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mikey

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WorldWatch:
« on: April 16, 2008, 07:56:24 AM »
Publication: World Watch
Publication Date: 01-JUL-07
Delivery: Immediate Online Access
Author: Augustyn, Heather
Full Article:
Tour guide Asok Kesavan has brought his multinational group of tourists to see some of the oil palm plantations in the countryside in his homeland, Malaysia. He asks his driver to stop the bus and the tourists unload briefly for a walk through the rows of palm. There are many, many rows. "This is not a family business. These are big private companies and Malaysia is the largest explorer and producer of palm oil," Kesavan says, pointing out the grape-like clusters of ripening fruit that nestle between trunk and branches like an overflowing treasure chest. The oil is used for everything from margarine to cosmetics, and it is exported worldwide. "We are the only country to sell oil to the Middle East," he jokes.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Palm oil is one of the world's leading agricultural commodities. The two biggest producers, Malaysia and Indonesia, account for 84 percent of the world's palm oil production and ring up sales of US$11 billion annually. But as Asok Kesavan knows, lucrative crops can bring trouble. He has seen the fires and the smog, just like his countrymen and millions of others in Indonesia, Singapore, and the rest of Southeast Asia. Plantation owners slash and burn existing vegetation to clear the way for more and more palm, rows and rows sown in place of once-lavish and ancient rainforests. The forests, obliterated by fire, are replaced by hectares of monoculture, and the ground beneath is kept clear of even shade-tolerant native species.

Bad as it already is, this situation may be set to worsen. The world can only use so much lipstick but its appetite for energy seems insatiable, and palm oil may be the Next Big Thing in energy. As biofuels take center stage and governments mandate their use--ironically for the environmental benefits--additional forest destruction, and the attendant loss of wildlife and proliferation of smoke-filled skies, are likely to ensue.

Hot Oil

The World Rainforest Movement (WRM) believes that plans for new plantations in Indonesia are already in the works. "Existing regional plans have already allotted a further 20 million hectares for oil palm plantations, mainly in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and West Papua," WRM noted in a recent bulletin, "and new plans are currently under discussion to establish the world's largest palm oil plantation of 1.8 million hectares in the heart of Borneo."

Ellie Brown, lead author of the U.S. Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) report Cruel Oil: How Palm Oil Harms Health, Rainforest & Wildlife, says the owners of these palm oil plantations will be largely either big business or government. "In Indonesia, half of the plantations are owned by private companies, which are often part of large conglomerates; the remainder are owned either by the state (17 percent) or by smallholders (33 percent), she writes. "Smallholders are farmers who own a few acres each in a section of a large company's plantation. Although they tend their own oil palm trees, they depend on the company for planting, pesticides, fertilizers, sale of the palm fruits (at a price set by the company), and initial processing in the company's on-site mill." And in countries where state-owned land is the norm, many of these plantations are affiliated with the state. "Especially in Malaysia and Indonesia, which have the lion's share of the global market, national governments have made mammoth tracts of land readily available for companies to establish oil palm plantations," writes Brown.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The biofuel boom is spurring companies to turn more and more of these vast areas into oil palm plantations. John Buchanan, senior director of business practices with the U.S.-based NGO Conservation International, says that palm oil's energy efficiency as a biofuel makes it very attractive to investors. "One of the common measures used to look at the factor or efficiency of a biofuel crop is a ratio--the number of units of energy put in, to get how many units of energy out," he says. "It's a key factor because in some of these crops, for example corn and ethanol, it's not a whole lot of savings. It's about 1 unit of fossil fuel only getting about 1.4 units of ethanol on the back end. Palm oil, on the other hand, ranges from about 5.6 to 9.6. So if palm oil were traded freely, palm is going to be more profitable." WRM notes that demand for palm oil is expected to double worldwide by 2020, and the Indonesian government reportedly has announced that it will designate 40 percent of its oil palm crop for biofuel production.

U.S. companies have long been eyeing the palm oil market for biofuel. Last December, the Illinois-based agro-giant Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) acquired shares of Singapore-based Wilmar International, a palm oil plantation operator and oil producer. The move made ADM the second-largest shareholder in the company. "ADM is making a big push and they're very bullish on the biofuels," said Buchanan.

The market may well deliver a windfall for palm oil investors. "The barriers to entering the biodiesel market for palm oil are very low," says Harry Boyle of the London research firm New Energy Finance. "It's not difficult and it's not expensive. To build a plant to process palm oil into biodiesel is pretty easy." He notes that the only hindrance to unlimited market potential may be shipping costs.

Paying the Piper

There are other costs, however, that markets often ignore. The oil palm grows only in tropical climates, the same climate that harbors some of the most biodiverse and abundant rainforests in the world. "The impacts on biodiversity are huge," says Ricardo Carrere of the WRM international secretariat in Montevideo, Uruguay. "Many animal species particular to tropical forests need extensive areas of forest to survive and to be able to reproduce, so when all of these forests are burned and then planted to one single species, that provides the animal with no food. Then many species tend to disappear or their numbers decrease substantially. At the same time, all of the local flora disappear because the plantation owners don't want anything to grow underneath, and we're talking in terms of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of hectares. There are enormous areas of land where the diverse tropical rainforest is being replaced by a monoculture."

A century ago, according to CSPI, 80 to 90 percent of Indonesia was covered by tropical rainforest. In 1997, only half was. At this rate, CSPI estimates, "virtually all Indonesian lowland tropical forests--which are the richest in plant and animal species--will be gone by 2010." Between 1985 and 2000, the group says, 87 percent of all deforestation in Malaysia was due to oil palm plantations.

Among the animal species vanishing in the rainforest destruction are the Sumatran tiger and rhinoceros, Asian elephant, orangutans, wild ox, barding deer, giant flying squirrel, proboscis monkey, gibbons, langurs, and clouded leopard; "... a species extinction spasm of planetary proportions," writes Ellie Brown in her report. The rainforest destruction and species elimination is directly attributed to these plantation burns: "Borneo's orangutan population was reduced by one-third in just one year, 1997, when almost 8,000 orangutans were either burned to death or were massacred when they tried to escape fires."

Human beings are not exempt from the destruction either. During the hot months (July through October) the effect of the smoke and smog on Southeast Asia is easy to see, and smell. Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings reached as high as 150 last year in Singapore during the months before monsoon rains squelched the fires. (Asian newspapers advise readers not to go outside on days when the PSI crosses 100--which is frequently--due to risks of respiratory distress and disease, lung cancer, heart attack, and stroke.) In Indonesia and Malaysia, long-time business owners had to close shop for good due to health impacts, and airports were closed for days on end due to low visibility. The fires had a major impact on regional markets: the Asian Development Bank estimated regional business losses from the 1997-98 fires at over US$9 billion.

But Carrere says that the impact on human health and welfare extends beyond the effect of lost revenues. "This is not environmentally friendly at all. It's genocide of local populations," he says. "What happens in many tropical countries is the land and the forest belongs to the state. However, in those forests there are a number of communities that have always been there and had no land title because they existed before the state, even before the colonizers came, so those lands belong to these people. But the state says no, this belongs to the state, so they give concessions first to the logging companies and then to the plantation companies. People resist ... because they are protecting their land and their means of livelihood, so ... people are put in jail ... and are killed and tortured. Rights abuses are happening throughout the tropics, particularly with biofuel plantations."

And oil palm plantations make the land itself hazardous. "They drain the wetland areas because oil palm needs it [less] humid to be able to grow properly, so water trenches are made so water flows out of the plantation," says Carrere. "At the same time, they use a lot of pesticides, agrochemicals, so that's the same water that's leaving the area and flowing into the region's rivers." Rich organic peat is often set afire and burns for days deep below the surface of the land.

