Food and Agriculture Organisation
Food and Agriculture Organisation
News Article | March 7, 2017
The idea that pesticides are essential to feed a fast-growing global population is a myth, according to UN food and pollution experts. A new report, being presented to the UN human rights council on Wednesday, is severely critical of the global corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and heavy lobbying of governments which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”. The report says pesticides have “catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole”, including an estimated 200,000 deaths a year from acute poisoning. Its authors said: “It is time to create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.” The world’s population is set to grow from 7 billion today to 9 billion in 2050. The pesticide industry argues that its products – a market worth about $50bn (£41bn) a year and growing – are vital in protecting crops and ensuring sufficient food supplies. “It is a myth,” said Hilal Elver, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food. “Using more pesticides is nothing to do with getting rid of hunger. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), we are able to feed 9 billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.” Elver said many of the pesticides are used on commodity crops, such as palm oil and soy, not the food needed by the world’s hungry people: “The corporations are not dealing with world hunger, they are dealing with more agricultural activity on large scales.” The new report, which is co-authored by Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on toxics, said: “While scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge. This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fuelled by the pesticide and agro-industry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals, and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics.” Elver, who visited the Philippines, Paraguay, Morocco and Poland as part of producing the report, said: “The power of the corporations over governments and over the scientific community is extremely important. If you want to deal with pesticides, you have to deal with the companies – that is why [we use] these harsh words. They will say, of course, it is not true, but also out there is the testimony of the people.” She said some developed countries did have “very strong” regulations for pesticides, such as the EU, which she said based their rules on the “precautionary principle”. The EU banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which harm bees, on flowering crops in 2013, a move strongly opposed by the industry. But she noted that others, such as the US, did not use the precautionary principle. Elver also said that while consumers in developed countries are usually better protected from pesticides, farms workers often are not. In the US, she, said, 90% of farm workers were undocumented and their consequent lack of legal protections and health insurance put them at risk from pesticide use. “The claim that it is a myth that farmers need pesticides to meet the challenge of feeding 7 billion people simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny,” said a spokesman for the Crop Protection Association, which represents pesticide manufacturers in the UK. “The UN FAO is clear on this – without crop protection tools, farmers could lose as much as 80% of their harvests to damaging insects, weeds and plant disease.” “The plant science industry strongly agrees with the UN special rapporteurs that the right to food must extend to every global citizen, and that all citizens have a right to food that has been produced in a way that is safe for human health and for the environment,” said the spokesman. “Pesticides play a key role in ensuring we have access to a healthy, safe, affordable and reliable food supply.” The report found that just 35% of developing countries had a regulatory regime for pesticides and even then enforcement was problematic. It also found examples of pesticides banned from use in one country still being produced there for export. It recommended a move towards a global treaty to govern the use of pesticides and a move to sustainable practices including natural methods of suppressing pests and crop rotation, as well as incentivising organically produced food. The report said: “Chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility.” It also highlighted the risk to children from pesticide contamination of food, citing 23 deaths in India in 2013 and 39 in China in 2014. Furthermore, the report said, recent Chinese government studies indicated that pesticide contamination meant farming could not continue on about 20% of arable land. “The industry frequently uses the term ‘intentional misuse’ to shift the blame on to the user for the avoidable impacts of hazardous pesticides,” the report said. “Yet clearly, the responsibility for protecting users and others throughout the pesticide life cycle and throughout the retail chain lies with the pesticide manufacturer.”
