully unprepared" to cope with, aid group Oxfam warned on Tuesday... Whether or not measures are taken to help farmers adapt to climate change, median crop yields will decline by up to 2 percent during the rest of the century, while crop demand grows 14 percent each decade until 2050... ...


I am prepared ... to eat my arm!

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Mon, Mar 24, 2014
from Associated Press:
Big climate report: Warming is big risk for people
If you think of climate change as a hazard for some far-off polar bears years from now, you're mistaken. That's the message from top climate scientists gathering in Japan this week to assess the impact of global warming. In fact, they will say, the dangers of a warming Earth are immediate and very human. "The polar bear is us," says Patricia Romero Lankao of the federally financed National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., referring to the first species to be listed as threatened by global warming due to melting sea ice. ...


Today is a good day to panic.

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Wed, Mar 19, 2014
from Reuters:
Warmest winter on record worsens California drought
California is coming off of its warmest winter on record, aggravating an enduring drought in the most populous U.S. state, federal weather scientists said Monday. The state had a average temperature of 48 Fahrenheit (9 Celsius) for December, January and February, an increase from 47.2 F in 1980-81, the last hottest winter, and more than 4 degrees hotter than the 20th-century average in California, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a statement. Warmer winters could make the already parched state even drier by making it less likely for snow to accumulate in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, NOAA spokesman Brady Phillips said. That snow, melting in the spring and summer and running down through the state's rivers, is vital for providing water in the summer, when the state typically experiences little rain. ...


When it rains it pours, and when it droughts it deserts.

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Wed, Mar 19, 2014
from Wired:
Voracious Worm Evolves to Eat Biotech Corn Engineered to Kill It
One of agricultural biotechnology's great success stories may become a cautionary tale of how short-sighted mismanagement can squander the benefits of genetic modification. After years of predicting it would happen -- and after years of having their suggestions largely ignored by companies, farmers and regulators -- scientists have documented the rapid evolution of corn rootworms that are resistant to Bt corn. Until Bt corn was genetically altered to be poisonous to the pests, rootworms used to cause billions of dollars in damage to U.S. crops. Named for the pesticidal toxin-producing Bacillus thuringiensis gene it contains, Bt corn now accounts for three-quarters of the U.S. corn crop. The vulnerability of this corn could be disastrous for farmers and the environment. ...


We're on the corns of a dilemma.

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Tue, Feb 25, 2014
from NPR:
Brutal Drought Could Drain More Than Brazil's Coffee Crop
Brazil, a country usually known for its rainforests, has been facing a severe drought in its breadbasket region, leaving people in the cities without water and farmers in the countryside with dying crops. Global prices for coffee, in particular, have been affected. Scientists in Brazil say the worst is yet to come -- yet no one in the government, it seems, is listening.... "All of us have never seen a drought that's been so prolonged and so aggressive as this one," Polidor says. "In 49 days, we got maybe 11 millimeters of rain."... Juliano Jose Polidor, the corn farmer in the Brazilian countryside, doesn't have strong political views and doesn't know much about the debate about climate change. He says he just knows what he sees. "I think we are getting to the hour where it's not just me who needs to be worried, but the whole world," says Polidor. "We will have to decide what to do about what is happening." ...


Welcome to the Hotel California. You can check out any time you like. But you can never leave.

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Thu, Feb 20, 2014
from Associated Press:
Bumblebees getting stung bad by honeybee sickness
Wild bumblebees worldwide are in trouble, likely contracting deadly diseases from their commercialized honeybee cousins, a new study shows... "Wild populations of bumblebees appear to be in significant decline across Europe, North America, South America and also in Asia," said study author Mark Brown of the University of London. He said his study confirmed that a major source of the decline was "the spillover of parasites and pathogens and disease" from managed honeybee hives. ...


Apocapollination

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Mon, Feb 10, 2014
from Mother Jones:
California's Drought Could Be the Worst in 500 Years (And why it's too late for the rain.)
The Golden State is in the midst of a three-year drought--and scientists believe that this year may end up being the driest in the last half millennium, according to UC Berkeley professor B. Lynn Ingram. Californians are scared, with good reason: Fire danger in the state is high, and drinking water supplies are low. But the drought will have repercussions outside the state's borders, as well. California produces a good chunk of the nation's food: half of all our fruits and vegetables, along with a significant amount of dairy and wine.... About ten percent of the state is experiencing "exceptional drought," the highest possible level. As of this week, seventeen communities are in danger of running out of water, forcing some to buy it or run pipes from other districts.... [T]he state would need to experience heavy rain or snowfall every other day from now until May in order to achieve average annual precipitation levels. ...


Calidessication.

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Sun, Feb 2, 2014
from LA Times:
California snowpack hits record low
Even with the first significant storm in nearly two months dropping snow on the Sierra Nevada, Thursday's mountain snowpack measurements were the lowest for the date in more than a half-century of record keeping. At 12 percent of average for this time of year, the dismal statewide snowpack underscored the severity of a drought that is threatening community water supplies and leaving farm fields in many parts of California barren. ...


Let them drink Dasani.

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Tue, Jan 28, 2014
from Guardian:
Warmer seas 'are making fish smaller'
A decline in the size of some species of fish in the North Sea could be due to a rise in water temperatures, according to research. Scientists found that the maximum length of haddock, whiting, herring, Norway pout, plaice and sole decreased by as much as 29 percent over a 38-year period when temperatures in the North Sea increased by between 1C and 2C. The availability of food and an increase in fishing could also be factors in the reduction in length but the "synchronised" fall in size across a range of species led the fisheries scientists at the University of Aberdeen to identify climate change, and particularly higher water temperatures, as a common theme.... Dr Baudron added: "The increase in temperature of the North Sea is actually quite subtle - approximately 2C - yet this appears to be having a detectable impact on growth rates of fish. ...


I know we need something to replace the vanishing phytoplankton, but isn't this the wrong way to go about it?

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Mon, Jan 20, 2014
from Bloomberg News:
Climate Proofing of Farms Seen Too Slow as Industry Faces Havoc
Climate change will play havoc with farming, and policy makers and researchers aren't fully aware of the significance on food supply, according to the World Bank. Earth will warm by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) "in your lifetime," Rachel Kyte, the World Bank's vice-president for climate change, said at a meeting of agriculture ministers in Berlin over the weekend. That will make farming untenable in some areas, she said. Extreme weather from China's coldest winter in at least half a century in 2010 to a July hailstorm in Reutlingen, Germany, already started to affect food prices. ...


Is denial a crop?

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Sun, Jan 19, 2014
from London Guardian:
Global food crisis will worsen as heatwaves damage crops, research finds
The world's food crisis, where 1 billion people are already going hungry and a further 2 billion people will be affected by 2050, is set to worsen as increasing heatwaves reverse the rising crop yields seen over the last 50 years, according to new research. Severe heatwaves, such as those currently seen in Australia, are expected to become many times more likely in coming decades due to climate change. Extreme heat led to 2012 becoming the hottest year in the US on record and the worst corn crop in two decades. ...


Come and get your hot crops!

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Sun, Jan 19, 2014
from Huffington Post:
California Has Driest Year Ever -- And It May Get Worse
... For California, 2013 was the driest year since the state started measuring rainfall in 1849, before it was a state, according to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, or UCAR, a consortium of 75 schools. Low rainfall has shattered records in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Shasta and on up to Eugene, Ore... Meteorologists say the reason behind the low precipitation is a massive zone of high pressure nearly four miles high and 2,000 miles long that has been blocking storms for more than a year. Meteorologist Daniel Swain has dubbed it "The Ridiculously Resilient Ridge." ...


I call it "The Rush Limbaugh."

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Wed, Jan 8, 2014
from Florida State University:
Snowball Effect of Overfishing Highlighted
Florida State University researchers have spearheaded a major review of fisheries research that examines the domino effect that occurs when too many fish are harvested from one habitat. The loss of a major species from an ecosystem can have unintended consequences because of the connections between that species and others in the system. Moreover, these changes often occur rapidly and unexpectedly, and are difficult to reverse. "You don't realize how interdependent species are until it all unravels," said Felicia Coleman, director of the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory and a co-author on the study. ...


It's as if ecosystems evolved interdependently!

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Mon, Dec 30, 2013
from Huffington Post:
Millions Of Acres Of Chinese Farmland Too Polluted To Grow Food, Highlighting Growing Threat
More than 8 million acres of China's farmland is too polluted with heavy metals and other chemicals to use for growing food, a Cabinet official said Monday, highlighting a problem that is causing growing public concern. The threat from pollution to China's food supply has been overshadowed by public alarm at smog and water contamination but is gaining attention following scandals over tainted rice and other crops. The government triggered complaints in February when it refused to release results of a nationwide survey of soil pollution, declaring them a state secret. The figure given at a news conference by Wang Shiyuan, a deputy minister of the Ministry of Land and Resources, would be about 2 percent of China's 337 million acres of arable land. Some scientists have given higher estimates of as much as 60 million acres, or one-fifth of the total, though it is unclear how much of that would be too badly contaminated for farming. ...


Why don't we build factories on that otherwise useless farmland.

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Thu, Dec 26, 2013
from New York Times:
Start-Up Uses Plant Seeds for a Biofuel
In an unmarked greenhouse, leafy bushes carpet an acre of land here tucked into the suburban sprawl of Southern California. The seeds of the inedible, drought-resistant plants, called jatropha, produce a prize: high-quality oil that can be refined into low-carbon jet fuel or diesel fuel... The technology also could be used to domesticate wild fruits and vegetables, company scientists said. They said the technology has the potential to unleash a new green revolution for a world that will need to grow 70 percent more food by 2050, according to the United Nations, as agricultural productivity is slowing ...


Fly the eco-friendly and hungry skies.

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Thu, Nov 14, 2013
from Ensia/Scientific American:
14 humans fed/acre vs. 3 humans fed/acre. It's Time to Rethink America's Corn System
... For corn-fed animals, the efficiency of converting grain to meat and dairy calories ranges from roughly 3 percent to 40 percent, depending on the animal production system in question. What this all means is that little of the corn crop actually ends up feeding American people. It's just math. The average Iowa cornfield has the potential to deliver more than 15 million calories per acre each year (enough to sustain 14 people per acre, with a 3,000 calorie-per-day diet, if we ate all of the corn ourselves), but with the current allocation of corn to ethanol and animal production, we end up with an estimated 3 million calories of food per acre per year, mainly as dairy and meat products, enough to sustain only 3 people per acre. This is lower than the average delivery of food calories from farms in Bangladesh, Egypt and Vietnam. In short, the corn crop is highly productive, but the corn system is aligned to feed cars and animals instead of feeding people. ...


Careful. You're messing with the Free Market, here.

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Wed, Oct 16, 2013
from New York Times:
How to Feed the World
"Feeding the world" might as well be a marketing slogan for Big Ag, a euphemism for "Let's ramp up sales," as if producing more cars would guarantee that everyone had one. But if it worked that way, surely the rate of hunger in the United States would not be the highest percentage of any developed nation, a rate closer to that of Indonesia than of Britain.... While a billion people are hungry, about three billion people are not eating well, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, if you count obese and overweight people alongside those with micronutrient deficiencies. Paradoxically, as increasing numbers of people can afford to eat well, food for the poor will become scarcer, because demand for animal products will surge, and they require more resources like grain to produce.... Let's at last recognize that there are two food systems, one industrial and one of small landholders, or peasants if you prefer. The peasant system is not only here for good, it's arguably more efficient than the industrial model. According to the ETC Group, a research and advocacy organization based in Ottawa, the industrial food chain uses 70 percent of agricultural resources to provide 30 percent of the world's food, whereas what ETC calls "the peasant food web" produces the remaining 70 percent using only 30 percent of the resources. ...


Peasants of the world, unite!

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Mon, Oct 14, 2013
from Bloomberg:
India Cyclone Ruins 15 Percent of Odisha Rice Area
The most powerful storm to hit India's east coast in 14 years decimated about 15 percent of Odisha state's rice planting area even as evacuation of 1 million people from the cyclone's path helped limit fatalities. At least 17 people were killed as Cyclone Phailin, Thai for "sapphire," made landfall Oct. 12 near Gopalpur in Odisha about 600 kilometers (373 miles) southwest of Kolkata. Heavy rains and winds packing up to 210 kilometers an hour lashed the region, flooding roads and uprooting trees. As much as 600,000 hectares of the state's rice area were affected, likely destroying an estimated 1 million tons of the grain, said Trilochan Mohapatra, director, Central Rice Research Institute. ...


Great. Rice Chex will rise in price, again. Oh, and sorry, you million, for your inconvenience.

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Mon, Oct 7, 2013
from Los Angeles Times:
Study: Honeybees can't smell flowers well amid pollution
When it comes to zeroing in on nectar-rich flowers, worker honeybees rely heavily on their expert sense of smell. But new research suggests pollution from diesel exhaust may fool the honeybee's "nose," making their search for staple flowers all the more difficult. ...


It's not nice to fool Mother Nature.

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Mon, Sep 30, 2013
from NewScientist:
Climate report: Lull in warming doesn't mean we're safe
Humanity's role in driving climate change is more certain than ever before, but the most extreme scenarios of future warming are looking less likely than a few years ago. This is the upshot of the latest scientific assessment from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published today.... The new report leaves no doubt that a storm is brewing. It is unequivocal -- temperatures are rising and human activity is to blame. Without drastic action to curb emissions, it says, the world faces a century of strong warming, in which glaciers and ice sheets melt, sea levels rise, the oceans acidify, weather systems shift and rainfall patterns change.... this stark warning will be sidelined by the scientific conundrum over the "missing heat" that should, according to most climate models, have been warming the atmosphere ever faster these past few decades. This may be a short-term blip -- perhaps a result of the oceans temporarily taking up more heat from the atmosphere, says one of the IPCC's lead authors, Myles Allen of the University of Oxford. The report underlines that, whatever is happening to the atmosphere, the oceans continue to warm dramatically. ...


Damn you, ocean, for trying to save us all.

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Thu, Sep 19, 2013
from San Francisco Chronicle:
Masses of food wasted - 'use by' dates mislead
Americans throw away 40 percent of the food they buy, often because of misleading expiration dates that have nothing to do with safety, said a study released Wednesday by Harvard University Law School and the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. "The date labeling system is not a system at all," said NRDC staff scientist Dana Gunders, co-author of the report, the first to assess date labeling laws nationwide. The report said 90 percent of Americans toss good food into the garbage because they mistakenly think that "sell by," "best before," "use by" or "packed on" dates on food containers indicate safety. One-fifth of consumers, the report said, "always" throw away food based on package dates. ...


Homo Wastiens

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Thu, Sep 19, 2013
from Alternet:
How Chicken Is Killing the Planet
Earlier this month, while you were busy sneaking out of your empty office, hoping nobody would notice your starting the holiday weekend early, the USDA was also doing something it was hoping nobody would notice. It was green-lighting the sale of Chinese processed American chicken. As Politico explained, "U.S. officials have given the thumbs-up to four Chinese poultry plants, paving the way for the country to send processed chicken to American markets." But while, "eat first, China will only be able to process chicken that has been slaughtered in the U.S. or other certified countries," that should not be a comfort to fans of the McNugget, Campbell's chicken soup, or any other processed chicken product...Meat is already the No. 1 contributor to climate change. Don't expect shipping slaughtered chickens 7,000 miles to China and then bringing them back as processed food to lower that carbon footprint. And, of course, the Chinese poultry industry has its own dirty laundry, including a current bird flu outbreak, believed to have "evolved from migratory birds via waterfowl to poultry and into people," and already responsible for 44 deaths; the sale of 46- year-old chicken feet; and exporting tainted dog treats, sickening nearly a thousand American pets. ...


Let them eat drywall.

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Mon, Sep 2, 2013
from Grist:
U.S. government paid $17 billion for weather-withered crops last year
Desiccated corn and sun-scorched soybeans have been in high supply lately -- and we're paying through the nose for them. The federal government forked out a record-breaking $17.3 billion last year to compensate farmers for weather-related crop losses -- more than four times the annual average over the last decade. The losses were mostly caused by droughts, high temperatures, and hot winds -- the sizzling harbingers of a climate in rapid flux. ...


The Sizzling Harbingers is the name of my new band, dude!

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Sun, Sep 1, 2013
from Washington Post:
The oceans are acidifying at the fastest rate in 300 million years. How worried should we be?
The world's oceans are turning acidic at what's likely the fastest pace in 300 million years. Scientists tend to think this is a troubling development. But just how worried should we be, exactly?... As humans keep burning fossil fuels, the oceans are absorbing more and more carbon-dioxide. That staves off (some) global warming, but it also makes the seas more acidic -- acidity levels have risen 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution.... One study published last year in Climatic Change suggested that the loss of mollusks -- one of the easier-to-forecast effects of acidification -- could cost the world around $100 billion per year by the end of the century. The main variable here is how much China and other fast-growing countries are likely to depend on these species for food in the future. ...


O, for acidity-resistant pterapods and krill!

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Mon, Jun 10, 2013
from New York Times:
After Drought, Rains Plaguing Midwest Farms
About this time last year, farmers were looking to the heavens, pleading for rain. Now, they are praying for the rain to stop. One of the worst droughts in this nation's history, a dry spell that persisted through the early part of this year, has ended with torrential rains this spring that have overwhelmed vast stretches of the country, including much of the farm belt. One result has been flooded acres that have drowned corn and soybean plants, stunted their growth or prevented them from being planted at all. ...


Dear God: just give me the weather I want!

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Thu, May 23, 2013
from Texas Tribune:
Ogallala Aquifer in Texas Panhandle Suffers Big Drop
... The Ogallala wells measured by the district experienced an average drop of 1.87 feet from 2012 to 2013. That makes it one of the five or 10 worst drops in the district's more than 60-year history, said Bill Mullican, a hydrogeologist with the district. "There are some pretty remarkable declines," Mullican said. One well in the western part of the water district, he said, dropped 19 feet over the year. The vast majority of Texas is enduring a drought, but the Panhandle has been especially hard hit, causing farmers to pump more water to make up for the lack of rain. That depletes the amount of water stored in the aquifer over the long term, which means future generations will find less water to pump to grow crops.... "The general trend has been [that] the depletion in the High Plains Aquifer is more severe the further south you go," said Leonard Konikow, a USGS hydrologist and the study's author.... As to how much water is left, Konikow was not optimistic. In some hard-hit Texas portions of the Ogallala, "it appears that about half the aquifer's saturated thickness has dried up," he said. ...


Somebody had some way of describing this "used up half of a resource" thing, somehow or another. Was it "Speak" resource? "Beak" resource? Gimme a minute, it'll come to me...

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Mon, May 13, 2013
from RT:
US approves new pesticides linked to mass bee deaths as EU enacts ban
In the wake of a massive US Department of Agriculture report highlighting the continuing large-scale death of honeybees, environmental groups are left wondering why the Environmental Protection Agency has decided to approve a "highly toxic" new pesticide.... One group, Beyond Pesticides, has called the EPA's recent green light for use of a new insecticide known as sulfoxaflor irresponsible in light of its "highly toxic” classification for honey bees. ...


Here in the US we expect our bees to toughen up.

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Sat, May 11, 2013
from New Scientist:
Plague of locusts blankets Madagascar
A locust plague of epic size is devastating the island nation of Madagascar, threatening the lives of 13 million people already on the brink of famine. Billions of locusts are destroying crops and grazing lands across half the country. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) expects the plague to get worse, with two-thirds of the country likely to be affected by September.... "In Africa this is sometimes a cruel twist," says Jerome Buhl from the University of Sydney, Australia, who studies the swarming of locusts. "A good year for crops, with promises of unusually good harvests after bad years, also often means a potential locust outbreak which could devastate the entire harvest and make it end as a terrible year." ...


Is this island half-full, or half-eaten?

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Thu, May 9, 2013
from AP, via ABC:
Scientist: Cassava Disease Spread at Alarming Rate
Scientists say a disease destroying entire crops of cassava has spread out of East Africa into the heart of the continent, is attacking plants as far south as Angola and now threatens to move west into Nigeria, the world's biggest producer of the potato-like root that helps feed 500 million Africans.... In Uganda, a new strain of the virus identified five years ago is destroying 45 percent of the national crop and up to 80 percent of harvests in some areas, according to a new survey, said Chris Omongo, an entomologist and cassava expert at Uganda's National Crops Resources Research Institute. "The new strain looks to us to be much more aggressive," Omongo said. ...


Those folks need the luck of the Irish.

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Wed, May 1, 2013
from Smithsonian Institution:
Startling Survival Story at Historic Jamestown: Physical Evidence of Survival Cannibalism
Douglas Owsley, the division head for physical anthropology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, presented today a forensic analysis of 17th-century human remains proving that survival cannibalism took place in historic Jamestown. The findings answer a long-standing question among historians about the occurrence of cannibalism at Jamestown during the deadly winter of 1609-1610 known as the "starving time" -- a period during which about 80 percent of the colonists died. ...


The colonists ended up in each others' colons.

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Fri, Apr 19, 2013
from Science Now:
Could Wood Feed the World?
The main ingredient of wood, cellulose, is one of the most abundant organic compounds on Earth and a dream source of renewable fuel. Now, bioengineers suggest that it could feed the hungry as well. In a new study, researchers have found a way to turn cellulose into starch, the most common carbohydrate in the human diet.... For instance, every ton of harvested cereals is often accompanied by 2 to 3 tons of cellulose-rich scrap, most of which goes to waste.... Though the process works, it's expensive. Zhang estimates that, given the current price tag of the enzymes that his team used, it would cost about $1 million to turn 200 kilograms of crude cellulose into 20 kilograms of starch, about enough to feed one person's carbohydrate needs for 80 days. Still, after 5 to 10 years of further research, Zhang says companies could do the same thing for just $0.50 per person per day. "We do not see big obstacles to the commercialization of this process." ...


Let them eat pulp.

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Sat, Feb 9, 2013
from Lester Brown, via TreeHugger.com:
New Era of Food Scarcity Echoes Collapsed Civilizations
This new era is one of rising food prices and spreading hunger. On the demand side of the food equation, population growth, rising affluence, and the conversion of food into fuel for cars are combining to raise consumption by record amounts. On the supply side, extreme soil erosion, growing water shortages, and the earth's rising temperature are making it more difficult to expand production. Unless we can reverse such trends, food prices will continue to rise and hunger will continue to spread, eventually bringing down our social system. Can we reverse these trends in time? Or is food the weak link in our early twenty-first-century civilization, much as it was in so many of the earlier civilizations whose archeological sites we now study? ...


More than an "echo," I'm afraid the rising feedbacks will amplify themselves into a final, desperate, shrieking scream. That, or we could just start changing things, today.

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Tue, Jan 15, 2013
from London Guardian:
Global food crisis will worsen as heatwaves damage crops, research finds
The world's food crisis, where 1 billion people are already going hungry and a further 2 billion people will be affected by 2050, is set to worsen as increasing heatwaves reverse the rising crop yields seen over the last 50 years, according to new research. Severe heatwaves, such as those currently seen in Australia, are expected to become many times more likely in coming decades due to climate change. Extreme heat led to 2012 becoming the hottest year in the US on record and the worst corn crop in two decades. ...


Can't we build a supermassive air conditioner?

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Nov 27, 2012
from BusinessInsider:
Jeremy Grantham: We're Headed For An Economic Disaster Of Biblical Proportions
What Malthus did not foresee was the discovery of oil and other natural resources, which have (temporarily) supported this population explosion. Those resources are now getting used up... The story for metals, by the way, is the same as for oil: The low-hanging fruit has been picked. Despite the use of new technologies, the yield per ton of metal ores continues to drop.... The fact is that no compound growth is sustainable. If we maintain our desperate focus on growth, we will run out of everything and crash. We must substitute qualitative growth for quantitative growth. ...


Perhaps cataclysmic, or globally catastrophic. But not Biblical. Let's not exaggerate!

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Mon, Oct 15, 2012
from Wall Street Journal:
The Future of Agriculture May Be Up
Want to see where your food might come from in the future? Look up. The seeds of an agricultural revolution are taking root in cities around the world -- a movement that boosters say will change the way that urbanites get their produce and solve some of the world's biggest environmental problems along the way. It's called vertical farming, and it's based on one simple principle: Instead of trucking food from farms into cities, grow it as close to home as possible -- in urban greenhouses that stretch upward instead of sprawling outward. ...


Only problem is you have to lay down flat to eat.

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Fri, Oct 12, 2012
from AlJazeera:
Africa facing intensified 'food crisis'
Seventy-five per cent of countries on the African continent and several Arab countries face an impending food crisis, a new study has revealed. Maplecroft's Food Security Risk Index, a report released on Wednesday, found that in a survey of 197 countries worldwide, up to 39 of the 59 most at risk of food insecurity were African countries. "Although a food crisis has not emerged yet, there is potential for food-related upheaval across the most vulnerable regions," including sub-Saharan African and Arab states, Helen Hodge, head of maps and indices at Maplecroft, said. Maplecroft said that low crop yields had pushed global food prices up by six per cent in July 2012, raising concerns of a repeat of the 2007/2008 food crisis. ...


Looks like a great time for a KFC franchise in Addis Ababa!

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Oct 1, 2012
from New York Times:
Honey Producers Lament a Bad Season for Bees
Both excess rainfall and drought in various parts of Europe have reduced honey production by as much as 90 percent, according to some producers, while the erratic course of America's parasite-afflicted "zombie bees” this week reached as far north as Washington State.... Climate change, disease and increased use of pesticides have been blamed as factors in dramatic declines in numbers of bee colonies worldwide -- by more than half in 20 years in the case of Britain, according to a recent study by Friends of the Earth, the environmental lobby organization. ...


If the hive don't thrive, honey won't bring you money.

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Mon, Oct 1, 2012
from Reuters:
Swift action needed to save world's declining fisheries-study
Swift action is required to save many of the world's fisheries that are declining faster than expected, a study in a leading scientific journal shows ... "Small-scale unassessed fisheries are in substantially worse shape than was previously thought," Christopher Costello, lead author of the study at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told a telephone news conference. "The good news here is that it's not too late," he said. "These fisheries can rebound. But the longer we wait, the harder and more costly it will be ... In another ten years, the window of opportunity may have closed." ...


You might say fisheries are floundering.

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Mon, Sep 17, 2012
from Politico:
Droughts latest wrinkle in climate debate
Climate change is here. Even those who differ over its cause agree that it's happening. In the United States alone, 28,570 high-heat records have been set so far this year, more than ever before, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported this month. As if that weren't problem enough, the world is also plunging into another major food crisis. And what most people don't know is that the two issues are directly related. Food prices "soared by 10 percent in July" alone, the World Bank said, because of "an unprecedented summer of droughts" worldwide. The U.S. is hardly the only nation affected, but the Department of Agriculture said more than half of this nation's counties have been designated disaster zones because of the summer's devastating drought, including many major food producers. That has never happened before either. ...


