Overweight? Hungry? Blame ‘Hollow Food’

 

wheat harvest sml

Conventional agriculture produces “hollow food”, with low levels of nutrients and vitamins studies show

By Stephen Leahy

TORONTO, Canada, Mar 4, 2006 (Tierramérica)

(Originally published in 2006)

Organic foods protect children from the toxins in pesticides, while foods grown using modern, intensive agricultural techniques contain fewer nutrients and minerals than they did 60 years ago, according to two new scientific studies.

A U.S. research team from Emory University in Atlanta analysed urine samples from children ages three to 11 who ate only organic foods and found that they contained virtually no metabolites of two common pesticides, malathion and chlorpyrifos. However, once the children returned to eating conventionally grown foods, concentrations of these pesticide metabolites quickly climbed as high as 263 parts per billion, says the study published Feb. 21 (2006).

Organic crops are grown without the chemical pesticides and fertilisers that are common in intensive agriculture. There was a “dramatic and immediate protective effect” against the pesticides while consuming organically grown foods, said Chensheng Lu, an assistant professor at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

These findings, in addition to the results of another study published in Britain earlier this month, have fueled the debate about the benefits of organically grown food as compared to conventional, mass-produced foods, involving academics, food and agro-industry executives and activists in the global arena.

According to the new British analysis of government nutrition data on meat and dairy products from the 1930s and from 2002, the mineral content of milk, cheese and beef declined as much as 70 percent in that period.

“These declines are alarming,” Ian Tokelove, spokesman for The Food Commission that published the results of the study, told Tierramérica.

The Commission is a British non-governmental organisation advocating for healthier, safer food. The research found that parmesan cheese had 70 percent less magnesium and calcium, beef steaks contained 55 percent less iron, chicken had 31 percent less calcium and 69 percent less iron, while milk also showed a large drop in iron along with a 21 percent decline in magnesium.

Copper, an important trace mineral (an essential nutrient that is consumed in tiny quantities), also declined 60 percent in meats and 90 percent in dairy products.

“It seems likely that intensive farming methods are responsible for this,” Tokelove said from his office in London.

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“We’re all scared…But we must tell the truth” — Experts Fear Collapse of Global Civilisation

terrifying co2 graph

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 11 2013 (IPS)

Experts on the health of our planet are terrified of the future. They can clearly see the coming collapse of global civilisation from an array of interconnected environmental problems.

“We’re all scared,” said Paul Ehrlich, president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University.

“But we must tell the truth about what’s happening and challenge people to do something to prevent it,” Ehrlich told IPS.

Global collapse of human civilisation seems likely, write Ehrlich and his partner Anne Ehrlich in the prestigious science journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society.

This collapse will take the form of a “…gradual breakdown because famines, epidemics and resource shortages cause a disintegration of central control within nations, in concert with disruptions of trade and conflicts over increasingly scarce necessities”, they write.

Already two billion people are hungry today. Food production is humanity’s biggest industry and is already being affected by climate and other environmental problems. “No civilisation can avoid collapse if it fails to feed its population,” the authors say.

Escalating climate disruption, ocean acidification, oceanic dead zones, depletion of groundwater and extinctions of plants and animals are the main drivers of the coming collapse, they write in their peer-reviewed article “Can a collapse of global civilisation be avoided?” published this week.

Dozens of earth systems experts were consulted in writing the 10-page paper that contains over 160 references.

“We talked to many of the world’s leading experts to reflect what is really happening,” said Ehrlich, who is an eminent biologist and winner of many scientific awards.

Our reality is that current overconsumption of natural resources and the resulting damage to life-sustaining services nature provides means we need another half of a planet to keeping going. And that’s if all seven billion remain at their current living standards, the Ehrlichs write.

If everyone lived like a U.S. citizen, another four or five planets would be needed. Continue reading

The Oxymoron of Political Leadership and Political Will

Analysis by Stephen Leahy

VIENNA, Jun 29, 2011 (IPS)

Political will is all that’s needed to bring electricity to the 2.5 billion people with no or unreliable access to power, or to feed the one billion who go hungry every day, or to finally begin to slash carbon emissions to avoid dangerous climate change, or just about any other global problem.

Humanity has the technology, resources and even the money to solve these problems, agree scientists, corporate business leaders, heads of civil society organisations and United Nations agencies and government ministers. “All that is lacking is political will,” they almost always declare at the dozens of international conferences, summits and forums this reporter has attended for the past five years. And then everyone goes home.

What is this magical “political will” that can solve any problem?

via The Oxymoron of Political Leadership – IPS ipsnews.net.