News Article | April 17, 2017
Brussels, Belgium (14 April 2017) – The next Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global, produced by Diversified Communications, will take place in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday 25 April through Thursday 27 April. Celebrating 25 editions in Brussels, this year’s event will be the largest ever in terms of exhibit space according to event organizers. More than 1,800 exhibiting companies from 79 countries will be displaying their seafood products, services and equipment in more than 38,350 square meters of space. “We are thrilled to be celebrating 25 editions of bringing the global seafood community together under one roof and see continued growth in the event year after year,” said Wynter Courmont, Event Director for Diversified Communications. “Each year, this exposition continues to offer an excellent opportunity for the international seafood community to meet, network and get industry news at a global level.” The exposition will bring thousands of industry players from every sector of the seafood industry from around the globe to meet with new and existing suppliers, learn about emerging trends and discuss industry challenges and successes, according to event organizers. Attending seafood buyers who will be represented include restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, catering services, importers, distributors, seafood markets and more. Among this year’s exhibitors, 73 national and regional pavilions will be showcasing their seafood products and equipment with new pavilion participation this year from Latvia, Myanmar, Poland and Venezuela. New country participation will include Costa Rica, Cyprus, Myanmar, Romania and Venezuela. The event’s success and growth over the years can be attributed to the growing popularity of seafood worldwide. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), seafood consumption has risen to more than 20 kilograms a year, thanks to stronger aquaculture supply and demand, record hauls for some key species and reduced waste. In addition, global consumption of fish and seafood has doubled since 1973 and is estimated to reach 178 metric tons by 2025.* Alongside Seafood Expo Global is Seafood Processing Global, representing every aspect of seafood processing, including packaging materials & equipment, refrigeration/freezing equipment & supplies, primary processing equipment, secondary processing equipment, hygiene control/sanitation and quality assurance services. Seafood Processing Global will be located in Halls 4 and 8 during the three-day event. Seafood Excellence Global Awards On the evening of Tuesday 25 April, Diversified Communications will host the Seafood Excellence Global awards reception, where the winners of the Best Retail Product and the Best Hotel/Restaurant/Catering (HORECA) Product will be announced. The awards recognize the best seafood products represented at the exposition. Special awards will also be presented for Innovation, Convenience, Health and Nutrition, Retail Packaging and Seafood Product Line. All participant entries and winning entries will be on display at the Seafood Excellence Global stand in the Patio at the expo. Seafood industry-buyers and processors can learn more about Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global, and register to attend by visiting the exposition’s website, www.seafoodexpo.com/global. SeafoodSource, an online publication of Diversified Communications, is the official media for Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global. As the most trusted and largest online source for seafood industry news, trends and business resources, SeafoodSource will extensively cover the event. About Seafood Expo Global and Seafood Processing Global Seafood Expo Global and Seafood Processing Global form the world’s largest seafood trade event. Thousands of buyers and suppliers from around the world attend the annual, three-day exposition in Brussels, Belgium, to meet, network and do business. Attending buyers represent importers, exporters, wholesalers, restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, and other retail and foodservice companies. Exhibiting suppliers offer the newest seafood products, processing and packaging equipment, and services available in the seafood market. SeafoodSource.com is the exposition’s official media. The exposition is produced by Diversified Communications, the international leader in seafood-industry expositions and media. www.seafoodexpo.com/global About Diversified Communications Diversified Communications is a leading international media company providing market access, education and information through global, national and regional face-to-face events, digital products, and publications. Diversified serves a number of industries including: seafood, food service, natural and organic, healthcare, commercial marine, technology and business management. The company’s global seafood portfolio of expositions and media includes Seafood Expo North America/Seafood Processing North America, Seafood Expo Global/Seafood Processing Global, Seafood Expo Asia and SeafoodSource.com. Diversified Communications, in partnership with SeaWeb, also produces SeaWeb Seafood Summit, the world’s premier seafood conference on sustainability. Based in Portland, Maine, USA, Diversified has divisions in the Eastern United States, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit: www.divcom.com. For further information about the organiser Diversified Communications, contact: For further information or photographs in high resolution, contact:
News Article | April 19, 2017
Uganda confirmed last month that fall armyworm had entered its borders after devastating crops in several southern African nations in what the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation said was a "huge threat to food security." Telesphore Ndabamenye, head of crop production at the Rwanda Agriculture Board, told AFP the harmless-looking brown caterpillar had afflicted most of Rwanda's 30 districts but said the outbreak was "not bad." "It is under control, there is big effort devoted to control it," Ndabamenye said. Meanwhile, Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper reported Monday the disease had struck maize crops in 11 of the country's 47 counties, in a blow to farmers whose profits have already been hit by a devastating drought. Though native to the Americas, the brown caterpillar first appeared in Nigeria and Togo last year, with some experts blaming commercial air travel for its spread. Agriculture is the backbone of many east African countries including Rwanda, where about 80 percent of the population depends on farming. Armyworm eats food sources like maize, wheat, millet and rice along with crops like cotton, potato, soybeans and tobacco. It has already taken a toll on Uganda where the government said this week the pest had spread to nearly half of the country's districts and that losses from crop destruction could top $193 million (180 million euros). While pesticides are effective, fall armyworm in the Americas has developed resistance to the chemicals. In a statement, Rwanda Defence Force called the bug "a real threat to national food security," and announced it had airlifted about 4,500 litres of pesticides used to counter it around the country.