You'd think something named "NOAA" would be reporting floods not drought.

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Mon, Sep 17, 2012
from InsideClimate News:
U.S. Paying a Price for Lack of Water Policy
The worst drought since at least the 1950s has barely registered on political radar screens this year. Water doesn't make it into convention or stump speeches, or onto bumper stickers or campaign signs. To many people concerned about the nation's water supply, this drought of attention to a vital resource underscores a glaring, ongoing problem that will likely worsen in coming years if it is not addressed soon. "The nation lacks a coherent approach to dealing with water," said Gerald Galloway, a civil engineer, hydrology expert and former president of the American Water Resources Association. "Everyone is just hoping it will get better. Hope is not a method." ...


Sounds like we need a Water Czar.

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Tue, Sep 4, 2012
from IRIN:
FOOD: Another strain of deadly wheat fungus in South Africa
As the world's supply of staple grains grows tight, scientists are learning about the discovery in South Africa of yet another deadly variant of Ug99 stem rust, a virulent fungal disease that can devastate wheat crops within weeks.... The fungus has begun mutating rapidly over the last few years, earning it the epithet "the polio of agriculture". The new mutations, or "races", of this disease have acquired the ability to defeat two of the most important stem-rust-resistant genes, which are widely used in the world's wheat breeding programmes. ...


"Ug," 99 times.

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Mon, Sep 3, 2012
from New York Times:
Isaac Brings Touch of Relief, and Hope for Next Season, to Corn Belt
All through the scorching summer, as their crops withered under cloudless skies, Corn Belt farmers waited and prayed for this moment. Now, courtesy of Hurricane Isaac, it has finally arrived: three days of rain to soak their parched fields and soften the cracked soil. ...


Thanks, Isaac, for the belt.

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Tue, Aug 28, 2012
from Reuters:
Wal-Mart joins agriculture sustainability group
The world's largest retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc has joined an alliance of other Fortune 500 companies, including Cargill and Kellogg Co, seeking to make agriculture more sustainable. The Field to Market alliance was started three years ago by the non-profit Keystone Center to improve agricultural productivity and reduce the use of natural resources. It includes farm groups, grain handlers and food makers but Wal-Mart is the first retailer in the group and now its largest member ... Wal-Mart is seeking to eliminate 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from its global supply chain by the end of 2015. ...


Every little bit helps!

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Tue, Aug 28, 2012
from London Guardian:
Food shortages could force world into vegetarianism, warn scientists
Leading water scientists have issued one of the sternest warnings yet about global food supplies, saying that the world's population may have to switch almost completely to a vegetarian diet over the next 40 years to avoid catastrophic shortages. Humans derive about 20 percent of their protein from animal-based products now, but this may need to drop to just 5 percent to feed the extra 2 billion people expected to be alive by 2050, according to research by some of the world's leading water scientists. ...


These scientists sound like a bunch of hippies.

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Mon, Aug 20, 2012
from PhysOrg:
World must brace for higher food prices, experts say
With drought parching farms in the United States and near the Black Sea, weak monsoon rains in India and insidious hunger in Africa's Sahel region, the world could be headed towards another food crisis, experts say.... "We have had quite a few climate events this year that will lead to very poor harvests, notably in the United States with corn or in Russia with soja," warned Philippe Pinta of the French farmers federation FNSEA. "That will create price pressures similar to what we saw in 2007-2008," he added in reference to the last global food alert, when wheat and rice prices nearly doubled. In India, "all eyes will be on food inflation - whether the impact of a weak monsoon feeds into food prices," Samiran Chakraborty, regional head of research at Standard Chartered Bank was quoted by Dow Jones Newswires as saying. ...


If you can't eat it, what's the point?

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Thu, Aug 9, 2012
from Nature:
Demand for water outstrips supply
Almost one-quarter of the world's population lives in regions where groundwater is being used up faster than it can be replenished, concludes a comprehensive global analysis of groundwater depletion, published this week in Nature. Across the world, human civilizations depend largely on tapping vast reservoirs of water that have been stored for up to thousands of years in sand, clay and rock deep underground. These massive aquifers -- which in some cases stretch across multiple states and country borders -- provide water for drinking and crop irrigation, as well as to support ecosystems such as forests and fisheries. Yet in most of the world's major agricultural regions, including the Central Valley in California, the Nile delta region of Egypt, and the Upper Ganges in India and Pakistan, demand exceeds these reservoirs' capacity for renewal. ...


Let them drink cake.

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Sat, Jul 28, 2012
from AP, via Yahoo, via DesdemonaDespair:
Report shows US drought rapidly intensifying
The widest drought to grip the United States in decades is getting worse with no signs of abating, a new report warned Thursday, as state officials urged conservation and more ranchers considered selling cattle. The drought covering two-thirds of the continental U.S. had been considered relatively shallow, the product of months without rain, rather than years. But Thursday's report showed its intensity is rapidly increasing, with 20 percent of the nation now in the two worst stages of drought -- up 7 percent from last week. The U.S. Drought Monitor classifies drought in various stages, from moderate to severe, extreme and, ultimately, exceptional. Five states -- Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska -- are blanketed by a drought that is severe or worse. States like Arkansas and Oklahoma are nearly as bad, with most areas covered in a severe drought and large portions in extreme or exceptional drought. ...


You say drought, I say "temporary natural variation."

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Tue, Jul 24, 2012
from Lester Brown, in The Guardian:
The world is closer to a food crisis than most people realise
On 21 May, 77 percent of the US corn crop was rated as good to excellent. The following week the share of the crop in this category dropped to 72 percent. Over the next eight weeks, it dropped to 26 percent, one of the lowest ratings on record. The other 74 percent is rated very poor to fair. And the crop is still deteriorating. Over a span of weeks, we have seen how the more extreme weather events that come with climate change can affect food security. Since the beginning of June, corn prices have increased by nearly one half, reaching an all-time high on 19 July.... Although the world was hoping for a good US harvest to replenish dangerously low grain stocks, this is no longer on the cards. World carryover stocks of grain will fall further at the end of this crop year, making the food situation even more precarious. Food prices, already elevated, will follow the price of corn upward, quite possibly to record highs. ...


Disaster capitalism will save the day!

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Thu, Jun 7, 2012
from Agence France-Press:
Environmental collapse now a serious threat: scientists
Climate change, population growth and environmental destruction could cause a collapse of the ecosystem just a few generations from now, scientists warned on Wednesday in the journal Nature. The paper by 22 top researchers said a "tipping point" by which the biosphere goes into swift and irreversible change, with potentially cataclysmic impacts for humans, could occur as early as this century. The warning contrasts with a mainstream view among scientists that environmental collapse would be gradual and take centuries. ...


These must be mainscream scientists.

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Mon, May 28, 2012
from Agence France-Press:
North Korea suffering severe drought
North Korean state media says the impoverished communist country is suffering a prolonged and widespread drought, raising fears it will worsen already dire food shortages. If the unusually dry weather persists to the end of the month, it will be the driest May in 50 years in western coastal areas, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, warning: "The drought is expected to get more serious." ...


My state media says it's pouring in North Korea.

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Thu, May 10, 2012
from New York Times Op-ed:
James Hansen: Game Over for the Climate
If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate. Canada's tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now.... That is the long-term outlook. But near-term, things will be bad enough. Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California's Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels. If this sounds apocalyptic, it is. This is why we need to reduce emissions dramatically.... The science of the situation is clear -- it's time for the politics to follow. ...


If we slam the brakes on, we'll have to cope with the SQID: the Status Quo Inertia Disorder.

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Tue, Mar 27, 2012
from PhysOrg:
100,000 Egypt cattle hit by foot-and-mouth: vets
Nearly 100,000 head of cattle are believed to have been struck by foot-and-mouth disease in Egypt, where a major new outbreak is threatening the entire region, veterinary sources warned on Tuesday. Essam Abdel Shakur, the head of Egypt's central quarantine service, said 93,734 head of cattle are believed to have been hit by the disease since February, of which 9,022 had died. The highest rate of infection is in the Nile Delta region, he said, cited by the official MENA news agency. On Thursday, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned that a major new foot-and-mouth outbreak in Egypt could threaten the whole of North Africa and the Middle East. ...


Another day, another malady.

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Thu, Mar 22, 2012
from Reuters:
New foot and mouth disease strain hits Egypt -- FAO
A new strain of foot and mouth disease (FMD) has hit Egypt and threatens to spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, jeopardising food security in the region, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Thursday. There have been 40,222 suspected cases of the disease in Egypt and 4,658 animals, mostly calves, have already died, the FAO said in a statement citing official estimates. "Although foot-and-mouth disease has circulated in the country for some years, this is an entirely new introduction of a virus strain known as SAT2, and livestock have no immune protection against it," the Rome-based agency said. Vaccines are urgently needed as 6.3 million buffalo and cattle and 7.5 million sheep and goats are at risk in Egypt, the FAO said. ...


The new foot and mouth strain slips in like hand in glove.

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Tue, Mar 13, 2012
from Bloomberg News:
Water Pollution From Farming Is Worsening, Costing Billions
Water pollution from agriculture is costing billions of dollars a year in developed countries and is set to rise in China and India as farmers race to increase food production, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said. "Pollution from farm pesticides and fertilizers is often diffuse, making it hard to pin down exactly where it's coming from,” Kevin Parris, author of a report by the Paris-based organization, said in an interview in Marseille. "In some big agricultural countries in Europe, like parts of France, Spain and the U.K., the situation is deteriorating.” ...


If only people ate pollution.

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Tue, Feb 28, 2012
from New York Times:
Pacific Sea Otters' Failure to Thrive Confounds Wildlife Sleuths
...For the wildlife biologists, a clear explanation for the sea otters' failure to thrive is proving just as elusive. Almost wiped out by fur traders, the species rebounded after an international ban on commercial otter hunting in 1911. But today, the otter population in California is just 2,700, in a mosaic of small, separate colonies off the coast, down from perhaps as many as 16,000 in the past. Multiple factors are stalling the recovery. One popular view, supported by veterinary pathologists who study dead otters, primarily blames coastal pollution -- in the form of parasites, bacteria, toxins and chemicals. But Dr. Tinker and other biologists say that, at least in the areas where the sea otter population is highest, off Monterey and nearby Big Sur, the underlying problem is simply that the otters are running out of food. ...


Or, perhaps, they're just giving up.

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Mon, Feb 27, 2012
from Chicago Tribune:
Back to normal weather, please
...It's a hungry world out there, and believe it or not, a warm, dry winter in the Midwest weighs against the prospects for the upcoming corn and soybean crop. Think weeds. Think bugs. Think about how soil loses its moisture without its customary blanket of snow. Then consider that global stockpiles of grain and oilseeds stand at low levels, and demand is going strong... As anyone who has set foot outside can attest, temperatures have hovered well above normal. In Illinois, the average for December/January of 33.4 degrees far exceeded the historical average of 27.2. As of last week, February had clocked in at 7.2 degrees warmer than the norm. ...


Abnormal is the new normal.

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Mon, Feb 20, 2012
from PostCarbon Institute:
Animation: There's No Tomorrow (2012)
Animated documentary about resource depletion & the impossibility of infinite growth on a finite planet.
...


Endless growth? It's worked so far!

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Mon, Feb 13, 2012
from ABC Environment:
Fake steak may feed the world
It looks more like squid than steak and because it lacks the fat and protein found in real cattle, does not taste like traditional beef. So why would anyone eat meat grown in a lab? Cultured or in-vitro meat may still be years away from our supermarkets, but scientists in The Netherlands say they will be able to grow a hamburger by the end of this year. Professor Mark Post, who is refining the meat-making process at Maastricht University, says once perfected, the technology could slash the environmental footprint of growing food... Livestock for human consumption takes up 70 per cent of the world's arable land. They use eight per cent of global freshwater and produce 18 per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions - some 3,000 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year (that's more than the entire world's transport sector). Deforestation to create farmland accounts for a third of those emissions. ...


We can always pretend it's tasty.

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Tue, Jan 31, 2012
from Reuters:
World lacks enough food, fuel as population soars: U.N.
The world is running out of time to make sure there is enough food, water and energy to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population and to avoid sending up to 3 billion people into poverty, a U.N. report warned on Monday. As the world's population looks set to grow to nearly 9 billion by 2040 from 7 billion now, and the number of middle-class consumers increases by 3 billion over the next 20 years, the demand for resources will rise exponentially. ...


Too many people; pythons in the Everglades could soon be running out of food. Synergy here?

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Tue, Jan 31, 2012
from Agence France-Press:
Climate-driven heat peaks may shrink wheat crops
More intense heat waves due to global warming could diminish wheat crop yields around the world through premature ageing, according to a study published Sunday in Nature Climate Change... a 2.0 Celsius increase above long-term averages shortened the growing season by a critical nine days, reducing total yield by up to 20 percent. ...


Thank goodness we use Fahrenheit!

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Wed, Jan 25, 2012
from New York Times:
In Jack Mackerel's Plunder, Hints of Epic Fish Collapse
Eric Pineda, a dock agent in this old port south of Santiago, peered deep into the Achernar's hold at a measly 10 tons of jack mackerel -- the catch after four days in waters once so rich they filled the 17-meter fishing boat in a few hours.... "It's going fast," he said as he looked at the 57-foot boat. "We've got to fish harder before it's all gone." Asked what he would leave his son, he shrugged: "He'll have to find something else."... Stocks have dropped from an estimated 30 million metric tons to less than a tenth of that in two decades. The world's largest trawlers, after depleting other oceans, now head south toward the edge of Antarctica to compete for what is left.... "This is the last of the buffaloes," he said. "When they're gone, everything will be gone."... Meanwhile, industrial fleets bound only by voluntary restraints compete in what amounts to a free-for-all in no man’s water at the bottom of the world. From 2006 through 2011, scientists estimate, jack mackerel stocks declined 63 percent. ...


Clearly, we don't know Jack.

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Sun, Jan 15, 2012
from Glasgow Herald:
Scientists link mass death of British bees to farm pesticides
Nicotine-based pesticides in widespread use by farmers are implicated in the mass deaths of bees, according to a new study by US scientists. The authoritative, peer-reviewed research undermines the pesticide industry's long-repeated arguments that bees are not being harmed, and piles pressure on UK and US authorities to follow other countries by introducing bans on the chemicals. Pesticide companies have been trying to protect their multi-billion pound businesses by lobbying internationally against bans on neonicotinoids, a group of toxic chemicals designed to paralyse insects by attacking their nervous systems. ...


Innocent beestanders.

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Thu, Dec 29, 2011
from Associated Press:
Bugs may be resistant to genetically modified corn
One of the nation's most widely planted crops -- a genetically engineered corn plant that makes its own insecticide -- may be losing its effectiveness because a major pest appears to be developing resistance more quickly than scientists expected. ...


Curses, foiled again.

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Tue, Dec 6, 2011
from The Daily Climate:
Hotter, drier, meaner: Trends point to a planet increasingly hostile to agriculture
To get a glimpse of the future, look to East Africa today. The Horn of Africa is in the midst of its worst drought in 60 years: Crop failures have left up to 10 million at risk of famine; social order has broken down in Somalia, with thousands of refugees streaming into Kenya; British Aid alone is feeding 2.4 million people across the region. That's a taste of what's to come, say scientists mapping the impact of a warming planet on agriculture and civilization.... Many recent events -- discoveries from sediment cores of New York marshes, drought in Australia and the western United States, data from increasingly sophisticated computer models -- lead to a conclusion that the weather driving many of the globe's great breadbaskets will become hotter, drier and more unpredictable. ...


At least we'll always have Lunchables.

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Mon, Nov 28, 2011
from Associated Press:
A quarter of world's farmlands highly degraded, says UN
The United Nations has completed the first-ever global assessment of the state of the planet's land resources, finding in a report today that a quarter of all farmland is highly degraded and warning the trend must be reversed if the world's growing population is to be fed. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that farmers will have to produce 70 per cent more food by 2050 to meet the needs of the world's expected nine billion-strong population. That amounts to 1 billion tonnes more wheat, rice and other cereals and 200 million more tons of cow and other livestock. But as it is, most available farmland is already being farmed, and in ways that actually decrease its productivity through practices that lead to soil erosion and wasting of water. ...


Cropalypse!

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Thu, Nov 17, 2011
from BBC:
UN warns of staple crop virus 'epidemic'
UN scientists are warning that a virus attacking the cassava plant is nearing an epidemic in parts of Africa. Cassava is one of the world's most important crops providing up to a third of the calorie intake for many people. The food and agriculture organisation of the UN says the situation is urgent and are calling for an increase in funding for surveillance. None of the varieties of cassava being distributed to farmers in Africa appears to be resistant to the virus. Cassava is a global food source of particular importance in Africa as it does well on poor soils with low rainfall.... The scientists say the Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) is on the verge of becoming an epidemic. It first appeared in Uganda in 2006 but in the past few months has been found in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo for the first time. ...


Who'd want to eat a wrinkly root, anyway?

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Tue, Nov 1, 2011
from Live Science:
7 billion and counting: Should the world adopt a 'one-child' policy?
The world population has hit a whopping 7 billion, and researchers suggest it could reach 10 billion within the next century. On the one hand, this means we're a great success -- after all, the goal of any species is to expand and conquer. But, on the other hand, all that expansion means more mouths to feed, which requires more space and energy, which increases the demand on resources and the environment, perhaps too large a demand for Earth to support. So Life's Little Mysteries asks: How can we curb this growth? Should there be a global one-child policy, like the one enforced in China? ...


More like "half a child" policy.

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Wed, Oct 26, 2011
from Reuters:
Crop scientists now fret about heat not just water
Crop scientists in the United States, the world's largest food exporter, are pondering an odd question: could the danger of global warming really be the heat?... scientists now wonder if a more immediate issue is an unusual rise in day-time and, especially, night-time summer temperatures being seen in crop belts around the world. Interviews with crop researchers at American universities paint the same picture: high temperatures have already shrunken output of many crops and vegetables. ...


Holy crop!

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Tue, Oct 18, 2011
from Agence France-Press:
Climate change downsizing fauna, flora: study
Climate change is reducing the body size of many animal and plant species, including some which supply vital nutrition for more than a billion people already living near hunger's threshold, according to a study released Sunday. From micro-organisms to top predators, nearly 45 percent of species for which data was reviewed grew smaller over multiple generations due to climate change, researchers found. The impact of rapidly climbing temperatures and shifts in rainfall patterns on body size could have unpredictable and possible severe consequences, they warned. ...


It's a small world after all.

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Thu, Oct 13, 2011
from London Guardian:
US must stop promoting biofuels to tackle world hunger, says thinktank
America must stop promoting the production of biofuels if there is to be any real progress in addressing spiking global food prices and famine, such as seen in the Horn of Africa, an authoritative thinktank has warned. A new report, the Global Hunger Index, warned that US government support for corn ethanol was a major factor behind this year's food price spikes -- and was projected to fuel further volatility in food prices over the next decade. ...


This confirms my suspicion that thinking is a dangerous activity.

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Tue, Oct 11, 2011
from Huffington Post:
Peanut Butter Price Jumps After Worst Peanut Harvest In 30 Years
Thanks to a failing peanut crop due to last summer's scorching hot weather, there's a shortage of peanuts in supply. Big brands like Peter Pan, Jif and Smucker's are left with little choice but to raise prices, reports the Wall Street Journal. The price jumps range from 24 to 40 percent, with Jif planning to raise prices by 30 percent in November and Peter Pan by up to 24 percent in the coming weeks, reports MarketWatch Radio. So far, the Wall Street Journal says, USDA figures show the cost of a ton of unprocessed peanuts has spiked from $450 to $1,150 since last year. Researchers at New Mexico State University told ABC KOAT News that high heat, strong winds and bone-dry conditions created the worst peanut season in more than 30 years. ...


Next, it'll be Reese's!

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Wed, Sep 7, 2011
from BBC:
Somalia famine: UN warns of 750,000 deaths
As many as 750,000 people could die as Somalia's drought worsens in the coming months, the UN has warned, declaring a famine in a new area. The UN says tens of thousands of people have died after what is said to be East Africa's worst drought for 60 years. Bay becomes the sixth area to be officially declared a famine zone - mostly in parts of southern Somalia controlled by the Islamist al-Shabab. Some 12 million people across the region need food aid, the UN says. The situation in the Bay region was worse than anything previously recorded, said senior UN's technical adviser Grainne Moloney. "The rate of malnutrition [among children] in Bay region is 58 percent. This is a record rate of acute malnutrition," she told journalists in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. ...


This is one sad cirque du Somalia.

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Tue, Aug 23, 2011
from Reuters:
Water systems at risk from growing demand for food - expert
Efforts to feed an extra 2 billion people by mid-century could lead to widespread destruction of forests, wetlands and other natural systems that protect and regulate the world's water, researchers warn. But finding ways to boost agricultural production while protecting nature could produce big benefits, including reduced poverty and hunger in some of the world's most fragile countries and hikes in food production that are sustainable beyond 2050... The question is particularly urgent as water runs short in some of the world's most important food-producing regions, including the plains of northern China, India's Punjab and the western United States, as well as in a broad swath of the Middle East and North Africa. ...


We might also rethink our rampant reproductive rates.

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Fri, Aug 12, 2011
from Guardian:
Somali refugee camps in Kenya swell past 400,000 - in pictures
Images of desperation in Somalia. If this were happening to nearly half a million white people, would we respond differently? I suspect so. And if so, what does that say about our moral compass? That it was hitting "true north"? Go see the pictures, to remember what the relativistic context really is. ...


"Summertime... and the livin' is eeeasyyy."

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Tue, Jul 19, 2011
from Los Angeles Times:
Meat Eater's Guide ranks foods by environmental, health effects
Lamb, beef and cheese generate the most greenhouse gases of 20 popular meat, fish, dairy and vegetable proteins, according to a new study from the Environmental Working Group. The Meat Eater's Guide, released by the Washington-based environmental research firm, used a cradle-to-grave life-cycle assessment to determine each food's rank, including the amount of fertilizer used to grow animal feed, as well as data on each food's processing, transportation and disposal... The guide considers the effects of meat, fish, dairy and vegetable consumption on the environment and the climate, as well as human health and animal welfare. Ruminant livestock, such as sheep and cows, "release substantial amounts of methane," a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, according to the guide. In the U.S., 149 million acres of cropland, 167 million pounds of pesticides and 17 billion pounds of nitrogen fertilizer are used just to grow livestock feed; U.S. livestock generate around 500 million tons of manure annually, which contributes to groundwater and air pollution, the guide said. ...


This heartburn is breaking my heart.

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Mon, Jul 18, 2011
from Paul Gilding:
Like a Grenade in a Glasshouse: The Great Disruption
It's going to hit hard and it's going to hurt - made worse because most aren't expecting it. They think the world is slowly returning to our modern "normal" - steadily increasing growth, with occasional annoying but manageable interruptions. After all, the global recession wasn't so bad was it? Sure there was pain and things got shaky but Governments responded, bailed out companies, stimulated economies, got things back on track.... But if the limits are solid, as is the case with our economic system hitting the limits of the planet - defined by unchangeable physical capacity and the laws of physics, chemistry and biology - then it can't find its way through. So eventually, when the pain of hitting the wall gets too much, it stops.... Then it will hit. Like a grenade in a glasshouse, shattering denial and delusion and leaving it like a pile of broken glass on the floor of the old economic model. Then we'll be ready for change. ...


We're busy making money here. You expect us to pay attention to the future?

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Mon, Jul 18, 2011
from SciDev.net:
Forecasters 'warned of Horn of Africa drought' last year
Forecasting systems were warning about a serious drought in the Horn of Africa as much as a year ago -- but communication problems between scientists and decision-makers meant the alerts went largely unheeded, according to forecasters. Warnings about the drought -- which the United Nations says is the worst in 60 years -- were issued last August, when the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) released a brief on food security in East Africa following the declaration of a La Nińa event, a cooling of the sea surface in the Pacific Ocean known to affect weather in Africa. "We were very confident that the October to December rains were going to be poor," Chris Hillbruner, a food security early warning specialist with FEWS NET, told SciDev.Net. "And there was an increased likelihood that the March to May rains were going to be poor as well."... Chris Funk, a climatologist with FEWS NET, said that the organisation's experts have been "a little frustrated that we provided this information quite early" but not enough has been done to make good use of it. ...


If they'd just predict good news, then scientists might get listened to.

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Mon, Jul 18, 2011
from EcoHearth:
The Film 'Farmageddon' Says It's 1984 for Small Farmers
The documentary film Farmageddon explores the fine line between consumer protection and government intrusion when it comes to food safety. Certainly we all want wholesome food, but what happens when rules written with agribusiness in mind are inflexibly applied to family farms by overzealous regulators? It often means the latter are harassed to the point of being driven out of business, less choice for consumers and ultimately less healthy food.... Farmageddon has high production values and a solid human-interest angle. It follows individual farmers and others as their businesses are slowly choked off by raids, forced shut-downs and confiscations of products and equipment--many times unrelated to the laws being enforced, and so seemingly serving only the purpose of harassment. Some of the police actions are chillingly reminiscent of those depicted in the dystopian classic, 1984. Since when is it necessary for a local sheriff to employ an armed SWAT team to shut down a co-op for selling raw-milk yogurt? Since when should a parent who has found that raw milk cured a longstanding illness in her son have such difficulty obtaining it? These are just two questions that the film Farmageddon skillfully and entertainingly asks. ...


I heard that small natural farms were unhealthy, because they don't feed everything antibiotics.

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Sun, Jul 17, 2011
from ABC News:
Somalia Drought 'One of the Largest Humanitarian Crises in Decades'
The crisis has been brought on by a deadly combination of severe drought, with no rain in the region for two years, a huge spike in food prices and a brutal civil war in Somalia, where it is too dangerous for aid workers to operate. Somalians are walking as far as 50 miles to reach the Dadaab complex in eastern Kenya, the largest refugee camp in the world. The trek can take weeks through punishing terrain, which is desolate except for the carcasses that litter the land.... Even after enduring these difficult circumstances, leaving behind everything they own and arriving with only the clothes on their backs, many refugees say they are happier in the camps because at least they can find some food and rations to get by.... Almost 400,000 Somalis now call the Dadaab complex home, and more than 1,300 arrive every day. ...


Only fifty miles? I can drive that in an hour!

ApocaDoc
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Thu, Jul 7, 2011
from Telegraph.co.uk:
UN refugee agency warns of crisis 'of unimaginable proportions' in Somalia drought
Scores of Somali children are dying on the journey or within a day of arrival at refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, as they flee the region's worst drought in decades, according to the UN's refugee agency. High levels of malnutrition, combined with ongoing violence in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation, are threatening "a human tragedy of unimaginable proportions", the UNHCR warned. Following several seasons of failed rains and spiralling global food prices, drought has hit more than 12 million people across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya. Thousands of Somali refugees are making perilous journeys of hundreds of miles to seek assistance: 54,000 people crossed into Ethiopia and Kenya in June alone. Levels of serious malnutrition amongst newly arrived children in Ethiopia are exceeding 50 per cent, while in Kenya levels are reaching 30 to 40 per cent. ...


