Showing posts with the label Food

Concentration Matters. Farmland Inequality on the Canadian Prairies

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives    by Darrin Qualman, Annette Aurélie Desmarais, André Magnan and Mengistu Wendimu A scene typical to the Canadian prairies - a big farm at harvest time. A public domain photo by cj berry. The ownership and control of Canada’s food-producing land is becoming more and more concentrated, with profound impacts for young farmers, food system security, climate change and democracy.  On the Canadian prairies, small and medium-sized family farms are often portrayed as the primary food production units. Yet, the reality of farming in Western Canada is quite different. In fact, a small and declining number of farms are operating the lion’s share of Prairie farmland and capturing the lion’s share of farm revenue and net income.  The authors analyse the extent of farmland concentration in Canada’s three Prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba), where over 70 per cent of the country’s agricultural land is situated. They find that 38 per ce

Location! Location! Location! "Rewilding" less than a third of the world's damaged ecosystems in the right places, could go a long way toward curbing both species extinctions and atmospheric carbon!

Nature The Great Egret in a wetland in southwestern Manitoba, Canada.  Canadian populations are said to be declining. For decades, the egrets have had to contend with major habitat loss and degradation, as well as threats like contaminated runoff from farm fields. A  PinP  photo. Restoring 30% of the world’s ecosystems in priority areas could stave off more than 70% of projected extinctions and absorb nearly half of the carbon buildup in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. As the world focuses on dual crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, a landmark report in Nature pinpoints the ecosystems that, if restored, give us the biggest "bang for our buck" in terms of both climate and biodiversity benefits. Despite being shown to be beneficial, shelterbelts are being systematically  destroyed  by  modern farmers.  A PinP video. Returning specific ecosystems in all continents worldwide that have been replaced by farming to their natural state would rescue the maj

Ecology: Conservation and food system changes needed to bolster biodiversity

Trees, shrubs and debris are burned on the Canadian prairies to make  way for more cropland. A  PinP  photo. Nature Declines in terrestrial biodiversity from habitat conversion could be reversed by adopting a combination of bold conservation methods and increases in the sustainability of the food system, a modelling study published in Nature suggests. Human pressures, such as the destruction of natural habitats to make way for agriculture and forestry, are causing rapid declines in biodiversity, and placing at risk the ecosystem services upon which we depend. Ambitious targets for biodiversity have been proposed, but it is unclear how these targets can be achieved whilst retaining the ability to feed a growing population. Using land-use and biodiversity models, David Leclère and colleagues show how this is possible.  Conservationists need to increase the amount of actively managed land, restore degraded land and adopt generalized landscape-level conservation plann

Climate change to create farmland in the north, but at environmental costs, study reveals

PHYS ORG High Alpine Tundra in Noatak National Preserve, Alaska.  U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. In a warming world, Canada's north may become our breadbasket of the future - but this new "farming frontier" also poses environmental threats from increased carbon emissions to degraded water quality, according to the first-ever study involving University of Guelph researchers.   Story here.

Without drastic and immediate action, climate change will spell less food for the vast majority of Earth's population by century's end. Study. by Larry Powell

A disastrous 2019 growing season in Manitoba included drought, rain and snow at the wrong times. Both seeding and harvesting of food crops like canola (above) were disrupted, yield and quality reduced. A PinP photo. There are few bright spots in this body of research.  If developed countries don't reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate "promptly," it warns, a "perfect storm" will result. Food such as soy, corn, wheat and rice produced by the agriculture sector and seafood by marine fisheries, will go down for about 90 percent of Earth's population - more than seven billion, by 2100. Most of those affected already live in the most sensitive and least developed countries. As overwhelming as the impacts would be, they wouldn't be universal. A scant three percent of the population would actually experience a food production  increase  over the same period. And, if countries actually make those emissions cutbacks (a &q

Agricultural impacts of our climate crisis are becoming more apparent

PhysOrg Photo credit - IPCC. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presents a sobering analyses addressing the substantial contributions of agriculture to climate change and the ways the climate crisis is projected to jeopardize global food security if urgent action isn't taken. Story here.

Healthy foods are expensive in poor countries, unhealthy foods cheap in rich countries. Study.

International Livestock Research Institute Eggs and other nutrient-dense foods are expensive in poor countries, leading to child stunting,  Photo by OXFAM. while sugar and other nutrient-poor food are cheap in rich countries.  Photo by Bennysaunders Story here.

To Slow Global Warming, U.N. Warns Agriculture Must Change

The Salt  Humans must drastically alter food production to prevent the most catastrophic effects of global warming, according to a new report from the United Nations panel on climate change.  Story here. An intensive sheep operation.

