Climate change has already cut into the global food supply and is fuelling wars and natural disasters, but governments are unprepared to protect those most at risk, according to a report from the UN’s climate science panel.

The report is the first update in seven years from the UN’s international panel of experts, which is charged with producing the definitive account of climate change.

In that time, climate change has ceased to be a distant threat and made an impact much closer to home, the report’s authors say. “It’s about people now,” said Virginia Burkett, the chief scientist for global change at the US geological survey and one of the report’s authors. “It’s more relevant to the man on the street. It’s more relevant to communities because the impacts are directly affecting people – not just butterflies and sea ice.”

The scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found evidence of climate change far beyond thawing Arctic permafrost and crumbling coral reefs – “on all continents and across the oceans”.

But it was the finding that climate change could threaten global food security that caught the attention of government officials from 115 countries who reviewed the report. “All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change,” the report said.

The scientists said there was enough evidence to say for certain that climate change is affecting food production on land and sea.

In five short years, rich countries have acquired about 80 million hectares of land in Africa and other developing countries in what is now a worrying trend.

Critics have dubbed this “the big land grab”, or “the new type of neo-colonialism”. What is happening?

Now, foreigners have always owned land in Africa. What is new in this “second scramble for Africa” is the scale, size and more importantly, the exclusion of civil society and local communities in the process.

The United Nations has very little data, and the governments or corporations involved are not willing to talk.


Land acquisition of such a scale in Africa was last witnessed in the historical scramble for the continent more than a century ago, when European powers met in Berlin, Germany, drew arbitrary lines on a piece of paper, and shared the different parts of the continent among themselves.

Host governments are generally receptive to these acquisitions for obvious reasons: they offer various opportunities to create jobs, increase foreign direct investments and of course, for the extraction of rent.

But questions are emerging about the implications of these land deals, especially the exposure of economically fragile groups to further marginalisation through speculation and land rights transfers, loss of access to land and resources for pastoralists, small-scale agricultural producers, and subsistence farmers.

..the rise of China as an agricultural powerhouse — eager not only to feed its increasingly well-off populace, but to transform itself from an importer to an exporter — has all sorts of resonances. Bird flu is far from the only problem. China uses antibiotics in agriculture in much the same manner the United States does — and has the same problems of antibiotic-resistant bacteria leaking from large-scale farms. (It also has attempted to control its farm-antibiotic use, but the jury is out as to whether it will succeed.) It has notoriously poor food safety — and has provoked alarm in the US by obtaining a waiver from “country of origin” labeling for meat products. And as the superb food-policy writers Tom Philpott and Twilight Greenaway have written, China’s rising-economy appetite for more meat is fueling a boom in big hog farms in the Midwest, and boosting US soybean production (for animal feed) as well.

As a result, and as IATP experts said in a webinar Wednesday (archived and available for free here along with an earlier webinar on China’s animal-feed policies), the country’s move to boost its meat sector has critical implications for antibiotic resistance, water shortages and land-use challenges as well as for disruption in global meat markets. Here’s one slide from the webinar (part of a presentation by Shefali Sharma, IATP’s director of agricultural commodities and globalization). You’ll understand why it caught my eye: China is already using almost 8 times the farm antibiotics that the US does, and as IATP predicts in its series of reports, China plans for its farming sector to grow enormously.

The decision frees up precious little arable land for more high value crops such as fruit and vegetables. And it could help ease the pressure on food inflation, an issue linked to social stability and driven largely by the price of pork.

The shift in grain policy was the clearest signal that policymakers had decided meat production was paramount, a pivot that will ripple across the globe and probably intensify China’s quest for foreign sources of meat, grain and dairy.

“The decision last week signals a clear intent by the Chinese government to facilitate more and cheaper imports of corn, wheat and other grains for its meat industry,” said Shefali Sharma, director of agricultural commodities at the Washington-based Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). “China has become a critical actor in the global industrial meat complex, a move that carries significant weight for global grain and meat production.”

A troubled Central California slaughterhouse that supplies beef to the National School Lunch Program was closed by federal inspectors Monday for failing to meet cleanliness standards.

Operations at Central Valley Meat Co. in Hanford, Calif., about 30 miles south of Fresno, will be suspended indefinitely until the company produces a corrective plan, inspectors said.

The same facility was closed for a week in 2012 after animal rights group Compassion Over Killing submitted videos to the U.S. Department of Agriculture showing workers torturing cows with electric prods and spraying them with hot water.