Finally, there is the cost of palm oil plantations to the climate itself--the very thing biofuels are supposed to help. Renyi Zhang of Texas A & M University and his colleagues conducted a three-year study of satellite imagery in the Pacific region. They compared images taken between 1984 and 1994 with images from 1994 to 2005 and determined that deep convective clouds had increased between 20 and 50 percent due to pollution from Asia. These high-altitude storm clouds, seeded by microscopic pollutant particles, are expected to result in more brutal thunderstorms and more severe rainfall, especially through the winter months, in areas already too familiar with extreme weather disasters. Zhang's team also projected that as more of the pollutants travel on these more energetic, large storms with warmer air currents from the tropics, the deposited soot could accelerate the melting of polar ice.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Pointing the Finger

The obvious question is, exactly who is setting these fires, and why are they not being brought to justice? Andrew Ng, secretary-general of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an organization of large oil palm companies, oil palm trade associations, retailers, manufacturers, environmental and conservation NGOs, and social and development NGOs, says that finding the fire starters is harder than it sounds. "Finding the source of the fires, the fact is that it's quite nebulous in a sense. It's all just smoke, isn't it? At the end of the day, that's all you see in the sky," Ng says. "For every fire that you find, the source of it is quite difficult to trace. Sometimes you can trace it back to [an] estate. Sometimes you trace it from outside of the estate coming from the adjacent communities of land where they prepare the annual crops. So trying to find many small little sources, the hot spots here and there that create the big fires, is hard."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

But Ricardo Carrere argues that the inability to find the fire starters may itself just be so much metaphorical smoke. "Even the companies have been identified by name. And nothing happens because these companies have very strong links with government," he says. "They want this plant and it doesn't matter if the company is punished or not. It's the returns." Corruption in the Malaysian and Indonesian governments is nothing new, and certainly the lure of a lucrative crop is cause for these governments to turn a blind eye. In 2004, the civil society NGO Transparency International ranked Indonesia as the 13th most corrupt country in the world--that the country's plantation and forestry sectors are in fact rife with corruption, collusion, and nepotism. Singapore's Straits Times newspaper last October reported that the logging firms are "believed to be owned by or linked to people with ties to the ruling elite and the military."

Government officials deny responsibility. Malaysian officials last October blamed not the large plantations, but instead poor farmers who use fire to clear their land. On the other hand, the Center for International Forestry Research studied satellite photos of the burns that took place in Indonesia in 1997-98 and compared these photos to Indonesian land-use maps. They found that 75 percent of the hot spots in Kalimantan were in oil palm plantation and logging concessions.

One government official, Malaysian Environment Minister Azmi Khalid, believes the culprits are the big companies, and says so. "Open burning for land-clearing is the cause of the haze. In Kalimantan alone, there are now one million hectares of palm oil plantations," he said, noting that 16 companies were under investigation in connection with the fires last October. Still, these companies have never been brought to justice. During the previous prolonged period of haze in Southeast Asia, in 1997 and 1998, 176 companies were publicly identified as violators. Only five were brought to court. One was found guilty.

Corruption is only one part of the reason. Ng says the other part of the equation is the difficulty of enforcement. "Indonesia and Malaysia both have an excellent system of laws and within those laws the punitive measures are very good. But the problem that you have is enforcement, because of the lack of resources available for ensuring that government agencies have enough manpower to go out there and educate the public in these areas, and to monitor these areas and ensure that control continues," he says. "Unless people are willing to put money into these things, you're going to see the fires crop up again this year. We're going to have a dry spell in a couple of months time [June, July] and they'll keep going on until there's nothing left to burn because fire is really the only practical, in a sense, and I put that in quotation marks, way to clear land."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Ng's group has established a set of global guidelines for sustainable palm oil production, including compliance with all local, national, and international laws and regulations, and ensuring a flow of information from plantation owners to RSPO stakeholders for verification of methods. RSPO has also drawn up a zero-burn policy for plantation operators who are members. Ng says that zero burn is a win-win situation. "Ask anyone in the palm oil plantation industry and they'll tell you that it's actually far better for the land not to burn, not just from the point of view of carbon emissions, but zero burn actually gives you long-term benefits," he argues. "When you do zero burn, you recycle all of the planting material and reintroduce it back into the soil. That gives you long-term input into the soil for fertility."

The RSPO is not the only organization pressing to reduce and eliminate oil palm burns. Representatives from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and Thailand met last November to set policy and budgets for dealing with burns and haze. During this summit they set aside funds to provide incentives to farmers to abandon slash-and-burn land clearing, and strengthened enforcement of burn laws against plantation companies and forest concessionaires caught violating them. For example, Indonesia says it will increase funding for law enforcement and train its police force, prosecutors, and judges to crack down on forest fire violations.

If these measures work, the evidence of success, or failure, will appear in the skies--literally as smoke signals. "I don't think we can solve this within a year. It will take a long-term solution," said Singapore Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim during the talks. "We will have to see if farmers are prepared to change habits, whether the Indonesian authorities are prepared to clamp down on errant plantation owners. By and large we are quite happy [with the talks' results], but obviously the devil is in the details." Ng agrees: "Depending on how bad the fires are, I guess we'll find out if the fires are an issue that will again be brought up as in the previous times," he said of this coming November's negotiations.

Many countries aren't waiting for the companies and governments in Southeast Asia to sort it all out and are instead taking matters into their own hands. This past April, scientists and policymakers from over 100 counties met in Brussels to discuss global warming, and palm oil as a biofuel figured into their equation. Dutch companies such as Biox and Essent have either scrutinized or completely halted palm oil production until they can verify that their suppliers did not burn forests in the growing process. "From the start, we knew we can't stay in business if we can't prove that production is sustainable," said Biox executive Arjen Brinkmann. Britain's largest electricity supplier, RWE npower [sic], announced that it too has decided against using palm oil for biofuel after a year of study due to the prevalence of unsustainable growing methods. In January the European Parliament considered a ban on imports of nonsustainable palm oil as well, even though it is anxious to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

This coming year's haze is predicted to be even worse than last year's. Ricardo Carrere suggests that the real culprits ultimately are energy consumers. "On one hand, all of the governments of the world are saying we need sustainable development, we need to conserve water, we need to conserve biodiversity and climate and all the rest. But on the other hand, all the economic policies go in the opposite direction," he says. "It's not that biofuels are wrong. It's the unsustainable consumption that is wrong. Too much energy is being used and there's no way that by producing biofuels it is going to be able to feed all of those cars in the [global] North. Consumers cannot keep using energy in an unsustainable manner."

Heather Augustyn is a freelance writer who spent five weeks in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia during the fall 2006 burns. She has written for E! The Environmental Magazine, EarthTimes.org, Shore Magazine, The Village Voice, and In These Times.



mikey

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Re: WorldWatch:
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2008, 08:00:07 AM »
Publication: World Watch
Publication Date: 01-JUL-07
Delivery: Immediate Online Access
Author: Fujihara, Noboru ; Yoder, Peggy
Full Article:
The article "Food from Cloned Animals Receives Preliminary Approval" (March/April 2007, p. 8), gave me a great shock, since in Japan this kind of opinion perhaps has gone out of the discussion about food and the food market, though I am not sure. As one of the animal scientists who participated in research on genetic engineering by using chicken and cattle at the university in this country, I would like to say something about this news item, though five years have passed since my retirement from the college.

The technique for cloning is not so easy, and you may only be able to get a few successful results from animal cloning. In my students' case, 1 out of 600 to 700 treated chicken eggs (equal to chance mutation) was successful. Though I am not sure about recent advanced techniques for animal cloning, especially for cattle, pigs, or some other farm animals, even now it may take a lot of time to produce cloned animals with highly sophisticated methods.

In my laboratory at the university, we also found various interesting things about the genetically engineered chickens, such as short lifetimes, no breeding ability, and deformed legs that prevented normal walking, despite the fact that some of the exogenous genes were completely introduced into the host embryos.