If it can't be imagined, does it exist?

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Jul 5, 2011
from AP, via Chicago Tribune:
Invasive bug found at Michigan border crossings
An invasive bug with a taste for grains such as wheat, barley, corn and rice and the potential to severely harm Michigan's agriculture industry has been discovered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at crossings in Detroit and Port Huron. Two Khapra beetles were found in a shipment of chickpeas from India this spring at the Fort Street Cargo Facility, and two Khapra larvae and a live beetle were found in a family's luggage last month at the Blue Water Bridge. The bug may only be as big as a nickel is thick, but "if not interdicted, (it) could wipe out soybean, wheat and corn crops," Kenneth Hammond, chief of cargo operations at the Fort Street center, told The Detroit News for a story Monday.... "They typically are very tough insects," Zablotny said. "The pest, if it gets loose in the U.S., will be a major problem." ...


To be Frank, the Khapra beetle is simply looking for a Wonderful Life.

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Jul 1, 2011
from PhysOrg:
'Goat plague' threat to global food security and economy must be tackled, experts warn
"Goat plague," or peste des petits ruminants (PPR), is threatening global food security and poverty alleviation in the developing world, say leading veterinarians and animal health experts in this week's Veterinary Record.... It's important to control the infection because it spreads quickly through goat herds and sheep flocks, decimating their numbers, and taking a terrible financial toll on the farmers and families who depend on these animals for their livelihoods, say the authors. And it has also spread to wildlife species, many of which are endangered or threatened.... They go on to say that there has been a reluctance to tackle the issue because sheep and goats are considered to be of lesser economic value than cattle, and their shorter working lives mean that it would cost more to eradicate PPR. But they warn: "The ever advancing spread of PPR has made the economic impact of the disease, and consequently the benefits of its eradication, much greater. The imperative for coordinated action is therefore much stronger." ...


Goats? Who cares about goats?

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Jun 28, 2011
from Guardian:
China told to reduce food production or face 'dire' water levels
China needs to reduce food production on its dry northern plains or aquifers will diminish to a "dire" level in 30 years, one the country's leading groundwater experts has warned. Zheng Chunmiao, director of the Water Research Centre at Peking University, said the world's most populous country will have to focus more on demand-side restraint because it is becoming more expensive and difficult to tap finite supplies below the surface.... Over the past 10 years, Zheng estimates the annual water deficit in northern China at 4bn cubic metres. This is increasingly made up from underground sources, which account for 70 percent of water supplies. Although some aquifers remain 500 metres thick, others are emptying at an alarming rate. This has created depletion cones, the deepest of which is at Hengshui near Xizhuajiang.... Zheng said much more needs to be done, including demand reduction, water transfers and greater use of desalination plants. "We will get there because we have to," he said. "If nothing changes, then in 30 years, we will face a dire situation." ...


Surely we'll then find some other million-year-storehouse of something else that we can deplete.

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Wed, Jun 22, 2011
from IRIN:
All wheat varieties will have to be replaced
Winds carried ash clouds from a volcano in Chile thousands of kilometres across the Atlantic Ocean to affect flights in South Africa on 19 June, so it is possible that the spores of the variants of a deadly mutant fungus, Ug99, a wheat stem rust that surfaced in South Africa in 2009, could travel to Australia - one of the world's four main wheat exporters - in the same way.... The fungus, which causes rust-coloured patches on the infected parts of the plant, is spread by spores that can survive harsh winters. They germinate in warmer conditions and are usually transported by the wind - but sometimes even on clothing - over long distances and across continents.... Up to 90 percent of wheat varieties in the world are susceptible to Ug99 and its variants, and all of them will eventually have to be replaced by new "super" varieties that are resistant to the deadly pathogen.... "Our super wheat varieties are also resistant to yellow rust, so it makes a sound economic case to replace all varieties," said Singh. "You get more for the price of one." ...


Give us this day our super-bread, and forgive us our genetic trespasses....

ApocaDoc
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Sat, Jun 18, 2011
from Guardian:
Warning: extreme weather ahead
Drought zones have been declared across much of England and Wales, yet Scotland has just registered its wettest-ever May. The warmest British spring in 100 years followed one of the coldest UK winters in 300 years. June in London has been colder than March. February was warm enough to strip on Snowdon, but last Saturday it snowed there. Welcome to the climate rollercoaster, or what is being coined the "new normal" of weather. What was, until quite recently, predictable, temperate, mild and equable British weather, guaranteed to be warmish and wettish, ensuring green lawns in August, now sees the seasons reversed and temperature and rainfall records broken almost every year. When Kent receives as much rain (4mm) in May as Timbuktu, Manchester has more sunshine than Marbella, and soils in southern England are drier than those in Egypt, something is happening. Sober government scientists at the centre for hydrology and ecology are openly using words like "remarkable", "unprecedented" and "shocking" to describe the recent physical state of Britain this year, but the extremes we are experiencing in 2011 are nothing to the scale of what has been taking place elsewhere recently.... Last month, Oxfam reported that while the number of "geo-physical" disasters - such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions - has remained more or less constant, those caused by flooding and storms have increased from around 133 a year in 1980s to more than 350 a year now. ...


There's something about that 350 number that rings a bell.

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Fri, Jun 17, 2011
from IRIN:
FOOD: High prices do not mean a bigger supply
Contrary to popular perception, the current high food prices will not see more money flowing into agriculture in the long term, warned a new forecast released ahead of a critical meeting of agriculture ministers in Paris on 22 and 23 June. "Input costs, including that of fuel and fertilizer, have risen significantly - we anticipate global agriculture production to slow down in the next decade," said Meritt Cluff, a senior economist at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and one of the authors of the Agricultural Outlook 2011-2020.... Besides the cost of agricultural inputs, pressure on resources such as water and land, and the higher risk of adverse weather are also contributing to the slow-down in food production.... "Throughout the world, but especially in low-income countries, the poor are overwhelmingly net food buyers, so poverty increases as food price levels rise - but losses due to food price volatility fall mainly on relatively better-off large farmers, Barrett said. "Perhaps not coincidentally, these same large farmers enjoy tremendous taxpayer-funded support programmes from G20 governments presently expressing concern about food price volatility." ...


Soylent Green is made by farmers!!

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Jun 14, 2011
from USA Today:
Apples top most pesticide-contaminated list
Apples are at the top of the list of produce most contaminated with pesticides in a report published today by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a public health advocacy group. Its seventh annual report analyzed government data on 53 fruits and vegetables, identifying which have the most and least pesticides after washing and peeling. For produce found to be highest in pesticides, the group recommends buying organic. Apples moved up three spots from last year, replacing celery at the top of the most-contaminated list; 92 percent of apples contained two or more pesticides. ...


Living up to its tradition as the forbidden fruit!

ApocaDoc
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Sat, Jun 11, 2011
from FAO, from DesdemonaDespair:
Climate change to have major impacts on water for farming
An acceleration of the world's hydrological cycle is anticipated as rising temperatures increase the rate of evaporation from land and sea. Rainfall will increase in the tropics and higher latitudes, but decrease in already dry semi-arid to mid-arid latitudes and in the interior of large continents. A greater frequency in droughts and floods will need to be planned for but already, water scarce areas of the world are expected to become drier and hotter. Even though estimates of groundwater recharge under climate change cannot be made with any certainty, the increasing frequency of drought can be expected to encourage further development of available groundwater to buffer the production risk for farmers.... Increased temperatures will lengthen the growing season in northern temperate zones but will reduce the length almost everywhere else. Coupled with increased rates of evapotranspiration this will cause the yield potential and water productivity of crops to decline. "Both the livelihoods of rural communities as well as the food security of city populations are at risk," said FAO Assistant Director General for Natural Resources, Alexander Mueller. "But the rural poor, who are the most vulnerable, are likely to be disproportionately affected." ...


C'mon. All you have do is drill a few more wells, right?

ApocaDoc
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Thu, Jun 9, 2011
from TIME:
The Bacterium That Ate a Continent: What E. Coli Is Doing to the E.U.
No one yet knows what vegetable or fruit is the ultimate source of the outbreak of a deadly form of E. coli in Europe. Nor do officials know at what point the contamination occurred: on the farm, as agricultural workers handled the produce, as a result of packaging, in the midst of transport or at some other point in the chain of supply? What is clear is that, even after the health hazards are contained, questions will have to be asked about how well the E.U.'s food-safety system works. ...


It's sorta nice to know the U.S. isn't the only food fuck-up.

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Mon, Jun 6, 2011
from The Denver Post:
E. coli outbreak blamed on German veggie sprouts
The terrifying E. coli outbreak in Europe appears to have been caused by vegetable sprouts grown on an organic farm in Germany, an agriculture official said Sunday as the toll climbed to at least 22 dead and more than 2,200 sickened. Preliminary tests found that bean sprouts and other sprout varieties from the farm in the Uelzen area, between the northern cities of Hamburg and Hannover, could be traced to infections in five German states, Lower Saxony Agriculture Minister Gert Lindemann said. ...


I can finally go back to eating red meat!

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Jun 3, 2011
from Associated Press:
Food-poisoning outbreak in Europe blamed on 'super-toxic' E. coli strain that may be brand new
Scientists on Thursday blamed Europe's worst recorded food-poisoning outbreak on a "super-toxic" strain of E. coli bacteria that may be brand new... Chinese and German scientists analyzed the DNA of the E. coli bacteria and determined that the outbreak was caused by "an entirely new, super-toxic" strain that contains several antibiotic-resistant genes, according to a statement from the Shenzhen, China-based laboratory BGI. It said the strain appeared to be a combination of two types of E. coli. "This is a unique strain that has never been isolated from patients before," Hilde Kruse, a food safety expert at the World Health Organization... ...


Maybe WHO better get WHAT to help figure out WHY.

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Jun 1, 2011
from BBC:
Rising food prices increase squeeze on poor - Oxfam
Rising food prices are tightening the squeeze on populations already struggling to buy adequate food, demanding radical reform of the global food system, Oxfam has warned. By 2030, the average cost of key crops could increase by between 120 percent and 180 percent, the charity forecasts. It is the acceleration of a trend which has already seen food prices double in the last 20 years. Half of the rise to come will be caused by climate change, Oxfam predicts. ...


I'll just eat half as much.

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Thu, May 26, 2011
from Bloomberg:
Global Food Production to see 'Massive Disruption' as Climate Shifts, UN Forecaster Says
Global food output may be hurt as climate change brings more extreme weather over the next decade, with China likely set for harsher droughts and North America getting heavier rain, said the World Meteorological Organization. "Extreme events will become more intense in the future, especially the heat waves and extreme precipitations," Omar Baddour, a division chief at the United Nations' agency, said in a phone interview from Geneva. "That, combined with less rainfall in some regions like the Mediterranean region and China, will affect crop production and agriculture." The more extreme weather -- including in the U.S., the world's largest agricultural exporter -- may disrupt harvests, possibly cutting production of grains, livestock and cooking oils and boosting prices. Global food costs reached a record in February, stoking inflation and pushing millions into poverty. "We foresee with high confidence in climate projections that intense precipitation in some parts of the world will be more intense, and drought will be more intense," said Baddour, who's tracked the subject for more than two decades. Extreme heat waves "will also be more intense and more frequent."... Baddour's comments add to projections that more extreme weather may affect farm production. Sunny Verghese, chief executive officer at Olam International Ltd. (OLAM), among the world's three biggest suppliers of rice, forecast in February that food- supply chains face "massive disruptions" from climate change. ...


Well, only if you believe in the "future."

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Thu, May 26, 2011
from Bill McKibben, 350.org:
Stay calm, it's just natural variation
Caution: It is vitally important not to make connections. When you see pictures of rubble like this week's shots from Joplin, Mo., you should not wonder: Is this somehow related to the tornado outbreak three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa, Ala., or the enormous outbreak a couple of weeks before that (which, together, comprised the most active April for tornadoes in U.S. history). No, that doesn't mean a thing. It is far better to think of these as isolated, unpredictable, discrete events. It is not advisable to try to connect them in your mind with, say, the fires burning across Texas -- fires that have burned more of America at this point this year than any wildfires have in previous years. Texas, and adjoining parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico, are drier than they've ever been -- the drought is worse than that of the Dust Bowl. But do not wonder if they're somehow connected.... It's far smarter to repeat to yourself the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change.... It's very important to stay calm. If you got upset about any of this, you might forget how important it is not to disrupt the record profits of our fossil fuel companies. ...


Just keep repeating: It's only a theory. It's only a theory.

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Thu, May 19, 2011
from PNAS, via Ars Technica:
Fisheries collapse in a pattern unlike that seen on land
Conservationists desperately want to minimize the impact of overfishing on the oceans and their inhabitants. Doing so requires defining which species are most at risk, and so far, that has not been done on a global level. In terrestrial ecosystems, large-bodied species and top predators seem to be the most susceptible to human impacts; it has been assumed that the same holds true in the water. However, a recent report in PNAS indicates that this is not the case.... Contrary to what they expected, they found that almost twice the percentage of smaller, low trophic-level fish stocks had collapsed compared to large top predators. They could not find a correlation between collapse and any of the life history traits they examined, in any combination. Small fish that live near the surface tend to have rapid growth rates and are highly catchable, so are particularly at risk of being overfished. They can also have a "fast" life history strategy that led people to erroneously believe they were less vulnerable to overfishing. Perhaps this disparity with the situation on land is precisely because fisheries had been targeting these smaller fish, assuming that their populations were more resilient than they actually are. ...


No correlation does not imply no causation.

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Mon, May 16, 2011
from FAO:
Cutting food waste to feed the world
Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year -- approximately 1.3 billion tonnes -- gets lost or wasted, according to an FAO-commissioned study.... The report distinguishes between food loss and food waste. Food losses -- occurring at the production, harvest, post-harvest and processing phases -- are most important in developing countries, due to poor infrastructure, low levels of technology and low investment in the food production systems. Food waste is more a problem in industrialized countries, most often caused by both retailers and consumers throwing perfectly edible foodstuffs into the trash. Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia each throw away only 6-11 kg a year. Total per capita food production for human consumption is about 900 kg a year in rich countries, almost twice the 460 kg a year produced in the poorest regions. In developing countries 40 percent of losses occur at post-harvest and processing levels while in industrialized countries more than 40 percent of losses happen at retail and consumer levels. ...


The American waste of life is non-negotiable.

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Wed, May 11, 2011
from Southwest Farm Press, via DesdemonaDespair:
Texas/Southwest gripped in drought; crops 'pretty much shut down'
Crop and forage production has "pretty much shut down" due to severe to exceptional drought conditions, said a Texas AgriLife Extension Service statewide crop expert. "If you look at the U.S. drought monitor, about 26 percent of the state of Texas is an exceptional drought," said Dr. Travis Miller, AgriLife Extension program leader and associate department head of the soil and crop sciences department, College Station. "Exceptional," means it is a one-in-50-year occurrence, Miller explained. Much of the rest of the state was in what's classified as moderate, severe, or extreme drought. The distinctions are being based largely on how much damage and losses are expected to crops, forage production, livestock and water sources, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor classification scheme.... "But statewide, it's a pretty grim picture," he said. "And it's not just Texas; it's New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and parts of Arkansas. It's an exceptional drought across a big area." Corn along the Gulf Coast is stunted and tasselling early, Miller said. "It's in a lot trouble." ...


I'm just glad we can't blame it on climate change!

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Apr 18, 2011
from Discovery News:
Climate Change and Corn a Bad Combo in Africa
Corn was thought to be more resistant to rising temperatures than other crops. But results from crop trials in Africa suggest that climate change could hurt corn (Zea mays) production. Warmer temperatures and drought could be the one-two punch that knocks out corn harvests, warn David Lobell of Stanford University and researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. "Projections of climate change impacts on food production have been hampered by not knowing exactly how crops fair when it gets hot," Lobell said in a Stanford press release. "This study helps to clear that issue up, at least for one important crop." A modest one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) rise in temperature could result in a loss of harvest for 65 percent of Africa's corn growing regions. If drought hits as well, all of the African corn belt will suffer some loss with 75 percent of the region losing as much as 20 percent of their harvest. The warning comes after observations of 20,000 corn trials in Sub-Saharan Africa were compared to weather data collected from the same areas. ...


A little more heat, and it'll be pre-popped!

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Apr 15, 2011
from Bloomberg BusinessWeek:
World markets down as commodities threaten profits
World stocks were mostly down Thursday amid concerns that rising food and fuel costs could undermine consumer demand, hurting economic growth and company profits. Oil prices hovered above $107 a barrel in Asia as a large drop in U.S. gasoline supplies suggested the two-month crude rally hasn't yet undermined consumer demand. Crude has risen about 27 percent since mid-February. In currencies, the dollar was lower against the yen and the euro.... "While softness in U.S. growth is a concern, the real issue for investors is the second-round effects of high and rising commodity prices," said Clive McDonnell of BNP Paribas in Singapore. "For Asia in particular, margins in the consumer sectors are at risk as we pass the sweet spot of rising commodity and equity prices."... ...


That "sweet spot" is kinda sour, for the rest of us.

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Apr 6, 2011
from SeekingAlpha:
Food Prices and Global Hunger Equal Riots, Civil Wars and Revolution
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at the United Nations puts out a global hunger index (pdf). The most recent was from 2010, well before this year's 45 percent price spike in foodstuffs. According to the IMF, each 10 percent increase in food prices doubles the likelihood of civil disorder, riots or worse by 100 percent [The Food Riot and Revolution Index]. By my math, we are at a four or five-fold increase and still ramping up. In the FAO's scoring, a hunger score above 30 is considered extremely alarming, 20-29 is alarming, and 10-19 is serious. With the massive food inflation, I submit that it's reasonable to add about 10 to the old, quickly outdated (by the day) 2010 number. If you care to argue this point, fine; but add something substantial. Nigeria was 18 in 2010, so this would be in the high 20s today, and at the upper end of the alarming score. Potential hotbed Pakistan was 19 in 2010. Another oil producer, Angola, had a 27 hunger index in 2010 and would now be in the extremely alarming category. Cameroon, a small African oil producer, has a 2010 score of 18. That country was severely impacted by food riots during the 2008 commodity bubble. Both Bangladesh, and emerging market darling India, were ranked 24 in 2010. With the spike, it would be well over 30 today. Don't be surprised if ethnic and religious turmoil breaks out in what are considered democracies. That will be hard for the U.S. to spin. I don't think the U.S. has enough aircraft carriers to cover these contingencies. ...


The military-industrial-ecocide complex is ready to help!

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Apr 6, 2011
from IRIN:
Kenya: Livestock dying as drought deepens
Thousands more heads of livestock have died in Kenya's arid Northeastern province as La Nińa drought conditions worsen and water shortages become more acute.... Livestock farmers in the three regions have lost more than 17,000 animals since January.... Mass deaths of livestock began in February, but the average daily loss of animals has risen in the last three weeks as crucial water sources dried up. Many of the remaining water sources are contaminated, leading to increased incidents of water-borne diseases such as typhoid, amoeba and diarrhoea. A recent assessment by the UN found that the drought ravaging East Africa had left eight million needing food aid, 1.2 million in Kenya.... "We have not received a single drop of rain and yet the rains were expected two weeks ago. We are faced with a humanitarian crisis. A significant number of deaths, mainly of children, pregnant women and elderly people can be attributed to hunger, dehydration and lack of water," he said. "Banisa, a rich grazing area and a trading centre with more than 18,000 people and surrounded by 16 villages, is almost deserted now. The only dam which has served the whole population for last seven years dried up last week." ...


This is a great opportunity for disaster tourism!

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Apr 4, 2011
from Guardian:
What Japan's disaster tells us about peak oil
While the thermal power stations may restart operations soon, the overall shortfall will become even more difficult to manage over the summer period when air conditioning is utilized. The reality is that these power cuts could continue for years, especially since the one of the two Fukushima nuclear plants has effectively become a pile of radioactive scrap.... It has been difficult for Japan's notoriously efficient industries to maintain production, given that they rely on just-in-time systems and which have supply plants (for needed parts) that are located in the zone impacted by these combined disasters. One example is in car production, where major firms have had to suspend work at their factories when key parts are no longer available from the affected region. The fragility of this system of industrial production is glaringly obvious and it is something that peak oil commentators have warned of multiple times.... Under a peak oil scenario, the entire world (not just one country) would be affected by a continuous decline in global oil production.... For a country like Japan that relies heavily on the import of food, having only 40 percent self-sufficiency, the real peak oil scenario would have dire impacts. ...


Peak oil is so yesterday.

ApocaDoc
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Sun, Mar 20, 2011
from EnvironmentalResearchWeb:
Deadly heatwaves will be more frequent in coming decades, say scientists
The heatwave that scorched eastern Europe in 2010, killing thousands of people and devastating crops, was the worst since records began and led to the warmest summer on the continent for at least 500 years, a new scientific analysis has revealed. The research also suggests that "mega-heatwaves", such as the prolonged extreme temperatures that struck western Europe in 2003 will become five to 10 times more likely over the next 40 years, occurring at least once a decade. But the 2010 heatwave was so extreme - 10 deg C above the average for the first week of August between 1970 and 2000 - that similar events are only expected to occur once every 30 years or so.... The findings of the study are consistent with this, said Barriopedro: "Under global warming this kind of event will become more common. Mega-heatwaves are going to be more frequent and more intense in the future." ...


It ain't the heat -- it's the megaheat.

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Mon, Mar 14, 2011
from Yale360:
African Corn Faces Threat From Even Moderate Warming, Study Shows
A review of crop trial data from thousands of sites across Africa shows that a temperature increase of 1 degree C (1.8 F) could cause declines in corn harvests in two-thirds of the continent's maize-growing regions. Drawing on previously unstudied data from 20,000 trials of corn yields across Africa from 1999 to 2007, an international team of researchers found that the longer corn crops are exposed to temperatures above 30 degrees C (86 F), the more yields decline. And under drought conditions, the researchers found that more than 75 percent of corn-growing regions suffered yield declines of at least 20 percent as temperatures rose 1 degree C. Researchers from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, reporting in the journal Nature Climate Change, said the results surprised them because maize was assumed to be among the more heat-tolerant crops. The researchers reached their conclusions after gathering data from the 20,000 trial sites and then comparing it with temperature and rainfall data. They said the results show that corn, a staple crop for many Africans, could suffer significant yield declines if, as predicted, higher temperatures and drought impact Africa in the future. ...


So if 2/3 of corn growing regions decrease production at least 20 percent for every 1.8 degrees F, then starvation will increase.... oh, I hate story problems. What's on TV?

ApocaDoc
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Sun, Mar 13, 2011
from The Denver Post:
Colorado farmland goes dry as suburbs secure water supplies
Colorado farmers still own more than 80 percent of water flowing in the state, but control is rapidly passing from them as growing suburbs move to secure supplies for the future. The scramble is intensifying as aging farmers offer their valuable water rights to thirsty cities, drying up ag land so quickly that state overseers are worried about the life span of Colorado's agricultural economy.... Since 1987, Colorado farmers and ranchers have sold at least 191,000 acre-feet of water to suburbs, according to a review of water transactional data. (That's enough water to fill Chatfield Reservoir nine times-- and enough to sustain 382,000 families of four for a year.) ...


Few truly appreciate the value of a well-watered lawn and a sparkling-clean car.

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Mar 7, 2011
from Earth Times:
Bumblebees: Gone with the Wind? A Major Disappearance
Bumblebees, also known as Bombus terristris, are the pollinating cousins of wasps and hornets. They are the number one pollinator for wild growing plants as well as commercial agriculture; you may have seen them flitting around your Gran's tomato plants on summer evenings, busy at work. However, these popular and beloved buzzing insects that help bring us all kinds of food-- from coffee beans to fresh apples -- bring alarming news. In the past few decades scientific studies have found that increasing numbers of bumblebee colonies are disappearing. It's possible that Bombus affinis, one of the many bumblebee subspecies native to North America, have all but died out. Between 1976 and 2006, there was a huge loss in the number of wild bumblebee colonies; they are now almost completely gone. Not only North America is suffering from this bumblebee disappearance; in the UK, over the past 70 years 3 out of 24 native bumblebee species have gone extinct.... Scientific evidence strongly suggests that the combination of insecticides and disease from imported bees, bred in greenhouses, are two main causes of bee deaths. One highly dangerous group of insecticides, called neonicotinoids, have been used since the 90s in North America on a wide variety of crops.... Climate change, environmental stress, harmful chemicals- these are all human induced symptoms that are believed to be contributing to rapid bee extinction. ...


With a name like Bombus terristris, I think I'm glad we're wiping them out!

ApocaDoc
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Sun, Mar 6, 2011
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Gloomy Malthus provides food for thought as world's appetite builds
At some point, argued Malthus, the demands of the human race will exceed agricultural capacity, sparking violence, population decline and radical social change. A highbrow version of the man with the "End is Nigh" sandwich board, Malthus banged his "impending catastrophe" drum until his death in 1834 - hence the "dismal" sobriquet.... The United Nations index of global food prices hit yet another record high in February - the eighth successive monthly increase. The respected UN index - which tracks prices of cereals, meat, dairy, oils and sugar - is now up 40 percent on a year ago and 5 percent above its June 2008 peak. The price of corn - a widespread staple crop - is now 95 percent higher than a year ago. While there were many factors behind the outbreak of dissent in Libya, soaring food prices were the catalyst. A wave of price-related resentment has swept across a number of North African nations and could yet cause a political eruption in the Gulf. Since before the days of Malthus, economists have tracked the natural swing and counter-swing of food prices, as production has responded with a lag to price signals and the vagaries of the weather. But maybe Malthus was right and that self-correcting cycle is now over. ...


Relax! We'll just make a bigger pie!

ApocaDoc
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Sat, Feb 19, 2011
from Live Science:
New Idea to Reduce Global Warming: Everyone Eat Insects
There is a rational, even persuasive, argument for voluntarily eating insects: Bugs are high in protein, require less space to grow and offer a more environmentally friendly alternative to the vertebrates we Westerners prefer, advocates of the bug fare say. However, this topic is not a hotbed of research, so while some data exist -- in particular on the protein content of insects -- there are some assumptions built into the latter part of this argument. "The suggestion that insects would be more efficient has been around for quite some time," said Dennis Oonincx, an entomologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. He and other researchers decided to test it, by comparing the greenhouse gas emissions from five species of insects with those of cattle and pigs. The results, Oonincx said, "really are quite hopeful." ...


Hopeful maybe for everyone but the poor bugs!