News Article | May 24, 2017
We can feed an extra 4 billion people a year if we reject the bloated and wasteful factory farming systems that are endangering our planet’s biodiversity and wildlife, said farming campaigner Philip Lymbery on Monday night, launching a global campaign to Stop the Machine. At present, 35% of the world’s cereal harvest and most of its soya meal is fed to industrially reared animals rather than directly to humans. This is a “wasteful and inefficient practice” because the grain-fed animals contribute much less back in the form of milk, eggs and meat than they consume, according to Lymbery, the chief executive of Compassion in World Farming (CIWF). “The food industry seems to have been hijacked by the animal feed industry,” he said. In recent years the developing world in particular has seen significant agricultural expansion. According to independent organisation Land Matrix, 40m hectares have been acquired globally for agricultural purposes in the last decade and a half, with nearly half of those acquisitions taking place in Africa. The impact of that expansion is still unclear, but meanwhile the world’s wildlife has halved in the past 40 years. “Ten thousand years ago humans and our livestock accounted for about 0.1% of the world’s large vertebrates,” said Tony Juniper, the former head of Friends of the Earth. “Now we make up about 96%. This is a timely and necessary debate, and an issue that is being debated more and more.” An exhibition at the Natural History Museum by the campaigners aims to draw explicit links between industrial farming and its impact onwildife. The Sumatran elephant, for example, has been disastrously affected by the growing palm oil industry, with more than half of its habitat destroyed to create plantations, and elephant numbers falling rapidly. The old argument that we need factory farming if we are to feed the world doesn’t hold true, says Lymbery, who argues that ending the wasteful practice of feeding grain to animals would feed an extra 4 billion people. Putting cattle onto pasture and keeping poultry and pigs outside where they can forage, and supplementing that with waste food is far more efficient and healthy, he says. According to his calculations, based on figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the total crop harvest for 2014 provided enough calories to feed more than 15 billion people (the world’s population is currently 7.5 billion), but waste and the animal feed industry means that much of that is going elsewhere. However, some agricultural sectors disagree. A spokesman for the UK’s National Farmer’s Union said: “The majority of the UK’s livestock take advantage of our capacity to grow grass in this country and graze outside, helping to produce the great British food the public enjoy. The use of grain by farmers is one part of a diverse range of feed options for animals. The grain used on farms is an effective and sustainable way to use products that would otherwise be wasted, as it does not reach the standard for human consumption.” Last week, two health researchers persuaded more than 200 scientists and policy experts to sign a letter asking the incoming head of the World Health Organisation to recognise that factory farming poses a major threat both to humans and to our environment. Arguing that “practices such as the indiscriminate use of antibiotics, close confinement of animals and unsustainably large scale of production have become the industry standard, and each has grave consequences for human health,” the letter was signed by experts including Owen Barder, Mark Bittman and Laurie Garrett, and received widespread social media attention as well as featuring in the New York Times as an editorial. “There is definitely wider interest in this subject,” veteran farming campaign Peter Stevenson told the Guardian. “The UN’s special rapporteurs on food, Hilal Elver and her predecessor Oliver de Schutters, have been extremely outspoken and the FAO has done some fascinating studies in this area. But when you go and talk to the European commission or bodies here in the UK there is almost absolute refusal to recognise that there is anything questionable about our current farming practice.” In October CIWF and WWF will host a joint conference on the subject of extinction and livestock. “The Natural History Museum is the right place to have this exhibition because factory farming belongs in a museum,” said Lymbery. Please join our Q&A this afternoon on the impact of human development on wildlife.
