Tesco says almost 30,000 tonnes of food wasted 

BBC News – Monday 21st October

Earlier this year Tesco announced its partnership with the food charity FareShare as part of broader bid to reduce waste within its system. This week, for the first time, Tesco released figures for its food waste in stores and distribution centres – a whopping 28,500 tonnes of food in the first six months of the year. It also published an analysis of what’s wasted the most, and packaged salad on BOGOF deals (buy one get one free) came out on top, along with bakery items (all those loaves of bread), followed by apples, bananas and grapes.

FareShare will take some of this wasted food and channel it to food banks across the country, where demand is growing at an alarming rate. But what they redistribute is just a drop in the bucket, only 2,300 tonnes, so whilst it is important work, it highlights the shear quantities of waste embedded in the system.

It can only be a good thing that the world’s third largest grocery retailer is making an effort to be transparent and reduce waste. Feeding the 5000 campaigned for more than four years to get Tesco to publish independent food waste figures, and they hope this will set a precedent for other food retailers. They point out that one of the key waste figures that is not being made public by food retailers is the amount of food wasted because of ‘cosmetic’ flaws and cancelled orders. Grocers, as we know, have all the power in the buying relationship with food producers, and the refusal to buy food raised and grown for them is commonplace.

While waste is finally getting the profile it deserves, we’re at the start of a very long road to eliminating it.

Over 90 eminent scientists say ‘No scientific consensus on safety of GM’

Farming Online – Monday 21st October

Breaking news this week is the consensus statement signed by more than 90 respected scientists stating that there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GM crops. It’s an important refutation of the widely held belief that because people aren’t dropping dead in the streets after eating GM, they must be safe for human and animal consumption.

In a response to ‘…claims by industry and public figures about the potential benefits of genetically modified crops,’ – that’s got to be the aggressive support of GMOs by the current government led by environment minister Owen Paterson, who last week labelled GMO opponents ‘wicked’ –  scientists have come forward to clarify what is widely believed about GMOs by the scientific community. There’s no agreement among scientists on whether GMOs are safe or not. There’s not been enough independent research verifying its safety. There is much more research to be done before a consensus can begin to form.

Scientific consensus is important. Climate change was similarly debated for decades without a clear consensus. However, that’s changed in the last five years as a significant consensus has formed. That consensus is now broad enough for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to state that global warming is ‘unequivocal’ and that there is a ‘95% certainty’ that human activity is the dominant cause. The debate over whether it’s really happening is pretty much put to bed, along with other scientific debates such as whether or not smoking is harmful. It took decades before smoking tobacco was recognised as the public health danger it is.

This is not the case for GMOs. It may prove that these crops do pose significant dangers to both human and environmental health. We just don’t know yet. The wise thing would be to do the necessary independent research and build scientific consensus that includes scientists not in the employment of, or in any other way invested in, the bio-tech industry. The validation (or not) of independent research just might make the public feel they were getting an unbiased answer to the question of GMO safety.

Obesity experts appalled by EU move to approve health claim for fructose

The Guardian – Thursday 17th October

The EU has recently allowed drinks manufacturers to claim that their soda is ‘healthier’ than others if more than 30% of the sucrose and glucose is replaced by fructose. That drinks overloaded with sugar should be allowed to claim they are in anyway healthy or healthier is a ludicrous idea, but fructose is definitively not a ‘healthy’ sugar. The wide-spread assumption that because it comes from fruit, it is therefore ‘natural’ and ‘healthy’, has been widely rubbished by researchers. In fact, it is believed that it plays a significant role in the rise of obesity, particularly in its processed form as high fructose corn syrup – regularly the first ingredient in fizzy drinks.

A number of scientists researching obesity have come forward to argue that allowing manufacturers to make a health claim about the use of fructose, opens a potential quagmire of confusion for consumers who will inevitably equate ‘healthier’ with ‘healthy’, because if something is ‘healthier,’ it must be healthy in the first place. It may further lead consumers to believe that sodas with fructose are less fattening than those with sucrose and glucose. But confusion has frequently been a successful marketing tactic for the food industry, so they stand to benefit.

Photograph by Yuichi Shiraishi

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