As a result, I think, if something like mutation had occurred in the process of genetic engineering, these genes could be transferred into the next generation, but further generations might have some different characteristics owing to slightly changed altered genes which occurred in the process of genetic transmission.

In addition, the genetically modified birds also had a few different unknown characteristics in the body, but these features were completely excluded gradually during their living time, though the lifespan was not so long compared with normal birds. This also means that the extra or foreign genes may not be stored in the living cells for long, due probably to the reason that inherent genetic materials couldn't be replaced with ease by any other strange genes or foreign genes.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

These kinds of genetically engineered animals and plants should not be in the market, since nobody can say these are good and safe food materials at the present moment. As you know very well, we can survive without any kind of genetically modified foods all over the world.

In conclusion, as my own opinion, I would like to say the best way to obtain the animals carrying some characteristics of food is to make new breeds with the desired features by employing regular breeding systems. There is no royal road to getting much better animals and plants in succession on the Earth.

NOBORU FUJIHARA, PH.D.

Principal, Clark Memorial International High School

Professor Emeritus, Kyushu University, Japan

Worldwatch Institute promotes itself as "Independent research for an environmentally sustainable and socially just society." In the March/April issue of its magazine, there was a lengthy article titled "Our Biopolitical Future: Four Scenarios" (p. 10), written by Richard Hayes, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society. In the article, four scenarios concerning genetic technologies were presented, ranging from the benign to a "Techno-Eugenic Arms Race," where genetic technologies are used by individuals, corporations, and countries in the struggle for superiority and dominance. Yet on the back cover of the magazine there is a picture of a transgenic fluorescent-green pig created by Taiwanese scientists by injecting the embryo with a jellyfish protein. The caption stated, "Soon, perhaps, romantic dinners will no longer require candlelight." Given the unsustainability of animal agriculture, the ethics of animal research, and the possible dire predictions of science run amok with genetic engineering, I was shocked and extremely disappointed by WWI's almost whimsical portrayal of such a technology that could drastically reshape our world in a negative way.

PEGGY YODER

Philomath, Oregon, U.S.A.




mikey

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Re: WorldWatch:
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2008, 07:54:51 AM »
Asia big market for Lallemand additives
// 16 apr 2008

Over the past few weeks, Lallemand Animal Nutrition has strengthened its visibility in Asia with its participation to Dairy Focus Asia 2008, Asia’s independent technical conference for progressive dairy farmers, nutritionists and veterinarians, that took place in Bangkok, Thailand.


Bruno Rochet, in charge of the Asian market for Lallemand Animal Nutrition, who was invited to speak at Dairy Focus Asia 2008, focused his intervention on the use of ruminant specific live yeast and selenium enriched yeast to manage heat stress in dairy cows and limit its impact on dairy production and cows health (control of sub-acute acidosis and reproductive health), a very common issue in areas of hot and humid climates.

Lallemand Animal Nutrition is present in Asia via its Chinese representative office, in Beijing, as well as through a growing network of well-established local distributors: Nuevotec in Thailand, Asia Stockwell Products Inc. (ASPI) in Taiwan, Agritech in Malaysia, B.V. feed supplements manufacturing co. ltd in India, and Nosan for probiotic yeast and Miwa for Selenium enriched yeast in Japan.



mikey

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Re: WorldWatch:
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2008, 08:01:27 AM »
Comparing organic and conventional crops
// 28 mar 2008

Can organic cropping systems be as productive as conventional systems? The answer is an unqualified, "Yes" for alfalfa or wheat and a qualified "Yes most of the time" for corn and soybeans according to research reported by scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and agricultural consulting firm AGSTAT in the March-April 2008 issue of Agronomy Journal.


The researchers primarily based their answer on results from the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trials, conducted for 13 years (1990-2002) at Arlington, WI and 8 years (1990-1997) at Elkhorn, WI. These trials compared six cropping systems (three cash grain and three forage based crops) ranging from diverse, organic systems to less diverse, conventional systems. The cash grain systems were 1) conventional continuous corn, 2) conventional corn-soybean, and 3) organic corn-soybean-wheat where the wheat included a leguminous cover crop. The three forage based systems were 1) conventional corn-alfalfa-alfalfa-alfalfa, 2) organic corn-oats-alfalfa-alfalfa, and 3) rotationally grazed pasture.

In this research they found that: organic forage crops yielded as much or more dry matter as their conventional counterparts with quality sufficient to produce as much milk as the conventional systems; and organic grain crops: corn, soybean, and winter wheat produced 90% as well as their conventionally managed counterparts. In spite of some climatic differences and a large difference in soil drainage between the two sites, the relatively small difference in the way the cropping systems performed suggested that these results are widely applicable across prairie-derived soils in the U.S. upper Midwest.

The researchers also compared their results to other data analysis done on this topic in the U.S. Midwest. Although researchers found that diverse, low-input/organic cropping systems were as productive as conventional systems most of the time, there is a need for further research, according to the study’s author Dr. Joshua L. Posner, University of Wisconsin.

"There continues to be improvements in weed control for organic systems that may close the gap in productivity of corn and soybeans in wet seasons," Posner says. "On the other hand, technological advances may accelerate productivity gains in conventional systems that would outstrip the gains in organic systems even in favorable years."

The true question of whether organic cropping systems are as productive as conventional systems is a dynamic question and one that requires continual reevaluation.

 


mikey

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Re: WorldWatch:
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2008, 07:19:25 PM »
Animal Feed & Animal Nutrition News Drastic rise for choline chloride demand
// 15 apr 2008

Choline chloride demand will reach 391.8 thousand tons by 2012, according to new report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. Growth in poultry feed additives is one of the major drivers of this increasing demand. Swine feed additives and fish feed additives also offer significant growth opportunities.

 
Choline chloride, a derivative of methylamine, is predominantly used in animal feed additives as a principal dietary supplement in poultry, swine feed and fish farming. The fastest growing markets are Central and South Americas and the far Eastern countries, particularly China. As living standards in these countries are improving steadily, poultry consumption is being looked upon more favourably.

6% growth per year
Consumers are increasingly shifting from red meat to white meat. Choline chloride market is expected to grow at over 6% annually, as stated in a recent report published by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. Consumption of choline chloride in poultry feed additives in United States is estimated at 52.7 thousand tons for 2008. Asia-Pacific and Latin American regions offer the highest growth opportunity for choline chloride market.

Major players in the marketplace include Balchem Corporation, BCP Ingredients and DSM Nutritional Products


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Re: WorldWatch:
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2008, 09:25:34 AM »
'Livestock meltdown' threatens developing world
13:45 04 September 2007
NewScientist.com news service
Catherine Brahic
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 Hardy breeds of livestock vital for world food supplies are dying out across developing countries, especially in Africa, farm scientists are warning. The researchers are calling for the creation of regional gene banks to save such breeds.

"There is a livestock meltdown under way across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Valuable breeds are disappearing at an alarming rate," Carlos Seré of the International Livestock Research Institute told a gathering convened by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Interlaken, Switzerland. "In many cases we will not even know the true value of an existing breed until it has already gone."

Native breeds are increasingly being supplanted by high-yield Western farm animals, which may be less well able to adapt to their new environment in times of drought or disease, found a joint report by Seré's institute and the FAO on the diversity of farm animals in 169 countries.

For example, in northern Vietnam, local breeds made up 72% of the pig population in 1994, but eight years later the proportion had dropped to 26%. Of the 15 local pig breeds, 10 now face possible extinction.

Tougher cattle
The black and white Holstein-Friesian dairy cow has high milk yields, and is now found in 128 countries and all of the world's regions. Fast egg-laying white leghorn chickens and quick-growing large white pigs are other examples of high-yield stock.

These breeds offer high volumes of meat, milk and eggs. But the researchers warn that the growing reliance on a handful of farm animal species is causing the loss on average of one livestock breed every month in developing countries.