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Feb 18, 2011
from Bloomberg, via DesdemonaDespair:
Climate Change May Cause 'Massive' Food Disruptions
Global food supplies will face "massive disruptions" from climate change, Olam International Ltd. predicted, as Agrocorp International Pte. said corn will gain to a record, stoking food inflation and increasing hunger. "The fact is that climate around the world is changing and that will cause massive disruptions," Sunny Verghese, chief executive officer at Olam, among the world's three biggest suppliers of rice and cotton, said in a Bloomberg Television interview today. "We're friendly to wheat, corn and soybeans and bearish on rice."... Shrinking global food supplies helped push the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization's World Food Price Index to a record for a second month in January. As food becomes less available and more expensive, "hoarding becomes widespread," Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist at FAO, said Feb. 9, predicting prices of wheat and other grains are more likely to rise than decline in the next six months. Corn futures surged 90 percent in the past year, while wheat jumped 80 percent and soybeans advanced 49 percent as the worst drought in at least half a century in Russia, flooding in Australia, excessive rainfall in Canada, and drier conditions in parts of Europe slashed harvests. ...


Cokes will soon cost more than a beer!

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Feb 7, 2011
from Mongabay:
Bushmeat trade pushing species to the edge in Tanzania
Hunters are decimating species in the Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve, a part of the Eastern Arc Mountains in Southern Tanzania, according to a new report compiled by international and Tanzanian conservationists. Incorporating three research projects, the report finds that bushmeat hunting in conjunction with forest degradation imperils the ecology of the protected area. "Some species in this region are on the brink of extinction from one of their last remaining strongholds, especially the Udzungwa red colobus, a monkey species found only in these mountains and nowhere else in the world," said Arafat Mtui, Udzungwa Ecological Monitoring Center coordinator, in a press release. The report also finds that duikers, a small antelope, are in danger of vanishing from the forest due to hunting, and that the Angolan colobus may already have disappeared from the forest. ...


The kids are hungry.

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Feb 7, 2011
from Christian Science Monitor, Editor:
As world population heads toward a peak, Malthusian worries reemerge
Food and people. Thomas Malthus posed them as two forces rarely in balance. Plentiful food encourages population growth. A booming population devours more food than can be produced. Famine and other ugliness follow. Population crashes. Students who learn of Malthus's grim prediction usually take away two lessons. The first is the sharp contrast between arithmetic and geometric progression. Food supplies grow slowly, Malthus said. But consumers multiply like rabbits. A geometric progression outstrips an arithmetic one every time. The second lesson is about why Malthus's catastrophe hasn't occurred. Most scholars think it is because the 19th-century Anglican parson didn't have sufficient regard for technology and innovation. From the "green revolution" to global trade, from drip irrigation to entrepreneurial ingenuity, Homo sapiens learn and improve. We farm better, manage resources more carefully, and as education increases, birthrates fall. A wise species - which is what "sapiens" means, after all - avoids a crash. That's the story so far.... We have about 40 years before the jury renders its final verdict on Malthus. The population of the planet is currently 6.9 billion. By 2050, it will hit 9.2 billion, according to the US Census Bureau. ...


The commons just goes on forever. That's quantum progression.

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Feb 2, 2011
from Mark Bittman, New York Times:
A Food Manifesto for the Future
And we've come to recognize that our diet is unhealthful and unsafe. Many food production workers labor in difficult, even deplorable, conditions, and animals are produced as if they were widgets. It would be hard to devise a more wasteful, damaging, unsustainable system. Here are some ideas -- frequently discussed, but sadly not yet implemented -- that would make the growing, preparation and consumption of food healthier, saner, more productive, less damaging and more enduring.... Total agricultural subsidies in 2009 were around $16 billion, which would pay for a great many of the ideas that follow. Begin subsidies to those who produce and sell actual food for direct consumption.... Outlaw concentrated animal feeding operations and encourage the development of sustainable animal husbandry. The concentrated system degrades the environment, directly and indirectly, while torturing animals and producing tainted meat, poultry, eggs, and, more recently, fish. Sustainable methods of producing meat for consumption exist. At the same time, we must educate and encourage Americans to eat differently. ...


This from the guy whose food column in the NYT was called the Minimalist?!

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Feb 1, 2011
from Reuters:
U.S. scientists work to grow meat in lab
In a small laboratory on an upper floor of the basic science building at the Medical University of South Carolina, Vladimir Mironov, M.D., Ph.D., has been working for a decade to grow meat. A developmental biologist and tissue engineer, Dr. Mironov, 56, is one of only a few scientists worldwide involved in bioengineering "cultured" meat. It's a product he believes could help solve future global food crises resulting from shrinking amounts of land available for growing meat the old-fashioned way ... on the hoof.... The new National Institute of Food and Agriculture, part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, won't fund it, the National Institutes of Health won't fund it, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration funded it only briefly, Mironov said. ...


What do you wanna bet chickens, cows and pigs would be willing to help fund it?

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Jan 31, 2011
from AlJazeera, via Perry:
Hunger and despair in Sri Lanka
Recent flooding in eastern Sri Lanka destroyed thousands of homes, devastated the rice crop and drowned thousands of livestock. A million people, 40 per cent of them children, are at risk of serious hunger as a result. Some of the worst-affected areas were only just recovering from decades of conflict and the tsunami when the floods hit, and the people who live there are facing their third humanitarian emergency in less than 10 years.... Among those at risk of the impending food crisis is Pakyarani, a 32-year-old farmer's wife and mother of four.... The rain started on January 6. It didn't stop for days - there was thunder and lightning, and the wind was blowing extremely hard. I was sure there would be a cyclone. Eventually we were warned that the rivers and lakes were about to burst their banks. We were afraid that we would be caught in the flood, so we decided to leave.... All the rice in our field has been ruined by the floods. It will be May before we can sow new rice seeds, and July before we can harvest. We have no savings to buy food, let alone to repair our house. It's not safe to live like this; the area is full of snakes, and if my children get bitten we have no transport to take them to the nearest hospital, which is 10 kilometres away. ...


Just laugh at the clouds / so dark up above / put a song in your heart / you're ready for love!

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Jan 26, 2011
from BBC:
Report: Urgent action needed to avert global hunger
A UK government-commissioned study into food security has called for urgent action to avert global hunger. The Foresight Report on Food and Farming Futures says the current system is unsustainable and will fail to end hunger unless radically redesigned. It is the first study across a range of disciplines deemed to have put such fears on a firm analytical footing. The report is the culmination of a two-year study, involving 400 experts from 35 countries. ...


I prefer my fears to be based on whim and misinformation.

ApocaDoc
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Sat, Jan 22, 2011
from London Independent:
2.4 billion extra people, no more land: how will we feed the world in 2050?
The finite resources of the Earth will be be stretched as never before in the coming 40 years because of the unprecedented challenge of feeding the world in 2050, leading scientists have concluded in a report to be published next week. Food production will have to increase by between 70 and 100 per cent, while the area of land given over to agriculture will remain static, or even decrease as a result of land degradation and climate change. Meanwhile the global population is expected to rise from 6.8 billion at present to about 9.2 billion by mid-century. ...


Too many people, too little food... solution seems rather obvious to me!

ApocaDoc
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Thu, Jan 20, 2011
from BBC:
Dutch scientist advocates bugs as a green superfood
Dutch scientist Arnold van Huis has advocated bugs as a healthy, green, alternative food, saying it is time to break old eating habits. Insect dishes could be the answer to the global food crisis, shrinking land and water resources and climate-changing carbon emissions, he argued... The professor at Wageningen University said insects had more protein than cattle per bite, cost less to raise, consumed less water and did not have much of a carbon footprint. ...


The world... just didn't turn out like I thought.

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Jan 12, 2011
from TheNews, via DesdemonaDespair:
Pakistan flood victims in miserable conditions, UNDP told
The flood-affected people are still living in miserable conditions and more assistance is needed to rehabilitate them, according to the Sindh chief minister.... The meeting discussed the situation after last year's heavy floods, which damaged several districts and affected more than seven million people in Sindh.... The meeting was informed that almost half of the total affected people were residing in camps and the situation was very crucial. ...


I didn't know Pakistan was in Australia.

ApocaDoc
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Thu, Jan 6, 2011
from Reuters:
"Dangerous" beetle found at Los Angeles airport
U.S. customs officials said on Wednesday they had found a beetle considered one of the world's most dangerous agricultural pests in a shipment of rice arriving at Los Angeles International Airport. Agricultural specialists with U.S. Customs and Border Protection found an adult khapra beetle, eight larvae and a shed skin in a shipment of Indian rice from Saudi Arabia last week, spokesman Jaime Ruiz said. The khapra beetle, which is native to India and not currently established in the United States, is considered one of the most destructive pests of grain products and seeds. ...


I suppose the beetle will invoke the DREAM Act.

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Jan 5, 2011
from FAO, via Guardian:
World food prices enter 'danger territory' to reach record high
Soaring prices of sugar, grain and oilseed drove world food prices to a record in December, surpassing the levels of 2008 when the cost of food sparked riots around the world, and prompting warnings of prices being in "danger territory".... Published by the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the index tracks the prices of a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, and has risen for six consecutive months.... Abbassian warned prices could rise higher still, amid fears of droughts in Argentina and floods in Australia and cold weather killing plants in the northern hemisphere. "There is still room for prices to go up much higher, if for example the dry conditions in Argentina tend to become a drought, and if we start having problems with winterkill in the northern hemisphere for the wheat crops," Abbassian said. ...


Those high prices are only for poor people, right?

ApocaDoc
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Sat, Jan 1, 2011
from DesdemonaDespair:
50 Doomiest Graphs of 2010
The Graph of the Day feature comprises Desdemona's assault on the left hemisphere of the brain, in the quixotic quest against delusional hope. This post complements the media barrage on the right hemisphere, 50 Doomiest Photos of 2010. 2010 yielded a torrent of new scientific data that documents the accelerating destruction of the biosphere, and Desdemona managed to capture a few graphs from the flood. Here are the most doom-laden graphs of 2010, chosen by scope, length of observational period, and sleekness of presentation. Open up your left hemisphere and drink in the data. ...


Now put both hemispheres together, and get busy! 2011 must be a year of change.

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Dec 31, 2010
from Guardian:
Australian floodwaters rise as bushfire threat looms
Flooded area of north-east Australia is bigger than France and Germany, as southern states face tinder dry conditions.. Floodwaters have risen across a vast area of north-east Australia, affecting 22 towns, forcing 200,000 residents out of their homes and closing an important sugar export port. Flooding has already shut coal mines and the biggest coal export port in Queensland, forcing companies such as Anglo American and Rio Tinto to slow or halt operations.... In the southern states of Victoria and South Australia, meanwhile, soaring temperatures and tinder dry conditions have sparked bushfires. Authorities warned of possible "catastrophic" fires if conditions worsened, and holiday travellers were asked to prepare evacuation plans.... Emergency authorities said the flooding was not expected to reach a peak in some areas until Sunday and would not recede for at least a week. Australia has endured its wettest spring on record, according to the national weather bureau, causing six river systems in Queensland to flood. Swollen rivers in New South Wales have also caused flood damage to wheat crops. Possibly as much as half the Australian wheat crop, or about 10m tonnes, has been downgraded to less than milling quality because of rain damage. That has tightened global supplies and sent prices up by about 45 percent this year, the biggest surge since 2007. The floods have also pushed coking coal and thermal prices higher and tight markets are keeping a close eye on further disruptions. Queensland's ports have an annual coal export capacity of 225m tonnes. Australia is the world's biggest exporter of coking coal used for steel-making and accounts for about two-thirds of global trade. It is also the second-biggest exporter of thermal coal used for power generation. ...


Wet on one side, dry on the other? That's just an engineering challenge!

ApocaDoc
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Thu, Dec 30, 2010
from IRIN:
Afghanistan: Bleak outlook for food security in 2011
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) plans to assist 7.3 million people in Afghanistan in 2011 but only has enough funding to feed the most vulnerable for a few months, and needs US$400 million to continue its humanitarian activities next year.... "If additional support cannot be obtained, WFP will have to cut planned food distribution activities throughout Afghanistan," said the report.... Recent funding from the USA and Canada eased wheat shortages faced by WFP following the catastrophic floods in Pakistan in July. But the US-funded Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS-NET) has predicted that over half of the country would be highly or moderately food-insecure in January-February. It said wheat prices had increased by over 31 percent since July 2010 and further increases were likely in the coming months. Afghanistan remains among the most food-insecure countries in the world where armed conflict and natural disasters have denied access to adequate food to over eight million people, aid agencies say. They also think the humanitarian situation is likely to deteriorate in 2011. ...


Every cloud has a silver lining. Big Agriculture is smokin'!

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Dec 27, 2010
from Toronto Globe and Mail:
Six months after Pakistan floods, seven million remain without shelter
...he biggest disaster in Pakistan's history inflicted its deadliest wrath in these northern reaches, as summer monsoons ripped down the valleys, devouring land, people and entire villages. The brown torrent killed almost 2,000 people, but that number hardly begins to encompass the months of misery that followed, those who died of malnutrition or disease as they fled the rising water. Now, as winter blows into the mountains, an estimated seven million people remain without proper shelter. Villagers scrabble in the earth, trying to build homes that will keep them warm among the snow drifts. ...


If any of you are having trouble visualizing our post-Apocalyptic future, look no further.

ApocaDoc
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Sun, Dec 26, 2010
from Associated Press:
The problem with wheat
In these volcanic valleys of central Mexico, on the Canadian prairies, across India's northern plain, they sow and they reap the golden grain that has fed us since the distant dawn of farming. But along with the wheat these days comes a harvest of worry. Yields aren't keeping up with a world growing hungrier. Crops are stunted in a world grown warmer. A devastating fungus, a wheat "rust," is spreading out of Africa, a grave threat to the food plant that covers more of the planet's surface than any other. ...


Let them eat rust.

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Dec 22, 2010
from IRIN:
Water shortage hits Somaliland
Residents in parts of Somalia's northeastern self-declared republic of Somaliland are facing severe water shortages after poor October to December Deyr rains. "In the eastern regions of Somaliland, such as Sool, Sanag and Togdheer, the people are already facing livelihood difficulties, as well as water shortages, because all the barkads [water pans] have run out of water," said Mohamed Muse Awale, director of Somaliland's National Disaster Committee.... "The nearest place to get water is Damal Hagare [160km northeast] in Sanag region and the prices have increased from US$8 to $15 [for 200 litres]," Said Mohamoud Abdi Mohamoud, from the Hudun District in Sool, told IRIN. According to a Famine Early Warning Systems Network report, poor rainfall in December is likely to "further stress water resources and negatively impact [on] crop and rangeland conditions in the Greater Horn of Africa". ...


Why don't they just move? That's what I'd do.

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Dec 17, 2010
from DesdemonaDespair:
The Twelve Doomiest Stories of 2010
Ice-capped roof of world turns to desert: Scientists warn of ecological catastrophe across Asia as glaciers melt and the continent's great rivers dry up.... Death of coral reefs could devastate nations, have 'tremendous cascade effect for all life in the oceans': Coral reefs are part of the foundation of the ocean food chain. Nearly half the fish the world eats make their homes around them. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide -- by some estimates, 1 billion across Asia alone -- depend on them for their food and their livelihoods.... Ocean fish extinct within 40 years: The world faces the nightmare possibility of fishless oceans by 2050 unless fishing fleets are slashed and stocks allowed to recover, UN experts warned.... Oceans acidifying much faster than ever before in Earth's history: "It is not the first time in the history of the Earth that the oceans have acidified, but a disturbing aspect now is that it is occurring much faster than ever before. As a consequence, not only the pH value drops, but the saturation state of the oceans with respect to carbonate falls as well. Times are tough, especially for calcifying organisms," says Prof. Jelle Bijma, marine biogeoscientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute. ...


Thank goodness this is all a game, and we can just hit "reset" whenever we want to start over!

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Dec 13, 2010
from Guardian: Opinion:
Climate change: human numbers don't add up
Save the planet? Somehow it seems so last year. Cancun - a climate change summit of modest achievement - rates 81 sparse lines of coverage in the Sunday Times, while Chris Huhne's apparent decision not to move in with his mistress rates 118. The BBC, having overspent on Chile's miners, duly hacked back on coverage of Mexico's major meeting. I didn't see one global warming placard in Parliament Square the other day. Protesting youth has other things on its mind. You can explain the fading of interest - and fear - in many ways, of course. Too much snow in November. Too many lectures from the pope. Too much concentration on the here and now of pinched pocketbook politics. Too many XYZ factors.... China's "one child" policy - which may have stopped 250-400 million births, on official calculations - is not a polite subject for discussion anywhere in the west. Indeed, it's often lumped into Beijing's long list of human rights abuses.... It costs 5 pounds on family planning to abate a tonne of CO2 - against 15 pounds for wind power and 31 pounds for solar power. In short, too many happy events equal global misery. It's the harsh truth where Cancun communiques fall silent. ...


If our population continues to grow into a collapsing world, the ApocaDocs will have A Modest Proposal...

ApocaDoc
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Wed, Dec 8, 2010
from Earth Institute:
Parched for Peace: The Fertile Crescent Might Be Barren
Hydrology experts and research scientists at the conference reported that between 2002 and 2008, the [Syrian] national water supply fell from 1,200 to less than 750 cubic meters per person per year, a decrease of over 35 percent. At the conference, scientists and hydrological engineers expressed concern over not only the low water supply itself but also, the rapid rate of decline. Many were not surprised by the news, however, pointing to Syria's notoriously inefficient water policies and supply systems. Consequently, many also pointed out that with some reform in these two areas, Syria could easily meet its water needs. A key aspect to such efficiency reforms will be changing agricultural practices. Crop irrigation currently constitutes 80 percent of Syria's water consumption and due to the continued application of outdated techniques (such as flood irrigation), more than 70 percent of this water is wasted through evaporation and runoff.... Climate scientists say that the entire Fertile Crescent - which encompasses all of Syria and much of neighbor Iraq - might be turning barren. Such a permanent, drastic decline in agriculture in the face of diminishing oil reserves and declining foreign investments would spell disaster for Syria. Iraq faces a similarly tenuous future: agriculture there has been all but decimated by years of warfare and drought. The collapse of farming is presenting extreme economic challenges as well as safety concerns: both Syria and Iraq are becoming increasingly dependent on imported food and water, and both face growing numbers of displaced migrants no longer able to glean profit or sustenance from farming. ...


Why can't they just turn their faucets up to 11?

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Nov 23, 2010
from PhysOrg:
Rice production withers as Egypt diverts water supply
In Kafr el-Sheikh, rice farmers once looked forward to harvest time, but work has dried up in the large Nile Delta town since water shortages prompted heavy restrictions on production. Under pressure from upstream countries to use its share of the river's waters more sparingly, Egypt's government has decided to severely restrict the farming of this water-intensive crop. But the move threatens the price and supply of a commodity that feeds many of the country's burgeoning poor, as well as being a lucrative Egyptian export and a key employer in the agricultural sector.... Rationalising the use of its precious water supplies is a growing imperative for Cairo, with Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda demanding a more equitable share of the Nile waters on which Egypt so heavily depends.... Others criticise Egypt's decision to focus its agricultural production on lucrative export crops, at the expense of basic food supplies for its 80 million people. "Why reduce the area allocated to rice production when it is the staple diet of many Egyptians," asked Habib Ayeb, at the American University in Cairo, pointing out that Egypt is a major exporter of another water-intensive crop -- strawberries. ...


Hey, if we don't use it up, it just goes downstream!

ApocaDoc
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Sat, Nov 20, 2010
from Guardian:
Severe weather warning: Peru as canary
For the indigenous Quechua people like Flores Choque, who have farmed Peru's highlands since the 15th century, the warning signs are already very real. Their farming calendar, dictated by the weather, has traditionally given their lives a steady rhythm. But in the last few years uncharacteristic and unpredictable weather - flooding, frosts, hail, intense heat and drought - has bombarded it. Crops have continually failed and Save the Children research reports production in some areas has fallen as much as 44 percent since 2007, with animal mortality rising from 20 percent to 48 percent. Water supply has diminished and the health and livelihoods of thousands been jeopardised.... "The people are becoming poorer and malnutrition is increasing," Apaza Maita stresses. "Children don't have defences and their health is suffering. They've always had respiratory problems but now they're much worse. For the first time we have cases of bronchitis."... Kallpa is also encouraging farmers to use natural fertilisers rather than chemicals. Hardy native potatoes are being planted again instead of the white potatoes previously grown for export, as well as crops such as tarwi, a bean that, though tasteless, bursts with nutrition.... "It's all connected with the weather and melting glaciers. Four years ago a small river near here ran at eight litres per second. This year it's four litres per second. Now there isn't enough water for the community." ...


It ain't just the heat, it's the extremity.

ApocaDoc
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Fri, Nov 19, 2010
from Earth Institute:
'Small is Also Beautiful' - Appropriate Technology Cuts Rice Famers' Water Use by 30 Percent in Punjab, India
But the Green Revolution in Punjab came with a heavy price. Even as yields per acre shot up year after year, heavy use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizer and tube-irrigation soared as well, contributing to cancer, degrading the natural capital of the soil and-perhaps most importantly-depleting non-renewable underground aquifers at staggering speed. Now, even as agricultural productivity has plateaued, a dropping water table now puts the food security of the entire country at risk.... The team then installed the tensiometers in rice fields. In order to get accurate results, farmers were instructed to irrigate only one acre of their fields based on the tensiometer readings, and to use the other fields as control plots. Initial results were remarkable. On average, farmers irrigated the tensiometer fields 30 to 35 percent less than on control plots--with no adverse impact on yield. In fact, anecdotal reports suggested that in some cases yield actually improved, as farmers were able to minimize some pest diseases associated with excessive standing water. ...


"Appropriate technology" seems so appropriate!

ApocaDoc
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Sun, Nov 7, 2010
from Los Angeles Times:
Grim outlook for grizzlies in Yellowstone region
With milder winters affecting their food and hibernation habits, they're forced into a meat-dependent diet -- putting them at odds with humans and livestock. They could end up as despised as wolves. It's been a bad year for grizzly bears, and, if forecasts prove correct, it's only going to get worse. The tally of grizzly deaths in the states bordering the greater Yellowstone region is fast approaching the worst on record. And that's before the numbers come in from the current hunting season, a time when accidental grizzly shootings are traditionally high. Here in Wyoming, more bears were killed this year than ever, including a bear shot by a hunter last week. A number of complex factors are believed to be working against grizzlies, including climate change. Milder winters have allowed bark beetles to decimate the white-bark pine, whose nuts are a critical food source for grizzlies. Meanwhile, there has been a slight seasonal shift for plants that grizzlies rely on when they prepare to hibernate and when they emerge in the spring, changing the creatures' denning habits. ...


I'm not sure any organisms -- other than invasive species -- are having much of a year.

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Nov 2, 2010
from ScienceDaily:
Expanding Croplands Decreasing World's Carbon Sinks
Nature's capacity to store carbon, the element at the heart of global climate woes, is steadily eroding as the world's farmers expand croplands at the expense of native ecosystem such as forests. The tradeoff between agricultural production and maintaining nature's carbon reservoirs -- native trees, plants and their carbon-rich detritus in the soil -- is becoming more pronounced as more and more of the world's natural ecosystems succumb to the plow. The problem, experts say, is most acute in the tropics, where expanding agriculture often comes at the expense of the tropical forests that act as massive carbon sinks because of their rich diversity and abundance of plant life. The seriousness of the problem is documented in the most comprehensive and fine-grained analysis of the world's existing carbon stocks and global crop yields. The study is published online this in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) by a team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Minnesota, Stanford University, Arizona State University and The Nature Conservancy.... "The main news is that agricultural production by clearing land in the tropics releases a lot of greenhouse gases per unit of food produced." ...


"Eating ourselves out of house and home" takes on a whole new meaning, doesn't it?

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Nov 1, 2010
from ScienceDaily:
Scientists Prepare for Confined Field Trials of Life-Saving Drought-Tolerant Transgenic Maize
Crop specialists in Kenya and Uganda have laid the groundwork for confined field trials to commence later this year for new varieties of maize genetically modified to survive recurrent droughts that threaten over 300 million Africans for whom maize is life, according to a speech given Oct. 14 by the head of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) at the World Food Prize Symposium, being held in Des Moines, Iowa.... Scientists working with AATF believe it's important to explore the potential of biotechnology to maintain and increase food production in Africa, given the large number of families dependent on maize, and warnings that maize yields could drop dramatically as climate change increases drought frequency and severity across the continent. There is preliminary evidence that the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) varieties, which were developed through a public-private partnership, could provide yields 24-35 percent higher than what farmers are now growing.... The push to develop drought-tolerant varieties has been given added urgency by threats likely to come from climate change.... If the transgenic corn is found to be safe and successful, the new varieties will be made available to smallholder farmers royalty-free. Under its agreement with its partners, any approved varieties would be licensed to AATF, which would then distribute to farmers through local seed supplies at a price competitive with other types of maize seed. The project partners expect that pricing will not be influenced by the requirement to pay royalties, as none of the partners will receive any royalty payment from seed companies for the drought tolerant lines/transgenic trait incorporating their intellectual property protected technology. ...


Transgenics developed without a profit motive? Monsanto must be pissed.

ApocaDoc
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Tue, Oct 19, 2010
from NSF/NCAR, via EurekAlert:
Drought may threaten much of globe within decades
The United States and many other heavily populated countries face a growing threat of severe and prolonged drought in coming decades, according to results of a new study by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Aiguo Dai. The detailed analysis concludes that warming temperatures associated with climate change will likely create increasingly dry conditions across much of the globe in the next 30 years. The drought may reach a scale in some regions by the end of the century that has rarely, if ever, been observed in modern times.... While regional climate projections are less certain than those for the globe as a whole, Dai's study indicates that most of the western two-thirds of the United States will be significantly drier by the 2030s.... "We are facing the possibility of widespread drought in the coming decades, but this has yet to be fully recognized by both the public and the climate change research community," Dai says. "If the projections in this study come even close to being realized, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous." ...


Only this time, the great clouds of the dustbowl will be laced with unknown toxins from corporate farms.

ApocaDoc
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Sun, Oct 17, 2010
from IRIN:
Egypt's 'hottest summer in years' drives up food prices
Small farmer Abdelrazek Basiony, 43, was hoping to use a bountiful tomato harvest to pay off his debts, but his crop was decimated by exceptionally hot summer weather: he got only three tons, compared to 20 tons in a good year. "This year, Egypt had its hottest summer in years," said Mohamed Eissa, chairman of the Egyptian Meteorological Authority, adding the trend was set to continue. Rising temperatures and poor harvests are driving up prices. According to the government's Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), vegetable prices soared 51 percent and meat and poultry by 28.6 percent in September. A recent report by the Agricultural Research Centre (ARC) cited in the local media said crop productivity had dropped by almost 70 percent this year due to rising temperatures. The report - sent to the Agriculture Minister Amin Abaza - said most crops could not tolerate such a sharp increase. ...