News Article | February 22, 2017
New and existing funds provided by the EU and the UK government will be made available to South Sudan following the declaration of famine in the country. The UN has warned that about 40% of South Sudan’s population are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and that people are already dying from hunger caused by famine in parts of the country. An emergency package of €82m (£69m) has been announced by the European commission to tackle what the UN described as a “man-made” famine in the oil-rich country, which has been ravaged by three years of civil war. This money will supplement funding provided by Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID), which is making £100m available to South Sudan this year, in addition to a similar amount pledged last year as part of a package aimed at preventing migration from east Africa. The UK has also announced £100m to Somalia, which is under threat of famine. The EU’s commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, Christos Stylianides, who recently visited South Sudan, has called on government and opposition forces to stop blocking humanitarian organisations from accessing some of the worst hit areas. His exhortation was echoed by Pope Francis, who stressed the need for urgent action and said millions could be “condemned to death” by the famine. “Now more than ever there should be a commitment by everyone to not just talk but contribute food aid and allow it to reach suffering populations,” said Francis. The US remains the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance to South Sudan, having provided more than $2.1bn (£1.7bn) since 2014. The declaration of famine – and the threat of similar crises in Somalia, Yemen and parts of Nigeria – came as the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned that the world’s ability to feed itself is endangered by increasing pressure on natural resources, climate change and mounting inequality. In a report released on Wednesday (pdf) the FAO said that, while progress has been made in reducing global hunger over the past 30 years, a “business-as-usual” approach to food production is not an option in the face of population growth that is likely to expand the global population to almost 10 billion people by 2050. More than 650 million people, or 8% of the world’s people, would be undernourished in 2030 under this scenario, even if rates of hunger fell. The report warned that the the expansion of food production and economic growth has exacted a heavy toll on the environment. It also highlighted major trends, such as the “feminisation” of agriculture as young men migrate to work in cities, leaving women to work the fields. This phenomenon is especially prominent in north Africa and western Asia. The share of women in agriculture in Chad, for example, had increased from 30% to as much as 57% over the past 20 years. “The expanding role of women in agriculture can be empowering if women have a greater say in decision-making and the control of household resources,” said the report, The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges. “However, it may also exacerbate women’s workloads, as infrastructure and institutions in low-income countries are rarely adapted to supporting working women.” The report’s authors predict that changes in what people eat will pile further pressure on resources and drive deforestation as more people – outside the poorest countries, at least – eat fewer cereals and larger amounts of meat, fruits, vegetables and processed foods. In addition, it is predicted that climate change will affect every aspect of food production. The report’s authors concluded that it is possible to feed the planet in a sustainable way, but that doing so will require significant changes to our food production systems. Without this, far too many people will be hungry by the 2030 deadline for the sustainable development goals, which have targeted the eradication of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition. “Major transformations in agricultural systems, rural economies and natural resource management will be needed if we are to realise the full potential of food and agriculture to ensure a secure and healthy future for all people and the entire planet,” said the study. “High-input, resource-intensive farming systems, which have caused massive deforestation, water scarcities, soil depletion and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, cannot deliver sustainable food and agricultural production.” The report called for “holistic” approaches, such as agroecology – which takes into account natural ecosystems and uses local knowledge to plant a diversity of crops – as well as “climate-smart” agriculture. Technological improvements, along with drastic cuts in economy-wide and agricultural fossil fuel use, would also help address climate change and the intensification of natural hazards, added the authors. Olivier De Schutter, the former UN special rapporteur on the right to food, and co-chair of the international panel of experts on sustainable food systems, said he found the report refreshing in comparison with what he described as the “overly simplistic” approach adopted by the FAO in the past, based on “the urgent need to increase production”. De Schutter said the organisation was correct to acknowledge that there had been a broad misconception about industrial agriculture, which has been seen by many as the only way to meet the challenge of population growth. “It is also extremely important that, rather than emphasising the need for productivity increases alone, the report recognises the need to address waste and losses in food systems,” said De Schutter.
