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Food and Rural Affairs

London, United Kingdom
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News Article | April 17, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

The effect on wellbeing of exposure to nitrogen dioxide, a gas mostly produced in diesel fumes, is comparable to the toll from losing a job, ending a relationship or the death of a partner, research suggests. The study found a “significant and negative association” between life satisfaction and levels of the pollutant, which causes lung problems . These effects were “substantive and comparable to that of many ‘big-hitting’ life events,” according to the researchers behind Can Clean Air Make You Happy?. Sarah J Knight and Peter Howley of York University took life satisfaction data from the British Household Panel Survey and UK Household Longitudinal Survey and compared it with detailed air quality records from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Given that far more people are exposed to to nitrogen dioxide than suffer unemployment or end a relationship, Knight and Howley suggest that the benefits to society from reducing such emissions would be substantive. The highest levels of nitrogen dioxide occur in London, with the lowest levels in parts of south-west England. The capital has the dubious honour of being home to the worst NO2 hotspot in Europe: Marylebone Road, which recorded the highest annual mean levels of the pollutant, more than double the legal EU limit. Pollution from nitrogen oxides is responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths across Europe, with the UK suffering a particularly high toll. Much of the pollution is produced by diesel cars, which emit about six times more than allowed in the official lab-based tests. The European Environment Agency said the UK had 11,940 premature deaths in 2013 from nitrogen dioxide. The number was down from 14,100 the previous year, but was still the second worst in Europe after Italy. Modern diesel cars produce 10 times more toxic air pollution than heavy trucks and buses, according to European data released in January. The European commission started legal action late last year against the UK and six other EU members for failing to act against car emissions cheating in the wake of the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal.


News Article | April 21, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

The government has made a last-minute application to the high court to delay the publication of its plan to tackle the air pollution crisis. Ministers were under a court direction to produce tougher draft measures to tackle illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution, which is largely caused by diesel traffic, by 4pm on Monday. The government’s original plans had been dismissed by judges as so poor as to be unlawful. But following the announcement by Theresa May of a general election on 8 June, ministers lodged a lengthy application to the court late on Friday. It is understood they are asking judges to allow them to breach Monday’s deadline and submit a draft in June – after the election. It is understood that a full policy will not be produced until September this year. The government has had months to come up with its air quality plans and Whitehall sources indicated to the Guardian this week they would be published in time. The late application to delay publication was condemned by the environmental lawyers group ClientEarth, which successfully took the government to court over its air quality plans. MPs have said air pollution in the UK is a public health emergency that causes 40,000 premature deaths a year. James Thornton, the chief executive of ClientEarth, said: “We are urgently considering the government’s application to delay the publication of the draft air quality plan which was received on Friday evening, less than one working day before the plans are due. “It is far from acceptable that ministers have left this to the very last minute. The government proposes to delay the publication of the air quality plan despite the clear public health risk caused by illegal air quality. These plans are essential to safeguard public health and they should be put in place without delay.” The application is likely to be considered by judges on Monday. Judges have already told ministers that their plans were taking too long and imposed the deadline to force the government to come up with new measures more quickly. The government lodged a lengthy application shortly before 7pm on Friday, which was too late for the court to accept. It will now be considered early next week. Thornton said the general election was not an acceptable reason to delay taking action against air pollution. “This is not a political issue but a public health issue. Whichever party is in power, the British public need to see an air quality plan which relies on good scientific evidence and which ensures that people no longer have to breathe toxic air and suffer the grave consequences to their health as a result,” he said. Anna Jones, from Greenpeace UK also condemned the delaying tactics. She said: “Ministers have had months to come up with a robust plan to tackle illegal air pollution. They have no excuses to delay its publication any further. “The Cabinet Office guidance makes it clear that essential consultations can still be launched during purdah, and even mentions safeguarding public health as a ground for exceptions. “Air pollution is a full-blown public health emergency, linked to thousands of premature deaths and a host of health problems. If the government intends to use the election as a pretext to buy more time, that would only be a sign that they just don’t get the gravity of the situation.” A joint Guardian/Greenpeace investigation revealed this month that hundreds of thousands of children were being educated within 150 metres of a road where levels of nitrogen dioxide from diesel traffic breached legal limits. A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We are firmly committed to improving the UK’s air quality and cutting harmful emissions. We are seeking an extension to comply with pre-election propriety rules.”