It ain't the heat, it's the food riots.

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Oct 11, 2010
from Press Trust of India:
Pollinator crisis shrinking vegetable production: scientists
Vegetable production in India is shrinking over the years due to a decline in the population of pollinating insects like bees and butterflies, a new study has claimed. The study, carried out by researchers at the University of Calcutta, found a disturbing trend in the growth of yields of several vegetables despite an increase in their cultivation area over the past 45 years. Led by Parthiba Basu, a researcher at the varsity's Ecology Research Unit, the team analysed the growth of yield and cultivated area of 11 major pollinator-dependent vegetable crops, including cucumbers, brinjals, pumpkins, tomatoes and gourds, between 1963 and 2008. Basu and his student Ritam Bhattacharya presented their findings at a recent British Ecological Society meeting held at the University of Leeds. It was found that although the area used for cultivating those vegetables has gone up by 340 per cent (over six times), their absolute yield has increased by a meagre 63 per cent taking 1963 as the base year. ...


It's the Apollinacalypse!

ApocaDoc
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Sun, Sep 26, 2010
from Wall Street Journal:
Farmland: The Next Boom?
The world has consumed more food than it has produced in nine of the past 10 years, Susan Payne, chief executive of agricultural investment firm Emergent Asset Management, told the World Agricultural Investment Conference in London this week. Population is rising fast; another billion mouths to feed will probably be added in just in the next 15 years.... We've already seen trouble. There were food riots in some countries two years ago. Wheat, coffee and sugar prices have rocketed this summer. Canaries in the coal mine? "We expect to see a resource war around 2020," says Ms. Payne.... Charmion McBride, head of agriculture for Insight Investment, says the amount of arable land per person on the planet has halved in about 40 years.... Famously, land has also proven a terrific hedge against inflation. It has boomed when prices skyrocketed--such as during the two world wars, and the 1970s. There is a serious risk that we will see a surge in inflation down the road: You could argue the governments need it. No wonder investors have been bidding up the prices of other inflation hedges, such as gold and inflation-protected bonds. Why not land? ...


Oddly, they missed an opportunity to mention "Peak Land."

ApocaDoc
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Mon, Sep 6, 2010
from Burness Communications via ScienceDaily:
In a Changing Climate, Erratic Rainfall Poses Growing Threat to Rural Poor, New Report Says
Against a backdrop of extreme weather wreaking havoc around the world, a new report warns that increasingly erratic rainfall related to climate change will pose a major threat to food security and economic growth, especially in Africa and Asia, requiring increased investment in diverse forms of water storage as an effective remedy. "Millions of farmers in communities dependent on rainfed agriculture are at risk from decreasing and erratic availability of water," said Colin Chartres, director general of the Sri Lanka-based International Water Management Institute (IWMI), which released the report to coincide with World Water Week in Stockholm. "Climate change will hit these people hard, so we have to invest heavily and quickly in adaptation." ...


Ashes to ashes... dustbowl to dustbowl...

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Sat, Sep 4, 2010
from Seed Magazine:
All consuming
...are the world's environmental ills really a result of the burgeoning number of humans on the planet -- growing by more than 150 people a minute and predicted by the United Nations to reach at least 9 billion people by 2050? Or are they more due to the fact that, while human population doubled in the past 50 years, we increased our use of resources fourfold?...Ultimately, the problem isn't the number of people, necessarily. It's what those people do. The average American (just one of 309 million) uses up some 194 pounds of stuff -- food, water, plastics, metals and other things -- per day, day in and day out. We consume a full 25 percent of the world's energy despite representing just 5 percent of global population. And that consumerism is spreading, whether it be the adoption of cars as a lifestyle choice in China or gadget lust in the U.S. "Consumerism is now spreading around the world," says Erik Assadourian, a senior fellow at the Worldwatch Institute. "Is this going to keep spreading? Or are countries going to start recognizing that this is not a good path?" ...


I'll give these questions my undivided attention when I return from copulating at the mall.

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Thu, Sep 2, 2010
from San Francisco Chronicls:
Early humans were cannibals
New anthropologic research suggests that early humans -- those living about 800,000 years ago in Europe -- ate their young. Or the young of their enemies, anyway. Among the remains of bison, sheep and other animals in a cave in northern Spain, researchers found the "butchered remains" of 11 children and adolescents. The youngsters had been decapitated and their skulls smashed, as if to get at the brain and marrow -- which are surprisingly nutritious. The remains dated from a period of about a hundred thousand years, demolishing the theory that cannibalism only happened when food was extremely scarce. And because the human bones had simply been tossed away with the other animal bones, it appears the early humans didn't attach any particular ceremonial value to eating kids. Researchers speculate that eating your enemies' young was simply a way to reduce the competition and get a square meal in the bargain. Creepy. ...


Let's hope prehistory isn't repeated.

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Sun, Aug 29, 2010
from Reuters, via Scientific American:
Pakistanis too broken to rebuild in flood crisis
He has been walking for two days with a 20-kg (44 lb) sack of wheat on his back. Food shortages caused by the disaster have sent prices soaring and the only market he can afford is many kilometers away. "How can I think about rebuilding? I have no way of making money and I am just too tired," said the 50-year-old farmer. Madyan, in the northwest Swat valley, looks more like an earthquake zone than a flood-stricken area. Four-storey hotels that fueled the local economy vanished. Buildings have been flattened, with cars sandwiched between slabs of concrete. Roads were dragged down and all that's left behind are 30-meter (100-foot) dirt cliffs crumbling into a river. Pakistan's government was heavily criticized after its sluggish response to the floods, which hit about one-third of the country, made more than 6 million homeless, and threaten to the bring the economy to its knees without outside intervention.... "The government is robbing everything from us," he said. "If this continues there will be lots of angry young men here. They could join the Taliban. They have nothing else to do." ...


Act of God, or act of Man, betrayal has consequences.

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Thu, Aug 26, 2010
from IRIN:
Record low water levels threaten millions in Cambodia
Late rains and record low water levels in Cambodia's two main fresh water systems will affect food security and the livelihoods of millions, government officials and NGOs warn. "We expect the impact to be very strong," said Nao Thuok, director of the Fisheries Administration, adding that low water levels along the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers were already limiting fish production and migration. Crucial spawning grounds in floodplains along the rivers remained dry. "The places where the fish usually lay their eggs do not have much water so the fish population will decrease a lot," he warned. Approximately six million Cambodians or 45 percent of the population depend on fishing in the Mekong and Tonle Sap basins, the government's Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute, reports. The annual "flood" season of daily rain usually starts in July but began a month late, local agricultural surveyors say.... Not only the fisheries sector is suffering, however. Rice farmer Meas Chan Thorn in western Pursat Province was only able to plant last week, a month behind schedule, because of the late rains, and predicted yields would be halved. ...


I'm sure this is just a "localized weather phenomenon."

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Tue, Aug 17, 2010
from London Guardian:
Artificial meat? Food for thought by 2050
Artificial meat grown in vats may be needed if the 9 billion people expected to be alive in 2050 are to be adequately fed without destroying the earth, some of the world's leading scientists report today. But a major academic assessment of future global food supplies, led by John Beddington, the UK government chief scientist, suggests that even with new technologies such as genetic modification and nanotechnology, hundreds of millions of people may still go hungry owing to a combination of climate change, water shortages and increasing food consumption. ...


I'm going to start hoarding my Spam right now!

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Mon, Aug 16, 2010
from Financial Times:
Economic Outlook: Toll from wheat price to emerge
Will soaring wheat prices feed through into higher inflation? This week's data releases will provide more clarity on the extent to which the sharp rise in global agricultural markets in July has affected prices in the world's food markets - although economists warn that the full effects of higher wholesale prices may not be felt for months. Rising inflation could put pressure on policymakers to tighten monetary policy sooner. The return of inflationary concerns comes after the price of wheat rose almost 50 per cent in July as Russia, the world's third-largest exporter, suffered its worst drought in more than a century. ...


A little wheat-belt tightening, that's all.

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Wed, Aug 11, 2010
from Chicago Tribune:
Poised on History's Doorstep: Super Salmon or Frankenfish?
...With global population pressing against food supplies and vast areas of the ocean already swept clean of fish, tiny AquaBounty Technologies of Waltham, Mass., has developed a variety of salmon that reaches market weight in half the time of other salmon. What's more, AquaBounty not only promises to slash the ready-for-market time - and production costs -- on a hugely popular, nutritious fish that currently commands near-record prices, it plans to avoid the pollution, disease and other problems associated with today's salt-water fish farms by having its salmon raised inland. But there's a catch: AquaBounty's salmon is genetically engineered. Indeed, it aspires to be the nation's first genetically-modified food animal of any kind. That means the Food and Drug Administration must approve it. It also means the company and its salmon must withstand vociferous opposition from environmental and other advocacy groups, win over skeptical producers and -- possibly most difficult of all - overcome potential consumer resistance to genetic tinkering with food. ...


Long as it tastes like chicken I'm good with it!

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Mon, Aug 9, 2010
from PhysOrg:
Officials point to Russian drought and Asian deluge as consistent with climate change
Government officials are pointing to the drought and wildfires in Russia, and the floods across Central and East Asia as consistent with climate change predictions. While climatologists say that a single weather event cannot be linked directly to a warming planet, patterns of worsening storms, severer droughts, and disasters brought on by extreme weather are expected as the planet warms.... On Friday Medvedev continued his sudden frankness on climate change, warning that climate change could impact the Winter Olympics. "Frankly, what is going on with the world’s climate at the moment should incite us all (I mean world leaders and heads of public organizations) to make a more strenuous effort to fight global climate change," he said. Russia is one of the world's largest greenhouse gas emitters: when emissions due to deforestation are not included, Russia is listed as among the top 4, after China and the US, and nearly equal to India.... At the same time as central Russia is experiencing record heat and debilitating fires, a number of Asian nations have been hit with catastrophic flooding and mud slides. Flashfloods in India have left 132 people dead and some 500 missing, while mudslides in China due to flooding has taken the lives of 127 people. Nearly 50,000 people have been evacuated in China. But to date no nation appears worst hit than Pakistan, where flooding has killed 1,600 people and affected 14 million. Landslides have followed the flooding killing dozens more. ...


Nattering nabobs of the negative "new normal."

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Mon, Aug 9, 2010
from PhysOrg:
Moscow's toxic smog fails to shift as anger, heat grows
The toxic smog smothering Moscow showed little sign of abating Monday as media accused officials of covering up the scale of the disaster and the authorities raced to put out a fire near a nuclear site. Amid Russia's worst heatwave in decades, the raging wildfires and burning peat bogs in central Russia have choked Moscow for several days and even sent plumes of smoke as far as neighbouring Finland.... "Authorities do not release statistics in order to conceal their incompetence," the Kommersant daily quoted an unidentified head of an enterprise in the funerals industry as saying. "Morgues and crematoria are overcrowded."... "We have been strictly forbidden to hospitalize people barring the most extreme cases," he said, complaining of hazardous working conditions.... "Air conditioners work only on the floor of the administration, temperatures reach 30 degrees C (86 degrees F) in the operating room," he told Kommersant on conditions of anonymity. "It's hard to work in these conditions."... The heatwave created a national catastrophe which has affected all areas of life, with 10 million hectares (25 million acres) of agricultural land destroyed and the government ordering a controversial ban on grain exports. ...


But the vodka vendors are doing a bang-up business!

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Fri, Aug 6, 2010
from SciDev.net:
Chinese soil experts warn of massive threat to food security
If China's current rate of soil loss continues, a layer the size of Puerto Rico will be washed away in the next 50 years -- resulting in a 40 per cent decrease in food production, according to a study led by the country's Ministry of Water Resources, and science and engineering academies.... Scientists found that the total area of soil erosion has reached 1.61 million square kilometres nearly 17 per cent of total land cover. According to the study, many parts of the black soil in northeastern China -- the country's breadbasket -- have disappeared already, a trend that, if it continues, could put at risk food security for one million people.... "The most serious soil erosion exists in the slope land, especially in farmland," Lu Zongfan, a researcher at China's Institute of Soil and Water Conservation and consultant for the expedition, told SciDev.Net. ...


How hard can it be to simply clear more land?

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Sun, Aug 1, 2010
from London Guardian:
Insects could be the key to meeting food needs of growing global population
Saving the planet one plateful at a time does not mean cutting back on meat, according to new research: the trick may be to switch our diet to insects and other creepy-crawlies. The raising of livestock such as cows, pigs and sheep occupies two-thirds of the world's farmland and generates 20 percent of all the greenhouse gases driving global warming. As a result, the United Nations and senior figures want to reduce the amount of meat we eat and the search is on for alternatives. ...


Now where is my bbq dipping sauce?

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Sat, Jul 24, 2010
from Reuters:
Moscow heatwave breaks 29-year record
Moscow sweltered through its hottest day in almost 30 years on Thursday, a leading forecaster said, as a heatwave that has destroyed Russian crops over an area the size of Portugal showed no sign of abating. Temperatures in the capital hit 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time since 1981, said the Fobos weather forecasting centre, which provides weather data for the country's top media outlets. Environmental groups including Greenpeace say Russia's heatwave is evidence of global warming, but forecasters with the national weather centre have said it is too early to draw a direct link. ...


Friction between environmentalists and meteorologists just increases the heat.

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Mon, Jul 12, 2010
from Wall Street Journal:
Restaurants Mobilize to Save Fisheries
he world's rising appetite for seafood is on a collision course with its wild fisheries, leaving restaurant companies and other big buyers caught in the middle. Amid reports the world's oceans are in danger of being emptied of some fish, companies such as McDonald's Corp., Long John Silver's owner Yum Brands Inc. and Red Lobster parent Darden Restaurants Inc. have embraced the growing movement toward more eco-friendly seafood-buying practices. They are working with scientists and nonprofit groups to ensure the fish they buy is sustainable, meaning caught in a way that doesn't damage the ability of the species to reproduce. "We know if we go raping and pillaging it today, there's nothing left for tomorrow," says Ken Conrad, the owner of the chain of 10 Libby Hill seafood restaurants in North Carolina and Virginia and chairman of the National Fisheries Institute, a seafood-industry trade group. ...


This guy kinda lost me with the "raping" part.

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Mon, Jul 12, 2010
from Columbia University:
What's Killing Farmed Salmon? New Virus May Also Pose Risk to Wild Salmon
Farmed fish are an increasingly important food source, with a global harvest now at 110 million tons and growing at more than 8 percent a year. But epidemics of infectious disease threaten this vital industry, including one of its most popular products: farmed Atlantic salmon. Perhaps even more worrisome: these infections can spread to wild fish coming in close proximity to marine pens and fish escaping from them....Now, using cutting-edge molecular techniques, an international team led by W. Ian Lipkin, MD, the John Snow Professor of Epidemiology and director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, has found evidence that the disease may be caused by a previously unknown virus. The newly identified virus is related but distinct from previously known reoviruses, which are double-stranded RNA viruses that infect a wide range of vertebrates. ...


Nothing gets the blood flowing like "a previously unknown virus."

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Tue, Jul 6, 2010
from NASA:
Yellow Rust Damages Crops in the Middle East
After two years of crippling drought, things were starting to look up in the Middle East. The winter of 2009-2010 brought ample rain and warm temperatures to wheat-growing regions in northern Syria and Iraq and southern Turkey. A bumper crop seemed to be on the horizon. But the conditions that were good for plants were also good for plant diseases, and a severe infection of yellow rust developed.... Yellow rust does more than advance the timing of plant growth. As much as 50 percent of an infected wheat crop can be lost, and in severe cases, the entire crop may be lost, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service. In 2010, Syria anticipated a harvest 35 percent smaller than what it would have been without yellow rust. ...


Sadly, there are no Brillo pads for wheat.

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Sat, Jul 3, 2010
from IRIN:
AFRICA: Help out small farmers, report urges
Small-holder farmers, who make up almost all of Africa's agriculture sector, need more support to reduce over-dependence on increasingly costly food imports, states a new report. Policymakers should "strengthen the competitiveness of small-holder farmers, thus avoiding a rural exodus that would put pressure on the cities and lead to more food imports", according to the 2010 technology and innovation report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development.... Lack of organization is also a problem. "A small producer does not suffer due to size but due to isolation... If a hundred of you put your produce together you are much more likely to get a bigger market and better prices," said Oyelaran-Oyeyinka. Ethiopia recently launched a crop commodity exchange market to help farmers negotiate prices. ...


Let's ship 'em down some combines!

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Thu, Jul 1, 2010
from SciDev.net:
Algae trials test 'wonder food' status of spirulina
A blue-green algae rich in protein could help curb global malnutrition if a US$1.7 million cultivation project in Chad -- due to end in December -- proves successful. Dubbed a "miracle food" this cyanobacterium -- known as spirulina -- has been eaten around the world for centuries. Analyses by industry and university laboratories reveal that almost 70 per cent of its dry weight is protein. It also has a small environmental footprint, needs little water, and can be cultivated in salty conditions harmful to other crops.... "It might seem bitter at first, but you get used to it," said Hereta Taher, a spirulina grower from Chad. Another reason could be the lack of political interest. In Chad people drive up to six hours to buy spirulina 'cakes' from more than 1,500 women involved in its cultivation. Ousmane Issa Mara, a village chief in the north of Kanem region said the food is a miracle, giving energy and restoring appetites. ...


Soylent Blue-green is..... ALGAE!

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Thu, Jun 24, 2010
from EnvironmentalResearchWeb:
In elevated carbon dioxide, soybeans stumble but cheatgrass keeps on truckin'
The wildfires, he read, are more frequent - they now occur every few years instead of every few decades - and they are burning larger areas. The more intense fire cycle is fueled by cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), an invasive plant that is rapidly displacing native sagebrush plant communities. Schaefer, the Charles Allen Thomas Professor of Chemistry in Arts & Sciences, was intrigued. At home in St. Louis he was studying the response of soybeans to stressful growing conditions. Soybeans, frankly, were having trouble coping. What about cheatgrass, he wondered? The way it was mopping up the West suggested it might be running its metabolism differently from other plants. His hunch proved to be right. His results, published in the April 15 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, show that cheatgrass biochemistry is better suited to elevated carbon dioxide concentrations than soybean biochemistry. The research adds to a growing body of evidence challenging the idea that all plants will benefit from rising carbon dioxide levels. Some plants will be helped, but others will be harmed. ...


Hey, cheaters aren't supposed to win.

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Fri, Jun 11, 2010
from Bristol Bay Times:
Pollock show boost of bicarbonate in blood
No matter what you believe about climate change, ocean chemistry doesn't lie. Even toy store chemistry tests will show that the seas are becoming more acidic, and the off-kilter levels can have a scary impact on sea creatures: it dissolves them.... In tests on one-year old pollock at varying levels of pH, researchers at NOAA Fisheries Newport lab discovered that the fish seemed to compensate for increased [acidity] by boosting levels of bicarbonate in their blood.... "Even if they were absorbing it from sea water, that is energy they are spending on regulating pH that they are not spending on growth and reproduction and foraging," he added. "So either way there was likely an energetic cost to the fish."... The Whiskey Creek Hatchery in Oregon is a major producer of oyster spat for most of the West Coast. For the past two years, the hatchery has had almost complete loss of 10 billion oyster larvae due to acidic water flowing through the holding tanks, depending on the direction of the wind. ...


A new market! "Pollock, the pre-heartburn fish!"

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Thu, May 27, 2010
from IRIN:
Mutant wheat killer on the prowl
Just when scientists thought they had managed to curb a mutant fungus, Ug99, a variation of wheat stem rust, four new forms of the killer pathogen have surfaced in the last three years, posing a significant threat to the world's most consumed cereal. The newest mutation, or race, of Ug99 was discovered in 2009 in South Africa; another was found in the wheat-growing belt of South Africa's Western Cape Province in 2007, said Zak Pretorius, professor of plant pathology at University of the Free State.... The new mutations or "races" have acquired the ability to defeat two of the most important stem rust-resistant genes, used widely in most of the world's wheat breeding programmes. Singh said when the new race of Ug99 surfaced in Kenya, CIMMYT had to delay releasing new lines of wheat that had only one of the stem-rust resistant genes. ...


Wheat rust never sleeps.

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Mon, May 17, 2010
from Brown University, via EurekAlert:
Geologists show unprecedented warming in Lake Tanganyika
Lake Tanganyika, the second oldest and the second-deepest lake in the world, could be in for some rough waters. Geologists led by Brown University have determined the east African rift lake has experienced unprecedented warming during the last century, and its surface waters are the warmest on record. That finding is important, the scientists write in the journal Nature Geoscience, because the warm surface waters likely will affect fish stocks upon which millions of people in the region depend.... Lake Tanganyika, one of the richest freshwater ecosystems in the world, is divided into two general levels. Most of the animal species live in the upper 100 meters, including the valuable sardines. Below that, the lake holds less and less oxygen, and at certain depths, it is anoxic, meaning it has no oxygen at all. What this all means is the lake is highly stratified and depends on wind to churn the waters and send nutrients from the depths toward the surface as food for algae, which supports the entire food web of the lake. But as Lake Tanganyika warms, the mixing of waters is lessened, the scientists find, meaning less nutrients are funneled from the depths toward the surface. Worse, more warming at the surface magnifies the difference in density between the two levels; even more wind is needed to churn the waters enough to ferry the nutrients toward the fish-dwelling upper layer. ...


Isn't it time these darned scientists started reporting the good news?

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Sun, May 9, 2010
from Reuters:
U.S. schools add fresh food without busting budgets
Thousands of U.S. public school districts are teaming up with local farmers to put more fresh fruits and vegetables on lunchroom menus, without breaking budgets or getting any help from celebrity chefs. The schools are taking early steps toward adding more fresh and homemade foods as advocated by British chef Jamie Oliver, who led a campaign to improve school lunch in his country. But inexpensive, processed foods still dominate U.S. school menus. Proponents including U.S. President Barack Obama are pushing for a bigger investment in school meals that feed some of the country's neediest children. The aim is to establish healthier eating habits and curb obesity rates that are driving nearly $150 billion in medical costs each year. Nearly a third of U.S. children are obese or overweight and public health experts are warning that this generation of youth may be the first to live shorter lives than their parents. The problem is so severe it has caught the attention of the U.S. military. Last month, two retired generals said in a Washington Post column that being overweight or obese was now the top medical reason recruits were turned down for military service, and that obesity rates were threatening the future strength of the military. ...


How skinny do you have to be to push a button and launch a drone missile?

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Tue, Mar 23, 2010
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Rare animals are being 'eaten to extinction'
Research in the Congo Basin in Africa found more than three million tonnes of 'bush meat' is being extracted from the area every year, the equivalent of butchering 740,000 bull elephants. Most of the animals are small antelopes like blue duiker or rodents like the porcupine but larger mammals like monkeys and even gorillas are also taken.... But in a 500 million acre region of the Congo Basin stretching into eight countries, hunting has reached an unprecedented scale. Researchers from the Overseas Development Institute calculated that 3.4 million tonnes of bushmeat is removed every year from that area alone, equivalent to the weight of 40.7 million men. ...


The hunterier I go, the hungrier I get.

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Thu, Mar 18, 2010
from BBC:
Africans 'take blame for climate change'
Many Africans blame themselves for climate change even though fossil fuel emissions there are less than 4 percent of the global total, a new survey suggests. The report, the most extensive survey ever conducted on public understanding of the issue, found that others blamed God for changes in weather patterns.... It has become a well-worn truism of international climate politics that those that did the least to cause climate change are those set to suffer the most from it.... ...


As a Westerner, let me just say: mea maxima culpa! And, good luck!

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Mon, Mar 8, 2010
from IRIN:
Pakistan: Wheat rust threat rising
Experts say it is only a matter of time before wind carries a deadly wheat stem pathogen into Pakistan, the ninth largest wheat producing nation in the world. Known as Ug99, the disease could potentially decimate the country's highly vulnerable wheat crop and cause a huge food security problem. "There is a real possibility that winds could move the pathogen directly into southern Pakistan from Yemen or even the Horn of Africa. Realistically, I believe it is only a matter of time before Ug99 or variants appear in Pakistan," said David Hodson of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Wheat Rust Disease Global Programme. ...


I know! Let's geoengineer our wind patterns to fix the problem!

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Mon, Feb 8, 2010
from Chicago Tribune:
Chicago schools pile up lunch waste
...Every day, kids in the Chicago Public Schools district throw out nearly a quarter of a million lunch and breakfast trays made of polystyrene foam. That's more than 1 million a week, about 5 million a month. And those trays are just the start of a river of trash from school meals that ends up in landfills, including nacho-stained containers, half-empty milk cartons, plastic cookie wrappers and plastic tubs that will sit in thick polyethylene bags for centuries without biodegrading. The Prosser students, led by biology teacher Marnie Ware, found their Belmont-Cragin-area school created 1,500 pounds of cafeteria garbage a day over five periods, including breakfast. ...


Whatever happened to edible dishes.

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Fri, Jan 29, 2010
from Mongabay:
Will it be possible to feed nine billion people sustainably?
Sometime around 2050 researchers estimate that the global population will level-out at nine billion people, adding over two billion more people to the planet. Since, one billion of the world's population (more than one in seven) are currently going hungry -- the largest number in all of history -- scientists are struggling with how, not only to feed those who are hungry today, but also the additional two billion that will soon grace our planet. ...


We can do it -- especially if we are willing to BE food.

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Fri, Jan 15, 2010
from London Independent:
Voodoo wasps that could save the world
They are so small that most people have never even seen them, yet "voodoo wasps" are about to be recruited big time in the war on agricultural pests as part of the wider effort to boost food production in the 21st century. The wasps are only 1 or 2 millimetres long fully-grown but they have an ability to paralyse and destroy other insects, including many of the most destructive crop pests, by delivering a zombie-inducing venom in their sting... The researchers have decoded the full genomes of three species of parasitic wasp, which could lead to the development of powerful new ways of deploying these tiny insects against the vast range of pests that destroy billions of tonnes of valuable crops each year. ...


Genetics is a kind of voodoo, isn't it?

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Tue, Dec 29, 2009
from National Geographic News:
Africa-wide 'Great Green Wall' to Halt Sahara's Spread?
China built its famous Great Wall to keep out marauders. Now, millennia later, a "Great Green Wall" may rise in Africa to deter another, equally relentless invader: sand. The proposed wall of trees would stretch from Senegal to Djibouti as part of a plan to thwart the southward spread of the Sahara.... In many central and West African countries surrounding the Sahara, climate change has slowed rainfall to a trickle, according to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Crops have died and soils have eroded -- crippling local agriculture. If the trend continues, the UN forecasts that two-thirds of Africa's farmland may be swallowed by Saharan sands by 2025... ...


Now, if we can just keep this wall from being deforested!