And over the longer term, the imported breeds may not cope with unpredictable environmental change or outbreaks of indigenous disease.

For example, many experts predict that Uganda's indigenous Ankole cattle, famous their graceful and gigantic horns, could be extinct within 20 years because they are being rapidly supplanted by Holstein-Friesians.

Yet, during a recent drought, farmers who had kept their Ankole were able to walk them long distances to water sources, while those who had switched to the imported breeds lost their entire herds, Seré told the meeting.

Gene banks
"For the foreseeable future," says Seré, "farm animals will continue to create means for hundreds of millions of people to escape absolute poverty."

He is calling for the creation of gene banks to store semen, eggs and embryos of farm animals. Seré says such gene banks have been set up in Europe, the US, China, India and parts of Latin America, but are absent from Africa.

But gene banks are just one step needed to better manage farm animals in developing countries, Seré says. The other steps he suggests are:

• Encouraging farmers to maintain a diversity of breeds

• Making it easier for farm animals to cross national borders with their owners

• Generate "landscape genomics", which help predict which breeds are best suited to different environments around the globe

Endangered species – Learn more about the conservation battle in our comprehensive special report.

Genetics – Keep up with the pace in our continually updated special report.

mikey

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Re: WorldWatch:
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2008, 09:28:32 AM »
Meat makes the rich ill and the poor hungry by Jeremy Rifkin
 When representatives meet at the World Food Summit they supposedly focus on how to get food into the mouths of nearly one billion people who are currently undernourished. However, at all the dinners they attend you can expect to see the consumption of large quantities of meat. And herein lies the contradiction.

People go hungry because much of arable land is used to grow feed grain for animals rather than people. In the US, 157 million tons of cereals, legumes and vegetable protein – all suitable for human consumption – is fed to livestock to produce just 28 million tons of animal protein in the form of meat.

In developing countries, using land to create an artificial food chain has resulted in misery for hundreds of millions of people. An acre of cereal produces five times more protein than an acre used for meat production; legumes such as beans, peas and lentils can produce 10 times more protein and, in the case of soya, 30 times more.

Global corporations which supply the seeds, chemicals and cattle and which control the slaughterhouses, marketing and distribution of beef, eagerly promote grain-fed livestock. They equate it with a country’s prestige and climbing the “protein ladder” becomes the mark of success.

Enlarging their meat supply is the first step for all developing countries. They start with chicken and egg production and, as their economies grow, climb the protein ladder to pork, milk, and dairy products, then to grass-fed beef and finally to grain-fed beef. Encouraging this process advances the interests of agribusinesses and two-thirds of the grain exported from the USA goes to feed livestock. The process really got underway when “green revolution” technology produced grain surpluses in the 1970s. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation encouraged it and the USA government linked its food aid programme to the producing of feed grain and gave low-interest loans to establish grain-fed poultry operations. Many nations have attempted to remain high on the protein ladder long after the grain surpluses disappeared.

Human consequences of the shift from food to feed were dramatically illustrated during the Ethiopian famine in 1984. While people starved, Ethiopia was growing linseed cake, cottonseed cake and rapeseed meal for European livestock. Millions of acres of land in the developing world are used for this purpose. Tragically, 80 per cent of the world’s hungry children live in countries with food surpluses which are fed to animals for consumption by the affluent.

The irony is that millions of consumers in the first world are dying from diseases of affluence such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer, brought on by eating animal products, while the world’s poor are dying from diseases of poverty. We are long overdue for a global discussion on how to promote a diversified, high-protein, vegetarian diet for the human race.

Jeremy Rifkin is the author of Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture (Plume, 1992), and The Biotech Century (Victor Gollancz,1998). He is also the president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington DC, USA.


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Despite the rich diversity of foods found all over the world, one third of its population does not have enough to eat. Today, hunger is a massive problem in many parts of Africa, Asia and South America and the future is not looking good. The global population is set to rise from 6.5 billion (2006) to 9.3 billion by 2050 (2) and Worldwatch reports (3) forecast severe global food shortages leading to famine on an unprecedented scale.

This misery is partly a direct result of our desire to eat meat. Children in the developing world starve next to fields of food destined for export as animal feed, to support the meat-hungry cultures of the rich world. While millions die, one third of the world's grain production is fed to farmed animals in rich countries (4).

If animal farming were to stop and we were to use the land to grow grain to feed ourselves, we could feed every single person on this planet. Consuming crops directly - rather than feeding them to animals and then eating animals - is a far more efficient way to feed the world. This Viva! Guide looks at why eating meat is a major cause of world hunger and how vegetarianism can provide a solution.

The roots of hunger
The developing world hasn't always been hungry. Early explorers of the 16th and 17th centuries often returned amazed at the huge amounts of food they saw there. In parts of Africa, for example, people always had three harvests in storage and no-one went hungry. The idea of buying and selling food was unheard of.

The Industrial Revolution changed all that. European countries needed cheap raw materials such as coal and iron ore that developing countries had plenty of. Through the process of invasion and colonisation, Western countries could not only take the raw materials but claim the land as their own and make the indigenous people pay taxes or rent. Poor peasants (many of whom had never dealt in money before) were forced to grow crops such as cotton to sell to their new masters. Wealthy countries owned the land, all the food that was produced, and decided the price. After paying taxes, peasants had little money left to buy this expensive food and often ended up borrowing money simply to live. This whole process of colonisation continued right up to the beginning of the last century.

The problem today
Drought and other 'natural' disasters are often wrongly blamed for causing famines. Local people have always planned for freak acts of nature and although they may be the trigger that starts a famine, the underlying cause is the system of modern day neo-colonialism.

The land in poor countries is still largely not owned by the people who work on it and rents are high. Huge areas are owned by large companies based in the West. It is common for people to be thrown off the land, often going to the towns where there is little other work. About 160,000 people move from rural areas to cities every day (5). Many migrants are forced to settle in shanty towns and squatter settlements.

Much of this land is used to grow “cash crops” for export - like coffee, tobacco and animal feed  - rather than to grow food for indigenous people. Countries agree to grow cash crops in order to pay off their crippling debts. Fifty-two of the world’s poorest countries owe the rich world in the region of £213 billion. Annual repayments total £14 billion - the majority of this from countries where most people are living on less than one dollar a day (see p7: Why are countries in debt?). (6)

The sad irony is that the world produces more than enough plant food to meet the needs of all its six billion people. If people used land to grow crops to feed themselves, rather than feeding crops to animals, then there would be enough to provide everyone with the average of 2360 Kcal (calories) needed for good health (7).

If everyone were to take 25 per cent of their calories from animal protein then the planet could sustain only three billion people (8). In simple, brutal terms, if we were all to imitate the average North American diet, we would only be able to feed half the world’s population.

Breeding animals means starving people
Breeding animals is an incredibly inefficient way to try and feed the world's growing population. Yet after food rationing during the second world war, intensive animal farming was actively encouraged as a way of ensuring our future “food security”.

Most meat in Western Europe is now produced in factory farms which, as the name implies, are production lines for animals. To meet the large demand for meat, billions of animals are kept in cramped, filthy conditions, often unable to move properly and not allowed fresh air or even natural light. Unable to feed outdoors naturally, they are fed grain, oil seeds, soya feed, fish meal and sometimes the remains of other animals. High quality land is used to grow grains and soya beans - land that could be used to grow crops for humans.

The grain fed to animals does not convert directly into meat to feed people. The vast majority is either excreted or used as “fuel” to keep the animal alive and functioning. For every 10 kilograms of soya protein fed to America’s cattle only one kilogram is converted to meat. Almost the entire population of India and China, nearly two billion people, could be fed on the protein consumed and largely wasted by the United States’ beef herd (10).

Because of the demand for animal feed, a Western meat-based diet uses four and a half times more land than is necessary for a vegan diet and two and a quarter times more than for a vegetarian diet (11). The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) recommend that people reduce their intake of dairy and meat products in order to reduce grazing pressure on land (12).