News Article | April 12, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

The supermarket chain Asda has relaunched its value Smart Price food range as Farm Stores, reigniting the row about retailers’ controversial use of “fake farm” brands to sell products. Asda, which pledged to replace the Smart Price branded products completely by 2018, has recently reintroduced the Farm Stores label for both meat and fresh produce after dropping it in 2001. UK farming organisations – which last year criticised Tesco’s introduction of a budget range of own-label “farm” brands – dismissed the latest marketing drive as misleading for consumers and insulting for farmers. But an Asda spokeswoman said: “We know how important quality produce at a great price is to our customers. We’re reconnecting with our heritage by bringing back the Farm Stores brand to Asda – a name that our customers remember and trust for great value quality produce.” Ruth Mason, chief food chain adviser at the National Farmers Union, said: “Although such rebrands can drive an uplift in sales, in our view it is important that product names and descriptions are clear, accurate and do not mislead consumers. With Asda now using the term ‘farm’ within its branding, it is imperative that the origin of these products is clear to customers.” In March 2016 Tesco, the UK’s largest retailer, sparked controversy after launching seven brands – including “Woodside Farms” and “Boswell Farms” – based on British-sounding but fictitious names as part of its commercial fightback against the discounters Aldi and Lidl. Some of the foods were imported from overseas and given British names to make them sound local. Tesco will on Wednesday reassure investors that its crisis years are over by reporting a larger-than-expected jump in annual profits. It has won back disillusioned shoppers by focusing on lower prices – with the new farm brands key to a significant sales uplift. Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, called the latest move “disgraceful” and said Asda and other retailers should instead focus on increasing the amount British food they stocked. ‘The use of fake farm names or branding is misleading for consumers and insulting to farmers,” he said. “Many hard-pressed customers, trying to do their shopping in a hurry, are likely to be misled into thinking they’re buying a product from a specific British farm when they are not.” In July the NFU referred Tesco’s “fake farm” branding to national trading standards for investigation, but the complicated regulatory structure meant it had to be dealt with by a local trading standards office in Hertfordshire because of Tesco’s head office being in Welwyn Garden City. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has since asked lead authorities – county trading standards offices – to draw to the attention of all food businesses the relevant legal provisions regarding origin labelling.


News Article | April 17, 2017
Site: www.bbc.co.uk

All poultry in England will be allowed outside again from Thursday, having been kept indoors to protect them from an infectious strain of bird flu. The government has carried out a new assessment of the risk they had of becoming infected by wild birds. The move brings the rules for poultry in higher-risk areas in line with the rest of England. Normally-free range eggs have had to carry labels making it clear birds have been kept inside for their welfare. Those stickers will no longer be needed after Thursday. But once the rules are lifted, all eggs from birds which remain housed are no longer considered to be free range and cannot be labelled as such, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said. Chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens said the decision affected flocks still being housed, or placed under netting, to protect them because they were near lakes or estuaries where wild birds gather. Poultry and bird keepers in England have to continue to comply with strict biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of bird flu. A ban on poultry fairs and gatherings remains in place. Prof Gibbens said: "Based on the latest evidence on reduced numbers of migratory and resident aquatic wild birds, we believe that kept birds in the areas we previously designated as higher risk are now at the same level of risk as the rest of England and may now be let outside. "However, all keepers must still observe strict disease prevention measures to reduce the risk of contamination from the environment, where the virus can survive for several weeks in bird droppings." Chicken, turkey and duck owners were first told to keep their birds inside - or take steps to separate them from wild birds - in December, as highly pathogenic avian flu H5N8 was circulating in Europe. Since then, there have been a number of outbreaks of the virus in poultry and wild birds in the UK. The Scottish government has previously said restrictions on bird keepers in Scotland are staying in place until the end of April. Measures in Wales had previously been relaxed.