Climate change is already affecting global food production—unequally

PHYS ORG A soy field in Canada. A PinP photo. The world's top 10 crops— barley, cassava, maize, oil palm, rapeseed, rice, sorghum, soybean, sugarcane and wheat—supply a combined 83 percent of all calories produced on cropland. Yields have long been projected to decrease in future climate conditions. Now, new research shows climate change has already affected production of these key energy sources—and some regions and countries are faring far worse than others. Story here.

Manitoba's "Protein Advantage"

A few months ago, the Government of Manitoba invited input from the public on a proposal to expand production of protein-rich food, whether plant or animal-based, in this province. It claims, meeting this fast-growing global demand offers much bigger opportunities than those which have existed before, for both farmers and investors. The province has embarked on a massive expansion of its industrial pork industry by relaxing both health and environmental regulations and obviously hopes through this new initiative,  to make it even bigger. In this in-depth article, long-time farm activist and livestock producer, Ruth Pryzer, offers many valuable insights into why this all needs to be taken with several grains of salt. PinP

Corn-farming fouls the air to fatal effect

Nature - Agriculture Harvesting corn in Canada. A PinP photo. The dominant US crop plant has a voracious appetite for fertilizer, which leads to air pollution and health problems. More here.

Beat the Heat: Canada's French-fry potatoes in climate change trouble

Canadian Science Publishing After PEI, Manitoba is Canada's largest potato-producing province.  Over 1200 million pounds are processed here each year on about 80 thousand acres.  A PinP photo. Desiccating summer heat, brought on by climate change, could have adverse effects on Canada's potato industry. In a recent study, researchers examined the heat stress response of 55 potato varieties to estimate how they might fare under changing climate conditions. The news is not good.    Details here.

Could genetic modification be about to give a boost to the war on hunger?

by Larry Powell A vegetable garden in Manitoba. A  PinP  photo. American researchers believe they've found a way to genetically-engineer a dramatic increase in crop production. They've conducted field experiments with tobacco, using a new method which makes the critical process of photosynthesis much more efficient.  (Tobacco was chosen because it's easy to modify and test. The same methods are now being tested on other crops including soybean, potato and tomato.)  Photosynthesis allows plants to convert sunlight into energy and help them grow, increasing crop yield. To do this, most plants use the world's most plentiful enzyme, Rubisco, to capture carbon dioxide from the air and expel oxygen. But in a strange twist of nature, Rubisco captures more oxygen than it should. This produces a toxic compound in the plant which requires a lot of energy to get rid of. It could take more than a decade before this new technology can be put into widespread use

Bad News for Crops! Global Warming = More & Hungrier Bugs!

PHYS ORG A corn rootworm.  Public Domain . Crop losses for critical food grains will increase substantially as the climate warms, as rising temperatures increase the metabolic rate and population growth of insect pests, according to new research. More here. Most harm will befall crops in the temperate zone (shown in green). 

Agroecology: A better alternative in Sub-Saharan Africa

ScienceNews Two "big rigs" ready to begin work in western Manitoba. PinP photo. Agroecology is a better alternative than large-scale agriculture, both for the climate and for small farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to researcher. This agricultural model preserves biodiversity and safeguards food supply while avoiding soil depletion. More here.

Wetter summers in warming climate bring disease and crop-failure risks

THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA Warmer, wetter summers could produce unexpected impacts, such as disease outbreaks and crop failures. More here.

In 10 years, the world may not be able to feed itself

The World Economic Forum Combines in a wheat field in Manitoba, Canada. PinP photo. By 2027 the world could be facing a 214 trillion calorie deficit, says Sara Menker, founder of an agricultural data technology company. In other words, in just a decade, we won’t have enough food to feed the planet. More here.

UN urges 'reboot' of drought responses to focus more on preparedness

UN News Centre Investing in preparedness and building the resilience of farmers is fundamental to cope with extreme drought, because responding to such situations when they hit might be too late, the head of the United Nations agricultural agency said today. Story here.

It’s the end of the world and we know it: Many scientists see apocalypse, soon

S ALON Stephen Hawking is one of many scientists who see the possible near-term demise of our species.  STORY HERE.

First Nations Elder Loses Patience With the Modern Food System.

"Look at this, our food is laced with poison - exactly what we had been saying. Our industrial world is killing us. No wonder people are dying. The cost of doing mass production is our souls and health of our nations." This is Dave Daniels, Elder on Long Plain First Nation, Manitoba and specialist in wild plants and herbal medicines.  He was reacting to a recently-released finding  by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In studies conducted in '15 & '16, the federal food watchdog discovered traces of glyphosate, "a probable carcinogen," (World Health Organization) in almost 30% of food samples tested. To better understand Mr. Daniel's story and his anger, please watch the video, below.