Where does the animal feed come from?
The amount of land used to grow animal feed in Western countries is not enough to meet their own needs and more is imported from developing countries. Land in some developing countries, like India, is also used to grow grain for animals who are reared and killed for export.

Currently farmed animals eat one-third of the world’s cereal production. In the industrialised world, two-thirds of the agricultural land produces cereals for animal feed. The EU imports 45 per cent of its oilseeds (soya) and, overall, imports 70 per cent of its protein for animal feed (1995-6). As the European Commission admits, ‘Europe’s agriculture is capable of feeding Europe’s people but not of feeding Europe’s animals’ (4). The EU also imports cattle feed such as peanuts or soya because it is cheaper than buying animal feed grown in Europe.

At the height of the Ethiopian famine in 1984-5, Britain imported £1.5 million worth of linseed cake, cottonseed cake and rape seed meal. Although none of this was fit for humans to eat, good quality farmland was still being used to grow animal feed for rich countries when it could have been used to grow food for Ethiopians.
In the United States, farmed animals, mostly cattle, consume almost twice as much grain as is eaten by the entire US population (13). 70 per cent of all the wheat, corn and other grain produced goes to feeding animals (14). Over 100 million acres of US agricultural land is used to grow grain for animals (13) and still more is imported.

In Central and South America, ever-increasing amounts of land are being used to grow soya beans and grain for export - to be used as animal feed. In Brazil, 23 per cent of the cultivated land is currently being used to produce soya beans, of which nearly half are for export (13). The Oxfam Poverty Report explains that the subsidised expansion of the EU’s dairy and livestock industry has created a huge demand for high protein animal feedstuffs and that the demand has in part been met through the expansion of large-scale, mechanised soya production in Brazil. Smallholder producers of beans and staple foods in the southern part of the country have been displaced to make way for giant soya estates. Soya has now become the country’s major agricultural export, “however, it is a trading arrangement which had proved considerably more efficient at feeding European cattle than with maintaining the livelihoods of poor Brazilians.” (16)

Twenty-five years ago, livestock consumed less than six per cent of Mexico’s grain. Today, at least one third of the grain produced in the country is being fed to animals. At the same time, millions of people living in the country are chronically undernourished (13).

It’s not surprising that the World Health Organisation has called for a shift away from meat production so that people can consume crops directly. It says:

“Farming policies that do not require intensive animal production systems would reduce the world demand for cereals. Use of land could be reappraised since cereal consumption for direct consumption by the population is much more efficient and cheaper than dedicating large areas to growing feed for meat production and dairying. Policies should be geared to the growing of plant foods and to limiting the promotion of meat and dairy.” (17)

Governments worldwide have ignored this advice. Instead of promoting the growing of plant foods for human consumption, they offer subsidy payments and financial incentives to livestock farmers, thereby actively encouraging meat production.

Who is hungry?
Around six billion people share the planet, one quarter in the rich north and three quarters in the poor south. While people in rich countries diet because they eat too much, many in the developing world do not have enough food simply to ensure their bodies work properly and stay alive.

826 million people around the world are seriously undernourished - 792 million people in developing countries and another 34 million in industrialised countries (18). Two billion people - one third of the global population - lack food security, defined by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as a “state of affairs where all people at all times have access to safe and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” (5)

Today, some 12 million children die annually of nutrition-related diseases. The Food and Agriculture Organisation says, “Doubtless, far more are chronically ill.” (19)

There are more chronically hungry people in Asia and the Pacific, but the depth of hunger is greatest in sub-Saharan Africa. In 46 per cent of countries there, the undernourished have an average deficit of more than 300 kilocalories per day (19). In 1996-98, 28 per cent of the population on the African continent were chronically undernourished (192 million people) (20).

Access to food is a basic right, enshrined in a number of human rights instruments to which states around the world have committed themselves. At the 1996 World Food Summit, leaders from 185 countries and the European Community reaffirmed, in the Rome Declaration on Food Security, “the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger.” They pledged to cut the number of the world’s hungry people in half by 2015 (21) .

The FAO says that, “eradicating hunger is not merely a lofty ideal” (21). Yet it makes no sense for states to acknowledge the right of each individual to food whilst promoting diets based around animal protein. Starvation does not occur because of a world food shortage. If everyone ate a vegetarian, or better still, a vegan diet there would be enough food for everyone. The only sane way forward is to grow food for humans rather than to feed it to farmed animals.

World Trade
A report, The European Meat Industry in the 1990s, explains the obscene paradox of global food distribution: “World trade relations are dominated by low-priced animal feed and meat. Low prices on animal feeds affect farmers in poor countries producing cash crops [ie animal feed crops for export]. Partly due to the use of imported feed, the rich countries today have a large surplus of meat while more and more people in less developed countries tend to be undernourished” (22).

Current trade agreements, like the Agreement on Agriculture under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), permit Western farmers to sell subsidised grain and other commodity surpluses cheaply in developing nations. This undercuts local farmers and forces many off the land. The Worldwatch Institute states, “In most cases, any benefits of this cheap food to the urban poor are likely to be transitory, as the destablisation of the rural economy encourages migration to job-scarce cities, thereby increasing the ranks of impoverished city dwellers while harming urban agriculture programmes” (23).

Dependence on foreign markets for food also means that the importing countries are vulnerable to price fluctuations and currency devaluations that can increase the price of food substantially (23).

Why are countries in debt?
During the 1970s, developing countries were lent money by developed countries for a range of projects, including infrastructure development (e.g. dams and roads), industrialisation and technology. The World Development Movement (WDM) states, “Often the projects turned out to be unproductive.” The loans were either multilateral (i.e. the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund lending to one government) or bilateral (i.e. one government lending to another) (24).

Then in the 1980s, interest rates rocketed because of the oil crisis, while at the same time, industrialised countries put high prices on many agricultural imports so that developing world farmers were not able to sell their produce (24). Consequently, developing countries were unable to pay off their loans and they have become increasingly indebted. These countries are paying back billions of pounds to the West in interest payments each year.

Often, the loans had conditions attached. When Costa Rica borrowed money from the World Bank, one of the conditions set was that they had to cut down rainforest and clear land for cattle grazing to supply rich countries with cheap beef. The destruction of rainforests is a disaster not just for its people and wildlife but for the world's climate (see Viva! Guide 9, Planet on a Plate).

Between 1975 and 1985, thousands of km2 of forest were cleared in Thailand to grow tapioca to sell to the EU as feed for pigs and cattle. When beef and pork mountains meant that not as much meat was being produced, Europe no longer needed tapioca and stopped buying. This put Thai peasants into huge debt because they had borrowed money to spend on improving their farms to grow enough to meet demand. As a consequence, many people sold their children into child labour and prostitution.

 

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   Jeremy Rifkin is the author of Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture (Plume, 1992), and The Biotech Century (Victor Gollancz,1998). He is also the president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington DC, USA.


mikey

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Re: WorldWatch:
« Reply #7 on: April 21, 2008, 09:31:17 AM »
 
Search    Gateway...AG: Agriculture DepartmentAGA: Animal production/healthAGE: FAO/IAEA Joint DivisionAGN: Nutrition and consumer protectionAGP: Plant production/protectionAGS: Infrastructure, agro-industriesCodex alimentariusCOAG: Committee on Agriculture 
 
Magazine home | spotlight | archive   
 
 
Spotlight / 2006 
 
 
The livestock sector is undergoing a complex process of technical and geographical change
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Livestock impacts on the environment
The challenge is to reconcile two conflicting demands: for animal food products and environmental services...
A new report from FAO says livestock production is one of the major causes of the world's most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Using a methodology that considers the entire commodity chain, it estimates that livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger share than that of transport. However, the report says, the livestock sector's potential contribution to solving environmental problems is equally large, and major improvements could be achieved at reasonable cost.