News Article | July 25, 2015
Site: www.theguardian.com

“They sent you all this way to ask about a seagull?” The taxi driver looked at me in the mirror. In his eyes, I saw confusion, maybe a little fear. I smiled wearily. Not now, I thought. Not him, too. No more talk of seagulls. It had been a long couple of days. I was so nearly out of Saigon I could hear the rotor blades thumping above. By Saigon, of course, I mean Bridport, west Dorset, a seaside market town of charity shops, estate agents and bad local art galleries. By rotor blades, I mean seagulls. For the past 36 hours I had thought about little else. If you gaze at the seagull long enough, I learned, it gazes back at you. You wonder whether it has a demonic quality. A seagull will do strange things to a man. I suppose it’s fair. After all, I only went because someone had done strange things to a seagull. In recent months, the war between humans and seagulls has seen a dramatic escalation in violence. In Cornwall, diving gulls attacked a 66-year-old woman, who needed hospital treatment, and “savaged” a four-year-old boy, whose finger was badly hurt. They killed a pet dog. They flipped over a beloved tortoise and ate it from the soft side, like a dressed crab. David Cameron called for a “big conversation” about them, one of his highest settings of inaction. In George Osborne’s spring budget this year, £250,000 was allocated for the seagull issue, but the money was quietly taken off the table after the general election. The struggle continues. This week, it was reported that a seagull had swallowed a starling whole after smashing it to death on a roof. There were pictures. Patrick Barkham wrote a Guardian column urging us not to think of them as terrorists. At last, seagulls are getting the attention they deserve. But none of the other attacks had the mystery of the Bridport case. According to news reports, last Friday a seagull had been dumped outside Bridport police station, just alive but in a terrible state. The RSPCA suspected poisoning, and had taken the bird into its care. The gull had been tending its chick, who was now nowhere to be seen. Against a background of growing seagull insurgence, was this the first step in a vigilante fightback? Or a mafia-style warning: GSH, grievous seagull harm, pour encourager les autres. And why Bridport? It has seagulls, but so do all seaside towns. What it does have to itself, however, is Broadchurch, the detective TV series starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman, set in a fictional town but filmed in Bridport. This extra layer of intrigue seemed to rule out seagull-on-seagull crime. My priority was the bird itself. If it was on the mend and receiving visitors, it might provide valuable clues about its attacker. I spoke to Stephen Powell, the local RSPCA welfare officer, who had rushed to the scene. “It was in a bad way,” he said. “I’d never seen a seagull like that. Its neck was twisted 180 degrees, it couldn’t stand up, it had regurgitated some of its food and some blood.” He took the seagull and drove it to the West Hatch animal centre, in Taunton, but it was too late. “Sadly the seagull was dead before we arrived.” I deflated. I had allowed myself to daydream about helping to nurse the seagull back to health; perhaps watching it take its first tentative steps back into the world. “Sorry not to be more help,” he added. On the contrary, things had just got interesting. My assault was now a murder investigation. Next up was the police station. With a kind of crushing inevitably, it was shut. Crime never stops, except in Dorset, apparently, where it stops on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. A young seagull looked down on me from the roof, unbowed by the recent catastrophe. My own peregrinations would have to suffice. Across the road was an American-themed diner, decorated in Confederate flags and pictures of Elvis Presley, with wide windows that gave a full view of the front of the police station. I asked Tony Marraffa, the owner, whether he’d seen any suspicious gull behaviour. “I didn’t see anything, and I’d have known about it if there had been a seagull outside the front. Most of them don’t survive, anyway; they end up little grey things squashed on the road.” I thanked him for his time and walked the two miles or so down to West Bay, a gorgeous beach with a sliver of mustard-coloured sand running below ancient cliffs. It is the main local attraction, the backdrop to the Broadchurch posters. At the mouth of the river Brit is a small harbour ringed by fish-and-chip shacks. This was it: Seagull Shangri-La. There were hundreds of them. Some looped like Messerschmitts in the coastal air, some stood on the harbour. Others bobbed in the water, resting before the next assault. “They’re noisy, they’re smelly, they wake up early, they follow you around, they attack other birds,” said Amy Sibley, a waitress in a restaurant called – I accept some of you won’t believe this, and invite you to Google it – Seagulls. “I was on the roof the other day and saw them kill a racing pigeon. We found a leg with the tag on it, and had to call up the owner to tell him we’d found a bit of his bird.” “We’ve been here 17 years and they’re worse than ever,” agreed Lucy Blake in the No 8 fish and chips stall. “They’ve been a real menace for our customers. But you can’t do anything about it. They’re protected.” This was a common refrain. Like all wild birds, seagulls are protected by the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. They can only be culled in special circumstances, with permission of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. But perhaps there was another way of dealing with the problem? Lucy’s husband, Barry, certainly seemed to think so. “Nobody likes to see them hurt, but you could shake a few eggs at the start of the year so fewer of them hatched,” he said. It’s probably worth clarifying that Barry’s solution – and interfering with nests more generally – is firmly proscribed by the law. Still, the approach has been tried in Devizes, Wiltshire, where a seagull siege prompted the ruthless destruction of 600 eggs. It proved controversial, to say the least. “There’ll be those that don’t like it,” Barry went on, “but there always is. You’re never going to please everyone.” Sadly neither of them knew anything about the poisoning. Everyone had a story about a vicious attack: ice-creams taken from