News Article | February 17, 2017
BEIJING (Reuters) - Bird flu infection rates on Chinese poultry farms may be far higher than previously thought, because the strain of the deadly virus that has killed more than 100 people this winter is hard to detect in chickens and geese, animal health experts say. Poultry that have contracted the H7N9 strain of the avian flu virus show little or no sign of symptoms. That means any infection is only likely to be detected if farmers or health authorities carry out random tests on a flock, the experts said. But in humans, it can be deadly. That's different to other strains, such as the highly pathogenic H5N6 that struck South Korean farms in December, prompting the government to call in the army to help cull some 26 million birds. But that strain didn't kill any people. There have been multiple outbreaks of bird flu around the world in recent months, with at least half a dozen different strains circulating. The scale of the outbreaks and range of viral strains increases the chances of viruses mixing and mutating, with new versions that can spread more easily between people, experts say. For now, H7N9 is thought to be relatively difficult to spread between people. China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention has said the vast majority of people infected by H7N9 reported exposure to poultry, especially at live markets. "There are very few, if any, clinical signs when this (H7N9) virus infects birds, and that's the main reason we're not seeing reporting coming from poultry farms in China," said Matthew Stone, deputy director general for International Standards and Science at the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). As many as 79 people died from H7N9 bird flu in China in January alone, up to four times higher than the same month in past years. While spikes in contamination rates are normal in January - the main influenza season - the high level of human infections has prompted fears the spread of the virus among people could be the highest on record - especially as the number of bird flu cases reported by farmers has been conspicuously low. The high number of human infections points to a significant outbreak in the poultry population that is not being detected, says Guan Yi, director of the State Key Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Center of Influenza Research at the University of Hong Kong. "If we have so many human infections, naturally it reflects activity, an intensive outbreak in chickens. They are highly associated," he said. China has the world's largest flock of chickens, ducks and geese, and slaughtered more than 11 billion birds for meat in 2014, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The last major bird flu outbreak in China, in 2013, killed 36 people and cost the farming industry around $6.5 billion. The experts' assessment underscores the challenge for China's government and health ministry in monitoring and controlling the H7N9 outbreak in both people and poultry. While, with few visible signs of infection in birds, it's easier for farmers to flout the reporting rules and continue selling poultry at market, Stone at the OIE said China has a "very significant" surveillance program at live markets. The government promised on Thursday to tighten controls on markets and poultry transport to help battle the virus. The agriculture ministry last month collected more than 102,000 serum samples and 55,000 virological samples from birds in 26 provinces. Of the latter samples, only 26 tested positive for the virus, according to data on the ministry's website. But the rapid rise in human infections and spread to a wider geographic area is likely to increase pressure on Beijing to do more poultry testing at markets and on farms. The ministry did not respond to faxed questions on its surveillance efforts. The National Health and Family Planning Commission said on Thursday the spread of H7N9 among people was slowing. Some Chinese netizens have called for more timely reports on infections, and some experts have said China has been slow to respond to the human outbreak. The authorities have warned the public to stay alert for the virus, cautioning against panic. Others played down the threat to humans, as long as they stay away from live markets.
News Article | April 2, 2012
Mauritania's waters are crowded. Twenty-five miles out to sea and in great danger from turbulent seas are small, open pirogues crewed by handfuls of local fishermen, taking pitifully few fish. Also here within 50 miles of us are at least 20 of the biggest EU fishing vessels, along with Chinese, Russian and Icelandic trawlers and unidentifiable pirate ships. We are closest to the Margaris, a giant 9,499-tonne Lithuanian factory trawler able to catch, process and freeze 250 tonnes of fish a day, and a small Mauritanian vessel, the Bab El Ishajr 3. Here too, in the early mists, its radio identification signal switched off, is Spanish beam trawler the Rojamar. The Arctic Sunrise, Greenpeace's 40-year-old former ice-breaker, is shadowing one of Britain's biggest factory trawlers – the 4,957-tonne Cornelis Vrolijk. Operated by the North Atlantic Fishing Company (NAFC), based in Caterham, Surrey, it is one of 34 giant freezer vessels that regularly work the west African coast as part of the Pelagic Freezer Association (PFA), which represents nine European trawler owners. The ship, which employs Mauritanian fish processing workers aboard, is five miles away, heading due south at 13 knots out of dirty weather around Cape Blanc on the western Saharan border. By following the continental ledge in search of sardines, sardinella, and mackerel, it hopes to catch 3,000 tonnes of fish in a four- to six-week voyage before it offloads them, possibly in Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. But, says NAFC managing director Stewart Harper, while most of its fish will end up in Africa, none will