This week I would like to wrap up my series on food, and leave you with a little light reading and a film to watch.
Wrapped up Food
My first post Technology in Food Production contained a general overview of how modern farming techniques are effecting our lives. Most of the comments made expressed surprise at the levels of GM organisms that are currently being farmed and the profits generated by the industry.
It is estimated that in the USA between 40 and 50% of all food produced is wasted. There are about 320 million people in the US, so we could safely say that this wasted food could feed at least 100 million people.
The European Union fares little better. According to the European Commission about 90 million tonnes of food is wasted annually in Europe alone, with global waste at about 1.3 billion tonnes. In developing countries, over 40% of food losses happen after harvest and during processing, while in industrialized countries, over 40% occurs at retail and consumer level. According to the US Food and Agricultural Organization food waste in Europe alone could feed 200 million people, and that if global waste could be cut down by 25% it would give enough food to feed 870 million hungry people.
The Sciencemag website has an article that will lead me into today’s post, about an organic farmer in Australia who has taken his neighbour to court over GM contamination. The organic farm has traces of GM materials that have apparently blown in from the neighbouring farm, leaving authorities no choice than to take away the farm’s organic certification.
This has of course led to a loss of income, and so the owner is suing for $85,000 to recoup his losses.
Now although there are standards about leaving space between GM and non GM plantation, it has become increasingly clear that contamination is somewhat inevitable, and this is reflected in regulations.
As a continuation of my food series, I would like to take a look at alternative food provisioning networks, via a review of Italian anthropologist Cristina Grasseni’s new book ‘Beyond Alternative Food Networks’. The book describes strategies used by groups to avoid interaction with the industrialized food mechanism, much of which I have debated in the other posts in the series.
The post was a review of a letter sent by some of Europe’s largest corporations to the European Commission. The letter claims that regulation in the EU risks damaging development and the economy, they want a series of things to be taken into account within the regulation process.
It is easy to read and short and I recommend a look, it is free to download through the link above, but I would like to take one of their suggestions and apply it to food regulation, as part of my food series.
Last week I gave some statistics about GM food production both in the USA and worldwide, and this week I wanted to consider what genetic modification actually is. It appears to me that confusion reigns when addressing issues surrounding GM, so I would like to try and clarify a few issues.
GM exists in plants but also in animals as the salmon link showed last week (not currently approved for consumption), but we tend to associate it mainly with crops, so what does it entail?
In relation to the biggest crops that I mentioned last week, soybean, cotton and corn, there are 2 distinctly different approaches. The first is herbicide tolerance (HT) and the second insect resistance (Bt). In other cases nutritional changes have been made, but the major cash crops are based around the following approaches.