hands, sausages stolen from barbecues, but I’d never experienced one myself. I took some of Lucy and Barry’s cod and chips and ate them slowly, with the paper open on my lap, an irresistible punnet of starchy entrapment. A large specimen landed in front of me but kept a respectful distance. Up close, they are not bad looking: white breasts, grey wings, black tails, yellow beaks protruding like the prow of a trireme from their shapely heads. There’s a certain nobility to their swagger. Also, don’t we loathe seagulls for many of the reasons we loathe ourselves? They are urbanising. They are too noisy. They make too much mess. They prefer to eat chips and other rubbish (often literal rubbish) than fresh herring. But they have also been forced inland because of human overfishing. They congregate at the seaside, just like our other bogeymen: immigrants, for the far right, and the far right, for everyone else. In that context, seagulls start to look like Ukip-voting miniature pterodactyls. “Psycho seagulls keep out illegals”, as the Star’s headline put it on Wednesday, after reports that the birds were dive-bombing a camp near Calais. Yet they are also intelligent and resourceful, and have been shown to use tools. They travel widely and thrive wherever they go. They are mongrel species, happily cross-breeding to make identification very difficult. They have increased in nuisance value even as their overall marine numbers have declined, which means that they are getting more efficient. Seagulls are humans, at our best and our worst. I was startled from this reverie by an older woman walking past. She pointed at a tiny brown bird by my feet, looking hopefully up at the chips. “He’s been ever so patient,” she said. “They’re all right when they’re that size, aren’t they?” She was right. How much of our anti-seagull feeling is a simple accident of their largeness? I tossed a chip to the little guy. You can probably guess what happened next. A honking great seagull, like a set of weaponised bagpipes, plopped down and gobbled it up. I had a where and when for my seagull murder, and a surfeit of motive, but I still needed a suspect. In the evening I went to a bar and asked the locals whether they knew anything about the crime. Their laughter suggested that perhaps the attack wasn’t as big a deal in Bridport as it was in central London. The band offered to claim responsibility if I gave them a plug. “Exterminate all the brutes!” suggested a young man in a flat cap. In the circumstances, the Heart of Darkness reference did not seem totally inappropriate. Later I lay awake in my B&B, listening to the seagulls, trying to work out what sound they were making. A squawk? Shriek? Cry? Wail? What word are they calling to each other? Craaawwlll? Xoiiahhh? Eighhhh? Staring at the ceiling, I worked it out: they were saying “seagull”. “SEAGULLSEAGULLSEAGULL.” It had been a long seagull day. Morning came. The police station was open. On the road outside was a squashed seagull. “Oh no,” said PC Alison Gale, who was on the front desk. “I had been feeding him, little bits of bread soaked in water. Maybe it was his first flight.” From a policewoman, this seemed a bold contradiction of the general advice not to feed the seagulls that I had seen plastered all over town, but I said nothing. I was here to meet PC Scott McGregor, the man who had found the body. “Thank you for taking the time to follow this up,” he said, offering a hand. “It was quite an important story, I felt.” With his calm professional manner, he reminded me of Simon Pegg’s character in Hot Fuzz, the young policeman sent to a small village, whose competence is wasted on the cases he has to deal with. He showed me into a brown interrogation room, where we sat across a plain desk: “It’ll be quiet in here.” I confessed that I’d always imagined my first meeting in one of these rooms would be in different circumstances. “Contrary to the early reports, the bird was not found in the front of the station, but the rear yard.” Hang on, so it wasn’t a mafia-style revenge killing at all? “The inspector indicated that poisoning was probable. We are waiting on the toxicology reports to see whether it was an artificial poison, or a natural poisoning, which can occur from botulism or salmonella.” Stephen Powell, the RSPCA man, confirmed that salmonella was a likely explanation. For some reason, the tabloid reports about the seagull had left this out. Journalistic experience told me that a seagull killed by salmonella behind a police station might not lead the week’s agenda as I had hoped. But McGregor wasn’t finished. “Sadly we’re no closer to identifying any suspects. But what we have found since is another discarded, dead adult in near proximity, in a public bin, within 100 yards of the station.” A second (seagull) body! I could have kissed him. “Whether it’s had a natural death we don’t know, because it’s the carcass of a dead bird at this point. There’s nothing to indicate whether it’s linked to the first death, but it seems to me to be too much of a coincidence.” “One’s an accident,” I said, eager for him not to underestimate the significance of the second dead seagull, and to keep on the trail. “Two’s a coincidence. But three ...” “I’m not familiar with that adage,” he replied. “But once bitten, twice shy, you know? And there’s no smoke without fire.” He smiled. I smiled back, but I wasn’t sure if I did know. Still, I had my second body. “It indicates that perhaps it wasn’t just a one-off,” said McGregor. “But we don’t know whether it’s a situation born out of a deliberate act.” The driver dropped me off at nearby Crewkerne station, still chuckling to himself. As I waited for the train I keep thinking about the most famous seagull-related quotation of all, from the footballer Eric Cantona. “When seagulls follow the trawler,” he said at a press conference in 1995, “it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.” Except in that analogy, the seagulls were journalists, waiting for his gnomic utterances. Wasn’t that exactly what I was doing, hunting these scraps of a seagull murder case? Journalists are seagulls. But what does that make you, the reader, hunting for scraps in seagull story? That’s right: also a seagull. This war is only just beginning, and we need to remember: really, we are all seagulls. • This article was amended on 27 July 2015 to clarify that the writer was dropped off at Crewkerne station.