Based on the most recent data available, Livestock's long shadow takes into account the livestock sector's direct impacts, plus the environmental effects of related land use changes and production of the feed crops animals consume. It finds that expanding population and incomes worldwide, along with changing food preferences, are stimulating a rapid increase in demand for meat, milk and eggs, while globalization is boosting trade in both inputs and outputs.

Livestock and the rural poor
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Despite its wide-ranging environmental impacts, livestock is not a major force in the global economy, generating just under 1.5 percent of total GDP. But the livestock sector is socially and politically very significant in developing countries: it provides food and income for one billion of the world's poor, especially in dry areas, where livestock are often the only source of livelihoods. "Since livestock production is an expression of the poverty of people who have no other options," FAO says, "the huge number of people involved in livestock for lack of alternatives, particularly in Africa and Asia, is a major consideration for policy makers." 
 
In the process, the livestock sector is undergoing a complex process of technical and geographical change. Production is shifting from the countryside to urban and peri-urban areas, and towards sources of animal feed, whether feed crop areas or transport and trade hubs where feed is distributed. There is also a shift in species, with accelerating growth in production of pigs and poultry (mostly in industrial units) and a slow-down in that of cattle, sheep and goats, which are often raised extensively. Today, an estimated 80 percent of growth in the livestock sector comes from industrial production systems. Owing to those shifts, the report says, livestock are entering into direct competition for scarce land, water and other natural resources.

Deforestation, greenhouse gases. The livestock sector is by far the single largest anthropogenic user of land. Grazing occupies 26 percent of the Earth's terrestrial surface, while feed crop production requires about a third of all arable land. Expansion of grazing land for livestock is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America: some 70 percent of previously forested land in the Amazon is used as pasture, and feed crops cover a large part of the reminder. About 70 percent of all grazing land in dry areas is considered degraded, mostly because of overgrazing, compaction and erosion attributable to livestock activity.

At the same time, the livestock sector has assumed an often unrecognized role in global warming. Using a methodology that considered the entire commodity chain (see box below), FAO estimated that livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger share than that of transport. It accounts for nine percent of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, most of it due to expansion of pastures and arable land for feed crops. It generates even bigger shares of emissions of other gases with greater potential to warm the atmosphere: as much as 37 percent of anthropogenic methane, mostly from enteric fermentation by ruminants, and 65 percent of anthropogenic nitrous oxide, mostly from manure.

 New measurement for greenhouse gases

Scientists usually tie their estimates of the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming to sources such as land use changes, agriculture (including livestock) and transportation. The authors of Livestock’s long shadow took a different approach, aggregating emissions throughout the livestock commodity chain - from feed production (which includes chemical fertilizer production, deforestation for pasture and feed crops, and pasture degradation), through animal production (including enteric fermentation and nitrous oxide emissions from manure) to the carbon dioxide emitted during processing and transportation of animal products. 
 
Livestock production also impacts heavily the world's water supply, accounting for more than 8 percent of global human water use, mainly for the irrigation of feed crops. Evidence suggests it is the largest sectoral source of water pollutants, principally animal wastes, antibiotics, hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feed crops, and sediments from eroded pastures. While global figures are unavailable, it is estimated that in the USA livestock and feed crop agriculture are responsible for 37 percent of pesticide use, 50 percent of antibiotic use, and a third of the nitrogen and phosphorus loads in freshwater resources. The sector also generates almost two-thirds of anthropogenic ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems.

The sheer quantity of animals being raised for human consumption also poses a threat of the Earth's biodiversity. Livestock account for about 20 percent of the total terrestrial animal biomass, and the land area they now occupy was once habitat for wildlife. In 306 of the 825 terrestrial eco-regions identified by the Worldwide Fund for Nature, livestock are identified as "a current threat", while 23 of Conservation International's 35 "global hotspots for biodiversity" - characterized by serious levels of habitat loss - are affected by livestock production.

Two demands. FAO says "the future of the livestock-environment interface will be shaped by how we resolve the balance of two demands: for animal food products on one side and for environmental services on the other". Since the natural resource base is finite, the huge expansion of the livestock sector required to meet expanding demand must be accomplished while substantially reducing its environmental impact.

Greater efficiency in use of resources will be "the key to retracting livestock's long shadow". Although a host of effective technical options - for resource management, crop and livestock production, and post harvest reduction of losses - are available (see box below), current prices of land, water and feed resources used for livestock production do not reflect true scarcities, creating distortions that provide no incentive for efficient resource use. "This leads to the overuse of the resources and to major inefficiencies in the production process," FAO says. "Future policies to protect the environment will therefore have to introduce adequate market pricing for the main inputs."

Action on many fronts
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The FAO report recommends a range of measures to mitigate livestock's threats to the environment:
Land degradation: Restore damaged land through soil conservation, silvopastoralism, better management of grazing systems and protection of sensitive areas.
Greenhouse gas emissions: Sustainable intensification of livestock and feed crop production to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation and pasture degradation, improved animal nutrition and manure management to cut methane and nitrogen emissions.
Water pollution: Better management of animal waste in industrial production units, better diets to improve nutrient absorption, improved manure management and better use of processed manure on croplands.
Biodiversity loss: As well as implementing the measures above, improve protection of wild areas, maintain connectivity among protected areas, and integrate livestock production and producers into landscape management. 
 
In particular, water is grossly under-priced in most countries, and development of water markets and various types of cost recovery will be needed to correct the situation. In the case of land, suggested instruments include grazing fees, and better institutional arrangements for controlled and equitable access. The removal of livestock production subsidies is also likely to improve technical efficiency - in New Zealand, a drastic reduction in agricultural subsidies during the 1980s helped create one of the world's most efficient and environmentally friendly ruminant livestock industries.

Removal of price distortions at input and product level will enhance natural resource use, but may often not be sufficient. Livestock's long shadow says environmental externalities, both negative and positive, need to be explicitly factored into the policy framework. Livestock holders who provide environmental services need to be compensated, either by the immediate beneficiary (such as downstream users enjoying improved water quantity and quality) or by the general public. Services that could be rewarded include land management or land uses that restore biodiversity, and pasture management that provides for carbon sequestration. Compensation schemes also need to be developed between water and electricity providers and graziers who adopt grasslands management strategies that reduce sedimentation of water reservoirs.

Likewise, livestock holders who emit waste into waterways or release ammonia into the atmosphere should pay for the damage. Applying the "polluter pays" principle should not present insurmountable problems for offenders, given the burgeoning demand for livestock products.

Consumer pressure. Finally, FAO says, the livestock sector is usually driven by diverse policy objectives, and decision-makers find it difficult to address economic, social, health and environmental issues at the same time. The fact that so many people depend on livestock for their livelihoods limits the policy options available, and leads to difficult and politically sensitive trade-offs.

Information, communication and education will play critical roles in enhancing a "willingness to act". With their strong and growing influence, consumers are likely to be the main source of commercial and political pressure "to push the livestock sector into more sustainable forms", Livestock's long shadow says. Already, growing awareness of threats to the environment is translating into rising demand for environmental services: "This demand will broaden from immediate concerns - such as reducing the nuisance of flies and odours - to intermediate demands for clean air and water, then to the broader, longer-term environmental concerns, including climate change and loss of biodiversity".

Back to the countryside?

Intensive animal production systems produce high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus wastes and concentrated discharges of toxic materials. Yet those systems are often located in areas where effective waste management is more difficult. The regional distribution of intensive systems is   usually determined not by environmental concerns but by ease of access to input and product markets, and relative costs of land and labour. In developing countries, industrial units are often concentrated in peri-urban environments because of infrastructure constraints.
   "Environmental problems created by industrial production systems derive not from their large scale, nor their production intensity, but rather from their geographical location and concentration," FAO says. It recommends reintegration of crop and livestock activities, which calls for policies that drive industrial and intensive livestock to rural areas with nutrient demand.
 


mikey

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Re: WorldWatch:
« Reply #8 on: April 21, 2008, 09:35:25 AM »
By MARK BITTMAN
Published: January 27, 2008
A SEA change in the consumption of a resource that Americans take for granted may be in store — something cheap, plentiful, widely enjoyed and a part of daily life. And it isn’t oil.