go to Mauritania, despite the country facing a famine in parts. "Unfortunately Mauritania does not yet have the infrastructure to handle cargoes of frozen fish or vessels of our size," he says. The west African coast has some of the world's most abundant fishing grounds, but they are barely monitored or policed, and wide open to legal and illegal plunder. According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, all west African fishing grounds are fully or over-exploited to the detriment of over 1.5 million local fishermen who cannot compete with them or feed their growing populations. Heavily subsidised EU-registered fleets catch 235,000 tonnes of small pelagic species from Mauritania and Moroccan waters alone a year, and tens of thousands of tonnes of other species in waters off Sierra Leone, Ghana, Guinea Bissau and elsewhere. A further unknown amount is caught by other countries' vessels, but the individual agreements made between west African countries and foreign companies are mostly secret. Despite possible ecological collapse, and growing evidence of declining catches in coastal waters, west African countries are now some of the EU's most-targeted fishing grounds, with 25% of all fish caught by its fleets coming from the waters of developing countries. Willie MacKenzie, a Greenpeace ocean campaigner, said: "Europe has over-exploited its own waters, and now is exporting the problem to Africa. It is using EU taxpayers' money to subsidise powerful vessels to expand into the fishing grounds of some of the world's poorest countries and undermine the communities who rely on them for work and food. The EU has committed some €477m for agreements with Mauritania over the past 10 years, essentially paying for vessels like the Cornelis Vrolijk to be able to access these waters," he adds. According to the PFA, about 50 international freezer-trawlers are active in Mauritanian waters at any one time, of which 30 originate from countries such as Russia, China, Korea or Belize. "By targeting fish species that cannot be fished by local fishermen, we avoid disrupting local competition and growth and always fish outside the 12-13 mile fishing limit for our type of vessel," says a spokesman. "Not all international operators active in Mauritanian waters meet the EU's safety and environmental standards. This threatens our efforts to foster sustainable practices in the region." Greenpeace says the over-exploitation of African fisheries by rich countries is ecologically unsustainable and also prevents Africans from developing their own fisheries. It takes 56 traditional Mauritanian boats one year to catch the volume of fish that a PFA vessel can capture and process in a single day. Since the 1990s, the once-abundant west African waters have seen a rapid decline of fish stocks. Local fishermen say their catches are shrinking and they are forced to travel further and compete with the industrial trawlers in dangerous waters unsuitable for their boats. "Our catch is down 75% on 10 years ago. When the foreign boats first arrived there was less competition for resources with local fishermen and fewer people relied on fishing for food and income. Governments have become dependent on the income received by selling fishing rights to foreign corporations and countries," says Samb Ibrahim, manager of Senegal's largest fishing port, Joal. "Senegal's only resource is the sea. One in five people work in the industry but if you put those people out of work then you can imagine what will happen. Europe is not far away and Senegal could become like Somalia," said Abdou Karim Sall, president of the Fishermen's Association of Joal and the Committee of Marine Reserves in West Africa. "People are getting desperate. For sure, in 10 years' time, we will carry guns. The society here destabilises as the fishing resource is over-exploited. As the situation become more difficult, so it will become more and more like Somalia," he said. There is now growing concern that illegal or "pirate" fishing is out of control in some waters. According to the UN, across the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, losses to illegal fishing amount to about $1bn a year – 25% of Africa's total annual fisheries exports. Guinea is thought to lose $105m of fish to pirate fishing a year, Sierra Leone $29m, and Liberia $12m. An investigation by Greenpeace and the Environmental Justice Foundation in 2006 found that over half of the 104 vessels observed off the coast of Guinea were either engaging in or linked to illegal fishing activities. Surveillance and monitoring of overfishing is now urgently needed or fish stocks will collapse, leading to humanitarian disasters in many countries, says the UN. Increasingly, ships are transferring their catches to other vessels while at sea, rather than directly off-loading in ports. This conceals any connection between the fish and the vessel by the time the fish arrives on the market, meaning the true origin of the catch is unknown. However, the PFA says banning EU vessels from African waters would not be sensible. In a statement it said: "Less regulated, less transparent and less sustainable fishing operators would replace the European vessels. This would be a bad deal for Europe and the African countries we partner with. "They would see less strategic infrastructure investment, reduced transfer of skills and knowhow, as well as scientific research and more depleted fish stocks. And in Europe we would damage a viable part of EU's fishing economy to the benefit of countries such as China. "All of the fish caught by the PFA is destined for west-central African communities rather than consumers in developed countries. In fact, the fish caught and distributed by the PFA is often the only source of essential protein for the people in countries such as Nigeria." • John Vidal's travel costs to Senegal were paid by Greenpeace. The NGO had no say over editorial content.