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Sat, Dec 26, 2009
from Deutsche Welle:
Food waste turns stomachs in environmental circles
Christmas has become a traditional time for over indulgence in Western countries. The holiday season seems to provide everyone with an excuse to eat and drink to excess. Supermarkets burst with sweet treats and a mind-boggling selection of festive fare. While most of it will be ingested, more than a third of food in Europe and the United States will grow moldy fur in the back of the fridge, pass its use-by date and land in garbage.... Experts believe that much of the responsibility for reducing food waste rests with the manufacturers. The food industry must find ways to reduce waste throughout the production and supply chain, and find ways to redistribute finished food products and reuse by-products of the production process. ...


Plus, I can let a hungry human live in my fridge and eat my leftovers!

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Fri, Nov 27, 2009
from Science:
Americans' Eating Habits More Wasteful Than Ever
After their biggest meal of the year, Americans might reflect on the fate of those moldering Thanksgiving leftovers. Nearly 40 percent of the food supply in the United States goes to waste, according to a new study, and the problem has been getting worse. "The numbers are pretty shocking," says Kevin Hall, a quantitative physiologist at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) in Bethesda, Maryland.... Much of the waste is probably happening at home, say experts. A study published earlier this year by Jeffery Sobal, a sociologist at Cornell University, and colleagues examined food waste in Tompkins County, New York, through interviews. They found that production accounted for 20 percent of waste, distribution for about another 20 percent, and consumers for the remaining 60 percent. "Food waste used to be a cultural sin," Sobal says. ...


Now, apparently, food waste is a virtue.

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Sat, Nov 21, 2009
from Genetics Society of America, via EurekAlert:
New discovery may lead to heartier, high-yielding plants
In a research report published in the November 2009 issue of the journal GENETICS (http://www.genetics.org), scientists show how a family of genes (1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylate synthase, or ACS genes) are responsible for production of ethylene. This gas affects many aspects of plant development, and this information lays the foundation for future genetic manipulation that could make plants disease resistant, able to survive and thrive in difficult terrain, increase yields, and other useful agronomical outcomes.... "Ethylene gas is best known for causing fruit to ripen," said Mark Johnston, Editor-in-Chief of the journal GENETICS, "but the molecule is critical to development and growth of plants. By revealing how plants regulate the amount of ethylene they produce, this study gives scientists an entirely new genetic approach for developing heartier, more productive crops. This is becoming increasingly important as our planet warms and our population grows." ...


Go GMO, or the starving kid dies.

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Thu, Nov 5, 2009
from Daily Climate:
Rapid change threatens foundations of human health
Rapid changes already underway to the Earth's climate, ecosystems and land cover threaten the health of billions, undermining key human life-support systems and threatening the core foundations of healthy communities worldwide, according to a new report released Wednesday. There's been this extraordinary ballooning of the whole human enterprise. When you put climate change on top of that, we're looking at further destabilization of an already tenuous situation between people and their life-support systems. The disruption represents the greatest public health challenge of the 21st century and leaves poor populations mostly in developing nations most vulnerable – even though they contribute the least to many of the problems... The report outlines a series of public health threats – food and water scarcity, altered distribution of infectious diseases, increased air pollution, natural disasters, and population displacement – that collectively threaten large segments of the human population. ...


Thy shit is on a sure trajectory, fan-ward.

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Thu, Oct 22, 2009
from London Times:
Four-year drought pushes 23 million Africans to brink of starvation
...A four-year drought has pushed as many as 23 million people to the brink of starvation across East Africa, making it the worst in a decade or more. Close to four million of those at risk are in Kenya, where one person in ten survives on emergency rations. Last week clouds gathered over much of the country, but the rains have come too late to bring much relief. Aid agencies have warned that with them will come flooding, cholera, malaria and hypothermia. In the arid north, pastoralists have watched as their cattle collapsed from exhaustion and thirst, and those that survive now face floods. The people are scarcely holding on and the number of armed skirmishes over water and livestock is rising. ...


When it comes to the Apocalypse... if it's not one thing... it's another.

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Fri, Oct 9, 2009
from New York Times:
Report on Future Fish Catches: everything will be okay, just different
Global warming will not necessarily change the amount of fish caught half a century from now, but it will shift catches away from the tropics toward the poles, researchers reported. The researchers, from the University of British Columbia and elsewhere, used a computer model including environmental factors and data on 1,066 fish species ranging from sharks to shrimplike creatures at the bottom of the food chain. Together those species accounted for most of the world's catch from 2000 to 2004. The findings were reported in the journal Global Change Biology. By 2055, the scientists predicted, countries like China, Chile, Indonesia and the United States (excepting Alaska and Hawaii) will see catches decline, while catches off Alaska, Greenland, Norway and Russia will rise. ...


Make that two orders of shark-fin soup!

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Wed, Oct 7, 2009
from Dick Jones Communication, via EurekAlert:
Water scarcity will create global security concerns
"Up to 1.2 billion people in Asia, 250 million Africans and 81 million Latin Americans will be exposed to increased water stress by 2020," Pachauri says. Water shortages have an enormous impact of human health, including malnutrition, pathogen or chemical loading, infectious disease from water contamination, and uncontrolled water reuse.... "A technological society has two choices," Pachauri says. "It can wait until catastrophic failures expose systemic deficiencies, distortion and self-deceptions, or the culture can provide social checks and balances to correct for systemic distortion prior to catastrophic failures."... "A major mitigation would only postpone growth domestic product growth by one year at most over the medium term. That's not a high price to pay for the world." ...


Before implementing "major mitigation," you have to believe in the "theory of science." Oh, and have political will.

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Fri, Sep 25, 2009
from The Economist:
A catastrophe is looming
THIS year's drought is the worst in east Africa since 2000, and possibly since 1991. Famine stalks the land. The failure of rains in parts of Ethiopia may increase the number needing food handouts by 5m, in addition to the 8m already getting them, in a population of 80m... In Mwingi district, in Kenya's Kamba region, the crops have totally failed. Villagers are surviving on monthly government handouts of maize-meal, rice and a little cooking oil. Worse than the hunger, say local leaders, is the thirst. People are digging wells by hand, but they hit rock... Meteorologists reckon the rains due in October and November will be heavier than usual. That would be good, if the east African authorities were prepared. But they are not. Mud slides and floods are likely, with streams and rivers carrying off the topsoil. Malaria and cholera may increase. Surviving cattle, weakened by drought, will drown or die of cold. ...


Afrocalypse!

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Thu, Sep 24, 2009
from TIME Magazine:
How Much Human Activity Can Earth Handle?
...as human population has exploded over the past few thousand years, the delicate ecological balance that kept the Long Summer going has become threatened. The rise of industrialized agriculture has thrown off Earth's natural nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, leading to pollution on land and water, while our fossil-fuel addiction has moved billions of tons of carbon from the land into the atmosphere, heating the climate ever more. Now a new article in the Sept. 24 issue of Nature says the safe climatic limits in which humanity has blossomed are more vulnerable than ever and that unless we recognize our planetary boundaries and stay within them, we risk total catastrophe....Stay within the lines, and we might just be all right. ...


Humans just aren't all that good at staying within the lines...

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Thu, Sep 24, 2009
from Agence France-Presse:
World will need 70 percent more food in 2050: FAO
World food production must increase by 70 percent by 2050, to nourish a human population then likely to be 9.1 billion, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation forecast Wednesday... "Nearly all of the population growth will occur in developing countries. Sub-Saharan Africa's population is expected to grow the fastest (up 108 percent, 910 million people), and East and South East Asia's the slowest (up 11 percent, 228 million). "Around 70 percent of the world population will live in cities or urban areas by 2050, up from 49 percent today," the document said. The demand for food is expected to grow as a result of rising incomes as well as population growth, the discussion paper added. ...


I'll be really old and stringy... but I volunteer!

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Tue, Sep 8, 2009
from New Scientist:
Barcodes will (eventually) stop bushmeat from being swiped
Science is gradually making the work of illegal bushmeat traders more difficult. The DNA "ID tags" of African red river hog and 13 other species of illegally traded bushmeat animals have been added to an online database, making it more straightforward for conservationists to check the provenance of meat at markets. The Barcode of Life database already contains the barcodes of thousands of species, but the biologists hope the new additions – which also include the spectacled caiman and the slender-snouted crocodile -- will start a "bushmeat chapter" in the database.... "Legally, if you want to take someone to court and prosecute them for selling bushmeat, you have to have genetic evidence to back you up so having a library of barcodes for illegally killed animals is an essential first step," says Mark Stoeckle, a DNA barcoding expert at the Rockefeller University in New York. "That said, sequencing DNA takes time and money and you need a lab to do it, so we're still a long way off from instant species identification." ...


I suspect that instant DNA analysis is unlikely in the remote village markets.

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Mon, Sep 7, 2009
from PNAS, via NCSU:
U.S. Crop Yields Could Wilt in Heat
Yields of three of the most important crops produced in the United States -- corn, soybeans and cotton -- are predicted to fall off a cliff if temperatures rise due to climate change.... [They] predict that U.S. crop yields could decrease by 30 to 46 percent over the next century under slow global warming scenarios, and by a devastating 63 to 82 percent under the most rapid global warming scenarios.... The study shows that crop yields tick up gradually between roughly 10 and 30 degrees Celsius, or about 50 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. But when temperature levels go over 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 degrees Fahrenheit) for corn, 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) for soybeans and 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 degrees Fahrenheit) for cotton, yields fall steeply. ...


How will I get my morning Post Toasties?

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Sat, Sep 5, 2009
from Guardian (UK):
Kenyan drought becomes devastating
Kenya, a land more than twice the size of Britain, is everywhere parched. Whole towns such as Moyale with more than 10,000 people are now desperate for water. The huge public reservoir in this regional centre has been empty for months and, according to Molu Duka Sora, local director of the government's Arid Lands programme, all the major boreholes in the vast semi-desert area are failing one by one. Earlier this year, more than 50 people died of cholera in Moyale. It is widely believed that it came from animals and humans sharing ever scarcer water. Food prices have doubled across Kenya. A 20-litre jerrycan of poor quality water has quadrupled in price. Big game is dying in large numbers in national parks, and electricity has had to be rationed, affecting petrol and food supplies. For the first time in generations there are cows on the streets of Nairobi as nomads like Isaac come to the suburbs with their herds to feed on the verges of roads. Violence has increased around the country as people go hungry. "The scarcity of water is becoming a nightmare. Rivers are drying up, and the way temperatures are changing we are likely to get into more problems," said Professor Richard Odingo, the Kenyan vice-chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). ...


They haven't enough water for tears.

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Wed, Aug 26, 2009
from Reuters, via DesdemonaDespair:
Illegal fishing evades U.N. crackdown
Illegal fishing is depleting the seas and robbing poor nations in Africa and Asia of resources, but a lack of global cooperation is undermining efforts to track rogue vessels, an environmental group said on Tuesday. The Pew Environment Group, a Washington-based think-tank, has found that a United Nations scheme to oblige ports to crack down on illegal fishing boats is handicapped by a lack of accurate information, implementation and participation.... Pew estimates that a fifth of all fish landed come from illegal, unregulated or unreported vessels -- and this figure rises to around half for valuable species like blue fin tuna. ...


Let them eat kelp.

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Tue, Aug 25, 2009
from North Carolina State University, via EurekAlert:
US crop yields could wilt in heat
Yields of three of the most important crops produced in the United States -- corn, soybeans and cotton -- are predicted to fall off a cliff if temperatures rise due to climate change.... The study shows that crop yields tick up gradually between roughly 10 and 30 degrees Celsius, or about 50 to 86 degrees Farenheit. But when temperature levels go over 29 degrees Celsius (84.2 degrees Farenheit) for corn, 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Farenheit) for soybeans and 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 degrees Farenheit) for cotton, yields fall steeply. "While crop yields depend on a variety of factors, extreme heat is the best predictor of yields," Roberts says. "There hasn't been much research on what happens to crop yields over certain temperature thresholds, but this study shows that temperature extremes are not good." ...


Then what -- refrigerated greenhouses?

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Sat, Aug 22, 2009
from London Financial Times:
Kenya hit by mass hunger and water shortage
The number of Kenyans in urgent need of food aid has jumped by over 50 per cent to nearly 4m, according to official figures, as the country is hit by mass hunger as well as shortages of power and water. The immediate cause of the three-fold crisis is a prolonged drought, but critics of Kenya’s dysfunctional coalition government blame it for failing to mitigate the drought’s effects, in spite of clear warning signs. The government was already facing public discontent over its failure to implement political reforms pledged after last year’s post-election crisis, but the real-life impact of the food, water and power shortages is fuelling the anger. ...


A "dysfunctional government"... sounds awfully familiar!

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Fri, Aug 21, 2009
from Guardian (UK):
Nile Delta: 'We are going underwater. The sea will conquer our lands'
Two years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared Egypt's Nile Delta to be among the top three areas on the planet most vulnerable to a rise in sea levels, and even the most optimistic predictions of global temperature increase will still displace millions of Egyptians from one of the most densely populated regions on earth. The Delta spills out from the northern stretches of the capital into 10,000 square miles of farmland fed by the Nile's branches. It is home to two-thirds of the country's rapidly growing population, and responsible for more than 60 percent of its food supply: Egypt relies unconditionally on it for survival. But with its 270km of coastline lying at a dangerously low elevation (large parts are between zero and 1m above sea level, with some areas lying below it), any melting of the polar ice caps could see its farmland and cities -- including the historical port of Alexandria -- transformed into an ocean floor. A 1m rise in the sea level, which many experts think likely within the next 100 years, will cause 20 percent of the Delta to go underwater. ...


Denial is a river delta in Egypt, baby!

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Thu, Aug 20, 2009
from IRIN News (UN):
Kenya: Massive crop failure in 'grain basket'
Two months before harvest time, the maize in Kenya's Rift Valley should be tall, lush and green, bursting with life. Instead, crops in the province's Lare division are stunted, barren fields of parched browns and pallid yellows. The area, local farmers say, has experienced three years of erratic rainfall. This year, however, has been "a nightmare" ... "I do not expect to harvest anything, yet I used a lot of money to prepare my land and plant maize and beans earlier this year," the 70-year-old farmer said.... "Overall, we expect at least 95 percent maize crop failure across the larger Nakuru areas; only areas such as Weseges in Nakuru North may see some maize harvests," said Stephen Muriithi, the Nakuru district agricultural officer.... To cope with the food crisis, the vulnerable communities have resorted to reducing the number and size of meals per day; restricting adult consumption to allow more for children; consuming seed stock; taking children out of school to help search for food; engaging in casual labour; relying on remittances; using part of the resettlement money to open up land; ploughing more than 90 percent of available arable land for crop production; and building residential units on farms for income. In other parts of the country, substantial crop failure in the southeastern and coastal marginal cropping lowlands is expected to lead to deepening food insecurity, said the assessment. ...


Don't forget: all you need is persistence and a dream, to succeed.

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Mon, Aug 17, 2009
from London Guardian:
Asia facing unprecedented food shortage, UN report says
Asia faces an unprecedented food crisis and huge social unrest unless hundreds of billions of dollars are invested in better irrigation systems to grow crops for its burgeoning population, according to a UN report published today. India, China, Pakistan and other large countries avoided famines in the 1970s and 1980s only because they built giant state-sponsored irrigation systems and introduced better seeds and fertilisers. But the extra 1.5 billion people expected to live on the continent by 2050 will double Asia's demand for food, says the report from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Bank-funded International Water Management Institute (IWMI). A combination of very little new land left for cultivation, an increasingly unpredictable climate and water supplies stretched to the limit means the only realistic option to feed people in the future will be better management of existing water supplies, according to the report. ...


Maybe that population should reconsider its plan to burgeon.

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Mon, Aug 17, 2009
from IRIN News (UN):
Somalia: Drought fuelling rural exodus in Somaliland
"We know that hundreds of thousands have [been] displaced to urban centres," said Abdihakim Garaad Mohamoud, Deputy Minister at the Somaliland Ministry of Resettlement, Reintegration and Rehabilitation. "Every city in Somaliland has a huge number of displaced people because of the recent drought," he added. "It has affected 60 percent of the rural population, whether they are pastoralists or agro-pastoralists. From east to west, south to north, every place in Somaliland has been affected." "Sixty percent of animals have been lost. One [man] who had 200 sheep has lost 110-120, and one who had 20 camels lost half." ...


I'll think about that while I drive to the grocery store to pick up some AquaFina!

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Mon, Aug 3, 2009
from Glasgow Sunday Herald:
The seven terrors of the world
The world is facing a series of interlinked crises which threatens billions of people and could cause the collapse of civilisation, according to an international report out this week. Climate pollution, food shortages, diseases, wars, disasters, crime and the recession are all conspiring to ravage the globe and threaten the future of humanity, it warns. Democracy, human rights and press freedom are also suffering. The report, called 2009 State Of The Future, has been compiled by the Millennium Project, an international think-tank based in Washington DC, and involved 2700 experts from 30 countries. "Half the world appears vulnerable to social instability and violence," the report says. "This is due to rising unemployment and decreasing food, water and energy supplies, coupled with the disruptions caused by global warming and mass migrations." ...


Let's add an 8th terror: stories like this!

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Tue, Jul 28, 2009
from Toronto Star:
Arctic's 'canary in a coal mine'
Without a microscope, most plankton are easy to miss. And when the tiny marine creatures do come into focus, they aren't much to look at. Until you peer closer, and listen to what they have to say. Way down near the bottom of the oceans' food chain, animals known as zooplankton drift on the currents, feeding on each other, eating still lower life forms such as bacteria and viruses, or in most cases, grazing on microscopic plant life, called phytoplankton. As tiny, and as hard to love, as plankton are, scientists studying them say that if global warming makes things go bad for these organisms, the pain will run all the way up the food chain to humans. ...


Arrrgghh, matey. We'll be forced to walk the plankton!

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Sat, Jul 25, 2009
from New York Times:
An Amazon Culture Withers as Food Dries Up
Deforestation and, some scientists contend, global climate change are making the Amazon region drier and hotter, decimating fish stocks in this area and imperiling the Kamayura's very existence. Like other small indigenous cultures around the world with little money or capacity to move, they are struggling to adapt to the changes.... Chief Kotok, who like all of the Kamayura people goes by only one name, said that men can now fish all night without a bite in streams where fish used to be abundant; they safely swim in lakes previously teeming with piranhas. Responsible for 3 wives, 24 children and hundreds of other tribe members, he said his once-idyllic existence had turned into a kind of bad dream. "I'm stressed and anxious -- this has all changed so quickly, and life has become very hard," he said in Portuguese, speaking through an interpreter. "As a chief, I have to have vision and look down the road, but I don't know what will happen to my children and grandchildren." ...


Hey, downturns happen. AMZN stock will rise -- just sell more books!

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Sun, Jul 5, 2009
from Guardian (UK):
Fears for the world's poor countries as the rich grab land to grow food
The acquisition of farmland from the world's poor by rich countries and international corporations is accelerating at an alarming rate, with an area half the size of Europe's farmland targeted in the last six months, reports from UN officials and agriculture experts say. New reports from the UN and analysts in India, Washington and London estimate that at least 30m hectares is being acquired to grow food for countries such as China and the Gulf states who cannot produce enough for their populations. According to the UN, the trend is accelerating and could severely impair the ability of poor countries to feed themselves. Today it emerged that world leaders are to discuss what is being described as "land grabbing" or "neo-colonialism" at the G8 meeting next week. A spokesman for Japan's ministry of foreign affairs confirmed that it would raise the issue: "We feel there should be a code of conduct for investment in farmland that will be a win-win situation for both producing and consuming countries," he said. ...


The win-win will be for a) shipping, and b) armed-guard full employment.

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Sun, Jun 21, 2009
from AP, Philly.com:
UN: World hunger reaches 1 billion mark
The global financial meltdown has pushed the ranks of the world's hungry to a record 1 billion, a grim milestone that poses a threat to peace and security, U.N. food officials said Friday. Because of war, drought, political instability, high food prices and poverty, hunger now affects one in six people, by the United Nations' estimate. The financial meltdown has compounded the crisis in what the head of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization called a "devastating combination for the world's most vulnerable." Compared with last year, there are 100 million more people who are hungry, meaning they consume fewer than 1,800 calories a day, the agency said. "No part of the world is immune," FAO's Director-General Jacques Diouf said. "All world regions have been affected by the rise of food insecurity." ...


Does that balance out the 1 billion obese people in the world?

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Sat, Jun 20, 2009
from IRIN News (UN):
Uganda: Food crisis feared as subsistence farmers sell produce
Food shortages in parts of Uganda are approaching crisis level after subsistence farmers sold their produce for cash, officials said on 18 June. The government has made immediate food relief distributions in the most affected areas. "We are still assessing the situation, but initial indications point to an acute food shortage and [the] government has resorted to immediate food relief distribution, earmarking 10 billion shillings [US $5 million] to purchase food for those areas that are in bad shape," Tarsis Kabwegyere, the disaster preparedness minister, said.... "Our problem has been the long [dry] spell that has burnt down crops planted this season," Esther Oboma, a returnee at Bibia village, said. "It's worrying because most crops have dried up; all my groundnuts, maize, beans and millet are all stunted." ...


That's what Donald Trump told us: cash is king in a recession.

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Sat, Jun 6, 2009
from Alternet:
California's Water Woes Threaten the Entire Country's Food Supply
...Here are some not-so-fun facts: California's agricultural sector grows approximately one-third of the nation's food supply and is nourished by diverted rivers and streams filled yearly by runoff from its prodigious Sierra Nevada snowpack, as well as groundwater pumping and other less-reliable methods. That snowpack -- which once sparked the first, but not the last, water war that helped transform a semi-arid Los Angeles into an unsustainable oasis less populous than only New York City -- is disappearing fast...To make matters worse, a crushing drought, now well into its third year, has made simply everything problematic. In California's central valley, home to a majority of the state's agricultural output, farmers are leaving hundreds of thousands of acres fallow, and the resultant economic depression is having a domino effect that could cost California $1 billion to start and is causing residents of a one-time food powerhouse to go hungry. ...


"An unsustainable oasis"... sounds like planet Earth to me!

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Thu, Jun 4, 2009
from IRIN News (UN):
AFRICA: Camel farming could be the answer
Camel farming could be an option for some 20 million to 35 million people living on semi-arid land in Africa, who will soon be unable to grow crops because of climate change, says the co-author of a new study. By 2050, hotter conditions and less rainfall in an area covering 500,000 sq km to one million sq km of marginal farmland -- about the size of Egypt -- would make it harder for people grow crops.... Various climate projections have indicated that the length of the reliable growing season on the affected land would drop below 90 days, making it impossible to cultivate maize -- the staple food in much of Africa -- and in some places even "drought-tolerant crops, such as millet" would be difficult to grow. ...


Camelburgers, anyone?

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Sun, May 17, 2009
from National Geographic:
The Global Food Crisis
It is the simplest, most natural of acts, akin to breathing and walking upright. We sit down at the dinner table, pick up a fork, and take a juicy bite, obliv­ious to the double helping of global ramifications on our plate. Our beef comes from Iowa, fed by Nebraska corn. Our grapes come from Chile, our bananas from Honduras, our olive oil from Sicily, our apple juice—not from Washington State but all the way from China. Modern society has relieved us of the burden of growing, harvesting, even preparing our daily bread, in exchange for the burden of simply paying for it. Only when prices rise do we take notice. And the consequences of our inattention are profound....High prices are the ultimate signal that demand is outstripping supply, that there is simply not enough food to go around. Such agflation hits the poorest billion people on the planet the hardest, since they typically spend 50 to 70 percent of their income on food. Even though prices have fallen with the imploding world economy, they are still near record highs, and the underlying problems of low stockpiles, rising population, and flattening yield growth remain. Climate change -- with its hotter growing seasons and increasing water scarcity -- is projected to reduce future harvests in much of the world, raising the specter of what some scientists are now calling a perpetual food crisis. ...


Sounds like it's time to stock up on the Poptarts!

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Thu, May 14, 2009
from Toronto Star:
High food prices pushing world to tipping point
Food riots undermining poor countries' governments. Millions of starving refugees fleeing war zones. Droughts of dangerous proportions overtaking already hungry people. At a time of sharp economic downturn, the world's poorest have been hit with a triple whammy. The head of the global agency that feeds the hungriest says problems are escalating because of a spike in food prices unaffected by the crash in the cost of commodities. "For the first time in human history one out of every six people on the planet is going to bed hungry," said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the $5 billion annual United Nations World Food Program. The largely silent humanitarian crisis, Sheeran says, is often caused by local markets that have created dire shortages. "Over the past five years when food prices were going up, national (food) purchase budgets were not. That drew down the stocks, and they became dangerously low around the world." ...


Please stop the sound of stomachs growling!

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Thu, May 14, 2009
from London Times:
Professor Anthony Costello: climate change biggest threat to humans
Climate change poses the biggest threat to human health in the 21st century but its full impact is not being grasped by the healthcare community or policymakers, a medical report concludes. The report, compiled by a commission of academics from University College London and published in The Lancet, warns that climate change risks huge death tolls caused by disease, food and water shortages and poor sanitation. The authors said that the NHS would face serious incremental pressures from heat and hygiene-related illnesses because of increasingly hot summers, greater pathogen spread with warmer temperatures, and the heightened risk of flooding. ...


An even bigger threat... than Godzilla?!

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Tue, Apr 7, 2009
from Wall Street Journal:
Study Finds High Obesity Rates in U.S. 4-Year-Olds
A striking new study says almost one in five American 4-year-olds is obese, and the rate is alarmingly higher among American Indian children, with nearly one-third of them obese. Researchers were surprised to see differences by race at so early an age. Overall, more than half a million 4-year-olds are obese, the study suggests. Obesity is more common in Hispanic and black youngsters, too, but the disparity is most startling in American Indians, whose rate is almost double that of whites. The lead author said that rate is worrisome among children so young, even in a population at higher risk for obesity because of other health problems and economic disadvantages. ...


Humans getting fatter... Arctic ice getting thinner... Is there a connection here?

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Wed, Mar 25, 2009
from Oregon State University, via EurekAlert:
New wheat disease could spread faster than expected
These historical studies of both plant and animal diseases show that some pathogens that can be carried through the air can actually accelerate as they move, and can become widespread problems much faster than had been thought possible.... ["T]his new study confirms that it is crucial to get prepared for the rapid spread of a new variety of wheat stem rust that appeared in Uganda in 1999." That new type of wheat stem rust, Mundt said, has the potential to attack 75 percent of the world's known wheat varieties, and in a bad year might cause up to 50 percent crop losses in some parts of the world. ...


[--] and butter, [--] and chocolate... please, Lord, give us this day our daily [--].