News Article | April 30, 2017
Site: www.bbc.co.uk

The level of household food waste in England is "unacceptable" and householders have a key role to play in reducing it, MPs have said. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said 7.3m tonnes of food was wasted in UK households in 2015. The committee said shops should relax standards that prevent the sale of "wonky vegetables" to help cut waste. And the next government should consider whether "best before" dates were needed, it said. Committee chairman Neil Parish said: "One-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, and in the UK over £10bn worth of food is thrown away by households every year. "Economically, food waste costs households hundreds of pounds a year and causes increased disposal costs to local authorities, pushing up council tax bills. "Socially, it is a scandal that people are going hungry and using food banks when so much produce is being wasted. "And environmentally, it is a disaster, because energy and resources are wasted in production only for the food to end up rotting in landfills where it produces methane - a potent climate-changing gas." Food waste costs the average person in the UK £200 per year, the report said. The average household lost £470 a year because of avoidable food waste, while those with children lost £700, it said. The report said about two-thirds of the potential reduction in UK food waste would need to come from action at a household level. It said it would be "hugely challenging" to reduce food waste further and would require "a considerable investment of resource". In their report, Food Waste in England, the MPs said: It also called for a review of whether "best before dates" were needed at all. While "use by" dates refer to food safety, "best before" labels refer only to quality. Foods will be safe to eat after the "best before" date, but may not be at their best. The report said current date labelling was unnecessarily confusing, and guidance should be issued to the industry by the end of the year. The report also highlighted the issue of suppliers' food being rejected for cosmetic reasons. It said up to a quarter of apples, up to a fifth of onions and up to about an eighth of potatoes were rejected by supermarkets on cosmetic grounds alone.