News Article | February 21, 2017
Thinking about E numbers might stir up images of hyperactive children guzzling fluorescent soft drinks. But have you ever wondered what the E stands for? Looking at this system of food additives can help illustrate some of the tough issues facing the British government as it prepares to leave the European Union. The European Council introduced food colouring legislation in 1962 alongside a number classification system. In the 1990s the scheme was expanded to cover all additives permitted to be used in food sold in the EU and now forms a key part of UK food and drink regulation. The government wants to begin formal Brexit negotiations by the end of March, after which UK laws will be made "not in Brussels but in Westminster", according to Prime Minister Theresa May. So will the UK ditch E numbers and come up with a new system for assessing and labelling food additives? And what about the many other areas of UK regulation currently set by EU law? For a substance to be permitted for use as a food additive in the EU, it must be given an E number (the E stands for Europe). Codes like E101, E150d and E1209 are assigned to substances which change food colour, taste, shelf life or other properties. For example E160b, or annatto, gives Red Leicester cheese its distinctive glow. E numbers are often associated with processed food. Some, like E122, may have adverse effects on children prone to hyperactivity according to the NHS. But most are perfectly benign and lots are good for us, like E300, otherwise known as Vitamin C. At the moment if a food company comes up with a new additive, it must seek authorisation from an expert panel at the European Food Safety Authority. This EU body is made up of scientists from across the continent, including two from the UK. They are experts in chemistry, toxicology and other relevant fields and meet regularly to assess which additives are safe. Once agreed, these substances must be clearly labelled on food sold in the UK or elsewhere in the EU. As part of the Brexit process, the government has announced it will introduce a "Great Repeal Bill" in the next Queen's Speech. This will remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book and enshrine all existing EU law into British law, before the government decides which to keep and which to jettison. This is likely to include EU regulations on food additives and labelling. However such an approach opens up a number of other questions. For example, what would happen when the EU changes its list of E numbers - will the UK adopt or ignore the new rules? If it adopts them, how does this square with the government's wish that laws be made in Westminster and if it ignores E number changes, will domestic food companies be able to trade freely with European suppliers? The government says it will push for the "freest possible trade" with the EU after Brexit. But if the UK decided to keep E numbers while not being under the jurisdiction of European courts, there would need to be a new system whereby the EU's remaining 27 states could verify that UK goods observe the rules, says Stephen Weatherill, professor of European law at Oxford University. "It is beyond complicated - and this is true of thousands and thousands of such matters," says Prof Weatherill. But not everyone agrees. "Some of the academics are making it more complicated than they need to," says Conservative MP Bill Cash, who chairs the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee and is a long-standing supporter of Brexit. He says the UK may choose to adopt standards like E numbers, but on the basis of voluntary compliance rather than by submitting to the EU's legal jurisdiction, enforced by the European Court of Justice. There are many other unresolved questions when it comes to E numbers. How will standards set by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation be incorporated, will the UK set up its own expert panel and will E numbers be renamed - "UK numbers" perhaps? Nobody is quite sure of the answers yet. These uncertainties hang over many areas of UK law which currently come from the EU, like farm subsidies, clean energy targets and fishing rules. But if non-EU Switzerland is a model, we may simply retain many existing structures. Switzerland uses E numbers and belongs to lots of similar schemes like the European Health Insurance Card. "There may not be as much change as people are trying to suggest there would be," says Mr Cash. The Brexit negotiations will involve plenty of big constitutional issues, but there are many apparently smaller things, like E numbers, which will need to be sorted out as well.
News Article | February 20, 2017
Women carry sacks of food in Nimini village, Unity State, northern South Sudan, February 8, 2017. Picture taken on February 8, 2017. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola JUBA (Reuters) - Parts of war-ravaged South Sudan have been hit by famine, a government official said on Monday, saying nearly half the country's population would lack reliable access to affordable food by July. Oil-rich South Sudan has been mired in civil war since 2013, when President Salva Kii fired his deputy. Since then the fighting has increasingly split the country along ethnic lines, leading the United Nations to warn of a potential genocide. The fighting has prevented many farmers from harvesting their crops while hyper inflation which reached more than 800 percent last year has put the price of imported food beyond the reach of many. Parts of the country have also been hit by drought. “In greater Unity (state), some counties are classified in famine or ... risk of famine,” Isaiah Chol Aruai, chairman of South Sudan’s National Bureau of Statistic, told a news conference in Juba. Aruai said the impact of the war, combined with high food prices, economic disruption and low agricultural production was expected to make 4.9 million people what is termed "food insecure" between February and April, with that number rising to 5.5 million by July. "Famine has become a tragic reality in parts of South Sudan and our worst fears have been realised," Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) South Sudan representative, Serge Tissot, said at the same news conference. According to the United Nations, famine is declared when at least 20 percent of households in an area face extreme food shortages, acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent, and two or more people per 10,000 are dying per day. The fighting has uprooted more than 3 million people and a U.N. report released on Monday said continuing displacement presented "heightened risks of prolonged (food) underproduction into 2018". Many parts of the country are very hard to reach. Six years after independence from neighbouring Sudan, South Sudan only has only 200 km (120 miles) of paved roads in a nation the size of Texas. Fighting also impedes aid delivery; warehouses have been looted and aid workers have been killed. This month, in a sign the war was taking a turn for the worse, Kiir's government has been hit by high-profile defections. Two top military officials resigned their positions, citing ethnic favouritism, human rights abuses and others charges. Punishments handed out to some soldiers from the Dinka, Kiir's tribe, for crimes including rape and murder were being set aside, Colonel Khalid Ono Loki, one of officials who resigned said. The minister of labour has also defected to the rebels.