Ending Africa’s Hunger Means Listening to Local Farmers Instead of Agribusiness

Africa is hungry – 240 million people are undernourished.

“Africa has enormous quantities of land and resources…and now there is a stampede to lock those up.”

By Stephen Leahy

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 16, 2010 (IPS)

Africa is hungry – 240 million people are undernourished. Now, for the first-time, small African farmers have been properly consulted on how to solve the problem of feeding sub-Saharan Africa. Their answers appear to directly repudiate a massive international effort to launch an African Green Revolution funded in large part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Instead of new hybrid seeds, chemical fertilisers and pesticides, family farmers in West Africa said they want to use local seeds, avoid spending precious cash on chemicals and most importantly to direct public agricultural research to meet their needs, according to a multi-media publication released on World Food Day (Oct. 16).

“There is a clear vision from these small farmers. They are rejecting the approach of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa,” said report co-author Michel Pimbert of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), a non-profit research institute based in London.

“These were true farmer-led assessment where small farmers and other food producers listened and questioned agricultural and other experts and then came up with their own recommendations,” Pimbert told IPS.

“Food and agriculture policy and research tend to ignore the values, needs, knowledge and concerns of the very people who provide the food we all eat — and often serve instead powerful commercial interests such as multinational seed and food retailing companies,” he said.

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Dams Come At a Price of Hi-Quality Food — Hard to Put a Price-tag on Healthy Rivers

By Stephen Leahy

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 22, 2010 (IPS)

Damming a river may bring electric power, but it often comes at the price of high-quality food fisheries, experts say. When dams are proposed for power, flood control or irrigation, the often devastating impacts on fisheries in rivers and lakes are ignored or discounted.

“It is very difficult to put a dollar value on what inland fisheries represent because it is much more than the landed value of the fish at the dock,” says Yumiko Kura of the WorldFish Center office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Kura is co-author of a new report, “Blue Harvest: Inland Fisheries as an Ecosystem Service”, which highlights the wide-ranging importance of inland fisheries in diets, especially among children, and not just in terms of protein but in supplying micronutrients, notably vitamin A, calcium, iron and zinc.

“Detailed studies in Bangladesh for example have shown that daily consumption of small fish contributes 40 percent of the total daily household requirement of vitamin A and 31 percent of calcium,” according the report released Friday at a side event at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

In addition, it notes there are more than 60 million full- and part-time jobs in fishing and other activities such as processing, with over half these jobs carried out by women.

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North-South Divide Again Clouds Biodiversity Talks


By Stephen Leahy

NAGOYA, Japan, Oct 19, 2010 (IPS)

The accelerating destruction of natural habitats will take millions of years to recover from, scientists have warned.

This may be the last chance to apply the brakes, Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme, reminded delegates representing the 193 member countries of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

“This meeting is being held to address a very simple fact: we are destroying life on this Earth,” Steiner said at the opening plenary meeting Monday. “It is absolutely essential that nations work together here.”

Ryu Matsumoto, Japan’s environment minister, warned that the world was about to reach a threshold where the loss of biodiversity would become irreversible.

“We’re now close to a tipping point on biodiversity,” he said. “We may cross that in the next 10 years.”

With 16,000 participants, the Oct. 18-29 gathering is by far the biggest international meeting on biodiversity. The term biodiversity refers to the variety of plants, animals and other species that provide a wide range of services to humanity.

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Russia’s Heat Wave Agony a “Wake-Up Call” to the World

Heat Waves Put Global Food Supply At Risk

[New Article]

By Stephen Leahy

VIENNA, Aug 11, 2010 (IPS)

A wind turbine on an acre of northern Iowa farmland could generate 300,000 dollars worth of greenhouse-gas-free electricity a year. Instead, the U.S. government pays out billions of dollars to subsidise grain for ethanol fuel that has little if any impact on global warming, according to Lester Brown.

“The smartest thing the U.S. could do is phase out ethanol subsidies,” says Brown, the founder of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute, in reference to rising food prices resulting from the unprecedented heat wave in western Russia that has decimated crops and killed at least 15,000 people.

“The lesson here is that we must take climate change far more seriously, make major cuts in emissions and fast before climate change is out of control,” Brown, one of the world’s leading experts on agriculture and food, told IPS.

Average temperatures during the month of July were eight degrees Celsius above normal in Moscow, he said, noting that “such a huge increase in temperature over an entire month is just unheard of.”

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On Monday, Moscow reached 37 C when the normal temperature for August is 21 C. It was the 28th day in a row that temperatures exceeded 30 C. Continue reading