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Livestock’s High Energy Costs
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The Huge Flow of Animal Waste
 
Gary Kazanjian for The New York Times
Beef cattle raised for the Harris Ranch Beef Company, Coalinga, Calif.
It’s meat.

The two commodities share a great deal: Like oil, meat is subsidized by the federal government. Like oil, meat is subject to accelerating demand as nations become wealthier, and this, in turn, sends prices higher. Finally — like oil — meat is something people are encouraged to consume less of, as the toll exacted by industrial production increases, and becomes increasingly visible.

Global demand for meat has multiplied in recent years, encouraged by growing affluence and nourished by the proliferation of huge, confined animal feeding operations. These assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require ever-increasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the world’s tropical rain forests.

Just this week, the president of Brazil announced emergency measures to halt the burning and cutting of the country’s rain forests for crop and grazing land. In the last five months alone, the government says, 1,250 square miles were lost.

The world’s total meat supply was 71 million tons in 1961. In 2007, it was estimated to be 284 million tons. Per capita consumption has more than doubled over that period. (In the developing world, it rose twice as fast, doubling in the last 20 years.) World meat consumption is expected to double again by 2050, which one expert, Henning Steinfeld of the United Nations, says is resulting in a “relentless growth in livestock production.”

Americans eat about the same amount of meat as we have for some time, about eight ounces a day, roughly twice the global average. At about 5 percent of the world’s population, we “process” (that is, grow and kill) nearly 10 billion animals a year, more than 15 percent of the world’s total.

Growing meat (it’s hard to use the word “raising” when applied to animals in factory farms) uses so many resources that it’s a challenge to enumerate them all. But consider: an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation.

To put the energy-using demand of meat production into easy-to-understand terms, Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at the Bard Center, and Pamela A. Martin, an assistant professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius. Similarly, a study last year by the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.

Grain, meat and even energy are roped together in a way that could have dire results. More meat means a corresponding increase in demand for feed, especially corn and soy, which some experts say will contribute to higher prices.

This will be inconvenient for citizens of wealthier nations, but it could have tragic consequences for those of poorer ones, especially if higher prices for feed divert production away from food crops. The demand for ethanol is already pushing up prices, and explains, in part, the 40 percent rise last year in the food price index calculated by the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization.

Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.

The environmental impact of growing so much grain for animal feed is profound. Agriculture in the United States — much of which now serves the demand for meat — contributes to nearly three-quarters of all water-quality problems in the nation’s rivers and streams, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Because the stomachs of cattle are meant to digest grass, not grain, cattle raised industrially thrive only in the sense that they gain weight quickly. This diet made it possible to remove cattle from their natural environment and encourage the efficiency of mass confinement and slaughter. But it causes enough health problems that administration of antibiotics is routine, so much so that it can result in antibiotic-resistant bacteria that threaten the usefulness of medicines that treat people.

Those grain-fed animals, in turn, are contributing to health problems among the world’s wealthier citizens — heart disease, some types of cancer, diabetes. The argument that meat provides useful protein makes sense, if the quantities are small. But the “you gotta eat meat” claim collapses at American levels. Even if the amount of meat we eat weren’t harmful, it’s way more than enough.

Americans are downing close to 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish per capita per year (dairy and eggs are separate, and hardly insignificant), an increase of 50 pounds per person from 50 years ago. We each consume something like 110 grams of protein a day, about twice the federal government’s recommended allowance; of that, about 75 grams come from animal protein. (The recommended level is itself considered by many dietary experts to be higher than it needs to be.) It’s likely that most of us would do just fine on around 30 grams of protein a day, virtually all of it from plant sources.


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Re: WorldWatch:
« Reply #9 on: April 21, 2008, 09:39:01 AM »
World food stocks dwindling rapidly, UN warns
By Elisabeth Rosenthal Published: December 17, 2007

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ROME: In an "unforeseen and unprecedented" shift, the world food supply is dwindling rapidly and food prices are soaring to historic levels, the top food and agriculture official of the United Nations warned Monday.

The changes created "a very serious risk that fewer people will be able to get food," particularly in the developing world, said Jacques Diouf, head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

The agency's food price index rose by more than 40 percent this year, compared with 9 percent the year before - a rate that was already unacceptable, he said. New figures show that the total cost of foodstuffs imported by the neediest countries rose 25 percent, to $107 million, in the last year.

At the same time, reserves of cereals are severely depleted, FAO records show. World wheat stores declined 11 percent this year, to the lowest level since 1980. That corresponds to 12 weeks of the world's total consumption - much less than the average of 18 weeks consumption in storage during the period 2000-2005. There are only 8 weeks of corn left, down from 11 weeks in the earlier period.

Prices of wheat and oilseeds are at record highs, Diouf said Monday. Wheat prices have risen by $130 per ton, or 52 percent, since a year ago. U.S. wheat futures broke $10 a bushel for the first time Monday, the agricultural equivalent of $100 a barrel oil. (Page 16)

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 Diouf blamed a confluence of recent supply and demand factors for the crisis, and he predicted that those factors were here to stay. On the supply side, these include the early effects of global warming, which has decreased crop yields in some crucial places, and a shift away from farming for human consumption toward crops for biofuels and cattle feed. Demand for grain is increasing with the world population, and more is diverted to feed cattle as the population of upwardly mobile meat-eaters grows.

"We're concerned that we are facing the perfect storm for the world's hungry," said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program, in a telephone interview. She said that her agency's food procurement costs had gone up 50 percent in the past 5 years and that some poor people are being "priced out of the food market."

To make matters worse, high oil prices have doubled shipping costs in the past year, putting enormous stress on poor nations that need to import food as well as the humanitarian agencies that provide it.

"You can debate why this is all happening, but what's most important to us is that it's a long-term trend, reversing decades of decreasing food prices," Sheeran said.

Climate specialists say that the vulnerability will only increase as further effects of climate change are felt. "If there's a significant change in climate in one of our high production areas, if there is a disease that effects a major crop, we are in a very risky situation," said Mark Howden of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Canberra.

Already "unusual weather events," linked to climate change - such as droughts, floods and storms - have decreased production in important exporting countries like Australia and Ukraine, Diouf said.

In Southern Australia, a significant reduction in rainfall in the past few years led some farmers to sell their land and move to Tasmania, where water is more reliable, said Howden, one of the authors of a recent series of papers in the Procedings of the National Academy of Sciences on climate change and the world food supply.

"In the U.S., Australia, and Europe, there's a very substantial capacity to adapt to the effects on food - with money, technology, research and development," Howden said. "In the developing world, there isn't."

Sheeran said, that on a recent trip to Mali, she was told that food stocks were at an all time low. The World Food Program feeds millions of children in schools and people with HIV/AIDS. Poor nutrition in these groups increased the risk serious disease and death.

Diouf suggested that all countries and international agencies would have to "revisit" agricultural and aid policies they had adopted "in a different economic environment." For example, with food and oil prices approaching record, it may not make sense to send food aid to poorer countries, but instead to focus on helping farmers grow food locally.

FAO plans to start a new initiative that will offer farmers in poor countries vouchers that can be redeemed for seeds and fertilizer, and will try to help them adapt to climate change.