News Article | June 2, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

The government has drastically cut funds needed to encourage new building on “brownfield” sites, despite claiming that such sites would be key to solving the housing crisis. Many sites that have previously held buildings or other developments need remediation – a process to remove potentially dangerous toxins from the soil – in order to be considered for new houses, of which the government plans to build hundreds of thousands a year to ease the pressure on the UK’s over-stretched stock. At least 300,000 hectares (741,000 acres) of contaminated land have been identified, according to a report from an influential committee of MPs. Many of these sites could be used for housing, farmland, industry or other developments, which could both ease the housing crisis and reduce the need to claim more of the UK’s diminishing stock of “green belt” or agricultural land for building. Doing so would require work to remove remaining toxins from the soil, which is technically feasible but carries a cost. To date, that cost has often been borne by the government and local authorities, but the MPs on the environmental audit committee found that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had drastically cut its funding for remediation, and is planning to phase it out in 2017. This would discourage developers from planning new building in areas of housing shortage, particularly those in poor areas, the committee heard from experts. In richer areas, hopeful developers frequently pay for decontamination themselves, but in poor districts they rely on the council or central government to do so in order to render the site suitable. Mary Creagh, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, told the Guardian: “If your main concern is brownfield sites for housebuilding then this is very problematic. It’s a very worrying decision.” There are also implications for public health in failing to clear up contaminated sites, the committee concluded in its report on Thursday. Pollutants such as arsenic, cadmium and lead, asbestos and tar, are the legacies of the UK’s industrial past and decades of dumping, and can affect the health of people living near such contaminated sites. “Society relies on healthy soil for the food we eat, for flood prevention, and for storing carbon,” said Creagh. “The government says it wants our soil to be managed sustainably by 2030, but there is no evidence that it is putting in place the policies to make this happen.” Defra has reduced its funding for such remediation from £17.5m in 2009-10 to just £2m in 2013-14. The department said funding would drop further to £500,000 in 2014 and then phased out from 2017. Current funding is enough to decontaminate only a few major sites a year, in practice. For instance, a single project in Wakefield required funding of almost £400,000 in 2013-14, the committee found. Without this funding, councils are less likely to investigate potential contamination – and its attendant public health risks – and local residents could be put to harm. People who buy new homes in areas of contaminated land may not be warned of the risks, and if they emerge later they might find their houses difficult to sell. Howard Price, principal policy officer at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), told the committee’s hearings he had heard of local authority sites where officials had been told not to investigate potential contamination, for fear of the cost consequences. Dr Karen Johnson of Durham University added: “There is a stigma associated as well. It affects house prices if you live next to a piece of land that is contaminated. Then it is going to affect your health and wellbeing because it affects your mental health because house prices are affected.” Untreated contamination may harm public health and water quality, the committee was told, with research finding a statistically significant relationship between soil contamination and poor health. The committee accused Defra of complacency over its withdrawal of funding for remediation, and said that it could undermine the ability of local authorities to meet their statutory duties to safeguard their local environment. Beyond the specifically contaminated sites, poor soil health leads to increased carbon dioxide emissions and greater problems for agriculture, the committee also noted. Soil is a key component in the world’s greenhouse gas systems, though often overlooked. It absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making it one of the world’s biggest stores of carbon dioxide, along with the oceans and the world’s forests. About a fifth of the world’s man-made carbon is held in soils. However, few of the international efforts to combat climate change have highlighted the importance of soil. Last year, at the landmark climate summit in Paris, governments agreed to increase the storage of carbon in the world’s soils, through methods such as improved agricultural technologies and preserving soil from contamination. Willie Towers from the James Hutton Institute, an international research centre based in Scotland, gave evidence to the environmental audit committee’s soil health report. He said: “Soil is a hidden part of the environment and I think the public and possibly the political perception of soil is it is out of sight, out of mind. [Soil] is a real key element of the ecosystem and sadly it has been neglected.” He added: “If significant amounts of soil carbon continue to be lost into the atmosphere then this will make it harder and more expensive to keep temperature increases well under 2C [above pre-industrial levels] as set out in the Paris agreement. Every tonne of carbon maintained in soil gives greater flexibility to the rest of the economy in meeting our carbon budgets.” A spokeswoman for Defra said: “The health of our soils is vital to the food we eat, the air we breathe and to our precious habitats and our 25-year plan for action on the environment will set out a comprehensive, long-term vision to protect and enhance our natural environment for generations to come. The national planning policy framework sets out clear requirements for new housing developments facing land contamination to be cleared up.”