News Article | February 16, 2017
Armyworms are attacking maize plants at alarming speed on farms in South Africa (AFP Photo/GULSHAN KHAN) Onderstepoort (South Africa) (AFP) - Peeling back the maize plant's leaves reveals a small brown caterpillar -- an armyworm that writhes as it burrows into the heart of the crop, producing a sticky dark paste. Eighty percent of the Prinsloo family's maize plants are under attack, as are those of other farmers in Haakdoringboom, a farming community 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of South Africa's capital Pretoria. "These worms are eating everything that they touch," said farmer Jacques Prinsloo, who held up a damaged leaf to demonstrate the alarming speed at which the fall armyworms devour the crop. Leaves are shredded and residue speckles the inside of the plants -- a tell-tale sign of trouble. The recently-arrived pests, which are proving immune to existing pesticides, are devastating crops and threatening southern Africa's fragile food supply having spread through Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as South Africa. Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia are also reported to be affected by the worms. They originate from South America and are thought to have arrived in Africa in shipments of plants or on commercial airliners, with the first fall armyworms in Africa seen in Nigeria and Togo last year. "I tried everything on the market. I spent 45,000 rand ($3,400) on pesticides alone," said Jacques, 24, who has been battling the pests for six weeks. "Last year the drought, this year the worms, what next year? Everyone thinks it's easy to farm. It seems easy until you start doing it." Jacques estimates that as many as four in five of his maize plants are affected. If the crop fails entirely, he estimates it will cost his family up to 700,000 rand ($53,000) this year alone. Crops in neighbouring farmers' fields are also being ravaged by the pests, according to Adele who, along with her son Jacques, employs six staff on their roughly 100 hectare farm. "We're fighting. The farm next door to us is fighting," said Adele. Across southern Africa, fall armyworms are wreaking havoc with staple crops for the first time. Key food sources like maize, wheat, millet and rice have all come under attack, raising fears of imminent mass food shortages. Nearly 40 million people in southern Africa have been affected a two-year-long drought caused by the El Nino climate phenomenon reducing food availability by 15 percent, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). David Phiri, the FAO's coordinator for southern Africa, warned experts at a crisis summit in Harare this week that the armyworm poses "a huge threat to food security". Despite their proximity to South Africa's seat of power, the Prinsloos feel that their plight, and that of hundreds of other farmers, is being ignored by the government. "I'm feeling hopeless, angry, heartbroken -- it feels like I could go and sit and cry myself to death," said 50-year-old Adele who has been involved in farming for nearly half her life. "All the money and effort that's been put in there and I'm getting no help. "We were promised a visit by the farming minister on Sunday but they cancelled. Nobody is doing anything. They said they would import a poison from abroad but we've heard nothing." The region around the Prinsloo farm had only just begun to recover from one of the worst dry spells in recent history when the armyworms struck. "A year ago we had the drought but then we had good rains. Now the worms are destroying the crop," said Adele. In one badly affected field, nearly every plant is showing signs of damage. Looking out over his family's fields, bordered by tracks of rich red earth and criss-crossed with mechanical irrigation systems, Jacques is doubtful there will be a quick solution to the crisis. "(The plants) are not going to make corn because of the damage," he said of this year's crop. "The larvae is making new worms and you must fight them again. Burning it might be the only option."