 

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Re: WorldWatch:
« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2008, 12:15:02 PM »
Food crisis threatens security, says UN chief· Warning of instability and backlash for economies
· Progress on development goals could be wiped out
Alexandra Topping The Guardian, Monday April 21 2008 Article historyAbout this articleClose This article appeared in the Guardian on Monday April 21 2008 on p2 of the Top stories section. It was last updated at 00:59 on April 21 2008. The UN secretary general issued a gloomy warning yesterday that the deepening global food crisis, in which rapidly rising prices have triggered riots and threatened hunger in dozens of countries, could have grave implications for international security, economic growth and social progress.

Ban Ki-moon told a trade and development conference in Accra, Ghana, that the surge in prices of basic foodstuffs like cereals since last year could cancel out progress made towards meeting the UN's Millennium Development Goal of halving world poverty by 2015.

"If not handled properly, this crisis could result in a cascade of others ... and become a multidimensional problem affecting economic growth, social progress and even political security around the world," Ban told the conference.

The World Bank estimates food prices have risen by an average of 83% in the past three years, and warns that at least 100 million people could be tipped into poverty as a result. A range of factors has been blamed, including poor harvests, partly due to climate change, rising oil prices, steep growth in demand from China and India, and the dash to produce biofuels for motoring at the expense of food crops.

"One thing is certain," Ban said. "The world has consumed more than it has produced" over the last three years.

Last week Gordon Brown called for coordinated action by the US and Europe on rising food prices, after discussing the problem with Ban. In his speech yesterday, the UN chief said the ripple effect from food shortages and price hikes risked setting the UN's anti-poverty agenda back at square one. "The global food prices could mean seven lost years ... for the Millennium Development Goals," he said.

The threat of hunger and poverty in developing countries has also sharply increased, and has already resulted in food riots in parts of Asia and Africa.

Ban said several states had attempted to stave off food shortages by barring exports of rice and wheat, or introducing incentives for easier imports of foodstuffs. "This threatens to distort international trade and exacerbate shortages," he said.

The UN's special rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, earlier blamed the crisis on biofuels, speculation on commodities markets, and EU export subsidies. "Hunger has not been down to fate for a long time - just as Marx thought," he told the Austrian newspaper Kurier am Sonntag. "This is silent mass murder."

Food riots have broken out in at least a dozen countries, most notably in Egypt, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Yemen and Mexico. Pakistan has reintroduced rationing, while Russia has frozen the price of milk, bread, eggs and cooking oil. Indonesia has increased public food subsidies, while India has banned the export of rice, except the high-quality basmati variety.

Earlier this month, Haiti's parliament dismissed the prime minister, and cut the price of rice, in an attempt to defuse widespread anger at food price hikes that led to days of protests and looting in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Thousands of garment workers in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, also went on strike this month over spiralling prices. The price of rice, the staple Bangladeshi food, has increased by a third since a devastating cyclone last year. Experts say 30 million of the country's 150 million people could go without daily meals.

The UN food agency has warned that it will need to make "heartbreaking" choices about which countries should receive its emergency aid, unless governments donate more money to buy increasingly expensive food.

In the 30 years to 2005, world food prices fell by around three-quarters in inflation-adjusted terms, according to the Economist food prices index. Since then they have risen by 75%, with much of the increase in the past year. Wheat prices have doubled, while maize, soya and oilseeds are at record highs.


 

mikey

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Re: WorldWatch:
« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2008, 10:27:11 AM »
Pakistan: use wheat for food not feed
// 21 apr 2008

Use of wheat as ingredient of poultry feed could worsen the present crisis of flour in Pakistan according to the Ministry of Food Agriculture and Livestock.


At last year's wheat crisis, poultry feed manufacturers were only allowed to use maize as one of the ingredient rather than wheat but because the maize was more costly this rule did not work. Feed millers therefore stored wheat, which could not be used for the flour mills anymore.

However, according to agricultural experts the recent rain almost across the country will increase the production rate of the wheat crop.



mikey

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Re: WorldWatch:
« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2008, 10:29:24 AM »
Thai feed makers lobby for price increase
// 21 apr 2008

With surging global feed prices, animal feed producers in Thailand are asking the Commerce Ministry to allow them to raise prices by 10-20% of maize, soybean meal, fishmeal, rice bran and broken milled rice that have now reached an all-time high worldwide.

According to Pornsilp Patcharintanakul, president of the Thai Feed Mill Association, domestic maize prices have risen 46% since 2003, while rice bran has shot up more than 90% since 2003.

Milled rice prices this year have risen by more than 118% and soybean meal became 79% more expensive.

Pornsil added that that the government had promised earlier to waive the 4% import tariff on soybean meal but has yet to do so.

Feed makers have also asked for tariff cuts on substitute raw materials – sunflower meal, coconut meal and soybean husks – that have been controlled by the government since 2004, and "are not compatible with the rising prices of raw materials and as a consequence are distorting the market mechanism."

"We don't want to see a monopoly which has been managed by the government through its price-control measures since 2004. The controls are against the market trend and will damage market mechanisms," Pornsilp said.

He emphasised that manufacturers insist on producing high-quality feed meal in spite of the increasing cost of major raw materials.






mikey

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Re: WorldWatch:
« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2008, 10:31:07 AM »
Strong US farm economy faces crisis
// 21 apr 2008

Soaring land values, increasing debt and a reliance on government subsidies for ethanol production have prompted economists to warn that what some describe as a golden age of agriculture could come to a sudden end.

The potential problem, economists said, is that strong demand for corn and other grains has caused prices to reach historic highs.

That has led to record farmland values and steadily increasing debt as farmers borrow money to buy more land, finance the higher costs of fertilizer and seed and upgrade their equipment.

As long as the demand remains, good times for farmers should continue. But if demand falls, the agricultural economy could collapse.

Among factors that could affect demand would be:

A change in the federal government's policy on ethanol subsidies (now estimated at about $6 billion a year);
Revisions in the farm bill that would lower support payments or,
An increase in the dollar's value, which would hurt exports.
Farm economists question whether the federal backing for ethanol will continue in the face of complaints that soaring corn prices are increasing food costs. Corn is used in most animal feed and is a key ingredient in myriad other products.

Economists worry that farmers could be tempted to add debt due to the belief that high commodity prices would continue.

Those prices have been driven up by a strong demand for corn and soybeans from countries such as China and India, coupled with the needs of more than 50 corn-reliant ethanol plants built in the last few years.

As prices have climbed, so have farmland values. In Iowa, the nation's biggest corn producer, the average price of farmland has increased 67% in the past five years.

Farm debt increases
According to the US Department of Agriculture, farm business debt is expected to reach $228 billion by the end of this year, an $8 billion increase from last year and a new record for the fourth consecutive year.

Debt for land is expected to rise to nearly $121 billion this year, a 2.8% increase.

And the USDA said from the beginning of 2003 to the end of 2008, total farm debt will have increased by about $52.8 billion, or more than 30%.

Recent reports filed by agricultural lenders shows the government's expectations are playing out in reality.


mikey

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Re: WorldWatch:
« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2008, 10:33:24 AM »
Dubai Group invests in Malaysian biodiesel
// 14 apr 2008

Dubai Group, owned by the Emirate, said it had paid US$49.5 million for a 30% stake in Malaysian biodiesel firm GBD Investment, as it seeks to tap booming global demand for alternative fuels.


GBD's plant in Sabah state on Borneo island has a capacity of 200,000 metric tonnes a year, which will increase to 500,000 tonnes when the second phase of its construction is completed, Dubai Group said in a statement.

The plant can use palm oil and jatropha as feedstock and would produce biodiesel and pharma-grade glycerine for global markets, it said. South Korea's ECO Solutions Co holds the remaining stake in GBD.

Dubai Group is the latest in a string of Gulf investors who have piled into Malaysian assets, lured by the Southeast Asian country's healthy economy, booming commodities sector and fast-growing Islamic finance industry. In March, Qatar-based Gulf Petroleum, whose shareholders include members of the Qatar royal family and the Qatar General Insurance and Reinsurance Company, said it would set up a US$5 billion oil and gas complex in Malaysia.



 

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