News Article | April 21, 2017
Site: www.marketwired.com

PETERBOROUGH, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - April 21, 2017) - A grand opening ceremony was held today for new affordable rental homes in Peterborough. The Mount Community Centre is a community hub with an affordable housing element. The facility, at 1545 Monaghan Road in Peterborough, received $600,000 for six of its affordable housing units. These units will ensure more Peterborough residents have a safe, affordable place to call home. Maryam Monsef, Member of Parliament for Peterborough-Kawartha, on behalf of the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and Minister Responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, along with Jeff Leal, Member of Provincial Parliament for Peterborough, on behalf of the Honourable Chris Ballard, Ontario's Minister of Housing and the Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy, were on hand for the announcement. Peterborough Mayor Daryl Bennett also spoke at the event. The event also celebrated several other affordable housing developments in the Peterborough and Kawartha Lakes regions, all of which received funding through the Canada-Ontario Investment in Affordable Housing agreement, including: "Our Government is committed to working with Ontario to develop and implement local solutions for housing. Having a safe, affordable home is a fundamental building block for healthy communities and personal success. These investments are helping Ontarians access safe and affordable housing that meets their needs." - Maryam Monsef, Member of Parliament for Peterborough-Kawartha and Minister for Status of Women "Every person deserves a place to call home. It provides stability and lets them focus on other aspects of their lives - from their job, to spending time with their family and getting involved in their community. These investments in affordable housing promise a strong future for our entire region." - Jeff Leal, Member of Provincial Parliament for Peterborough and Minister of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs "The availability of stable, safe and affordable housing is essential to the quality of life for individuals and families in the Peterborough Region and to the strength of our local economy. The Investment in Affordable Housing projects celebrated today represent 144 new units in the City of Peterborough, thanks to funding from the provincial and federal governments as well as approximately $6 million in contributions through incentives and waived fees from the municipality." - Daryl Bennett, Mayor of the City of Peterborough "The Mount Community Centre was able to proceed with building the 43 apartments in Phase 1 with financial support from: the City of Peterborough; the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada. With this support we are providing safe, clean affordable housing for individuals and families." - Steve Kylie, Chair of the Board of Directors for The Mount Community Centre - Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has been helping Canadians meet their housing needs for more than 70 years. As Canada's authority on housing, CMHC contributes to the stability of the housing market and financial system, provides support for Canadians in housing need, and offers unbiased housing research and advice to Canadian governments, consumers and the housing industry. Prudent risk management, strong corporate governance and transparency are cornerstones of CMHC's operations. For more information, please call 1-800-668-2642 or visit www.cmhc.ca. - Investing in affordable housing programs is part of Ontario's plan to create jobs, grow the economy and help people in their everyday lives. Since 2003, the province has committed more than $5 billion in funding for affordable housing, which has helped support more than 22,000 new affordable rental housing units, more than 335,000 repairs and improvements to social and affordable housing units and rental and down payment assistance to more than 93,000 households in need. These investments complement the commitments made through Ontario's recent Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy update, and support the province's goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2025. For more information on affordable housing in Ontario, visit ontario.ca/affordablehousing.


