High pesticide levels found on common fruits

The Telegraph – Saturday 28th August

As pesticide resistance increases, the chemical manufacturing industry is booming. More and more products are being dumped on crops as they become less and less effective. It is no surprise then, that pesticides are turning up on our food in higher concentrations. The Pesticide Action Network UK claims that the amount of pesticides on a wide range of common fruit has almost doubled in the past ten years and that concentrations often exceed government limits.

The amount of pesticides being ingested is shocking. In the US, the government is raising allowable levels of glyphosate (the key herbicide in Round-up) on food crops, despite numerous studies linking it with several types of cancer and other diseases. A Friends of the Earth study recently found glyphosate in the urine of city dwellers in 18 European countries, lest anyone think the situation is better in Europe.

Concerned about eating pesticides and other agricultural chemicals? There’s an easy way to avoid them, thankfully. Eat organic or grow your own!

Climate change ‘driving spread of crop pests’

BBC News – Monday 2nd September

The predictions for climate change’s impact on agriculture just keep getting darker and darker. A few weeks ago, a new report warned that climate change and associated factors (such as ecosystem collapse and water scarcity) could make farming impossible on much land. This week, researchers at Oxford and Exeter Universities, are evidencing that climate change is making the world a much more hospitable place for crop pests and pathogens (if not for us). They are spreading faster and across a much wider swathe of the earth, into northern and southern latitudes where the cold had previously kept them out. Crop failure from pests and pathogens has long been a significant problem for farmers, so their spread doesn’t bode well for our global food security. The report points out that the global trade in crops is helping the spread along, but climate change is allowing these pests and pathogens to take hold in places where previously they couldn’t.

Jamie Oliver bemoans chips, cheese and giant TVs of modern-day poverty

The Guardian – Tuesday 27th August

Jamie Oliver’s launching his next TV series, Jamie’s Money Saving Meals, and he’s been on the PR circuit promoting it. Unfortunately, in this piece he doesn’t come off briliantly when he complains about ‘modern-day poverty’, where people eat take-away meals in front of a big TV set.

Popping down to the local market with its assumed bounty of fresh vegetables isn’t possible if you live in a food desert with access to nothing but fast, hyper-processed food. That’s a growing reality for a lot of people. That poor eating habits have become a marker of poverty is something that desperately needs attending to, but you have to recognise the complexity of the problem. The preaching of the healthy and wealthy about what way in which lower-income groups eat is not the way to go. The piece ends with Imran Hussain, head of policy at the Child Poverty Action Group, noting that ‘… as the incomes of poor families rise, they spend more on things like healthy food and children’s clothes.’  What is wrong with the system, is that health shouldn’t be a luxury.

India approves food bill to subsidise grain for the poor

The Guardian – Tuesday 27th August

India has made a meaningful step towards improving its vast hunger problem by providing cheap grain to its poor. As one of the world’s fastest developing nations, India is home to a quarter of the world’s hungry. The Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s assembly, has passed the initiative after fierce debate. It has caused stock markets to crash as the already weakened rupee is further devalued by India’s growing deficit. The initiative must still pass the upper house if it is to become law, so let’s hope that social necessity trumps capitalist demand in India, and we see more equity in who gets to eat.

NHS hospitals accused of hiding food dissatisfaction

BBC News – Tuesday 27th August

It’s a great disconnect that in a place where people go to be healed, they often eat some of the worst food available. Have a look at the photo which accompanies the piece, sent in by a patient. It looks about as unpalatable as you can get. The Campaign for Better Hospital Food has been raising awareness of poor hospital food and lobbying for it to be subjected to the same standards set for schools and prisons. How hospitals were exempted from these standards is baffling.

Remarkably the NHS thinks their food is just fine. In their internal assessments of their food in 2011, they rated 98% of it ‘good’ to ‘excellent’. Perhaps there’s a bit of a whitewash going on? However, a few hospitals have shown that you can feed patients well on a budget – Darlington Memorial, in County Durham, was held up as an example for serving locally sourced food, cooked on site for just £2.60 per patient. It can be done!

Eating together – 14 samples from Michael Pollan’s ‘Cooked’

Examiner – Saturday 3rd August

The Examiner pulls the best quotes from Michael Pollan’s latest book Cooked. Cooked highlights cooking as one of humanity’s most critical skills, alongside agriculture. Pollan writes that the cooking pot ‘made it possible for humans to thrive on a diet of stored dry seeds, which in turn led to the accumulation of wealth, the division of labor, and the rise of civilisation.’

It’s important to be reminded of just how important cooking is, as fewer and fewer of us take it up. He also points out its critical social role in our culture, for bringing people together in their eating. ‘Cooking is all about connection…between us and other species, other times, other cultures…but, most important, other people.’ The Examiner’s teasers from the book will make you rush to read it!

Photograph by New Amsterdam Market

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