In a separate incident last September, the company recalled 58,000 pounds of beef destined for school lunches after the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it may have contained small pieces of plastic.

California is the biggest agricultural state in the US - half the nation’s fruit and vegetables are grown here.

Farmers are calling for urgent help, people in cities are being told to conserve water and the governor is warning of record drought.

But at the other end of the state the water is flowing as the sprinklers are making it rain in at least one part of southern California.

The farmers are making hay while the year-round sun shines, and they are exporting cattle-feed to China.

The southern Imperial Valley, which borders Mexico, draws its water from the Colorado river along the blue liquid lifeline of the All American Canal.

It brings the desert alive with hundreds of hectares of lush green fields - much of it alfalfa hay, a water-hungry but nutritious animal feed which once propped up the dairy industry here, and is now doing a similar job in China.

"A hundred billion gallons of water per year is being exported in the form of alfalfa from California," argues Professor Robert Glennon from Arizona College of Law.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s inspector general has opened an investigation into the Northern California firm behind a massive recall of nearly 9 million pounds of beef products, raising the possibility of criminal wrongdoing by the company.

A spokesman for the the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service confirmed the investigation to The Times on Tuesday.

Rancho Feeding Corp. of Petaluma on Saturday announced a recall of 8.7 million pounds of beef products processed at its plant over the last year and sold in California and three other states. They included whole carcasses, beef tongue, head, tripe and oxtail.

Federal regulators said that the plant “processed diseased and unsound animals” without a full federal inspection. As a result, the agency said, the “products are … unsound, unwholesome or otherwise are unfit for human food and must be removed from commerce.”

The involvement of the USDA’s inspector general signals that there may have been criminal wrongdoing, according to food safety attorney Bill Marler in Seattle.

If we are ever to right this wrong, to produce food sustainably and justly and sell it at an honest price, we will first have to pay people a living wage so that they can afford to buy it.

UC Berkeley’s Michael Pollan in response to unfair pay in the fast food industry.  He and renowned chef Alice Waters are trying to illustrate how valuing sustainably grown food also means giving food workers a fair living wage.

(via ucresearch)

Until recently, farmers in the nation’s heartland could only dream about such profits because there were so few ways to sell their produce locally. California dominates vegetable production, with a vast infrastructure of distribution and transportation to stores coast to coast. But the rising demand for fresh, indigenous produce has spawned new markets — from grocers to restaurants to school cafeterias — that are making it possible for more Midwestern farmers to give fruits and vegetables a go.

The success of this movement, still in its toddler stage, could affect more than just the farmers. Field corn, bolstered by subsidies and corporate research, now dominates American agriculture and constitutes much of what we eat in processed foods. A turn toward locally grown produce would lessen the dependency on California (now plagued by drought), slash carbon emissions from trucking, make produce available to more people, increase its appeal through freshness and perhaps even lower prices.

The world possesses the technologies to significantly step up farm productivity, including through “climate smart” methods and technologies designed to help adapt farming processes to environmental changes. But can we expect these to be adopted widely by farmers around the world?

Small-scale family farmers in developing countries tend to find it difficult to access these technologies, because of poor infrastructure, low education and lack of financial credit . Many of them live and work in vulnerable ecosystems that may become even more fragile because of climate change, as was highlighted in a recent report from the UN’s international panel on climate change.

Aside from these well-known hurdles, what is less often discussed is the demographic challenge that could limit global food production. Farmer populations are ageing rapidly. Worldwide, the average age of farmers is about 60 , including in developing countries , and many amongst them are women and poorly educated. Older farmers are less likely to introduce new, transformative production techniques.

top: 畜産:動物は食べ物じゃない!|アニマルライツセンター

middle: @guruguru1997


bottom: René Magritte, Aube à l’Antipode (1966)


Okazu - WIkipedia

O-kazu (おかず or お数; お菜; 御菜?) is a Japanese word meaning a side dish to accompany rice; subsidiary articles of diet. They are typically made from fish (tempura), meat, vegetable, or tofu and designed to add flavor to the rice. In modern Japanese cuisine, o-kazu can accompany noodles in place of rice.

"Okazu" is also commonly used to refer to pornographic objects, things to be used and ‘consumed’ while masturbating.


