Greggs and M&S join movement to donate leftover food to solidarity fridges

The Guardian – Saturday 30th July

The Somerset town of Frome is seeing the installation of its very own ‘solidarity fridge’. This innovative means of reducing waste allows people and businesses to leave edible but perishable food in a public fridge, for anyone in need to take. It’s part of growing movement to cut food waste by redistributing it to the hungry through a local and immediate exchange. It’s a good straight forward common sense way to mitigate an intractable problem. Food in the Frome fridge never stays for long and cleanliness is maintained by volunteers.

The ‘solidarity fridge’ movement has been spreading across Europe and through other parts of the world – Spain has nine fridges, the United Arab Emirates 200 fridges. Both businesses and individuals can donate to the fridges, with Greggs and M&S passing on food to the fridge in Frome. While some criticise the initiative for not taking a more holistic approach to food waste, it’s the simplicity of it that makes it effective. It’s certainly a novel means of ensuring that edible food finds its way to hungry mouths while also making the wider problem of food waste more visible to the public.

Going hungry in Venezuela

BBC News – Friday 29th July

Venezuela is suffering widespread hunger due to food scarcity. The country is in the midst of an economic crisis that has seen inflation rise at an untenable rate, projected to be 700% by the end of this year, and across Venezuela, people are not getting enough to eat. Poverty in the country has risen by 53% in the last two years, and now 90% of Venezuelans are eating less than they did a year ago. While the government has fixed the price of many staple foods, people are only allowed to purchase these regulated foods once a week. This has led to long lines of people forming hours before the shops open, in hopes they can purchase what they need – often they can’t because it’s already sold out.

At the root of the hunger is the country’s loss of oil revenues which have suffered from declining prices. But added to this is a problem with food hoarding and speculation, which has made food both inordinately expensive if not obtained through the government, and hard to get hold of. The country has been over-reliant on imported food as well, and while community-supported agriculture is seen as a systemic answer to the food shortages, this has yet to take hold.

Calls to act on EU ‘land footprint’

Farming Online – Friday 29th July

The ‘land footprint’ of the EU is of increasing concern with the release of a new report from Friends of the Earth, The true cost of consumption: the EU’s land footprint. The ‘land footprint’ is the amount of land required to grow food for a country, outside of that it produces within its own borders – essentially the amount of land needed to produce imported food. The report shows how significant an amount this is – 40% of land that is used to produce food for Europe lies outside of EU borders. There is concern that the EU’s voraciousness in land-use could lead to more land-grabbing and, arguably more concerning, declining biodiversity, a critical issue as we approach another planetary boundary.

The biggest area of land use outside the EU is for livestock – industrial livestock production is proliferating across the globe and meat consumption is on the rise. Friends of the Earth is calling for a reduction in meat consumption to lessen the EU ‘land footprint’, but more relevantly would be to call for a reduction in industrial production of meat and a return to regionally raised pasture-fed animals – this would bring a natural reduction in meat consumption because of the limits of such a system on production. Returning to sustainable methods of meat and horticulture production is the most important step in reducing the ‘land footprint’ of the EU.

Thailand: Poultry workers cry fowl amid claim they ‘slept on floor next to 28,000 birds’

The Guardian – Monday 1st August

Terrible accusations of despicable labour conditions for migrant Myanmarese workers in the chicken industry, are facing Thailand. Workers are claiming to have faced 22 hour work days, being forced to sleep alongside 28,000 chickens, withheld passports, minimal pay and debt bondage – all constituting virtual slavery for those trapped in work for a farm that supplies one of country’s biggest exporters, Betgro. It’s not a new story for Thailand which has been under international pressure to clean up their fishing industry which supplies the bulk of the world’s shrimp. A Guardian investigation turned up a litany of horrific labour abuses in the Thai fishing fleet supplying shrimp to major UK and European supermarkets.

Every few months, a new story surfaces of labour abuses around the world, in developed as well as developing countries – following on the heels of this story is one of employers’ complicity in the exploitation of workers in California through ‘ghost-working’, which ran a few weeks ago. The past few years have seen Ireland accused of people trafficking in their fishing industry, the exposure of workers to dangerous pesticides and chemicals in Spain, Argentina and the US, malnutrition of workers on tea plantations in India and much more. Why is agriculture so subject to labour abuses and how can these abuses be addressed on a systemic level? It’s a question that must be addressed to ensure better working conditions for the people who produce our food.

GMO wheat found in Washington state could affect US trade

The Washington Post – Friday 29th July

Another crop of Monsanto’s genetically-modified ‘Round-up ready’ wheat has appeared in Washington state. Washington is next to Oregon, where in 2013 GMO wheat was found on a farm. The crop has also appeared on a Montana farm, another western state in close proximity to Oregon. It should be noted that genetically-modified wheat has not been approved for sale or commercial production in the US and its appearance in Oregon led to the temporary banning of US wheat imports in several Asian countries – so the current incident in Washington state is not a happy surprise and some trading partners are implementing temporary trade restrictions.

The plants found in an unplanted field have not contaminated the farmer’s other non-GMO plants, and how the GMO wheat wound up growing there appears to be unknown. The genetically-modified varietal had been part of limited field trials in the Pacific Northwest between 1998–2001, and the origin of the Oregon outbreak was impossible to determine. Calls are now being made for stricter controls on GMO trials. The two outbreaks in Oregon and now Washington point to an ongoing problem with the migration of crops and with the possibility of crop contamination. If ‘Round-up ready’ wheat gets a foothold in US farmland, it could affect more than just international trade – the option of US organic and non-GMO wheat could disappear completely.

Photograph: AgriLife Today

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