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Tue, Mar 24, 2009
from London Times:
Billion people face famine by mid-century, says top US scientist
Famines affecting a billion people will threaten global food security during the 21st century, according to a leading US scientist. Nina Fedoroff, the US State Department chief scientist, is convinced that food shortages will be the biggest challenge facing the world as temperatures and population levels rise. Food security in the coming years, she said, is "a huge problem" that has been met with little more than complacency. "We are asleep at the switch," she said.... Dr Fedoroff, who advises Hillary Clinton, said famines that strike a billion people are quite possible in a world where climate change has damaged food production and the human population has risen to nine billion. ...


They won't have any water either -- so at least it's even!

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Thu, Mar 19, 2009
from New Scientist:
Fish numbers drop as reefs take a bashing
The battering taken by Caribbean coral reefs is finally taking its toll on the fish that dwell in them, a large new study suggests. "We are seeing striking declines that are amazingly consistent across a huge area and very different types of fish," says Michelle Paddack of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada. "The losses affect both large fish that are hunted by fishers and small fish that aren't."... Starting from the mid 1990s, in all regions covered by the studies, fish numbers have fallen by between 2.7 and 6 percent per year. Paddack suspects that as well as overfishing, coral demise from disease and bleaching is to blame, together with pollution from coastal development. ...


I say we just hoover them all up and start over. Let evolution sort 'em out.

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Thu, Mar 19, 2009
from BusinessGreen:
Chief scientist warns of 'perfect storm' for resource shortages by 2030
The UK's chief scientist will today warn that political and business leaders have just 20 years to prepare for a "perfect storm" of climate change-related impacts on food, water and energy supplies or risk public unrest, conflict and mass migration.... According to Beddington, demand for food and energy will increase 50 per cent by 2030, while demand for fresh water will rise 30 per cent as the population grows to top 8.3 billion. At the same time, climate change is expected to result in falling levels of agricultural productivity and water shortages across many hot regions, leading to mass migration and increased risks of cross-border conflict. ...


Isn't the human race "too big to fail"?

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Fri, Mar 6, 2009
from Port Elizabeth Herald:
Starvation a likely outcome of climate change in Africa
The global community is failing to meet the threat of climate change, says the chairman of the international body researching and tracking the climate change phenomena, Dr Rajendra Pachauri. Addressing the National Climate Change Summit here on a video clip, Pachauri, of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said things had gone backwards since the first global commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 16 years ago. "Despite that commitment, between 1970 and 2004 emissions rose 70 per cent, and carbon dioxide alone rose 80 percent." ... Focusing on Africa, Pachauri said the prediction for some countries was that, as early as 2020, agricultural yield would drop by up to 50 percent. "In most cases, these are countries where people are already suffering from malnutrition, so this will exacerbate that suffering." Also by 2020, largely as a result of climate change, it is expected that between 75 million and 250 million people across the continent will be suffering from "water stress" -- a shortage of drinkable water. ...


Might be time to upgrade to a new continent.

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Sun, Mar 1, 2009
from Associated Press:
Part of Lone Star State now driest region in the nation
LUBBOCK -- Central Texas cattle raiser Gerry Shudde remembers Texas' drought of record in the 1950s when his family's ranch sometimes got a couple of 4-inch rainfalls a year. But the drought ongoing now is far different. "This is just cut off completely," the 74-year-old rancher said. "In a lot of ways, it's worse." Across the nation's No. 2 agricultural state, drought conditions are evaporating stock tanks, keeping many crop farmers from planting into long-parched soil, forcing cattle producers to cull their herds, and dropping water levels in state lakes. Despite hurricanes Dolly, Gustav and Ike soaking Texas in 2008, almost every part of the state -- nearly 97 percent -- is experiencing some drought, according to the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor map, released Feb. 26. ...


Can I still wash my car?

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Fri, Feb 27, 2009
from New York Times:
Worst Drought in Half Century Shrivels the Wheat Belt of China
a long rainless stretch has underscored the urgency of water problems in a region that grows three-fifths of China’s crops and houses more than two-fifths of its people — but gets only one-fifth as much rain as the rest of the country.... Normally, the new land he was offered lies under more than 20 feet of water, part of the Luhun Reservoir in Henan Province. But this winter, Luhun has lost most of its water. And what was once lake bottom has become just another field of winter wheat, stunted for want of rain. Water supplies have been drying up in Northern China for decades, the result of pervasive overuse and waste. Aquifers have been so depleted that in some farming regions, wells probe a half-mile down before striking water. ...


Was this "dry lake bottom" I feel in my mouth once my salivary glands?

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Tue, Feb 24, 2009
from SciDev.net:
China's water deficit 'will create food shortage'
A leading climate change expert has warned that water shortage is the greatest threat to China's agricultural sector this century, amid a drought across the country. As demand for water continues to rise and less is available for agriculture, "China will see a food shortfall of 5-10 per cent -- a disastrous outcome in a country of 1.3 billion people -- unless effective and timely measures are taken," said Lin Erda, one of China's top climate change experts and leader of a joint China-UK project, 'Impacts of Climate Change on Chinese Agriculture'.... When the current episode of drought reached its peak in early February it was affecting 1.6 million hectares of farmland in at least 12 provinces in northern China -- considered the country's breadbasket. Thanks to snow and rainfall last week the affected area has dropped to 497,000 hectares across eight provinces. ...


Oh good... the breadbasket's only 1/3 empty.

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Sat, Feb 14, 2009
from Wall Street Journal:
Shrinking Water Supplies Imperil Farmers
The state's water supply has dropped precipitously of late. California is locked in the third year of one of its worst droughts on record, with reservoirs holding as little as 22 percent of capacity.... At the Harris Farms near Coalinga, managers said they plan this year to sideline 9,000 of 11,000 acres they used to plant with tomatoes, onions, broccoli and other vegetables. Harris has been reducing production for two years because of declining water, and now must cut even more than planned. "You feel like a general in a battle," said John Harris, chairman and chief executive of the business. "You're in constant retreat."... In the Modesto metropolitan area, housing prices have declined 55 percent... ...


"Constant retreat" may be the new refrain in the war on nature.

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Wed, Feb 11, 2009
from Vietnam.net:
Urbanisation threatens food security
Since 2001 the area under crops has dropped from more than 4.3 million ha to 4.13 million ha, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. In 2007 alone, the area under rice shrank by 125,000 ha, as authorities tried to restructure crop patterns and develop the services and industrial sectors and urban sprawl overran surrounding areas. Farmlands are forecast to continue shrinking as they are appropriated for non-agricultural purposes. ...


How long can that trend continue? Will farmers become the new dot.commers?

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Wed, Feb 4, 2009
from London Guardian:
Biofuels more harmful to humans than petrol and diesel, warn scientists
Some biofuels cause more health problems than petrol and diesel, according to scientists who have calculated the health costs associated with different types of fuel. The study shows that corn-based bioethanol, which is produced extensively in the US, has a higher combined environmental and health burden than conventional fuels. However, there are high hopes for the next generation of biofuels, which can be made from organic waste or plants grown on marginal land that is not used to grow foods. They have less than half the combined health and environmental costs of standard gasoline and a third of current biofuels.... Using computer models developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the researchers found the total environmental and health costs of gasoline are about 71 cents (50p) per gallon, while an equivalent amount of corn-ethanol fuel has associated costs of 72 cents to $1.45, depending on how it is produced. The next generation of so-called cellulosic bioethanol fuels costs 19 cents to 32 cents, depending on the technology and type of raw materials used. These are experimental fuels made from woody crops that typically do not compete with conventional agriculture. The results are published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ...


'Scuse me, I wasn't listening as I was too busy spreading margarine on my Nutrasweet-flavored hopes and dreams.

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Sun, Feb 1, 2009
from London Times:
Plight of the humble bee
Native British bees are dying out -- and with them will go flora, fauna and one-third of our diet. We may have less than a decade to save them and avert catastrophe. So why is nothing being done?...Most people do now get the point about honeybees. Following the multiple crises that continue to empty the hives -- foulbrood, varroa mites, viral diseases, dysfunctional immune systems, and now the mysterious but globally devastating colony-collapse disorder (CCD) -- it is understood that the true value of Apis mellifera lies not so much in the sticky stuff that gives our favourite insect its name as in the service it provides as a pollinator of farms and gardens. If you add retailers’ profit to farm gate prices, their value to the UK economy is in the region of 1 billion a year, and 35 percent of our diet is directly dependent on them. It is an equation of stark simplicity. No pollination: no crops. There is nothing theoretical about it. The reality is in (or, more accurately, not in) the hives. The US has lost 70 percent of its honeybee colonies over the past two winters. Losses in the UK currently are running at 30 percent a year -- up from just 6 percent in 2003. ...


Honey, I ruined the planet... and there's no where to hive!

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Thu, Jan 15, 2009
from University of Wisconsin, via EurekAlert:
Nations that sow food crops for biofuels may reap less than previously thought
Global yields of most biofuels crops, including corn, rapeseed and wheat, have been overestimated by 100 to 150 percent or more, suggesting many countries need to reset their expectations of agricultural biofuels to a more realistic level. That's according to a study led by Matt Johnston and Tracey Holloway of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and Jon Foley of University of Minnesota, which drew on actual agricultural data from nearly 240 countries to calculate the potential yields of 20 different biofuels worldwide. ...


You mean we let all those people starve based on an overestimation?

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Tue, Jan 13, 2009
from Bloomberg News:
Food Production Chaos Looms in Africa as Soil Quality Worsens
African farmers and climate change are combining to damage soil at a rate that may plunge the continent, home to about 1 billion people, into chaos as food production declines. “The situation is very severe and soil fertility is declining rapidly,” Jeroen Huising, a scientist who studies soils at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, or CIAT, said today in an interview. “Many countries like Kenya already don’t have enough food to feed their population and soil degradation is worsening an already critical situation.” Africa, where half the agricultural soil has lost nutrients necessary to grow plants, is hampered by a lack of information about soil conditions, Huising said. About 236 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, or one in three there, are chronically hungry, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. ...


Meanwhile, in America, I can't even finish my portion.

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Sun, Jan 11, 2009
from Contra Costa Times:
Food crisis due to warming world trumps all other worries, say scientists
Many of today's toddlers face the grim prospect of coping with chronic food shortages in their old age if agricultural science doesn't adapt to a warming world, concluded scientists in a study published Friday in the journal Science. The stark report, from scientists at Stanford University and the University of Washington, makes melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels from global warming appear minor compared with the prospect of hundreds of millions of people, including those living in Europe and the United States, anxiously seeking stable food supplies. ... By the end of the century, the worst of the heat waves in recent times will become the normal average summertime temperatures, the researchers reported. They based their conclusions on 23 climate models in a 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as well as data from severe heat waves dating several decades. ...


I can't believe we ate up the whoooooole thing.

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Wed, Dec 17, 2008
from DailyMonitor, via AllAfrica:
Ethiopia: Authority Urges Paradigm Shift in Agriculture Law On Genetically Modified Organisms Proposed
Amid the price of chemical fertilizer showing little sign of decreasing, Federal Environmental Protection Authority urged on Tuesday for a paradigm shift to ecological agriculture.... While expressing his support to using chemical fertilizers to attain food security in the country, the Director said the country has as much as much as possible stick to ecological agriculture, adding the country's high capacity to produce compost could support the shift.... "If genetically modified remained unregulated in the country, they could suffer the general set up of our society as well as the environment," Dr.Tewolde said [in an obviously rough translation]. ...


Sustainable natural agriculture? Hey, that's so crazy, it just might work.

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Tue, Dec 16, 2008
from Ashville Citizen-Times:
Ramping down the toxins we eat
Some of the signs of an emerging crisis include: the presence of toxic chemicals, heavy metals and disease-causing bacteria in a host of foods; a rise in obesity and diet-related diseases; and air and water pollution from factory farms. Our current system isn't healthy and it's not sustainable.... Here are nine ideas for ways to improve health and send a strong signal to farmers, grocery stores and policymakers about the kinds of food we want to eat. ...


I get arsenic in my chicken fajita? Toxic chemicals from my plastic wrap?

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Thu, Dec 11, 2008
from BBC:
Failing Zimbabwe: Reporter round-up
A cholera epidemic is sweeping across Zimbabwe, causing further suffering to millions of people already struggling to survive in a country close to systemic collapse as food shortages and hyperinflation continue to take their toll.... It is a recipe for disaster, and a health scandal, according to a local priest. "Even now, there are many sick people inside, they are frail, they can't walk and relatives don't have money to send them to hospital, so they are left to suffer," said Majorie, a middle-aged woman carrying a child on her back. In the streets, piles of uncollected refuse are commonplace with flies feasting on the rubbish. In this chaos, vendors selling tomatoes, mangoes and vegetables rove around. Customers are still available. Some buy the produce and walk leisurely, eating mangoes, alongside streams of raw sewage to their hostels. There is nothing they can do about it. ...


Time for Mugabe to go Mugabye-bye.

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Wed, Dec 10, 2008
from New Scientist:
Darfur crisis is stripping the environment
Tree cover has become so sparse in some areas that Darfuris often have to travel more than 75 kilometres from their camps to find enough wood to sell or use for fuel, the report added. "We're now seeing extreme stress on the environment around many of the camps and the major towns in Darfur," said UNEP's Sudan country director Clive Bates in a statement. "We need to plant millions of trees and introduce new technologies for construction and energy as quickly as humanly possible."... Nyala's famous Kunduwa hardwood forest had been destroyed by extensive logging from 2005 to 2007 said the report, adding "its destruction is regarded by many as a tragedy that could have been avoided". The report called for development organisations to launch environmental awareness campaigns in the region, and to pilot the use of alternative fuel sources and building materials. ...


Please let this not be a harbinger of our own desperate future.

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Thu, Dec 4, 2008
from Underwater Times:
Study: One-third Of World's Fish Catches Are Being Wasted As Animal Feed; 'It Defies Reason'
An alarming new study to be published in November in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources finds that one-third of the world's marine fish catches are ground up and fed to farm-raised fish, pigs, and poultry, squandering a precious food resource for humans and disregarding the serious overfishing crisis in our oceans.... "We need to stop using so many small ocean fish to feed farmed fish and other animals," Alder said. "These small, tasty fish could instead feed people. Society should demand that we stop wasting these fish on farmed fish, pigs, and poultry." Although feeds derived from soy and other land-based crops are available and are used, fishmeal and fish oil have skyrocketed in popularity because forage fish are easy to catch in large numbers, and hence, relatively inexpensive. ...


We're taking all the "forage fish" away from the foragers -- we may see a "forage riot" from the large marine animals before long.

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Tue, Dec 2, 2008
from Inverness Courier:
Chain reaction that stems from global warming
The birds that are now in trouble feed mainly on sandeels, a small fish usually found in large shoals and forming a key element in the marine food chains. Sandeels are also part of a fishery. In the past, over-exploitation of the stocks was thought to have an impact on seabirds but now this is not reckoned to be the case.... [I]t seems clear that something other than over-fishing is affecting the sandeels and the birds that depend on them. The RSPB scientists have pointed to reports of significant declines in the biomass of plankton that forms the basis of almost all the marine food chains. The plant element, the phytoplankton, can be looked on as the grass of the ocean. Everything else depends on it, including the larvae of the sandeels. It is suspected that the higher winter sea-surface temperatures being recorded are somehow disrupting the food chain. ...


Where have all the plankton gone / long time passing...

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Tue, Dec 2, 2008
from IFPRI, via EurekAlert:
Food price crisis and financial crisis present double threat for poor people
The combined impact of low economic growth and decreased investments in agriculture could cause major increases in malnutrition in developing countries, according to new analysis by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The result could be 16 million more undernourished children in 2020.... "IFPRI recommends three priorities for action: (1) promote pro-poor agricultural growth, (2) reduce market volatility, and (3) expand social safety nets and child nutrition programs. "Ultimately, our measure of success should not be defined by the price of food, but by the provision of adequate healthy food for all," he said. ...


Whattarya, a communist?!

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Sat, Nov 22, 2008
from University of Alberta via ScienceDaily:
Research Finds Way To Double Rice Crops In Drought-stricken Areas
University of Alberta research has yielded a way to double the output of rice crops in some of the world's poorest, most distressed areas. Jerome Bernier, a PhD student in the U of A Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, has found a group of genes in rice that enables a yield of up to 100 per cent more in severe drought conditions. The discovery marks the first time this group of genes in rice has been identified, and could potentially bring relief to farmers in countries like India and Thailand, where rice crops are regularly faced with drought. Rice is the number one crop consumed by humans annually. ...


Let's call it TwiceRice!

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Wed, Oct 22, 2008
from London Independent:
Organic farming 'could feed Africa'
Organic farming offers Africa the best chance of breaking the cycle of poverty and malnutrition it has been locked in for decades, according to a major study from the United Nations to be presented today. New evidence suggests that organic practices -- derided by some as a Western lifestyle fad -- are delivering sharp increases in yields, improvements in the soil and a boost in the income of Africa's small farmers who remain among the poorest people on earth. ...


A-maize-ing!

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Mon, Oct 13, 2008
from Telegraph.co.uk:
Climate change targets could end farming as we know it -- NFU
New targets to cut the UK's greenhouse emissions by at least 80 per cent will cripple agriculture in the UK, according to farmers.... The [National Farmers Union] said it would be "nigh on impossible" for farming to make the cuts without a massive reduction in livestock farming -- which produces methane, and cultivating the land -- which produces nitrous oxide.... "We simply do not know how to produce the current volume of food produced using 80 per cent less greenhouse gases," he added. ...


Obstructionism "as we know it" will also have to end.

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Mon, Sep 22, 2008
from International Rice Research Institute via ScienceDaily:
Long-term Global Food Crisis Looms: Experts Urge Immediate Action
Declining agricultural productivity and continued growing demand have brought the world food situation to a crossroads. Failure to act now through a wholesale reinvestment in agriculture -- including research into improved technologies, infrastructure development, and training and education of agricultural scientists and trainers -- could lead to a long-term crisis that makes the price spikes of 2008 seem a mere blip. ...


I hear Haitians make a mean mud pie.

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Mon, Sep 22, 2008
from Abu Dhabi National:
War zone's melting glacier a "colossal" risk
ISLAMABAD // India and Pakistan's 24-year battle for the Siachen Glacier along the disputed border above Kashmir costs more than US$2 billion (Dh7.4bn) annually, is accelerating glacial melting and is putting millions of South Asians at risk of catastrophic floods, drought and food shortages, glacial experts and environmentalists warn. ...


Can we all just get along?

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Fri, Sep 19, 2008
from International Rice Research Institute:
Global food situation at a crossroads
Declining agricultural productivity and continued growing demand have brought the world food situation to a crossroads. Failure to act now through a wholesale reinvestment in agriculture -- including research into improved technologies, infrastructure development, and training and education of agricultural scientists and trainers -- could lead to a long-term crisis that makes the price spikes of 2008 seem a mere blip. ...


Investment advisers recommend increasing your holdings in riot gear.

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Thu, Sep 18, 2008
from Online Opinion (Australia):
Water for food: the forgotten crisis
This year, the world and, in particular, developing countries and the poor have been hit by both food and energy crises. As a consequence, prices for many staple foods have risen by up to 100 per cent. When we examine the causes of the food crisis, growing population, changes in trade patterns, urbanisation, dietary changes, biofuel production, and climate change and regional droughts are all responsible.... The causes of water scarcity are essentially identical to those of the food crisis. There are serious and extremely worrying factors that indicate water supplies are close to exhaustion in some countries. Population growth in the next approximately 40 years will see an increase from 6.5 to up to 9.0 billion. Essentially every calorie of food requires a litre of water to produce it. Therefore, on average we require 2,000-3,000 litres of water per person [per day] to sustain our daily food requirements. ...


That's a lot of water! And most of it will contain endocrine disruptors and pharmaceuticals -- an added bonus!

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Wed, Sep 17, 2008
from National Geographic:
Bush-Meat Ban Would Devastate Africa's Animals, Poor?
If current hunting levels persist in Central Africa, endangered mammals such as forest elephants and gorillas will become extinct, the study suggests. Researchers estimated the region's current wild-meat harvest at more than a million tons annually—the equivalent of almost four million cattle. Instead of banning the practice, the report recommends that hunting for non-threatened species be legalized and regulated to protect the food supply and livelihoods of forest people. ...


When okapis are outlawed, only outlaws will eat okapis.

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Sun, Sep 14, 2008
from Global Public Media:
Seriously: emptying the ocean
Daniel Pauly, director of the UB Fisheries Centre, interview transcript, from 2003: "Generally it takes about 10-15 years from the discovery of a fish population of large fish, for it to be reduced by a factor of 10 and less to a smaller amount."... "[T]hat's why most species of fish have collapsed to less than one or two or three percent of the original biomass in the 50's." ... "So overfishing, in a sense, is subsidized by these enormous prices." ... "If you look at the modern fishing vessel, you will find a level of technical sophistication on deck and its mind boggling. It's like an airplane. It has eco-sound... that tells you where every fish is, where you are, how the grounds look like, extremely detailed.... So if you deploy this technology to catch fish, the fish lose. They invariably lose." ...


There is nothing funny to say about this. Nothing.

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Tue, Sep 9, 2008
from Daily Herald:
Prof steers away from corn for biodiesel
When it comes to alternative fuels, a University of Northern Colorado professor says weeds and algae should be in our gas tanks, not corn... asu is attempting to clone genes from a tropical tree that possesses a compound known as oleoresin, with properties similar to diesel fuel. He hopes to recultivate them into nonfood plants or algae for biofuel production. ...


I want my car to run on kudzu!

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Sun, Sep 7, 2008
from EcoWorldly:
Biofuels War: The New Scramble for Africa by Western Big Money Profiteers
African civil society is calling for a moratorium on new biofuels investments in Africa amid concern that that the biofuels revolution will bring more food insecurity, higher food prices and hunger to the continent. In Tanzania, thousands of farmers growing cereals like corn and rice are already being evicted from fertile land with good access to water, for biofuel sugar cane and jatropha plantations on newly privatized land. According to the anti-biofuels investment campaigners, whole villages are being cleared or grabbed, but families have been given minimal compensation or opportunities for their loss of land, community and way of life. ...


Here in the West, we call that development.

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Wed, Aug 27, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Eating rats to beat global food crisis
Rat meat has become such a popular alternative to other dearer meats in Cambodia that its price has increased fourfold. As inflation pushes the price of beef beyond the reach of the poor, increased demand for rat meat has pushed up rodent prices.... This month, an Indian official said eating rats was a way to beat rising global food prices. Vijay Prakash, the secretary of Bihar's welfare department, said regular rat snacks would also translate into fewer rodents eating precious grain stocks, 50 percent of which are lost in the north-eastern Indian state every year to the creatures. ...


Mmmm. Protein.

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Sun, Aug 24, 2008
from Planet Ark:
Urgent Steps Needed To Combat Food Wastage - Report
"The United States and some other developed states throw away nearly a third of their food each year, according to a report that said on Thursday the world was producing more than enough to feed its population... The authors said that in the United States, up to 30 percent of food, worth some $48.3 billion, is thrown away each year. "That's like leaving the tap running and pouring 40 trillion litres of water into the garbage can -- enough water to meet the household needs of 500 million people," the report said." ...


Let them eat food scraps.

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Tue, Aug 19, 2008
from National Geographic:
Our Good Earth
"...This year food shortages, caused in part by the diminishing quantity and quality of the world's soil ... have led to riots in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. By 2030, when today's toddlers have toddlers of their own, 8.3 billion people will walk the Earth; to feed them, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates, farmers will have to grow almost 30 percent more grain than they do now. Connoisseurs of human fecklessness will appreciate that even as humankind is ratchetting up its demands on soil, we are destroying it faster than ever before. "Taking the long view, we are running out of dirt," says David R. Montgomery, a geologist at the University of Washington in Seattle." ...


We are, in truth, doing ourselves dirt.

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Fri, Aug 15, 2008
from The Nation (Nairobi) via AllAfrica:
Africa: Unable to Put Beef And Fish On the Table, Continent Courts Animal-Spread Diseases
Last year's outbreaks of the deadly Marburg and Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever viruses in southwestern Uganda and in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo's province of Kasai Occidental and the sporadic outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) across the continent once again bring to light the threat zoonotic diseases pose to sub-Saharan Africa in particular and the world generally.... Along with population increase comes the need for more arable and grazing land and the exploration of new forest, swamp and cave habitats. This raises the likelihood of exposure to 'new' infectious agents in those environments, and could result in the emergence of new disease pathogens. As population grows there is also an increase in the demand for food. In sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, people are more and more turning to wild animals for food. This high demand for bush meat in the countries of the Congo Basin is helping to fuel the increase in outbreaks of such illnesses as Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever. ...


Bushmeat: it's what's for dinner.

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Mon, Aug 11, 2008
from Inter Press Service News Agency:
West Africa: Overfishing Linked to Food Crisis, Migration
According to a recent report by the nongovernmental organisation ActionAid, West African seas are being devastated by legal and illegal overfishing, while local fishing industries decline. Moreover, the economic partnership agreements in their currently proposed form only exacerbate this problem. The overfishing of West African coastal waters, often by large European trawlers and sometimes by "fishing pirates" who trawl without any authorisation, has largely depleted local fish stocks. This has a direct impact on the rising rate of unemployment and on the ever-increasing flow of West Africans who embark on perilous journeys to Europe, in search of a better life. ...


No more picturesque fishermen?
There goes the tourist trade.

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Sat, Aug 9, 2008
from Mail and Guardian Online (South Africa):
Food prices: The people say 'enough!'
Elsewhere in Dakar (Senegal) -- and in nearly a dozen other African countries -- protesters have not been quite as restrained. Angered by sharply rising prices of basic foodstuffs, transport, electricity and other essentials, they have poured into the streets to express their frustrations and demand that their governments act quickly to halt the spiralling cost of living. Street barricades, burning tyres, arson and sometimes deadly confrontations with riot police have been common.... In other countries too, demonstrators often saw the lack of political change as one reason for the widening economic gap between those with access to power and the majority of the poor..... The extent of the protests suggests that ordinary citizens are starting to sense their potential political power and are no longer willing to remain silent. Since 2007, there has been an "awakening of the people's conscience" in Guinea, says Rabiatou Serah Diallo, secretary general of the National Confederation of Workers. ...


Now hold on... just because you're hungry doesn't give you the right to bring up class issues.

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Tue, Jul 29, 2008
from London Guardian:
Haiti: Mud cakes become staple diet as cost of food soars beyond a family's reach
"At first sight the business resembles a thriving pottery. In a dusty courtyard women mould clay and water into hundreds of little platters and lay them out to harden under the Caribbean sun. The craftsmanship is rough and the finished products are uneven. But customers do not object. This is Cité Soleil, Haiti's most notorious slum, and these platters are not to hold food. They are food." ...


Perhaps First World economies could provide some ketchup for the mud cakes.