News Article | May 24, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

Shoppers at a handful of Tesco stores in the UK will no longer be able to buy 5p “single-use” plastic carrier bags, in the first such trial by a supermarket. If successful, it could lead to the bags being phased out completely, less than two years after the law was changed in England to force larger stores to charge for them. Britain’s biggest retailer has launched the 10-week trial in three stores – in Aberdeen, Dundee and Norwich – to see how customers manage without the 5p bag option. Shoppers who forget to bring their own bags will still be able to buy more expensive reusable bags which start at 10p. Online shoppers also have the choice of the 5p bags or no bags at all and 57 % now choose bagless deliveries, Tesco has said. “We are carrying out a short trial in a few stores to look at the impact on bag usage if we remove single-use carrier bags” said a Tesco spokesperson. The introduction of the 5p charge in England in October 2015 brought it into line with schemes already operating in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as part of a drive to encourage a switch away from ‘thin gauge’ throwaway carrier bags. The charge was part of a government scheme to reduce litter and protect wildlife, given that plastic bags can take hundreds of years to break down. About 8m tonnes of plastic makes its way into the world’s oceans each year, posing a serious threat to the marine environment. Experts estimate that plastic is eaten by 31 species of marine mammals and more than 100 species of sea birds. The charge in England has clearly worked – official figures last July revealed that the number of single-use plastic bags used by shoppers plummeted by more than 85% after the introduction. More than 7bn bags were handed out by seven main supermarkets in the year before the charge, but this figure plummeted to slightly more than 500m in the first six months after the charge was introduced, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said. While retailers can choose what to do with the 5p proceeds, they are expected (though not legally bound) to donate it to good causes, and over the next 10 years the government hopes this will raise about £730m. Retailers have to report to ministers about where the money has gone, and eventually the government will also publish this information each year. The all-time high of bag usage was in 2006, when 12.2bn bags were handed out in England. Retailers blamed the recession, saying families had changed their shopping habits and were doing more smaller shops every week.


News Article | May 11, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

If you were wondering why bees popped up in the Labour party’s leaked manifesto this week, then here’s the answer. Since 1900 about 20 bee species have become extinct in the UK and 35 more are now at risk. According to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, between 1980 and 2010, 51% of pollinator species – including all bee species and wasps – became less widespread, with 36% showing a strong decrease. The threats to the diversity of bee populations include climate change, loss of habitat and – evidence suggests – use of neonicotinoid pesticides. But the extent to which neonics, as they are known, are the cause of bee population declines is contested between environmental campaigners, and farming and pesticide groups who say their use is vital for crop protection. In 2013 the EU imposed a partial moratorium on three neonics – imidacloprid and clothianidin, produced by chemical company Bayer, and thiamethoxam, produced by Syngenta. Until now the moratorium on neonics has only covered their use on flowering crops, which in the UK are predominantly oil seed rape. Labour in its manifesto adopts a tougher position – one the EU itself is considering introducing. If elected the party would impose a ban all neonicotinoid pesticides, which would stop them being used on non-flowering crops such as wheat and sugarbeet. One of the most recent studies on the impact of neonics on bees was published last year by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. It suggested their use correlated with “wild bee biodiversity losses at a national scale.” The pesticide is coated on to the seeds of the plant, and acts systemically, seeping into the pollen and nectar. When ingested by bees it can attack the nervous system affecting the way they can feed, navigate and reproduce. Dave Timms, senior policy campaigner for Friends of the Earth, says there is also growing evidence that the pesticides leak into the environment . Friends of the Earth has called for a total ban, to stop the pesticides being used on wheat and other non flowering crops. This position is not without controversy. Prof Gary Bending, from the school of life sciences at Warwick University – who sits on the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides – said on Thursday any complete ban would be contentious. He said there was no evidence that their use on wheat and non flowering crops was harmful to pollinators (some 84% of the crops grown for human consumption need bees and other insects to pollinate them to increase their yields and quality). “There are a lot of papers to suggest there may be impacts on bee populations (of neonics use on oil seed rape) but it is only correlation analysis. It doesn’t provide cause and effect. The big issue is – ‘Is the concentration of neonics that bees are exposed to toxic to them?’ “It would be quite contentious to extend the ban to other crops like wheat and sugarbeet. The point about all these decisions is they should be evidence based.”

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