And yet this naive script which is in fact neither the work’s title nor one of its pitural elements, the absence of any other indication of the painter’s presence, the simplicity of the grouping, the broad planks of the floor—all this suggests a blackboard in a classroom; perhaps a wipe of a rag will soon erase both drawing and text; or perhaps it will erase only one or the other in order to correct ‘the mistake’ (drawing something which will not really be a pipe, or writing a sentence affirming that this is indeed a pipe). A temporary mistake (a ‘miswriting’, as we might say a misunderstanding) which a gesture will scatter into so much white dust? [Michel Foucault, Ceci n’est pas une pipe]

They are praying for rain in California. And facing drought. A drought emergency, Governor Jerry Brown declared last week. Worst in years. Winter weather so warm you’ve got a confused bear wandering through skiers on the slopes last week. So dry that farmers are thinning herds and letting fields go fallow. Wondering which crops to lose. Up in the Sierra Nevada, only 20 percent of the normal snow pack. Less to melt, less to drink. It’s just dry. This hour On Point: fire, food, climate and the drought emergency in California.

Up and down the state’s increasingly dry Central Valley, Republicans have pounded away at the argument that Democratic policies — particularly environmental rules — are to blame for the parched fields and dwindling reservoirs that threaten to bankrupt farms and wipe out jobs.

In his latest campaign video, Republican Doug Ose stands in the middle of dried-out Folsom Lake. At a mere 17% capacity, the usually scenic reservoir favored by boaters and sunbathers looks like the set of “Mad Max.” As the camera pans, Ose declares, “We’re facing a real crisis.”

"Where’s our representative?" he demands, referring to Rep. Ami Bera, a freshman Democrat elected in 2012 on a razor-thin margin, whom he hopes to unseat this fall.

House Speaker John A. Boehner joined the effort recently, flying to Bakersfield and promising to shepherd legislation through the House to divert some of the state’s dwindling water supply to farmers.

"When you come to a place like California, and you come from my part of the world, you just shake your head and wonder what kinds of nonsense does the bureaucracy do out here?" the Ohio Republican said, referring to the long-running diversion of millions of gallons from farms to the habitats of endangered fish.

"How you can favor fish over people is something that people from my part of the world never understand," he said.

A team from the University of Iowa, Iowa City Veterans Affairs, and Kent State University have done just that. In next month’s Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, they survey 1,036 VA patients who lived in rural Iowa and were admitted to the Iowa City facility in 2010 and 2011. Overall, among those patients, 6.8 percent were carrying MRSA, drug-resistant staph, in their nostrils. But the patients’ likelihood of carrying MRSA was 2.76 times higher if they lived within one mile of a farm housing 2,500 or more pigs.

They say:

The increasing populations of swine raised in densely populated CAFOs and exposed to antibiotics presents opportunities for drug-resistant pathogens to be transmitted among human populations. Our study indicates that residential proximity to large numbers of swine in CAFOs in Iowa is associated with increased risk of MRSA colonization.

Some important things to unpack here:

  • MRSA (formally, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) often “colonizes” people — takes up residence on the skin or in the nostrils — before it causes an infection. Studies have shown repeatedly that being colonized with MRSA increases the risk of contracting a difficult-to-treat infection.
  • Because of that risk, and because MRSA spreads easily in hospitals, the VA since 2006 has required facilities to screen all incoming patients to see whether they are carrying MRSA and thus are posing a risk to other patients.
  • MRSA is frequently found in the vicinity of pigs: not just MRSA ST398, the specific resistant variety that was first identified in pig farmers in the Netherlands in 2004, but the garden-variety community forms as well.
  • And Iowa has a lot of pigs: 19 million, according to the US Department of Agriculture, housed in about 7,000 “CAFOs” (for confined or concentrated animal-feeding operations), which the US Environmental Protection Agency defines as a facility of at least 1,000 pigs, though most are many thousands larger.

I want a little bit i want a piece of it i think he’s losing it
I want to watch it come down
don’t like the look of it don’t like the taste of it don’t like the smell of it
I want to watch it come down
… Now doesn’t that make you feel better?

Tobacco ringspot virus, a pollen-borne pathogen that causes blight in soy crops, was found during routine screening of commercial honeybees at a U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory, where further study revealed the RNA virus was replicating inside its Apis mellifera hosts and spreading to mites that travel from bee to bee, according to the study published online Tuesday in the journal mBio.

The discovery is the first report of honeybees becoming infected by a pollen-born RNA virus that spread systematically through the bees and hives. Traces of the virus were detected in every part of the bee examined, except its eyes, according to the study.


Varroa mites, a “vampire” parasite, also were found to carry the virus but were not infected, leading researchers to conclude that they aided the spread of the virus within the colony. Whether the mites are more than a mechanical spreader of the virus, however, remains to be studied.