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Wed, Jul 23, 2008
from University of Illinois:
Study predicts crop-production costs will jump dramatically in 2009
Costs to get crops in the ground will jump by about a third in 2009, fueled by fertilizer prices expected to surge 82 percent for corn and 117 percent for soybeans, said Gary Schnitkey, an agricultural economist who conducts the annual survey of input costs.... "Roughly 80 percent of the cost of producing nitrogen fertilizer is natural gas, so as natural gas costs have gone up so have the costs of those inputs," he said. "Phosphorus and potassium are mined, and as energy costs increase, mining costs increase." ...


But won't grain-based ethanol solve this problem?

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Sun, Jul 20, 2008
from The Baltimore Sun:
The coming black plague?
"...governments should start planning for a worst-case scenario, with soaring oil prices disrupting food supplies, just as they plan for other possibilities like nuclear war and bioterrorism... Dale Allen Pfeiffer, author of the recent book Eating Fossil Fuels: Oil, Food and the Coming Crisis in Agriculture, goes even further in his warnings. With global oil production soon sliding into decline, fuel prices might continue to skyrocket until the world's food system collapses, causing starvation, he wrote. "Growing evidence indicates that world [oil and gas] production will peak around 2010, followed by an irreversible decline. The impact on our agricultural system could be catastrophic," he wrote. "Hunger could become commonplace in every corner of the world, including your own neighborhood." ...


But ... don't you think that our world leaders will come to the rescue?

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Sun, Jul 20, 2008
from Washington Post (US):
Africa's Last and Least
"Soaring prices for food and fuel have pushed more than 130 million poor people across vast swaths of Africa, Asia and Latin America deeper into poverty in the past year, according to the U.N. World Food Program (WFP). But while millions of men and children are also hungrier, women are often the hungriest and skinniest. Aid workers say malnutrition among women is emerging as a hidden consequence of the food crisis." ...


I'm happy to discuss this, hon, just as soon as you get the dishes done.

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Sun, Jul 20, 2008
from Toronto Globe and Mail:
A tough new row to hoe
"The Green Revolution that began in 1945 transformed farming and fed millions in developing countries. But its methods over the long run are proving to be stunningly destructive... Now, almost half a century later, the Green Revolution's key innovations - chemicals and monocultures - are being blamed for a recent pest and disease epidemic that has ravaged Asian rice fields and sharply curtailed the supply of the main food staple of half of the world's population." ...


And before long, all these troubles will land us in the funny farm.

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Fri, Jul 4, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Secret report: rush to biofuels caused food crisis
Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75 percent - far more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian. The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at global financial body. The figure emphatically contradicts the US government's claims that plant-derived fuels contribute less than 3 percent to food-price rises.... Senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush. ...


Billions hungry, so W isn't embarrassed.
Hope it worked.

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Tue, Jul 1, 2008
from Middle East Online:
Bread subsidies under threat in drought-hit Syria
The availability of cheap food has been a cornerstone Syrian domestic economic policy. However, there are growing doubts among ordinary people and analysts as to how much longer the country can remain relatively insulated from the global food crisis which has sparked riots in over 30 countries, including Egypt, where a similar authoritarian socialist government is in place. The government exerts significant control over food prices through its control of the marketing, import and export of agricultural produce, but the agricultural sector has been partially liberalised, and food prices have risen 20 percent in the last six months, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). ...


Let them eat pita.

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Tue, Jul 1, 2008
from NewIndPress (India):
Traffic jam on highway, food crisis imminent
It's a riot-like situation in the iron ore mines area of Kalta, Koira, Tensa and Barsun areas. Acute shortage of essential commodities have compounded the problems of the working class people who are already suffering price hike of essential commodities as a result of high inflation. With iron ore-laden heavy vehicles from Rajamunda en route Roxy, Kalta, Koira and Barbil getting stranded on NH-215 for the last one week, movement of public buses and other light vehicles on the route has come to a grinding halt. Moreover, [in] the NH-215 near Chuna Ghati area up to a kilometre remains unmotorable. This has reflected on the movement of vehicles and buses carrying essential commodities from Rourkela. ...


Ox-carts are looking more attractive
all the time.

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Sun, Jun 29, 2008
from Science Daily (US):
Climate Change May Challenge National Security, Classified Report Warns
The National Intelligence Council (NIC) has completed a new classified assessment that explores how climate change could threaten U.S. security in the next 20 years by causing political instability, mass movements of refugees, terrorism, or conflicts over water and other resources in specific countries. The House Intelligence Committee is scheduled to be briefed Wednesday, June 25, on the main findings.... "There is clearly great interest among policy makers in knowing whether climate change will make crises such as the conflict in Darfur more prevalent, and whether other violent scenarios might be likely to unfold," said Levy. "The science of climate impacts does not yet give us a definitive answer to this question, but at least now we're looking at it seriously." ...


Uh-oh.
Maybe this climate change thing is serious.

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Thu, Jun 26, 2008
from UN, via ReliefWeb:
Djibouti: 'Almost half the population facing food shortages'
A significant percentage of Djibouti's population could face food shortages due to drought, rising prices with declining remittances, and high levels of livestock deaths, an early warning information service has warned.... "Significant food deficits exist in all pastoral areas due to a combination of three consecutive below-average rainy seasons, extremely high prices for staple foods, declining remittances, and high levels of livestock mortality (40-50 percent)," the network noted. "The situation is critical, and pre-famine indicators have been observed." ...


Pre-famine, pre-apocalypse, pre-collapse indicators have also been observed elsewhere.

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Wed, Jun 25, 2008
from The Monitor, via AllAfrica:
East Africa: Saving the 'Fish Basket' From Drying Up
While Lake Victoria remains the most productive fishery in Africa, with annual fishery yields fluctuating around 600,000 tonnes, valued at $350 - 400m, catches of Nile perch are steadily declining. In 2001, boats caught an average 160 kilos of Nile perch each trip, today they catch less than 20. At the same time, catches of lower valued species, such as the silver-coloured mukene are steady, if not increasing. ...


The Nile Perch was intentionally inserted into Lake Victoria in the 50s. A voracious predator of desirable fish, it has driven many of them to extinction. It may have finally gobbled up most of the surplus good stuff: "peak fish for the Nile Perch."

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Wed, Jun 25, 2008
from Daily Nation (Kenya):
Kenya must import three times as much maize as projected
Kenya is first heading for a major shortfall in its staple food product, maize. Detailed research recently conducted by the Egerton University’s respected Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development shows that Kenya will start running out of maize in August.... Logistically, the most likely supplying country is South Africa, which has a surplus crop. But there is a potential problem here in that its crop is a mix of GMO and non GMO. Kenya is reportedly insisting on the latter, which only comes to the market towards the end of July. ...


Luckily, companies like Monsanto stay out of commodities markets, and wouldn't try to influence public policy re GMO corn via starvation tactics.

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Mon, Jun 23, 2008
from New York Times:
U.S. May 'Free Up' More Land for Corn Crops
Signs are growing that the government may allow farmers to plant crops on millions of acres of conservation land, while a chorus of voices is also pleading with Washington to cut requirements for ethanol production.... Senator Grassley ... on Friday urged the Agriculture Department to release tens of thousands of farmers from contracts under which they had promised to set aside huge tracts as natural habitat. ...


Because what's natural habitat good for?
We need to grow corn.

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Wed, Jun 18, 2008
from Reuters India:
Vietnam lifts rice export ban, Manila seals deal
[Lifting the ban] could speed a recent decline in international rice prices from record highs -- prices had nearly trebled this year -- helping to ease food inflation and boosting supplies of the staple in Asia.... "There are signs of improving supplies but we still have a few bullish factors," said one trader. ...


A Friedmanian slip: signs of improving supplies that make food affordable for the poor, but still a few bullish factors to make lots of money off the shortage.

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Mon, Jun 16, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Corn sets all-time high on U.S. crop fears
Corn prices surged to a record high on Monday and looked set to climb further as widespread flooding in a key producing region, the U.S. Midwest, helped to heighten concern about tight supplies, dealers said. "I think we are definitely going higher. There is no let up either on the demand or supply side...," said analyst Sudakshina Unnikrishnan of Barclays Capital in London. ...


When the corn is as hiiigh
as the price of the sky...


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Wed, Jun 11, 2008
from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign:
Farmers who plant -- or replant -- after June 20 may see yields drop by half
Department of Agriculture reports that corn and soybean growers in several Midwestern states are behind schedule on their planting. A cooler and wetter-than-average spring has left Illinois and Indiana furthest behind on planted corn and soybeans. Several other states are lagging behind their normal planting schedules, but by a lesser margin. ...


"where the corn is as high
as a prairie dog's eye...
"

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Tue, Jun 10, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Small farms are now our best chance of feeding the world
A recent study of farming in Turkey, for example, found that farms of less than one hectare are 20 times as productive as farms of more than 10 hectares. Sen's observation has been tested in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, Java, the Philippines, Brazil, Colombia and Paraguay. It appears to hold almost everywhere.... As developing countries sweep away street markets and hawkers' stalls and replace them with superstores and glossy malls, the most productive farmers lose their customers and are forced to sell up. The rich nations support this process by demanding access for their companies. Their agricultural subsidies still help their own large farmers to compete unfairly with the small producers of the poor world. ...


But small farms won't raise shareholder value for ADM and Monsanto.
To the lobbying barricades!

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Thu, Jun 5, 2008
from The Economist:
Bushmeat: Just let them get on with it
"Conservationists and animal-welfare types please take note: trade in wildlife products, as long as it is properly managed, is an indispensable boon for the poor. And what is more, it's big business, worth around $300 billion in 2005—chiefly in timber and fisheries.... But the report laments that far too much of the harvesting of, and trade in, wild products is poorly supervised, with the result that habitats are degraded and stocks depleted.... If no public authority is able to offer secure tenure of land or resource rights to a reasonable number of people, there is little incentive to invest in long-term sustainability." ...


We'd better get every part of the globe in private hands, pronto, so we can treat those poor people like what they should be:
tenant farmers.

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Mon, Jun 2, 2008
from BBC (UK):
Unnatural roots of the food crisis
The current model of market-driven food production is leaving people hungry. It has turned food into a commodity subject to all the market failures that create inequities and negative impacts on the environment.... Amazingly, there is very little attention being paid to what fundamentally underpins all of our food systems - biodiversity and the services provided by ecosystems, such as soil, water and resilience to disasters. We need to attack market failures and change the economic rules of current food production systems. ...


Change the rules?
C'mon, they've been working fine for decades.

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Thu, May 29, 2008
from TIME:
Eating bugs
The very qualities that make bugs so hard to get rid of could also make them an environmentally friendly food. "Nature is very good at making insects," says David Gracer, one of the chefs at the Richmond festival and the founder of future bug purveyor Sunrise Land Shrimp. Insects require little room and few resources to grow. For instance, it takes far less water to raise a third of a pound (150 g) of grasshoppers than the staggering 869 gal. (3,290 L) needed to produce the same amount of beef. Since bugs are cold-blooded invertebrates, more of what they consume goes to building edible body parts, whereas pigs and other warm-blooded vertebrates need to consume a lot of calories just to keep their body temperature steady. ...


Mealworm Cheet-os. Red Ant Energy Drink. Mosquito Coast nutrition bar. Sugar Beetle pie. MmmmMM!

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Wed, May 28, 2008
from Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Get used to high food costs, water shortages
"Shocked by rising food prices? Get used to it -- and be ready for water shortages, too, says a sweeping new scientific report rounding up likely effects of climate change on the United States' land, water and farms over the next half-century." ...


So. Have you taken the PASAT yet?

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Tue, May 27, 2008
from Toronto Star:
How we waste food
"It is one of the most perverse ironies of our age: Amid soaring prices and global shortages we are throwing out more food than ever. A new study offers the most comprehensive look yet at the depth of our collective profligacy... Try to imagine 35,000 hulking African elephants barrelling down Yonge St., and you'll come close to picturing the quantity of food we throw out each year in Toronto alone." ...


That image of 35,000 hulking African elephants ... is making me powerfully hungry!

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Tue, May 20, 2008
from TIME Magazine:
What Condoms Have to Do with Climate Change
"As the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Gen. Michael Hayden should have some insight on the biggest threats facing the U.S. But when Hayden recently described what he saw as the most troublesome trend over the next several decades, it wasn't terrorism or climate change. It was overpopulation in the poorest parts of the world. "By mid-century, the best estimates point to a world population of more than 9 billion," Hayden said in a speech at Kansas State University. "Most of that growth will occur in countries least able to sustain it." The sheer increase in population, Hayden argued, could fuel instability and extremism, not to mention worsening climate change and making food and fuel all the more scarce. Population is the essential multiplier for any number of human ills." ...


Malthusian enthusiasts are orgasmic over this speech.

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Sun, May 18, 2008
from New York Times:
One Country's Table Scraps, Another Country's Meal
"Grocery bills are rising through the roof. Food banks are running short of donations. And food shortages are causing sporadic riots in poor countries through the world. You’d never know it if you saw what was ending up in your landfill. As it turns out, Americans waste an astounding amount of food — an estimated 27 percent of the food available for consumption, according to a government study — and it happens at the supermarket, in restaurants and cafeterias and in your very own kitchen. It works out to about a pound of food every day for every American." ...


That's one less pound of love handles on you, buster!

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Sat, May 17, 2008
from New York Times:
Famine Looms as Wars Rend Horn of Africa
"...Somalia -- and much of the volatile Horn of Africa, for that matter -- was about the last place on earth that needed a food crisis. Even before commodity prices started shooting up around the globe, civil war, displacement and imperiled aid operations had pushed many people here to the brink of famine. But now with food costs spiraling out of reach and the livestock that people live off of dropping dead in the sand, villagers across this sun-blasted landscape say hundreds of people are dying of hunger and thirst. This is what happens, economists say, when the global food crisis meets local chaos. "We're really in the perfect storm," said Jeffrey D. Sachs, a Columbia economist and top United Nations adviser, who recently visited neighboring Kenya." ...


At the end of the day, bottom line, this perfect storm reaps what it sows.

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Mon, May 12, 2008
from Jamaica Observer:
Supermarket prices too high for low-income earners
Corporate Area supermarket shopping has gotten more expensive for minimum wage and middle income earners as price increases on basic food items continue to wreak havoc on the salaries of employed persons. A survey of five supermarkets by the Sunday Observer last week showed a staggering variation in prices on basic food items, and the only competition appeared to be which supermarket is the most expensive. ...


Thank goodness the tourists are still buying the expensive stuff!
You get what you pay for, after all.

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Sun, May 11, 2008
from London Sunday Mirror:
Will giant vegetables help solve world food shortage?
"They came from Outer Space... huge monsters never seen on Earth before. And they could soon be heading towards a supermarket near you... These giant fruit and veg, grown from seeds sent into space, are now being grown in southern China where they are being heralded as a solution to the world's food shortage." ...


Just so they don't go all Audrey II on us!

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Sun, May 11, 2008
from The London Observer:
How the world's oceans are running out of fish
"...Is anyone not aware that wild fish are in deep trouble? That three-quarters of commercially caught species are over-exploited or exploited to their maximum? Do they not know that industrial fishing is so inefficient that a third of the catch, some 32 million tonnes a year, is thrown away? For every ocean prawn you eat, fish weighing 10-20 times as much have been thrown overboard. These figures all come from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which also claims that, of all the world's natural resources, fish are being depleted the fastest. With even the most abundant commercial species, we eat smaller and smaller fish every year - we eat the babies before they can breed... Once stocks dip below a certain critical level, the scientists believe, they can never recover because the entire eco-system has changed." ...


Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach him industrial fishing and he'll waste 32 million tonnes of fish a year.

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Tue, Apr 29, 2008
from Washington Post:
Emptying the Breadbasket
"...Across America, turmoil in the world wheat markets has sent prices of bread, pasta, noodles, pizza, pastry and bagels skittering upward, bringing protests from consumers... U.S. farmers are expected to plant about 64 million acres of wheat this year, down from a high of 88 million in 1981. In Kansas, wheat acreage has declined by a third since the mid-1980s, and nationwide, there is now less wheat in grain bins than at any time since World War II -- only about enough to supply the world for four days. This occurs as developing countries with some of the poorest populations are rapidly increasing their wheat imports." ...


From "amber waves of grain" to amber waves of pain.

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Tue, Apr 29, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Shops ration sales of rice as US buyers panic
The global food crisis reached the United States yesterday as big retailers began to ration sales of rice in response to bulk purchases by customers alarmed by rocketing prices of staples. Wal-Mart's cash and carry division, Sam's Club, announced it would sell a maximum of four bags of rice per person to prevent supplies from running short. Its decision followed sporadic caps placed on purchases of rice and flour by some store managers at a rival bulk chain, Costco, in parts of California. The world price of rice has risen 68 percent since the start of 2008, but in some US shops the price has doubled in weeks.... Looting and riots in Haiti left at least six dead and forced the resignation of the prime minister this month, leaving the hemisphere's poorest country tense and edgy. In Guyana an 80 percent rise in the price of rice and 50 percent in the cost of chicken triggered protests and a strike by sugarcane workers. The government promised to issue seeds and urged people to cultivate idle land. Surinam set up an emergency cabinet committee to seek ways to dampen food prices. ...


Uh-oh. The Big Box Stores are getting worried. That's an indicator of Big Troubles Ahead -- though nothing like Haiti.
Yet.

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Sat, Apr 26, 2008
from Reuters:
Bangladesh stops poor from collecting rotten rice
"The dumping site has been cordoned, and the relevant authorities have been asked not to dump rotten rice at unrestricted spots anymore," a security official said. Hundreds of poor people thronged the dumping site as the Food Department started ditching some 500 tonnes of damaged rice on Friday. Nearly half of Bangladesh's 140 million people live on an income less than a dollar per day and their plight has worsened since rice and other food prices started rising this year. "The rice is still not too bad, we are sure this will not harm us," said Manjula Begum, a mother of three children, after collecting a bowl of rice. ...


Isn't this a John Steinbeck storyline?

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Thu, Apr 24, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Chicago rice hits record high above $25
U.S. rice futures struck a new lifetime peak above $25 in Asian trading on Thursday, as worries about possible supply shortages continued to plague the world's second-biggest food grain crop. Chicago Board of Trade July rough rice futures surged to a record high of $25.010 per hundredweight on worries over scarce global supplies of the grain. CBOT rice is up about 80 percent so far this year. The July contract surpassed the previous record of $24.85 touched in Chicago on Wednesday, where it later closed at $24.82. ...


Don't forget: throw sesame seeds at weddings.

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Tue, Apr 22, 2008
from Christian Science Monitor:
Roots of Asia's rice crisis
"BOHOL, PHILIPPINES...For decades, governments have been encouraging a boom in services and skyscrapers, but not the capacity to grow more rice. Financing in agriculture has stagnated, and fewer farmers are expected to produce more rice for exploding populations. That neglect is one of the central causes of what some analysts call the "perfect storm" – including rising global oil prices, drought in Australia, and inclement weather – behind the rice crisis." ...


The "rice crisis" can also be considered a "food doom" or a "farm harm" story.

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Sun, Apr 20, 2008
from The Star (Canada):
A vicious circle of misery
"People are stunned. And it's not just the poor and hungry buyers. It's the small merchants themselves," says Trevor Rowe, a World Food Program spokesperson for Latin America. "They're bearing the brunt of the consumers' complaints, and they have a hard time justifying the high costs. It's a brutal situation for everyone. In the rural part of the country the calorie intake was already low. Now people are plunged into chronic hunger." El Salvador is not alone. Throughout the world, the working poor, and even the middle class, have been pushed into poverty by soaring food costs. International aid organizations and charities are faced with a crisis that is unprecedented in the last half century. ...


"Let them eat..." um...
not cake, not tortillas, not rice...
"Let them eat Twinkies!"

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Wed, Apr 16, 2008
from Bloomberg:
Biofuel Rule Will Do More Harm Than Good, Oxfam Says
"U.K. fuels for cars and trucks must contain biofuels starting today, a move that may do more harm than good to the environment and drive food prices higher, charities including Oxfam and Greenpeace said....Scientists in the U.K. and U.S. have found that the cultivation of biofuels can increase the output of CO2 and other gases blamed for global warming because of changes in land use." ...


Bloody hell! Here we thought biofuels were going to be the bomb and instead they're busting our balls!

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Sat, Apr 12, 2008
from Toronto Star:
The coming hunger
"...This week, food riots paralyzed Haiti, with angry marchers outside the president's palace shouting "We are hungry!" Five people were killed in the chaos...Rice is the staple food of 4 billion people. But the prices for it, along with corn, wheat and other basics, has surged by 40 per cent to 80 per cent in the last three years and caused panicked uprisings in some of the poorest countries on Earth, from Cameroon to Bolivia. The situation has deteriorated so swiftly that some experts predict the effects of a global food crisis are going to bite more quickly than climate change. ...


Then let them eat biofuel cake.

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Tue, Apr 8, 2008
from London Times:
Food prices rise beyond means of poorest in Africa
"It has been called a "perfect storm" -- a combination of apparently unrelated events that have come together to trigger soaring food prices. Millions of people, particularly in developing countries, are affected by rises that have caused riots and many deaths. Increased energy prices, competition between biofuels and food, rising demand from economic growth in emerging countries and the effects of sudden climatic shocks, such as drought and floods, have combined to cause skyrocketing prices in some of the world's poorest countries, such as Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. Peter Smerdon, Africa spokesman for the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), told The Times: "The people hit hardest by this combination of factors are those living on the razor's edge of poverty. There is not one single country in Africa not negatively affected. Indeed, most countries in the world are affected." ...


Surely one of the most effective ways of controlling overpopulation is starvation. And not all countries are affected. Here in the US we waste about 25 percent of our food -- around 100 billion tons of food per year.

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Sun, Apr 6, 2008
from International Public Forum on Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples:
Indigenous peoples hardest hit by climate change describe impacts
Indigenous people point to an increase in human rights violations, displacements and conflicts due to expropriation of ancestral lands and forests for biofuel plantations (soya, sugar-cane, jatropha, oil-palm, corn, etc.), as well as for carbon sink and renewable energy projects (hydropower dams, geothermal plants), without the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous people.... [such as] a Dutch company whose operations include planting trees and selling sequestered carbon credit to people wanting to offset their emissions caused by air travel.... Forced evictions continued to 2002, leading indigenous people to move to neighboring villages, caves and mosques. Over 50 people were killed in 2004. ...


Wait -- buying off my guilt with carbon credits led to forced evictions and murders?

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Wed, Apr 2, 2008
from New Zealand Herald:
Gwynne Dyer: World countdown to crop catastrophe
In Thailand, farmers are sleeping in their fields after reports that thieves are stealing their rice, now worth $600 a tonne. Four people have died in Egypt in clashes over subsidised flour that was being sold for profit on the black market. There have been food riots in Morocco, Senegal and Cameroon.... Last year it became clear that the era of cheap food was over. Food costs worldwide rose by 23 per cent between 2006 and 2007. This year, what is becoming clear is the impact of this change on ordinary people. ...


Part biofuel blowback, part climate change, part China and India's rising middle class, part overpopulation... and all human!

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Mon, Mar 31, 2008
from The Guardian:
Tensions rise as world faces short rations
"Food prices are soaring, a wealthier Asia is demanding better food and farmers can't keep up. In short, the world faces a food crisis and in some places it is already boiling over. Around the globe, people are protesting and governments are responding with often counterproductive controls on prices and exports -- a new politics of scarcity in which ensuring food supplies is becoming a major challenge for the 21st century...Global food prices, based on United Nations records, rose 35 percent in the year to the end of January, markedly accelerating an upturn that began, gently at first, in 2002. Since then, prices have risen 65 percent." ...


Hey, don't forget, if things get really bad, we can always eat each other!

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Wed, Mar 26, 2008
from Daily Reckoning (UK):
How Food Shortages Provoke Economic Nationalism
"Half the world's population depends on rice, but stocks are at their lowest level since the 1970s. Securing adequate food supplies is policy priority number one for many developing countries. This political dimension means that there is plenty of mileage in the current food price boom.... The link between food shortages and civil unrest is well known. In the year 2000 around 15m tonnes of America's maize crop was turned into ethanol, in 2007 that quantity was almost 85m tonnes, output that would normally be earmarked for food consumption. The rise in global maize prices caused 'tortilla riots' in Mexico in January last year. There have also been food riots in Morocco, Uzbekistan, Yemen and West Africa." ...


Food riots? What about supply and demand?
Oh yeah, that works only for rich people who can afford it.

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Sat, Mar 8, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Food crisis will take hold before climate change, warns chief scientist
Food security and the rapid rise in food prices make up the "elephant in the room" that politicians must face up to quickly, according to the government's new chief scientific adviser. In his first major speech since taking over, Professor John Beddington said the global rush to grow biofuels was compounding the problem, and cutting down rainforest to produce biofuel crops was "profoundly stupid". ...


Wow! The scientists are beginning to speak up! The amount of profoundly stupid is so immense it beggars description.

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Tue, Feb 26, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Food riots and the UN World Food Program
"WFP officials say the extraordinary increases in the global price of basic foods were caused by a "perfect storm" of factors: a rise in demand for animal feed from increasingly prosperous populations in India and China, the use of more land and agricultural produce for biofuels, and climate change.... Food riots have broken out in Morocco, Yemen, Mexico, Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal and Uzbekistan. Pakistan has reintroduced rationing for the first time in two decades. Russia has frozen the price of milk, bread, eggs and cooking oil for six months. Thailand is also planning a freeze on food staples. After protests around Indonesia, Jakarta has increased public food subsidies. India has banned the export of rice except the high-quality basmati variety." ...


Can't afford a meal? Sheesh, stop with the rioting, just put it on the MasterCard.
Enough to eat? Priceless.

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Thu, Jan 31, 2008
from Associated Press:
Poor Haitians resort to eating dirt
"PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - It was lunchtime in one of Haiti's worst slums, and Charlene Dumas was eating mud. With food prices rising, Haiti's poorest can't afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies. Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country's central plateau. Food prices around the world have spiked because of higher oil prices, needed for fertilizer, irrigation and transportation. Prices for basic ingredients such as corn and wheat are also up sharply, and the increasing global demand for biofuels is pressuring food markets as well." ...


While Haitians are forced to eat dirt, most Americans can't even join the Clean Plate Club.

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Wed, Jan 23, 2008
from Guardian (UK):
Is this the end of cheap food?
"Walton ... forecasts two further years of similar increases, at least. All the indicators, the prices of every food staple, are on the up - wheat doubled in price at one point last year. 'It's something the industry has expected and is thus, hopefully, a manageable cycle,' he says. 'No hunger riots. But we have enjoyed food prosperity for a long time, and we're seeing the end of that.' Others offer an even more bleak assessment. Jacques Diouf, head of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, spoke recently of a 'very serious crisis' brought about by the rise in food prices and the rise in the oil price. Various global economic bodies are forecasting rises of between 10 per cent and 50 per cent over the next decade." ...


Those of us in the overdeveloped world might get a little less overly, um, "developed." Those in the underdeveloped world, well, they're just not smart shoppers!

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